Review: DL-MS – Exit Ghost (Trust)

DL-MS – Exit Ghost (Trust)

Quieter year so far for DJ Glow’s Trust label, but it looks as if they’re getting into their stride now with a new release by DL-MS, a follow-up to last year’s Rogue Intent and one that in a wonderful display of synchronicity shares its title with a fine novel by the very recently departed Philip Roth. I demand more electronic music with literary pretensions – it’s the way forward for sure.

And Exit Ghost itself is pretty forward leaning, which is interesting because the general feel of the music is very much old school. The electro is textured not only with the now ubiquitous filaments of IDM, but something weightier and more alien: a luminosity which recalls the wide open spaces of classic ambient techno, where the tripiness of the journey is carried by the fluidity of the grooves and the beats.

Both Tides and Honokida have that dichotomy at the heart of their DNA. Honokida in particular dives into a deep well of electronica, retrieving the movement of ancient Detroit from the sediment at the bottom, and using it to inform a gliding, haunting, paean where the thick, serpentine bassline winds around mournful pads and little touches reminiscent of Rhythim Is Rhythim at their most visionary. Tides is dirtier; less interested in the clouds it keeps itself rooting through the undergrowth, propelling itself with tricks borrowed from tech-step and a quiet, subtle sense of exploration. Yet both tracks share a common aspect regardless of how high they climb or how low they dig, a strength of mood and an understanding of the way influences interplay with each other to create something new.

Of the flip side’s two tunes, Exit Ghost is perhaps the less immediately intimate but the one more likely to draw you back time and again to explore its layered mysteries. There’s something about it – the aggressively up-front yet entirely louche weave of its groove, or the growing rush as the chopped down, pulsing bass grows in importance, which keeps it always slightly beyond the familiar. By the time the tune brings the different parts of itself together, it has already dialled down into a midnight land-cruise, all shadows and glints of sodium light. As much D&B and Carl Craig as it is recognizably electro, Exit Ghost is proof that the genre is changing, altering itself for the future (something I hope to shed a few words about sometime soon). Perhaps in unfortunate comparison to its immediate sibling, Terminal Din A feels disjointed and less complete, particularly for the first couple of minutes – although that is soon offset by an unexpected warmth which slowly morphs into a gentle wistfulness that finally gives the tune the meaning it was missing.

Electro is changing, and not even in the ways we might have expected a couple of years ago. There is a new-found confidence in exploring other influences and Exit Ghost is a fine example of this blossoming ethos. There will be a few strange directions taken on this new journey, you can be sure of that, but if some of the destinations are as interesting as this, it’ll be worth it. I don’t know whether Big Phil Roth would have been a fan of new-generation electro but I like to think he would have allowed his feet a wee shuffle to Exit Ghost even while he said something beautifully, perfectly, cutting about it.

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Three Quick Bursts of Reviews

It’s lovely out. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the park is full of drunk neds sans shirts who are slowly going a strange bright pink colour as the warm rays plough over their almost translucent Scottish skin. it is, in short, as summery as it ever gets around here and the fictional Joys Of Life are coming close to being a real thing. Conventional wisdom says that this is the time of year where we put away all of the loud grinders we were using to get us through the endless months of snow, rain, and darkness, and begin to unwind with some lighter, jazzy numbers. But conventional wisdom, my friends, is a dog; I’m no more likely to follow its fragile logic than I am to suggest to those taps-aff dafties in Kelvingrove park that they swap their bottles of Buckfast for something breezy and summery like a Beaujolais.

So, since I’ve been a lazy sod recently there’s been a bunch of stuff falling through the cracks, I thought we’d do a wee round-up of stuff that’s arrived in orbit over the last few months. Here’s three for starters.

West End Communications have made a place for themselves over the last few years with a slew of releases heavy with sticky, chewy, beats and a finely gnarly attitude. Their new record, the UK Steep EP by the brilliantly monikered Ludgate Squatter takes up the baton, points it straight forward like a lance, and runs like a bastard straight at your face. This is the sort of record you want to play to people who refer to monotonous, modern, slabs of boredom as ‘warehouse’. This collection of crumbling, brutal, yet oddly light-of-touch, tunery seems to be a heaving dose of cranky techno and electro when you first listen to it, but beyond the distortion and the huge beats, there are plenty of little trick, lots of misdirection to take you out of the shadows and into daylight. Every track comes with its own little world of dubious pleasures, but my pick is Believe which sounds like a broken bus engine starting an electro duo with a friendly chainsaw. The vinyl version comes with a free Bandcamp code, which is always appreciated. Always.

Luxus Varta’s Then We Fall on Brokntoys was a record I had high hopes for, but ultimately never entirely got it together with. A good artist on an increasingly interesting label, there just seemed to be too many moments on The We Fall which just lack enough escape velocity to become truly cosmic. There are plenty of interesting influences, mind you, and I could catch touches of Model 500 (and even Carl Craig sometimes); mostly a love of IDM seems to shine through which is a totally valid thing to bring to the party even if it sometimes leaves me a bit cold. Even so, there are still a couple of very class tunes on board – Lesis might take while to get itself going but once it does, it boils itself down to a thick swirl of shadow and glass. Understated and deceptively hard, it’s a great example of deepness done with mood instead of strings. Radion is light years away, a bopping burst of deep space disco forever riding the frequencies of a neutron star.

Ninja Scroll by RNXRX on Struments, on the otherhand, keeps the focus a little more towards electro’s primary heat sources – although maybe not as much as you might first expect. Harsh, fast, and pretty funky, Ninja Scroll is a decent bunch of jams, even if the use of Drexciya/Heinrich Mueller reverential track names started the alarm bells ringing a bit. Yeah fair enough, that stuff is definitely there but what keeps it from slipping towards anything like an homage is the way much of it is filtered through something tighter and more industrial, with the hard rolling beats providing a platform for some subtly wonky histrionics. Ninja Scroll itself has the warming daftness of the Young Gods in their Second Nature period (except with a better groove); High Rise wriggles down into the dirt, like some feral thing escaped from the Touchin’ Bass stable, and claws itself along, with a moody Boris Divider-esque energy. Despite what you would expect,And despite what you might presuppose, Drxcyan doesn’t float off towards Lardosa. It’s too whip-smart for that, propagating a dose of claustrophic, faintly eastern sounding, chaos. Yet another piece of the electro puzzle getting itself some moves from other places. Something is going on in the genre…..

Best Of The Represses: May 2018

The increasingly ironically named Best Of The Represses comes to you from the far side of Record Store Day – the controversial annual event which at one time had the relatively good sense to shut you up with a handful of interesting re-releases. Nowadays the RSD schedules are mostly made up of the Big Label Crooks trying to convince you that yet another goddamned reissue of Pink Floyd’s widdly bollocks is a Good Thing. As far as our stuff goes, it increasingly feels like those sketches crapped out by shit comedy writers that know not even the most myopic of commissioning editors will allow them on normal TV, so they end up dumping them on Comic Relief instead because, y’know, it’s only charity and who really gives a fuck?

Anyways, what has this to do with the subject in hand? Probably nothing, but quite likely everything. The repress game is a dungeon of fairground mirrors where things are rarely quite as stupid or exciting as they look when you glance to the side. The only thing that still surprises me about any of it is my weird capacity to keep caring. And the only reason I keep caring is that, almost every month, some silent god picks me up and turns me around, pointing me in the direction of something of genuine worth. Mind you, if the mute omnipresent prick does that to me when the inevitable Sandwell District represses start appearing we’ll be having words. Let’s move it people; I’ve got places to be.

Textasy – Dallas Gun Club (Craigie Knowes)

Yeah, I know. It only came out for the first time in January or something, but it’s here for two reasons: 1, it got repressed (look at the title of the column. Sometimes it’s accurate); 2, I really like it.

Textasy haven’t been around that long, but even though there are less than half a dozen releases under the name, pretty much every one has been a corking example of Texan electro (which, personally speaking, is a genre name I can get behind). This one sets its stall out a bit of a ways from the rest, and uses the electro as a base for some sweaty, ravey, shenanigans. It’s genuinely great – a rough-housing blast of dirty great breaks, stinking huge rave stabs, and nasty piano rolls.

It’s magnificent. You can almost imagine it as the soundtrack behind one of those old photos of a light-house eyed scally giving it some big fish, little fish action while his mouth blows on an imaginary whistle as he not-so-gently unspools his sanity into a farmer’s field beyond the slowly massing ranks of the Old Bill come to murder the fun. It’s so good I don’t even know what that last sentence meant. It’s virtually impossible to pick a stand out track, but if you forced me, I’d suggest you start with the warped, piano led nonsense of Eternal Gurn (Manik Piano Edit) and work backwards until your brain dissolves.

Sonar Bass – Dark Matter (Deeptrax)

Like some sort of moody knobber I totally forgot to flag up the first of this very welcome and very overdue run of Frank De Groodt’s Sonar Bass represses when it arrived just before Christmas. It was a great thing – a new release of the eternally brilliant Sonar Bases 4 – 10. It was a brilliant mix of lithe, experimental, techno, and shimmering, warped, electro from a time when the phantom powers were beginning to set the rules in stone. Dark Matter, released nearly a decade after that first explosion, is smart enough to avoid major changes to the foundations even though it shifts everything around.

It’s the ways it plays fast and loose with elements of electro, Berlinny techno, and Detroit aesthetics that makes it such a blast. Occasionally it puts you in mind of De Groodt’s other project, the brilliant Fastgraph, at other moments you can hear the proto-molecules of a very modern strand of techno DNA being put into place, long before other less imaginative sound-smiths began to get it all wrong.

But what makes it so strong is that for all its experimental endeavours it remains a potent collection of grooves, even if they are sometimes so alien you might actually need half a dozen legs and some tentacles to really appreciate them. It’s an album that might seem dark, but that’s only because the intermittent bursts of light and gamma radiation have probably left you momentarily blinded. A proper trip through the wormhole, this one. Hopefully we’ll get some of those Fastgraph monsters coming this ways soon as well.