Review: Halal Prepared Volume 4 (Boe Recordings)

Now into its fourth volume, Boe Recordings run of Halal Prepared samplers continues to weave an intriguing mix of woozy, late night spells along side tougher jams. Although, for my money, the second volume, featuring Anaxander and Arnaldo along side label head Ben Boe, remains a stand out release on the label, there have been plenty of other wee gems scattered throughout the series.

While volume 4 may feel a quieter entry into the collection, working its tricks with subtlety more often than not, that’s not to suggest that there isn’t a great deal of invention on offer. The four tracks are united by common themes; the reworking of classic techno sounds in particular, where the four producers seem to have a common centre of gravity, is something that is familiar enough to fans of the label, but here they duck the obvious motifs, stretching the sounds into something fresher. Occasionally serene, sometimes fragile and often compelling in their unfolding journeys they echo each others vibe, even if the approached remains unique to the various artists.

As for the artists themselves, three-quarters of them are newcomers – to myself at least – with John Shima the only well kent name on the listing. Shima’s entry here, the crystalline groove of Thought Wave, sees the Sheffield based producers working his usual Detroit inspired magic but interspersing it with darker hues that suggest it wouldn’t be out-of-place amongst the glimmer and shade of those knock out early nineties New Electronica compilations. Likewise, Jane Fitz’s and Dom Ahtuam’s Invisible Menders project follows a similar path the with shuffling odyssey of Fifth Time Lucky where IDM textures touch off against something more organic and instinctive, allowing the musical shapes to bloom into a gossamer weave that veils an introverted mood with slowly building funk.

Tim Smith’s Graphene slows things down further, but compensates with a dose of swing underneath the almost too effervescent melody. However, the drums are a little too precise, perhaps, to fit the wistful mood, and there is a sense of a great piece of jazzy techno on the edge of bubbling into life but never quite getting there. All the same, it retains a nagging playfulness that catches you, especially after the relative seriousness of the two previous tracks.

Of all the tracks here, though, It’s Toby Tobias’s Sword Art Arcade that exudes the most swagger, building up from a thick and jacking bass and stamping beats. Like Shima’s track, there is a feel of 91 revisited, but the delicate lattice-work of the synths, which lends a strangely trippy feel to the otherwise tough, acidy workout, pushes things in another direction from the one you might expect, and never lets the listener quite settle on familiar territory.

And it’s perhaps this bait and switch tactic that makes this volume such an interesting compilation. Too icy to be considered deep house, too obtuse yet other worldly to be run of the mill techno, Volume 4 walks a smart line between the precise electronica of the past and the jumbled mix of styles that makes so much contemporary music so fun.