A gorgeous composition of psychedelic, quest-like downtempo.
NYC producer Downstairs J (aka Josh Abramovici) followed up his highly acclaimed 2021 debut album on Incienso with an incredible EP on Brussels label, SUZI to close out 2022. The full EP resonated heavily with my dub, downtempo and calm listening sensibilities, but the accompanying art direction propels the piece even further – eye-catching and visually representative of the sound itself and impressively well-produced all around. I also appreciate the balance of downtempo with techno-paced tracks on the overall EP, which lends to high playability in many different club / listening contexts. Mana 4000 and Orion occupy the tech / techno space on the record, but I keep replaying the B2, it’s just.. captivating.
Symbiosis closes things out at B2, kicking off with a sense of wonder and curiosity, like the start of an epic adventure novel, before diving deeper into winding synth modulation. Interweaving chords and arps carry the composition into an 8-minute meditative zone evoking simultaneous feelings of compassion and actualization. At least that’s what I’m picking up.
There’s also this extra intangible element, the hypnotic-by-design nature of Symbiosis that demonstrates the depths of Josh’s emotional range. A certain flow state was achieved during the recording here and it’s a felt satisfaction from my listening perspective too. Transcendent!
Pulsating club-ready dub techno from the Detroit producer riding his own wave.
Recent years have seen a consistently focused output from 2Lanes. Joey’s enthusiasm for studio recording and openness to share pics of his equipment were what drew me to him in the first place but I quickly understood (by way of listening to his discography) that he’s searching for his sonic signature through recording. I love that.
Fresh off December’s critically-acclaimed Overtone Series collaboration with Jonah Baseball(highly recommended), 2Lanes dropped a new solo 12” on Amsterdam’s Cape St. Francis label. The A2 track “Bootcut Chords” caught my attention out the gate with a naturally unsyncopated shaker loop easing me into a swingy rhythm before dub techno chords and a bumpy baseline set the emotionally chilled atmosphere. The filter sweeps and moments of delay feedback on the synths sound handmade, artisanal even. That’s the icing on the cake. The artist’s personal touch. So lovely. I found myself surprised each time this track ended and continued rewinding, replaying. The sign of a contemporary classic. Chef’s kiss.
Toeing the line perfectly between rhythmic techno sensibilities and trance chord progressions. Liquid techno if you will.
All 4 tracks on Dave Angel’s 1994 In Flight Entertainment EP promote a lighter-footed, groovier, even bubblier idea of what techno can sound like, executed none better than in Keeping On. Perfect swing, percussion work is riveting and exciting the moment the highs kick in – a building energy to juxtapose the reflective synth pads sending the composition into a trance wave. A track that demonstrates a balanced progression with anthem potential, that’s one that’ll get stuck in your ear.
1990 piano house anthem about the ubiquitous thought pattern of indecision. Obscured by the hit single, “Dirty Cash” on their debut album, “Indecision” in the A5 slot, largely overlooked. A unique repeating chorus of spelling out “Indecision” I believe is what originally stuck with me after years of listening to it. An undeniably funky rhythm and synth bassline meet natural, gospel-like piano chords in sweet dancefloor harmony – it’s difficult to imagine how this track wasn’t a hit or promoted as a single off the album.
This British band (Steve Vincent, Mick Walsh and singer Melody Washington) went off to pursue other musical opportunities after their debut album, but the magic captured on “Indecision” showed a ton of promise and readiness to carry them through the early 90s wave of hot house. I ripped this one of the dancefloor at Jimmy V’s in NE DC and the folks were feeling this track hard, 32 years after its release date, certifying this one as a timeless classic.
Crisp, funky, dancefloor-ready house slammer. The prolific Pittsburgh dynamo, Ali Berger, uploaded his first release of 2022 on Trackland, his lengthy self-release digital catalog on Bandcamp, with a simple message – the tempo’s goin up! That sentiment always leaves me excited to listen and the execution on his Nonsight Vision (Original Slam) track reflects a masterful balance of harmonic beauty and heated rhythmic energy. Guitar riff sounding synths join a tectonic shifting bassline early in Nonsight Vision laying the groundwork for soaring pad synth and Mike Huckaby-esque stabs to smoothly lean harder into a euphoric zone. The emotional build of all these elements together comes to a satisfying release around halfway through the track (3:15) before lightly guiding the listener into a gorgeous reintroduction of the pad synths in a breakdown. Superb timing and arrangement expertise from a well-seasoned studio jammer. I’m ready to hear this on a large club system, pronto!
Blissful, balearic house drifter. Back in the early/mid 2010s, I placed a significant amount of weight on Hurfyd music videos as my barometer for worthy-of-purchase new electronic releases. One video still stands the test of time, my favorite, the Likewax track by Qnete out of Bremen, DE. Released on a V/A 12″ for his Drowned Records imprint, Qnete uses an uncomplicated arrangement you can’t help but get lost in. Chord stabs bounce off each other in a wave-like flow where, even at the track’s peak energy, you feel a rush of relaxing release.
Pairing Likewax with the perfect visual interpretation of a wave-like state of flow was part of Hurfyd‘s signature style at that time. I can feel myself radiating that same level of heat and coolant as the dancers, bouncing off the walls in the video. Masterpiece A/V combo. Also! Check that pro-level Hurfyd music cube at the beginning of the video. Cheeky stamp 😉
High octane, pulsating, wonky stepper. Ciel‘s latest 12″ on Mister Saturday Night rips right from the drop; the A1 track, A Collage for Jake and Emilie, sets a sharp, pointed and energetic tone for the EP. Commanding kicks pair seamlessly with popping snares and lay the foundation for a buffet of textures diving and soaring overhead in the mix.
Halfway through, a wave of sub bass carries us into the second phrase of the track with shuffling, scrubby sounding synth-tinged 1/16th notes sending the energy into overdrive. I’ve relistened to this A1 a dozen times over the last couple months and the literal “sound collage” quality here continues to impress me. So many seemingly different sounds effortlessly blending into each other and creating a third sound as they bounce off one another. It’s difficult to genre-fy or categorize this style of music, which makes it even more marvelous for me. A signature approach to Ciel’s recording process!
Classic euphoric Solid Groove. Legendary UK techno and house producer, Aubrey (Allen Saei), made a career of toeing the line between the two genres, typically with a trademark sense of groove, swing, and funk. I always found his signature style of mixing and mastering particularly unique; never uniform, you can hear different elements like a drum loop pop more in the high end and a rather boomy kick saturate the mix in another track depending on what part of the song he wanted to accentuate.
In addition to his astoundingly prolific Solid Groove label (30 releases in 30 years), Saei managed multiple sublabels like his Textures label highlighted above. This 003 record from 1997 has a distinctly housy-er sound through its 4 tracks, but the A2 Other Forms caught my attention with it’s beautiful harmonics and progression. A natural feeling bassline and infectious groove greet you early in the track and are quickly accompanied by swirling synth pads sweeping. Higher key hits and warm strings fit right into the drum blueprint to propel the emotional barometer of the recording into a euphoric zone. Very sexy composition!!
Airy, uplifting spiritual synth builder. Lewis “LT” Taylor follows up his 2019 Staminize EP with a fresh A1 crusher called Disc Trail on London-based X-Kalay, released digitally today. The synths tightly fit into each corner of the rhythm and the tempo matches the exciting energy of the 9-minute build. Peaktime harmonic techno that pushes as much as it soothes. I heard this getting rinse in one of Ciel‘s recent club sets; big up to Cindy for sharing the ID with me. So crucial!
You can pick up the digital of this release on X-Kalay’s bandcamp page. Vinyl copies should be ready in early 2022.
Sexy, grownup groover strictly for the afterhours bassline freaks. On a recent visit to Joint Custody, I was flipping through the “Electronic” bin while a customer brought this Spaced Out Krew record on DC label, Peoples Potential Unlimited, up to the counter and asked Ambrose if he could listen to it over the store speakers to get a preview. Ambrose popped the A-side on and as soon as I heard this bassline hook on the A2 “EXTASZ” track, it clicked in my head. I had to pick up this record. (Shoutout Ambrose, he’s the man!!)
I’ve been listening steadily to this record, front to back, at home for a little over a month. EXTASZ seriously transports the sound on this record to a cosmic territory with it’s constant tectonically shifting bassline, reverb drenched drums and swirling, phased-out layers of synths. Feelings of love, ecstasy and a matured, time-tested romance float through your speakers when this jam pops off; this track sounds like a 2007 bottle of a Bordeaux red blend of Grenache and Syrah ready to compliment the sexiest dinner of your adult life.
Blastoff bass techno bomb from the now defunct San Francisco label. ICEE HOT had a brief but impactful run from 2012-2015 in SF as a record label and occasional party series, co-managed by Shawn Reynaldo, DJ Will, Low Limit and Ghosts On Tape. My introduction to Avalon Emerson came from her 2014 release on ICEE HOT, as well as Bobby B, but forever cemented in my memory of the label will be this No Go track from their 001 record in 2012 by Ghosts On Tape (Ryan Merry). Wonky and off-kilter with a relentlessly building progression. The depth in sound design and choice of synthesis are so distinct and memorable on this track, I could easily hear it getting released today and sounding just as fresh. Simultaneously unhinged and controlled techno, a rare balance.
The most righteous DnB drum programming I’ve ever heard. While hitting the studio with Max D a couple weeks ago, he threw down a rubbery bassline that reminded him of a certain seminal DnB artist: Boymerang. I had never heard of their music, which prompted a youtube deep dive into Boymerang’s 1997 Balance of The Force on Astralwerks. Urban Space (Track 3) has that rubbery bassline Max was referencing (it’s so nasty), but after a 2nd listen of this album, the final track, Lazarus, absolutely stunned me.
A familiar Apache drum break skates through the 9 minutes of this track, but never remains stagnant. That’s straightup Boymerang genius; the delicate intricacy of maintaining a constantly chopped beat, seamlessly. Smooth, “lost in the dessert” synth pads creep in and out of the mix with patient pacing and deliver a sense of “yea, you’re going on a journey here, m8!” I also can feel the amount of time and attention this piece needed to assemble and that’s what makes it extra special.
Slow burn with a constant churn. I’ve been a fan of DC-native John Selway since first hearing his Shimmerdown 12″ on Future Times; his collaborations with Christian Smith through the 90s and 2000s were seminal East Coast US works in the deep & minimal techno world. Much to my delight, I came across this 2007 album, The Coming Storm, on Technasia’s SINO Records, began listening through and found myself replaying track 3, Slow River, a half dozen times. Immediately picking up on John Beltran Ten Days of Blue influence, the track begins in a floating, dreamlike trance while a natural progression of understatedly powerful drums flutter overhead. The bassline adds gravity and weight to the remaining track elements and provides a solid foundation (so you don’t float away!) I can definitely see myself playing as an epic opening track in Ibiza someday. Until then, one can only dream…
Driving, hypnotizing, purist hard techno out of Dallas. Gautham Garg, as his Decoder alias and here under Cratan, holds steady the keys to contemporary Midwestern US techno’s future. The A1 selection, Secondary, of his recent Fixed Rhythms 12″ (entitled Boulder) checks all the boxes for a techno hit – disorienting tom drums, winding and grinding acid bassline and equally relentless and changing song structure. It’s a killer, no nonsense way to kick off a record, sets the tone for a ready-to-rock techno EP and matches the minimal, efficient artwork design perfectly. Quintessential American techno right here.
Also, digging further into Cratan’s previous releases, I found this more uplifting techno ripper. Big tyme!
Gorgeous contemporary long-form poetry from Sir E.U + Tooth Choir’s latest collaboration album, Bop 3. Listening to the tape earlier this morning, I was paralyzed by this 21-minute closing track. Tooth Choir‘s production and looping sensibility boast orchestral harmonics setting the perfect emotional landscape for Sir E.U‘s freestyle expressions of pure gratitude and vulnerability. Freeform improving progresses to playful teasing, exhausted whispering and cathartic reflections of being an artist – a quintessential love song, dissecting the lived experience of love, “like I won the lottery twice.” A transcendent soul-baring masterpiece.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this tape front to back (shoutout Max D for the copy). There are many more moments worth writing about, but worth hearing for yourself as well. Highly recommended home listening / car stereo bumping experience.
I found this MAD Disco flexi-disc sitting in the jacket of my copy of Lipps, Inc – Mouth To Mouth (the “Funkytown” record). MAD Magazine distributed these flexi-disc promo records periodically in their special editions through the 1970s, with this MAD Disco flexi being one of their last – a tongue-in-cheek statement in 1980 proclaiming disco isn’t dead (they were right).
But this promo record is no joke; 6 tracks total, all with killer grooves and amazing instrumentation and originality with a sense of humor too. Sorry, No Words by Steve Leeds made me burst out laughing today when I cranked it on my turntable. That bassline snaps too, GOD. The Disco Suicide track that comes right before it….I may end up dropping that in a set some day, it’s nuts!
You can listen to the whole album on youtube or pick it up on discogs.
Warp speed, rollercoaster hardcore from the foundation of drum n bass. Foul Play consisted of a trio of Northhampton producers, John Morrow and Steve Bradshaw, originally releasing Open Your Mind in 1993 on the Moving Shadow label. There’s a unique sense of experimentation and convergence of multiple production concepts making this track stand out; it showcases the limitless possibilities of the drum n bass genre with epic delivery.
I picked up this Speed Limit 3: 140 BPM+ compilation CD (1993) from McKay’s in Manassas a couple months ago, which features Open Your Mind as the closing track. Pretty incredible collection of what was hot at the time and super snazzy/cheeky artwork and layout (which is what initially caught my attention in the store). I may end up posting more from this catalog soon.
*Encryption on the CD prevents me from uploading the tracks directly to WordPress, so enjoy the youtube link hehe
The latest Untitled self-release album from Wyatt Stevens’ MoMA Ready project explores an impressive range of modern techno energy and spiritual depth. Let It Go sits in the middle of the album, exploding out the gate with a bumpy bassline and hard knock drum breaks before guiding into a gentle synth pad chord progression. The song elements here are straightforward but impeccably structured and implemented for continuous movement into each phrase of the recording; this one’s meant to be banged out in the club. But there’s a noticeable complexity happening here too: it’s soul-replenishing dancefloor lightning, like a spoken word emotional bomb track you’d expect from a Kerri Chandler hit with a higher IQ for popping the drums out to the max. Also – underrated quality – I dig the 4 minute runtime. In-n-out, concise cuts.
High-flying NY synth arp majesty from a classic 2015 W.T. Records release by BANK Records founder, Jon Beall, under his Entro Senestre alias. The A1 deep house track, Rosegold, became a widespread hit from the release (as listened to nearly 4million times on youtube), but the 2nd cut, DOHC, has remained an earworm in my mind for its depth, precise iciness and winding nature, jam-like quality of listening. The arps kicking off the track are a warning siren: it’s about to get serious.
This tune popped back into my head midday yesterday, no rhyme or reason; a sense of calm came over me reimagining the cascading arps in my head. I threw the record on as soon as I got home at night and relived that same sense of bliss from the first listen as the wide synth progression (around 2:15) rises into the mix. It’s uplifting and I feel like I’m in a training montage, preparing myself for whatever life brings next >:)
In-the-pocket liquid wavy synth techno roller. Originally self-released in 2016 on Deniro‘s own TAPE Records Amsterdam label, Painting 1 kicks straight in without hesitation or anticipation, a looping melodic synth already floating secondary to an energetic drum sequence. The background synth continues slightly diving and building with room for the main aqueous synth filling in between drum hits and modulating as it likes, which effectively feels like a track with a mind of its own. Riffing on this recording sounds fun, making micro decisions for filter and LFO dives.
I found a vinyl copy of this Painting EP at Joint Custody DC last week (for $35) and remembered I had saved this Painting 1 track in my soundcloud favorites years ago; the whole EP still sounds amazing 5 years later. The vinyl is sold out on bandcamp (but available at Joint Custody). You can also pick up the digital album on TAPE Records Amsertdam’s bandcamp.
2001 UK garage banger! I was digging through a pile of early 2000s trance records at Byrdland, local record shop near my job, and spotted this Kelis single off her 2nd studio album in the collection. Pharrell produced the original track and it sounds absolutely like his style during his club hit-making era and on the flipside, Timo Maas‘s relatively uninspiring tech house remix (which charted Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play list in 2002).
BUT the A2 track!? A garage monster jam from South London’s So Solid Crew. I’m partial, duh, but I feel like this version captures the hectic spirit and urgency of the original track’s lyrics of being young, fresh and needing to get away from home. Awesome flip of the violin plucks in tandem with that distorted bassline – also, an underappreciated technique in club track structure – there’s no long breakdowns in this remix, just 5 minutes of crusher dancefloor energy. I gotta hear this one go off in a club soon woosh!
Longform, swelling think-piece techno. Paul Woolford‘s Special Request alias has explored vast musical landscapes from bangers to complextro DnB releases in the last decade. I kept replaying Compassion from his recent DJ-Kicks record this past week; there’s an ascertained element of patience and progression that peels minute by minute as I’ve listened back. A true sense of song-building, which leaves me feeling like the machines had a mind of their own oscillating at their own pace here. Stadium-sized basslines introduce the track’s melodic structure early giving way to equally massive kicks later on, capped by swirling, pensive synths and sensitively noisy/icy drums.
The recent debut of Black Rave Culture (James Bangura, DJ Nativesun & Amal) shook the DC-NY scene in one crushing seismic wave last month; the breathe and range of the album flexes their collective production knowledge and how harmoniously these three compliment and build on each others’ flow. The album accomplishes delivering a unique sonic imprint of the energy you could experience at every moment in a DJ set of theirs – some moments of sweetness and patience like The Funky Dub, others manic and mind-melting like Cool It.
Columbia Road (Uptown) hits a sentimental note for me because it captures the sound of Columbia Heights on a hot summer day (something we’ve had no shortage of this week). Hybrid swinging UK garage and 2-step drums lay the groundwork for gorgeous old school Detroit techno synth chords and notes. Massif indeed – a certified top-down Friday afternoon cruiser / let’s grab some beers and get down anthem.
Big up to Chris, Tim and Amal for their work on this album. They’re killin it from all corners right now. Pick up the Black Rave Culture album in it’s entirety on MoMa Ready & AceMo‘s Haus of Altr bandcamp.
Relaxed soundscape keys in perfect juxtaposition with hardcore breaks. Poolis the best album to release in 2021 thus far. That’s my opinion, duh, but you’d be insane to listen and deny the Skee Mask signature intricacies and details that separate this album into a stratosphere all it’s own. Dolan Tours sits in the 2nd half of the immense 18-track album and combines all the elements I’ve come to love from a Skee Mask production: icy, slightly, flanged hihats, booming 808 underbelly kicks, a gorgeous sequence of pad keys and a surprise jump into an sliced amen breaks. Effortlessly smooth injections of reverb washes and bit crunches keep the listener guessing and gently rocking into a warm, beautifully emotional jungle masterpiece. I was driving over the Key Bridge earlier today, turning onto the Whitehurst Freeway as those breaks blasted into my car stereo speakers; truly felt like a major kick into HYPERSPEED 😮
Tip ~ If you’re feeling this track, check out the Harrison Ford track as well!
A perfect loop matched in perfect harmonic overlay. The Lonely Hearts Club track on my copy of Dreamcast’s 2017 “The Lost Tape” LP has started crackling this past week. I’ve played it tirelessly, wearing down the vinyl grooves more than any other track from the record but I’ve never gotten enough of it. It’s supremely seductive; it’s immersive in its raw passion; it’s the quintessential portrayal of love for your partner, surrendering to the way they move. A truncated sensual poem of desire, this track is punctuated by it’s brief run time yet will remain timeless for me, each new listen still sounding as fresh and emotionally open as the previous. Dreamcast, the DC G.O.A.T.
A sweet, melodic, melancholy, uplifting, entrancing and reflective preview into a bright, gleaming future for DC young gun, Amal.
“Holy Shit,” I audibly reacted in my headphones on first listen of Gleam, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.” What separates this from any other DnB or breaks track out there is the raw emotion propelling it all. I felt transported to Amal’s world, experiencing the beautiful intensity flowing through its intricate, melodic layers of synths, the wall-shaking sub bass drops and rollercoaster breaks. Gleam holds the gravity of an opus magnum, the sound of a producer laying it all out on the table, revealing their true, unfiltered, raw self. Listening to this track gave me not only goosebumps, but flashbacks to my “opus” moment recording Rebirth years ago with Justin for Rush Plus – that feeling that you’ve truly achieved representing to your peers what it feels like to live with the energy inside your head.
I love the creativity Amal brings to all his recent projects, already showing an impressive maturity with a limitless landscape ahead of him. Definitely listen, buy and follow his Hochi Runs label because his output will be turning heads at breakneck speed for years and years to come.
Roza Terenzi‘s refreshingly eclectic and outside-the-box approach to her Stylish Tantrum release in January has stayed with me these past few months, demanding several relistens as the weeks pass. The B2 track, Illusions, blends together elements of halftime, downtempo and low-end dub with a surprising yet effortlessly fluid drum break stepping into liquid DnB territory. Crossing boundaries for chill home listening and breaks connoisseurs gives this track constant replay value and displays a high IQ of variety for the EP as a whole. The little details of delay and flanger-tinged drum hits and deep bass notes make this track feel alive and breathing, constantly changing and moving along with the listener; in other words, it’s dance floor ready.
Dusty, synth-pad drunk breaks from golden age of lofi house. Released as the 2nd installment on Lobster Theremin’s white label series in 2014, Australian hazy house producer, Daze’s Lips mixes have stood the test of time in uniqueness and ease of listening. It flows, baby. Still, my only critique of the track is wishing the vocal loop took an artful departure from the track once in a while, but even with carrying on through most of the recording the drums and synths effortlessly sandwich the track together into a tasty snack for my ears. I am partial to the ’94 Original DAT Dub version, as the drums hit at the perfect frequencies for my taste; the 07′ Skyline Mix version in the B2 slot offers a more subdued drum break loop and filtered synth, portraying an interpretation more geared toward afterhours play perhaps. I’ve enjoyed owning this record, playing it out and listening at home over the years regardless. Big wun m8!!
Sensual, sexual and timeless recording from the one and only DJ Sprinkles. Appearing on the B-side of a 2013 V/A release on Houston’s Kolour Ltd. label, Kissing Costs Extra begins with a hazy, whimsical, Balearic-style bassline and progresses effortlessly into congas and light synth stabs that sink you deeper and deeper into relaxation. This track is a day at the spa; clocking in at just over 11 minutes, just set it and forget it as you unwind, transported to a state of mental repose.
I bought this record from Juno when it came out because I wanted the Bicep track on the A-side (lol), and went searching in my collection the other day only to realize I had sold it 2 years ago! Shoutout once again to Nate (DJ Drink Water) for being an awesome dude and ripping the digital to upload here 🙂
An end of the world, chaotic techno ripper from Green Velvet’s 1999 album, “Constant Chaos.” Aside from the album and track title fitting into the post-apocalyptic 2021 landscape, Technology’s Out of Control provides a look into how imperfect, unsynced live techno recording – when done appropriately – can result in organized mayhem. The drums confidently continue fidgeting as the backbone of the track while the filter on the bassline slowly lifts to overlaid ring and noise sounds before giving way to an acid bassline that…really takes you *there.* The bass does it’s own thing, swinging wildly underneath it all on an untimed LFO. It takes an instinctive brazenness to pull off how whacky this track develops and that’s likely why it’s stuck in my head.
Kinky, playful house / disco hybrid slow burner. Phillip Chung & Turtle Bugg founded operated the NY-based Basement Floor label in 2013 while under the tongue-in-cheek production duo alias “Soul 2 Seoul” and sporadically released 7 records through 2018. Night Shift is an esoteric A2 cut by longtime NY disco producer Son of Sound from their 2nd V/A release and still hits a soft, party-empathetic spot in my heart to this day. I pulled this record out a few weeks ago and listened (for the first time in a couple years) to Night Shift specifically on repeat and it’s still stuck in my head today. That bassline hook, the flirty back -and-forth conversation laid overtop, the dusty hats capped by a room reverbed clap – stupendous! It’s just a fun track and one that doesn’t try too hard to help you loosen up and get down 😉
Far-out, psychedelic, enigmatic techno. Prolific Berlin-based techno producer Mor Elian‘s 3-track “Clairvoyant Fog” record on Visible Spectrum is now a year old and, listening to the final track Planet Kismet with fresh ears in 2021, it offers a wealth of soundscape melded into ever-changing but effortlessly smooth rhythmic drums. An acid synth arpeggiator sequence underneath sweeping pads ushers in a seamless progression halfway through the tracks and takes the listener into a new territory of wistful emotion and curious exploration. Toward the end, I could have sworn I was just spat out the other end of a cosmic wormhole. Overall this is a tantalizing jam that sounds and feels like it was a pleasure to record!
Minimal, big room, classic lush techno. Heiko Laux had managed his Berlin label, Kanzleramt, for 4 years before releasing his first album entitled “Liquidism” in summer 1998. The first track, Earthbouncing [Pt 1], creates an incredible first impression of the record and has stuck with me this past month as a notably well-arranged, mixed and imagined piece of art. The hats shimmer and dance with the synths in and out of the mix, teasing the listener’s desire to inevitably hear all elements of the track together again in harmony. I have fun audibly dissecting, listening again and again to tracks like this because the approach, the grain delay on the synth, the fitting amount of reverb on all the drums and overall arrangement feel, instinctually, like decisions I would make while recording. To put it simply, it’s my kinda style.
The Liquidism album is still available on Discogs; it’s also on Beatport digitally, but the audio quality sounds awful and not worth downloading. The youtube rip of Earthbouncing above is the only listenable version online for now.
*Footnote: I decided to listen to Heiko Laux’s earlier albums after DJing at Justin’s apartment last month, when he put on a Tresor compilation record from 1999 with a single from Heiko on it. For whatever reason, I had previously assumed Heiko is closer to my age when in fact he’s been recording techno almost as long as I’ve been alive. Amazing.
The essence of feeling stoned, musically-speaking. While careening wildly through favorite ambient releases this morning, none stack up quite like this J track by uon on West Mineral. Liquid, fluid, morphing synths diving over each other like molten lava reshaping the mountain side of an active volcano. The deep, cavernous, contorting bassline ignites your brain and rearranges it like malleable pieces to a jigsaw puzzle that makes perfect sense (if you stare at it long enough). Did I mention this song feels like you’re high? I did? When? Pass the Fritos Scoops and french onion dip and roll another one, dude.
The soundscape soundtrack to your favorite sci-fi novel, re-imagined. Combined feelings of melancholy, curiosity, and growth lend a foundation to the emotional draw of the 2017 Corporate Karma EP from Money Morning on Acting Press. The American Pharoah track pulls the listener into hyperdrive through a distinct harmonic tunnel of space exploration and wonder. I’ve home-listened this record as a slow morning wake up ambient anthem on more occasions than I can count over the last few years and it scratches that imaginative, whimsy itch in the back of my head every time. It’s difficult to pick a favorite from this release but what’s even more difficult is getting sick of listening to it.
Sonically balanced and floating in ecstasy. The A-side on this 2018 Globex record for Acting Press revolved around a simple, single note pad but carries with it so much depth and imagination in the background. The bassline moves at it’s own pace, the cymbals continue on their own wonky pattern – each element of this track lives in its bubble but coexists with each other in perfect harmony. In other words, music to my ears.
I woke up, pulled this one out and let it play out this morning. The memory hit me like a flood – this was the last track I played during our Rush Plus opening set for Vincent Neumann at the first Sprüdel warehouse party in DC in May 2019. It felt like the perfect reset / transitioning track but I recall feeling a bit anxious about playing such an uplifting track right before Neumann cranked into peak-time, Berghain-style techno. All nerves for nothing…Vincent leaned over, pointed at the record and asked for the track ID as the crowd hollered on and the temperature continued rising in that little space. “Acting Press!” I shouted; he nodded, smiled and the night went on.
Self-released today on bandcamp, Skee Mask shared an album of retrospective 2010 demos under his first production alias, SCNTST, as a part 2 to his “Image Is Everything” release from 2015. You can hear the early foundations of slipperiness and ease of cohesiveness in all the recorded parts throughout the album, much of which takes on an ambient disposition.
Hell Of A Group shines and showcases his signature precision drum sampling that absolutely slams in the most relaxing way possible. Washed-out pads compliment overlaid octaves of beautiful arpeggiated synth sequences, seamlessly combining the appetizing elements of harmony with the excitement of wonderfully-placed breaks. This track has a wealth of replay value and breathes an enticing energy into the rest of the album. Such a bomb! Jump & Setup2 are my other favorite, jazzy complimentary recordings here as well.
A chill yet relentlessly, dramatically building jam. In general, I’m an admirer of most cavernous, reverbed-out pad stabs and when you place one on the first hit and let it ride like in Synthetic Sustenance, that’s a ten. Rounding out “Interpretation of Sound” by DC’s own James Bangura, this B3 manifesto shifts between stripped back moments of bliss and full-on acid-synth arps tandem dancing, suspended between heavy breaks.
“How To Disappear In America” sounded fresh in 2016 and gets better with age – Young Male‘s last album on White Material still sparks new inspiration with each listen. A tractor-beam-like ripping drone synth starts off the A2 track, Reveal, progressing into slow-burning drums and chords that help balance the mood to an even level of tension and anticipation. The composition sounds like a natural fit for a sci-fi thriller, at least what it might sound like to log into The Matrix or chased but then eventually caught in an alien abduction. Listen to the whole album and let your imagination take it away. “How To Disappear In America” is available on his bandcamp page.
The triumphant celebration A3 jam off an underrated 1998 Paul Johnson “We Can Make The World Spin” album. Me And My Queen puts Johnson’s sampling sixth sense on display. Some of the more well-known hits from the Chicago house legend carry a tougher, speedier and sometimes raunchier sampling spirit, but you get the sense he practiced patience piecing this track together – borrowing the string-heavy clip from It’s Good For The Soul by The Salsoul Orchestra. Intricate, complex and dramatic much like the bookend of a night out partying or the lived experience between you and your queen perhaps. It’s my favorite cut from the album whether enjoying at home or mixing in mid-set and worth picking up on Discogs to dive into a full listen.
Doubling blistered drum patterns underneath a sweet, enchanting melody. Experimentation and outside-the-box ideas are hallmarks for Bookworms (Nik Dawson), especially evident on a fresh listen back to his 2016 “Xenophobe” album on then-new Bank Records NYC. You Say So catches the listener off guard immediately, thrown into a swirling tornado of delay and repeated patterns that sound crunched through a tube-powered Electribe. A beautifully seductive, heavenly melodic key riff captivates for the first 2/3 of the recording before giving way to the title vocal and key change. A slick two-tracks-in-one deal and most definitely a sweet way to mix out of those swinging drums. You can still find You Say So and the whole “Xenophobe” release on Bank’s bandcamp page.
Full-on, high octane techno-infused footwork. Listening around to INVT‘s self-release bandcamp page, Jumpstart sits in good company of what sounds like a typical session for the Miami producer. The entire SANO release boasts a beautifully mastered soundscape with an impeccably full sound spectrum, a confident understanding of the purpose behind the release and dark, sinister tone to match. Fitting in footwork, drum n bass & juke sets as well as end-of-the-night techno speed closers, Jumpstart features fellow Miami sound design artist Nick León and hits a larger-than-life atmosphere while maintaining exceptional breathing and pacing to allow the track to never feel too overwhelming without losing any momentum. This is a producer’s producer’s track and album – strictly impressive. Pick up Jumpstart as part of the Sano album on INVT’s bandcamp.
A long-format slow-burning techno breakbeat manifesto. New York-based label anno released J. Albert‘s latest Pre Formal Audio EP in July with Atabey as the focus piece on the record. Nearly 9 minutes of existential-inducing pad, dub delay and flanger-tinged breaks culminate, ebb and flow for a superb audio journey. It’s a jam that sounded like a blast to record / riff with those reverb builds and dives; notably I can get a sense and appreciate the emotional state of how the artist was feeling during the recording. The change ups continue until the last seconds, leaving you engaged to the bitter end. Pick up a copy of Pre Formal Audio on anno’s bandcamp page.
Slick-filtered, slide-y sequential techno from longtime San Francisco producer, Michael Claus, stands out in this 8-track 2017 EP on LA-based label 100% Silk. That melodic arp pulls you in deep from point blank and carries those harmonically overlaid synth chords through a nonstop 7 minutes of chug. It takes years of experience and trial-and-error to perfect the emotional weight in a recording of this caliber without taking it over the top. The push-pull effect rinsed from start to finish needs no further waxing on my part – listen for yourself, get lost in it. Find this and the rest of Michael’s Memory Protect release on his bandcamp page.
Jazzy, playful, wickedly cool – this Shaka (Swiss house veteran) Kurt Spichiger record puts me in a stellar mood every listen. A new release as of last week on long standing Swedish house label Local Talk, New Relationship revives the bygone classic 90s house style of epic 8+ minute tracks that take you on a journey. Pitch perfect piano and organ riffs set the stage for a spunky flute solo that invites you for a brisk walk in the park. I can definitely envision this record tearing it up on the old Baltimore Paradox dancefloor during a Paul Johnson or MAW set. Lush strings and perfect arrangement carry the flutes to the finish line – but hold up! The A1 Theme From The Riverwalk holds its own as an equally entrancing work of art. Damnit, check out the whole release, especially the B-side, truncated, more DJ-friendly dub tracks.
Creating an incredibly playful atmosphere from the first note – rather Earth Note – a spiritually cleansing, celebratory tone takes hold from the get-go. Bronx-native Kush Jones‘ debut 12″ on Future Times in June clocked in as a certified hit, spawning a couple of represses in following months – this A1 track in particular an anthem. The bassline, pads and synth riffs all line up together in seamless harmony for a bumpy, funky ride to pleasuretown – really the whole track exudes pure musical expression, reminding me a lot of Dawit Eklund‘s jam sessions. I also admire the efficiency of such detail packed into a sub-4 minute track, a spectacular feat for any house-focused producer but Kush made it sound easy. Necessary pick up no doubt.
Bonus: (I remember visiting Max D to borrow some record mailers in July. Finding him shirtless in his brother’s basement, sweating, putting in the work and packing up quite literally 100 sold-out copies of this record was a highlight of my summer).
The electrifying Knoxville techno mastermind, Alex Falk, returns for a 2nd EP entitled Movefast on NY’s Allergy Season. Falk understands hypnotizing patterns and the perfect place to lock a loop, which is what makes the 4th track Know such an earworm. The vocal loop soars in from the first beat, circling the atmosphere while a 2-step pattern lays the framework for an earthquake-level sub bass line. All of Movefast jolts with a lightning sense of urgency and purpose but this track feels like you’re taking flight – a showstopper no doubt! Pick up the whole release on Allergy Season’s bandcamp.
My new 4-track EP Stealth Mode released on 1432 R (officially) this past week. I was reflecting on the title track remembering feeling a thrill winging it on the chords after a practice run through. The drums and underlying synth sequence drove in a straight-ahead pattern leaving plenty of room to riff it on the Poly-800 keyboard. DJ Stingray’s Nudge TheoryI believe was the inspiration here. Fun times!
Yea, I think this record got taken down from Discogs at one point because it’s blatant copyright infringement (ripping off the groove from Cybil – Love So Special), but it’s back up for sale! I bought it from Juno in 2013(?), a one-off bootleg edit record from London-based Holic Trax and got a ton of mileage playing it at nearly every house gig for the next few years. Best moment – closing a special Rush Plus house set at the Eighteenth Street Lounge to a packed-ass Sunday night crowd in May 2017 with this record. I mixed the wax in and glanced over at DJ Nav giving me the stank face.
A true original, Steve Rachmad fostered the Detroit techno sound in the Netherlands from 1996 onward. Rachmad’s 2nd full-length album, Neo Classica, landed on Technasia’s Sino label in 2006. Big room techno had been waning in popularity by that era and though experimentation in melding house, techno and elements of trance is evident throughout this album, the tracks themselves remain upbeat, party-ready feel-good in nature and execution. My personal favorite, “A Fabla,” winds through thundering tom sequences and builds to a moment of euphoria with the synth layered one octave up. Hearing this on a club soundsystem feels like a pleasant, welcoming storm approaching and you’re in the right place to soak it in. Pick up this track or the full album digitally on Sino’s bandcamp page.
Originally released under the Internet Server 211 EP with legendary Dutch techno / gabber label DJAX-Up-Beats in 1999, Get Em is my ultimate DJ Skull classic Chigaco house jam and a go-to for ending a dj set in euphoric style. Plenty of DJ Skull classics employ this similar big room echoey pad synth design and curt, jaunting, swinging rhythm, but the stars align with a funky bassline on Get Em. It moves fast – you can hear it chugging like a locomotive on a proper soundsystem, even better when slowed down to a ~130 tempo. You can find a cleaned up digital master of Get Em as a rerelease on DJ Skull’s bandcamp page or the original vinyl release on Discogs.
A foreshadowed sinister tone of how 2020 would feel – though I can’t speculate if that’s what Chevel had in mind when constructing this Backwards Loops release for Non Series in 2015, you can feel it in the distorted low end grinding, bleeding together. With many more productions centered around techno minimalism, I’ve admired this track as Chevel’s most poignant. It’s been a consistent go-to in early morning Rush Plus sets in the past, delicately balancing tension and angst with a creeping momentum. Simple patterns tightly weaving a locked groove that’s difficult to escape at such a relentless pace – a 2020 microcosm.
No pause nosebleed techno. A handful of all-star Japanese techno producers emerged from the late-90s heyday of techno, none superior to DJ Shufflemaster. That’s my opinion but his musical output spoke for itself and continues sounding fresh decades later. His tight sampling precision and intangible ability to create a building sensation throughout his recordings made him a constant influence on all the Rush Plus records. His album on Tresor remains an impressive and important piece of techno history and collaboration releases with Cari Lekebusch lessons in techno mastery.
This Face Life As It Is remix hits on all the trademark Shufflemaster techniques but accentuates his 6th sense of creating 4 minutes of unbroken momentum – truly pummeling yet uplifting and reaching for vibrance. Released in 2005 during a notoriously dull period in techno on Takaaki Itoh’s WOLS label, Shufflemaster was still going full throttle, doubling down on the facemelting techno sound that dominated the 90s. If you ever wanted to relive that sound, you should check out Takaaki Itoh & DJ Shufflemaster’s old live sets from that era. Funky techno madness I tell ya!
An esoteric cut from the iconic Jet Grind Radio game on Sega Dreamcast. This game holds a special place in my childhood, notably this song as my first time hearing a funky house / techno crossover track. Electric Toothbrush didn’t appear often in the game itself, mostly hanging back as an addition soundtrack for cut scenes. “Toronto” is a one-off alias from a storied video game composer:
Tomonori Sawada joined the Sega sound design team in 1992 as the lead composer for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and stayed on board with Sega through Sega Saturn, Dreamcast and subsequent titles the company launched on other platforms in the last two decades. Sega rarely released full-on dance tracks of this caliber and for Sawada, his career has revolved primarily around the sound design side of video game audio production. Electric Toothbrush appears to be his only feature-length techno single, yet it captures the spirit of elation many of us have experienced on the dancefloor and fits perfectly with the funky ethos of the Jet Grind Radio universe; I loved this track 20 years ago as much as I do blasting it today.
On what’s possibly my 2000th time hearing this track, it sounds wonderfully fresh and innovative as the first. Listening to Stephen Brown over the past 7 years has influenced nearly every facet of how I approached recording house and techno, popping up in every peak-time, unhinged 140+ Rush Plus set we ever played as well.
Released on Ben Sims’ Theory Recordings in 2012 as the B-side cool-off track, Polar hits a minimal techno nerve and cruises along via its intoxicating vocal manipulation cuts and call-n-response song structure. From the regrettable after parties to the breezy rooftop gigs to my headphones as I type this, Polar never grew old on me, rather continuing to impress with age. No doubt, I’ll be digging up more relics from the past in future posts, probably a load more from Stephen himself. You can pick up Polar on beatport OR pick up a pricey copy on Discogs here.
Diving LFO-tinged & layered bass lines matched with meticulously arranged breaks. Reefer Madness checks the box on classic Skee Mask production approach; icy electro hihats set a continuous breathing tone, soaring pads cut the tension at peak moments while reverbed claps crash into place with a delayed meeting point at the end of each bar. Keeping up with all the changing parts here feels like high-stepping backward on a moving walkway waterbed. This one’s a big time mind expander, displaying how Skee Mask cranks it to the Nth degree while maintaining supreme finess. You can buy ISS005and the beatless, ambient companion release, ISS006, now on Ilian Tape’s bandcamp.
Full-throttle mental overdrive. Transition Piece nests as the centerpiece of Ben Ritz debut on Sweat Equity last year. A refined balance – equal parts of wonky-timed laser arps, an alleviating chord progression, and bassline bouncing like its got somewhere to be – all blended in a high-octane tempo. The unexpected transition at 3:46 is the creative decision that puts this track in a league of its own. This is a display of superb control over timing and sounds that wouldn’t fit together under slightly different circumstances. A unique brain melter no doubt.
Djoser unveiled his Lost Tapes Vol. 1 project during the wake of the Covid lockdown. A 5-track collection of old and new bass maneuver tracks that weren’t committed to any label. The full release displays Shadi’s mastery of psycho-mode break precision and timing in song structure. The 2nd track Blurry swells to its finish with sharp triangles, an aqueous pad sequence and a truly morphing, brain-encompassing bassline. Close your eyes and this track takes you on a flight. Shadi leveled up on Lost Tapes; this ride is worth more than his modest asking price.