Musical Landscape

With audio shovel in hand, Kris Needs wanders the musical landscape to bring you a bunch of waxed wonders that shouldn’t be allowed to stray too far from your ears

(Hardkiss Music)

2017 couldn’t start on a better note than a brand new monster from California’s Hardkiss. Regular readers might be aware I’ve long considered Gavin, Robbie and the late Scott to be among the brightest beacons of widescreen aural elevation since their heady party vibe ignited in the early 90s. This latest EP from Gavin is a no holds barred killer, up there with their best. It could be loosely described as hallucinogenic tribal house but, starting with Gavin’s title track remix, becomes much more as he weaves transcendent webs of percussion and ethereal keys. The flip’s ‘Ganga Dances With The Swan’ was spontaneously recorded at Hardkiss’ San Rafael studio, with words by White Lotus Foundation’s Ganga White sung by Araceli Santos De Bieber, Gavin and Robbie Hardkiss over a euphoria-stoking organ, spacey melodic flickers and undulating percussion to create a mesmerising anthem set for last tune immortality.

Radio Wonderland
‘Seize The Means’

My 1980s were ruled by the audacious sounds beaming out of New York radio stations such as WBLS and KISS FM. Whether electro, post-disco boogie, proto-house or hip hop, the stations were playing the first records created on new tech using electronic instruments. Downtown performance artist, DJ and musician Joshua Fried lived through a similar epiphany, but as a NYC resident this constant bombardment had an even deeper effect. Radio Wonderland sees him grabbing sounds from live FM radio to slice into techno grooves, emphasising his mission live by using a Buick steering wheel. He has no idea what may transpire at one of his shows, but has now distilled it onto an album where tracks are plucked from the air as he loops the likes of classical flute and mates it with mutant techno grooves. Tracks such as ‘Radio Family’ and ‘Miley Cyrus’ strike like Double Dee & Steinski, brought screaming into the 21st century.

Estaban Adame
‘Rise And Shine EP’

For over 25 years I’ve been gripped by Detroit techno militants Underground Resistance, collecting their label’s frequently ground-breaking output as they grew into an activist cell railing against corporate strangulation and dedicated to preserving the besieged Motor City’s unique techno legacy. Their remix of LA DJ/producer Esteban Adame’s ‘Rise And Shine’ plants one of their deadly hi-tech funk stealth-grooves under ethereal strings that arc like rising clouds over Detroit’s ruined landscape. Estaban served his techno apprenticeship under Mike Banks during UR’s Galaxy To Galaxy period, drawing on that experience as he plants rough house beats under a wall of soaring strings for his breathtaking new Beat Mix. The set is completed by a monstrous tech-funk rework by UR’s Mark Flash. Electronic dance music (in the true original sense) doesn’t get any better.

‘XXX The Private Selection 3’

Beaming in from Germany’s Vakant operation comes the mysterious, masked Anonym, pure house music’s latest mystery man who’s said to hail from Detroit and has been causing subterranean rumblings for nearly 10 years. There’s certainly Motor City attitude imbuing the four cuts on the third of his rubber stamped ‘XXX The Private Selection’ EPs, starting with the title track’s shimmering kalimba barrage, tweaked with distorted voices into incendiary tension. When the kick enters the track is cast into a swirling, early hours basement before ‘Ghetto Jesus’ uncorks ham-slapping acid gospel over a Clash bass riff and ‘Rowdy Parliament’ further soils proceedings with cavernous reverb shenanigans. ‘By My Side’ hijacks a bedroom soul vamp to create a parallel dreamscape cushion creeper. Just the ticket with so much sounding as clean as Phil Collins’ boxer shorts.

Ralph Lawson & Tuccillo
(Lost In Time)

The sixth outing in the highly-sought Lost In Time series that started with ageless Back To Basics DJ and 2020 Vision stalwart Ralph Lawson and Chez Damier’s ‘The Moment’. This latest missive resuscitates a track spontaneously created at Tuccillo’s Ibiza studio after a night at DC10 around a year ago and is the finest slab of deep house hypno-magic currently uncorking the brown champagne on dancefloors at the moment. Deep as the proverbial mole’s boner, it throbs and shuffles for nearly nine minutes aboard a finger-snapping synth snake and skilfully deployed council gritter drum dynamics. Denmark’s S.A.M. contributes a luscious 10- minute stonker drenched in rich organ and ceiling-propelled riff bursts. France’s Popof peels off a backbench rebellion of subliminal glitched-up house-stalking. Finally, Sub-an strips down to trouser-threatening drums and ghostly shards of synth action.

Adam Beyer Vs Dense & Pika
‘Going Down EP’

Witnessing Adam Beyer in action a little while back at the Cocoon closing party in Ibiza was one of the most devastating displays of mega-bass carnage to assault my intestines in many years. He now leads the world in hard techno with an industrial edge, bolstered by his Drumcode imprint which is fast becoming one of the world’s leading but most uncompromising techno labels. The ‘Going Down EP’ sees Beyer collaborating in Berlin with Dense & Pika (aka Alex Jones and Chris Spero), who debuted on his label in 2015. The title track boasts sinister treated vocals and testicle-shredding thunder groove while, after getting under way with a sound not unlike an ancient polar bear breaking wind, ‘Future’ takes no prisoners by stomping in on brutal beats then wielding a twisted, creaking mutation of the old hoover noise that’ll sound great in dank old warehouses.

Unknown Archetype
‘Tripp EP’

Netherlands-based Unknown Archetype are British conceptual artist/producer Roxy Tripp and Czech-born producer Oliver Kucera, who take a refreshingly experimental approach to wreaking techno carnage. With merciless breakbeat scuttles bolstered by marching snares, booming lower frequencies and jagged siren slashes, ‘Voyeurism’ takes the old electro/big beat template into an industrial future, traversing a visceral darkness enhanced by Roxy’s “We’re watching you” vocal. It even has a rolling snare drop, but that’s soon eaten alive by a malevolent sonic sizzle. The sinister title cut throbs like Godzilla’s enraged stiffy through globules of rhythmic sub-bass distortion and dark voices, while ‘The Serpent’ delivers a final sting in the tail aboard pile diving techno beats and sheet metal riffs. Skilful, auto-destruction body music that flies the R&S flag in its original confrontational spirit.

Transparent Sound
‘No Call From New York’

It’s always good to see a long-running label thriving with the original spirit intact. Going on this salvo from Transparent Sound, Billy Nasty’s Elektrix has not mellowed with age. Orson Bramley and Martin Bundock have been trading as Transparent Sound since 1994, releasing over 30 records. Their latest electro hand grenade kicks off with their Acid Mix, pursuing electro’s original ethos of wild experimentation by distorting the hypnotic groove into a hall of mirrors clatter. The 303 pokes his nose in, but has to fight against the sonic crockery being hurled around, shattering into new shapes. Monotone honcho Larry McCormick rides in on a hissing groove locomotive underpinned by whale testicle bass, Finnish duo Mr Velcro Fastener belch a chocolate thunder missile and London-based Sync 24 maintain the rumble with booming beats, completing an all-round proper loincloth detonator.

‘Vision And The Ageless Light’
(Laser’s Edge)

Since its icy string sound first manifested in the hands of pioneering British keyboard magus Graham Bond in 1965, the Mellotron has lain largely forgotten as one of the first high profile electronic instruments. But its inimitable glacial drone is the first sound to be heard on this fourth album by Ohio-based psychedelic band EYE. It is tamed by Lisa Bella Donna, a teenage studio engineer in the 80s who drapes the band’s potent brew of blockbusting riffs, pastoral acoustic stretches and expansive space rock in her collection of ARP and Moog synthesisers to great effect. Tracks such as ‘Book Of The Dead’, ‘Dweller Of The Twilight Void’ and the 27-minute ‘As Sure As The Sun’ are a sparkling example of how vintage gear can be applied to a modern band who set their controls for the outer limits. The Mellotron has never have sounded so good, finally granted a thoughtful setting after over 50 years.

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