Posts Tagged ‘techno’

Marc Houle – Drift (Minus Records)

October 9, 2010

For Juno Records

Minus Records mainstay Marc Houle returns with his new full-length album, Drift, and continues to further refine his sound. Written in Berlin during the bleak winter months of 2009, Drift stands apart from anything Houle has released to date. He’s stripped away much of the wackiness and playfulness that has become his signature, for a more dark and cold aesthetic. Houle’s sound has never been one that is easy to classify, as he’s always been a bit left of centre when it comes to techno – he doesn’t just write dancefloor bangers and/or head-bobbing numbers for home listening, yet his music has always fit comfortably both in and out of the party.

With tracks “Seeing in the Dark” and “Drift” one envisions the darkest Berlin club – an abandoned warehouse in a cold grey industrial neighbourhood, or a claustrophobic basement rave in a dilapidated building in Detroit, seem to suit these tracks just fine – where night has long since switched over to morning, but the kids seem compelled to continue as long as the party allows them.

Those tracks and the 7-minute “Melting”, are perhaps the moodiest compositions on the album, driven by Houle’s subtle use of analogue synths and rumbling bass. Drift all but abandons the quirky use of 8-bit sounds that Houle seemed to love so much in his earlier releases, yet what is interesting with Drift is that he has replaced those sounds with guitar. Opening song “Inside”, which I imagine would be an amazing track for driving on the Autobahn, as well as “Sweet”, “The Next”, and “Hammering”, feature processed guitar lines that hint at new wave and dark wave and are a great addition to his sound.

By the album’s last track, “Hammering”, there seems to be some light in the grey winter, the sun has peeked its head after months of absence, and the old playful Houle peeks his head out as well, closing with a guitar-based track that is funky and jazzy and reminiscent of Tortoise. Drift is undoubtedly a cold and dark album, but Marc Houle is as hot and bright as ever. Check it.

Marc Leclair – Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes

July 14, 2010

An absolute and understated classic from Marc Leclair, “Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes” was released in 2005. Leclair is probably best known for his work as tech-house wizard Akufen, but with “Musique” he tapped into something special, and overall it exceeds his work under the Akufen moniker, because it’s much broader in scope and so much more subtle in execution. Yes, I love “My Way”, and when I first saw Akufen play in Detroit in 2002 with Luciano and Dandy Jack at The Works, I thought I’d witnessed the future of techno music. I remember smiling and dancing non-stop and being proud that he was representing Canada and MTL, the city I would move to a year later. And for awhile, Akufen was indeed the shit — his tracks were meticulously produced, uber-groovy, and they bumped hard and heavy — but he was never able to match the grandeur and finesse of “My Way”. His releases afterwards fell flat or felt samey in comparison.

Yet with “Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes” he tapped into a whole new vibe. Leclair seamlessly meshed the ambient with the minimal, and the organic with the digital to smashing effect, and tossed in the conceptual aspect of his wife’s (and 2 friends) pregnancy to go along with it. The album features nine tracks, one for each month and begins almost clinically with “1er jour”, a collaboration with Rechenzentrum featuring very dark and digital programming, presumably signifying the child’s conception. By “64e jour”, the album begins to warm up, with organic ambience and Steve Reich inspired piano patterns. The next two tracks feature the sounds of water, rain, thunder, and begin to slowly open — as if he’s trying to recreate the experience of the nascent child growing in the womb. By “150er jour”, Leclair’s aesthetic palette expands exponentially, adding in guitars, loops, glitched beats, and by the end of the track a soft rolling 4/4 beat.

The album slowly unfolds and evolves from quiet minimal ambience to full on Akufen-inflected tech house by the album’s last track, “236e jour”. The baby is being born, it’s amazing and joyous, and you can’t help but wanna get up and dance. Throughout, Leclair’s knack for production is flawless, and as an album its flow is perfect in execution. I have fallen asleep countless times to this album, but I have also put it on many times as the precursor to a great night out. “Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes” is truly a fantastic electronic album and one that needs to be listened to by more people. It’s never too late to check it.

Peace.

Pantha du Prince – Black Noise

February 3, 2010


 

Hendrik Weber aka Pantha du Prince returns with his follow-up to the much acclaimed “This Bliss” avec “Black Noise” and it does not disappoint. With chimes and marimba acting as aural touchstones throughout, “Black Noise” shows the further evolutions of Weber’s melodic-robotic dichotomy and his penchant for deep and infectious bass. And speaking of infectious, “Stick To My Side”, Weber’s collaboration with Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox will leech itself into your memory banks and have you humming and singing it for days. It’s a truly great crossover hit that is just as groovy as it is catchy, and will no doubt help Pantha gain some new listeners.

Beyond that, tracks like “The Splendour”, “A Nomad’s Retreat”, and “Satellite Sniper” are amazing 4/4 burners that build carefully and envelop you in lush tones and Detroit-tinged techno beats. There’s much more warmth to “Black Noise” than “This Bliss”, and it’s somewhat reminiscent of The Field’s second album in its execution and musical aesthetic.

Weber seems a bit of a Byronic Romantic. The concept of the album stems from a trip to the Swiss Alps with some musician friends to record sounds and philosophize about music, technology, and silence. Next door to where they were staying was an enormous pile of debris, the remains of a landslide that had buried an entire village, and this is where the album’s concept was born – with the notion that ‘black noise’ is heard like a sonic omen before a natural disaster.

The second half of the album is more sedate, yet still no less compelling. The last two tracks “Im Bann” and “Es Schneit” are warm and melodic come down tracks, “Es Schneit” working those chimes into a subtle frenzy before dissipating like smoke in the air. “Black Noise” is another excellent release from Pantha du Prince, and another great electronic album for 2010. Dig it.

The Field – Yesterday and Today (Kompakt)

September 1, 2009

the field

When Axel Willner aka The Field appeared out of the ether in 2007 with the excellent “From Here We Go Sublime”, the album spun relentlessly in my apartment for months. There was something really hypnotic about his looped tech-ambience that sounded fresh and new at a time when techno was starting to sound a bit samey and lackluster. Two years blinked by and he returned with “Yesterday and Today” in the spring of this year. I immediately grabbed it, but for some reason was hesitant to listen to it. For some reason felt it wouldn’t be able to hold up to “Sublime”. But in the last few weeks I’ve finally gotten into it, and now think it an amazing follow up. In fact, I think it’s better. A more fully realized vision of his musical aesthetic.

The second track “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” slows the tempo down and adds lush vocals in the mix to fantastic effect, and then “Leave It” comes next — a sprawling and emotive track of 4/4 techno bliss — and when the bass hook drops at the 3 minute mark, I am fucking sold. Wooh. One of my fave songs of the summer for sure. I’ve listened to it so many times in the last few weeks it’s embarrassing. I’m sure my neighbours wanna kill me, but I can’t get enough. The title track is also fantastic and features John Stanier from Battles adding some live drums to the mix, which I think really works. Altogether, this is an excellent album and right now is looking like a top ten of the year.

Love it.

DJ Sprinkles – Midtown 120 Blues

July 17, 2009

midtown 120 blues cover

I had never heard of veteran artist and producer DJ Sprinkles (real name Terre Thaemlitz) until earlier this year, when I was turned on to his/her album courtesy of Resident Advisor. And ever since, “Midtown 120 Blues” has been in fairly constant rotation on my stereo. This is house music that conjures up the classic sounds of Chicago and Detroit and is very rewarding after repeated listens. Like “Endtroducing” is so much more than just a hip-hop album, so is “Midtown 120 Blues” more than just deep house. There’s soul here, techno, nostalgia, and rich ambience. The monologues and voice snippets are interesting and introspective and deal with the politics of music and identity. Tracks “Ball’r (Madonna Free Zone)” and “House Music is Controllable Desire You Can Own” are highlights that play just as well in a party setting as they do in a horizontal one. Sexy, sad, deep, smart, and emotional music. Smoooove.

Edit: Read a fantastic interview with Terre Thaemlitz here courtesy of Little White Earbuds.

Luke Hess – Light in the Dark

June 12, 2009

luke hess

Luke Hess has just released his proper debut “Light in the Dark” on the fantastic Echochord imprint. Having cut his teeth in Detroit and refined his sound over the last few years working with the likes of Omar-S and other emerging dub techno producers, Hess’ debut pays homage to the Detroit minimalism of Theorem and Plastikman and Basic Channel’s deep techno of the late 90’s. And although at times some tracks sound eerily close to the artists he’s paying respect to, overall I think the album totally works.

This is 4/4 techno that is dance-floor oriented, but it’s also heady and reflective. It almost feels as if Hess is trying to recreate the glory days of Detroit techno, before DEMF, when sketchy warehouse parties and the City Club were the places to go to drop pills and sweat and dance and just lose it to the craziest, darkest, bass-heavy, four on the floor techno you ever heard. And unfortunately, I think this is where the album falters. It doesn’t go far enough. Yes, the production is crisp and technically some of the finest dub techno I’ve heard since “The Coldest Season”, but by looking so deeply into the past, Hess never really moves his sound forward. If anything “Light in the Dark” reveals his potential, an artist with skill and style, but one who still needs to carve out his own niche, and continue to refine his own sound.

Luke Hess is one to watch out for in the coming years, and his debut album is definitely worth checking out. Peace.

Edit: Also check out the Ignite the Dark Remixes (Mikkel Metal, cv313, and Marko Furstenberg). Dynomite!