Sleek techno hardware, bullet-holed jungle, bubble-blowing disco rhythms, house music worn smooth and perfect by decades of foot-stepping: dance music is an amazing obsession. When I was fifteen it derailed my life, and has continued to do so ever since – and I was barely sentient back in the days when clubbing was a real movement.
Every week seems to bring new adjustments of deformities of mutations of things, old forms and structure renewed and rebuilt, freshly rendered images of old visions. Head-spinning, frustrating and impossible to get a hold of, it’s true enchantment, a compelling distraction from an absurd world. I’d be crazy to presume I could give a monthly run-down of this vast cosmos of moods and rhythms in a thousand words, so here’s a personal take on some attention-demanding club tracks being made, played and obeyed this month.
This month covers the resurgence of Dutch futurism gone by and the long-running techno-cultural exchange between the Netherlands and Detroit, where we also find a new disco-techno dynasty, and there are diverse bangers whizzed in from Stockholm, Bristol and Berlin, natch.
Basic Bastard – Space Rider
With dance music’s propensity for grave robbery, what better way to kick this column off than with a double throwback – a sort of reissue of a revival. Orlando Voorn connected the ‘Dam with Detroit through his shimmering, trancey early 90s techno. Voorn revived his original pseudonym to put this track out in 2003, and a couple of weeks ago Eat More House compiled the cream of the Basic Bastard material for a de facto album. (Another Amsterdam overlord and pseudo-Detroitist, Steve Rachmad gets repressed this month too, with magisterial local label Rush Hour putting out his Osirion EP made as Sterac in 1996 – check it.)
Space Rider cruises right in on rolling, multi-layered percussion that progresses in bracing intensity, with purring murmurs of ectoplasmic melody beneath, as if emanating from some great cosmic feline. Suddenly a majestic flourish of synth slides top of the stuttering rhythm, a gestural kind of motif tracing shining shapes in the air like a conductor, and your stomach knots. It’s a shame to cop out and call it epic, but it is, albeit in the most raw and bumpy way.
DJ Technician – Sync
Elsewhere in the Netherlands and stylistically apart too, the Dutch city of Den Haag (The Hague) has been important in underground techno and electro for decades, tracing back to the city’s squat party heritage and Italo disco scene. Home of Bunker, Viewlexx and Crème Organisation, one imagines the whole place reverberate with the sound of 808s. DJ Technician is more contemporary still, but thumps out in classic style with 80s-style future-fantasy synth displays, galvanised drum hydraulics and a psychotropic, zig-zagging bassline worthy of Richard D James at his most rushing and vigorous. This is what the word electro should always refer to. The other side is covered by Hague/Rotterdam veteran DJ Overdose, who makes an appearance on Berceuse Heroique this month, remixed amazingly by Omar-S collaborator OB Ignitt, bringing the Dutchroit theme full circle.
Floorplan – Tell You No Lie
We’re not finished with Detroit though. Underground Resistance original Robert Hood has been an effective ambassador for real techno from the start, with the Floorplan name stamped on his more exuberant and house-leaning stuff. Now he’s brought in his daughter, Lyric, to form a production duo, and they’ve dropped a 12” taster of their forthcoming album Victorious, due in June. There’s precedent for family-run techno-soul outfits in Detroit; seriously, Octave One is the Burden brothers, Lenny and Lawrence, sometimes joined by Lynell, Lorne and Lance.
Tell You No Lie is unprecedented though, in that it’s pretty much a full-on, diva-belting string-section disco tune, albeit one with deft loops, hi-tech cuts and pumping kick drums. Hood’s gone all-out crazy for the Floorplan project before, namely We Magnify His Name‘s ten-minute gospel techno stormer, but this is a belter of a different ilk – catchy and sizzling hot.
Africaine 808 – Everybody Wants To (Disco Dance Mix)
This track, by a pair of Berliners obsessed with global rhythms, forms a bit of a departure from their spring-released debut album Basar, taking less influence from far flung lands and sporting a disco-clever electro-funk guise. Things trundle along happily with tequila-loosened rhythms and a cool, wandering bassline; it feels like every element is wiggling about, like a living Keith Haring picture. A few minutes in, an almost annoyingly perfect lead synth line rolls in and lays absolute waste to the dancefloor. There’s a bit of that slightly creepy, insanely grinning jive that you find in Luke Vibert’s timeless Kerrier District psychedelectronic disco and boogie material (much of which has just been remastered and reissued by Hypercolour) – his track Ce Porte, in particular.
A Sagittariun - Slowdive
A Sagittariun is an alias of Nick Harris, the Bristol-based producer and boss of NRK, once a fine house label, and even earlier an agency that represented the likes of Larry Heard and Derrick Carter. Elasticity is the producer’s second album of space-dazzled electronics, and contains such quality and diversity that it’s difficult to pick favourites. Joyously and resolutely UK-centric in its sound, Elasticity timewarps through Orb-esque ambience, Sheffield bleep and hardcore, embracing the influence of early UK techno producers like Future Sound of London, Black Dog and B12, with mind-expanding interjections from counter-cultural icons like Alan Watts and Robert Anton Wilson. For inclusion here, I’m picking the slowest number, but it’s not really chilled. A pristine, whirling mandala of fractal energy, it is the perfect soundtrack for a swift drift into the deep guts of inner space.
Axel Boman – 2 Good 2 B Tru/Moon Dancer
It’s unclear from internet clips which track is which on the new EP from Swedish producer Axel Boman, as different sites label them differently (and I didn’t leave enough time to do my research properly), but they’re both worth mentioning. One, with polished, glittering synthesisers and smoothed off rhythms with silky soft filters on the drums, is as much jungle as it is house in its exaggerated rhythmic dynamics. As is Boman’s style, there’s a preservation of silence and gentleness in the mix that gives the more tangible sounds extra weight. The other one is reminiscent of The Caretaker’s strange, cult album An Empty Bliss Beyond This World. Nostalgic, uncanny and beautiful, like a phantom gramaphone looping in a dusty room; this guy is a house producer gone rogue.
Midland – Blush
Let’s finish things off with a solid, reliable banger. It took me ages to get round to listening to Midland because, for some reason, I assumed his music was really boring – was it the name? Anyway, how wrong I was; he makes techno-house music that is indeed streamlined and user-friendly, but in the best possible way. Blush is a track for the biggest rooms, when the smoke machine clogs your throat, warmth pumps into your brain and your eyes begin to blur. With staccato strings and big, round thump it’s got a classic-era Carl Craig vibe mixed with Levon Vincent’s power, yet you feel the ghost of disco within the machine.