The second release of the Droughtwerk label is a stomping four-track techno EP with a very singular purpose, expressed from the word go by the title track. It’s not clever, but it sounds big- relentless throbbing synth arp and 303 lines pounding across the EQ range, certain elements letting up for a few bars occasionally but never approaching anything that could be described as a quiet breakdown.
“Ataria” has a deeper, slightly more 90’s techno vibe to it but still throbs along at around 140bpm, while both “Sentimental Thoughts” and “Controlled” leave a bit more space in the mix to allow single elements to play around and work across your consciousness for the allotted around-six-minutes running time. They’re almost structureless (but DJ friendly if you’re brave), so the tracks seem to stop more because your allotted dosage is up than because of any real conclusion.
It feels either workmanlike or angry depending, I think, on a reflection of the listener’s mood. Heavy techno with attitude.
Simon Crab is one of the artists I followed always with interest and excitement through the years since I stumbled upon the first Bourbonese Qualk LP which opened my ears in many directions at once. Stylistically never easy to pin down but with a straightforward diy attitude, running own labels, squatting in the early days, experiencing life behind the iron curtain as band, new software the whole lot is not for the narrow minded.
Since BoQu disbanded in 2002 he released one ambient / field recording album with Sunseastar and two under his own name, the latest more electronically orientated on Klanggalerie in 2018.
But singles are pretty rare in his whole history so I was curious when this limited edition 10" on a tiny independent label from Lyon was announced. All the aesthetics of early independent DIY releases are here again in 2020 - no artwork besides the label images, no cover - just a plain black inner-sleeve to fit in a blank one, sparse information and no distractions.
"Kodokushi" is actually a Japanese word for lonely deaths that occur so lonely that the people remain undiscovered for a long time. At first a strange title for a peaceful 4 Min. 11 seconds track, slow beats, dripping sounds, calm atmospheric sounds and echos. While there is no specific tenison build-up it has enough movement to keep one wondering why it's not a few minutes longer.
The close to 8 Min. remix on the b-side by Tolouse Low Trax (actually Detlef Weinrich from Kreidler) is a tribal
dub workout, missing musically the distanced clarity of the original and placing the whole track in the swamps of Babylon. Distant voices lost in the dystopian somewhere.
This is a release which gains with each listening and found me returning to quite often during the last months as it slips perfect between other releases both as a break and a bridge.
Dovregubben is a four-pack EP of bright, poppy instrumental cosmic disco from the Bergen-based producer Cavego. Over quite synthwavey beats and steppy analogue basslines roll twinkling melodies and soft melodic elements, in a delicate balance of hot and cold. “Rask Gange” has an operatic vocal ‘ahhh’ sound that sounds strongly reminiscent of Andy Bell from Erasure, emphasising the 80’s feel somewhat. These also occur in “Huldra”, but in a more feminine way- the track is named after a seductive Scandinavian forest spirit, which is a good fit. Meanwhile “Dovregubben”, “the Dovre Giant”, rather than being a mythical figure, used to be the fastest locomotive train in use in Norway. So the steady journeying beat and flat but purposeful groove of the titular track makes sense too. The title track has to be a standout thanks to its absolutely infectious, feel-good chord pattern, but “Alfred (of vennene hans)” is notable as well thanks to a more driving beat, simpler one-note approach and faintly “Strings Of Life”-ish synthline. Warm analogue disco-synthwave does feel like quite a crowded area at the moment, and there’s nothing in-your-face or overtly different here that really makes this release jump out. But it might rise to the top more discreetly thanks to its catchy instrumental melodies and an almost inexplicable likeableness. It’s club friendly (once clubs are available again) but is also worth pointing out to a more stay-at-home or synthpop crowd too.
This various artists set is a collaboration between Mexican club night YuYu, and the very reliable Infinite Machine label. It serves several purposes, including to showcase the health and quality of the club and electronic scene acrossMexico, and also act as a fundraiser for the people whose livelihood is in trouble whilst that club scene is closed thanks to coronavirus.
After kicking off in purposeful fashion with the chanting techno of Er Irreal Veintiuno’s “Demagogia”, it quickly twists towards the darker, more sinister electronic sounds I associate with Infinite Machine. I can’t imagine any dancefloors throbbing to the awkward time signature and metallic pulses of Turning Turso’s “Los Dos”, but as a piece of home-listening EDM (and isn’t every piece of music home-listening music at the moment?), it’s got some excellent detailing. A throbbing, sub-bass-heavy techno with above-average rhythm complexity is the home ground here, though Tomas Urquieta’s “Midake”, Undefined Pattern’s “En Contra” and more.
It’s cleverly sequenced. Benfika’s “Torrente” contrasts nicely its plinky, trap-like top end with gutpunching and aggressive rhythms. In turn this plays well against AAAA (not Jimmy Cauty)’s initially lighter and breaksier “Phased Flashing On A Building”, and Microhm’s beautiful and trancey “Kyoke”.
Within the broad umbrella of EDM, it’s generally very consistent in vision, with no real odd-ones-out. It’s dominated by instrumentals so Camila Fuchs’ “Settle Down”, with its “oh it scares me” refrain that’s somewhere inbetween Siouxsie, Yoko Ono and Bjork, comes as a bit of a surprise- but generally, the surprises are few.
Other highlights include OMAAR’s deceptively simple but effective house-acid crossover “Sabe”, the skittish, glitchy “Leitmotiv” from CNDSD, and the nicely meaty brooding progressive of Nico’s “Walk”.
Like most compilations, there’s a sense of a large buffet rather than a full meal. With the majority of these tracks under five minutes, there are points where you’re left wanting more, forced to resort to Googling whether those artists have got full albums out. But there isn’t a single duff one in the pack, and ambitious and very open-minded DJ’s will find a lot to work with (or at least to practice with, at the moment) in this pack.
I was a little surprised when the name Quivver popped up in my inbox, as it’s a name I associate positively with some of the best examples of the 90’s-to-noughties progressive house sound, with some classic originals and remixes- but I’d fail to realise that Quivver had never really stopped releasing ever since. I was doubly surprised because until now I didn’t realise that John Graham, whose album “Cold Sun” is a highlight of the last few years for me, was even the same guy. So I was taken to school about this before it had even begun.
Under the Quivver alias everything does appear to be business as usual though, which is good news. The original of “Forest Moon” is a steady bit of prog house with the familiar recipe of light-and-crisp four beats, fluffy sci-fi effects and long, emotive chords- in this case somewhat on the cold and thoughtful side. In dance music terms, this is walking pace material, but it’s dreamy.
The Dmitry Molosh remix of the title track is a fairly subtle rearrangement, with the obligatory remixer’s changes of percussion and structure, including a bolder breakdown towards the end, but ultimately not changing the vibe of the original very much. The ‘B-side’ (in old money) is an Integral Bread remix of “8 Bit Eclipse” which rolls with a lovely rumbling bass tone and some nicely sci-fi bleeps that hark back a little to Graham’s other old alias Space Manoeuvres a little.
There’s nothing revolutionary here, to put it mildly- this is very much business-as-usual for an artist who releases on labels like Bedrock- but the quality is undeniable. You know what you’re going to get from this, and you can buy with confidence rather than curiosity.