Aquarian massively on point again and he’s upped the bass, yet again, bigtime. Seems to do it everytime. First listen you think ‘ho-hum’, all a bit techno formalist, but then you hear his signature mastery of teasing out the build and tension and it’s really on the breakdown and second drop at the 5:00+ mark that the track lights up and reaches full dancefloor velocity; the wicked, totally infectious, chopped breakbeat shuffle that he’s so good at. Minimal ingredients, maximal results.
I’d pretty much forgotten all about the original Zhark Recordings (and overlooked many a tune having now gone back and checked the back-catalogue). Still heads down, ploughing their furrow. Quality murky broken beat techno-step with aircraft hangar sized spatial dynamics and vocal incantation drift and acidic squelch. It expertly builds up the arms-outstretched, backwards free-fall into the k-hole. Proper dark.
I picked up on a lot of solid gems from one of Manni Dee’s shows on Rinse back in June (recommended by our always-on-the-case ZFE of course!) most in a deep “industrial” techno vein, but it’s not so much the category that matters, more the avalanche boom and thud of the huge warehouse reverbs applied to the low end and kicks that releases the oppressive tonnage onto the dancefloor (real or imagined). The syncopated broken beats, fuzz ‘n’ grind and paranoid trill of “Scent of Decline” is my personal fave here, but also feeling the breakbeat combo on “Rumination”.
Props to Energy Flash and cohort for digging out a fine long read on the early ’90s Roman techno scene, (I would never have found that myself). All the heads quoted seem to keep it humble and being a fan of that sound/era it’s refreshing to read a historic appraisal that doesn’t ultimately veer into hyperbole and making the balanced conclusion that there was no legacy (and why should there always be one after all?) – it was just the time and place, “a style generated by a specific period, by a limited number of people.”
Inspired by the above, I pulled out a 1997 (maybe ’98?) issue of the French techno ‘zine L’ultime Atome from my archives and scanned up two long(ish) interviews here with lynchpins Marco Passarani and the brothers Fabrizio & Marco D’Arcangelo. For French speakers only (and Discogs nerds), sorry people.
(Note aside: Lory D’s new album….don’t even go there).
I’ve always thought there’s a touch of Just William (as opposed to Action’s ‘Kids Rule OK’ – showing my age here heh) about these Perth lads. Nothing particularly burly (as some have said) or threatening at all, but more like opening the back door and finding two scruffy urchins standing on your step covered in mud with big grins on their faces, looking like they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards; they tell you they’ve made something for you and from behind their backs they bring out…a mud pie! (or a 12″ even!) Cheeky chappies, always getting up to mischief, that sort of thing.
Their output gets filed as techno, but a lot of it plainly isn’t by a long shot. With the amount of mucky breakbeats and broken beats they toss around on each release it’s almost, dare I say it, often more breakcore-ish (in its freestylishness) if not a nod even to the days of Jungle Tekno? (check out last year’s ‘An Outrageous Fate Type’ and ‘DJ Ultra Greatsword’ EPs and make up your own minds).
There’s also an almost couldn’t-care-less, smeared-out, bleary veneer to their productions which also feeds this particular image of mine, not entirely pleasantly sometimes either. A bit like the stale fart fug coming from a teenage playstation/wank pit den; you just want to open all the windows and let some fresh air in. It’s as if they have their outputs set permanently through some low-pass filter? or maybe they’re just up all night and bombed off their heads on strong weed?
But that’s their style I guess – bass murk and rumblings a plenty and a kind of artful, semi-chaotic, looseness rather than the crisp, often sterile, punch and sheen of other genres/producers – and it definitely sets them apart from the rest of the techno massive.
It’s a no brainer really but ‘Fallout’ is the obvious stand out banger for me with its old school break/rave hoover and air raid sirens.
In contrast to Rabit’s fart-in-the-wind of an album this just seems to get better on repeat listening and feels like a well researched, deeply knowledgeable journey through past and current genres.
I have to call him out though. His biggest, most shameful faux-pas is kicking off the whole thing with an utterly by-the-book old-school breakbeat ragga re-fit(shit). Absolute derivative nonsense. By this stage I think we all have to agree there’s nothing more to say or update on the matter. My advice: avoid, delete or fast forward. It’s a better listen without.
Skirting the edges of Deep House, Techno, and Bass the rest of the material proves a masterfully tech exploration of route finding. There’s no pointless probing or faffing around on the arrangements. They choose their line and go for it, taking in their influences without fuss and with almost casual confidence.
“Gravity” is a long slow builder; a subby, banger that kills it on the breakdown with a re-polished, wobbly, reese and vintage doomcore claps. “U” is most definitely the other stand out track. Sticking to his formula of slow development and filtering in the reese damage, it’s a fine, thick, dense stew of balanced flavours.
In the end the sense is you don’t really know what you are listening to? or what genre? The micro-referencing in the patterns and shuffle, the nods to various tropes: something’s been updated but you’re never ultimately sure what?