I’ve probably banged on about it far too many times already, but I’ve always been interested in the ways house and techno – in themselves largely products of specifics times, places and influences – have been seeded into lands distant from where they originated and blossomed into something new, something replete with the tastes and attitudes of their new hosts. In some senses it is the ultimate irony – that this music, created and played on machines, should have such a wickedly organic, perhaps even Darwinian, way of evolving.
Of course, take a single piece of music in isolation and one tune sounds like it could have come from anywhere. What makes things interesting is when you look closer at the music of each city or country as part of a larger whole. We all know what Detroit techno sounds like (and there is little doubt that when it comes to Detroit, even listening to a tune on its own, without knowing anything about its producer, nine times out of ten you could probably guess where it hails from), but we could also say the same thing these days about German techno, or British, or even Italian and Spanish. Each and every scene feeds back into itself, and has always done so, sharpening and shaping the music through common influences, perhaps even beliefs and their meanings. One of these common bonds, and one that should be obvious but seems to be overlooked, is the role labels play in shaping the sound.
Spanish label Semantica is a great example of this. Although Semantica boasts a roster of artists from all over Europe and the rest of the world, there is something about them that continues to represent the ethos that has come to define Spanish techno. The music is frequently hard, often fast and it tends towards a very pure and sometimes dry sound – compared, say, to here in Britain where a little bit of everything is stuck in the pot – but more often than not Spanish techno is brilliantly smart, clever even, with a great deal of attention to detail and sound design. So much so that even the harder end of the spectrum often feels as much an intellectual exercise as a physical work out. To fall back on that most overused of slogans, Spanish techno is as much a music of the mind as it is of the body.
Semantica is not the be-all-and-end-all of Spanish electronica of course, but I suspect that without the vision and talents of label head Svreca that particular scene may have gone in a different direction. At the very least I don’t think it would have become quite as important to contemporary techno as it now is. Even as Semantica has cast its net far from home it has remained true to a particular vision of electronic music regardless of whether it is putting out techno, electro, experimental work or, as here, wonderfully weird and alien acid-disco-aquatic groove funk.
Poet #3 by Gkahn, the ‘Mysterious disk jockey and producer’ from Asturias in northern Spain, is simply a warped, deeply funky journey through the hinterlands of sound and grooves. There is deceptively little to it, and what there is dominated by a huge, rubbery and winding bass line that prowls the beats like a hungry beast before slowly rising up and warbling its way into full acid mode with squeals and clatters galore. It’s considerably slower than a lot of Spanish techno (and even techno elsewhere on Semantica) but there is nothing gentle or pedestrian about it. In its own lazy, shuffling way, it’s as brutal a track as you will find. It lulls you into thinking it’s going to be a simple enough dubby groove but it quickly mugs you. It might be an exception to the rest of its scene contemporaries, but with its bitingly smart, acidic slo-mo funk, it’s the exception that proves the rule.