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Sandwell District – Where Next? review

The mysterious Sandwell District imprint has built a certain aura around their artists, thanks in no small part to their austere cover art, usually accompanied by a fax number as the only point of contact. Vitally important though, is the music itself, and a slew of releases from a small but tight knit crew (Function, Kalon, Silent Servant, Female, Regis) have been – without exception – utterly impeccable examples of deep, brooding techno.

Since then they’ve come out of their shell somewhat (or to be more accurate, the media have forced more attention on them), and the label run by Function (Dave Sumner), Female (Peter Sutton) and Regis (Karl O’Connor) is now one of the most revered in contemporary techno. Indeed, their appearance at this year’s Sonar festival will almost certainly be one of the highlights of the event, with those still standing come 5.30am on the final morning set to be well rewarded.

Here we are treated to the first of a two part sampler showcasing new material from Function, Regis and Silent Servant, ahead of full length albums slated for later in the year. Printed on clear vinyl, things kick off with a suitably menacing intro, followed by a Function track titled, in typically no-frills fashion, “Function”. Arpeggiated bleeps wash over long synth sweeps and a deep bassline, taking you on a 10 minute ride that’s tough and raw yet deliciously danceable. On the flip we are treated to a Regis edit of fellow label stalwart Silent Servant, which displays Regis’ new found dubstep sensibilities and a love affair with radar bleeps. The b-side ends with an uncredited, beatless growl that leaves you wondering what the second part of the sampler will bring, let alone the albums.

Review: Aaron Coultate