Review: Phil Moffa – Attempt No Landing (The Corner)

Anthony Parasole’s label, The Corner, spent much of 2014 cannily moving out of the shadows of other, better known New York techno outfits and into a place where the light could shine more brightly on the smart and fluid sounds that have come to define the label’s output. Although The Corner have always felt closer to the ethos of Adam X’s Sonic Groove Records than to either L.I.E.S, or New Jersey’s host of deeper labels, there has perhaps been a slight – and perhaps condescending – attitude of dumping them all together under one banner. The fact is that The Corner have always felt more classically inclined than L.I.E.S and more fiery than Strength, say, or Underground Quality. It shows in the material and the artists. Big tunes from the likes of Fred P, Tom Dicicco and Marcel Dettmann; pressure point techno that frequently owes as much to Berlin as it does the land of its birth.

‘Attempt No Landing’ is Moffa’s first solo release for the label following a pair of previous collaborations with Parasole. Moffa is a bit of a serial collaborator – a joint release with Seth Troxler is forthcoming – and as such it has been a little bit difficult to gauge exactly where his own tastes and talents truly lie. A pair of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them 12″ last year pointed to an artist capable of deftly bringing various techno tropes to a more experimental sound but they lacked the fun and drive of 2013’s ‘Night Gallery’ EP with DJ Spider on Plan B, a truly great record for anyone wanting to get to know either artists music.

While ‘Attempt No landing’ probably can’t be said to contain anything as gloriously funky as Midnight Never Ends from ‘Night Gallery’, it does retain the swing from that release, coupled to a far more functional, dancefloor orientated vibe. Hard techno is, I think, in something of a bind just now with very little poking its head above the herd of sub-Millsian bangers and with little to alleviate the stun grenade feel of too much going on in too small a space. ‘Attempt No Landing’ sidesteps such issues with a paired back production style that recalls vintage Rob Hood (perhaps Hood’s earliest Floorplan gear is an even better comparison) which allows the music’s inherent drama the room to explode.

It’s not quite an even record. The A sides single track, Magnetic, is bottom heavy; the booming, cavernous kick stealing something from finely nervous atmosphere created by the one note lead and darkened pads. The percussion gives it plenty of momentum but little funk, which is OK given its feel of pumping end-game tunage but it feels rather like it’s the destination that matters more than the journey. Mind you, it’s sometimes difficult to come to critical conclusions of stuff like this. I imagine under the strobes even I might have to concede that functional techno is sometimes functional for a good reason.

The B-side, though, is where the record really comes together. Both tracks remain as hard as Magnetic but benefit from an increased dose of groove. They also retain that same bare, tight production which allows the tunes to open up. Molecular is a lop sided builder which mainlines the ghost of Surgeon’s Magneze in spirit if not exactly in sound, inhabiting a similar crunched up mindset. By the time the riff makes its presence felt the tune is already clawing at the ceiling.

The highlight is Ignition which is also the lightest and most open of the three. Cutting back slightly on the full on techno feel it accentuates the tight roll of the bass and locks everything down into the groove. More than just techno in fact; subtle touches of house and perhaps even old trance sparkle as the lead catches the light. No less prime time than it’s siblings its potency comes from its willingness to loosen its hips and throw off some of the record’s focus. An interesting and unexpectedly funky release on a label really beginning to find its feet.