It is testament to Frozen Border’s artistic vision and approach that its hand-stamped, anonymous releases have succeeded in both attracting the cream of new talent and capturing the attention of the wider techno community. Without any fuss or fanfare, the imprint has proved that it is possible for underground labels to cut through much of the hype and fanboy cultish behaviour that had engulfed techno since the minimal explosion.
Its initial 11 vinyl releases marked Frozen Border’s first chapter, and Minutes In Ice is the start of the next phase. It’s regrettable that reviewers have a tendency to make the assumption that techno producers are ‘maturing’ or growing up because they are releasing albums or compilations. It implies both that their preceding body of work was somehow unworthy, and that the album format is synonymous with behaving like an adult. Imagine trying to explain 2 Live Crew with that kind of warped logic.
But back to our faceless friends: what Minutes In Ice does achieve is to provide a platform for a more diverse range of tempos and structures. It allows the label to give vent to Skirt’s eerie ambience on “Beatless” and welcomes veteran UK producer Dean Cole to the fold with the dreamy textures and stop-start rhythms of “Time”. The compilation also sees Frozen Border step out of the shadows; all the artists are identified – apart from the ever mysterious 4.26, who delivers the drummy groove and brooding bass of “Tharin” – and it makes room for new names too. Andrea Santoro delivers the hevay claps and eerie melodies of “Solid Smoke”; Canadian Mary Velo impresses with “Detune”, a droning affair that leads into an uber-grungy denoument, while Frozen Border will undoubtedly win new fans by tapping Blawan for the raucous “Tuesday’s March”, where spiky percussion is fused with a visceral, stomping rhythm.
Yet at the same time, Minutes In Ice does not sacrifice the label’s core sound: the HG – and I’m assuming that stands for Horizontal Ground – version of Skirt’s “Collider” consists mainly of a lurching bass, AnD deliver tight, dense techno on “In Just A Small Moment” and best of all, Szare’s “Uprising” boasts a clanging metallic backing track that provides the basis for a droning Middle Eastern chant. It’s a reminder of how powerful the Frozen Border-Horizontal Ground repetitive aesthetic can be and it shows that they have a sense of pride. After all, it would have been much easier to churn out an album’s worth of industrial white noise.
A1. Andrea Santoro – Solid Smoke
A2. Buck – Session 002
B1. Skirt – Colider (REMIX) (H.G. Version)
B2. Mary Velo – Detune
C1. #.4.26. – Tharin
C2. Szare – Uprising
D1. AnD – NJSTSMLLMMNT
D2. Blawan – Tuesday’s March