Alvin Aronson – City EP

Until he popped his head above the parapet last year with a couple of well received remixes, Alvin Aronson was arguably best known for designing a brilliantly simple clock that cleverly fused analogue and digital time-keeping technology. While he was merely a product design student at the time, the clock made quite a stir. More significant, musically speaking, was his conversion to the techno cause during his student days; not just because it offered a chance to continue his fascination with the point where analogue and digital technology meet, but also because it put him in contact with Rhode Island native and White Material co-founder DJ Richard. Aronson, now based in Brooklyn alongside another long-standing friend, Galcher Lustwerk, has been a member of the extended White Material family ever since. It’s no surprise, then, that White Material is releasing his debut single, the quietly confident and occasionally impressive City.

Alvin Aronson - City
Artist
Alvin Aronson
Title
City
Label
White Material
Format
12"
Buy vinyl

The six tracks here largely focus on a style that sits somewhere between the deeper, ambient-influenced end of techno, and the grainy, analogue-heavy, industrial inspired fodder that New York is becoming increasingly well known for. With its’ use of modular synthesizers – see the pulsing, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ambience of “Hominid” – clattering drum machine rhythms, throbbing digital melodies and deep, winding electronics, City offers a neat musical representation of Aronson’s analogue/digital product design. The secret to great product design is that combination of functionality and pleasing aesthetics; Aronson’s first musical missive has both in spades.

This is evident from the off, when a short burst of creepy, discordant ambience is followed by “Fog City”, a pleasingly deep and dreamy a chunk of techno hypnotism built around ghostly, weightless chord progressions, clicking, minimalist rhythms, and a similarly pulsing bassline. The influence of dub techno – particularly in the use of echo-laden hits and floatation tank aesthetics – is obvious, though some will also note the cyclical compositional techniques of classic American minimalism and beat patterns that reflect that imaginative approach of the mid-‘90s “intelligent techno” period.

The track’s attractive beauty is mirrored in the EP’s closing shot, “City 2”, where stretched-out, candy-floss chords and deep space acoustics are this time accompanied by snappier snares, crisper cymbals and an altogether bolder bassline. The beats seem loose and wonky, offering a surprisingly tough and hissing accompaniment to the Brooklyn producer’s shape-shifting, dream world textures.

Aronson counters these notably deep moments with a couple of rough, raw machine workouts. Perhaps the boldest of the pair is “Drone Techno”, which combines a thunderous bottom-end groove, all muddy kick drums and bassbin-bothering frequencies, with a fluctuating, mind-altering electronic loop. This smartly rises and falls in line with his intricate percussion programming and the faint hint of some ghastly event yet to come. “Extension” explores similar territory – think clanking snares, distortion-heavy kick-drums, and cymbal hits drenched in tape delay – but catches the ear more thanks to the kind of alien-sounding melody line that recalls classic, early ‘90s techno. Both tracks are unfussy and straightforward, yet almost claustrophobic in their attention to atmospheric detail.

Matt Anniss

Tracklisting:

A1. Aevus
A2. Fog City
A3. Extension
B1. Hominid
B2. Drone Techno
B3. City 2