New Cylob creates some random associations. In 2002, the UK artist was DJing at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn, offering a blazing set where Cylob’s own version of “What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor?” was a highlight. He shared the night with the Rephlex teammate Ed DMX, whose palmares include the kick drum slaughter “Cerberus” on Power Vacuum. Now it is Cylob’s turn to join Milo Smee’s sulphuric label for the catalogue entry number twelve, after having recently appeared on a mini compilation.
For Power Vacuum, Cylob preserves good old braindance rephlexes, for a mixture of rowdy electro and mutated synth pop. The opener “Concrete Corporal” takes a wild ride on a bumpy road, the definition of music conveyed with chaotic synth riffs and punchy bass. A little melody is played over the breakbeat hardcore derivative “Granular Psychosis (Ect Mix)” and sweet but short interlude “Zattrday” works as a fair weather forecast for the weekend.
The B-side offers straight 808 action in “Rosetta”, an user-friendly chunk of bass science weaving its way through the ravine of tricky acid, followed by dissonant slam “Ticking Over”. Simplified keyboard theme of “Mission To Mercury” sounds like 2 Unlimited meeting Legowelt.
After having survived the last tones of wonky “Pulp The Bass”, one can say that Cylob’s provocative, occasionally childlike sounds can be seen as an ironical statement on today’s electronic music. A record that may have the potential of shocking techno kids, but will hardly suffer from indifference.
Reaktivate is a label from the harbour city Porto, Portugal, the majority of its output coming in digital format, for DJs fuelling the techno floor. Of recent outings, it is worth to mention Jönsson Tõll’s wonderfully titled “Mulla Ei Oo Aavistustakaan Mitä Tää Kaikki Paska Suomeksi Tarkoittaa”, a tribute to Finland containing both deeper and storming side of techno.
The label has not ignored the vinyl format either, the debut dropping in 2013 with peak-time material by Astronomical Telegram. Pretty different from the previous is RKTV002, featuring local expertise of A Thousand Details, a project of the label co-founder Gustavo Lima, and dusky electronics duo Sturqen, known for its output on Kvitnu, Metaphysik and elsewhere.
Levitating between dark ambient and industrial techno, “Kantes” comes in dark colours, especially considering the guest appearances. Both the remix of “Canis” by the Canadian duo Orphx and Casual Violence’s version of “Kantes” stand for hazardous spill of eerie synth sequences and crawling percussion, for an excellent start of the EP. Similar to the original “Kantes”, Sturqen’s own track “Prata” is almost a minimalist piece with thinner timbres while A Thousand Details sticks to aggressive throbbing in “Cleric Terror Corps”.
Drøp’s “Vasundhara EP”, the debut release of the Berlin-based Arboretum Records, laid the necessary groundwork for the label’s next outing, appealing four-tracker “Sycomore EP” by Mogano, which was released in April 2015.
Mogano is the moniker of the electronic musician and Arboretum co-founder Marco Berardi, whose artist name means ”mahogany” and refers both to ‘the percussive and string infused nature of his music’, as the label says.
After Drøp’s rather darkish ambient abstractions, Mogano seeks a more relaxing environment if to judge by the A-side. Meditative opening “Retama” is purified electronic folk in a time-lapse mode, where elegiac strings and horns lend an exotic and even New Age flair to the track, sounding like from the Erdenklang stable. Then my favourite “Annunaki”, a clearly Middle East inspired track where percussion gradually loses its initial shyness and takes a more central role in flourishing array of string-based melodies.
The B-side is launched with bone-dry drum patterns by Samuel Kerridge, lending a robotic vocal sample to his gloomy remix of “Annunaki”. “Sycomore” is a more hectic affair, built on writhing rhythm movements and floods of sombre atmospheric layers, while the digital bonus “Dukkah” comes from the noisier side, dipping into little distortions over brazen rhythms.
When purchasing, I chose a limited run of 50 pieces, which came with hand-printed-numbered photo by Luca Caciagli. It is good to know that every vinyl comes with a Bandcamp download code, a friendly gesture by the label.
A new release by Israel Vines had been in my wishlist since hearing his superb remixes for Stave and Erika, when Vines’s skill to control the groove made appetite for more. Although I was a bit too early with the assumption that in 2014 we should have watched out for him, Vines has not disappeared anywhere and now has the honour to inaugurate Eye Teeth, a sub-label marking the artistic adulthood of Ann Arbor’s Interdimensional Transmissions.
In the title track WWKD”, the Midwest veteran and current Los Angeles based artist, releases the steam to make room to roiling bass line, percussive variations, inclusive some cracked old school beats, and obscured voices.
A more serious call to the floor follows on the B-side, as “Relapse” turns to bustling European steelworks techno, throwing plenty of reverbs over a straight bass foundation. Often part of today’s techno releases, dark ambient drones are not missing either when “Tone Approach 1” wraps up the whole thing.
Well-produced but slightly less colourful than I expected, “WWKD” is still a good omen for the future, both for the label and the artist.
Oddly enough, the Eastern bloc regimes that practised bogus communism, tolerated sci-fi themes in arts and literature, despite of treating suspiciously anything what seemed even a little bit ambiguous. In the times when artists had to live with constant unease of having their works censored, may it be for wrong colours used in a painting or for the word use in poetry, the sci-fi could have been an especially risky business. Maybe the abstractions related to unknown territories and times were regarded as harmful enough for not threatening the existence of the rulers. I believe there are scholars familiar with the backstage of fantasy writing in the Eastern bloc to explain that phenomenon better than I can do.
Speaking of authors, the Strugatsky brothers were the genre’s celebrity writers in the Soviet Union, having produced the book “Roadside Picnic”, which plot was adapted by Tarkovsky for his cult movie “Stalker”. Although I remember even some fantasy novels Made in German Democratic Republic, the most proficient sci-fi writer might have been Stanislaw Lem from Poland. Tarkovsky’s another major work, “Solaris”, was based on Lem, as was “Test Pilota Pirxa” (“Navigaator Pirx” in Estonian), directed by Marek Piestrak and screened in 1979.
A co-production of studios in Poland, Ukraine and Estonia, “Pirx” looked and smelled very Western, visualising not only an Utopian setting, but also anonymous Western world with large limousines, steely high-rises and fancy dresses. There was a car chase with a failing hitman, not to speak about a bar scene with a body-painted go-go girl shaking her bare bosom to the future disco, cheering up the males across the screen, those otherwise deprived of erotica.
The film’s plot was rather simple: Robots had become so advanced that Government decided to include non-human members in a space mission, to prove that robots master challenging situations better than the rest of the crew. I was less than 10 years old when saw the movie first time and it offered plenty of suspense and emotions.
Futuristic soundtrack by Pärt and Rudnik
There was one more thing very different from other movies: The music, which had some classical features, but on several occasions consisted of odd noises and drones. The film score was of experimental kind, as it was supposed to be, and no one else than Arvo Pärt wrote it, along with the Polish electronics pioneer Eugeniusz Rudnik. I can only guess that Rudnik produced the futuristic synth sounds and Pärt did the rest.
Soon after the film was completed, Pärt and his family were allowed to leave the Estonian SSR for the West and I really cannot recall if and how he was credited in the version screened in the cinemas and on TV. Because often actors, writers, musicians, conductors, etc. who had managed to emigrate or just plainly escape the Soviet sphere, were doomed in the public discourse and treated as scum in propaganda.
Politics aside, the “Pirx” soundtrack with synth modulations and mechanical noises was ahead of the time and would be highly enjoyable in our days, if only some library/reissue label could dig it up somehow for a vinyl release with proper liner notes. So long, the sounds can be enjoyed during the movie, here embedded as a Polish version with Spanish subtitles.
The signals are loud and evident, when Ultradyne transmit on the assigned frequency from their interstellar refugium. Looking back to two decades in action – their tale started in 1995 with “E Coli EP” on Warp – the enigmatic producers from Detroit keep cruising in the extreme end of the electro universe with the new EP “Resurrection: Return from the Abyss”, out on their home label Pi Gao Movement.
Ultradyne have well maintained the veil of secrecy, with their identities and even the group’s composition often disputed, but it is known that Dennis Richardson and Frank de Groodt are the faces behind the masks. For me, the Pi Gao Movement’s inaugural EP “Antarctica” (1999) was the first sonic contact with the duo and their appeal has not vanished over the years, supported by the label’s policy of preferring quality over quantity.
Quite often, Ultradyne’s style is nothing else than industrial electro, born and raised in harsh conditions, but still open to occasional research lab sterility. In their passion to probe the unknown, Ultradyne are also rehabilitating the original meaning of dystopia, increasingly abused as a marketing gag of generic techno productions.
The new four-tracker offers intense mutations, starting with the monumental “Return From The Edge”, where survivors, battered and bleeding, penetrate the curtain of rusty noise and enter the area rich of grubby broken beats and succulent pads. Sounding familiar to the fans of Ekman, “V1014” explores the techno territories with a wealth of twitchy sequences and robust bass for electro’s uptempo side.
One may feel seriously depleted after “More Like You (MDK Therapy)”, a grueling exercise of dramatic synth convulsions, amplified before the five-minute mark with a vocoded voice ultimately reinforcing the curfew. A sort of audioplay is offered in “World Made Straight”, the most experimental cut where grim, sociocritical narrative is founded on hardcore hip-hop theme, and colliding with solid steel before the somber ambient outro breaks out. Beware, extremely absorbing material in sight, among the very best Ultradyne has conceived.
‘X’ was added to the item 58 in Semantica catalogue, after a handful of acclaimed producers were summoned to remix “Sorunda”, a two-tracker conceived by Abdulla Rashim and Axel Hallqvist in 2013.
Back then, the original “Mark” made a more brisky impression and on the A-side a choice Italian squad maintains the initial pace. Reproducing the spirit of Lascaux, Donato Dozzy’s “Cave Man Remix” is a wild one praising primitive urges of the tribes in furs, with frenzied kick drum constituting the backbone of the multi-layered entrancer. More shout-outs from the floor can be expected when Claudio Prc drops a swerving motorway version of “Mark”, a brilliant mixture of dubbed-out yet immersive patterns.
On the flip, Korridor’s air-cushioned reimagination of “Skog” floats between Vainqueur and Duplex with fizzy pads and lucid percussion, as a textbook example of beauty in techno music. The EP wraps up with so far unreleased “Sorunda”, of which we get a remix by the label owner Svreca, opting for a more experimental angle with sneaking drones and perpetual woodpecker bass receiving some EQ treatment.
This time, Detroit electro craftsman Sherard Ingram aka DJ Stingray 313 is reporting from Athens, Greece, having docked at the up-and-coming label Lower Parts. A trusted evangelist of immersive electro, Stingray puts up a convincing appearance across four tracks of the “Cognition EP”.
Those familiar with Ingram’s productions, know his affection for the world of sciences, either engineering, physics, or neuroscience, which is the main theme in “Cognition”.
Inaugural technoid kicks of “Acetylcholine” are radiating thermal energy and most obviously arousing dance instincts, but soon the track becomes more complex when atmospheric pads appear, with a touch of The Other People Place and Tangerine Dream, and a distracted soul keeps moaning deep inside. Next track “Dendrite” activates jittery mechanical beats that go under the skin in similar manner, as did earlier EP “Electronic Countermeasures”, providing an example of a sterile and rational electro composition.
On the B-side, the artist retreats from the usual combat zone and feels like booking a relaxing getaway in azure blue waters. The warmth of lush sequences in “ERbB4” almost scratches the deeper side of house and reminds of Ingram’s material on [Naked Lunch]. After that, “ERbB4″ gets reworked by the local hero Kon001, whose beautifully crafted yet muscular sounds invoke optical illusions arching over the horizon, speaking for a safe and sound ecosystem.
“Cognition” reaffirms Stingray 313’s talent of creating engaging tracks, when he covers a wide spectrum of electro for Lower Parts, the ambitious Greek label in full blossom. Before the interoceanic electro stalwart, the outlet secured German acid master Andreas Gehm for an EP and earlier presented the jacking expertise of Anopolis collective from Thessaloniki.
Italian space traveller Edanticonf reports for duty again, this time on Darko Esser’s Wolfskuil. Having debuted in 2011, the artist is foremostly known for a couple of dubbed out and atmospheric pieces on the Canadian label Silent Season, but also dropped a solid EP on M_Rec Ltd Grey Series last year.
Presented by the label as ‘a very personal statement from an artist’ – what else it could be – the title may refer to the author’s birth year because musically “MCMLXXXIX” does not have anything in common with the acid house or new beat craze that governed in 1989.
Maybe Silent Season’s label aesthetics play a role here, but for me Edanticonf’s sound creates associations with wild nature. The same applies for the first track “1989.1”, which stands for thoughtful moments at a remote creek. Aquatic effects, gradually emerging slo-mo rhythm and sweet pads create a relaxing atmosphere Edanticonf is known for.
On the flip, “1989.2” changes to the uptempo mood, when solid bass rolls along with some trancey layers, for spotting first butterflies leaving the winter sleep for new adventures. Again a well-rounded one by the Italian.