ok, here comes a list of my thirty favourite long players (including one re-issue and following my top 10 compilations) of 2011. like last year, i’m not that sure of the order beyond the first few, but these are the records which i’m still listening to, still enjoying and – in many cases – still astounded by. the only other thing to note is the lack of many bass/dubstep albums. efforts from kuedo, sepulcre and machine drum will all top many polls elsewhere on the web, i’m sure, but i just never quite sit comfortably when they are playing. necessarily then, in case you wondered, i’ve overlooked them. but it ain’t like i was short on choice…
mod is nothing new, but that’s not to say it isn’t one of the best albums of the year. unsurprisingly, then, it isn’t particularly dancefloor, either, but instead crafts a perfect, dub-heavy house and techno arc. tentatively emerging from a cold empty space complete with heartbroken (and german?) robot monologue, it rolls right through deep, gnarly undercurrents; surging detroit landscapes and on to carefree and optimistic 4/4 come the end.
made up of names you didn’t know then and which have been barely spotted since, richards’ series opening effort back in 2001 was a gratuitous glance into surely one of the most connoisseur record collections in the world (a bold statement, yes, but it’s the revered recluse’s impeccable taste which has not only made him into the ultimate resident, but into someone intrinsically linked with fabric‘s always one step ahead of the curve booking policy). another peek into that collection, then, was always going to be worth getting excited about…
baring as it does little resemblance to any contemporary developments or prevailing zeitgeists, fabric 58 is as individual and timeless as was fabric 1. it deals in similarly deep, dubby and trippy sounds which are neither house nor techno, electro nor minimal, but instead some indefinable amalgam of all four. appropriately, then, richards turns to fellow aficionado andy weatherall (alongside keith tenniswood) in his two lone swordsman guise to open proceedings in a serene yet kinetic style that somehow balances ambiance with electro.
this is why i love the internet… late the other night i was scanning twitter (as i do all too often) when furesshu tweeted he’d done a new mix. i knew he was a bristol based music maker but couldn’t remember how i’d come to be following him so i checked it out. the way he so tightly laid down a selection of warehouse (read berghain, i guess) music from the murky underworlds of house and techno gripped me. an hour later and i was surfing – nay steamrolling - the ‘net to find out more like a hapless addict looking to fill his ‘pipe. enter the ripest findings of my research… this upcoming new ep on auspicious young label, project squared (i was also compelled into bothering the man known as luke standing for an interview. he kindly agreed, so watch out…)
it’s not his first release - previous efforts on this label and the excellent immerse have traversed the nether regions of techno, dub and half step freely – though it’s one which suggests furesshu (pronounced fu. rea. shu) is not settled on any one – or three - styles just yet, forging as it does house vibes with his previous techier inflections. the problem with some of the ostgut/klock/etc techno to which furesshu is closely related is – for me - that it can be too immovable… tracks are constructed as huge, imposing greyscale walls. with these tracks, though he manages to embed a sense of swing and groove into his echoing, thumping beats. they form sonic chambers rather than solid barricades and are just that bit more inviting, that bit less relentless, though retain the same bottom-end punch.
anyway, lucid is first up where grainy stabs echo to form a stormy backdrop and a vocal cry lingers in the frosty air. down below, bumping beats tumble repetitively and keeping dragging you in as the various other elements shift in and out alignment with each other drawing focus to many different points as they go: it makes for a hood-up, head-down solid groove of the sort i exactly love. ‘all i want’ is even more overtly house tinged, with a diva vocal calling out ‘iiii want’ all the way through as stormy claps, muted acid stabs and reverbing bass channels steffi and pbar as much as the more austere jackers mentioned above.
a shifted remix rounds out the package with a more hurried and urgent stomp through the dark, dusty corners of some derelict old building with only glitching hand claps and shwirling dub torrents for company, ensuring that not only is this an essential purchase, but that furesshu and project squared are essential ones to watch starting… now.
about a year ago i interviewed – very – young dj and producer youandewan. he already had a couple of auspicious tracks under his belt for fledgling leeds imprint magicbag (including an ep with dop) but it’s his latest outing which really confirms what i initially thought: he got skills.
it’s a very assured collection of four different tracks which all have a clear affinity with the dubbier, sketchier, deeper and dustier trenches of berlin’s underground house and techno scene. from scb to scuba, basic channel to dettmann, it’s all in there. opener ‘alone in berlin’ is a brave and successful exercise in slo-mo and deep house tension which tumbles along, fully restrained, at a very teasing 109bpm for seven escapist minutes. it always feels as though it’s going to bubble over and kick on but never quite does, and because of that has you in the palm of its hand from start to finish.
next track ‘jigsaw’ rushes from the off with closer, tighter drums; a slinky percussive skip and controlled but busy background synths adding a lofty ceiling. in time, the bassline breaks free and swells out below the mix and the synths expand to encompass the whole track. it’s when things get deconstructed and the crisp, surging-into-deep-space-a-la-hot-flush bassline is allowed to pulse that you really begin to look forward to hearing it on a dancefloor, though.
‘crosseyed & painless’ is simple, dusty and swinging house music which recalls kassem mosse as much as ame’s best, whilst sandy ep closer ‘eidolon’ is the same simple construct but after many more drugs, and comes from a much darker corner of the club. it’s heavy, dry clapping, militant and –owing to an expertly used forlorn female refrain in the latter parts – melancholic music which resonates with a deft, real-world roughness. you can expect more of the same from a super-solid remix the scot’s recently done for midland, or catch him perfecting one of his subtly shifting warm-up sets at mint, leeds, where he is resident for techno types system. either way, this shit is reaaaaal good.
this summer i was asked to write a feature on production schools and acadamies for dj mag. it involved a trip to the quite excellent akg / scholarship of sound as well as chats to plenty of other people… read on to find out about various sorts of dj courses; the scholarship itself and for some top tips from key industry people….
something i wrote for idj mag in the uk – thought it worth sharing…
the re-release of robert hood’s ‘minimal nation,’ and carl craig’s re-instatement as musical director of the demf, are momentous events, not far behind us. shadows of the first and second wave detroit forefathers, then, perennially loom large over the shoulders of any new motor city blood. whether that pressure is why techno headlines have come mainly from berlin in the last couple of years or not, is now irrelevant: detroit’s where it’s at in 2009.
i’m writing a piece for someone on detroit’s current crop of production talent [which explains the detroit centric questions] so have briefly email interviewed a few of the main proponents. only the odd quote will be used in the piece and i thought it a shame not share the answers in full, so here they come…