I failed to write a top records of 2011 list, which is a bit of a shame, because they’re always fun, but to be honest pretty gruelling affairs. Besides, I had a pretty crucial role in this top 100 list for Juno Plus, so that felt like enough for me. But still, there’s a few records from last year that I never quite got around to writing about that I feel need mentioning for one reason or another.
I’ve probably listened to more techno (and when I say “techno” I mean the fairly severe, greyscale variety) in the last five months than I have in a lifetime, and it’s something that has frankly been a bit of an eye opener. All of a sudden the deitisaion of producers like Regis, Surgeon and Shed makes a lot more sense, and I think part of my issue was a personal misconception that techno was for all intents and purposes quite linear, and the fact is, a lot of it is – often held together with little more than a kickdrum and some “atmosphere”. What I think I needed was to hear something with a bit of swing in the beats and a bit of “rudeness” (to quote this often hilarious RA comments section), and this release from the anonymous producer Rivet has it in bucketloads.
This certainly isn’t the best record ever made, but on hearing it something just clicked inside me – its abrasive edge had a rawness lacking from most stuff I’d heard before, and more to the point it was the kind of thing that I could imagine wanting to hear in a club. The sandpaper snares of “Running (Edit)” and the waspish squeal of “Afterbirth” are the stuff of nighmares, and frankly they shit on anything that I’d heard anyone doing before. He’s gone from strength to strength with each release and I’m eagerly awaiting his forthcoming release on Skudge Records.
I also find it hard to believe that the first time I heard Blawan my initial reaction was “meh”. I think I just thought it sounded like rudeboy dubstep with a 303, which in a sense his first R&S single was, but I don’t think I was really ready for “those” drums. For me though, he’s in his element right now – his single on Clone Basement is all the best of his solo material in my opinion, but ever better is his Karenn collaboration with Pariah, which saw its first release on their own Works The Long Nights imprint.
It’s the kind of record that renders the phrase “UK Bass” pretty irrelevant. What’s on display here is nothing less than techno, pure and simple, but with the rhythmic swagger of a classic UK garage record. For many years techno was a dirty word, now, thanks to Blawan (and Objekt) it looks like it’s starting to be discovered by a younger audience. This will inevitably lead to an influx of poorly produced “techno” from inexperienced producers who don’t really have the knowledge or context to do it well, but for now, we’re living in an interesting time where anything is possible.
I also never really understood the appeal of Sandwell District until this year – they always seemed like this impenetrable thing that I was never a part of, and never would be, but having listened to a fair bit I understand it a little better. One record that they slipped out at the tail end of this year was this absolute beauty, and has left an indelibile impression on me.
With only a few records to his or her name, all released over the last year or so, Rrose has entered the Sandwell District dynasty right at the end of its life and made quite an splash. Anyone who’se read this blog for a while will know what a soft spot I have for Gavin Russom, and the monolithic bassline on “Waterfall” is the only thing I’ve heard that comes close to his genius.
The most ununsual techno record award must surely go to Ekoplekz’s Westerleigh Works EP on Perc Trax. Channeling the spirit of the Radiophonic Workshop through the ear of a person at the centre of Bristol’s journey through various musical revolutions, this EP is one of the bravest releases from a label that’s consistently putting out some of the most confrontational techno around.
Almost indescribably dark with a delicate touch, this EP is just one gem in an increasingly rich discography, and I’d advise you to check out this mix from him as well.
Of course no techno round-up would be complete without a mention of Andy Stott, whose sluggish, seratonin depleted, 100bpm techno won plaudits across the board.
At this point it’s still too early to tell what the legacy of Passed Me By and We Stay Together will be – all signs at the moment are pointing to them being quite important, but whether that will be as a one off event that stood out in a crowd of mediocrity or whether it will end up being a primer for a whole movement will likely take years to develop is yet to be seen. Quite simply, essential.