East coast label White Material have had a remarkable beginning. Over the last 18 months or so they’ve gone from a standing start to darlings of the Techno glitterati with a series of records that exhibit plenty of promise and genuine excitement whilst maintaining a feeling that they are travelling down a slightly different road from a lot of the artists currently pumping out the noisy, borderline experimental Industrialized Techno New York seems to be fast becoming famous for.
Of their fairly limited output so far, the one that bagged the critics undying love was undoubtedly Galcher Lustwerk’s Tape 22, which didn’t so much travel down a different road than roar off into a midnight sky lit only by the sodium glare upon the darkened clouds. It’s mix of laidback House and Lustwerk’s not quite rap, not quite spoken word vocals was something almost unique last year, and it featured prominently in many round-ups come January.
Still, as fantastic as Tape 22 was – and it was – I found myself reaching for DJ Richards debut, Leech2, more times that was probably necessary. Something about the curious merging of a certain punk feeling and huge beats with its clever and understated use of samples gave me visions of nihilistic lowlifes encrusted with the ageless grime of the city. There was an element of John Carpenter buried there too, and a flicker of…something…just out of the edge of sight.
Since then Richard has relocated to Berlin, that Paris of the 21st century and home of the life affirming Currywurst, an otherwise dubious snack that almost as punk rock as chips outside the Hammersmith Palais. Whether the move has changed his musical outlook I couldn’t say for sure, but based on Nailed To The Floor, he seems to have avoided falling into the big-room Berghain mindset that afflicts so many producers heading east.
On first listen Nailed To The Floor seems a continuation of Leech2, but there are two important differences: It’s looser and suggests an artist growing in confidence. The A Side is full on street-tough Techno replete with banging 909s and snarls. Title track, Nailed To The Floor makes its intentions clear from the off with its rolling rhythms and a mass of noises that sound as if they have been sampled from a war between two nations of vintage pinball machines. Richardplatz (NY Storm drain mix) which follows it is probably the closest of the records four tunes to its precursors on Leech2. A skipping beat underpins cheeky vocal snips along side a porpoising riff that recalls the earlier records feel of hollow-cheeked shadows armed with switchblades.
Benzos is probably the most direct tune of all. it could probably be described as ‘Proper’ Techno – if such a thing can be said to even exist. The funkiness of the riff offsetting the storming drums. There is something of Blake Baxter to it, and other old Detroit masters, and DJ Richard has hit up a good, old-fashioned warehouse monster here. You’re probably going to be hearing it a lot in all sorts of places. It sets up the mood nicely for Freydis to take over and carry us back to the ground. Slower, more relaxed even, but probably the darkest thing on the record in its own way, the strings floating above the broiling kicks and toms, the samples from No Wave outfit DNA underscoring the tangible sense of malice at the tunes core.
So, two releases down and DJ Richard is shaping up to be the dark heart of White Material. He’s shown a fine ear for the scuzz and beauty inherent in House and Techno. And now, with the sensory overload of Berlin invading his brain, it’s going to be interesting to see how he incorporates that madness into his music. Hopefully the gap won’t be so long next time, but this was worth the wait. White Materials best release so far. Yup.