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Martyn – Ghost People review

That one of this year’s best techno albums has been made by a Dutch dubstep artist and issued on a label owned by L.A. hip-hop figure Flying Lotus says a lot about the increasingly blurred boundaries within which the genre operates. Ironically, the backbone for Ghost People is the purist-influenced Berghain sound that has dominated techno production in recent years. In fairness to Martyn, he makes no secret of this, even going as far to equating his European DJ dates to sonic fact-finding missions that informed the album’s direction.

This should hardly come as a surprise to close watchers of the Dutch producer’s work. Like Cosmin TRG, Martyn’s releases have seen a gradual shift towards straighter 4/4 tracks in the past year, an intriguing progression from his early forays into dubstep, and, before that, drum and bass. It began with “MiniLuv”, his contribution to Ben Klock’s Berghain 04 mix CD, before gaining legs on “Is This Insanity?” and his collaboration with Mike Slott for All City. This was followed by the dense drum shuffle of recent single “Masks”, which is included here.

However, it would be a mistake to assume that Ghost People is merely a replica of unflinching Berlin techno. Instead, Martyn uses it as a backdrop to tease out a range of directions. The title track contains references to the heady rush of rave, while “Twice As” revisits the Dutch producer’s love of Detroit techno as sonic blips and spine-tingling melodies are married to more garage-style shuffling beats – perhaps the track’s title is a nod to the London 2-step institution. On “Popgun”, the producer¬† briefly revisits lurching dubstep territories and there’s even a tribute of sorts to Vangelis on the glistening synths of “Bauplan”. That Ghost People covers so much ground while remaining close to the filtered rumble of tracks like “Horror Vacui” is an impressive testament to Martyn’s supernatural production powers.

Richard Brophy