Review: VA – Invisible Darning EP (Brokntoys)

House music may make the most noise, and techno the angriest face, but if you’re wanting to spend time with a weird-wired genre that’s still got one eye on the stars then electro is the one. It’s been a great start to the year as well. Albums by Exalted, and Luke Eargoggle and Faceless Mind, plus 12s from Arcanoid, Diffuse Arc, Jeremiah R, VC-188A, Lost Trax and a dozen others have already nudged the scene into new areas, and there seems to be a greater willingness to experiment, innovate and mix up influences than I can remember in a long while.

London imprint Brokntoys has flown under many radars in the couple of years since their arrival, but the blend of electro, techno, IDM and raw experimentalism they favour has put the label right at the front line. While others like CPU and Shipwrec have really readied the troops for a full scale electro assault on 2016, it’s really pleasing to see outfits like Brokntoys delivering something a little bit different. Check out last year’s releases by Marco Bernardi and Rutherford if you still need convinced. If their dreams of gutter-electronics and dirty angels don’t do it for you, well…

This V/A release draws on the common ground between techno and electro to do its thing. The shared influences, sounds and atmospherics are often overlooked just as they are sometimes taken for granted, and it’s useful sometimes to have a little reminder that crossover is healthy, perhaps even essential. While any V/A collection runs the risk of lacking a bit of overarching focus (a natural side effect of enlisting multiple artists) Invisible Darning generally matches the producers up pretty well, each of them delivering strong evidence of a scene in rude health.

It isn’t quite in the same vein as the labels two previous releases, the tone being less grimy than the Bernardi record, and more likely to push past the rugged tumble of Rutherford’s Singularis. What unites the four producers and their individual takes is a slant towards a darkside vibe – one that is very different to the noir-ish mood more typically found in electro. Ground by The Pulse Project, in particular, weaves in something of tech-step’s collapsing star heaviness; the smashed up beats and wirey pads summoning up a devil of slowly unfurling dread. It perhaps lacks a little to alleviate the airless claustrophobia, but it certainly gets under the skin.

Interestingly, while the feel of proper full fat electro is held in check throughout the bulk of the four tracks, each of them manages to broaden the definition in different ways. Both of the tracks built up of 4/4s, Crystal Maze’s Crossroad Blues and Echo 106’s 100M Splutter, ramp up the tension. Crossroad Blues seems ponderous to begin with, but grows into a thick groove as it rides a fiercely primal acidic line right to the tune’s heart. 100M Splutter, retrofits classically electro touches and motifs to a tight, straightened up machine jacker that trades licks between frosty synths and a mean half-formed bass line through a hazy half light.

Dez Williams, an artist having a bit of a stormer of late, delivers a slice of prime Detroit inspired electro that funnels Model 500 and Carl Craig over a fractured yet tough break beat, and douses it with washes of deep, aquatic strings, while layering in little touches which warp its structure, turning it into a lean shadow boxer of a track. Four tunes from a common ideal, with excitingly different understandings of what the music means. Maybe it’s a sign that in 2016 electro will open up, spread out, and take over. I hope so.