Review: VA – Blurred Angles (Brokntoys)

For a while now it’s been pretty obvious to everyone with at least one functioning ear that while house has been staring a little too longingly at those old photos of itself from before it put all that weight on, and techno’s been obsessing over ever more convoluted ways to do the same thing it always has, electro has slowly been reinventing itself and is now, once again, beginning to throw some really interesting shapes out into the sunlight.

Part reappraisal, part fresh beginning, the genre is looking healthier and more vital than it has done in years. This is in no small way down to the machinations of a handful of labels who seem to have really got the bit between their teeth. Shipwrec, Frustrated Funk, CPU and Tabernacle have all furnished the scene with some quality electro over the last few years, each of them championing artists who are teasing new sounds from the base formula; sometimes ‘pure’ and relatively old school in the realization, others mutating the DNA with acid, and techno, and bass. London label Brokntoys have largely gone down the second route, and their last few records have defied any easy categorization. Even more interestingly, Brokntoys seem to be one of the very few labels who still take the idea of the sampler, or compilation seriously, with a hefty percentage of the output delighting in drawing the lines and making the connections between the different artists and their various styles and tastes.

Blurred Angles is a little bit of a departure in that regard, falling between the two philosophies with a record that carries collaborations between Swedish legend Luke Eargoggle and a number of class names with Eargoggle’s old mate Rutherford, Marco Bernardi, Das Muster and French kingpin The Hacker all adding their distinctive essences to the proceedings. Such approaches can be full of obvious difficulties but here, at least, there is mostly more than enough commonality of tone and tastes to ensure a tight mix of styles.

I say mostly, because while almost all of the music on offer hits the mark straight off The Hacker’s contribution, Body, lacks something of the funk the other tunes have in abundance. Partly I suspect it’s my tastes showing here – ambling in at just over 100 bpm it’s too slow to really get me going – but it’s really the only track that seems loathe to engage with the future, favouring instead a resolutely 80’s, gothy industrial vibe that puts it at discernible tangent from everything else here, and the combination of waddling pace and moribund form flattens the atmosphere. A lot of people will love it but, for me, it’s too much too same; a brew of over familiar elements.

Luckily the rest of the record serves up some grade-A electro that roars past the influences on their way to encapsulating something of why the scene is so increasingly vital. Das Muster’s collaboration, Stärke retools something of Dopplereffekt’s dark, playfyul wiriness until the basic form emerges sharper and carrying itself with a leering arrogance that perfectly matches its angular gait. Stalker Beware, Eargoggle’s work with his old foil Rutherford, inhabits a similar space, but pulls it downwards until it becomes a thicker, deeper, experience where the bass and beats merge with each other, creating a pulsing cybernetic groove which tips and buckles all the way through the track, clawing ragged moods out of the gaps and shadows. Both precise and chaotic, it’s fueled by the energy kicked up by these two extremes.

For me, though, it’s Rat Tailed Chomp which furnishes the best example of exactly how mad, funky and alive electro can be. Eargoggle and Marco Bernardi cook up a crazed jam of chattering vox and broken tones that shouldn’t really work together but do. The jacked beats clipping the more off-the-wall moments nicely, and marshaling the tune into a frenzied blast of warped schizo-funk, reveling in the careering, dissonant melodies and wild-eyed urgency, and coupling techno-bass acidic flare to a wrong-eyed electro rag-doll until the insanity wins the day. Tomorrow’s electro, right now.