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Quietus Mix 50: The Black Dog Forge Dark Waves
The Quietus , October 27th, 2011 07:27

The 50th installment in our mix series comes from legendary techno associates The Black Dog, the third in their series of Dark Wave mixes that explore starkly beautiful dancefloor territory

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After the gritty ambience of last year's Eno-baiting Music For Real Airports, the last few months have found longstanding techno experimentalists The Black Dog running further interference on dancefloors. Originally made up of Ken Downie alongside Ed Handley and Andy Turner (the latter of whom later left the group to continue as Plaid), the group first began to attract attention as part of Warp's early wave of Artificial Intelligence musicians (alongside the likes of Aphex Twin and Autechre).

After the latter two left, Downie joined forces with Richard and Martin Dust in the early part of last decade, and set about putting together an ongoing string of great records and a formidable live set.

This year's Liber series of 12"s and new album Liber Dogma have taken their music deeper into the sort of bleak, mechanistic territory currently being explored by the likes of Perc, Regis and Sigha.

Bound together by oppressively dense atmospheres and carried along on pillow lava sub-bass, they've been able to twist that basic remit into several different forms. This year's output includes brutally efficient, eyes-down warehouse tracks, more melodic tracks taking influence from early Detroit electro/techno, and crunchy metallic funk in the vein of Perc's recent Wicker & Steel album.

It's the latter 12" which feels closest to their addition to the Quietus mix series. Subtitled Dark Wave Vol. 3 (following on from Volume 1 and Volume 2, given away through other publications), puts as much emphasis on broken rhythms as on straight four-to-the-floor.

Legends like Surgeon, Regis and Slam get a look in, but they're also joined by a host of producers who've shifted away from dubstep into more ambiguous territories: Karenn (aka Blawan and Pariah), Zomby, Pangaea. But they're often torn to shreds and rearranged in the manner of a Black Dog live set; the result is a totally involving 90 minutes. To accompany the mix, we asked the trio about the music their direction has taken this year, their thoughts behind Dark Wave Vol. 3, and their upcoming remix 12" Liber Chaos. (See below the embed)

After Music For Real Airports last year, your work this year has obviously been quite a lot more dancefloor-based. What drew you to start working with these heavy, driving techno tracks that you featured on the 12"s?

The Black Dog: We wanted something deep, bass loaded and hypnotic, if we couldn't zone out to it in the studio it went in the bin. Plus, Sheffield is famous for its bass and industrial sound, we wanted to incorprate that into the creative process. We wanted something for the floor, something more complex than the bullshit of just build, build, build, drop, crap you see in Beatport's top 100 - what's the point of 100 artists all copying each other, or all making the same track? They're not artists, they're sound designers, remixers at best.

Could you tell us a little about how the Liber series came together? Do you think there's anything in particular that binds every installment together? Was there a common aim or goal that you were working with when you wrote the music for both the 12"s and the album?

TBD: We've been testing tracks for around a year, just trying little bits here and there, but they all have a dark wave thread running through them, a cyclic mantra you can get lost in. That's the common aim.

This current wave of techno that draws a great deal from noise and industrial music does feel like a particularly inspiring place at the moment, certainly from the perspective of a listener. Is that something you've found to be an inspiration on your more recent tracks?

TBD: We like what they are doing and support them. It's interesting to see what other people are doing creatively, we've all got our own thing and that's something you have to respect, being individual.

How have you found club responses to your Liber music?

TBD: It's going really well, people instantly get what we are doing and join in. That's all we ever wanted.

You're putting out the Liber Chaos remixes record soon, with music from the likes of Blawan, Sandwell, Sigha and Perc. There's clearly a really strong connection between yourself and all the remixers you've brought on board. How do you feel the remixes EP turned out, do you think it works well as a bookend to your own music in the series?

TBD: We listen to a lot of new artists all the time, new music, people and ideas still excite us, so we decided to work with Sandwell, Richard H Kirk,  Blawan, Sigha, Shifted and Perc because we buy their releases and go and see them when we can, we're fans. Liber Chaos is the deepest bass cut we've ever done and the six tracks are all killer in our eyes. Is it a bookend? We doubt it.

Could you tell us a little about the mix? I know it follows on from some other mixes you've done, and from the tracklist I can see there are a few similarities in terms of producers you've included on previous installments.

TBD: This is what we are loving and playing at the moment in our DJ sets, all tracks have a dark wave vibe in one way or another, we've kept the Dark Wave thread running across three mixes. The only reason some of the producers appear more than once is that the tracks are amazing. As selectors we just go with our hearts rather than trying to impress anyone with something we don't actually care about.