As I maybe hinted at in the previous posting, a lot of listening material has come my way in a very brief span of time, though I am getting gradually better at soaking in all these new sounds and yet not losing focus or the ability to reflect on it all. Since, in my last batch of reviews, I trained said focus squarely on releases from new labels, this unfortunately caused a slew of good full-length recordings to get left out of the discussion. Time to rectify that situation with at least a partial review of new arrivals here at the TBWB bunker.
Let's just start this off with a very simple observation: there are twelve tracks on AnD's debut LP, and there is not a dull one in the bunch. All of them crackle with an eyebrow-raising intensity, which manifests itself in a number of different ways and in a number of different tempos, but always features this constant of intensity despite some kind of change in the variables. Those familiar with AnD's string of likeminded singles and EPs will have some idea of what to expect here - panicked 'climbing' sequences, space-swallowing percussive heaviness and grit around the edges everywhere. None of these elements has been diluted one iota, with the consideration that listeners might get fatigued after a full program of such - on the contrary, AnD have seemingly approached this record like it would be their last attempt to have a full hearing for their ideas, rather than their first.
Track titles dealing with concepts from particle physics also hint at the atom-smashing intentions of the songs themselves; which alternate between clever transitional experiments (e.g. "The Epoch of Recombination") and servicable dancefloor dominators ("Acoustic Oscillations.") Other pieces like "Non-Sky Signal Noise" show just how deft the duo can be at steadily introducing new elements and layers to a track without the listener immediately perceiving what has been done. Make no mistake, AnD have talent and drive to burn - while their presence may be comparitively low-key in this era of Aphex Twin branded blimps, their sound itself is colossal and dramatic, and provides more than enough sustenance for those whose minds and bodies won't (or can't) sit still.
Like AnD's new LP, Jonas Kopp's forthcoming LP debut was preceded by a single ("Red Plented") that is strong for the genre yet not fully indicative of the album's broad emotional and tonal range. In that respect, "Beyond The Hypnosis" is itself a microcosm of what the Argentinian electronic producer has been attempting throughout his career to date. Whether Kopp adopts a number of different musical guises simply as a means of 'proving himself to himself,' or has a more sublime agenda in mind, the results are definitely rewarding to listeners who want a generally stimulating and immersive experience in the techno vein.
Kopp's change-ups in style on this LP are dialectical / conversational rather than paradoxical: whether via the straightforward thump and cosmic glimmer of "Ironcry" and "Planet MU," or the hazy oneiric sequences of "Green Square" and "Tau Ceti," the record evokes a feeling of bewilderment in the face of something immense. It should also be said that the album is just as notable for the cliches it avoids as for the elements it includes: for example, there is no lush Tangerine Dream-style 'ambient intro' heralding big things to come, and no "showcase" track that attempts to summarize the entire LP in the space of a few minutes. The final track, "528hz", is very much the "credits sequence" to be played at the film's end, but then again that role is capably played by the song that precedes it (the unstable hip-hop feel of "Alpheratz" blooms into a cloudscape of synth pads, in way that seems to offer a resolution for all that has gone before it.) Kopp's individualistic sensibility, powered by an apparent indifference to trends and a respect for darkened spaces, makes this another fine chapter in the ongoing merger of techno and romanticism.
Speaking of a single artist with many sonic faces, the Token label has been teasing me for the last couple months with advance singles from what seemed like it would be a fairly streamlined and sophisticated multi-artist release. Of course, compilation records can be a tough thing to properly execute. If you make the tracks on offer too diverse, you run the risk of being criticized for not 'staying on target,' but if you select tracks that all stay within a clearly defined set of sonic boundaries, you're prone to accusations that your entire label roster is 'treading water.' Plus it's often unclear whether the compilers really intend for you to enjoy the album as a collaborative work unto itself, or if they want you to just use it as a kind of directory from which you can select 'favorites' whose individual works will later be explored in more depth.
But a consistent and convincing attitude can work wonders for even these tricky endeavors, connecting the dots with effortless fluidity -and Token's new Aphelion is loaded with just that. Even with several of the contributions here already released as advance singles (e.g. the cuts from Surgeon and Rødhåd), each individual track hits with instantaneous impact and with a perceptibly confident stomp. There are moments of innovation here, like Ctrls playing deftly in the interstices between beat slices and Lucy lending an improvisational feel to his use of a queasy mid-range lead - as well as tracks which are almost defiantly loyal to the legacy of 'old school' soundmarks (Planetary Assault Systems "808 Track Parts 1 & 2.") There is also a nice gradient of emotional shades to choose from, from the angular cyborg funk delivered on James Ruskin's "No Trace" to the anxious hisses of Ø's aptly titled "Insectoid." When the journey is done and ready to be re-spun, the whole impression is of a label that has balanced all the aforementioned elements in the best way that they know how. Whether that is equal to "the best way possible" may be open to debate, but such questions are not all that important when the mix is already so potent. It is all the more special when considering the Token crew's commitment to this music at a time when (according to label chief Kriz) pure techno was out of favor: this collection effectively celebrates a victory over shifting vicissitudes of taste, and - if future collections mix nimble sound design and stern pounding as well as this one - it's a harbinger of victories still to come.