Upsammy – Another Place
You’ve got to hand it to those YouTubers who are the heroes we need but do not deserve. A vehicle for upcoming artists to get their music promoted, it certainly has its uses on the other side of the spectrum. Frontleft365 covered some of these in their fantastic feature that included interviews with Houseum, Slav and CMYK. Growing in number, such channels have offered not only exposure for those looking to get their name out, but also serving as inspiration to fellow producers. These have been in particular rich in genres of early 90’s IDM, ambient, breaks, jungle, techno and trance. Thessa Torsing aka Upsammy’s 2018 Dekmantel set was a beautiful, meandering sound safari covering the aforementioned genres with a retro tint. Hailing from the Netherlands, her ascendency has been no short of paramount, rapidly moving from playing in local clubs to nights at Panorama Bar. Her productions have been cherished and treasured, bringing a mix of breaks, Techno, IDM, ambient and Trance. Releases on Whities & Die Orakel gathered great attention, called upon by Mr Fingers for a remix alongside Joey Anderson and Kode9. ‘Another Place’, the titular cut on her 2018 debut EP on Rotterdam Label Nous’Klaer, is a mutative beast that is utterly mesmeric.
In conversation with DeSchool, Upsammy recalled her father having “loads of electronic mix CD’s, like Tiësto’s Forbidden Paradise, so [Torsing] listened to those.. growing up. Another major influence was MTV Lounge Vol. 3, with artists like Moby and The Future Sound Of London‘. ‘Another Place’ is an emotion-led, retro futuristic track, cut with a different cloth that uses the same blueprint. Pick any track from the nostalgic YouTube Channel, 2trancentral and you’ll find the same esoteric tropes written all over. Indulged in delay from the off, chimes and a bleep knock echo and streak through both ear canals. An drum pattern that goes into double-time on the second 4/4 beat keeps things off kilter. This all happens before a razoring dubstep & techno hybrid bassline, akin to one found in A Made Up Sound‘s (aka 2562) ‘Crisis’ enters. It also carries the same urgency as of Shed’s ‘Wax 1001B‘ acid lick. Blissful and alien synth-lines supersaw and oscillate, sounding straight out of a Roland J-8000 or Access Virus A/B textbook. Droplet sounds play out in assorted patterns in the background, before a minute long breakdown set ups the most euphoric of atmospheres. The bass then drops combined with the precision of the cymbals to truly transport the listener to a place far distant. Continue reading
Danny Daze – Silicon
While many producers opt for a sound pallets which seamlessly compliments the kick, idiosyncratic production can often strike gold. Floridian DJ Daniel Gomez, better known by his stage name Danny Daze has a special fondness for avant-garde computerised sounds, as shown in his FACT Magazine Against The Clock segment. Claiming in his interview with Electronic Groove that most of his “influences come from the melting pot that is Miami”, Daze ravels in versatility. His own catalogue is a testament to such approach. His releases range from his caliginous Hot Creations Deep House collaboration with Louisahhh to his synth-parading Kompakt release ‘Swim’. CRRSD describe his sounds as “esoteric and cerebral”. ‘Silicon’, Daze’s 2014 release on Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic imprint embraces such label with delight, a track that erupts like a typhoon onto the dancefloor.
The trembling bassline that interlinks with the hissing white noise ushering the intro of track hints an upcoming zonked experience. The shredded yet deviant rhythm it brings is optimal for a peak-hour set of a spaced-out night. Heavily-indebted to the influence of Miami Bass, the thickset sound bridges the Miami-Detroit connection. ‘My girl is made of silicone‘ repeats an extraterrestrial voice you’d associate with a Green Velvet release. The “droning synths“, however, are the limelight of the track. Given unrestricted freedom to roam like a Pitbull with rabies, the stentorian frequencies squawk, shriek and squeal piercingly. The reverberate was most likely created using Roland JP-8080, a piece of hardware Daze told Music Radar he uses for the “drone” sound in his production. The merit of an electronic track with a consistent 4/4 beat opens up a sphere for layering textured experimentation. Halfway through, the producer tones the lower EQs down, granting the squelches the platform they deserves. Krautrockian pads daintily float for a few bars before the hammering kick resumes the party. Matthew Dear’s Audion alias is responsible for equally vanguard production. Continue reading
Ellen Allien – Take Me Out
The sub-genre of Electro can be seen as a conundrum. Its wide-ranging spectrum includes the bass-heavy interpretations of Aux 88, aquatic tones found in Drexciya productions and the Electroclash renditions of The Hacker. In an article titled “A Not So Brief History of Electro, Part One” Steve Mizek claims “the genre is as lovable as it is difficult to pin down“. A mother figure for the techno idealists of Berlin, Ellen Allien has a solid number of Electro-associated releases traced in her discography, including ‘Augenblick‘ & ‘Magma‘. In the same fashion to Seth Troxler, Allien carries the triple threat of DJing, producing and at times providing the vocals to her own tracks. As her 2009 collaboration with Apparat ‘Way Out‘ demonstrated, Ellen is a competent vocalist. Her 2012 EP ‘Galactic Horse‘ released on her label BPitch Control featured “Take Me Out”. A track for the fans of Juan Atkins‘ style, it is a “bone-dry, crunching” revival of 1980s Electro.
The interpretation offered here by Allien is much more minimal and lower-tempo. Co-produced with fellow Berlinian duo Skinnerbox it aims to take the listener into the deeper state with its hypnotic lure. Characteristically for the collaborators’ production, the track’s low EQs elements bring a pulsating thump. The sequencing of the drums transgress the 4×4 beat structure, similarly to Carl A. Finlow’s ‘Anomaly‘. Here, the production does not share the “psychedelic end of the electro” associated with Helena Hauff. In that extent the fairly linear chord-arrangements might lead some to describe it as “electro-pop”. Drenched with reverb, capricious bursts of strident synth piercing. Allien’s seductive female vocals merge with a low pitched duplication. This evokes a sense of flirtation, perhaps reflected between a synergised dance between two dancers who’ve come across each other on the dancefloor. For the track’s conclusion, the triplet arpeggios lead the dissolving kick into oblivion. Despite a 122 BPM, ‘Take Me Out’ maintains a sense of magnetic suspense throughout its 7 minute playtime. Continue reading
Skee Mask – Dial 274
Skee Mask’s 2014 debut release ‘Serum’ was a statement. Distributed by Ilian Tape Records, the EP featured a post-apocalyptic fusion of breakbeat with dub techno. The resulting sound was a “spacey, angular techno…that is stylistically bold“. The face behind the mask is a Bavarian beatmaker Bryan Müller. Taking inspiration from William Basinski, Shed & Autechre his production skills belong to a seasoned veteran. Four years later, the Munich-hailed producer’s latest album ‘Contra‘ is Müller at his vertex. Resident Advisor described the 12-track release as a piece of craft that makes “drums delicately dance..[and] percussion sing“. Bringing a delicate balance between ambient interludes and outright ridiculous set grenades, the project is a riveting listening experience. At its core, ‘Dial 247’ is a techstep track that brings the ferociousness of a thousand sharks being torpedoed by an RPG.
The track’s entrance sends tremors down your spine, as shuddering kick fills the space consigned to oblivion by hollow bells that sounds like they’re taken from 28 Days Later. In his previous releases Skee Mask refused to conform to the pulse of a 4/4 beat. In such, his drum patterns tend to manoeuvre through the electronic soundscapes with the rara avis of Aphex Twin or Lanark Artefax. Here the leniency towards an IDM structure is substituted with a heavy-hitting dosage of breakbeats. They pump the adrenaline of an escapee that’s just climbed over the walls of a psychiatric institute. Manipulating every plugin at hand, the listener hears the percussions being filtered, reversed, chopped and screwed. Stinging saw synth surfaces the waters while an extraterrestrial bangarang mutates its outlandishness. The latter half of the track introduces ambient pads which rather than calming the environment increases calamity levels. ‘Dial 274’ is a total revelation, reshaping “techno and jungle templates, warping them into something altogether more refreshing“. The strongest influence, however, is the 1990s drum and bass subgenre of Techstep. Its releases such as Dillinja’s ‘Tronik Funk‘ or Bad Company’s ‘Planet Dust’ share the same dark, sci-fi mood that is fitting for soundtrack to a movie like The Matrix. Likewise, an obvious parallel to the dystopian outer space created by B12 can be drawn. RA’s top 50 tracks of 2018 list featured cuts like Beta Librae’s ‘Problem Solving Program’ or Pangaea’s ‘Bone Sucka‘, hinting at another revival of unorthodox drum patters that are supported by a dense sub-bass. If this carries over into 2019, Skee Mask is sure to be one of its leading trailblazers. Continue reading
Skatebård – The Bells of Mist
Norwegian DJ and producer Bård Aasen Lødemel has had a long-lasting career that traces back to 2002. Deep House Amsterdam have defined his sounds as a combination of “Emotional techno, neo-italo, electro from an alternative future and a Scando-cosmic reinterpretation of pure Detroitian house“.The online community has noted that his strong facial hair draws comparison to Hip Hop artist Action Bronson. He’s also been described as being Santa Claus who brings tunes instead of presents, or Gimli on his day off. While often DJs carry a persona that feels detached of emotion while mixing, Bård’s body language emits bliss. Something that also this emanates in his production. Associated with a sound that’s ethereal yet groove-inducing, His 2016 Boiler Room set brought spaced-out electro grooves. The track that kicked-off the vibes was The Bells of Mist, his own production that epitomises his gossamer sound. Skatebård certainly brings a gift in this track
Bård’s sound transformed over the years, losing its tints of techno along the way. His first EP ‘Skateboarding Was A Crime (In 1989)’ featured zealous tracks like ‘Sgnelkab‘. However, since the late 2000s, he has pushed a sound that is an amalgamation of Norsk Disco & Italo Disco. The Bells of Mist incorporates a distinct ambience that communions with the late 1970’s producer Cerrone’s arp bassline. For a man who hails from the land of the viciously conquering Vikings, the concave pads used bring a sense of harmony. As the track title suggests, the heavy use of reverb creates an atmosphere of brume. A 111BPM contributes to the overall feelingness of haze akin to a mellow dream, in which the dancer loses themselves in. Speaking to Ransom Note the DJ claimed to ‘see a lot of the colour red, meaning I try to make music that is “warm” in a way‘. Here, the warmness comes from the echoing bells that oscillate, substituting for a topline synth. Synths are given an opportunity to introduce themselves to the presiding ambience at the breakdown of the track, before the bassline and the drums join the jamboree. The tracks unique selling point is the ability to throw a party at a leisurely pace. Continue reading
Locked Club – osaka madness
Locked Club & RLGN are a match made in an underground heaven. Take their last year’s release on Private Persons Records ‘Bosozoku’ which adopted the attitude of Charlie Sheen and fired it with the power of an AK-47. Returning for collaborative effort in 2018, their track ‘Osaka Madness’ retains the spirit of somalization with an added hint of the final frontier. More transgressive than a bohemian grove gathering, ‘Osaka Madness’ is guaranteed to cause a ruckus.
A mounting arpeggio akin to a cyclopedia swarm of deadly bees rises with great alacrity. Solid proof that the producers behind this banger are not interested in prolonged intros, the action kicks right in. Less than a minute in, puncturing hi-hats, raw in their mastering, penetrate with an aggressive manner. Shrieky yet strident synth notes pussyfoot around, evading the bassline with a sense of nefariousness. Apocalyptic pads reminiscent of Planetary Assault Systems give the drums a short rest, before these collide back in with the force of a million meteorites hitting the chest of King Kong. This is techno fitting to crown the soundtrack of a Terminator 2 reboot. Continue reading
Maetrik – The Reason
With the advent of the internet, designated streaming services such as Boiler Room & Be.At TV have allowed limited amounts of FOMO to take place for those who couldn’t make the party. DJ Mag, Mixmag, and Resident Advisor have even jumped in on the act and ramped up their hold on the wall streams. Rarely do DJs get the chance to record live, nor purely of their own tracks. And it is hard to think of this ever taking place at a Cocoon Ibiza party. Eric Estornel, the American DJ more commonly known as Maceo Plex, Maetrik and Mariel Ito bucked this trend. In 2012, his Live at Cocoon Ibiza Mix CD did just this. ‘The Reason’, also released on Cocoon hits just after the crescendo of the mid point of the mix. Placed perfectly, it’s a belter ensuring serious dancefloor vehemence.
The track starts off with a low end synth stab lightly throbbing as though it’s a malfunctioned alarm of a spaceship. Panned, but slowed hats sit alongside groaning of shapeshifting mechanical clamour. Strenuous sub-bass, akin to a hydraulic breaker give the track serious poundage. Bells, which more sound like Notre Dame Church bells are struck hard. With the force of a MBL player hitting a home run it’s sequenced to help balance that nasty low end. Like on 2017’s smash ‘Ninex 7-C‘, Estornel displays exquisite, pulsating modulations. Grumbling and gurning, this heavy mid range has serious piercing venom. At it’s peak it shrills reverberates with so much power so much you get a cardio vascular workout just by listening. Maetrik loves a mutated vocal just like on ‘Herb House‘ or ‘Crush On Me‘. Amongst other ‘Reasons’ this one says ‘You’re the reason I can’t breath’, anybody listening live probably would be saying this back to Estornel. Supporting interstellar noises are paraded around to help this track stick to its extraterrestrial blueprint. Continue reading
The Abstract Eye – Nobody Else
Listening to The Lily Mercer show on Rinse FM, my ears were enchanted by the alieness when this track dropped. Kelela’s ‘The High’ was the name, produced by none other than LA native Gifted & Blessed. Also releasing under GB, The Reflektor, Frankie Reyes and Julian Abelar, the man is Nikola Tesla levels of genius. Just check this Resident Advisor Live Analog Session and you’ll see a man at the forefront of invention and creativity within the realms of melodic electro. Dropped on the The Cool Warm Devine EP released on Valentine Connection Records in 2011, ‘Nobody Else’ is a cosmic concoction of Acid, Techno, Electro and Deep House. It went a bit under the radar though, until its rerelease on Rush Hour Recordings.
Carl A, Finlow – Anomaly
Originally released in 2002, ‘Anomoly’ is a low-slung Electro banger that you certainly wouldn’t play at a funeral. Yet is caries the dreariness of a ‘we’ve been partying for a week straight’ after-party scene in an arthouse film. Reissued in 2016 with a remastered version on Maceo Plex’s Lone Romantic, 2020 Vision co-founder Carl A. Finlow’s cut is Hoover Dam water tight on production with the engineering second to none (Okay, Efdemin and Blawan aren’t too bad either). Made at the time when Drexciya claimed their laurels, fellow Electro artists like DHS, Atom TM, B12 and Claro Intelecto certainly would’ve vibed to this.
‘Anomoly’ has a melancholic aura to it in the same vain as DJ Richards Grind LP. Electro can often be interlaced with neighbouring genres such as indie rock. In this instance, the rhythm of the kick is so similar you’d think you were about to listen to a new French-duo Justice track. Bulging lower note synths are panned across your ear cavern like a mist spreading across a barren lake. Moog like dubs thud away, before a brooding and bubbling electro bass enters the fray. Continue reading
Matt Whitehead – We’re Bombing
Matt Whitehead fooled us all. If you play ‘We’re Bombing’ with an absence of context, you’ll most like guess the release year to be situated in the early 1980s. Roland TR 808 drum patterns. Check. Miami Vice soundtrack inspired synths. Check. Toms akin to Nairobi’s 1982 release ‘Funky Soul Makossa‘ are also to be found. Above all, closest similarities can be drawn to the New York-raised DJ Hashim’s production. The computerised use of processed robotic vocals played a major part in the Electro scene, justifying the name of the subgenre. Collectively, this Super Rhythm Trax release just like the label aims to bring back the old school sound while ironing out the unpolished lapses of its predecessors.
Coming from his Bombing EP, the track brings the raw thud kindred to the distant cousin genre of Miami Bass. Drum loops intervene in rotation like breakbeats. The slaphappy snare drums are given room to exercise their drive. Yet, just as important to the track’s identity are the neon atmosphere created by the soundscapes. Deep analogue strings & an arpeggio that sounds like it comes from PPG Wave synthesiser, unite together to give the track its soul. In such, ‘We’re Bombing’ avoids falling into the trap of sounding like a bootleg of a rejected Robocop soundtrack compilation. Music Radar has published a breakdown of tips for creating a electro banger. It demonstrates the amount of detail is required behind the scenes. Blawan has placed his stamp of approval on Matt Whitehead’s production before, and that’s an endorsement to treasure. Continue reading