V/A – Au001 – Autarchy Records
Dub techno has been a bit unfairly maligned in some places over the years – mostly by me, come to think of it. It tends to come in two flavours: either ‘none-more-dub’, where you can’t move for the pressure of the bass upon your chest, or – as is the case here – where the extreme elements have been sheered off to make room for more classically techno trappings.
As is frequently the case, this second approach mostly pays off. The two artists here, ALPI and Complimentary Opposites, spill the music out from an obviously similar place, but the end results are filtered differently. ALPI’s tune, the more traditionally dubby Other Feelings, sails closer to that particular, darkened ocean, with blossoming washes of pads, and lugubrious stabs of echoing, rust encrusted synths. What’s interesting is that rather than simply lay down the keel of another Basic Channel-eque dub sea explorer, the addition of a subtly building melody locks things into a slightly looser trance trip, enhanced by the growing confidence of the synths.
Complimentary Opposite’s entry, Dark Light, spills from the starting gate as a more moody affair; even more melodic and far less willing to side itself with the dub. What it lacks in those tropes, it attempts to recover in selling itself as a moonlit, midnight techno odyssey. It doesn’t entirely pay off though, and rolls along far too inoffensively and too slickly for it to really pull off the hypnotic tricks it’s aiming for, ending up instead as a gentle enough slab of quietly melodic techno. Its remix, delivered by XDB, sorts its head and heart out to a large extent, and although it doesn’t quite cut away enough of the more saccharine and knowing elements from the original, it reworks into a shuffling piece of swampy techno which brings some of the track’s latent melancholy to the fore, lending it a deeper, looser, vibe that weaves shadows and style together.
Tinfoil – Tinfoil 5 (Tinfoil)
Good lord, some techno can be a challenge these days. But while much of the genre might feel like it’s in the grip of the technocrats and the technicians, there are still some producers out there who seem to understand that techno which lacks grooves or a sense of fun tends to be a bit flat.
Fortunately this Sunil Sharpe and DeFeKT partnership delivers techno in a style which hasn’t quite vanished entirely, and although both artists are known for slugging it out at the harder end of the genre, both do so with a sound informed as much by the more enjoyably demented strains of house, acid, and in DeFeKT’s case electro, as it is by anything more Millsian. Tinfoil 5 represents the latest instalment of their own label shenanigans, and it is a rich offering thick with a certain flare of old school mood even though the music sounds bang up to date.
Part of the charm lies in the simple, unhinged quality of the material. I don’t mean it’s verging on the loony, but more that there is a feeling of anything goes experimentalism mounted over the strident beats. The distance from older forms of techno tends to obscure some of these qualities, frequently rendering the memory one of sound instead of soul. And while you would be hard pushed to find much from the past which sounds like Tinfoil 5, there is very much a kinship of energy and movement.
Twerp and Leave Your Body are the harder hitters. With Twerp it’s all about the crisp, rising beats, porpoisong and menacing with intent until the tune broaches territory that has a similar bellicose, machine snarl that producers such as Ctrls, for example, calls home. Leave Your Body punches towards peak mayhem with snare rolls and disorienting shards of sound. By turns hard and ethereal, it gets wired into itself, until, as the title demands, the flesh drops away to reveal a ghost made of sheet steel.
Perhaps the finest work here – and, interestingly, the most immediately accessible – is Booyaah, a tune which shaves a few bpm off the velocity and mounts everything on a buckling, rubbery bassline which cools the white heat down and lets its nasty grace come out to play. For all the surface craziness, Booyaah is entirely about the groove – it’s a tight, prowling monster which grabs your feet even as its showering your brain with insanity. Genuine mutant funk. Get it while you can.