Tuesday, 20 December 2016

30drop. Unusual Extremes EP

This is a special limited edition red vinyl release from the Barcelona artist 30drop, to mark its second anniversary. There aren’t many techno artists who explicitly discuss the social and cultural context of their work, or who so clearly emphasise the conceptual aspects of their work,  but this is intrinsic to the way 30drop operates as an artist and as a label. Although the title doesn’t illustrate it, this unreleased track and remix still bear traces of the cosmic techno tropes in its previous work.

’Unusual Extremes’ opens with a brief percussive impact, then runs straight into a quite sinister and subtly icy sequence that comes to haunt the track. If this does represent some sort of cosmic journey, it’s a colder one than many Detroit artists would offer. Detroit may be an influeunce, but there are only frozen, intensely filtered traces of Detroitian harmonic warmth and optimism and the track works all the better as a result.

The Black Dog Remix has a tougher start, rapidly creating a very serious and intense atmosphere. The main innovations the Sheffield duo bring to bear are an uncanny, morphing drone, minimalistic acid sweeps and some subtly sharpened percussion. The result is a forceful and compelling remix that takes the original further into the uncharted territory it was assigned to explore.

30drop. Unusual Extremes EP
12″ Vinyl // Digital – December 16th 2016

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Review: Buck "Subterranean Explorations" (Substrato sub002)

This is the second vinyl release on the new Italian label Substrato and a sign of the health and innovation of the Italian scene generally. The mountain-themed artwork and geological aspect of the label concept continue a vein of spatial, conceptual, Italian techno already apparent in the work of Giorgio Gigli and others. Buck is the alias of Substrato owner Alessandro Stefanio, who also records as OL-047 and Slick Station.

The title of the opening 'Ambient Progression' isn't an accurate indicator of what's to come. It's cavernous and relentless from the start, techno on a grand, panoramic scale. It's less than seven minutes, but due to its use of deceleration and acceleration and textural variation, it feels lengthier, in the best sense. At one point an industrialised Moroderesque sequence comes to the fore and in the final section a stricter and more minimalistic mood asserts itself. Its only fault is that it casts a long shadow that the following tracks can't quite escape from.

'Atmo 003' is slower and more introspective. Its coldly futuristic atmosphere brings to mind the work of the legendary Vapourspace project from two decades previously.

The beats drop away for 'On Board', which is a more beatific ambient piece. Symphonic chords and layered, processed voices are used to create an atmospheric soundscape.

Dutch duo Artefakt shift the mood again with an optimistic, uptempo remix of 'On Board', which initially discards the ambient wash of the original in favour of a bassline-driven linear agenda. As it proceeds the ambience of the original is gradually brought back in and finally re-asserts itself.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Review: PSYK, Maan ORIGIN (Non series NON022)


PSYK, Maan


Non Series Vinyl 12” / Digital download NON022

April 15 2016

This short, powerful and minimal release is a split between the two aliases of Madrid's Manuel AnĂ³s; Psyk and Maan. It's released on his own Non Series label, which has also recently released Tadeo's impressive Chronicles of the Future album.

Psyk opens the EP with 'Origin', which features sustained, rising synth chords and a bleepy pattern that slowly modulates. It's a minimal framework marked out by sparse but rich elements that glides frictionlessly to a sudden dead stop.

Maan's track 'Loops' reveals the subtle differences between the producer's two aliases. It slides straight in and operates at full effect from the start. It's a model of total efficiency, gradually augmented by effective Phuture-style handclaps. Compared to the two Psyk tracks it has a deeper, more minimal, bass pulse and sits between them well.

Finally, Psyk's 'Wire', a tightly-coiled track on which everything comes together from the start. It's a clean, intense, elegantly filtered track. Based around a cycling,  modulating main sequence, it gradually evolves and decays to impresssive effect, bringing to mind Robert Hood's Minimal Nation era work and closing this all-too-brief release in fine style.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Review: AX&P (Adam X & Perc) Mutiny & Disorder

AX&P (Adam X & Perc)

Mutiny & Disorder

Format. Vinyl & digital

Cat.Number. Ampere&Ohm AX&P002

This is the second release from the trans-Atlantic techno duo following their 2013 debut on their Ampere & Ohm label. It's an all too brief and functional statement of intent and a reminder of their potential (recently demonstrated at gigs in London, Paris and The Netherlands). These two tracks build on the previous release but are less minimal and more dramatic. 

'Mutiny' features Adam X's tense, whispered vocals, urging us “into the battle”. The initially rigid structure is marked out by Traversable Wormhole-style space bleeps later augmented by a strange ravey sequence that seems to reveal Perc's lurking presence.

This is followed by the deeper 'Disorder', which is less obviously dramatic but richer sonically. It has a widescreen sound akin to Senking's recent cinematic soundscapes but still delivers on the dancefloor. It becomes ever more intense as it unfolds, with the icy drones and sharp, electroid zaps almost being overwhelmed by a kick that could have come from a 1990s Dutch hardcore track.

Mutiny & Disorder works as a tantalising calling card for a future album, delivering more or less what would be expected of a collaboration between these two artists but in the process adding a fresh twist to the current industrial techno sound that only these two can deliver.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Review: Inigo Kennedy Requiem Remixed (TOKEN54)

Taken from last year's powerful album Vaudeville, this new set of remixes of 'Requiem', radically transforms and updates the already haunting original.

Efdemin's 'Journey To The Stars' mix is perhaps closest to the original, but is fleshed out with extra tonal work and deep echoes. Tone by tone it gradually drifts from the original in an intriguing way. The handclaps give it a more clubby feel, but it enhances rather than sacrifices 'Requiem's' intricate textures.

The 'Dies Irae' version by Kangding Ray is a slower, darker and heavier interpretation. Subdued or potential chord structures buried in the original are brought to the surface,  creating a tough but still shimmering, hallucinatory atmosphere through subtle modulation and transformation.  

Regis' sinisterly-titled 'Human Host' has a grinding bass and strict beats, yet is more subtle and expansive than some of his mixes. 'Requiem's' familiar eerie chords are narrowed into 
swirling, malevolent drones that radiate tension. Heading towards the halfway mark there's a long beat-less interlude of dark drones. Mutated fragments of the original clamber out of this black hole accompanied by reinforced beats. From here on the track turns more darker and more severe before fading out uneasily. 

Last in line and instantly furthest from the original is Dasha Rush's outstanding 'Requiem For Humanity' version. It's a radical and haunted piano re-arrangement that slowly turns back towards a more electronic sound. It seems obvious in retrospect, but probably not even Kennedy could have imagined such a radical re-working. It's all the more radical with the added despairing vocal sample listing the woes of the world:  "we have lost the way … we have barricaded the world into hate". It's an absolutely unique and remarkable hybrid - the closest description might be a kind of  apocalyptic techno jazz noir with a martial beat but it's so other-worldly that standard descriptors scarcely fit it. 

July 6th, 2015 
12” // Digital Download 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Review: Lucy and Klock – War Lullaby Stroboscopic Artefacts SA024 – May 11th, 2015

Having previously released label mainstay Lucy’s collaboration with Speedy J (Zeitgeber), Stroboscopic Artefacts now present the results of his work with Ostgut Ton producer Ben Klock. War Lullaby is a curious title for a curious release presenting a variety of styles, none of which turn out quite as might be imagined.

The initial mood set by 'Bliss' is graceful and fluent. Rippling, gamelan-like tones and subtle bass pressure engineer a feeling that's simultaneously subtle, tense and optimistic.

The title track is instantly memorable, introduced by an eerily smooth bassline hovering in a void. Once the beat kicks in a futuristic minimal disco feel develops which is then made strange by the final element - a heavily-filtered and indecipherable speech sample. This is a very distinctive and original track and the highlight here.

With its muffled kick ‘Santeria’ initially seems dubbier/housier but a de-tuned bleepy sequence and a spiralling minmal acid line soon take it in another direction before it gradually shifts again into an uneasy form of ambient dub.

The closing ‘A Ghost Lovestory’ is essentially a long ambient outro with a hazy atmosphere made more interesting by an underlay of static hiss. The press release slightly tempts fate by stating that “ things can get very interesting when the two working methods superimpose perfectly, but can be just as interesting when the two fall slightly out of phase with one another.” The duo seem to have deliberately left gaps unclosed and allowed their techniques to drift out of synch, allowing a certain oddness to creep in to these hybrid tracks. Rather than offering a grand statement,the duo leave it to the listener to decipher and assess the tracks.

Saturday, 11 April 2015





Test Dept; the authentic industrialists, sonic material handlers, utilisers and recyclers of society’s debris have re-emerged to engage with the current cultural and political climate, exploring new ways of expression in a strategic programme of actions and releases.

The symposium at Aston University where academics, contributors to the book and other interested parties discuss the influence and impact of the group will be followed by an after party at Vivid to celebrate Test Dept’s return to the public sphere.

The return is realised in the form of the book – Total State Machine – published in April 2013 by PC-Press ; an extensive documentation of the history, work and actions of the group up until their 2014 DS30 installation at Dunstan Staiths, commissioned by AV Festival to commemorate the anniversary of The Miners’ Strike of 1984/85. The book is launched in London on April 23rd and will feature a screening of the DS30 documentary. The Birmingham event will also celebrate the release of the 12” vinyl single; Tested Product for Record Store Day and the re-release of Shoulder To Shoulder; their album with the striking South Wales Striking Miners Choir from 1984 which will be re-released on 1st May on red vinyl.

 The evening will feature DJ sets from Test Dept themselves, PC Press editor Alexei Monroe in his Codex Europa guise and the legendary Stephen Mallinder. Test Dept will line the walls with art manifestos and statements from their historical archives and show footage of live performances and actions from some of their historic performances. There will be a stall selling the book, CDs, vinyl and official Test Dept merchandise.

7:00PM - 11:00PM £5 ENTRY

Vivid Projects
16 Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley Street, B5 5RS Birmingham, United Kingdom