Various Artists ‘Slowly Exploding’ (Perc Trax)

Celebrating 10 years of Perc Trax with a bumper selection of new material

History will record that we are currently living through great days for techno, a period in which the genre has finally cast off the yoke of minimal and rediscovered its rusty 90s heyday of high bpms and panel-beater drums. And right in the thick of it – even partly responsible for it – is Ali Wells, whose Perc Trax label was originally set up to release his own tunes, but soon attracted other like-minded souls equally as keen to recreate the pumping, visceral thrill of early Tresor. 

Ten years later and here we are with a superlative birthday showcase for the Perc sound. Plump for the CD version of ‘Slowly Exploding’ and you’ll get one disc of new stuff, plus another of Wells ripping it up with a mix that includes old stuff too. Keep it vinyl and you’ll be the proud owner of three EPs of new material. 

And what new material it is. The opener, ‘(I Don’t Want To Die In) James Franco’s House’ by Drvg Cvltvre, basks in a sheet-metal riff for a while, before a languid 303 offers up a reminder that acid remains a potent force. It’s not clear why an artist by the name of Drvg Cvltvre should fear death at James Franco’s house – he is, after all, teetotal and doesn’t do drugs – but Perc’s world isn’t about making sense, it’s about banging hard. Moreover, it turns out that Drvg Cvltvre’s 303 workout is but a mere aperitif before the real pandemonium begins. 

For no sooner has it faded out than your speaker cones are shuddering under the weight of Happa’s ‘To Die Hating Them’, a dizzyingly heavy blast of sonic filth that is every bit as uncompromising as its title suggests. Next, like Patrick Bateman reaching in his armoire and saying, “We’re not finished yet”, comes one of the album’s strongest tracks, ‘Brockweir’ by Truss, on which a coruscating punishment-riff lays the foundation for a snarling kick-drum, resulting in gnarly techno nirvana. It is very, very good indeed.

Truss is a longtime Perc Trax regular and as good a place as any to stop and remark on what it is that makes the Perc sound so utterly irresistible. After all, the world of hard techno, while remaining so underground as to be virtually invisible, is not exactly under-represented in terms of quantity. 

But the reason Perc gets column inches is because, despite the harsh aesthetic, it’s as funky as all hell. These tracks are part of a lineage that stretches via Berlin to the Motor City. 

Sure enough, ‘Brockweir’ kicks off a tremendous mid-album run of tunes by Sawf, Perc himself and label new boy (but hard techno regular) Martyn Hare, in which each and every one is hard but funky, unrelenting but never stoopid. You can get high bpm tracks on any street corner in any city – tracks made for drug-buckets by drug-buckets – but rarely will you get them executed with such style, with such an ear for techno’s golden age of Mills and Hood and Tresor and Carl Cox on the ‘F.A.C.T’ mix (sigh). 

It’s some kind of neat trick to pull off something that is simultaneously nostalgic and forward-looking, but Ali Wells and crew do precisely that – and they do it with considerable panache. Slowly exploding indeed.

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