Review: Will Azada & Alex Falk – The Illuminati Traqckx (CGI Records)

Atlanta label CGI have, in the space of about three years, gone from being an interesting but hardly vital stable to one of a handful of indispensable US labels currently doing the business. Their first half-bag of records pushed a sound that was occasionally harder and expansive but mostly lighter, bouncier, and bigger than the bulk of the techno and house of the time, favouring as it did a kookier acid fun house energy over anything more serious or contemplative. More recently though, as techno has dug a bigger hole for itself in search of deepness, CGI have again sidestepped the rest of them and began to propagate a sound which mixes grooves and rawness with an experimental veneer. The results, particularly over the last three or four releases, and taking in music from Golden Donna, Twins, and Black Suede, have been some of the most gloriously rude and proper techno 12s of the last couple of years.

Proper Trax boss Azada joins Alex Falk for a double A side, the first music either of them (under their own names at least) has released on CGI for a while. Azada’s side takes his slicker minimal leaning and roughs it up. Flutterbutt opens like a tribal version of Plastikman before tightening itself down into a driving, dirty techno that would be right at home in the peak time sweat-a-thon of a really grimy warehouse. It’s purely functional but climbs relentlessly for its entire length. Illuminati Traqckx delves further into the night and although it starts pretty much where the last track finished, it opens up nicely and swaps the building energy for some hypnotic chords, adding warmth and serenity to the crackling lunacy underneath.

Alex Falk’s last record for CGI, The Justin Beiber sampling funk of GF, unfairly slipped under many radars but seems to have become better known since. Hopefully it won’t take people as long to pick up on his two tracks here. The first, MR1, perhaps represents his best work to date. Deceptively heavy, it pushes itself forward with a potent, ever fluctuating riff that locks down the vibe right away. Frayed by distorted edges, and chewed at by charging, high floating toms, it actually hides a lightness of touch, and disguises a mesmerizing, dreamy quality behind the urgency and froth of static. BLAZEIT takes a lot longer to get going before it delivers some shadowy Millsian voodoo techno. While it at first seems to be riding off to Loopy Banger territory, Falk cleverly centers the track’s potency in the groove rather than in the sound, negating dense frequency with an airiness that lets the funk take control.

While I’m not sure this is as buy-on-sight as CGI’s last handful of records, it’s worth more than a couple of quick glances. For both producers it’s probably their best work so far, and an evolution of their talents, especially in Falk’s case. If you haven’t picked up on their names so far (or the label for that matter) this is a pretty solid place to get involved. Dirty techno with heart, soul, and funk.


Reviews: L/F/D/M – Psychopaths Eating Jelly (CGI); Aleks – Low Definitions (Natural Sciences)

Reviews: L/F/D/M – Psychopaths Eating Jelly (CGI)

L/F/D/M’s slim body of work so far has been noticeable for his twisted, dirty take on analogue acid. His first two EPs for Glasgow labels Optimo Traxs and Clan Destine were large with the sort of fired up, spitting acidic grooves many people pretend they are making, but few actually do. His album from the start of the year, M Is A Shape on Kompakt sub Ecstatic, showed a deeper side to his work with the addition of woozy experimentalism and textures, and was not unlike Jamal Moss in his more unhinged and shamanistic moments.

He’s moved across the pond to Atlanta label CGI for Psychopaths Eating Jelly and delivered an EP that reinstates the heavy filth at the cost of some of the album’s more esoteric movements. Grimy 303’s front and centre, it’s a record that squawks and shimmy’s its way to some crunching madness, but not without the occasional detour into deep and sticky funk. Opener, Spareribs, No Napkin is a gravelly, pounding example of just how heavy acid house can get; the 303s are all but buried under the mud of static and distortion as the tune pumps along. Hippos In Slumber cleans up its act and briefly dances on the cusp of classic – but still twisted – Chicago tunage, recalling Mike Dunn whilst always feeling its on the verge of swapping any lingering desire to remain in Illinois for a muddy field in Essex.

It’s a deliciously off kilter record, and one that doesn’t content itself with simply pushing too far into either acid or the noisier end of techno. Rather, it brings both extremes together into a place where the obvious brutality of the approach is softened by some finely honed grooves that are never quite as buried under the muck as you might expect on first listen. Classy, nasty stuff. Just as acid house should be.

Aleks – Low Definitions (Natural Sciences)

The first release on new label Natural Sciences goes to Aleks, an artist I can’t claim to know anything about. It may well be that this is his début too and, if so, Low Definitions is a pretty strong way to kick off his recording career.

Whilst most producers are currently coming in from the lo-fi cold, casting of the fuzz and scuzz and either moving into more experimental fields or pretending that disco edits are the future, Aleks has decided to keep a hold of many of the lessons learned over the last couple of seasons. Low Definitions is a record that delights in layering sound upon sound. Occasionally they threaten to choke some of the more delicate forms that bloom beneath the maelstrom but he has the sense to allow the light in now and again.

This predilection for sonic mayhem actually disguises the fact that, down below, there are some finely detailed and classically sounding house tunes. Invoking shades of not only house, but ambient techno (of the mid nineties variety, which was frequently more techno than ambient) and also certain forms of trance before that genre became a clown shoe wearing embarrassment to its own immediate past, Low Definitions carves out enough space to let the sharp grooves do what they need to, whilst also affording the music just enough space to soak up a little bit of experimentalism. It is also one of those records that seems to benefit from pitching the bugger up quite harshly at times, especially on Multitudes where liberal use of the old +8 goes a long way from transforming its pedestrian tendencies into something far more entrancing and euphoric. Ulterior Motives itself is the pick of the litter; a splendidly acidic and dusky number that pushes the warble of the 303 through waves of hazy summer-night synths and leaves you dancing on your own as the dawn breaks.

A good début, though not without a few flaws. It could have used a firmer hand when it came to cutting out some of the more extraneous flab, and it ambles too often when it should be flying. But these are quibbles and don’t detract too much from a record that’s scattered with warm funk. Just a little more focus next time and it’ll be onwards and upwards.

Friday Night Tune: Golden Donna – Colditz

First of all, apologies for there being no Friday Night Tune last week. It had been a harsh 7 days and it needed a longer than normal recovery period. One of the knock ons of this was that there simply wasn’t a tune in my head for a bit. Sometimes I know well in advance what I’m going to talk about. Other times I have no idea until I sit down at the computer. Faced with an empty screen long after I should have finished last week I decided to cut my losses and go back to the source.

I spent part of the weekend rooting through my records. Aside from frequently wondering why so many of them were bad and lamenting the fact that so many of the good ones are scratched to buggery, I started to realise there are a lot of them I don’t know anywhere near as well as I should.

This has become more of a problem since I started buying vinyl again about five years ago. In the old days when the readies were not quite so ready there was a hard limit placed on the records I could buy. Probably because of that there was a bit more opportunity to get to know a record inside out. I’d mix the same records and the same tunes in and out of each other for hours, making the best out of a much more limited pool (although, it wasn’t really that limited). Nowadays, especially now I have a bit more available in the way of funds, I tend to buy more records more often. It’s a beginners mistake, isn’t it, having eyes that are bigger than your belly? And time is the real finite resource nowadays, which means I don’t get a chance to listen to some of these beauties as much as they deserve.

Very simply put I bought this record, the second release on Atlanta label CGI Records, a long while back when it first appeared, I listened to it a few times and lost it under a blizzard of newer records. It’s a split EP with Cc taking one side and Golden Donna taking the other. I gravitated towards the Cc stuff first, the hard jacking garage stomp of Shackles in particular. It’s not that I never listened to the two Golden Donna tracks, it’s just that the immediacy of the Cc tunes caught me and then I was gone.

But coming back to the record last weekend after all but forgetting it was there I stuck on Colditz and was properly demolished. It wasn’t the airy, housey tune I’d imagined on first listen. It was thunderous. The beats, infused by the rude strut of garage, are almost Ancient Methods in their controlled ferocity, like a hungry Doberman straining against its leash. That’s only the beginning, though. The heaviness is jerked in and out with the grinding bass playing off for the limelight against the grimy, swooping strings. The ricocheting vocal snap suddenly teleports you from an echoing expanse of melodic mid-western techno into the sweaty confines of Uk bass. It is the biggest tune on an EP of big tunes, riding high on an attitude that is part street smarts and part dream filled star child.

It’s probably a good thing I wrote nothing last week. The enforced need to actually spend time with a box of records paid off. There is suddenly so much to hear, and so much to relearn. Will I stop buying too many records? Probably not. Like they say, ‘a man’s aim must exceed his grasp, else what’s a record shop for?’. Robert Browning, there. He should know. He was well mental for banging acid. Aren’t we all?