Armchair Dancefloor 010
You, dear reader, give me so much, and yet I give you nothing. To remedy that, before swan-diving into the best of the fortnight's electronic releases I'm going to ask you which US DJ runs the excellent Mothership Records, you're going to send me the answer by way of clicking here, and one of you - chosen at random - is going to get a triple-vinyl pack of Voodeux's excellent LP The Paranormal (listen) sent direct to wherever you reside. Bringing a gothic sensibility to jacking house rhythms, the album contains stone-cold dance destroyer 'Just a Spoonful', which has been shouldering its way into sets from jocks as diverse as Anja Schneider to Appleblim. The paranoid techno swirl of 'Heebie Jeebiez' is pretty damn special, too.
Right, that's enough competition for one week. There's a lot to get through, and I've promised myself I won't start on the dinner (duck à l'Orange with chips, thanks for asking) till we're done.
10-20 – Island EP (Hightpoint Lowlife)
Having rightly won praise all over the shop for his debut self-titled album back in March, Dorset's Ed Davenport clearly hasn't spent the summer doing nothing but trip across the limestone downland of home and daydream about how brilliant he is: Island is merely the first of four magnificent 10-20 EPs that are recorded, mastered and ready to go. The most impressive thing about it, and indeed 10-20's music in general, is the way it goes about melding rhythm and atmosphere. In fact there's no real dividing line between the two, beats and melody interpenetrating one other so that the ostensibly heavy, slurred percussive stabs of opener 'Pol' bleed into an amorphous mass as the track goes on, its rich mix of micro elements swarming together to form a sticky, clotted whole.
Island's closing track, 'Thing From Inner Space', repeats this effect, a scudding rhythm not unlike oars in water leaning into muted synths that might have started life as brass samples. 'Nei (Reversion)', while as busy as the original version (on 10-20), nevertheless softens its edges, chiming tones deep in the mix and odd scraps of buried guitar giving the piece a lulling quality. Excellent as these tracks are, 'Hallow' stands out as the EP's highlight. It showcases the way in which Davenport's brand of techno draws on a wide range of styles - most notably dubstep in this instance - to forge something original. Its winding, organ-like melodic line wends through a battering 2step break, pitched-up and reversed scraps of vocals nesting alongside typwriter clacks, gaseous emissions and scrims of found sound. A total joy (listen).
Lung, Rotter and Seven – Coptum/Dammer (PiX WaX)
Erstwhile Two Lone Swordsmen collaborators and members of Tokyo Wind Bag, Lung and Chris Rotter have teamed up with Barry Seven, ex of Add N to (X), to forge what is hopefully a long-lasting partnership. Composed solely on the Korg DS-10 app for the Nintendo DS, 'Coptum' and 'Dammer' should make anyone who's been using their handheld to muck about with GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra or care for their dinosaur pet to hang their heads in self-loathing: they could have been creating chipcore stadium anthems instead.
'Coptum' kicks off with a glam rock drum pattern before unleashing a bassy techno assault offset by high-end squiggles, lazer f/x and a woozy fairground melody that puts me uncomfortably in mind of murderous clowns on psilocybin. If that sounds a little too John Wayne Gacy for you, flip over to 'Dammer', one of those tunes that you have to play at least three times in quick succession when you first drop the needle on it. Its buzzing, Moroderish bassline is very similar to the one that kicks in halfway through the Horrors' 'Sea Within a Sea', the intertwining melodies that heap up throughout its too-brief 3:20 length - underpinned by a frank breakbeat - making this a sublime, euphoric piece of work (listen).
Oni Ayhun – OAR 003 (Oni Ayhun Records)
Thanks are due to the excellent mnml ssgs blog for turning me on to Oni Ayhun, whose third EP - which came out in May, so apologies if you know all about it already - is probably the best pure techno record I've heard this year (discounting Robert Hood's Minimal Nation reissue, of course, which seems fair enough given it's 15 years old). I don't know much about Ayhun, aside from the fact that 'Oni' is a female Yoruban name meaning 'desired'. So much for the fascinating biographical details: let's talk about the music.
OAR003-A (or maybe just 'A'; Ayhun doesn't really do titles) begins with a fidgety melody line over a driving rhythm, with a dramatic, expansive synth line periodically gusting into place above the track. OAR003-B casts insectoid chirrups, a warmly pulsing rhythm and powerful, gently sliding string stabs around a central melody that, like the best (or, more accurately and honestly, 'my favourite') techno, taps into a profound sorrowfulness even as it impels ecstatic movement. Over the course of nearly 12 richly satisfying minutes Ayhun augments the melody with virtuosity, with dubby elements, birdlike synthetic effects and snatches of extra percussion entering the mix now and again. This is techno at its emotionally expressive best, without a single element that's merely functional (listen).
Philip Jeck – Spool (The Tapeworm)
The Tapeworm is a cassette-only imprint that comes into being with this engaging limited edition EP from the superb vinyl manipulator Philip Jeck. Eschewing his usual method of coaxing ethereal walls of sound from old records and turntables, Spool sees the Liverpudlian running his bass guitar through effects boxes to create an eerie, turbulent soundworld. 'A4.30' sets menacing stabs of staticky noise shooting through ghostlier frequencies, Jeck's typical melancholy shading into something closer to anger. In terms of his ouevre this is almost a spiky punk track, albeit one without chords, beat, words or a discernible tune. Which is quite a bit more punk than most punk. 'D4.48', too, has an icy spikiness to it, its roiling frequencies imparting a tortured sense that they're trying to escape their confines.
On the other side (after pondering a question I haven't asked myself for a long time: fast forward and then flip the tape, or flip it then rewind?), 'D1.20' picks up where 'D4.48' left off, although the main action now seems to be happening at a distance. This sense of space is a constant of Jeck's work: whether cavernous or claustrophobically tight, his compositions always feel compellingly three-dimensional. Alleviating the gloom slightly, closing track 'A7.87' has a burbling, respiratory feel to it, its huge bass pulses suggesting a nearby power plant or some slumbering beast. There are only 250 copies of this bad boy (as I'm sure Jeck doesn't refer to it), so click here if you fancy owning it.
Shortstuff – A Rustling/Stuff (Ramp)
Sometime Brackles collaborator (and also his partner in running the Blunted Robots label - see in brief, below) Shortstuff makes his Ramp debut with the euphoric 8-bit mutant garage manoeuvres of 'A Rustling'. A rolling bassline strains this way and that underneath a persistently chiming, bell-like beat, fried C64 trills and a scrunched-up, corkscrewing synth bassline. 'Stuff', equally impactful, is a little more fried still, its raygun, rave-style synths turning themselves inside-out over a solidly thudding 2step break. Big and clever (listen).
Ironlight River - The Calendar Round (Mass of Apathy)
Brighton's Andy Fosberry, aka Ironlight River, has knocked off this instrumental album in between working on his more traditional, song-based material, and I'm glad he found the time to do so. Adopting a sample-heavy approach that's clearly and heavily indebted to DJ Shadow, the first track squeezes fragments from The Shadow, John Miles, Red House Painters, Pablo Casals playing Bach and a bunch of other stuff I don't recognise into just two minutes. Given how much this album reminds the listener of Josh Davis's style, using the same Growing Concern vocal sample ('Edge of Time') that's threaded through his 'What Does Your Soul Look Like' might be considered a step too far, but these dense tracks are sewn together so well that it's easy to forgive the move. Let's call it an hommage. Much of The Calendar Round is captivating, particularly the looped piano refrain, string samples and whining background interference of 'EVAC' (listen).
V.A. - Total 10 (Kompakt)
Kompakt regularly cop flak for having popularised a certain sound - linear, melodic microhouse and minimal techno - and stuck with it. In the fad-obsessed environs of electronic music, where certain aficionados can be even more craven than the most ADD of fashionistas in identifying the next microtrend and denouncing x, y or z as irredeemably passé, such decade-long loyalty to an aesthetic is perceived as being either unadventurous or reactionary. While it's doubtless true that the label's releases aren't as regularly essential as they once were, there's still a great deal of quality to be found on the Kompakt roster.
Stultifying the doubters, Total 10 begins with the ever-inventive DJ Koze, whose '40 Love' imbeds the sound of a tennis ball being struck and the crowd's attendant cries into the rhythm of a mid-paced tech-house track. Fellow German agent provocateur Matias Aguayo weighs in with the sleazy house ballad 'Walter Neff' (first released last year), a paean to the ill-starred hero of classic noir Double Indemnity, while label co-owner Jürgen Paape contributes the frankly insane oompah techno send-up of cultural stereotypes that is 'Ofterschwang'. True, there's plenty here that, if not filler as such, sounds essentially like pleasant, clean-lined backing tracks to accompany the mating rituals of techno-oriented Europeans, but Total 10 has more than enough substance to scotch thoughts that Kompakt is a spent force (listen).
Mika Vainio – Black Telephone of Matter (Touch)
Anyone curious to know just how exhilarating harsh splinters of manipulated digital noise can be should proceed straight to 'Silences Traverses des Mondes et des Anges'. Beginning with the gradually layered cawing of crows, a metallica sheet of thunderous frequencies ushers in a quieter section before a procession of cliff-sized, My Bloody Valentine-style slabs of white noise, tremulous bass drops and wince-inducing frequencies lead you towards the muted string coda. Black Telephone... certainly showcases the more challenging side of Finn Mika Vainio, who as one half of Pan Sonic has been responsible for some of the best electronic music of the last decade, but there's such beauty sown into these weird fields that the idea of this being a minority interest album seems almost nonsensical. Until you remember how conservative and crap and awful and lacking in taste the world really is.
Crucial to this album's impact is the way in which Vainio is as skilled with silence as he is with punishing noise: 'In a Frosted Lake' flits about at the edges of consciousness, its trailing, mist-bound monotones imparting a sense that hovers somewhere between profound meditative calm and creeping unease. Similarly, the frequency whine of 'A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4080 Ml/s' (we've all been there) stretches out over the course of 10 minutes into morse-like tones, this minimal approach reaping maximal returns (listen).
Jack Sparrow – The Chase/Fullest (Tectonic)
Jack Sparrow's B-side collaboration with the superbly monikered Biggins (typing that makes me feel like I'm back in the Bonkers) era) rules this roost, a bass-warped vocal sample propelling the track's smooth, warm core. Garage vibes at a dubstep tempo, the way its synths peel past would probably remind me of sodium streetlights peeling past above an open-top sports car if I had a driver's licence. The A-side's blend of Peverelist-style tech-step's pretty fine, too (listen).
Mickey Pearce/Martin Kemp – Innanimi/No Charisma (Blunted Robots)
Brackles' and Shortstuff's label Blunted Robots lurches into bolshie life with this double-header from Mickey Pearce and Brackles' brother, who for the moment is operating under the moniker Martin Kemp. It's the latter's tune that really does it for me, its pitchbent, dystopian IDM-style synths jerking mournfully above a solid 2step with one leg in UK funky and the other in dubstep (listen).
Bop – Clear Your Mind (Med School)
Russia's Bop delivers on the promise of his April single 'Song About My Dog' with the retro IDM stylings of debut album Clear Your Mind. The soundworld he conjures is uniformly glacial, its constituent parts precise and neatly delineated. Austere as it is, however, there's an abiding emotion to these tracks that, over the course of the entire album, builds up into a powerful, engaging force (listen).
Lastly, minimalist dubstep producer Sigha has contributed the second in Hotflush's mix series. Starting off in deep, subby waters before making a slow and transition into driving techno, this is a selection positioned at the forefront of the dubstep/techno crossover. Download it here.
Chris Power is one half of British Males.