Apologies for the slight lateness of AD008. Slight case of the real world getting in the way. Nasty business. As a result, most of the releases featured below have already been out for a little while. Looking on the bright side, maybe that'll help prevent my excitement inspiring an orgiastic frenzy of illegal downloading.
2562 – Love in Outer Space/Third Wave (Tectonic)
The similarity between the artwork of Dave Huisman's latest and best excursion yet under his dubstep moniker of 2562 (his Hague zip code) and Juan Atkins' classic Deep Space album as Model 500 is probably no more than a coincidence - pictures of galaxies, planets and spaceships are, after all, quite 'techno' - but if so it's a pleasingly apposite one.
The tropes of the dubstep/techno crossover are familiar to the point of truism now, but the magnificent 'Love in Outer Space' runs in that company not because of anything to do with beat patterns, or samples, or sounding just like Basic Channel, or any of that other stuff. No: it captures the atmosphere of classic Detroit techno by sounding totally fresh. The rapid fire hi-hats; the dry, compressed snare; the interplay between one synth line that strafes chromatically across the mix while the other begins life as a monotone slab before wavering and bending like a heat haze; the bassline balanced perfectly between rhythmic backbone and being a melodic line in its own right. When Derrick May talked about the sound of Kraftwerk and George Clinton stuck in an elevator with each other, the feeling conveyed here was absolutely what he was getting at (listen).
Floating Points - J&W Beat (Planet Mu)
Uniting fans of non-intergral numbers and forward-thinking electronic music, Floating Points follows up the space-age disco of 'Love Me Like This' with a double-header of deep, warm weather dubstep. On the a-side, 'J&W Beat' works an old-school house synth line over a skipping 2step rhythm, the melody slowly accreting melancholy detailing that lends the track an impressive and unexpected power. It's 'K&G Beat' on the flip that really stands out though, with it's stretched string sample and perpetual vocal hook riding on a euphoric wave of Burial-style breakbeats, percolating synth trills and bearhugging bass. Moving in every way (listen).
Mount Kimbie - Sketch on Glass (Hotflush)
Having had the world fall at their feet back at the beginning of the year (not to mention in this column's first ever edition), Mount Kimbie's Dom and Kai may very well have been gorging themselves on caviar and strumpets ever since, but if so they've not allowed such depravity distract them from making a second excellent EP (listen). The handclap dubstep rhythm and louche funk synths of 'Sketch on Glass' are given plenty of room to breathe before an infectious helium vocal hook slides into the mix. 'Serged' opens with a warm, rippling bank of crackly sound dubbed out beats and eerie keys, the vocal spicing the mournful soundbed with an uncanny funk.
Similar techniques are deployed on '50 Mile View', its lowing, brassy synths and tremulous beats morphing unexpectedly into a sweetly crooning Auto-Tune vocal coda. 'At Least' rounds off this awesome experience, its swaying double bass and crisp 2step beat crisscrossed with a lattice of burbling synths and vocal snippets before switching up into a Skweeish outro. Buy this. Buy lots and distribute it to friends and neighbours.
Kreng - L'Autopsie Phénoménale De Dieu (Miasmah)
You won't believe it, but the wispy, clown-faced apparition on the cover of Kreng's inspired debut album (listen) is by some measure the least terrifying part of the whole endeavour. Imagine if, prior to recording Endtroducing, DJ Shadow had been a bit less about backpack hip-hop jams and Quannum and a bit more about following strangers home from work and killing them with a hammer, and maybe Mo Wax's crowning glory would have wound up sounding a little bit like this.
Based in Antwerp, Kreng's ability to generate uncommonly arresting atmospheres has led to several theatrical commissions. Despite being composed for separate projects, those pieces cohere impressively on L'Autopsie.... The marimba and sickly horn playing of 'Tinseltown' makes it a diseased half-brother to Tom Waits's 'Shore Leave', while Murcof meets David Lynch on 'Het Wordt Ouder', a diva warbling menacingly over brushed drums, sinuous horns, reversed tape loops and sudden manipulated kettle drum plunges. The brilliant 'Slaapliedje' goes further still, muted string playing worrying its way between a distant soprano and a whispering child (oh dear) chanting a nursery rhyme (sweet Jesus). Dawn breaks with piano-led closing track 'Merope'. It's a bit of a milky dawn and there's blood and burnt, empty-eyed dolls strewn everywhere, but it's a dawn nontheless.
As an aside, I was struck by how much Kreng's 'Meisje in Auto (naar Prelude No.20 in C Minor van F. Chopin)' sounded like a dolourous rendition of 'Could It Be Magic' (albeit with a distraught woman crying over the top). Turns out Barry Manilow based his incipient disco bomb on the Chopin piece. Who knew? Well, not me, obviously.
Few Nolder – New Folder (Planet Mu)
Gamely competing with Animal Collective for the Bridget Riley award for most eyeball-confounding album cover of the year, Lithuania’s Linas Strockis – aka Few Nolder – arrives with a debut LP of music that, at its best, does to ears and brain what its cover does to peepers (listen). Bookended by the two tracks that made up his debut Planet Mu 12" back in February of last year, Strockis proves adept at conjuring hypnotic odysseys located along the same ambient techno axis where you might find The Field or Kompakt boss Wolfgang Voigt.
On 'Pillow' synths bloom and droop above tweaked analogue bass burbles and euphoric pads, while 'Fluttery' spurts gaseous, barely-there breakbeats around chimes redolent of 'Kid A'. It's not all dreamstate lotus-munching, though: the excellent 'Chika' winds a Master Musicians of Joujouka-style strangled flute line around the kind of busy, hi-hat overloaded techno beat that always makes me think of being battered into submission at Steve Bicknell's Lost nights.
Guido Schneider - Under Control (TuningSpork)
Berliner Guido Schneider hasn't released a solo production since the 'Transmission' EP on Poker Flat, way back in 2006. Hopefully we won't have to wait so long for a follow-up to 'Under Control', because it's proof positive that the hinterlands between tech and minimal still harbour some interesting ideas. The rhythm track accumulates new inflections throughout its length, Schneider's attention to detail bearing comparison with that of Minilogue, while a disembodied choral sample injects the track's infectious minimal groove with an eerie tension (listen).
Brackles - LHC/Brackles & Shortstuff - Sutorîto Faitâ (Planet Mu)
This is the second AD in a row where Planet Mu have had three records featured, which goes some small way towards showing how on point they are right now. FWD regular Brackles makes his debut for the label with two scintillating cuts. 'LHC' paints the walls with day-glo melodic streaks over a loping bassline that comes on like 'Energy Flash's optimistic child, the track only pausing for a 'You were in my heart' vocal break that, in best rave tradition, conspires to sound like it means nothing and absolutely everything at the same time. 'Sutorîto Faitâ' ('Street Fighter' in Japanese), the second of Brackles's collaborations this month with Shortstuff (the other being 'Broken Harp' on Pollen), is a pleasingly direct, jungle-inflected hardstepper (listen).
Blue Daisy - Space Ex/The Fall (Black Acre)
A release as special as it is out of character for Black Acre, this, with Camdenite(s?) Blue Daisy's apparent debut slathering the blurred, screwed and chopped vocal of France's LaNote over a textured, organic blend of slo-mo beats, buzzing bass and FlyLo-indebted synth work. Like Burial, this sounds like a vinyl record that's just been dug out of the earth and slapped straight on the nearest deck, with pebbles and soil compacted into the groove. Instrumental b-side 'The Fall' draws a similar veil of found sound between the listener and the music - in this case an evocative, minimalist dubstep workout that hits the same deep vein as Sigha's 'Remembrance'(listen).
James Blake - Air & Lack Thereof (Hemlock)
Live member of Mount Kimbie (as in when they play live, rather than the other two being dead) James Blake has compiled some fine work for his debut 12 on Untold's label. The title track uses an old blues sample that neither Moby nor Layo & Bushwacka! would turn their noses up at to hold together an adventurous dubstep rhythm. Peppered with drops, Blake opts for the simple but admirably effective tactic of witholding the returning beat for a single measure of silence. His doing so cements the track's catchy, uneasy brilliance.
Inventiveness abounds on the b-side, too, the scumbled, Auto-Tuned snippets scattered throughout 'Sparing the Horses' sounding like T-Pain caught on tape in the Mississipi Delta circa 1926.
John Daly - Sea & Sky/Space Walk EP (Wave/Mule Musiq)
Suit up for two releases of beautiful deep-space deep house that come not from the famously boozy American golfer of the same name but a London-based Irishman who seems well aware of his chosen genre's gravest pitfall: coma-inducing blandness. For me, Daly's strength lies in his habit of drawing more on the European, prog-rock derived synth stylings of Tangerine Dream and Cluster than the jazzy neighbourhoods so much deep house tends to wander around lost in.
Daly's Wave LP Sea & Sky (listen) incorporates sounds tailored for both dancefloor and armchair: 'Monsoon' ties a mesmeric three-note key pattern to live-sounding, reverb-soaked drums; 'Flashback' spins a slow arpeggiated progression over a bouncing-ball drum pattern; and 'In the Stars' simply builds and builds, a dizzying weave of pads, synthesised strings and two-note bassline equalling far more than the sum of their parts. His Mule Musiq EP (listen) treads similar ground but with a more explicitly old-school character: it could easily have been released in 1994. If you're like me, that's certainly no cause for despair. 'Space Walk' is a beautifully layered Detroit homage, 'Morning Moon' sounds like vintage Tournesol, and 'Light Years' whips a gentle 303 line and trippy pads over bleeps and a crisp 4/4 drum pattern. Lovely stuff.
Sebrok - The X EP (SCI-TEC)
Anyone who follows Richie Hawtin's Twitter feed - will know he eschews 'what I had for dinner'-isms in favour of listing what he's playing at any given moment. That can make for an unwelcome situation when TweetDeck makes plain that he's pumping out precision-tooled techno at a sweat-drenched party in early-morning Chicago while you're either living clean and trying to enjoy a refined brunch, or holding your head together with ibuprofen and remorse while hoping going out's been abolished.
Anyway, Hawtin's been planting Berliner Sebrok's 'Airspeed' towards the end of his sets for the past month or so and it's easy to see why: it's a funky, palette-cleansing bit of techno that drops into the mix like quicksilver. 'Concorde' is the real star here, though: its dripping-wet beat, staccato, flanged siren and bizarre vocal drops making it far less anonymous than much 9am-in-a-Dalston-warehouse heads-down fare (listen).
Alpine - Fr:om Harmed Weather to Stark, Micro, Climates. (Highpoint Lowlife)
Straight outta, um, the Home Counties comes this lighter-than-hydrogen EP. Gorgeous opener 'fr:om' has got that Spacemen 3/Spiritualized zephyr feel to it (and can be snatched free of charge by your digital claw right here), while 'harmed' and 'micro,' are richly satisfying exercises in delicate, Eno-like drone.
Pheek vs. Stefny - Japan Excursion Joint 3 (Archipel)
On the microfunk groove of Pheek's 'Voices in the Fog', fuzzy blocks of bass tone burrow beneath a computer-babble top end. A swirl of indistinct voices buried in the mix (and titularly advertised, now I come to think of it) add to the auditory confusion, although the overall effect conspires to be as calming as it is disorientating. 'So Worried', also from Pheek, is as expansive as 'Voices...' is compact, its spiralling pads rising over a shuffly 4/4 rhythm.
Shit Robot - Simple Things (Work It Out) (DFA)
DFA hark back to the spoken-word punk-funk of 'Losing My Edge' with the new one from Irish-born Shit Robot. A nervous vocal rides atop a bulging analogue bassline, retro electro drumrolls and some lush keyboard work, the whole thing taking its (sweet) time to build into a falsetto-led sleazy disco climax (listen).
Lump - U Need Me (Contexterior)
Lump, aka Arttu Snellman, hits the deep house sweet spot with 'U Need Me', its gloriously melancholy vocal sample rooted in a seriously crunchy, bass-heavy swing rhythm replete with subtly applied surface noise and some nicely judged, sparingly used snare rolls (listen).
Kate Simko - Take You There EP (Spectral Sound)
This EP sees Kate Simko return to minimal techno following the pleasing abstractions of her recent soundtrack LP, Music From the Atom Smashers. 'Take You There' chops up Brenda D's vocal over a motoring rhythm track, but it's Bruno Pronsato's long, involving remix of the same that really draws the ear here (listen).
Tommy Four Seven - Surma EP (Electric Deluxe)
Punishing big-room techno from Berlin-based Londoner Tommy Four Seven. 'Surma' starts off at a low growl and gradually builds into a siren-led monster the bass pulsions of which would probably rank an 11 (that's 'violent storm', non-meteorologists) on the Beaufort scale. Speedy J's excellent remix sticks a cleaver in the track's fist and orders it to go berserk in the nearest village (listen).
Finally, treat yourself to 'MKC', a brand new track from thoroughly on-point bass-centric duo Various Production by clicking somewhere around here. More soon.
Chris Power is one half of British Males.