Review: A-Ton is a new label from Berlin heavyweights Ostgut Ton, designed to focus on "ambient, archive and alternative music". They've pulled off something of a coup for this debut release, persuading British techno legend Luke Slater to open up the archives of his '90s intelligent techno project, The 7th Plain. Chronicles I boasts a mixture of previously released and unheard material, which moves from glistening, outer-space ambience (the near perfect "Boundaries", "Grace"), to fizzing Motor City techno ("T-Funk Statues"), via intergalactic intelligent techno, dusty downtempo grooves (the jazzy hip-hop rhythms and ambient electronics of "Slip 7 Sideways"), and melodious IDM.
Review: Ostgut Ton A-Ton completes their trilogy of compilations charting the early-to-mid-'90s ambient techno work of British producer Luke Slater under the 7th Plain alias. As with its predecessors, the eight included tracks offer a mixture of previously released fare from the project's heyday and music that's sat on dusty DAT tapes for well over two decades. Highlights come thick and fast, from the sun-bright sci-fi melodies, sustained ambient chords and bubbly acid lines of "Time Melts" and the Black Dog-ish shuffle of "Reality of Space", to the booming, club-ready "Lost", drowsy IDM cut "Think City" and the intergalactic, stretched-out bliss of brilliant closing cut "Seeing Sense".
Review: Berlin-based Canadian Scott Monteith has released many albums over the course of a near two-decade career, though few are quite as focused and laden with meaning as Wax Poetic For This Our Great Resolve. At heart, it's a political record, with each track featuring spoken word pieces or poetry written and delivered (in a variety of languages) by one of Monteith's music pals. Whether his collaborators are musing on the nature of democracy or telling a political parable, their words subtly rise above a sequence of brilliant backing tracks that variously touch on dub techno, melodic deep house/techno fusion, basement bothering post-dancehall riddims, hypnotic organic/electronic fusion and hazy, early morning ambient. As a result, this could well be the most varied and enjoyable Deadbeat album yet.
Review: While Black Dog founder Ken Downie has rarely been one to talk candidly in the press, his current studio partners, Martin and Richard Dust, have been known to deliver angry missives on a variety of topics. It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that the trio's latest album- their first for nearly three years - appears to have been inspired by the current state of politics and the media. Full of knowing track titles, melancholic refrains, frustrated rhythms, dystopian soundscapes and angry motifs, the album's thought-provoking intent is rather overshadowed by the quality of the music on offer. You'll find bustling electro, end-of-days ambient, rushing cinematic techno, IDM and the kind of hard-to-pigeonhole fare that inspired then NME journalist Mixmaster Morris to come up with the now familiar "intelligent techno" tag.
Review: Having seemingly ditched the Bwana alias with which he made his name, Nathan Micay seems to be maturing as a producer. "Blue Spring", his long anticipated debut album, is undeniably his most positive, melodious and well-rounded work to date, with Micay offering up a range of tracks that wrap colourful and tuneful synthesizer lines around a variety of club-ready and downtempo grooves. It's a hugely entertaining and impressive set, with highlights including the psychedelic acid techno throb of "The Party We Could Have", the melodic neo-trance rush of "Blue Spring", the exotic breakbeat shuffle of "Ecstacy Is On Maple Mountain" and the ambient bliss of "Romance Dawn For The Cyber World".
Review: The people who got to know Niels 'Delta Funktionen' Luinenberg through his ponderous Electromagnetic Radiation release or the adeptly programmed warm-up sets posted online may be surprised by the approach on Inertia. However, its direction could hardly be described as unexpected. The second volume of Electromagnetic Radiation and the grimy warehouse techno of Silhouette make perfectly clear that the Dutch DJ/producer likes to play it hard as well as deep. In that regard, Niels is not alone, and this mix, which consists solely of exclusive material, shows that a whole new wave of European techno producers is on the same wavelength. The mixture of the musical and forceful is audible from the outset, with textured chords unfolding over an angular rhythm on Sascha Rydell's "Rainy Days", a few tracks later as Cosmin TRG does his best mid to late 90s Ian Pooley techno impersonation over a rolling, warm bass and midway through on Peter Van Hoesen's "Last One at 1080", where evocative but eerie pads build to the backdrop of a prowling groove. It's a stunning finish to a mix that effortlessly balances the hard and the soulful.
Review: Somewhat surprisingly, this collaborative album had its roots in a 2013 request from Michael Mantra for dub techno and ambient dub stalwart Mr. Cloudy to remix tracks from his Silent Season-released 2013 LP "Light In My Head". Six years later, and after sending parts and versions back and forth, the pair has conjured this set of lengthy, deep and mind-altering excursions. Mr. Cloudy provides versions of the collaborative "White Dub": an ultra-deep, spaced-out "Remix" that smothers a gentle, slowly shifting ambient dub rhythm in heavily processed snatches of field recordings and atmospheric aural textures around and a sparser, more spaced-out "Edit" that's closer in tone to Mantra's otherworldly, dub-influenced soundscapes. Sandwiched in between you'll find a hypnotic version by Mantra that was partly created using music concrete techniques.
Review: Fresh from a series of 12" collaborations with Deepchord, Konstantonis Soublis AKA Fkuxion drops his first solo album in two years. As you'd expect, Ripple Effect is packed to the rafters with exceedingly atmospheric fare, as Soublis drowsily floats between melancholic deep techno, spliff-sporting dub techno haziness and moments of intense ambient bliss, some of which - not least standout "The Idea" - fix twinkling pianos and dusty samples to sweeping cinematic movements. That he achieves a balance between softly spoken dancefloor fare and head-in-the-clouds beat-less moments is no great surprise, though the album's musical richness and deeply emotive vibe may raise a few eyebrows. Recommended.
Review: In recent times, Sergey Barkalov has begun to look back over his vast discography and re-release selected albums. Space of Variants first surfaced on Germany's Confineless Recordings back in 2012, and here gets a deserved reissue on the Russian producer's own label. It's undoubtedly amongst the ambient and dub techno heavyweight's finest releases, and offers a near perfect balance between deep space textures ("Intention"), dubbed-out ambience ("Reduce", "Cloudy Spaces"), and minimalist dub techno ("Space of Variants"). Like the original CD release, it also boasts a trio of reworks of "Space of Variants": a thrillingly horizontal dub techno rework from Sub Made, a more fluid and positive ambient dub rendition from Desove, and a quietly hypnotic and trance-like rearrangement by Arkhaious.
Review: Just under two years after launching in a blaze of modular noise and out-there electronics, Athens-based label Pi Electronics has decided to set up a new offshoot, PEVA, to handle the organisation's first compilation, Variable. They say the idea is to bring together unheard tracks from label artists old and new, with additional contributions from lesser-known local artists and higher profile guest stars. The nine tracks are, by and large, forthright and intense, with highlights including the clanking, acid-flecked industrial techno of JK Flesh's "Chelmsley Wood", the buzz-saw guitars and motorik machine drums of 3.14's "GBNR17", the extreme techno filth of "Spinner" by DAS and the fuzzy, razor-sharp electro heaviness of Damcase's "INKL Rules".
Review: Surprisingly, Space of Variants' latest limited edition CD release doesn't come from boss man Sergey Barkalov (AKA Mr Cloudy), but rather a previously unheard talent. DAS is Andrew Korotkov, a Russian producer from Lipsetsk city. Musically, he inhabits similar sonic waters to Barkalov, delivering long, slowly shifting soundscapes that draw on ambient, drone and dub techno for inspiration. As debut albums go, Transcendental is quietly impressive. Over the course of three long variations, Korktov delivers a meditative experience rich in effects-laden field recordings, slowly shifting chord progressions, gentle beats and, on occasions, decidedly cosmic aural textures.
Review: On this fine compilation, Sergey Barkalov has decided to showcase the dub techno side of his Mr Cloudy output. Bar a couple of previously unheard versions, all of the tracks were previously featured on limited edition, hard-to-find 12" singles. Although there are a couple of scratchy, experimental workouts, for the most part the tracks featured on Planets are far more melodious and ear catching than you'd perhaps expect. Barkalov's interpretation of the dub techno blueprint is a little looser than some of his contemporaries, with numerous ear pleasing electronic elements complimenting the heavy basslines and hazy sonic textures. It's these subtle tweaks, not to mention his impeccable production skills, that makes Planets such an enjoyable listen.
Casual Violence - "Acceptance Of The Fact At Hand"
Victor Martinez - "Dav To Dub"
Fanon Flowers - "Invisible Life"
Grovskopa - "Haas"
Casual Violence - "Word & Form" (version II)
Grovskopa - "Atopic" (Lag remix)
Grovskopa - "Stinson"
Sect Outro 1
Review: "It's All For You" is a complement to the Sect vinyl catalogue, and a mark of respect to the CD in techno history. Artists known and new swell the ranks, representing the techno forms in the honorable Sect style. Beyond the usual, exceptionally high standard of quality from the Sect roster of artists so far, new artist productions on the first CD include Ben Gibson's "Clamour", a modern take on a Tokyo-style future cityscape, Jeroen Search's "Section A", a physical, forward thinking deep techno triumph and Voidloss' "In The Void" - techno the way it should be made for the 21st century. On CD 2, AnD's "Granular" offers traditional dub aesthetics and modern techno techniques taken to a wholly satisfying next level, while OCH's "Tears" manifest as a dark techno experience of rhythm-led lines of perfection. CV's "Acceptance Of The Fact At Hand" hones hues of colour in aural form, as a subtle vista is painted with strings of haunted beauty.
Review: For the latest release on his quietly impressive Greyscale label, Lithuanian producer Grad_U has turned to fast-rising Hungarian artist Zol. The two join forces on collaborative opening cut "Intro", an impeccably spacey and intergalactic voyage into pulsing electronic ambient, before Zol serves up a string of atmospheric dub techno workouts, star-gazing tech-house rubs, bass-heavy minimalist rhythm tracks and clanking, early morning club jams. It makes for enjoyable listening, with the ultra-deep "Fin", hypnotic "Szurke", impressively wonky "Nov1" and intensely blissful "Constellation" - a future dub techno classic in our eyes - standing out.
Review: Having patched up their much-reported musical differences, Phil and Paul Hartnoll seem to have recaptured some of the studio magic that made Orbital such a fine outfit during their 1990s heyday. "Monsters Exist", their tenth studio album, contains some undeniably fine moments in their inimitable style - see the moody creepiness of "The Raid", the cinematic techno sweep of "Buried Deep Within", the post-apocalyptic grandeur of "The End is Nigh" and the ambient symphony "There Will Come a Time", featuring rave's favourite scientist, Professor Brian Cox - as well as a few festival-friendly future live favourites.
Review: Christian Loffler has been producing pensive, cinematic electronic soundscapes for a long time now. 10 years since his first EP landed, the German producer presents his third studio album on his own Ki Records label. Once again Loffler has continued to grow through the album recording process, embracing more adventurous textural and sound design practices whilst also enriching his songwriting chops. The vocal turns from Josephine Philip and Mohna help deepen the seductive melancholy of his compositions, but even in its instrumental moments the pensive synth lines sing their own heartfelt messages. If you're a fan of Jon Hopkins, Nathan Fake and other such emotionally charged electronica artists, you won't want to miss this album.
Review: This year, Richie Hawtin has been in a nostalgic mood. With the Plus 8 label he co-founded reaching the grand old age of 25, he's been revisiting his youth and releasing a series of anonymous - but barely disguised - white label 12" singles that doff a cap to his most famous early projects, including FUSE, Circuit Breaker and Plastikman. Here he gathers those together, alongside other similarly minded tracks, on the surprise full length From My Mind To Yours. Largely focused on drum machine jack-tracks, acid, electro and no-nonsense techno, the two-disc set's 16 tracks feel like products of another time. Given the quality of Hawtin's work throughout the '90s, though, this is no bad thing.
Review: Between 2012 and 2017, grad_u released nine EPs of high quality dub techno on the vinyl-only Redscale imprint. With the label now seemingly a thing of the past, the prolific Lithuanian producer has decided to gather together all 19 tracks from those sought-after vinyl EPs on CD for the very first time. Those who have paid close attention to grad_u's career will know what to expect, namely an evocative mixture of deep, hypnotic techno epics, delay-laden dub techno workouts, spacey late night rollers, abstract dancefloor explorations and occasional surprise turns towards a bolder, warehouse-friendly style (see the formidably sweaty and sub-heavy "Holdback").
Review: Over the last few years, the team behind the Moog Sound Lab has encouraged a range of forward-thinking electronic musicians to come and jam on its obscure (and very rare) Modular 55 System prototype. The latest edition in the ongoing series of session recordings sees intergalactic Afro-futurist Hieroglyphic Being treat us to The Replicant Dream Sequence - an eight-part modular electronic treat that moves from drowsy, surprisingly colourful ambience ("Seq 1") and foreboding deep space soundscapes ("Seq 3"), to dreamy electronica ("Seq 4") and hypnotic EBM (standout "Seq 6", which also features his distinctive spoken vocals), via blistering techno ("Seq 8", "Seq 2"). Unlike many of his own releases, the sound is sparkling and crystal clear, allowing the quality of his compositions and arrangements to shine through.