Review: Chemotex – Schrade Knives (The Trilogy Tapes)

Over the last year or two its been pretty difficult to think of another label that has turned out quite so much genuine A grade material as The Trilogy Tapes. Even this year, as their output seems to have rocketed into the territory where we fear ‘L.I.E.S fatigue’ may begin to set in for some people, there have been so many treasures that it remains all but impossible to say no. Here, at the halfway mark of 2014, there have been more memorable moments than I care to count – the astounding 71st Exchange Used To Be by Theo Parrish is still quite possibly the highlight of the last 12 months – and with records by Anthony Naples and Dario Zenker (hopefully) on their way in the near future, we’re going to have to shrug off any aches of exhaustion for a little while yet.

Chemotex is a new name for a well-known producer playing the game of guises that is so popular at the moment. I won’t say more than that other than his previous work and labels would suggest a natural enough fit for Will Bankhead’s growing and unruly stable of noise-niks. The fact is that whether the name is up front, or under a shroud, Bankhead has excelled in getting some classy sounds from his gang of disparate producers. He’s done it again here.

The concept of Industrial Techno is one that has little purchase with me. Often it’s used as a catch-all term for any body of music where the clanks outnumber the drops. It would be easy to dismiss explosive opener Schrade Knives as such, but it would be neither fair or accurate. Beneath the static bursts and brutalist percussive belts there is a deceptively subtle mover entirely in command. Chemotex is smart enough to know that six minutes of grinding noises often ends up sounding like six of grinding noises unless there is something else doing the heavy lifting, which is exactly what is achieved here through the constant evolution of the sounds and the way it ever so slightly mellows the vibe without taking of the acerbic edge.

Payphone Player is a straight up, dirty jacker that wouldn’t sound at all out-of-place with the Gene Hunt release I reviewed the other night. The trill of a ring tone a gallows rope that hangs through the entire track, the enormous thump of the kicks and the gratuitous wriggle of the hi-hats – this is a weaponized stomper that is going to be getting a lot of plays.

Although neither of the B-side tracks come up to quite the same standard of vicious scuzz-jacking that Payphone Player reaches, both delve further into the seam of experimental floor shakers that Schrade Knives first mined. 33140 is the heavier of the pair, rolling in on a breakbeat carved entirely out of sinew and induced neurosis, so rough it would take your fingerprints off if you rested your hand upon it. Early Death feels like a reprise of sorts of Schrade Knives but less sharp, more worn and toxic. The staccato chops thrash above the bulging bass pulses that drag everything else around it into its destructive orbit like a fat sonic singularity. But, like the other tracks, it marries the fierceness to a nuanced groove that provides buck and scuttle to the crowd of grunts and barks. Harsh but very, very fair. Modern face-pounders with the heart of a dancer.

Gene Hunt – Pandemonium (LA Club Resource)

Having become something of a totemic figure with L.I.E.S where he released a trinity of records that sounded brilliantly like Frankie Bones mainlining Relief Records, most people with an interest knew Delroy Edwards’ own label would be liable to turn a few heads. Few, I suspect, probably expected it to turn so many heads in both directions. Following on from his own release a year ago, the output of LA Club Resources has grown fiercer with each new arrival – not gradually, but in leaps and bounds. The recent DJ Punisher (Edwards in another guise) record was something of a smack around the face, in sonic terms. Undeniably a hell of a lot of fun, but not so much industrial Techno as scorched earth Electronica. Aside from anything else, it is a good indicator of where Edwards head seems to be just now, especially following his harsh experimental outing with the Teenage Tapes on Death Of Rave.

Bringing Chicago House and Acid veteran Gene Hunt into the fold was an unexpected move, but one that makes perfect sense. Hunt’s own take on Acid – a grimy snarl, heavy on the funk, is a direct aural mentor to a host of contemporary talent, including the likes of Greg Beato and Edwards himself. While I can’t remember a Gene Hunt record offhand that goes for the nuclear option quite as much as the Punisher release, there is the definite vibe of kindred spirits finding each other.

Pandemonium brings funk to the fury, something that is a much-needed counter to the current crop of artists pushing ever deeper into pure noise. Hunt has never been a stranger to the art of penning outright Technoid monsters, but it is an art that has always been informed by the push and pull of the groove and rhythms of the music. The two tracks here, a pair of stripped down acid jackers, are no exception to that.

Pandemonium is as pure as slice of Chicago mayhem as you could hope to find: the snares battering out a path for the dirty, nasty acid drenched riff to follow as the high hats sting like metal insects. It’s an enormous strident beast that would probably have been just at home of Djax Upbeats back in the day. It swaggers along breaking hearts and bones in just about equal measures, a perfect antidote to the rise of bland join-the-dots ‘jacking house’.

Jackzone is just as raw and biting but even more lo-fi and dirty, like it’s been recovered from tapes stored in gravel for a decade. The differences come in attitude: It rolls where Pandemonium stomps, and struts where Pandemonium bucks. Hunt takes very direct control, gleefully screwing with levels and even the patrol of the kicks, giving the vision of a DJ messing with enraptured dancers. It’s thrillingly, terrifyingly fluid, the glare of magma lighting up the night as it pours onto the dance floor.

Try as many producers these days might pretend, you just can’t fake authentic mayhem from an artist who knows his game. This is proper explosive House music from a bona-fide Chicago hero; slamming, jacking beats and more than a little showmanship. I can’t help but hope LACR gets on the phone to arrange a second dose. A pair of real movers, moving.

Marquis Hawkes – Outta This Hood (Clone Jack For Daze)

It’s been a couple of years since Marquis Hawkes first arrived on the scene courtesy of the Cabrini Green EP for Glasgow’s own Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, and brought with him his take on a particular breed of dance floor ready Chicagoan House, heavy on the tumbling toms, soulful vocal snips and with a searing acid line never far away. Since then he has become a totem of sorts for DABJ; three more EPs have followed as Hawkes refined his sound, distilling it down into the purest jacking kill-juice and even though he has moved out into more straight Technoid territory under his Juxta Position guise, he seems driven to return time and time again to the thing he does so well.

Outta This Hood, his first release as Marquis Hawkes for a label not named Dixon Avenue, is – at first listen – a continuation of the sound that got us to this point in the first place. Hawkes has always worn his influences proudly and Outta This Hood is no different in that respect. The vibe of countless records released across a host of those early Chicago labels is present as always, with a particular nod to Dance Mania’s Ghetto-House style that lit up so many dancefloors at the turn of the century and continues to prey on the minds of a generation of producers today.

Outta This Hood is a stripped down slice of jacking funk, sharp and tactile, singular in its purpose. The roll of the kicks and toms pound out a tight, boneshaking groove below the wild oscillations of the lead. It’s like a Robert Armani track with all the extraneous fat trimmed off – not that there ever was any fat on most of Armani’s tracks – until we’re left with the bobbing, lean physique of a Funk Boxer. Talking Shit is looser, a collision of low-end rhythms and snares that accompany the vocal down into sweatbox country. It doesn’t feel as complete as Outta This Hood – free jamming rhythm tools often feel a little lacking compared to their more rounded peers – but it does the job and no mistake – pitch this one up late night and watch the place burn, I reckon.

Peanut, whilst still spikey with its influences, also seems to pick something up from the days when European Techno was beginning to get up a head of steam. It’s less strictly Chicago, and has an affinity with the sort of stuff that Djax Upbeats used to do so well. That is no real surprise, mind you, considering how often that label used to mine the sounds of Detroit and Chicago to great effect. Clattering percussion and huge honking squawks lead the way into stupid, dumb thrills and what it lacks in smarts it more than makes up for in fun.

Like Dat, however, feels like something of a departure and might well be all the better for it. On first play, it might seem fairly standard Hawkes material, but there is a tenderness in the unexpected strings, swelling above the crunching groove and washing over the tight, proto-rave chords that hold the piece together. The vocals too, aerated by reverb and misted by the delay, add a disarmingly haunting trill to the raucousness of the proceedings. It might not entirely be a departure, but there is something new, something different here. I think it might be one of the best things he has done to date. Soulful, Jacking House.

Joey Anderson – After Forever (Dekmantel)

By any standard, 2013 was a busy year for Joey Anderson. Following on from his proper arrival (on the back of 2012s stand out Earth Calls 12″) he built up a reputation with half a dozen EPs that placed him squarely as something more than the mate of Levon Vincent, DJ Qu and the rest of the New Jersey crew. Each new release seemed to usher in another facet of his blossoming skills as a producers – which is really saying something considering this is the guy who gave us the stunning Three Analysis on Exchange Place, the Strength Music sampler from five or six years back. Two of those 2013 records, Diagram Solutions and Above The Cherry Moon, were perhaps even finer than Earth Calls and probably sealed the deal for many of us. In the same way that Carl Craig began to better much of the work of his Detroit peers, Anderson has reached a point where not only is he at least as vital as his Jersey Contemporaries but actually looks set to eclipse them.

Although things have been much quieter this so far in 2014, he’s back with this album for Dutch label Dekmantel. It’s perhaps a slightly odd home for him, alongside more mainstream acts like San Proper and Juju and Jordash, but it’s not as if that matters. What matters is that Anderson has returned to the surface with one of the finest albums you are likely to hear this, or any other year. And, considering some of the other LPs kicking around at the moment, that’s a real accomplishment.

As with his various EPs, After Forever isn’t a work that lends itself to instant gratification. There is a subtly and sense of space common to all the tracks that suggests a take on dance music that owes less to the brute functionalism of floor-centric club music than it does to a calmer, introspective examination of what House and Techno can be, and what they might be capable of. Two of the opening tracks, Space Between Curtains and Space Color Ideas even lack beats. These are no ambient interludes – once so common of Electronica albums – but poised, baroque and finely elegiac instrumentals where the swell of the pianos wash against the machine-wrought elements. Both are ghost-like and fragile, wraiths of sound.

Even when the beats do arrive (as the certainly do) they never dominate, never seek to force their own tones onto the fine fabric of the music. Instead they take the myriad elements by the hand and guide them through the mix. Even on the handful of tracks that approach the flow of regular club readiness, like on the cosmic stepping of It’s a Choice, say, or the Acidic Amp Me Up, they retain a fluidity, a sense that they are just another part to be toyed with and enjoyed rather than artificially pushed onto us.

It’s when Anderson moves into territory similar to Carl Craig, though, that the album really comes into its own. I’ve mentioned Craig twice now for a reason: there is something of the way in which Anderson uses sounds as something more than simple textures that recall the Detroit great’s own symphonies of pulses and tones as heard under his Psyche and 69 guises. Sorcery, for example is a wondrous example of High-Tech Soul brought forward into the new millennium. The way the synths and the bass weave together with the groove and the shuffle of the hats is pure deep space jazz. It’s reprised across other tunes. Maidens Response drifts into similar territory to Craig’s own seminal Landcruising whilst sounding utterly contemporary, and Archers Ceremony is an aching paean to the future, cloaked in cascading Drexciyan Synths.

After Forever astounds with the breadth of the artists vision. As with all the best art it has an innate understanding of the way in which past processes and thoughts have allowed it to reach a point where it can propel itself into a tomorrow barely glimpsed but so well realised. It’s an achievement which makes all else around it look ordinary and drab, right now, and after forever.

Review: Robert Crash – Under Party (Dog In The Night)

Perhaps more than any other genre, Electronic music is the domain of the independent mind. From bedroom producers and DJs to pop up record labels there has always been such a strong belief in getting on with it and doing things for yourself that even Indy rock looks positively corporate in comparison. These days that attitude seems to be on the increase and each new week seems to bring a fresh clutch of labels pushing new talent towards us.

Dog In the Night are another of those labels that have appeared out of nowhere with their fingerprints seared off. For all I know they may be some post modernist trick of EMI or Virgin to get themselves a slice of the pie but I doubt it. Their first release (or their second, if you go by the catalogue numbers) was the Detour EP by WV. It was a good record, perhaps more solid than groundbreaking and pitched somewhere between straight Techno and Experimentalist tribal funk. There was enough in it, though, to suggest that Dog In The Night know their stuff, and it had a certain zing that put it squarely up there with the current scuzzy New York vibe. Track it down if you can, it’s more than worth a buy.

This second (or first) record, Under Party by Robert Crash – better known as IFM’s Fran Mela – has a similar starting point to Detour, but falls resolutely into the left field. Similar to Detour, there is much here that has common ground with Lo-Fi experimentalism, but with an added swagger that recalls some of classic Chicago’s darker, more uncompromising moments. Opener Candem Town, for example captures the nightmarish sodium glare of Frankie Knuckles’ Baby Wants To Ride whilst occupying a vastly different psychic space; it’s pace surgically removed, and the occasional acid chirp and murky vocals twisting the mood it becomes a tune for the far side of the party.

Elsewhere the speed is upped and the record dips into genuine – but very dark – House territory. Brike Lane throws trebley synth chords down on you like kids throwing bricks down from a flyover onto oncoming traffic as the percussion clatters along. Toys Slip is a corkscrewing acid number that uses the vocals as a tool for disorientation – a trick used to great effect several times across the record. Vertigo is the quietest number – perhaps surprisingly – it it’s ever so slightly dubby feel. The ricocheting clanks and waves of distortion lending warmth rather than violence even though it carries the elastic funk of Vereker or Funkineven.

Let Disco is probably the stand out, which is probably a difficult thing to argue given the quality of the others. It’s a unfocussed roar of sound tied to a loose groove that fades in and out as the mood takes it. Just as you are beginning to lose it to the strange rhythms the tone alters on the back of maudlin chords before it again grows restless and storms back to where it came. Playful and funky and strangely euphoric, it’s like nothing else on the record. Let Disco indeed.