Review: Morgan Louis – White Material 6 (White Material)

White Material seemed to have vanished altogether over the last year. The last couple of records – an alright DJ Richard one and a fairly average V/A package – seemed to damn them with faint praise and it’s tempting to suspect that their lukewarm reception played a part in the label’s much lower profile. Partly relocated to Berlin, and with star turn Galcher Lustwerk scampering hastily off towards fresh pastures, one could be forgiven for thinking that the home of ‘Working man’s techno’ was on the wane after a brief burst of limelight.

Morgan Louis has been much talked up by the rest of the White Material gang as being something of a mentor. His one track so far, the tribally thumper of 1 Does Not Kno was the stand out on that otherwise underwhelming V/A sampler from 2013, edging away as it did from the techy-house leanings of the rest and revealing grittier qualities, akin to Jeff Mills in one of his trippier moods. The hope was that once his début materialised we might hear something more likely drenched in the piss and vinegar that has often been lacking from the rest of the label’s releases.

While Louis’ début is certainly a more gnarly and individualist take on techno when compared to the rest of the stable, it’s also one that never quite seems to break away from a curious lack of soul. Half the record builds on long slabs of droning frequency which never feel balanced enough to really engage you with anything other than a shrug. 3Sex allows the drone fulsome space to do what it wants to do, but it is so overwhelming in that desire that it drowns out any subtlety or actual invention. Donno0 goes for a lord of darkness vibe but ends up feeling weirdly chirpy thanks to some resolutely straight-laced and plonking percussion.

Better are Only1 which mounts a decidedly stronger assault on the senses with low riding tribalist touches and a cavernous bass that floods the ears with shadow. it’s slow, it’s heavy, but its industrial grind drags it off into left field where it comes to life a sight more than the above tracks. Not U is by far the best thing here. A mournful slowly unfolding riff captures mood like nothing else on the record, and uses it to great effect over the relative sparseness of the rest of the tune. In fact, it’s a master of reduction: the riff, a heavy, ever so slightly dubby kick, some understated bass and a few effects restore to the release the soulfulness so obviously lacking elsewhere.