German techo producer Housemeister’s second album of 2020 alone (bored in lockdown much?) is a fairly short mini-album of upbeat progressive house with a generally positive vibe befitting of the “Endless Summer” (sorry, “3ndl3ss Svmmer”) title, and easing off some of the cheekiness and playfulness of previous releases.
It’s generally fast, often squelchy, with a endearing lean to the analogue, most succinctly represented by tracks like arpeggio-lead “Trip To Heaven”. Some tracks feel more like a 90’s throwback than others, and there’s a lovely electro vibe in “Feel Like” that can’t go unmentioned.
It’s instrumental, with minor exceptions- a few single-word snippets, like “concentrate!” in the slightly tougher-edged “See You!”, but mainly when the unmistakable voice of Miss Kittin adorns “Daydreamer”. It’s a dreamy and mature spoken-word, almost whispered lyric with intelligence and introspection.
Coming out on the All You Can Beat label that Housemeister co-founded, this all feels like home turf, nothing particularly outrageous or experimental, but nevertheless a really nice pack of high-energy positive techno.
Inspired by a Hans Zimmer quote about using more synthesizers, Julia Bondar set out to make Industrial Symphony a techno work with an ambitious and dramatic feel. But rather than going for all-out synthetic orchestral tones, melodrama and soundtrack styles, this release stays firmly in techno territory and lets this intention come out in the dark atmospherics, unsettling and biting tones and bass drones, while the drum programming stays steady and provides the scaffolding.
There’s plenty of Zimmer-like tension in tracks like “Fire”, a collaboration with the gothic tones of Nero Bellum, or the stretched-out bass punches and waves of “Overflowing”, and the outro track “Inner” is the one ambient indulgence.
Meanwhile on the album’s softer side some of the tracks have an almost progressive house feel, like that found in “Running With The Wolves” and the nearly-synthpoppy bassline of “Best Intentions”. Techno purists need not worry though, as there is plenty of tough, relentless, purposeful 4/4 to play with in tracks like the darkly unfolding “Power Of Presence”.
It’s a very polished techno album and even though it doesn’t fully reach every one of its rather high aspirations, it’s a slick deep journey that’s worth travelling.
Late Cretaceous Part 2 is the tenth and final installment of Finnish producer Rantanen’s “Prehistoric series”, 100 tracks released over seven years, each album named after a geological period, each track named after a creature found in that period. In a way it’s quite a high art concept, as well as quite an impressive achievement.
But, and I’ll try and choose my words carefully here to avoid offence, there is little that is high-concept art about the actual music, which is hard, percussive, driving techno through and through. Kick drums are the bread and butter, the subbass is rich, the top end effects and atmospherics are reverberant and generally a bit sinister, and it’s all essentially one-note and mostly amelodic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s high quality- but this is music the dinosaurs might have danced to (not really of course), rather than music that would’ve got them thinking (and not just because of the size of their brains).
It’s nicely mesmerising, as good deep techno should be, with a transportative feel to tracks like “Titanoceratops” or the slightly more epic and progressive “Tyrannosaurus Rex” that wraps the whole journey up.
Across 82 minutes it’s a fairly relentless listen, with relatively few changes in tempo or tone to note, and some similarly-tuned sequential pieces can be a bit of a patience test- “Brachyceratops” is perhaps a low point for the impatient. However, highlight moments and interlude moments include the moody breakdown moments in “Quaesitosaurus”, and the marginally more melodic and successfully broody “Maastrictian”. “Achelousaurus” teases with an equally broody, ambient introduction- that lasts all of ten seconds before the kicks jump in.
It’s techno that runs deep, geologically deep. It’s very smartly produced. Some people may wish for a little more progression in the details to keep them interested- there’s a certain irony in the lack of evolution within the tracks, given the evolutionary scale of the titles- but as low-key techno goes, this is rich.
To clarify some expectations at first, this is neither Industrial nor a Symphony in the common used sense of these words. From the first hi-hat sounds it's pretty clear where Julia Bondar aims at; the underground dancefloors. Deep Techno with heavy throbbing basslines guides you through the dark of the night. And there are plenty of dark overtones spread on this 7 track album.
"Strength In Softness" is an acidic opener but all doubts are pushed away with the intense bass line. Straight on follows the pre-released Single "Fire" featuring Nero Bellum (of Psyclon Nine and Not My God) with a Twin Peaks reminiscence in hushed Voice and Lyrics. A great track not to be missed.
The tempo given is now even more tightened with the first track Julia recorded for her third album; "Running With The Wolves", 7 Minutes plus and nearly the longest track which could be extended easily into an even longer tribal influenced anthem for my tastes.
A heavy machine beat, delayed echoes of handclaps, an swirling and demanding sequence above an ruthless sub bass. "Power Of Presence" is slightly more playful but again heading straight home, not without giving the listener a memory of euphoria to hold on.
Her sounds are generated nearly complete with a special manufactured analogue modular synth system by endorphin.es productions which is the other side of her interests and adds to the amazing recognisable difference in comparison with many current tracks. The clear production and the full sounds make listening to an audio panorama which reminds me positively of the joy of testing your stereo set-up with the latest Yello.
The broading atmospheres add even more to the movie like experience and I had to take this right away for listening with headphones while moving around the city. While not in Barcelona it was a pleasure as the desire and the urge behind these tracks is capturing and comforting at once.
The second half starts with "Overflowing" which has an unexpected bouncy beat and bumping bass paired with a sequence like a shiny silver-line on the horizon before it gets even more positive with "Best Intentions".
Mellow bouncing beats meet symphonic sounds (finally); all is nice but my attention is getting lost for the first time between synth pop and sci-fi score impressions. A little more vocals could have spiced this up favourable - as it is it's just too longish and then turning sour. The positive up-beat dancefloor is not really her strength and looking at her background from minimal, darkwave to electro and techno it's obvious she's continuously testing out her equipment and possibilities. Remarkably her way of working includes a lot live performing before anything is shaped into a release.
Back to the dark zone where Julia is obviously more comfortable - "Inner" is a mysterious outro, a coming down conclusion without giving any clues away. Like the picture on the cover - this could mean anything or nothing at all, open to interpretations. Anyway, Julia Bondar is an versatile artist shaping her way forwards.
Leaving the distracting title and image besides, Industrial Symphony is a strong Album with only few weak points and a pleasure to listen to.
(The LP is going to be released on September 16t, pre-orders are possible)
The second album from Hologram Teen, aka Morgan Lhote, is genuinely eclectic. Eclectic is an overused term nowadays, and here it doesn’t just mean a few esoteric samples, it means a collection of hip-hop and disco-funk tracks with a truly international and expansive range of international sources. It’s jazzy, quirky, multi-lingual and it has a bit of a sense of humour too. The closest comparison I can think of is the Avalanches’ earlier stuff, but Pizza Conspiracy, despite the paranoid title, has a unique character of its own that’s more laidback and it treads with a light step. As well as plenty of African- and South American-sounding patterns, it also brings in other influences less frequently heard in this context- including an interesting bent towards prog rock and wig-out electronica.
Very few of these tracks top the three minute mark, and as a result some leave you wanting plenty more, or Googling for the extended remix. Highlights include the punchy opener “Élixir Trémolo” the dubby samplitude of “Cosmogatto”, and the wilfully genre-antagonising African-loungecore-meets-70’s-cop-show-love-theme of “Bongos Over Dyke Slope”.
At times this feels like an instrumental version of an unreleased early De La Soul album, with steady concise positivity-infused grooves like “Rock Eagle Rock” feeling like they’re tailor-made for Plug One and Plug Two to roll their lyrics over. Backing this up is the sense of skit tracks, several sub-two-minute pieces that feel like shorter-baked half-ideas, adding to the general sense of montage.
A 39-minute ‘beat tape’ mixes together all the tracks into a continuous flow, and it’s in this mix that the tracks feel more at home, strangely, a bit more homogenised but an easier background listen.
There’s no crossover hit here that will garner massive attention as a single- first single “Dalston Wizardzz” is sweet but a little forgettable and sync-music-ish, though the perkiness of the bonus Al Kent remix gives it a nice lift. But as a true exercise in jazzy eclecticism and successful crate-digging with a properly feel-good attitude, it’s impossible not to like.