With hundreds of records released each week, it’s difficult to keep track of what’s going on in house and techno.
We’re told on a regular basis that pressing plants are at breaking point, but you wouldn’t think it given the sheer volume of house and techno 12”s being pressed each month. The number alone makes it difficult enough, but the proliferation of watered-down deep house and identikit techno tools doesn’t make staying on top of things any easier, and that’s before you consider the digital-only music, mixes and live streams we now have to choose from.
With this in mind, Scott Wilson brings us FACT’s house and techno column each month to highlight the best and most interesting music in the form of 12”s, EPs, remixes, albums and mixes. With the club environment splintering off into different directions, it’s easy to forget that there’s just as much innovation in the house and techno scenes right now. Of course, sometimes a track’s just a banger, and there will be plenty of that too.
This month there’s abstract dub techno from Laurel Halo, off-kilter pop constructions from Reckonwrong, a masterclass in deep house from Pépé Bradock and more.
In Situ EP
There are many artists who seem content to stick in the same groove throughout their career, but not Laurel Halo. Every record she’s released over the past five years has felt like a complete metamorphosis and In Situ is no different, even if its unpredictable rhythmic parts are recognisable from 2013’s Chance Of Rain. This time round the tracks come steeped in a vat of dub delay, but rather than creating simple club tools, Halo forms tracks with half-song structures that resemble Basic Channel as interpreted by Deep Dream: heady and soaked in reverb, but also deeply psychedelic and a little bit off-colour.
Whities 005 EP
Despite being based in Amsterdam, there not much about Reckonwrong’s music that reminds me of the city’s more famous house and techno figures. In fact, there was a point during ‘Magical Journey’ on his new record for Whities that I was convinced I was listening to a lost track by cult mid-00s post-punk band Clor. A better comparison might be Jam City, whose early club tracks felt spliced from a similarly ramshackle grab-bag of sounds, though Reckonwrong’s music here feels like it’s been ripped from an alternate 1980s where Trevor Horn invented house music. It might be one of the month’s experimental house records, but it’s also brimming with pop hooks.
Basic Soul Unit
Under The Same Sky LP
Toronto’s Stuart Li has released a lot of records over the past 10 years. Despite being prolific, he’s not quite received the wider recognition of, say, Shed or Skudge, artists with a similar love of raw, rave-inspired analog techno. It’s probably why his second album has found a home on Dekmantel; as a label its A&R decisions seem to stem first and foremost from what goes down well at their parties and not what happens to be in fashion at the time. When Li hits that sweet spot between hard-hitting rhythms and raw emotion he’s untouchable, and Under The Same Sky gives us 10 tracks of just that.
‘Mad Dealer’/’We Let Go’ 12″
Much like Basic Soul Unit, Tom Dicicco is a techno producer who has been quietly putting out great records for a while without wider recognition. His productions play it straight for the most part, which makes his appearance on Jordan Czamanski’s Off Minor label unexpected – it’s known for material from Max D, Move D and Magic Mountain High, music that’s looser than Dicicco’s hard-edged approach. Both ‘Mad Dealer’ and ‘We Let Go’ feel different to much of his previous work though; they’re deep and rugged in a Levon Vincent kind of way, full of queasy synths that hover just out of view, keeping the drums in sharp focus where they belong.
A Made Up Sound
‘Half Hour Jam On A Borrowed Synth’
A Made Up Sound
Even though Dave Huismans has made a career out of constantly one-upping himself with WTF moments, it’s difficult to know where he can go from ‘Half Hour Jam On A Borrowed Synth’. Until this point, 2011’s ‘Take The Plunge’ probably held the crown for Huismans’ most jaw-dropping track: a shattered techno number that came down on you like a slasher movie villain’s kitchen knife. ‘Half Hour Jam On A Borrowed Synth’ is its bizarro world inverse, a beatless major key synth jam that’s probably the closest techno’s ever got to a ragtime tune. You might associate Huismans’ productions with drums, but they don’t feel absent at all.
Of Matter and Spirit LP
Aïsha Devi has been building a strong aesthetic of what she calls “ritual music” on her Danse Noire label in recent years. The label has nurtured a hypnotic, transcendental vision of techno, with releases form Devi, Vaghe Stelle, Haf Haf and others offering a dark inverse of what you might associate with the term “trance” – think Dead Can Dance rather than Tiësto. While Devi’s singles on Danse Noire have jumped between synthwave and industrial techno sounds, her debut album Of Matter and Spirit is a more refined combination of both. Though it arrives on Houndstooth rather than Danse Noire, it’s still imbued with what makes her own label unique, stretched vocals and translucent chords mingling with the kind of all-encompassing dread you’d expect from Andy Stott or Demdike Stare.
‘B23 Steelhouse’/’Motor City (extension)’
While Lee Gamble is known for filling his DJ sets with blistering techno and jungle, you don’t often hear him banging it out in quite the same fashion in his own productions. His last few albums have been variated between heady ambient numbers and complex IDM-ish techno tracks with all the fragility of spun sugar. ‘B23 Steelhouse’ and ‘Motor City (extension)’ are the opposite of that mindset, a pair of tracks that sound like he’s tapping less obliquely into the Birmingham and Detroit schools of techno. They’ve still got that eerie, head-wrecking quality that drives his best work, but with the satisfaction of some really heavy kick drums.
Le Fada 12″
Pépé Bradock might only release an average of a record a year, but when each is as solid as Le Fada, he doesn’t need to worry about making up the numbers. ‘Abul-Abbas’ is Bradock at his best, layering alien timbres and mutant saxophone samples over a bed of of aching deep house chords. ‘Homo Sandwichus’ on the B-side is another tripped-out masterpiece, with all the chaotic beauty of a Jackson Pollock pressed to wax. There isn’t a house producer out there who combines the exquisite with the weird quite like Bradock, but he still manages to pull surprises out of his hat on a regular basis.
Gong Bath 12″
The music of Slow Riffs might technically be ambient, but calling Gong Bath one of the month’s best house and techno records feels more than appropriate. It’s the work of Vancouver’s Ian Wyatt, best know for his atmospheric house tracks on Proibito and Rhythm Section International as Local Artist, and ‘Gong Bath’ feels like a swelling deep house track in the tradition of Pépé Bradock’s ‘Deep Burnt’ with all the beats removed. Similarly, ‘Virgo Dub’ is what you’d expect dub techno to sound like if it had washed up on the shores of the Canadian Riviera. There’s nothing wrong with the summery house vibe Mood Hut offers on most of its records, but this 12″ is a refreshing change of pace – especially the new age chimes and crash cymbals of ‘Peace Arch’, which reconfigure the Mood Hut as a place for meditation rather than carefree parties.
Styles Upon Styles
Kloke’s Sea Levels was probably one of last year’s most underrated EPs, taking the sort of deep, considered beat construction you’d hear from Kassem Mosse and dragging it 100 fathoms deeper. His second 12” for the similarly underrated Styles Upon Styles is a different beast entirely, including two cuts that nail barbed, acid-soaked percussion to a framework that’s more Shackleton than Workshop. It says a lot about how wild these tracks are that Hieroglyphic Being’s 11-minute acid remix of the title track sounds conservative by comparison.