Clearing The Decks: Part 2 In A Sort Of Occasional Series.

Wait, what do you mean there’s more? Nah mate, I’ve just written one of these and now you want me to spaff on and on about Kon001, Ultradyne, Binaural, and Sweely? Are you mad? OK then, let’s get it going. Can I do this from the pub?

Ultradyne – Ocular Animus (Pi Gao Movement)

The Detroit electro outfit return with their first release in going on three years – not counting last year’s repress of the Antartica album. While it would be nice to see them being a bit more active, you can pretty much forgive all that the moment a new record arrives in your hands because, simply, there is no one else who sounds quite like them. This is another master class in slightly cracked but utterly compelling Detroit fuelled electro. It seems prudent to give the warning that it might not be for everyone, though, particularly the sprawling, de-constructed, winter beauty of Reflex Movement No. 4, a tune which seems less like music and more like a sonic rorschach test. The other two tracks are moderately more sane, with the beguiling, spinning, Suicide Relay stripping away all of contemporary electro’s baggage to reveal the genre’s glowing soul. Please buy it now. It’s one of the best this year so far.

Binaural – Mescla (Dream Ticket)

Binaural have been around since the late nineties, making their debut with the highly regarded Unison on the legendary Djax and following it up with a body of work sooooo slender it pretty much becomes invisible in strong light. They unexpectedly reappeared last year with the excellent Prisms LP and seem to be ramping up their presence with this, their first EP in 13 years. It orbits a similar mass to Radioactive Man, or Sync24, in the sense that this is electro of a particular vintage where extraneous fluff is blown away to better reveal the tight rhythmic workouts which lie at the heart of every tune. Occasionally, though, this approach does leave the tracks a bit sparse in terms of emotion, as if they lack an obvious centre beyond the bounce of the beats. Even so, Mescla wears its heart joyously on its sleeve. Director’s deceptively potent mix of Dopplereffekt style grooves and old school story telling lends it a moody sense of emotion, but it’s Qwerty’s empty, wrong-side-of-midnight, scamper which raises the game – and the atmosphere – to unexpected heights.

Sweely – Les Chroniques De Monsieur Montana Part II (Concrete Music)

I’m always a little bit suspicious of music which elicits an immediate liking, as if there is something in its willingness to please which suggests there might not be much beyond first contact to hold your attention. Of course, this is largely because I’m a bit of an arsehole who sees disappointment beyond every corner, but it’s an occasionally useful strategy for separating the pretenders from the real deal. A good record will blow you away, but a great record will still blow you away years down the line. Les Chroniques De Monsieur Montana Part II is a bit of a mix; electro, house, jazz, funk, and little thrills n fills from elsewhere are condensed into a slick pack of prowlers which echo with a sense of homage for a music that never really existed. Straight of the bat, it delights in its winding takes and sensual grooves in a way that occasionally recalls fellow French genius/legend St. Germain, particularly on the languid Ambassadors Of The Jungle. Elsewhere Sweely sidesteps what, in other hands, may have been the temptation to dive into the lazy world of dull, chunky, disco to colour the music with true deep night, lounge-house textures which open up the sound to a wider, far more interesting world. More Love rolls with a coy, heartbreaking vibe that’s all understated chords and throbbing bass. No More Salad goes even further, latching onto a deliciously tight, cheeky groove which reminds me of Neneh Cherry for some reason. Lovely. So, yep, it’s a pretty good record. If you want to know whether it’s a great one though, check back in three years time and I’ll let you know.

Kon001 – 65489 CETO (Pulse Drift Recordings)

Confession time: I’ve had this kicking around for a while by mistake, having stupidly convinced myself that I’d already reviewed it. Such is the danger of being a one-idiot operation who relies heavily on scribbling things down on the back of unpaid leccy bills and hoping that counts as living an ordered life. What the content of that non-existent review was, I couldn’t tell you, but if I was writing it now (which, you know, I am) I’d point out that Kon001’s mix of Stingray’s ERBB4 was my tune of the year a while back, and was a gorgeous, accessible, reimagining of what was a wonderful but fairly obtuse tune. I’m not entirely sure, but this would appear to be Kon001’s actual, full d├ębut, and it’s somehow not what I expected on the back of that one, miraculous, remix. On first listen I thought it too slick, too ready to sacrifice rhythms and grooves for melody and straight-ahead structure. On successive listens that feeling alleviates somewhat – although it’s never entirely laid to rest – and once your ears realign to the dominant frequencies it develops a fierce sense of itself. While it’s very much electro in tone, it frequently dives away from that to wrap itself up in Detroit techno as much as anything else. The truth is that 65489 CETO is a record which does put the melody of emotion, mood, and tone, ahead of a more pugnaciously rhythmic heart, but in doing so it evokes a type of deep-space soul which we don’t hear quite as much of as we used to. While UW Colony XY70S’ harder electro-funk may be the one that us grumpy old purists gravitate towards first, the real meat on the EP is best summed up in USO’s sedate, wide-angled investigation into collapsing melodies and bigger-than-life motifs. The big moment for me, though, is in Project Lyra 705’s oort cloud bop; a tune that feels as if it was shot into space in the late 70’s and it only now broadcasting back to an Earth. When it stops trying too hard, and lets the music breathe instead, 65489 CETO is a pretty good record.

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Clearing The Decks. Part 1 of God Knows How Many

Jeez. You wonder off into a haze of jadedness, boredom, and football for a few weeks (months) and when you come back there’s about a thousand things piled up and howling for your attention. I don’t know about you, but when I haven’t been watching the World Cup, or sweltering in the most unScottish heat I can remember I’ve pretty much been listening to Mr De and Erotek on repeat. It’s had an effect on how I see all other music now, but it’s also been a very useful palette cleanser. I’ve got no beer and a really bad headache so let’s get down to deck clearing. Hold on tight, we’re going to move at a clip here.

Historical Repeater – Scientific Calculator (Earwiggle)

First up is Scientific Calculator by Historical Repeater, a collaboration on Earwiggle between Ctrls and Solid Blake that manages to sound exactly as you might expect while consistently stepping past your preconceptions. Essentially, this is the sort of scuzzy, forward aiming, techno that provides a much-needed counter-point to the hordes of identikit and boring sounds currently embarrassing the genre. It’s barbed, groovey, and all fuzzy on the outside. You’d probably expect me to alight on Flashdrive’s growling, industrialized electro stomp, but the real winner here is the expansive, funky, Say Nothing which draws out subtle melodies and a sense of motion from the darkness.

Vertical67 – Out Of The Void (Vortex Traks)

Vertical67 lands on Vortexs Traks with Out Of The Void, a record that builds up some interesting ideas, but unfortunately never quite gets them working together. The result is something bordering on lounge-smooth, although the glimmer of darker mood tends to stop it falling too far into the saccharine depths. Opener Out Of The Void carries it off best by simply keeping the groove locked into a tight snarl and coming up with something fluid, menacing, and noir-ish. Unknown Territories comes close to convincing you that there is still some worth in deep electro with a flair of emotion and vulnerability, but a little to much of the fragility seeps into the groove.

Hissman – Revenge EP (Dixon Avenue Basement Jams)

Fabio Monesi’s Hissman Project slams into DABJ at high-speed with a bumping chuckle of warehousey blangers. The Revenge EP is an immediate sugar-hit of noise, distortion, and general oomf that’ll make you feel like the most alive person in the room until the crash comes and you sit in a corner crying. First impressions suggest tracky madness, but really there’s a bit more going on. It’s a bit uneven – Revenge itself, and Forest Wave talk a big game, but are overly content with wobbling around the starting line. Fragment, though, is a solid slice of dirty techno nonsense – a kindred spirit to the Historical Repeater stuff (look upwards!), and the sort of tune that passes for peak time in my fever dreams.

Silicon – V981 (V-Max)

I’ve loved Heath Brunner’s work as Silicon since I first heard him many years ago, but V981 on his very recently reactivated V-Max Records was a difficult one for me to parse. I struggled up and down with it because essentially I’m a fanboi. The fact is I don’t think this is classic Silicon;V981 feels lacking in energy. It’s too well-mannered, and content to use flourish where there should be spirit. Even so, Brunner still has more funk than a James Brown clone factory. Lost To The Void swirls with moodiness and tight, hungry rhythms. Rx17 is maybe the standout, and captures something of the sophisticated electro-grace which made Silicon one of the real stand out producers of the last couple of decades.

DJ Glow Presents Populist – Psychometric Profiling (Trust)

DJ Glow is back on his own Trust label, with Psychometric Profiling and under the Populist guise which he hasn’t used in a while. It’s a likeable EP which gets stronger as it goes on, and there is a feeling of different shades of electro being brought in to illuminate the darker recesses of Glow’s mind. At first it lulls you into thinking it might be a slab of run-of-the-mill acid-tinged breakbeat wonkiness, but as the record unfolds the overarching atmosphere is brightened (and, importantly, darkened when the occasion presents itself) by little touches of drama as the music veers between straight-up modern electro, and something which I guess you could call more Warp influenced: a sheen of IDM which teases out strands of mood and texture from behind the beats. A solid record but the two big keepers are Electromagnetic’s compressed Jovian skank that sounds like the bastard offspring of Chaos and Spesimen, and Simulation City, a tune of clipped Stingray-esque beats and cascading light.

Well, that’s it for today. I’ve a million other records to get through so join me again soon for the next episode of All Work and No Play Makes Jack Question His Life Choices.

Review: OverworX – OverworX 001 (OverworX)

Next up is Ovewrworx, which is Ben Pest in disguise, and heading up what I think is his own label. For those who don’t know him, Ben Pest has been around for a while, with releases on underground luminaries like I love Acid, and Jerome Hill’s Don’t – both pretty decent arbiters of leftfield heat.

What we have here is a blast of the underground from a direction which has been growing a little bit over the last year or two. It’s reminiscent of Unspecified Enemies in the way it rewires broken bits of rave, house, electro, and God knows what else into a wonky looking, but hard moving, creation which exudes a sense of venomous glee. I Am The Cream Is a big room, day-glo stomper that whirls around the always improbable point where house begins to warp into rave. Let’s be honest here: it’s a brutally dumb track, but it’s not built for subtlety. It’s vast, colossal, and unashamedly aimed at getting hands-in-the-air. Carbs Before Marbs is less bothered about raising a smile – although it certainly does – and channels a bit of old Djax harshness into a clattering, rickety, skeleton always on the edge of falling apart.

The two digital only tracks pull a similar hit ‘n’ run to their vinyl siblings, but take aim at something less straight up and warehousey. Credible Honk is a frayed, garagey, scruff of fractured beats that expand and contract with heat. Leaner than the first two tracks – vainer too – it provides contrast and shade from the earlier work, and opens the record up to a wider world of influences.

Flybot’s electro is coloured with little tweaks, and a careful roughness, which accents an old-school looseness wedded to a Rotterdam-esque skank. While it never quite hits the scabby, mutant, heights of a Murder Capital/Viewlexx banger, it still manages to bring that same feeling of getting lost somewhere between the ribs of the groove and hoping you could get back to the open before it hits off on a tangent.

OverworX001 does a good job on opening up upon a similar electronic world as Jerome Hill, Textasy, a few others. Sonically they often bear little resemblance, but there is a shared energy that owes a lot to a brasher, louder, and dafter, musical heritage than we are usually treated to. OverworX001 differs in that, unlike those other producers, it’s at its happiest when moving between the various extremes, not particularly staking a claim to any one form. The ground it covers brings a wealth of ideas and, perhaps unexpectedly, moods. While the speed it moves at sometimes leaves things a little hazy, the energy it imbibes everything with is insane. Four directions on offer here. I hope each get their turn to be fully explored in the future.

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.

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.