Thursday, August 11, 2011

True spirit

While Berghain continues to dominate the hearts and minds of the techno scene, it should not go unnoticed that the past 12 months has seen the quiet resurgence of Berlin’s original and other techno “brand”, Tresor. The mythical club and label founded in 1991 has come on relatively hard times since its forced relocation from its original Potsdamer Platz home in 2005. It’s not often these days that you hear people saying they have been to the club on a trip to Berlin, nor waxing on about the label’s music, whereas the opposite could be said about Berghain and Ostgut Ton. While the club is still constantly putting on good DJs, the label has been a different story, with very few new releases in the past years and only several runs of rereleases, albeit of important albums. However, all that has changed since summer 2010 with a run of releases from artists that uphold the traditions, yet also function outside of the labels normal aesthetic of hard, dark and banging techno.

Future Beat Alliance aka Matthew Puffett has been the most prolific of the new wave of Tresor artists, releasing no less than three 12”s in the last year. His latest single “Grey Summer” released in May, harks back to a traditional sound with brash high hats and naked synths. Similarly, his other singles also rely heavily on traditional Detroit stylings, but come with the addition of richer melodies, particularly on “Machines can help”, whereas “Mourning” is sharp and spiky, but without some of the crudeness of the older label releases.

Irish techno duo Psycatron have had a number of high profile singles over the years on the world’s best techno labels, so it was no surprise to see them turn up eventually on Tresor. Their big room single “People in Glass Houses” mixes slippery crescendos, elements of dub techno with some overt drum samples reminiscent of Len Faki’s hit “Rainbow Delta” for Ostgut Ton a few years ago. The momentum is urgent and restless, but with so much emphasis on melody and decoration over beat force, the outcome is a surprisingly light track without an overarching feel of machine heaviness.

Sleeparchive is perhaps the most surprising of the recent Tresor artists. While still obviously a techno artist, his bleepy, glitch sound perched somewhere between home ambience and the club, is perhaps the most estranged from Tresor’s traditional dark claustrophobia. However, his inclusion on the roster should be seen as a sign that the “new” Tresor might aim to bridge the divide between electronica and the club more readily than they have in the past.

Scottish techno veteran Vince Watson appearance on the label was a surprise to many  and apparently came about in response to Future Beat Alliances tracks. Watson is one of the best users of melodic lines in techno as showcased here on “Atom”, but another prime example is  “Ethereal” originally released on Delsin which was one of the highlights of 2008.  “Atom” feels like Tresor’s original electro sound polished to a high chromium sheen and which then captures and reflects the kaleidoscope of melodic colour. Watson has a new ep called “Illusion” on Tresor soon.

While there have been plenty of changes at Tresor, Vince Watson has also been on the move lately. Perhaps partly because of his Delsin connections, the Scotsman has now made the move to Amsterdam from Glasgow, but has also used the momentum to feed his labels Bio Musik, which have been somewhat stop start in the decade since its inception, and a new label Everysoul who will release a new album “Every Soul Needs a Guide” before the end of the year. Bio has just released a new Watson single and a pair of remixes by the likes of the aforementioned Psychatron, as well as Steve Rachmad and Octave One.

If that wasn’t enough, Watson has been adapting his live performances to include a lot of analogue gear as well as playing traditional DJ sets. Earlier this year he played such a set at Fabric in London for whom he recorded this promo DJ set which showcases his style, decorative and bright, and persuasive, but not forceful.

Vince Watson Fabric Promo Mix 2011 by PullProxy

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