Alessandro Adriani – Crow

In his role as Mannequin gatekeeper, Alessandro Adriani has put out other people’s music and in the process unearthing some fine electronic music obscurities from both the modern day and the past. However, 2016 will go down as the year that the Italian label owner turns producer, stepping out from the shadows and puts out his own material.

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John Heckle – Tributes to a Sun God

This latest release by John Heckle is dedicated to the artist who gave him his first break. The Sun God is a reference to Jamal Moss, better known as Hieroglyphic Being. It was on Moss’ Mathematics label that the first Heckle record appeared back in 2010. Six years on and the UK producer is using his latest release to recognise this fact. Less abrasive than the I.B.M. side project and more esoteric than the Hieroglyphic Being output, the Sun God is Moss’ attempt to make house music with a deep edge.

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Karen Gwyer – Prophase Metaphase Anaphase Telophase

In one of her first major interviews, with The Quietus back in 2014, Karen Gwyer talked at length about her struggle to balance a desire to make dancefloor-ready techno, and a constant desire to make her music sound “weirder”. In the article, she seemed conflicted – as if focusing on making people dance was somehow an affront to her experimentalist roots – yet balancing these two contrasting demands has become her musical trademark.

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Cristian Vogel – The Assistenz

Cristian Vogel’s contribution to electronic music is unquestionable. Along with Neil Landstrumm (Pure /Sativa) and Steve Bicknell (Lost), Vogel and his associates provided an anarchic counterpoint to the big club and festival apparatus that sought to surround techno music during the early to mid-’90s. Like the aforementioned Landstrumm, Vogel’s music was a vividly freeform amalgamation of influences.

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Chunyin – Code Switch

There’s a lot of emphasis around knowing your history and being familiar with the canon as an artist or producer. However, some of the most unique and invigorating sounds can come from people who don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge about the genre of music they make. One such producer is Chunyin. “I wouldn’t say I’m particularly well-versed in dance music,” the Sydney-based, Hong Kong-born producer admitted in an interview with Truants earlier this year. Chunyin marks a turning point in her music career – before this she was making thoughtful, colourful pop under the name Rainbow Chan.

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Snorre Magnar Solberg, Kristoffer Drevdal / DJ Fett Burger – No-No 4

Snorre Magnar Solberg is a Norwegian DJ and producer who recently contributed a podcast to the Juno Plus series and who runs the Club No-No label. His work has been previously described as ‘rainforest techno’, but if this fourth release on his imprint is to fit that description, then the trees would be shrouded in grey mist, the plants’ berries poisonous and the animals that inhabit it wary to venture out before dusk.

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Various Artists – Scandinavian Swords II

When it comes to the work of Northern Electronics and other labels and artists that orbit this particular dimension of Swedish techno, the appeal is less about a dogmatic adherence to rules than it is about a sense of place. While the label’s output can range from tough rhythmic pulses to spacious ambience, the work of Varg, Abdullah Rashim, SARS et al is consistent in its evocation of an imagined place. Much music these days seeks to draw on worldly influences to fling the listener to far-out, exotic climes, but these artists have struck upon an aesthetic that heads in the opposite direction from sun-kissed lands and finds beauty in a cold, harsh environment. Considering the name of the label and the fact the majority of artists hail from Sweden, how much of this mental imagery is supposition? A lot of it, but not without merit, as Scandinavian Swords II demonstrates.

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Obalski – Wind S

While some labels choose to look close to home for inspiration, Public Possession have always sourced material from the four corners of the globe. Even so, it’s true to say that some of the label’s most intriguing releases have come from in-house production outfit Tambien (a collaboration between Bartellow, and label founders Marvin & Valentino), and fellow Munich resident Dominik Obalski. The latter is a particularly interesting example, because he has shied away from pandering to the demands of the dancefloor. His roots are apparently in experimental music – his CV includes crafting sound instillation’s for art galleries, and composing music for art-house plays – and this could be heard in both his 2014 debut, Introducing Obalski, and last year’s follow-up, According To Obalski.

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Will Long – Purple/Blue

In a recent Resident Advisor documentary on The Black Madonna, she had this to say: “Any of us that are lucky enough to be a part of underground dance music, we do have a responsibility to share certain values about race, class, gender, economic equality, everything. All of those things are built into dance music.” Anyone who knows their dance history understands the fundamental principles of unity and inclusivity which clubs and their music once promoted. But looking around at today’s scene, only a handful of artists are still carrying the torch.

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Convextion – 2845

The cover art on 2845 from self-proclaimed “longest-established living space artist in the West” David Hardy features a space ship headed for an unknown world. It perfectly reflects the direction that Gerard Hanson has chosen for this his second album as Convextion. Championed for the past two decades by a steadily growing and always fiercely loyal fan base for his sporadic and sleek, deep techno releases as Convextion and evocative electro as E.R.P., the Dallas producer now pushes the former project farther.

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UMFANG – Riffs

Emma Olson’s productions have always been arranged in a minimal way. Being the product of playing around with drum machines in her room, her music under the name UMFANG tends to be bare-boned and percussive heavy. As a DJ, Olson has an inclination to play hard, fast and powerful techno but her own output is a lot more restrained and slow. In 2015, she put out a group of tracks titled OK as her 1080p debut. While some may have categorised it as an album, Olson viewed it in a different light – describing OK as a collection of DJ tools.

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Best Available Technology – Twisted Ladder

Portland’s Kevin Palmer launched his own label, Working Nights, in 2014 after a series of releases for the likes of London’s Astro:Dynamics, Styles Upon Styles and Further Records. Working Nights is an all-too fitting title for Palmer’s music, as he’s previously alluded to “doing much of his production work in the small hours when his family are asleep.” The label first started out in familiar BAT territory with a series of cassette releases, beginning with the promising Gallery Tape. Two further Working Nights cassettes followed this year, and this newest offering, Twisted Ladder, marks the self-described ‘low key’ label’s first vinyl release.

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Traversable Wormhole – Sublight Velocities

Adam ‘X’ Mitchell revives his Traversable Wormhole project after a four-year hiatus. Since the last instalment, the US producer has focused his energy on the rough and raw ebm/industrial ADMX-71 project for L.I.E.S and his own Sonic Groove. In the wider world, there has also been much change; techno has sped up and toughened up, with some artists veering towards the 140bpm end of kick drum distortion. At the other end, some have collapsed in on themselves in acts of abstract navel gazing. None of this seems to bother or interest Mitchell who has taken inspiration from his own catalogue to deliver this record.

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LNS – Heliacal Rising

Vancouver DJ and producer Laura Sparrow is clearly one for evocative titles when it comes to the music she produces as LNS. Her 1080p debut, Maligne Range, took its name from the Canadian mountain range in Jasper National Park and the six tracks of pared down electro were characterised by a sensation of isolation comparable to an early morning trek through the peaks. Transferring from tape to vinyl, Sparrow’s Heliacal Rising 12” for Jayda G and Fett Burger’s Freakout Cult lives up to its name with six tracks that leave you with an unshakeable feeling of star-gazing.

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Den Nard Husher – Senida

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“These were uncovered from dusty DAT tapes from the vault of Jonas Thor’s basement,” Strobelight Network founder Amaury Arias told me, somewhat nostalgically, when I contacted him about this Senida 12″. Much like Yossi Amoyal’s Sushitech label out of Berlin, Arias’ New York-based Strobelight Network is deeply inspired by the frosty, yet warm and streamlined sounds of Icelandic dub techno outpost Thule – “Strobelight Network” is the 15-minute B-side that dominated the label’s debut record back in 1996 after all. As it transpires, Arias discovered Exos’ classic 2001 LP My Home Is Sonic – subject of a 2015 Delsin reissue after it was originally released on Thule sub-label Æ Recordings – which led to the American to contacting Exos. After the Icelander visited New York the two solidified their friendship and established Strobelight together in 2014 with a three-track, Thule-heavy various artist EP.

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The Chi Factory – The Bamboo Recordings

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When discussing his original concept for ambient, Brian Eno has always emphasised not only the evocative, atmospheric nature of the music itself, but its relationship with the environment. Eno’s primary concern was, according to interviews, the relationship between the music and the space in which it is listened to. Over the years, many musicians and producers have interpreted this slightly differently, using field recordings to intrinsically link studio-based recordings with the places and spaces that initially inspired them.

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Rezzett – Doyce

If bands like Animal Collective or Throbbing Gristle made techno they’d probably fit comfortably on The Trilogy Tapes, a label that consistently pushes experimental electronic music in an interesting direction. The first vinyl release on TTT back in 2010, Dro Carey’s Venus Knock, set the tone for sparse rhythms and distorted rumbles driven by percussion so real you could reach out and touch it. Since then Will Bankhead’s label has continued to explore the outer fringes of techno and beyond, cultivating a sound personified by weighty sub-bass, erratic drums and imposing percussive licks saturated in distortion.

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Various Artists – MDM D

Format foibles don’t come much stronger than those exercised by Frankfurt’s Mmodemm label. Not only did they come to life as a strictly cassette-based affair, but their series of alphabet-themed compilations featured a track from each artist on its own tape, housed in a five-strong box. It’s a cumbersome way of presenting your music, surely with some kind of statement wound up in it as well, but if the packaging was somewhat silly, the music contained within was serious. Das Ding, Hypnobeat, F#X and Container have all appeared alongside less familiar names, the style generally orbiting around grubby, 4/4 oriented electronics for the modern wave of hardware deviants.

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Scheich In China – Scheich In China

Jagged thumps and oxidised howls from the belly of the Sankt Pauli fish market. Hamburg’s Golden Püdel has undoubtedly been a fulcrum for some of the most interesting underground electronic music of the past few years: faithful to the creed of the obscure and fresh in its unhindered genre-bending creativity, the place was also – refreshingly! – recently saved from neo-liberal property speculation. As one of the club’s maverick agitators, Nina’s mixes have also provided much enjoyment of late – and the latest release on the V I S label she runs with Tobias Duffner reflects their scene’s aesthetics and praxis, continuing to push the line where a refined taste for dark techno bleeds into a territory of quick-witted experimentation.

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Pussy Mothers – The Number 1 EP

While many are now familiar with the good work now being done by Glasgow’s Green Door Studio, JD Twitch has been a fan from the very start. Through his longstanding friendship with co-founders Emily MacLaren and Stuart Evans, Twitch has long had an unofficial A&R hotline to the lauded West End studio, with the duo frequently passing on the best of their students’ work for consideration. Ever since he put out the typically eccentric, energetic and experimental Muzikal Yooth album by The Green Door Kids back in 2010, Twitch has hoovered up all manner of material from the studio for release on his thrillingly left-of-centre Optimo Music label. The greatest example of this blossoming relationship has undoubtedly been Golden Teacher, whose retro-futurist distillation of dub, punk-funk, disco, techno, house, techno and electro influences epitomised the free-and-easy, try-anything ethos that Evans and MacLaren have done so much to encourage.

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