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 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’s plenty of that too.
This month, there’s melted tape house from Buz Ludzha, an unclassifiable banger from Bruce, soundboard jungle from Neuroshima and more.
Bobby Draino & D. Tiffany
‘Arctic Travel’ 12″
‘Arctic Travel’ isn’t the first time Vancouver’s Bobby Draino and D. Tiffany have worked together, but it feels like they’ve matured since their 1080p appearance in 2013. It has all the hallmarks of the laid-back, ambient house excursions made famous by the city’s Mood Hut crew, but the rolling bassline underneath comes straight from the Larry Heard playbook, resulting in an uncomplicated club track without the noisier trappings of their early work. The track is over 10 minutes long, but it doesn’t feel flabby at all.
‘Gammellan’ (Dresvn remix)
As last month’s killer EP for Sexes proved, Don’t DJ is the only producer that can rival Shackleton when it comes to creating head-spinning polyrhythms. This time round he’s remixed by Acido pair Dresvn on Berceuse Heroique, who turn the atonal ‘Gammellan’ into a tightly-wound piece of tropical techno. The duo’s music can walk a fine line between abstraction and joy, but this remix combines the two into something you’d be forgiven for mistaking for a lost UK funky rhythm.
Like the under-appreciated Joe, Bruce is a one-name producer making completely unclassifiable dance music. His productions call to mind everything from the minimal beat construction of the Acido crew to the weed-soaked atmosphere of Actress and Lukid, and ‘Steals’ is his best yet. Its clockwork rhythm is the best Hessle drum track since ‘Claptrap,’ only made more unsettling by the moments of muffled silence that feel like having your head dunked under water.
‘Headspace (Ground Control Mix)’
Rave Archive EP
Neuroshima is yet another anonymous producer raiding old jungle records for inspiration, but in an unfamiliar way. ‘Headspace (Ground Control Mix)’ takes away most of the forward momentum, throwing in twice the number of rewinds in one track that DJs should be allowed to do in a whole set and stacking chords, vocals and bass until you think they’re going to topple over. It sounds more like someone poking a soundboard keyring filled with jungle samples than someone making a club track, but that’s why you won’t be able to resist another spin when it reaches the end.
Basslines For Life EP
Like most of Andrew Morrison’s crusty club tracks as Buz Ludzha, his new EP for 100% Silk sounds as if it’s been sitting in a shoebox full of rave tapes that have melted in the sun. You could argue that’s what Legowelt’s been doing for years, but on ‘Positive Vibes’ Morrison draws from the sort of London pirate stations that play ‘90s house classics on repeat. Listen with a grainy YouTube video of old rave acts on Top of the Pops for maximum effect.
If you associate Kowton’s sound with the grime-influenced ‘More Games’ from 2012, then his debut album is going to come as quite a surprise. Utility is nine tracks of techno unashamedly for the club, and mid-point ’Sleep Chamber’ is the leanest, most potent example of the album’s Robert Hood-inspired reductionism, which the producer has likened to the stripped-back beauty of Scandinavian furniture design. It’s hard as nails, but it’s still got that underlying emotional core that made last year’s ‘On Repeat’ such a winner.
People still talk about Donato Dozzy and Nuel’s Aquaplano records from the late 2000s for good reason – you can listen to them now and be hard pressed to place exactly where or when they were made. Nuel’s ‘OK Face’ might be the closest we’ll get to an Aquaplano revival; the steady pulse and surrounding fog mirror the minimalist simplicity of the duo’s early records. Dozzy has been the more prolific member since the last Aquaplano record, but on the basis of this track it could be argued that Nuel was the brains behind the operation.
Between Crazylegs producer dJJ and now Aberdeen’s T_A_M, it seems as if there’s enough enthusiasm for the filter house sound known as ‘French touch’ that a revival could be just around the corner. ‘September’s Silk’ goes a lot easier on the low-pass than the rest of his EP for Local Action, but it’s got the same fluorescent pink glow as classic Alan Braxe and cut-up grooves as the best Thomas Bangalter joints. In short, it’s a lot of fun.
Rojus (Designed To Dance) LP
If Leon Vynehall’s latest mini-album is meant to soundtrack a night at an imagined club, then ‘Beau Sovereign’ is the moment when the DJ reaches for the peak-time records. Vynehall has admitted that his latest collection of music is intended to be functional, but there’s as much musicality in ‘Beau Sovereign’ as anything on 2014’s sublime Music For The Uninvited, creating a full-bodied piano house track whose rhythms have a jazz drummer’s grace and light touch.
‘Bed & Breakfast’
(Don’t Be Afraid)
Like fellow Detroit producers Omar-S and Kyle Hall, MGUN doesn’t seem overly concerned with finding a sound and sticking to it; he’s just as likely to create some weird hip-hop instrumental as he is frantic acid techno. ’Bed & Breakfast’ is a highlight from his debut album, and one of the best recent examples of how distorted, lo-fi techno doesn’t have to be completely joyless. It’s basically a ‘90s house track, but with grotty drums that cut through the schmaltz.