Finally, the first ever full-length from one of dance music’s most innovative disciples
The eerie throb of 21st century minimal house and glitchy techno is a sound that has seemingly conquered dancefloors the world over. From its roots as a minority pursuit beloved of a handful of electronica geeks and hardcore trainspotters, it now packs out clubs in Ibiza, London, Berlin and New York sending thousands into delirious states with little more than the woosh of a hi-hat and the muffled rumble of a squelchy bassline. It’s made heroes out of DJs and producers – from long-term champions such as Richie Hawtin and Sven Väth to more recent newcomers – but especially those who are both. For it’s not good enough these days to just spin other people’s records; your DJ appearances need that extra zip, that je ne sais quoi only the super-secret mash-up that you finished in the early hours of last Tuesday can bring.
Sebastian Russell is certainly one of those sonic polymaths. Indeed, he’s been a guitarist since the age of 10 and has flirted with straight-up rock and funk bands before turning to electronica in his 20s. Formerly of Bordeaux, but now based in London, Russell has slowly but surely been building up a back catalogue of exemplary remixes and original productions, roadtesting them at DJ and live shows across the capital. The horror movie bass of ‘You Freak’ was featured in a mix by Hawtin himself and other cuts have surfaced on labels such as Multi Vitamins, Adjunct, Telegraph and Lebensfreude, but ‘Force’ is his first full-length studio effort.
Opener ‘Pourpre’ sets the tone straight from the off, with a nagging tinkling riff that snakes over a dubby bassline, before going through the gears to lead single ‘Free Fall’ and its incessant micro-techno groove and analogue synth hooks. This is what Russell is all about: melodies to the fore, lashings of beats and bass and some judicious sampling all thrown into the pot. It’s a potent mix that steers clear of the creative cul-de-sac that some minimal techno seems to have disappeared up of late.
Elsewhere, the gothic ‘Death Song’ thuds along to a quite thunderous kick drum and a Morse code hook that spells out “M-I-N-I-M-A-L” (probably) while the Detroit sensibilities of ‘Flirt’ elevate the mood with the sort of sci-fi cyber-funk beloved in Michigan. There are more obtuse moments too, clearly meant for home listening; check out ‘Légèreté’ and ‘Shark’ that both bubble along to off-kilter melodies and sideways beats.
‘Force’ is an impressive debut and over 11 sharply produced tracks Russell has not put a foot wrong. It exudes quality, care and attention and showcases a keen ear for the unusual while keeping sights firmly fixed on your local nitespot. If you’ve been anywhere near a minimal house dancefloor in recent times, you’ve almost certainly danced to one of Russell’s tunes. Now’s the chance to get your rave on in the comfort of your own home.