Meat Beat Manifesto
Jack Dangers delivers his best MBM material in some time in the second installment of Skam’s new sublabel Kasm. “Nocebo” is a steady four to the floor track, nice and punchy, characterized by syncopated modular synth blips and some dreamy, descending pads that eventually reveal themselves to be classic MBM in musicality. I think this effectively splits the difference between some of the dubbed out trackiness of his 1996 double-album Subliminal Sandwich with more contemporary underground techno in a really handsome way. “The Lurker” has a similar sensibility about it, lots of tightly crafted syncopation in its synthesis with a dreamy, almost otherworldly hook overhead. “Present for Sally” is a real standout, though, with its added acid bite, little squiggles. About halfway through the track, Dangers exploits the rhythmic sputter of cellphone interference in a rather clever way, the whole time letting his rhythm section do its thing, steady and chunky. “Agelast” is the most sublime of them, a low kick with starry synth patterns swirling overhead. It feels alien and yet entirely accessible. It’s refreshing to hear Dangers continuing to plumb the depths of low-end and rhythm to make compelling music, highly recommended.
Essential listening from Kompakt, with this latest single from one of their more solid yet lower profile (or so it’s seemed to me) acts, Blond:ish. That’s about to change as they prepare to release their first full-length album on the label, with this being their first single as a teaser. “Endless Games” perfectly nails melancholic dancefloor music, rousing enough to move the body but with a wistfulness that moves the heart. The original drips with reverb on its tiny piano flourishes and airy, ambiguous vocal that recalls Jamie Irrepressible at his most beguiling: “Knock me to the ground / Drink me up and break me down.” The production is thick with atmosphere but mixed with clarity and precision, elevating it to sit comfortably alongside some of Kompakt’s best material of the last ten years. Patric Bäumel contributes two remixes that are a generous bonus. His more minimal techno take on the material emphasizes a nice, punchy kick and bass combo that allows the more ethereal elements to shine without sacrificing any dancefloor immediacy. His dub mix eschews most of the vocal and instead emphasizes his own nice extra sequencing patterns. It’s just as moody as his other mix, but a nice complement in its more instrumental arrangement.
Rrose continues exploring the outer limits of minimal techno with this latest grouping of tracks. “Levitate” focuses on busy tight snares and rigid syncopation while test tones bend microtonally overhead. The combination lends it both a nervous energy and a wooziness that is captivating. Rrose pushes further still with “Vellum,” a track that sounds as translucent and obfuscating as the paper its title references. The rhythm section again focuses on scattered snares and rims, some quite dry and upfront while others ricochet around the periphery. The reason this second cut is my favorite is that it takes its time to shift shapes. Odd flanged effects expand from the center outward, swelling in scale and depth and, as a result, transforming its drier first act into something more menacing and disorienting. “Signs,” the final track, is the longest by a couple of minutes, with undulating arpeggios of sine tones and a more classically minimal techno sound, spacey and insistent. There’s a physicality to many of the brighter sounds Rrose is using lately that feels visceral, almost industrial… and yet there is none of the pretense or gnarl that I would associate with “industrial” as excess baggage. Instead Rrose continues to bolster her repertoire for detailed, ice cold techno that feels at once kinetic and cerebral.
Lucy And Klock
Stroboscopic Artefacts boss Luca Mortellaro (aka Lucy) teams up with Berlin techno fixture Ben Klock for this sterling collaborative four-track EP. The opening cut is aptly titled, a serene and spacey ambient number that sets the stage for what’s to follow. “War Lullaby” is leaner and meaner, starting off quietly before finally dropping a thick 4/4 kick to complement its persistent, undulating synth patterns. Eventually crisper and sharper sounds come into play as additional accents, but by and large this is minimal techno at its leanest and best. That bleeds into the dark mystique of “Santeria,” though the beat all but fully drops out for large portions of the track, a nice late night burner. “A Ghost Lovestory” is an eerie epilogue that works as another ambient bookend to the two techno cuts, a nice diversion that not only gives the release a conceptual flow that’s both grim and haunting but also sidesteps expectations by not only playing to their respective strengths but also by being unafraid to break the formula with complete ambience. [Ed. In passing, HC would also like to mention a recommendation for the upcoming Ken Karter release as the XXI entry on the amazing Monad Series on Stroboscopic Artefacts – something that must be collected in its entirety.]
Words by Matthew Mercer of Ear Influxion
Additional editorial by HC