Leftereis Kalabakas aka Lee Burton is part of the new wave loop-based contingency of producers. And for the diehards out there, they get it right 99 percent of the time. $50 2-side EPs on Discogs are quite the norm. Tasteful yet groovy, the sound is typified by its ease of mixing in and out of practically any track. Part of the fabric, Sakro’s ‘No Time to Explain‘ was a bomb when it came out. Lee Burton has certainly fanned the flames of such sound with his cracking releases on John Dimas’ Elephant Moon and Dorian Paic’s revered raum..musik. Things weren’t always like that for the Greek producer, being first a guitarist and bassist for progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion groups. His debut LP, ‘Busy Days for Fools‘, was a rock/house/experimental mash-up where his musicianship truly shone. Matthew Dear and Bob Moses would approve. Such meticulous craftsmanship can be heard on his naughty downtempo track, ‘NDN’.
‘NDN’ featured on the 2017 ‘Various Artist’ EP that was released by DisDat, a New York based label owned by Elon Admony. Drawing experience from being an instructor at SAE Institute, Burton’s track is a masterclass at making so many elements sound so nominal. Speaking with Clubber Greece, Kalabakas claims his must-have machine has to be the Roland Juno 106. ‘It was the first analog synth I took since 2008 and I think I’ve used it I think it what I’ve written ever since’ he tells the magazine. That Roland minor synth line is heard from the start with a minor keyline oozing opulent class. This is music primed for The Ritz as much as a Williamsburg’s pop up bars. As a breakbeat drum pattern adds swing, tumbling triangle percussions provide that nighttime feel. This track is a funk lover’s delight. There is a G-Funk element to the bass, with real playfulness in its intent. The end result is very reminiscent to one of our other tracks we loved, The Abstract Eye’s ‘Nobody Else‘. Stringed synths overlay, whilst additional alien sounds thrown into the mix add to the after-hours sound.
Lee Burton has truly found his sound with feel good-bangers such as ‘15 30 (The Jam)‘ and the heady-tripper ‘W.S.Y.A’. Despite this, we would certainly not get in his way if he wished to release an LP of downtempo bangers equal in quality to ‘NDN’.
The revival of the late 1980s New Beat sound has simmered below the surface of a variety of Underground trends for a while now. Returning at a lower tempo, its releases retain the squalling synths that crown the jolting sound. YouTube channel, label & party promoter Les Yeux Orange (translated as Orange Eyes), has been a notable supplier of tracks that fall under such strain. Proponents of the sound pushed by the French group include Romanian duo Khidja and Moscow-hailing Simple Symmetry, amongst many others. Yan Wagner’s Belgian Trip remix of Bagarre’s electroclash-inspired ‘Le Gouffre’ original is a copybook example of the modern take on the Belgian sound.
The track establishes a cadence from the get-go, with a high-cutoff synth that glazes over the kick. A quintessential reverb-infused snare and clap combo drub with no remorse. The evolving collection of high-pitch synths intermingle to create a symphony that feels Middle-Eastern inspired. However, Wagner restrains himself from ample modulation that would borrow heavily from Acid Arab’s toolkit. The vocals that enter around the three minute mark are irregular in delivery. Providing tremendous inflection, they remind of the Robotiko Rejekto’s 1987 EBM classic ‘Rejekto!‘. Reflective of the track’s spirit, Bagarre translates as brawl, while ‘Le Gouffre’ means the gulf. With a breakdown that scales down to a single element outside of percussions, the structuring of 101’s ‘Rock To The Beat‘ is dexterously applied. The end result is a sirenic admix of chaotic sounds that have been blended to chill the spine.
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 →
While many producers opt for a sound pallets which seamlessly compliment 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. You can find releases ranging from his caliginous Hot Creations Deep House collaboration with Louisahhh to the synth-parading Kompakt anthem ‘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.
A trembling bassline that interlinks with the hissing white noise ushering the intro of track hints at 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 ofsilicone‘ 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 deserve. 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 →
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’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 →
Seeing FJAAK’s humorous Facebook profile picture, gives you the impression of why their music is so brash. It’s ironic that they would remix one of the most brash men in existence, just going by name alone, DJ Hell. A highly influential German institution, the International Deejay Gigolo label boss has a penchant for not giving a toss. Being sued by Arnold Schwarznegger for brandishing him in his techno label. Frequently using provocative risqué EP covers. Relationships with the High Fashion Elite, Karl Lagerfield and Donnatella Versace. Making tracks with Bryan Ferry and Puff Daddy. With such diversity of interests, and willingness to push the boundaries, Hell has helped bridge the gap between Electroclash scene and Techno. Way back in 2013, when asked by Housecult for their picks for artists to look out for, FJAAK quote Attu, Willie Burns and The Analogue Cops for their ‘Raw but powerful sound!’. Fast forward to 2018, and FJAAK’s sound would be described as more than that. Released this year, FJAAK turn the original into a belting Techno cut. So good, Nicole Modabeaur played it twice in her recent Awakenings ADE B2B with Dubfire.
Speaking with District Magazine, Felix, one of the techno trio members, comments that his biggest influence was Bone-Thugs-N-Harmnony. This affinity for booming bass has leaked into their sound. As seen on their remix of Missing Channel’s ‘Onslaught’, and their own original ‘Keep The Funk‘, the sub bass they produce rivals the best. The bass modulations heard in the track move with an inexorable propulsion. Very similar to ‘Ninex 9-C‘ by Maetrik. The original tracks sombre synth rails are dialed up 50 notches, bringing voluble buoyancy. Akin to Sleeparchive or S:VT’s. Emotional, the organ synths from the original have been put through a grinder causing catharsis to counterbalance the doughty nature of the track. Distorted noises and triple time drums complement the track, showing FJAAK’s full compliment of skills on analogue machines. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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.