Ricardo Villalobos – 808 The Bassqueen
Robert Hood is credited with inventing Minimal Techno, but Ricardo Villalobos surely can be accredited with defining it. Listening to his first ever release, ‘The Contempt‘, you knew you were in for something special. The Chilean’s ‘Alcachofa‘ album has been referred TO as the nirvana of Minimal Techno, the fulcrum pinnacle which all will refer to as the high point of the genre. Ricardo’s legendary status as a proponent of the abstract, sees him only affiliating with a few to keep the creativity flowing. He told Crack Magazine that he only likes to chill with ‘10 to 15 people’ including Raresh, Rhadoo, Zip and Dorian Paic. If you know the Rominimal scene, you know it has followed his lead. It’s an analogue, vinyls only affair, for those who are serious about the genre by paying for it. The warbly bass and extraterrestrial noises you find on your average Trømmel and Meander releases aren’t here though. ‘808 the Bassqueen’ is a love song to the famed Roland machine. Released in ’99 on Playhouse Records, it’s a tough yet elegant track. It’s not a regular showing for Ricard to release something as such, but if he was going to release only one record, this game-changer would be enough.
The TR-808 is famed for its expressions of the bass note. As much as it is loved by Electronic music enthusiasts, Hip-Hop producers have loved it just as much. Kanye West made a whole album from it, ‘808s and Heartbreaks‘. Lil Jon’s Crunk-induced tracks were defined by the booming bass produced using this machine. Such mastery is also found within Villalobos’ track. A rigid, throbbing bass verging on the borderlands of Dub begins the track. It is a strident sound which can also be found in the productions of Subb-an and Tuccilo. Chords with the sheen of Caribbean steel drum are stabbed with precision of a harpist. Warped drones plague like a dark mist over the track. Half way through the track beautiful strings are drawn out to give the track a warmth akin to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake soundtrack. His LP with Max Loderbauer on RE: ECM has shown his dabble in avant-garde classical and this experimentalism, surely inspiring others such as Petre Inspirescu. The warbles, delays and reverbs at different parts add to the fascination. All in all it leaves the listener musing, whilst remaining in the groove. The cut is Ricardo’s exegesis in less is more. Continue reading
THE Nova Dream SEQUENCE – Dream 3 (DJ Yellow’s Abyssal-ienation Remix)
King Britt truly made waves in the electronic scene via his seminal 2003 remix of GusGus’s ‘David‘. It was released on Ovum, who he co-founded with Josh Wink. Though he’s been making quality tunes since the early 90’s, class is permanent. He still churns out the bangers to this day like on his Dub of Manuel Tur’s ‘Maybe Next Lifetime’ on Freerange Records. As well as creating House cuts, he’s manned the turntables for Grammy nominated hip-hop avant-gardist’s Digable Planets, producing one of my favourite Hip Hop albums ‘Adventures in Lo-Fi‘. His pre-eminence of drum machines and musician ship has seen him craft cinema scores for Michael Mann. King’s 2007 The Nova Dream Experiment album was ahead of its time, seamless melodic dreamy experience interweaving through IDM, Minimal and Melodic Techno. Compared to King’s version of Dream 3, Alain Ho aka DJ Yellow builds what is a nightmare. Completely reshaping it, and building on the devilish vocal, it’s murk breeds the emotion of a dank club at most intense.
King Britt & DJ Yellow released Alienation 3.7 on Yellow’s Poussez! label. Juno describes ‘The sound design here [being as] brilliant as is the fantastic programming, resulting in two ass shaking, mind altering journeys into the netherworld’. Clearly it was constructed during the same studio sessions, being called ‘Abyssal-ienation Remix’. It certainly sends the listener into the Abyss. After a hasty defending 3 note sax snippet, the track instantly sends you into another world. Haunting synths glide over pulsating acid synths which feel sound sharp like heavy rain. Undulating gothic pads Wolfgang Voight and Brian Eno may assemble, steeped with emotion float. It’s indicative of the atmosphere of trepidation at hand. Lawrence’s Sten alias has the same vibe. The haunting synths then take the fore as the track breakdown, and uses the sinister vocals. ‘I can feel your heart beat, as you move, and groove’ it says in a drooling languid manner. Bleepy drums kick back in, ensuring the dancefloor patrons stay in the zombie like stasis they would’ve already been induced in. Continue reading
Beck – Cellphone’s Dead (Ricardo Villalobos’ Entlebuch Remix)
It is always a good sight when producers step out of their comfort zone and remix tracks from other genres. Superpitcher has arguably been one of the best, time and again interpreting playlist tracks into party-ready cuts for the dancefloor. Hot Chip made a steady transition from Indie to Techno. Rarely however is it a minimal remix. This track, widely regarded to be made by Priku on the mysterious EEE outlet (Our theory being East End Edits sub label of East End Dubs’ Eastenderz). An edit of a Depeche Mode’s ‘Little 15’, it attaches a minimal beat to the original melody orchestrated by an organ. It’s an excellent exercise in the stripping back of a track. Ricardo Villalobos’ is a fine remixer, and his morphing of Thomas Dolby’s 1982 new wave release ‘One of Our Submarine‘ shows he has no bounds when it comes to remixing. As Crack Magazine has put, he’s a ‘creator of some of the most ambitious and outright bizarre electronic constructions of the last 20 years’. Audaciously pushing the boundaries, he has cooked up cuts that extend up to 40 minutes long in runtime. A common thread, however, underlining all is that they’re all analogue, and they all carry a distinct sound. Villalobos ups the ante on the uniqueness of this Beck track, ‘Cellphone’s Dead’. Originally a White Label release in 2007, it neighbours an Ellen Alien remix on her own BPitch Control. A compelling escapade in the genius of sampling, it’s an incredible showing of what you can do if you become a master of it.
A 15 minute odyssey, it begins with a chugging bass synonymous with his cuts. You really need to play his other cuts to appreciate it fully. Using polyrhythmic latin flare, the percussive knocks and flutes bring a swing to the track. It’s the critical path he uses to build the rest of the track with, just as Luciano, Lucien or Mirko Loko would. An 8-bit loop sends a charge through the foundation of the track, which then proceeds to use a mashup of vocal snippets from the original. ‘One by one I’ll knock you out’ says the childlike vocal, as Beck proceeds to say ‘Cellphone’s dead, lost in the desert’. It paints a perfect picture of feeling lost, not only in the groove but at a fabric London party it may get played at 2 am. Harmonised choral ‘hums’ in the background are played in a way that elevate the track like a chambré synth. The whole composition is wacky in a way that a DJ Koze track is. Continue reading
Lawrence – Marlen (Carsten Jost & DJ Richard Remix)
Released on Dial Records in 2015, DJ Richard & Carsten Jost combine to reengineer an ambient house cut into a profound dancefloor weapon. A fan of Dial Records since my mid-teens, I’ve always been excited to see new artists pushed by the crew. With Minimal and Deep House bosses like Efdemin, Carsten Jost, Roman Flügel & Lawrence on the roster, they’re more gifted than the finest brain surgeon. Allowing for creativity and weirdness is their Modus Operandi, and DJ Richard truly fits the bill. The IDM and Techno on his breakout Grind, and later releases on Dial are triumphal in melancholic ingenuity. After years of grafting with label mates Aron Arneson and Young Male on White Material Label, Rich fits the Dial ethos of pushing the boundaries. Having a newbie on the label, and an old head collaborating is adumbration that the method may change, but the message remains the same. Their remix of ‘Marlen’ takes the Dial brand further into more rugged territories.
The bass that murmurs from the start is like a mole that pokes it’s head out of the ground. Poking and probing for what’s above ground, but not loud enough to be seen. A sumptuous kick that you can tell Carsten would’ve engineered. He also has runs an avant-garde rock band named the Misanthrope CA Project with Robert Kulisek. Weird and wacky a sweeping vocal goes from let to right. It sounds like a cat growl on autotune. Kept from the original is the masterful dollops of synth which as primed for the grey sky. DJ Richard is built for this kind of weather, as eery cinematic soundscapes drawl. “I like romantic sound design, but an upsetting palette” DJ Richard told The Fader. It’s a charm that works well. Listen to ‘Love‘ from Perishable Tactics or ‘Pink’, out on Benno Blome’s Sender Records. You will understand Carsten is is cut from a similarly somber cloth. It is his flawless piano work, such as that displayed on Pink that makes this magical. Warm and innocent, it perfectly matches the candle lit cover art. Continue reading
Seth Troxler – Love Never Sleeps
Seth’s output isn’t as strong these days but there was a time when he released banger after banger. ‘Trust‘, the Tech-House bomb with Tiefscwarz unfurled tribalism Luciano is now more associated with. ‘Hurt‘, in collaboration with Matthew Dear aka Audion although Emo Minimal, brings an essence of soul. This track however is straight into the realms of Brian Eno alternate reality. One listen is all it will take to go into another realm. Dropped in 2008 on Crosstown Rebels, ‘Love Never Sleeps’ keeps a Minimal blue print but heavily nods towards the Deep House leanings that was welcomed with aplomb towards the end of the 00s. Seth is a Tier 1 headline act these days you can guarantee will play at Burning Man & TomorrowLand. However a regular at Circo Loco DC10, Time Warp, Sonar, Fabric (often doing a b2b with Craig Richards) & Romanian Minimal Festival Sunwaves, the big stage performances have never taken the polish off his underground roots. This is most displayed in this track.
Coming from Detroit, you know that hypnotism is going to be present. Even just the drawl itself is hypnotic. First Heard on a Nic Fancuilli Global Underground CD, I was fascinated by its charm from the start. Heavy-knit bass plays buoyantly in a simple 2-note pattern. It’s thwacked with the loud thump of an Osunlade or Green Velvet cut. Scraps of warped synths hack at the track. Groaning with the growl of a pissed off blue wale, the synths are cinematic. Picture watching a Mission Impossible and the shot panning across a city with a countdown to the end of the world. They instil a sense of dread throughout the track. Various chopped vocals are on display. All short and all ghostly. The first two sound like a man high on Nos, saying ‘Let’s go’ and ‘Never Mind’. The second is an Aretha Franklin female lifting swirling ‘ahh’s’ in the air. It’s said as though the listener is stuck in a dream-like state of David Lynch creation. The whole concoction makes it feel as powerful as voodoo with the way it bewitches.
Matthias Agyuo spoke on the state of mid-00s mnml in his monumental hit, DJ Koze’s remix of. ‘Minimal’. ‘Got no grooves, got no balls’ he sang. This track however see’s a real shift away from that accusation. It must’ve been as fresh as fresh cut grass. His ventures with Lee Curtis, Shaun Reeves and Ryan Crosson as Visionquest saw further musical exploration. These days, he’s not making much music, having to balance his packed out tour schedule with the running of his Shoreditch BBQ restaurant Smokey Tails. If he is, it’s usually as Tuskagee with the Martinez Brothers. More would be good.
Mr V – The Drum (SOLE Channel Mix)
If you’ve been a fan of the underground sound in recent times, there’s no way you couldn’t recognise it. If you’ve been a fan for a long time, it’s as distinguished as Beatport or Juno Download as the go-to for your track needs. With one of the most recognisable voices in the game, Mr V can be the difference between a good track, and a weapon. This track Set Me Free by Homero Espinosa is a fine example of his craft. He really is what Nate Dogg was to Hip Hop. 2016 saw huge track Take You There with Scottish Techno Dons Slam, dominating the big stages. However, he’s just as accomplished as a producer. With Releases on Defected, Strictly Rhythm, 8bit and Dessous he has a large répertoire within House Music circles. The Drum, however, is a massive shock to the system. A more techy excursion by the deep house don. Released in 2005 on Vega Records by Masters At Work member Louie Vega, The Drum is a purists delight.
As documented by Deep House Amsterdam, Mr V was influenced by ‘house, hip-hop, Latin, garage and disco classics, rhythm & blues and jazz.’ This track is made in homage to the instrument central to it all – the Drum. Being predisposed by the minimal revolution at the time, it is a real twist on his normal excursions. Bass Modulations similar to that on Konrad Black’s Devastator, instantly tantalise the sphere around the cortex. Expansive, slinky, sultry and heavy on the reverb it’s absolutely hellish. A shadowy devilish vocal, tells the listener ‘Let me take you on a trip, a journey.’ Ascending and cascading magical zings fuse in an out forming a molten lava like world in the way it drawls. Tribal drums are played to add verve, and as such the vocal narrates ‘Feel the Drum, as it touches your soul’. It is all said as though the narrator is the ringmaster of the show. The journey then takes another sunny twist by adding in supreme deep house keys, which could’ve easily been played by Charles Webster or Atjazz. It makes for an ultra-hallucinatory expedition.
Route 8 – Dry Thoughts
Lobster Theremin associate Gergely Szilveszter Horváth, better known as Route 8, has been unearthing various strands of deep house ever since his Mental Murder EP came out in 2013. His intoxicating lo-fi release ‘I Can’t’ helped the subgenre gain momentum in its emergence & the eventual schism that formed its own separate identity. Yet, the Hungarian producer’s releases such as ‘Floating Dub‘ and the Traumprinz-inspired ‘The Sunrise In Her Eyes‘ show that he’s got a particular knack for downtempo tracks. ‘Dry Thoughts’ is a 2014 release from Asquith‘s label, embodying the Budapest DJ’s proficiency for nonchalant production which does not sacrifice its rhythm.
Upon first pressing play the listener is treated to a swift harmonious sample that sounds like it was taken from a 1930s Hollywood’s golden age classic. This precedes a low-cut filter drum loop that is combined with a modest white noise extract to create a crispy feel. The track title does contain the word ‘Dry’ after all. Such compression hands the spotlight to the bass that enters the picture to fill the frequencies with its delicate looping. In his interview with XLR8R Horváth claims that coming across L.I.E.S Steve Summers’ Beats In Space session inspired him to experiment in underground sounds. Summers’ adroitness to elevate a picked element to become the axis of the track is a craft Route 8 has evidently been influenced by. Continue reading
Heiko Laux feat. Diego Hosteller – Canis Major Pt 1
Recently seeing Azimute and Perlon legend Sammy Dee at The Egg London, they were hippocratic to the noobs. Playing relentless minimal bass driven cuts, such as DJ Sneak, Egoexpress & A Guy Called Gerald. Once Green Velvet’s ‘Thoughts‘ hit, the dancefloor hit a height of deranged lunacy. The place was a true sweatbox, fans of Stanley’s would’ve enjoyed. Heidi Laux’s ‘Canis Major Part 1′ is one such that is bass driven, but nostalgically harks back to mid 00’s minimal engineered for such parties. As mentioned in this interview, Heiko always has a theme for his tracks. The benevolent feeling gotten from the unfathomable buzzing noises Fernweh was created on the tension surrounding the Arab world in 2014. Dropped on Josh Winks’ Ovum in 2013, ‘Canis Major’ is battle ready for those in-flight Watergate nights.
Also operating under Offshore Funk for more free spirited affairs, Heiko Laux cuts are for dancefloor drive only. The bass is crafted for such, muted and flat, it is still heaving in it’s expanse. Fan’s of Martin Buttrich & Guti will appreciate. Chords stab on the same notes as the bass to add for the groove, moving up the note scale 2 notes to help get bodies uncomfortable. Similar to Guy Gerber & Shlomi Aber’s ‘Sea of Sand‘ in the way the synths crackle, super bleepy keys jilt. It’s ultra erratic perfectly balancing the freaky nature of the track. Steamy hats add to this, and as he is also inspired me all audio noises, adds in faint field recordings of birds chirping. Quick laser stabs are fitting with ripple effects for a guaranteed warped out party. Continue reading
Junior Boys – Like A Child (Carl Craig Remix)
In the 00s Carl Craig really could do no wrong. Which hits such as Sandstorms, At Les and Throw under his Paperclip People guise already under his belt, it was difficult to think anything could top them. And then his 2005 remix of Theo Parish’s Falling Up got dropped. Just as Spin Magazine called it, the track was more in sight on DJ setlists than cretins on a Fabric dancefloor at 7am on a Sunday. Then when you thought he could top it along comes this weapon. Released in 2007 his remix of the Junior Boys track was an absolute monster. Originally a slowed indie electronic track, the Planet E Communications boss uses his genius, expanding certain elements and dubbing it out to craft yet another ubiquitous hit. He once stated ‘the Carl Craig stuff is a new, ambient, avant garde concept that comes directly from being how Carl Craig is.’ Like A Child, Carl is innovative, encompassing all of these concepts and it shines most on this track.
It’s embodies other Minimal tracks of the 00s. Emptied out like a supermarket in a flood, it’s stripped to the bare bones. Starting off with single note percussion that pings back and forth, you realise this was intentional. The track is one that crescendos with the ascendence of a 120m hill on a 30% gradient. Taken from the original, the bleeps hit at pace played like a looped 8-bit arcade machine. Minor chord stabs, play in 3 note decent, before a 4 note hit on the end of the beat. At the same time panning apps sounding like they’re from the X-Files sweep in adding to the bizarreness. Carl uses the wispy vocals of the first half of the originals to set things up by adding in the kick. Then half way through the 10 minute journey, a dubbed out muddied modulation underpins the whole thing. It’s more hypnotic than Uri Greller. The bass is then given the lead role ensuring the dance-floor is still swaying, with quick ghostly snippets, before bringing the bleeps and arps back in.
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.