With only two EPs to their name, London based label Bleep43 haven’t perhaps been the most prominent stable in the world since their formation in 2010. Although their club night and a series of excellent podcasts (to be found on SoundCloud) provide more information on their tastes and ethos, the actual music has been a bit thin on the ground. Given the quality of both of the records so far this is a bit of a shame. The first EP, featuring tracks from ERP, Oprhan, and label founders Jo Johnson and Plant43 was an impressive snap shot of modern electro informed by the influence of the sort of wide ranging mid nineties techno that was once the purview of labels like Warp. It was a record of chilly brilliance, full of little melodic touches that suggested the importance of home alone headphone trip outs as much as dancefloor functionality.
This second release, coming a mere three years later, is a split between Detroit legend Stingray313 and Belgian artist Mariska Neerman. Stingray313 needs no introduction but it’s worth saying anyway. One time DJ for Detroit electro wizards Drexciya, Stingray has gone on to become one of the best DJs in the world. Perhaps as importantly, however, he remains part of a curiously small circle whose skills on the decks are more than matched by his ability in the studio as he continues to drag electro from its increasingly disant roots and into the future. Neerman’s name is probably not so well known. The two tracks on offer here represent – as far as I can tell – her proper début, although she has worked with Stingray previously on his Urban Tribe project.
Stingray’s opening contribution, BSL Level 4, takes electro as its starting point but quickly morphs into something else. Amongst the static bursts of the synths, there are trace elements – more than that actually – of the sort of tight, heavy snap that was once a part of the drum n bass tech-step genre, and in fact the tune carries a similar wide-screen, darkened thrill. Claustrophobic yet fractured, BSL Level 4 is held together not so much by the metronomic swing of its beats, but by the grand sweep of the pads that momentarily drift in three-quarters of the way through. They redirect the clatter, shaping it long after they have receded. The reverberating bleeps and touches keep your balance off but your guard up. Heavy and very atmospheric. Nudge Theory is more typically Stingray – a tight, jacking belter far beyond the sort of velocity most modern DJs understand and feel at home with. It’s the stand out of the two; dripping with heavenly synths that wash off the excessively caustic sting of the razor-wire percussion while the bass is reduced down to a lean and pumping minimum, only slapping into life when it is most needed.
Neerman’s tracks are worlds away. less electro in both concept and delivery, they are downbeat and haunting. Carved largely from the interplay between melody, fills and emotion they are thick with the sort of dreamy Detroit-ish flair found in music by the likes of Aaron Carl, and worked over with a very European nous. As with the first EP, there is lot here that is reminiscent of Warp or – perhaps unsurprisingly – R&S; a sort of highly cerebral take on techno. Atê is the more jacking of the two, a fast drifting adventure down empty midnight boulevards, directed by tight peels of melody and synths and a bass that rolls away into the distance. Alpha Draconis picks up where Atê leaves off, but is more mournful, more serious, less inclined to show a flash of smile. It’s deep and lush and very beautiful, and a wonderfully realised tune of the sort I didn’t think got made any more.
An excellent EP, and one that intriguingly shows that similar sources needn’t end as identical music, which is a lesson that so often needs to be learned over and over. Stingrays tracks are as great, thumping and inventive as always, but it is Neerman who has provided the real eye openers here. I hope we hear more from her – and Bleep43 – in the future.