Sound Bytes : Lucy, Answer Code Request, Plaster and Zoltan

Churches Schools And Guns
Stroboscopic Artefacts
Stroboscopic Artefacts label boss Luca Mortellaro has been releasing a steady stream of solid electronic music through his label, championing a variety of acts that share a similar aesthetic (Dadub, Plaster, Lakker, to name a few), but it’s been a while since he released his own music as Lucy. His debut under the moniker, Wordplay for Working Bees, was a slick hybrid of minimal techno and more corrosive, almost industrial sounds. With Churches Schools and Guns, Lucy moves further away from the dancefloor still, with only two cuts on the album (out of 12) qualifying as techno-ready for the dancefloor. That’s not to say that most of the album is lacking in rhythm, but it is a good clip slower and more introverted than one might expect. Elsewhere the album tends to vacillate between nervous energy (the twitchy shudder of ‘The Best Selling Show’, the insistent stride of ‘The Self As Another’, the galloping waves of ‘Human Triage’) and something more inert, beatless, or sprawling (‘We Live As We Dream’, ‘All That Noise’). For DJs and techno fans, he’s included ‘Follow the Leader’ and ‘The Illusion of Choice,’ each with a deep 4/4 kick and a nice uptempo clip, but otherwise Lucy seems keener on exploring murkier waters. The slow, slinky crawl of ‘Catch Twenty Two’ is both menacing and seductive, with a swirling sound that reminds me of Coil‘s ‘Nasa Arab,’ shifting shapes gradually, rich with effects and atmosphere. The only real touch of lightness is found in the the closing track, ‘Falling,’ featuring vocals by Emme. It’s a dreamy five-minute outro to the more nightmarish fog of most of the album. By the time it dissipates in its final seconds, Emme’s voice is unadorned and naked — a smart and curious choice given the hazy landscapes that dominate the album. The album reaffirms Mortellaro’s vision as both a producer and artist as well as a label owner.

Answer Code Request
I was only heretofore familiar with Patrick Gräser‘s project as Answer Code Request via a 12″ on Marcel Dettmann Records, not realizing that he had a new full-length on the way. He’s since migrated to Ostgut-Ton, and the album brings with it a different sensibility, something sleeker, more seductive, more varied. I expected this to be a pretty minimal techno affair but to my surprise the tempo varies as much as the palette of electronic sounds. He’s definitely sequenced Code as a proper narrative album: the music carries a certain arc from start to finish, moving you through the diverse terrain of his world confidently and smoothly. ‘Relay Access’ is a nice chunky downtempo IDM groove, haunted by the ghost of Detroit in its sweeping pads but otherwise recalling late 90s electronica (in a good way). ‘Status’ on the other hand is exactly what I would have expected for the whole album — a chugging, relentless techno bass kick with spacious pads and effects weaving in and out of the beat. ‘Field Depth’ ricochets beats and synth drips all over the place, harking back to mid-90s Artificial Intelligence era, while ‘Blue Russian’ is an effects-saturated groove that feels more in line with the techy grooves of Brothomstates‘ albums than most of the Berghain set. Code has its fair share of beatless tracks, too; opener ‘Code’ and interlude ‘Spin Off,’ not to mention the gorgeous extended floater ‘Odyssey Sequence’ and dreamer pre-closer ‘Axif.’ Techno heads might get a bit lost along the way since so much of Code diverges from that sound, but it’s better off for that reason. In many ways this feels like looking backward to a rather varied electronic albums I associate with the turn of the century (Christian Morgenstern‘s Death Before Disko comes to mind as a sign of those times), and it hits all the right notes for me.

Monad XV
Stroboscopic Artefacts
Plaster‘s entry into Stroboscopic Artefacts‘ quite reliable Monad series consists of four heavy-handed, post-industrial techno hybrids that fit neatly within the label’s overall sensibility. These are rhythmic beasts that demand movement — whether it’s bodies reacting to a live PA or the involuntary bobbing of one’s head as the music chugs through a good set of headphones. ‘Quasar’ packs some punch with its syncopated bass kicks and vaguely industrial grind, a handsome opener. ‘Uret’ ups the ante a bit more with its heavy low-end and plenty of kick drums, with an urgent, repetitious alarm-like musical refrain. It’s probably the most up-tempo track here, more qualified to work into a techno set than, say, ‘Tangle,’ which is far slower, with a chugging mid-tempo groove. Its intermittent white noise snares and unrelenting sixteenths give it a more ferocious physicality than the other tracks here, but it is particularly nice as a complement to the faster clip of the preceding pieces. ‘Libra’ is even more patient, but far more of a dub excursion, with plenty of reverb and pads to fill out its more skeletal rhythm section. It’s particularly dark stuff, recommended for fans of Lucy, Lakker, Pan Sonic, or the more distilled, industrial side of electronic dance music, lean on melody but packing a wallop. Complete your Monad collection with 12″ releases by Chevel, Donor, Xhin, Perc, Dadub, Lucy, Kangding Ray, Rrose and more than a dozen others. A series to keep your eye on!

Pardon, What?
Hum + Buzz
Hungarian producer Zoltan‘s 6-track EP for Ikonika‘s Hum + Buzz label is both fascinating and relentless, an odd amalgamation of post-dubstep grit, techno bob, EBM muscle, and chiptune noise. It comes on strong with a pairing of pummeling machine gun tracks, stuttering and sputtering mechanically in time like Secondo put through an Amiga. The intensity of his tracks lends itself to brevity, but most pieces approach or exceed the six-minute mark. The front half is definitely my favorite if I had to pick, because these tracks’ cut-up samples and machine gun repetition feel less typical of what’s en vogue lately, almost at odds with dance music, but still likely to liven up a more adventurous DJ set in more capable hands. Zoltan shares some of label boss Ikonika’s love of chintzy sounds, dated computer nostalgia, and dry rhythm arrangements heavy on syncopated rapid-fire claps and/or kicks, and all of it is showcased on ‘Pardon, What? (Msc),’ a welcome reprise of the EP’s signature weirdness that was missing on the more conventional ‘Saturn.’ That said, Zoltan does offer up some more conventional rhythm for techno sets on ‘Saturn’ and ‘Phobos,’ with the latter still having enough weird triggering and stuttering in its arrangement to give it the same weird flair found on records from Errorsmith, Soundhack, and the MMM crew. Pardon, What? has some unique and unpredictable elements that set it apart from the pack, in all the right ways.

All words by Matthew Mercer of Ear Influxion
Additional editorial by HC