Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rodriguez music – New dub techno

There is a great phrase in Spanish for when your girlfriend/wife is away and you are left at home doing the cooking and housework etc which is “Estoy de Rodriguez” which literally means "I am like Rodriguez”  (for a more detailed history click here ). One of my traditional activities when “estoy de Rodriguez” is to stay up late on a work night and listen only to dub techno until I really have to go to bed. Last week I was doing exactly that while my girlfriend was on a work junket in Mozambique.

Anders Peterson and Atheus – Pillars of the Earth and sky (Ghost Sounds)

One of the more impressive things I put on was a recent “Pillars of the Earth and Sky” compilation lovingly packaged and released on Sweden’s Ghost Sounds label. The album collects together three Atheus tracks and several from label head Anders Peterson under his various monikers, A.P., Relapxych.00 and Skyscraper, including one remix of the lengthy track "Garden Therapy" also by Atheus. All tracks were previously released by the label except for Atheus’s “Pillars of the earth” and Peterson’s “Atmospheric stratification” under the Skyscraper alias which close the album.

Admittedly I was also doing something else at the time while I listening, but the album kept snapping me out of my zone of concentration in confusion and I had to ask myself again and again “What the fuck did I just put on?” The album may unravel at a slow, glacial pace but when this occurs at the edge of perception it is alarming and more so if it takes you into unexpected territory. For example, Relapxych.00’s “Desert Nightfall” winds its way into a slow and dreamy post punk climax reminiscent of Tropic of Cancer, while “Landmark” and A.P.s epic “Garden Therapy” bring in clusters of drum hits and rhythmic shards like Vladislav Delay, not to mention eastern instrumentation. Running beneath Atheus’s remix and the darker, beatless “Pillars of the Earth” are streams of choral voices that float and drown in the endless currents. To finish, Peterson presents the most techno track of the set, yet one splattered by dripping water and shimmering like a river in the sun. Despite being made by two artists under a host of monikers at different times, there is a great sense of homogeneity about the album and in particular a feeling of a transcendental vortex lurking behind the face of the sound adding to it a sense of cinema and drama not unlike Popol Vuh’s “Vuh” from “In den gärten pharaos”

Those familiar with Atheus are also encouraged to head to his bandcamp page  where you can buy two unreleased tracks for US$1.00 each, apparently the last he will make in a dub/minimal style.

Fluxion - Traces (Echocord)

Konstantinos Soublis aka Fluxion’s previous outing for Echocord was something of a disappointment despite wanting it to be great (disclaimer: the score is not my own and a little too low despite what the text says – sorry Konstantinos).  There was a heaviness to the sound that prevented either the atmospheric side from emerging or the Berghain-influenced dance floor muscle to have the agility to really cut loose. Two years later Soublis returns with “Traces” a much more rounded and multifaceted work than the predecessor. The key here is both the opening up of space between the sounds to let the echoes and melodies range and the adoption of different song styles that adds variation to what was “Perfused”’s techno-heavy approach. The most obvious example is “No man is an island” which is classic dub reggae with Dennis Brown on vocals, but sounds more like Lars Fenin’s productions, particularly those with vocalist Gobi, than Rhythm and Sound with any of the artists. “Butiama” is also a standout for its light 4-4 rhythm that almost feels like two step except that the bass and the drums do not give in to each other. “Desert nights”, “Motion 3”, “Memba” and the heavy chug of “Eruption” all work the dance floor angle, but in a much less asphyxiating way than “Perfused”. The rest of the tracks fall variously between dubbed out ambient and dubstep woven into ambient sheets, especially “Migration” which matches abstracted drum patterns with buried piano melodies and simple delay effects. Apparently “Vibrant Forms III” may still be on the way, but regardless, “Traces” is a great return to form for Fluxion.

For comparison:

Susumu Yokota – Dreamer (Lo Recordings)

Susumu Yokota’s album discography is now getting obscenely large which makes the addition of “Dreamer” all the more surprising as it doesn’t quite fit in anywhere amongst his previous works. Sure there are some signature motifs, like the positive vibes, some familiar melodic patterns and even the timbral range at times. “Dreamer” even harks back to Yokota’s dance floor roots, particularly on tracks like breakbeat opener “Human memory” and “Subconscious globe”, but “Dreamer” distinguishes itself by either adopting new beat styles altogether, or by failing to adopt obvious patterns and subsequently swirling sounds and different ambient influences together to make a truly global music. In particular, classical Eastern instrumentation from India to Japan come to the fore, like at the end of “Subconscious globe”, but more so on the ambient pieces “Double spot image”, “Quiet room” and “A day at the planet” which work traditional instruments like flutes, bells and sitars into a formless collage almost like Japanese folk rockers Ghost. More surprisingly tracks like “Inception” and the insanely good “Animiam of the airy” dig out an almost classical dub techno sound, new for Yokota, but coloured with overt melodic elements and samples that are foreign to the traditions of the genre. While some of Yokota’s past club tracks have been punchy and catchy, some have also been obvious and trite. Here on “Dreamer” they are all the former, but more so, they are also driving and bristling with an inherent excitement. But the overall mood is not one for a party, but one for contemplation. The majority of tracks are beatless and traditional. The sound and evoked mental imagery ripple outward like a genuine probing meditation, one who’s tranquil core extends outwards to the chaotic and contradictory world of the exterior looking for peace and meaning.

Textural Being – Oceanic (ZeECc)

Sage Taylor’s Textural Being project has seen two EPs released lately, a more tech house orientated down beat EP called “Sky” on Geneva’s MonoKraK label and a return to French label ZeECc for another dub techno excursion. Of the five tracks here, two are new versions of tracks that came out on his previous ZeECc release from last year, one being  a grainier, and more driving rework of the excellent “High Speed Travel” which I posted about previously and the other is the second part of “Tides” which ties in nicely with the EPs title. The remaining three tracks are essentially ambient dub pieces and also invoke the sea and watery images, with title track “Oceanic” being the darkest whereas “Seafoam” is suitably light and playful, evoking images of spume and salty breezes.

Nadia Popoff – Seven Nights (Doma Musique)

Dub techno can at times be a very male dominated genre which is why it such a nice surprise to find a new and interesting female producer. Argentinian Nadia Popoff has so far only released two digital singles, “Cristal Mountain” on Dewtone Recordings and the more recent “Seven nights ep” with Spanish digital label and arts collective Doma Musique. Regardless of her limited releases, a captivating feature of her sound is her use of just the recognizable tip of the dub techno sound palette without resorting to stereotype and her ability to embellish the music without overcrowding it. Popoff’s take on dub techno also fuses it with the nervous psychedelic anxiety of minimal and to centre it more on the dance floor rather than a home listening bliss out experience.

For more on the Doma Musique label, you can’t go passed their recent label compilation from December last year which is available for free download here.

Various – Altering Illusions (5 years of Echospace)(Echospace)

Sometimes it can seem that the two artists most closely linked with Detroit’s Echospace label, Steven Hitchell and Rod Modell, do it by numbers. So prolific are they and with so many monikers that really don’t sound that different that you have to wonder if it is some kind of set up. But for dub techno fans these kind of details don’t matter as long as you have a fairly decent budget to keep up with them. More discerning consumers will appreciate collections like this, however, which retain the fetish instinct of many of their releases as well as serving up a generous chunk of sound in terms of quantity and quality (and let’s face it, sometimes quantity is quality with dub techno, especially when you are on a Rodriguez bender and hell bent on staying up all night). Of the 13 tracks here, the last word is essentially always Hitchell’s, with Modell making an appearance only via the original source material from his Deepchord project, with one time musical partner Mike Schommer, or Echospace made alongside Hitchell. Hitchell provides the tunes or remixes everything himself using all his main names, CV313, Intrusion and Variant. Everything here is pretty much as you’d expect, deep and echoey and not often straying above 120bpm where there are beats, and often the best material are just the gaseous ambient runs. Perhaps the two opening tracks, both Cv313 reworks of now ancient Deepchord material dating from 2000 are the clumsiest. If anything they show both how fragile dub techno can be at times, depending absolutely on the balance of sounds, and how difficult it can be to make it work on the dance floor. On these two tracks in particular the tight and heavy kick drum sound overpowers the ambience while also lacking any real charm to seduce. Elsewhere, Hitchell opts for a more sensible rounded and subaquatic kick drum sound which is tried and tested, but it works for a reason.

Shifted – Crossed paths (Mote Evolver)

Not yet released, but fitting closely to the dub techno ideology despite purveying a more Berghain/industrial sound is the upcoming full length for mysterious producer Shifted on Mote Evolver. Shifted only has released a handful of singles so far on various labels including Mote Evolver, Avian and Syndrome Z. But here has been plenty of good words said about shifted from the likes of Chris Liebing as well, but time will reveal that “Crossed Paths” is indeed a significant release for 2012. More emphasis on techno than dub means “Crossed paths” is more comfortable in a club setting than a lot of dub techno, but Shifted’s sound nonetheless relies heavily on atmosphere as well as mercurial production to seduce in more intimate confines. Opener “Yearning” is a case in point, stretching ghostly and metallic timbres to breaking point whereas closing track “Disconnected” bleaches itself in a low blood pressure white out of echo and noise. The intervening melee is a compelling a paranoid journey with touches of Planetary Assault Systems and the more mechanical fringes of the CLR label and the Traversable Wormhole series thrown in for good measure.

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