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Mannheim Rocket
Mannheim Rocket Theo Darton-Moore , September 9th, 2014 08:43

Either by my own fault or otherwise, a year or so ago Australia probably wasn't one of the locations high on my list of reference points for experimental techno. Over the last six months however, I've discovered breadth of talent emanating from various Australian cities, largely thanks to the findings of one label in particular - Sydney based 3BS Records. From where I'm sitting (albeit nearly nine-and-a-half thousand miles away) the label doesn't seem to be doing such a bad job of providing a hub for a tight-knit scene to grow around, opting to encourage emerging local talent rather than seeking more established names elsewhere.

Most recently however, label head Jon Pizzay has put himself in the firing line - providing the debut LP from his own production alias. "The initial aim of Mannheim Rocket was to bring quality (mostly contemporary) classical composed music to a wider audience," ambitiously declared the mission statement of the project in early 2013. Nearly two years on from this, it seems fitting that Pizzay's first 12" should adhere so closely to the original manifesto.

Delicate orchestral loops ebb and flow constantly throughout the release, sometimes left bare, at others processed through warped electronic filters, such as on expansive closing track 'Schuon'. Docile strings slowly fragment around an equally lethargic piano melody. As the track reaches its peak, these elements stumble into a mangled operatic vocal line, calling to mind the record Extra Patience, from Leyland Kirby's groundbreaking Caretaker project.

Even where Pizzay's beatific tracks are concerned, his melodic components feel as though they have still been given pride of place. On opening track 'Liberation' for example, an intricate web of clattering breakbeats neatly fall into place around the swelling, vapourous drones and muted keys.

The release's rhythmic patterns in general feel incredibly natural. The shuffling hi-hats and echoing snares of 'Hora Lunga' spatter the mix ever so slightly off-grid, lending a hypnotic sway to the medley of intermittent strings and grumbling low-end. 'Oubliees' follows a similar theme albeit with a more opaque atmosphere - hazy, granular samples decaying around murmuring piano motifs and the occasional stuttered glitches.

As a debut LP, Mannheim Rocket's self-titled record subtly redefines the sound we've come to associate with him, moving his productions into more immersive, abstract territory. The traditional 4/4 techno march is now left implied rather than made overtly obvious, with textural and melodic elements brought into sharper focus. In short, Pizzay seems to have pinpointed where his greatest strengths lie, and is exploiting them with finesse. Long may he continue to do so.