Differ-Ent – M.O.M (Don’t Be Afraid)
Don’t Be Afraid have had a pretty strong year, with some great releases from the likes of Pattern Burst favourite Herva, Mr Beatnick, and a brilliantly off-centre sampler featuring man of the moment Max McFerrin shoring up the label’s well won reputation as the home of some seriously strong left-field floor shakers, whilst disproving the notion that house and techno doesn’t have to pander to over-familiar conventions to get things moving. Given this reputation DJ Bones’ straighter (but no less funky) approach to techno seemed a slightly outside choice for the imprint but with two releases now under his Differ-Ent guise, the logic is a lot clearer.
Dedicated to his mother who passed away in the spring M.O.M is a track that builds on powerful, atonal noise to deliver feelings of anger and helplessness before transforming into something altogether brighter where the almost overwhelming sense of rage is channelled into providing the back bone for a lilting, fragile odyssey which builds towards a crescendo where the anger gives way to a celebration of a life lived. Deeply personal, and potent in its emotional core, it’s one of the finest tunes Bone has done in quite a while. Final Driver on the flip delivers a low rolling slice of classic motor city funk that bristles with fiery groove and bubbles with torrents of psychotropic energy. A classy note for the label to end the year on, and a reminder, if one is needed that, techno thrives when soul and emotion are allowed to shine through the machinery.
Shanti Celeste and FunkinEven – SSS (Apron)
Like Don’t Be Afraid, Apron is another label that has built a reputation on kicking against expectations and conventions to the point where your never sure whether the next record will be some old school boogie, disco weaver, gnarly acid soaked house or something even more experimental. Having been a total stranger to the work of Bristol’s Shanti Celeste, I was even more uncertain with what to expect of this split with Apron head FunkinEven.
The FunkinEven cut, first of all, is a deep, gliding creature; infused with warmth and jazz it glows with a 70s technicolor that occasionally feels a little too over exposed, the percussion a little to quick to fully compliment the haziness of the melody. It’s pretty, and an eye opener for anyone who only knows FunkinEven from his throbbing analogue sounds, especially in the way that it works something of Theo Parrish’s swing into the proceedings.
The standout, though, is Celeste’s paean to Detroit. Whether it was meant to be this, I don’t know, but it’s a perfect encapsulation of the marriage of soul and drive that makes the best Detroit techno so timeless. Propelled by an almost weightless breakbeat which floats above the clouds, little rivulets of melody flow here and there while crooked stabs of bass add grit and earthiness. The tones and the textures are reminiscent of Mad Mike at his most whimsical and playful, and of originators like Carl Craig and Kenny Larkin in the way they toy with the subtleties of emotion. 8 captivating minutes that bring a pulsing groove to the airiness, this is one of the finest tracks I’ve heard this year. I know I often gush a little too freely about the tunes I really like, but this is genuine high-tech soul by way of Bristol. It’s immense. Buy on sight.