The Month in Electronic Music: Regis, Cosmin TRG & More
, August 23rd, 2011 07:36
In the second half of this month's Hyperspecific, Rory Gibb takes a look at new techno from Regis and Cosmin TRG, plus a crop of bass-heavy music from the capital
Regis – In A Syrian Tongue [Blackest Ever Black]
As if the name hadn't been indicator enough of their intentions, the Blackest Ever Black label have done a thorough job in cementing a watertight aesthetic, both sonically and visually: picked out almost entirely in shades of grey and black, previous releases from Raime and Tropic Of Cancer have been introspective, bleak, post-industrial stuff. After his remix of Raime for the label's second release, this fourth 12” sees British Murder Boy/Sandwell District-affiliated techno legend Regis go solo for the first time in several years, with unsurprisingly devastating effects. Karl O'Connor's (for Regis is he) skill lies in crafting music that's almost impenetrably dense, yet retains a fleetness of foot that works a charm on a dancefloor. The obvious comparison to make is Shackleton, but where Shack's music relies on warm bursts of bass as a driver, the ultra-percussive surface textures of 'Blood Witness' are less organic, borne along on a constant rumble of low-end, more machine than man.
A live version in collaboration with Mick Harris (aka Scorn) turns the original into an even deeper head-trip (it's equally elating and terrifying to imagine actually experiencing it in the hot, claustrophobic confines of a club), but 'Blinding Horses' is the absolute standout. The superheated synth drones that stretch across its surface are evocative of scorched earth left after some future catastrophe, only punctuated by the occasional metal wreck stretching into the sky (gazing out over the future Olympic site from Hackney Wick, I'm imagining the stadium after time has wreaked its havoc: ash-scarred and half-collapsed, twisted beyond all recognition). As ever with Sandwell-related releases, it's a potent reminder of British techno's strong links with industrial and noise music, and their shared potential to induce states of total bodily submission.
Cosmin TRG – Simulat [50 Weapons]
It feels odd to open another review with a paragraph whose sentiments are almost identical to those of one in the second edition (where we featured Sigha's dubstep-turned-techno), but Cosmin TRG's music has taken much the same route as Sigha's in its quest towards its current form. Starting off releasing stripped-back, dubby two-step on labels like Hessle Audio and Immerse, Cosmin Nicolae's music has gradually shapeshifted entirely into a streamlined, metallic take on house and techno. There was a period during the middle where you could audibly detect that his was a sound in transition – the patchy Now You Know EP on Tempa in particular felt unfocused through its interaction with too many genre traits at once – but with his recent output and this debut full-length on 50 Weapons his music once again feels settled in a coherent form. Which is a good thing; where many of his tracks over the last couple of years have felt slightly plodding, most of Simulat sounds positively predatory by comparison.
The acidic synths of advance 12” 'Fizic', for example, are all edges, short clipped razor barbs above a shuffling techno beat. There's little of the soft-edged, fuzzy ambience of an early track like 'Broken Heart' here. In terms of club tracks, comfort has been almost entirely replaced by abrasion: despite its rounded bass tones, the surface textures of 'Form Over Function' (this has both) are about as soothing as sandpaper. Instead two sides of Nicolai's musical personality have been teased apart: interludes like 'Infinite Helsinki', its stacked synths like sheets of ice, are peppered between longform, harder-edged club tracks. As many of its track titles suggest, Simulat's is largely a sub-zero affair; though dub-informed sub-bass might attempt to thaw the frozen heart of highlight 'Less Of Me, More Of You', it doesn't stand a chance of breaking through the permafrost, above which Zomby-esque eski motifs skate, constantly on the verge of losing their balance entirely.
Pangaea – Hex/Fatalist [Hemlock]
Kowton & Dusk - Looking At You/Fraction [Keysound]
Visionist & Lorca – Hold Back/W.M.I.D [Left_Blank]
George FitzGerald – Fernweh/Hearts [Man Make Music]
On the subject of London dubstep-related music, Hessle Audio co-head Pangaea seems to have been on a neverending run of form for the last four years or so (as, to be fair, have most of his Hessle associates). His last 12” for his own label found him dropping from dubstep tempo for the first time, resulting in a compulsively ravey pair of tracks defined by exquisitely broken percussive patter. The same is true of its follow-up on Hemlock: these two new tracks take a similar approach to rhythm but operate at closer to house tempo, as seems to be the norm in UK Dance Music 2011. Except unlike most other producers, Pangaea's way with swung rhythms is absolutely devastating. While the pirate radio rave of 'Fatalist' clearly takes a certain amount of inspiration from two-step, especially with regard to syncopation, its rhythm sounds nothing like any previously established genre. The term 'broken house' means very little really, but with rapid-fire kick drums that land seemingly at random, locked woodblock shuffle and booming toms, that's almost certainly the best way to describe it. It feels coiled for attack, primed to make dancefloors move differently. A-side 'Hex' almost inevitably feels a little straightforward next to such a prowling beast of a track, but it's almost as good, a greyscale steppers' rhythm locked to a gutteral mumble of a bassline and hyped 'badman' chatter.
Although, as discussed in last week's look at half-decayed UK house, Kowton's music has recently taken a shift towards slower and sparser climes, his association with Martin Clark's London-centric Keysound label remains a more colourful one. His second 12" for the label - after his 2009 debut, the excellent 'Stasis (G Mix)' -gathers together a track and a remix from Kowton and a track from Clark's production/radio partner Dusk. And predictably enough, it's great. Keysound has had a great 2011 so far, with LV & Joshua Idehen's mercurial Routes still among the finest full-lengths released so far this year (see our review) and an upcoming hybrid beast of a record from two-stepper Sully. These tracks continue that run of form - Kowton's contributions have been around for quite a while, perhaps why they're less in keeping with his current output, but both are far more obviously 'London' in tone than his recent music. For a start, they're faster. Despite being one of his spookiest tracks so far, all streetlamp-lit corners and disembodied children's laughter, his remix of Dusk's 'Fraction' heads along at bracing pace. The same is true of 'Looking At You', his most obviously rave-friendly moment to date. Like much of the current crop of 'bass music' producers, it utilises synths and a slice of R'n'B vocal, but does so with a great deal more restraint than the increasingly derivative masses. With its spiraling central melody and shuffling percussion, it's the only track of his that I've seen lay total waste to a dancefloor, and is among the best to emerge from this year's explosion of bass-heavy UK house. Dusk's original is just as involving. It fits neatly alongside Kowton's contributions, in that it evokes similar nocturnal images of half-abandoned urban spaces, industrial parks and A-roads, but operates with the rude garagey swagger of his older track 'Focus'. Towards the end, stabs of abrasive melody puncture the track's structure like a hypodermic.
The next release from new label Left_Blank is a joint effort from Visionist and Lorca, whose sparse, broken rhythms are reminiscent of 2007-8's dubstep/techno hybrids. Visionist's 'W.M.I.D' manages to wring a surprisingly chilling atmosphere from generally warm sounds, its elastic percussion throwing the track back and forth in fits and starts. Lorca's 'Hold Back' is more relaxed, sunken drum patter half buried behind sustained sheets of synth – something Valentin Stip's remix further emphasises, half losing the track in a wash of semi-ambience. The pair's collaborative tune, 'Slapstick', is just as you'd imagine a cross between the two to sound, smoky synth melodies and rough 'n' tumble percussion blending the best elements of both.
Fellow Londoner George FitzGerald inaugurates his own Man Make Music label with a pair of his own tracks. 'Fernweh' has been kicking about as a dub for quite a while now, but its huge, glimmering synths still pack a punch. The real heat is in 'Hearts' though – though he's previously been accused of being derivative (something I'd largely disagree with), like his recent release on Aus, 'Reset', it offers proof that his sound is something quite distinct. Above his typical offset house beat, tiny vocal snippets layer up and are allowed to run unchecked, creating a mood of beatific sensory suspension, like scuba diving in the open ocean.