Chocks away as Kris Needs heads off into the wild blue yonder in search of musical delights to fill your ears
‘The Human Machine EP’
(Sonic Mind )
This column is obsessed with Detroit techno, so it’s a treat to encounter this latest from Donnell Knox… even though he hails from Kalamazoo, halfway between the Motor City and Chicago. Donnell now lives in Warsaw, Poland, and follows 2015’s ‘Timeless Minds’ EP with a peach of a set that gets under way with that immortal descending chord sequence I thought sounded familiar then remembered I’d used it myself 25 years ago on a track called ‘Better Come Together’! Donnell turns it into an epic sweep called ‘No Time’, adding spooked-out voices and bass precision funk. ‘Rat Race’ maintains the deep tech-house momentum with propulsive turbo-groove and sparse melodic glimmers. The metallic gallop and suction synth of ‘Sick Mind’ is quintessential Detroit techno, while ‘Repetition’ takes it out on a mercilessly malevolent beat and bass rampage. All told, it really is the sheep’s clackers.
After a year-long campaign around last year’s ’25 25’ album, Factory Floor sneak a bonus treat out on download featuring five tracks released on now unavailable vinyl. The fun starts with the Club Mix of ‘Dial Me In’ from the 12-inch that preceded the album, it’s basic early acid house claps ’n’ cowbell beats draped in woozed-out voices and noises, followed by the demon-voiced, scattershot synths of ‘Work It Out’. The guest remixes start with Klara Lewis (daughter of Wire’s Graham) turning ‘Ya’ into a dense, slow motion squelch processional through radioactive sewers, Detroit’s Charles Manier (aka Tadd Mullinix aka Dabrye) replanting ‘Relay’ in a 1985 electro-acid warehouse freakout with wired boxy beats, and Motor City homeboy Jlin leaning over from Planet Mu to transform ‘Wave’ with fractured beats, bleeps and monster intestine voices.
’28 Days EP’
(Fresh & Paid)
Denver, Colorado DJ/producer Native Origin makes his debut with a stonking EP of five singles recorded in a 28-day period after he had served his recording apprenticeship in a Chicago studio and felt ready to take the plunge on his own. Thankfully, some of that original house music spirit seems to have rubbed off as, rather than go the corny EDM route, his precision crafts intricate exercises in dynamic groove power, always using minimal ingredients, such as vocal clips, melancholy strings or robot innards. Standout track for club kids will probably be ‘Calvin Klein’. Rather than an ode to Y-fronts, he wreaks minimal havoc using a strategically placed “ketamine” to forge a 21st century answer to the “ecstasy” on Joey Beltram’s ‘Energy Flash’ (although that’s where any comparison ends). Regardless, for many club kids it could be time to go Native.
‘Yn Y Ty’
Sticking with today’s generation of club kids, DJJ from Bristol’s Crazylegs collective can barely contain himself as he rams his hands up the back passage of classic dancefloor tropes to execute a punk or even Stones-like passing on of original trailblazing sounds to create new ones for today. ‘I Keep Trying To Convince Myself’ uses the old rave strategy of looping an innocent soundbite until it becomes apocalyptic, here provoked by pounding Chicago bass with a soca twist. As the press release says, the title track’s head fuck onslaught recalls DJ Rush but it’s already clear that the Welsh DJ’s follow-up to last year’s ‘Just A Lil’ EP is bent on creating a riot of his own, going early 90s tribal house on ‘Apilli 2’, even happy handbag on the artificial euphoria of ‘Upsqwar’, wrapped in a gauze of druggy blancmange. Glas is a 1992-style surging chemical toilet demolisher, highlighting DJJ’s rampant skill in EQ warfare. Name to watch.
De Beren Gieren
‘Dug Out Skyscrapers’
Back beyond the outer limits, Dutch/Belgian electro-acoustic jazz piano trio De Beren Gieren give the mighty Sdban’s recently launched sister label something to celebrate with their studio follow-up to 2013’s breakthrough ‘A Raveling’. Taking the traditional jazz trio template, pianist Fulco Ottervanger, bassist Lieven Van Pée and drummer Simon Segers traverse complex multiple moods and flavours, from avant twists to cosmic capers, subtly enhanced by the studio blender to create impressionistic sound paintings with a future excavation theme. Every one of the 10 tracks is a winner, but ‘Weight Of An Image’ stands out for its intensely convoluted roller coaster and ‘Zeeland’ for its transposition of a 60s Copenhagen jazz cellar to a ruined future city. ‘We Dug Out Skyscrapers’ itself is a behemoth crawl through the wreckage, creaking with unearthly resonance.
It’s difficult to resist a label called UFO Station and this EP from Swedish producer Hans Berg, his second for this new imprint, doesn’t disappoint. The title track wrestles a sturdy rhino’s jockstrap of stampeding groove power, laced with luminous globules of alien embroidery and that misbehaving bathroom pipes effect. The remix comes from Ed Davenport, who I’m sure I remember from early 90s club rampaging. He has since gone on to carve a name for impressive tackle on NYC’s Infrastructure label, a long-time residency at Berlin’s Panorama Bar and releases on his Countercharge label. Ed transforms ‘Pathfinder’ into a harder, seething monster that just goes up and up. The EP is completed by two more from Hans; the glacially cascading ‘Phase Shift’ and remarkable ‘Beacons’ which, behind its upfront chimes, experiences what sounds like a tortured banshee screaming for its soul. The badger’s bell-end.
Still in Sweden and sticking with the young bloods, here’s a debut EP from Gothenburg’s DJ Lily, who first appeared sharing a disc with Arkajo on local label BROR’s third release in April. Again, she takes a well-trodden form (in her case, banging techno) then makes it her own through injecting new ideas and finding imaginative ways of manipulating familiar styles. ‘Paradigm’ kicks up a brutal gallop over which Lily uncurls ethereal melodies, splintering shadows and weird metallic clanks. ‘Quo’ deploys a throbbing bass fusillade over which she stretches old school Frankfurt-style acid, ‘Nes’ hotwires a flickering percussion undertow under a startling haunted valley chorus string melody. Only in its dying moments did I detect a stab lifted from Marshall Jefferson’s ‘Move Your Body’, perfectly illustrating that passing it on theory I was burbling about. ‘Ohm’ burrows deeper and puts the lid on a highly impressive debut.
‘Every Man For Every Man’
Reggae is one of the key elements in the development of modern electronic music, effects and techniques pioneered in Jamaica’s studio laboratories in the 60s and 70s now form part of the modern recording process. Adrian Sherwood has known this since he started On-U Sound to spread the word and concoct his own startling experiments, and has now crafted a modern reggae masterpiece with veteran singer Ghetto Priest. Sherwood is on top form throughout, directing his usual start-studded troops to building solid foundations and ever-morphing frames as Priest heists Robert Burns on ‘I Murder Hate’, tackles Peter Tosh’s ‘Babylon Queendom’, Jack Ruby’s ominous ‘Prophecy’ and harks back to mid-70s protest on ‘Ghetto Life’. Sherwood sculpts the music using these stellar ingredients and his dub genius ear, always highlighting a singer he obviously considers a gift from the gods.
‘Brother, Brother: The GRP/Arista Anthology’
One of the my perfect memories happened one 1983 morning during my first trip to New York. The sun was streaming into the East Village apartment and the beatbox was blasting KISS FM’s midday mastermix of hot-wired electro, hip hop and electronic pop. Then an electro-funk drum machine clatter kicked up, lashed with electric keyboards and topped by an impossibly cool trumpet melody. Rarely did the magic of New York coalesce so brilliantly as in that moment. I’ve spent years thinking about that track, even wondering if it was Tom Browne. Now comes this set drawn from the six albums the New York jazz trumpeter recorded for GRP and Arista between 1979-84 and there it is, a track called ‘Cruisin’’, an R&B hit in 1983. This set includes his ‘Funkin’ For Jamaica (NY)’ and Maurice Starr’s ‘Secret Fantasy’, a lustrous slice of bedroom soul that prods other fabulous NYC memories. Bliss.