JEM – Daisy Cutter (Sheik N Beik)

JEM – Daisy Cutter (Sheik N Beik)

First release – I think – for Joe Europe, a fellow scribe who might be familiar to you if you read the Ransom Note, and it’s not what I was expecting. To be fair, I don’t know what I expected; we music writers are a starkly talented bunch, but when it comes to cooking up a batch of our own jams we tend to run towards the ‘difficult’ end of the wedge as if to show the world that we really do know better than the rest of you (which is usually true so stop crying,) even in that means dousing the music we love in clever, sour-faced, experimentalism.

Daisy Cutter goes off in another direction. Rendering a number of relatively familiar influences and moods in unexpected ways, the record sidesteps the above malaise by the simple act of delivering four tunes which amplifies a feeling that the EP is, in some ways, a history tour which takes in not only JEM’s own musical experiences, but one that seeks to link together various ports of call through house and techno’s past.

It isn’t as complete as that, of course, but instead offers an interesting and alternative journey through the music’s history, one that is slightly off-centre compared to the usual route. Opener Daisy Cutter offers up a vision of Detroit that owes a great deal to Robert Hood’s original minimalist take on the city’s sound before it loosens off into a more slanted funk. Temple evokes the collision between hard, machine tightened, acid house, and techno which fuelled the music that used to flow out of Radikal Fear and early Djax. While it doesn’t lean on the floor as hard as some of those old records did, it builds a tight groove with a lighter touch.

Elements of Daisy Cutter, in fact, are smoothed with that lighter touch, rougher edges patted down even when the music is a little more expansive. The fractured, dreamlike Neb carries itself on an insect-call like 303, but relies on the delicate engine of its percussion to move, and little synth stabs to flutter at the mood and let the light in.

Semiotic tries to mix Daisy Cutter’s examination of mood and atmospheres with a more straight ahead approach but it doesn’t quite fit together, with neither part managing to move itself ahead. Even so, its cocky playfulness lends it an unexpected charm that sets it well with the rest of the record.

And, unexpectedly, it’s Semiotic’s playfulness that actually ends up, in some ways, defining the whole of Daisy Cutter; it’s in the way influences have been taken apart and cleaned up, put back together in slightly wonky and interesting forms, and in an understated delight at the way the new, mutant forms go their own ways. Ultimately, the deconstruction unlocks a sense of sly mischief and fun within the music that holds the interest even once the initial thrill of discovery has passed.

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Review: Victor Valiant – V Is For Victor (Asking For Trouble)

V Is For Victor is the first collaboration between Keith Tenniswood – AKA Radioactive Man – and Freerotation resident Suade Bergemann, and from the off it feels a wider take on electro than we have recently been used to. Whether this is intentional or not I don’t know. Collaborations can take even the most singular musical vision of one of the participants away on a tangent, first time pairings even more so.

In some senses Victor Valiant echoes and learns from lessons presented by older music and artists, such as James Stinson and his work as The Other People Place. While V For Victor never departs traditional electro to anywhere near the same extent as Stinson did on Lifestyles Of The Laptop CafĂ©, it taps at a similar seam. The tunes on V For Victor exhibit a looseness and warmth, and an almost downtempo vibe, that is rare in the genre, and a little eye-opening when considering Radioactive Man’s recent canon of molten, mutant, stormers.

But more interesting is the soulfulness which sits at the heart of the record. It tugs on the direction of the tunes, and scoops out space for itself between the beats, lending the sense that this records true influences were to be found in crackly old funk and rare groove records rather than technobass or hip hop or rave.

Even the parts of the album which are very much ‘proper’ electro, like Anti-Flash, or Conway, tip their hats to the prevailing mood. Anti-Flash drags a slithery bassline through a complex street map of beats and rogue tones, occasionally putting you in mind of a fractured and tripped-out Boris Divider. Conway strips everything down to the beats and wobbly riff for the sort closed-eyes workout that could make itself at home at any point over the last 20 years while remaining very contemporary indeed. Its slowly building sense of malice, its snake-hipped movement, and its quiet restraint, mark it out as one to keep an ear on.

If we’re being entirely honest, though, it’s the other half of the album which elicits the most interest. Influences are opened up, rhythms loosened. On Dragonfly we’re shepherded down tight, midnight streets by jaggy, swaggering, acid funk, dipping into a bag of psychedelic fun as we go. Tanker further widens the gulf between V Is For Victors two parts with a jazzy, groove infused high-tech boogie that dances with the ghosts of genuine old-school electro while Mike Banks watches on.

Olympus is in another place entirely. Languid, dripping with little touches of colour, Olympus is a slender tune coiled around a massive, wandering, bass and coaxing shapes and textures into being. It falls somewhere between future-dub and some sort of deep-space noir dreamt up in the early 70s. Even the occasional flutter of vocodered lyrics drift into just the right place. Deep and genuinely woozy, it’s a highlight on an album that takes delight in stripping electro down and rebuilding it into something that feels as old as it sounds new.

Detroit Techno World Cup Special!!!!

How the mighty have fallen…..

First off I’d like to apologise to anyone who isn’t football obsessed for today’s focus. Actually, no I wouldn’t. If you don’t like football, I’m sure there’s some dreary, drone based, support group you can join for the next month. The rest of us will hunker down and just love one of the greatest things in the world; it’s life in miniature, it’s tribalism and art and science and beauty all in one perfect package. It’s about hopes and dreams and possibility. Drama. Elation. Heartbreak. And no matter how much money is thrown at it, no matter haw far it seems to get from its original sound, meaning, and context, it never stops being wonderful. In short, football and Detroit techno are the same damn thing.

Ok, settle down sports fans, because here is the Detroit Techno World Cup XI. And my God that’s a line I never imagined I’d write.

Let’s get a wee bit technical: We’ve gone for a good, fairly modern 4-2-3-1 here. Consideration was given to a low block because some of our stars are getting on a bit and we couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t collapse with exhaustion as we tried to pull off the gegenpress or something equally knackering but exotic sounding. In the end though we decided just to rely on silky passing, chattering percussion, and sultry synths. That should do us, especially should we come up against teams like the well organised but rather dour and funkless Central European Techno All Stars. Some of you will probably be taking to Twitter to condemn me for leaving such luminaries as Theo Parish (neck injury from wearing a too-heavy jazz hat) or Gerald Donald (wanted to play for Germany as Heinrich Mueller), on the bench but I’m the manager and I’ve gone for the blend of veteran know-how and up-and-coming, blossoming skills that Detroit is known for.

THE DETROIT TECHNO WORLD CUP XI

1: Goal Keeper – ‘Magic’ Juan Aktins

The foundation of any team. The sturdy, eternal presence at the back. We need someone who is both reliable and inspirational, someone who can keep his shit together when the dainty-haired EDM lightweights are swarming towards him, someone who can pull off something remarkable even after he’s done bugger all of interest for ages. In short, we need Juan Atkins: Our goalkeeper. Our number one. Our Captain.

2: Left Full back – Mgun.

Defenders are a weird breed. Until recently full backs got about as much kudos from Proper Football Men as minimal techno semi-deities got from everyone else for playing empty, truncated sets in art galleries. All that’s changed; nowadays the position is about as important as you can get, and we’ve turned to up-n-coming techno don Mgun to lead the charge down the flank, ask those difficult questions from left field, and rampage around with his socks around his ankles, and a untucked t-shirt flapping in the breeze. Like his football, his tunes may sound a bit raw and unkept, but they disguise an innate understanding of just how far you can push the motor city sound before everything falls apart.

3: Right Back – Moodyman

We’ve got one full back bombing down the wing, so we’ve gone for a different sort of presence on the other flank. Someone who brings a calm sophistication to his game. Unhurried perhaps, and relying on brains over muscles even though he might occasionally slip an ankle cracker in there when you least expect it. Folks, who better than old Moodyman himself, Mr Kenny Dixon Jr. God, I can’t believe I’m writing this stuff.

5: Centreback (left) – Omar S

Oooh, central defenders are a difficult breed, aren’t they? Should they be there to clean up the mess, or lead from the back, building attacks from nothing and feeding passing up and out? Quite frankly I don’t know the answer but I suspect it’s a bit of both, so we’ve dragged in Omar S and his blend of bubbling housey grooves and techno snarl to hold the line and kick it forward. If the opposition reckon they can get past him they’ll in for a surprise. A player hitting his peak and a sure starter in the team for years to come.

6: Centreback (Right) – Suburban Knight.

With Omar S providing the light and the dark of the Beautiful Game’s defensive arts, let’s partner him with someone a bit different, someone who’s stripped down, precise talents afford him a laser guided focus when it comes to knowing just where to be, and when, and how much pressure to bring when he gets there. Why, that sounds an awful lot like either Milan legend Paolo Maldini or the music of James Pennington – aka Suburban Knight! That’s the defence done. On to midfield!

4: Defensive Midfielder – Mike Banks.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the true midfield general, the sort of player who is as comfortable putting in outrageously accurate passes as he is bringing a little bit of vigilante justice to the punks on the other team. He needs to be half sergeant major and half mob enforcer. Above all, though, he needs to know his shit inside out, and use his knowledge to see every possibility of every move. Who better than Underground Resistance’s Mike Banks, the man who virtually reinvented Detroit techno in the nineties, and turned it into something far harder, visceral, and relevant. Like a techno Andrea Pirlo, Patrick Viera, or Xavi He’s the beating heart of the team. He’s also our vice captain.

8: Central Midfielder – Seth Troxler

Ooop! I see this surprise inclusion into the starting XI is kicking up some heat from the old guard. Fair enough, but I think every team needs its Troxler, with cockiness hanging off the frame of his undoubted talent like a too-loud shirt draped over skinny shoulders. We might bleat on about Detroit techno and football in the same way – demanding it sticks to the philosophies it came from, but we all secretly love it when the twinkle-toed wonderkid slaps into the game, his talent buoying his arrogance, and getting in every ones face. With Banks beside him, keeping an eye, this should be the chance for our young star to shine. Christ, how many more of these do I have to write?

11: Inside left – Robert Hood

We don’t do wingers anymore. We want them to be more of a threat, spilling in from the wing, leaving space out on the flank for Mgun to bomb past. I think we need someone with pace someone who can change direction in a second, veering between cutting edge minimalist techno one moment and explosive, gospel tinged house the next. Someone who can shoot from deep in the underground and score hits in the bigger, wider, world. Well, that sounds like Robert Hood to me, titan of Detroit’s second wave, and our tricksy inside left. Good Grief. I’m so sorry for this.

7: Wide right – Jay Daniel

With Dixon Jr rolling up behind and keeping shop, our wide right has the opportunity to run riot between the flank and the box. Who better than one of Detroit’s next generation brats, Jay Daniel. Bringing a refreshingly unrestrained sense of what’s possible, the unpredictability of his tunes, and the way they blur meaning between techno, house and something altogether looser, should allow him break down even the most stubborn defence.

10: Attacking Playmaker – Jeff Mills

The most special of all positions, the home of Maradona, of Totti, of Zola. Unbelievable players all. But our number ten shares a kindred spirit with a player of a slightly different sort. Like Messi, Mills reads the world through strange angles, seeing lines and shapes where no one else can. Whether it’s the directness of his earlier work, or the expansive vistas of his more recent, Mills reads the game with alien eyes. If Mike Banks is the beating heart of the team, Mills is the soul.

9; Centre Forward – Derrick May

Tricky one. Do we go for the sophisticated talent of a Carl Craig type? What about the snarling, emotive brilliance of a Claude Young or Alan Oldham sort? All good, as would be Kevin Saunderson’s never-ending, snake hipped, movement and dribbling. But let’s face it, We have to have our star, our prima dona, our brilliant confusion of talent and ego, our talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo: Yes, sports fans, it has to be Derrick May.

Subs,

Theo Parrish, Kyle Hall, Claude Young, Keith Tucker, Gigi Galaxy, Daniel Bell, and K Hand.

Well, that’s that. I reckon they’re good for the semi finals at least. What do you think, readers? Actually, please don’t tell me. Let’s just forget I ever wrote this, yeah? Cheers. I’ll get some reviews up soon.

Best of the Represses. June 2018

By the look of the shops, electronic music is about to hit that mid-year crappy zone where everyone pisses off to play at some terrible festival or other and pretend they’re some synth-nerd version of Jimi at Monterey while simultaneously tweeting about how awesome they and all their friends are, and how DJ How-Are-You-Still-Alive is totally awesome/sweet/killing it (delete as applicable.) Even worse, everyone who works at the Ministry of Represses are on their way to becoming infatuated with their own summer brilliance, and have decided to take a three month sabbatical so they can concentrate on curating an instagram thingie of their warm weather selfies. They’ve left a pile of tawdry, beige disco, re-releases to be pumped back out to us and absconded with anything remotely interesting, including the long rumoured but never confirmed version of Jimi playing Monterey with a bloody great bank of modular synths. I’m lead to believe it sounds great but that Mitch Mitchell gets a little lairy when Jimi tries to sync him with a Moog.

That’s the state of it. Before I go and suck down a nearly frozen six-pack of watery, imported lager, here’s this month’s ricochetting treats.

Edward – Into A Better Place (Giegling)

Not a label I ever really went for, even before last year’s wee sexism rammy, I’ve tended to walk away to the side whenever the team have started barking off on one about their stuff. They’re used to it: I did it for shitting ages when Mood Hut were being pronounced Lords Of Everything, and I’ll run backwards to escape any warm words about the latest psy-trance revival, so they quickly twigged that Giegling’s trademarked brand of tech-house dressed as something flighty did not float my boat. Aren’t the sleeves nice, though?

I know, I know. It’s not all like that, and the handful of releases by Edward on the label are mostly all ‘not like that’. It’s not really a surprise he’s been one of Giegling’s real breakouts alongside the Trumprinz/Prince Of Denmark double feature. Across his back catalogue Edward has shown a fairly consistent looseness when it comes to interpreting a particular strand of in-vogue techno, and the result is something livelier, fuller, and rawer than many of his contemporaries.

Into A Better Place isn’t a bad album at all, and although it occasionally dips into unremarkable techyhousey wobbleabouts like Yes, or At Ease, it provides quite a lot of evidence of a producer at his happiest when bringing a bit of funk to the left-field. Let’s Go is a frazzled, joyously playful, little mystery both overexposed and full of contrast. Skating Beats sticks a winding, subtle, Detroit groove under some ancient, creaking, Chicago heat until things take off.

Cream of the crop is Hectatic’s breakbeat workout which weaves between billowing ambience and driving energy. Although it never allows itself to pitch into outright fury, it still manages to storm on with an unexpected, and perfectly weighted, meanness.

Posatronix – Danz EP (Direct Beat Classics)

It says a lot about the depth and quality of Direct Beat’s back catalogue that the three represses so far can be absolutely brilliant and still not come close to representing the label at their very best. Hopefully we’ll get some of the real monsters on their way sooner rather than later, but even so we cannot be disappointed by what we’ve received so far.

Posatronix represents quite a leap forward through the collection. Where the first two represses (the Bass Magnetic double EP, and Technology) are from the very earliest days of the label in 1993, Danz shifts four years along the timeline, and drops into an era where Detroit’s take on electro was fully in control, with Auxx 88, Underground Resistance, Drexciya, and many others, almost at their peak.

Even so, Danz shines with its own merits. Everything from the gritty, pitched down vocals which stain the tunes like dirty rainwater, to the high-riding and clipped beats and broiling bass lines is Posatronix at his best. Danz itself is the eternal dancer, sharing a filthy energy with the work of fellow Direct Beat alumni X-ile and filling the corners with one of the most liquid and damaging bass lines in the genre. 142BPM is sharper, more old school> it’s perhaps the less adventurous of the three, very much playing tail-end-charlie when it comes to invention and sheer force of will, but it does a fine enough job as a straight up driver to get the feet going.

Night Vision is a real techno-bass classic. The rolling, acidic, riff and growling vocals bring out the thunder, while the mesmerizing, whistling top ties it all down with a taut vibe that informs the rest of the tune with an infectious, and surprisingly nervy, atmosphere. This run of DB returns has been one of my highlights of the year so far. It better never stop.