It is sometimes easy to forget that for all the strains of fierce, dark music which dominate the current scene that techno itself was not always predicated on a desire to inflict fear upon the listener. Nor, it must be said, was it always about the micro-skills of sound generation over the sounds themselves. Occasionally these days there is a feeling that we have entered the age of the technician, where an obsession with the details has obscured everything else, usually to the detriment of two elements in particular: the groove and the mood.
Giorgio Luceri’s career so far has certainly leaned towards the last two elements, and on records for the likes of Mathematics, Fly By Night and others he has forged strains of house, techno, and rogue electronica which is heavily indebted to shade and atmospherics to create music which pulls on classic influences whilst remaining very much his own creation. This, the first release from new Georgian label Zeinkali, continues in a similar vein to his previous work on Mathematics where he conjured up wide open vistas that seemed to use elements of classical Detroit to colour a much looser sound.
And it’s these elements that make Istar such an interesting record. While it would be inaccurate to describe it in purely nostalgic terms, the heady clouds of moodiness certainly hark back to an era when techno itself was a far less constrained genre, one that made a great deal of the influences of its immediate family upon its sound. 11111111, for instance, buckles with a quiet energy which refracts something of the style of trance when it was fed by Balearic moonlight and before it solidified into the creature we know. The big thick and bouncy bass line stiffens the free-flowing, porpoising synths and scattergun cowbells to add a prowling, forward moving groove. 3T-283H0RUS works similar charms but is darker and slightly heavier, tapering towards a melodic melancholia, accented by loon samples which reinforce a munged-at-daybreak vibe.
If anything, in fact, this is the prevailing tone of the record, one of parties at the end of night where a quiet, warm exhaustion has replaced the peak time delirium. It’s a subtle record, and a fairly introspective one, but it’s also warm, welcoming. The way in which the bass provides more than a simple metronomic pulse, mixing with percussion which rarely knows its place and prefers to try its hand at shaping the moods and melodies, helps to draw out deeper, more exploratory colours.
Only Istar itself breaks away from the rest. On its own terms, its decent enough; a cracked beat and warbling 303s evoking a smokier, deeper vibe. What slightly disappoints, though, is that it jars in relation to the other tracks, relying on a more overtly hardfloor-esque style which is more strident and lacks the subtle glimmer which feeds the other tunes’ gossamer elegance. Perhaps elsewhere it would have been less noticeable, but here it stands out, its influences less carefully marshalled, its sense of self obscured.
The highlight of the record though, 0938342-226, takes all those Balearic touches and moves them into an arena of their own. The interplay between that style and the techno leanings is even more gloriously muddied and it recalls the winding, adventuring mix of house and trance that once made Jam and Spoon such a treat. Like that long gone and much missed duo it takes you for a trip over starlit, midnight oceans of nothingness, carrying you upwards until you can no longer see the distant surface. It’s the way the simple elements come together to create something complex yet easy to understand which makes it so good, and the weaving, Detroit strings tug at the heart and feet in equal measure.
It’s a record lacking much of electronica’s current pretension and need to impress. While that might certainly make it sound unfashionable to certain scenes, it’s actually its strength. Instead, it concerns itself with creating worlds which could never be accessed through any other means, and filling them with hints of something even greater. As far as I’m concerned, that’s more techno than all the black t-shirts in the world.