Reviews: Modini – The Answer (Hypercolour); Hiver & Stephen Lopkin – BK013 (Bokhari/Sorn)

Modini – The Answer (Hypercolour)

Alan Parley and Neil Landstrumm’s Modini project first crashed into the earth last year with the Turk EP on Glasgow’s Dixon Avenue Basement Jams. Both Turk and its follow-up, the equally unhinged Tart painted bright pictures out of thickly thrummed Chicago bass lines, sleazy Green Velvet-esque house and wonky low riding techno before dousing the whole lot with italo touches and stomping it up New Beat style. The resulting mash of ideas and sounds was shot through with a rude brilliance that shone out over an increasingly boring scene.

They alight here on Hypercolour for their third release, bringing with them the cheek and attitude of the previous records but finding a freshness of sound. Somewhere along the way the tunes have become tighter, more focussed on getting the job done without losing sight of what made the Dixon Avenue double dunt so good. Squeezing in house and techno, along side bursts of garagey, warped discoid colour, and slicing out a little of the flab of homage that occasionally got in the way a bit previously, The Answer feels like less like a testament to the power of Chicago, more of a celebration of the mad melting pot of styles and vibes that marked the early British scene out as something special and revolutionary, and also a reminder of the way that approach continues to inform the best of the country’s contemporary music.

It’s playful, it’s loud and it’s full of cheek, but it’s also thick with stone cold grooves. Just listen to the way Impressive Pineapple sheers its way across the dancefloor with that enormous buckling bassline, bleeps and body slamming synthetic heat, or the way Saluting Magpies wobbles itself into a frenzy of garage tinged ecstasy. Best of the lot is the Version mix of The Answer itself which sounds like Relief Records setting themselves up in a south London estate instead of Chicago just as acid house doused the late 80s scene. It’s a magnetic thumper so dirty you wouldn’t want to touch it for fear of getting a rash. If the resident DJ at your chosen sweat-pit isn’t playing this in every set over the Christmas period, have words with him and get your money back because he’s doing it wrong.

Hiver & Stephen Lopkin – BK013 (Bokhari/Sorn)

At the other end of the spectrum from Modini’s raw, gleefully full of itself release is this split on Bokhari which dives into a deeper, gentler pool courtesy of Italian act Hiver and Scotland’s Stephen Lopkin. Across four tracks the producers create sleek sonic worlds that make up for the lack of grit with warmth and endless expansive vistas. I’ve often felt with this breed of techno there is a risk of overplaying the hand, of losing something important with regards to nuance, and of allowing the delicate, almost skeletal, balance between drive and atmosphere to tip too far into the hazy realm of mood music.

It’s a danger that is mostly avoided here, and the music tends to gives itself to enough momentum of groove that it ensures a measure of meaning. I’m not familiar with Hiver’s previous work, I don’t think, but as a fan of Lopkin I’m always curious as to where he will take his Detroit mannered techno next. While Speedbird Heavy retains a wash of that Motor City influence in the whisper of the pads, it’s only a gentle texturing over a thick dub bass that sucks down the clatter of percussion and some metallic chords. It tends to the monochromatic, in fact, the beats too plain and the chords a little too careful, but blossoms towards the end when the cold front of pads grows in its sense of adventure and delivers the tune a spike of melodic colour which gives more life. Theme From SAPL is much better; a smaller, better defined belt of robot-disco that delivers plenty of soft, soulful energy and not a small amount of beauty. Again the influences of the earliest Detroit pioneers are there, but it adds in the swing of Mike Bank’s lighter, jazzier moments and a bit of Stacey Pullen’s emotional machine funk.

Hiver’s tracks are less ruffled with noticeable influence. They are sleeker than either of the two Lopkin tunes; late night work outs that feel tuned for the luxuriant sound system of a big room setting where the chromium glint of their engineering can spill into the darker corners. Pillow Head misleads and misdirects, feeling for most of its length a straight hitter content to plow out the big, rolling chords across shifting tides of sound. Gradually,as the tune floods its way to its ending, a groove that was long-buried grows in bravery and finally lends enough guidance for things to begin to come together, even if it has been left a little late. Whatsoever makes the groove the point, however, and everything here feels far more lively, sparkling with little touches of exotica and enthusiastic percussion which plays well with the broader textures of the pads as they swell and sink. Of the two tracks Whatsoever feel far less constrained by any intellectual grab at deepness. It still attains it, but does so by opening up more of its emotional core, allowing a little warming freedom to temper the music.