Review: Pressed on visually striking turquoise vinyl, "Visual Distortion Of Reality" is prolific Italian producer Whitesquare's first outing on Life And Death. Fittingly, it contains some of his most sonically striking cuts to date. The title track is particularly potent, with pulsating funky acid bass, ghostly chords and gnarly TB-303 lines rising above a simple but effective groove. "Not Moving" is similarly impressive. It rolls along on a punchy electro groove before introducing wild acid lines that sound similar to those used on its predecessor. On the flip you'll find two versions of "Jasmine": Whitesquare's atmospheric, otherworldly original and an even punchier, moodier take from the ever-impressive DJ Tennis.
Review: Hyperdub and Tectonic regular Walton finds himself on vital Munich label Ilian Tape for his next EP. The rhythmic innovator takes cues from the label's love of breakbeats in one track here. Opener "Before The Storm" is a suspensory bit of ambient with sustained pads and distant hits, crashes and pops speaking of alien life forms. "Rolla", a dusty and shadowy cut that skates along with a sense of uneasy menace. Last of all, "Depth Charge" is as it sounds: fathom deep bass lurches to and fro with machine gun like snares firing across the face of the track. It's boombing body music to make you move.
CIA Contractor Freed Over Pakistan Killings (9:56)
Prime Minister Defiant As Pakistan Outs CIA Agent (9:48)
Review: When Dominick Fernow first donned the Vatican Shadow alias for the politically charged "Pakistan Military Academy" album back in 2011, he had no intention of releasing the set on vinyl. Instead, it was offered up as a limited double "C20" cassette offering. Eight years on, he's finally decided to release it on wax. It remains one of Fernow's most poignant and picturesque sets under the now infamous alias, with three of the tracks delivering neo-classical style movements (played on synthesizers, rather than by a string quartet) and evocative, ear-catching ambient chords. Fernow smartly moves through the gears as the set progresses, ending with a blast of gnarled, rhythmic noise and more tear-jerking electronics. A must-have.
Two Phase U - "Time Is Like Sand Through Your Fingers" (6:01)
Two Phase U - "Yolocreo" (8:01)
Review: Two Phase U has been busy recently and has a slew of releases out in the next few weeks, but first up is a split with relative newcomer Nemo Vachez for Opia. Every release on this label sells out in quick time, and for good reason: it deals in music that straddles a divide between house and techno, with elements of dub and breakbeat adding further vitality. Vachez's tech-funk opener sounds like classic Two Lone Swordsmen, while "Love From Jupiter" has infectious, fluttering metal snares and rugged bass. The flip features something you might describe as techno disco on "Time Is Like Sand Through Your Fingers", while "Yolocreo" is a blizzard of drums, toms, hits and restless melody that awakens your every sense.
Review: Young Marco's admirable Safe Trip label continues to explore the archives of Antwerp-based Van Elsen brothers, offering up more early '90s gems from their wonderful - and previously under-appreciated - ambient techno project Trans-4M. Both tracks here are alternative versions of cuts from the duo's brilliant "Sublunar Oracles" album. On the A-side you'll find a previously unreleased remix of "Arrival" that wraps jaunty, sunrise-ready synth stabs, psychedelic electronics and chiming lead lines around a chunky, floor-friendly groove and thickset bassline. It's superb, as is flipside "Amma (Moon Mix)" - a 1993 12" B-side that adds a little humid, dancing-all-night-under-a-blanket-of-stars vibe to an already impressive ambient techno classic (think boisterous beats, starry ambient motifs, dreamy chords and subtle tribal influences).
Review: Domenico Torti is best known for his high profile remixes of Daft Punk, but this outing on Ed Banger finds him indulge in his first love: the sounds, colours and scenes of New York City in the 1980s. To help authenticate his quest, he enlists expert beat maker Afrika Bambaataa. Their single "Radar" is a wild disco ride with electro synth work and plenty of future retro motifs, from the vocoder vocals to the sounds of spacecrafts taking off. Deena Abdelwahed flips it into a heavy drum work out with rising chords, Dimitri From Paris layers in brilliantly funky bass and Adesse Versions and Borussia go for jacking club workouts.
Review: Seoul-based Frenchman Timothee Victorri has been in fine form of late, offering up a string of unusual - but undeniably brilliant - breakbeat techno cuts that recall the psychedelic, mind-altering brilliance of the early '90s ambient techno movement. Here he dons a new alternative alias, SYO, in order to explore a more trance-influenced sound. A-side "Tears" sounds a little like a long lost early '90s psychedelic trance workout: all undulating acid lines, rising and falling, arpeggio style bass, dramatic builds and drops and plenty of hallucinatory electronic flourishes. "Dune" sees him strip out the beats while leaving plenty of rhythm, recalling some of the more trippy, ambient techno cuts popular in the same period; certainly, we could imagine a spacesuit-clad Mixmaster Morris dropping it at the Fridge in Brixton around 1992.
Review: Aside from a pair of releases on Horizontal Ground, and one appearance for the magnetic Edit Select, the enigmatic SNTS has chosen to reserve his/her releases for his/her own self-titled label. While the artist has only released EP's in the past, The Rustling Of The Leaves marks a debut LP effort. As you'd expect, the work is made up of chilling soundscapes, sinister sonics and grey-scaled ambient, but it's the way in which SNTS assembles beats around these elements that is impressive. "Backwoods", for example, flutters its subtle beats seamlessly into a hollow cave of drones and religious chanting, while a tune like "Remission" is what the inside of a power station would sound ike at night. For those who love their techno textures dark and sparse, this is it.
Review: The Verdant label continues to plumb depths others fail to reach in the search for the most immersive techno emanating from the underground. On this split disc, the A side is under the control of Sirko Muller, who unfurls a masterful take on dub techno and minimal house as subtle as it is sublime. RV800 then remixes "Affinity" and makes it into a bouncy, acid-flecked groover that remains true to Verdant's deep dynamics. Jonno & Tommo take on the flip with the sultry mood piece "Efficacy," a spooked-out trip of a track that gets flipped into a slippery electro number by Havantepe.
Review: It's hard to think of a DJ with the global profile of Nina Kraviz who runs a label as underground and innovative as trip. The latest comes from Shadowax, who has previously contributed to the label's compilations but now makes her full label debut. Unlike much of the frantic and frenetic material trip has dealt with in the past, this EP slows the tempos and explores more moody and hypnotic techno. Opener "Nikolai Reptile" is a super slow motion and dub rhythm with searching synth lines gently riding up and down the scale, while "Ochen" recalls the icy minimal perfection of Daniel Bell. "What About Me" has spoken word mutterings and paranoid, pressurised kicks that hurry you along and lastly "Mortal Talking" is a flurry of hyper-speed drums and synth loops to fully flip you out.
Review: Seleccion Natural is Oscar Mulero, Exium and Reeko, a techno dream team who have a new album on the way this autumn. Before that they offer up two tracks from it on a tidy 10" that brims with modular synthesisers, samplers and drum machines. "Split Didactics" will rewire your brain with squeaking lines and cantering kicks making for a real techno riot, and "A New Description Of Hell" layers up hammering kicks with howling synths into a rigid and unrelenting groove. Making this extra special is artwork by none other than Silent Servant.
Review: Smoky techno futurist Redshape dons his famously featureless mask once more, this time for an outing on regular home label, Running Back. Of course, the German's music is anything but feature-less, as this EP confirms once more. Opener "Rise" has scintillating chords draped over busy, shuffling, breaky-drums that find Redshape cooking up some funk, which is rare for him. We dig. A "Bonus Beats" and "Acappella" mix are included for adventurous DJs, while the flip sweeps you off your feet on a breezy, floating techno groove that is riddled with synths that flutter in warm solar winds. A firmly rooted and rolling Motor Mix of "Rise" closes out yet another essential Reshape offering.
Review: Berlin-based DJ and producer Denise Rabe has become something of a cult heroine since her first releases in 2015. The years since have found her operate in her own parallel techno world, where psychoactive sounds and heavy drones permeate your ears, then your brain, then your whole being. Now she steps away from her own Rabe label for a debut on Stroboscopic Artefacts, which finds her take charge of the Totem series. Opener "Manifesto" is a driving techno groover with ghoulish synth designs and keys from the 5th dimension, then "Don't Leave" will utterly trip you out with its panning pads and mysterious leads. "Clouds" completes the journey with doom laden and wide spread kick drums that lurch over and over through some ruined post-human world. Tip!
Review: Originally prolific in the late 90s and back with a renewed sense of vigour in the past few years, Dan Piu's classic, widescreen vision of hardware techno captures the verve of the original Detroit blueprint while bringing a fresh, welcome energy to the genre. This drop on Common Dreams brims with the same head-swirling magic, especially on vividly rendered lead track "Halo City". "Falling Framework" has a more mellow veneer, but there's still so much playful detail bringing the track to life. "Akira 2171" has an old-skool sci fi quality balanced out by its linear sense of progression, and "Ilipsyon" takes things deeper into a wistful jack reminiscent of the spookiest Trax output.
Review: Newworldaquarium has long been a real darling of the techno world with an impeccable back catalogue filled with treasures, and now the Dutchman is treating us to two new tracks that were recorded during the same sessions as his seminal "The Dead Bears" in the early 00s. The 10-minute epic "Mercury" has a majestic synth phrase looped over rubbery kicks that will lead to real transcendental moments, while "Levels Halo" is a zoned out ambient piece with kick drums buried miles below, gently moving you along.
Cult Hero (Do You Wanna Touch Me) (album edit) (6:45)
Cult Hero (Do You Wanna Touch Me) (club mix) (5:47)
Cult Hero (Do You Wanna Touch Me) (Slow) (7:29)
Review: House and techno badboys Paranoid London are proceeding the release of their second album with a bunch of singles from it. First up is "Cult Hero" featuring Simon Topping - one of many guest vocalists on the full length. It's a bristling acid house cut with tight, corrugated drums and relentless 303 mania ripping up the groove. Topping's deadpan vocals are layered over the top and bring to mind the more anthemic work of Depeche Mode. "Club Mix" is even more caustic and kinetic, while closer "Slow Mix" strips back everything but for the lunching drums and demonic vocals of Topping.
Review: Given that acid revivalists Paranoid London have yet to put a foot wrong, it's no surprise to find that "(Vi-Vi) Vicious Games" is another absolute belter. It's taken from the duo's forthcoming album and features sometime Posthuman collaborator Josh Caffe channeling his inner Robert Owens and Jamie Principle over a retro-futurist backing track. In its full length, the track brilliantly combines Paranoid London's jacking drums and thrusting acid bass with dreamy chords and just the right amount of glassy-eyed melodic flourishes. It sounds like a classic TRAX release given the Paranoid London treatment, which I'm sure we all agree is a very good thing indeed. If you're in the mood for something even sleazier and more driving, the Bam Bam-inspired Dub has it covered.