Various // Sleaze Select Vol.1
Label: Sleaze Records
Release Date: 20/05/2013
This is the eightieth release for Scottish label Sleaze Records and it is an excursion into deeply immersive, dance floor Techno. The label is as consistent as it is exciting, and a firm favourite over here at Stray Landings. The only issue we have is keeping up to date with the label’s prolific releases schedule. Never the less, this multi-artist EP includes some incredible music, each contributor appearing to have pulled out their best work.
The EP begins with the Argentine giant, Jonas Kopp. ‘Mountak’ is an exercise in driving melodic Techno, it feels comfortably fast pushing way out of lazy dancing territory and into full on raving mode. Having said that, its full force is only felt when listened across the whole seven minutes. At first glance, its melodic structure feels familiarly simple, but as the track progresses the chords swell and rise to euphoric levels. Kopp’s familiar control of the percussive elements is decidedly understated, leaving the chords and subtle leads to drive the track forward; it is an outstanding track from an artist on top of his game.
The next offering comes from Minneapolis native Dustin Zahn, ‘Forward unto Dawn’ feels slightly slower than the first track and perhaps suffers from it considering the minimal sound pallet. However, much like the Kopp piece it manages to blend a very familiar set of percussive tropes with refreshingly hypnotizing, chord drones. Again it is a piece that lends itself to an extended play, the slow build up is to be honest relatively dull, but as is gets into full swing by the four minute mark we are reminded why this mix of tension and release is so effective, particularly for the dance floor.
It was certainly nice to hear a new contribution from Flug on this EP. Across the Stray Landings team there was a lingering concern that the remixes on his last release for Sleaze overshadowed him slightly, so to see him produce something that stands out clearly on the EP is really impressive. ‘No Way Out’ feels much slower than the previous two tracks on the EP but this time is entirely appropriate. There is very little in the way of melodic development in this track, instead low swung drums are occasionally augmented by dissonant lead lines to head nodding effect. The tonal quality of the percussive repetition is outstanding and on the right sound system would be all the best kinds of hypnotic. The steady arrangement of the track and slow build ups, which on occasion are punctuated by outrageously obtuse synth flutters, make sure boredom is the last feeling produced by this aptly titled claustrophobic wonder.
To say that Sleaze saved the best till last is certainly difficult with an EP of this quality and pitting the last track against what was the firm favourite up until this point from Kopp is probably unnecessary. BUT, the three way collaborative track ‘RS7000’ from Tony Rohr, Billy Johnston & Gennaro Mastrantonio is to use the correct terminology… A BOMB! Up until the four minute mark we are treated to driving 808 percussion in the low end, and sharp and well placed percussion up top, and to be honest with you that would have been enough from them and it would have impressed me. But, at the 4 minute mark we are given an incredible twisting chord line, which builds up to what feels like a typical mega drop, only to be subdued again as the bass comes back in. This is the best of what dance floor Techno can be, both tough and emotive. Its composition is masterful and has to be the highlight of what is a really stunning EP from the Glasgow label. If quality like this continues, then this Sleaze select series may turn out to be a real treasure trove of future classics.
Words by Sean Hughes.
Spatial // Set Apart
Release Date: 13/05/2013
If confronted with select snippets from Spatial’s latest EP for WNCL, you’d probably be forgiven for thinking you were being presented with some fairly questionable 90s style Hard-House. With further listening however, it becomes apparent that there is a level of craftsmanship and musicality through the release that sets Spatial’s latest work miles ahead of its weathered and actually fairly distant relations.
Opener ‘Set Apart’ is perhaps a good summation of this, entering the setting of twisted Techno recently endorsed by the likes of MPIA3, through its use of overdriven kicks and crunchy high-end. It quickly veers off course however, partially relaxing into the jacking house styles typical of WNCL releases. This said, Spatial’s darker elements do not dampen themselves alongside the introduction of liquid rave stabs. ‘Set Apart’s second curveball comes at the midpost, with the introduction of some fairly inebriating string samples. These sickly-sweet textures are quickly joined by Spatial’s first use of vocal samples which run through a brief buildup, before dropping out as the track reverts back to its more simplistic origins.
Of the four tracks, ‘Right Now’ is closest in nature to ‘Set Apart’ as the majority of its attention is given to infectious house grooves, and similarly lighthearted rave chords.
The pairing of ‘Set Apart’ and ‘Right Now’ seems all the more logical when assessing the similarities between the EP’s other two offerings; the crazed, ‘Lost’, and similarly manic closer, ‘Syn Cop’. Both possess a fervent intensity created by Spatial’s fantastic use of acid hooks and contorted electro glitches. Of the two, ‘Syn Cop’ is the more affront, shaking off the shoulder-shrugging swung rhythms of ‘Lost’, in favour of breakneck Acid-Techno.
The WNCL press release includes a quote from Spatial - suggesting a desire to create something out of the ordinary, moderated by the hankering to produce material which is club friendly. To my mind the EP, as with most of Spatial’s releases achieves both these feats with an air of ease that suggests its nothing more than instinctive to him.
Words by Theo Darton-Moore.
Ontal // Output EP
Label: Darkfloor Sound
Format: Limited 12”/Digital
Release Date: 18/04/13
Having been picked up by electronic music connoisseur Rob Booth, Serbian duo Boris Noiz & Darko Kolar (better known as Ontal) first appeared on our radar via the the Electronic Explorations podcasts early last year. Since then the pair’s following has moved on so much so that their debut 12” is now out in the open, via Darkfloor Sound. The Output EP sits somewhere between the ice-cold electronic precision of Alva Noto, and the merciless industrial battering of Perc or Tommy Four Seven.
The aforementioned comparisons are most relevant through opener and title track ‘Output’, which sees waves of static surging over noise-laden kicks. The charm and intensity of the track comes from the sheer mass of the sound, and the bold monotony of the loops. Indeed, this is a style that features prominently throughout their work, and has a distinctly modernised feel to the classic Throbbing Gristle-style industrial music of the UK.
‘Disorientation’ lives up to its title, mixing piercing dial-up tones with a rock solid kick snare stomp. Despite the harshness of its textures, the track packs a lot of punch, with dynamic shifts that would be perfectly suited to the more extreme end of a Techno DJ set.
Without shunning their penchant for abrasive noise, ‘Centrifugal Force’ is probably the most texturally rich cut of the four, introducing hissing atmospheres to an otherwise familiar Ontal formula. It also gives the duo an opportunity to showcase their skills as experimental musicians, as the grooves in this track are far from conventional. Typewriter taps shuffle above what sounds like an almost random set of kicks, making it difficult to place the pulse of each bar. Nevertheless, that is the point, and once again Ontal manage to confound the listener into a sonically induced stupor.
‘Darkfloor’ closes the EP nicely with a refreshingly minimal and subtle take on their sound. The sombre horns that run throughout wouldn’t sound out of place on an early DMZ record, and would fit equally well within tracks from the likes of Demdike Stare and the Blackest Ever Black crew, and what this track shows us is that Ontal are capable of creating plenty of atmosphere, too.
Overall this EP has got a lot of diversity both in dynamic and character, and I would be surprised if there wasn’t at least one track that didn’t appeal to the reader. Personally, I think there’s an awful lot of content packed into this EP that I’m not going to get bored of for a long while, and I’m immensely excited about experimenting with the 12” when it comes.
Words by George McVicar & Theo Darton-Moore.
Sandwell District Fabric 69 Launch
Lineup: Terry Francis, Rrose [Live], Regis & James Ruskin
Venue: Fabric, London
At the apex of their success in 2011, Karl O’Connor & Dave Sumner decided to pull the plug on their label/collective Sandwell District, before it became assimilated into the mainstream; before it became tedious and before exhausted its originality. Since the label/not label’s birth in 2002 (the label tag is something O’Connor is a little ambiguous about), Sandwell District helped to define the Techno landscape of the noughties - a menacing, abstract, streamlined sound owing as much to the DIY aesthetic of 80s Industrial, as to billowing warehouse Techno. Fast forward to 2013, and we find ourselves queuing outside Fabric for the launch party of their mix CD, with a live set from Rrose to look forward to alongside Sandwell District’s headline slot, and resident Terry Francis playing a warm up set.
Partying at any of London’s major clubs tends to come at a certain expense - with the recent endemic of belligerent snapback sporting morons, we’ve tended to shy away from the larger clubs in recent years. Fabric in particular appears to attract most of the punters by its name alone. However if one thing was to tempt us out of the woodwork, it’d be the reformation of the Sandwell District collective, and in truth, there couldn’t be a much more fitting setting for the Sandwell sound that Fabric’s cavernous network of underground tunnels.
On entry, I couldn’t help but think Berghain’s seemingly arbitrary door policy is that bit more understandable, when confronted with a huddle of boisterous, chanting football fans, and a frenzied individual who appeared to have paid his entry fee for the privilege to shake hands with as many people as possible. Whilst the aforementioned chants slightly hindered our enjoyment of Terry Francis’ riproaring set, it’d be hard to deny the man’s talents as a DJ, both in terms of mixing and selections - borne from fifteen years of hard graft.
The enigmatic Rrose then took to room two’s stage for a rare live set, dressed true to name as an elegant woman – something that sparked a nightlong gender debate, which is probably what Rrose wanted all along. Beginning with a dense wall of rumbling low-end peppered with static, Rrose slowly revealed a thudding pulse underneath the thick fog of noise. As the mix progressed his texturally rich soundscapes began to take a more obviously danceable form. Running the gamut of his discography with powerful live renditions of tracks like ‘Secretion’, Rrose brought proceedings to a fitting peak, culminating with one of the last releases on the Sandwell imprint - the grainy, industrial-rave inflected, ‘Waterfall’. With Francis’ set comprising mainly of synapse shredding tracks pitched up to 130bpm, Rrose’s immaculately crafted yet comparatively woozy live set led to a discernible drop in crowd energy. Looking back, he probably would have been better suited to the opening slot, although we can’t complain too much.
I’m sure many were sad to see Dave Sumner (Function) unable to perform due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’, although truth be told, as last minute replacements go, James Ruskin is a pretty fucking good one. The last minute set change seemed not to faze either party, perhaps due to the fact they have worked closely together in the past, as O/V/R. Between the two of them O’Connor and Ruskin traversed a set of pounding warehouse tracks, interspersed with the sub bass manipulations of Wax and Roman Lindau, building from Rrose’s hour of brooding sound design. Sandwell District completely abolished the tried and tested rave formula of tension-climax-release, opting to keep the ball constantly rolling and the serotonin rushing - the only reprieve from the sonic onslaught came with the violent swing of Pev & Kowton’s ‘Raw Code’.
The arrested futurism of dance music is always prevalent in any good Techno set - incorporating the elements of space; speed; violence; and above all its visceral thrill into a few hours of music. Sandwell District’s launch party, (despite some flawed programming) encapsulated all of this, pushing the Martin Audio sound system to its limits while never losing focus of sending the crowd into explosive ecstasy.
Words by Neto Light-Lopez & Theo Darton-Moore.