Snorting Pinky EP
Key track: Jennie's Keys
Honestly, I can't think of any better singles that came out this year than this doozy from NYC's Elon. "Jennie's Keys" has forcefully sidled its way into becoming my permanent opening track for at least the next few winter months. It's a memorable affair with a subdued beat straddling the line between dancefloor techno and the chilly tendencies of, say, Chateau Flight. That may be a stretch but how do you describe something as being downtempo when it only shares vibes and not BPMs with the chiller side of dance music? The other keeper is John Tejada right-hand man Justin Maxwell's remix of the title track which appropriately sounds like West Coast techno. It's a blippy, peak hour affair that sounds sweet and melodic like listening to Spacemen 3 for inspiration while slamming am armful of Skittles and Starbursts and bashing out a rhythm on the ol' 909.
Mark O' Sullivan
Ghosts Of Acid
Nice & Nasty (UK)
Key mix: Katsuhiko Ethnic Acid Mix
There were a few singles that caught me by surprise this year because of their intense melodic almost Eighties post-punk feel. Mark O'Sullivan, one half of DK7 w Jesper Dahlback, was responsible for one of those moments on "Ghosts Of Acid". The original is spacy and deep but could easily be confused for a long lost Kenny Larkin outtake with its appropriate Detroit inspirations. On the other hand the Thoverstam and especially the Katsuhiko remixes cut to the heart of what Irish-influenced techno has been all about this year. Hi-jacking Carl Craig's steez and injecting an effload of Wire and Killing Joke sturm und drang while tastefully eliminating all of the thrashing guitar angst for something sleek and emotional. The results here are some of the best that came from the Emerald Isle in 2008.
Night Vision (Holland)
Key track: Timeless
Milenko Subotic hails from the Balkans and definitely operates under the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" ethos with this throw back to early 90s Belgian techno. That works out perfectly since Night Vision imprint owner Orlando Voorn also operates on the same principle. The a-side at first annoyed me with all of those strings, which we all agree there were waaaay too much of this year. But this one grew on me and my crowd with it's tastefully bangin' old school minimal techno sorta feel. The b-side "Samurai" is a decent electro work out while Voorn hisself takes up the remix channeling the ghost of Juan Atkins- well before Juan became the lifeless zombie he is today, that is.
Angry On Tuesday EP
Itzamna (El Salvador)
Key mix: Filtro Fernandez Rmx
Boston has always been a well-kept secret in terms of quality underground music Even way back in the distant 1970s when NYC had the soon to be legendary Ramones, Richard Hell, and Television Beantown was countering with a starting line-up of the Real Kids, DMZ, and the Modern Lovers. Sure all us hipsters remember the Ram-a-roones-mainly because The Boss and Eddie Vedder told us we should but ask any teenage girl about the flick Something About Mary and 100% of them will remember that it was Jonathan Richman sitting in that tree crooning the theme song. That there says something about the true nature of public conciousness. Flash forward to the, uh, 21st Century and Boston's Soul Clap is definitely as good anything coming from Alland Byallo in SF or Adultnapper in Brooklyn and I just happened to discover his latest by accident as an anonymous plugger floated me an introduction to El Salvador's Itzamna imprint. The track is everything that is good about America-both the good ol USA where I fly the flag as well as Latin America-a region who's rapidly becoming dance music's standard bearer. The Filtro Fernandez mix was the real crowd pleaser here on this three tracker. It was bouncy and slappy with some serious heaviness on the kick drum without being too dark or late night. Dancefloors were unable to resist this little nugget while the other two mixes were slight variations on the same.
Oliver Klein, Flow & Zeo
Cafe Break EP
Kling Klong (Germany)
Key track: Cafe Latte
Megasuperstar DJ Oliver Klein teams up with Brazilian up & comers Flow & Zeo on this oh so South American tribute to coffee. I thought "Double Espresso" was way too hard and euro'd out for my tastes but "Cafe Latte" went down real smooth like. Again it's big & bouncy (sensing a theme here?) with some memorable noises that make it equal parts East & West which is the vibe I'm feeling currently.
Paul Thomas & Sonny Wharton
Will Do EP
Leaders Of the New School/Toolroom (UK)
Key track: The Music
Finally another bonafide gem from Leaders Of The New School as Paul Thomas (he of the godawful "Arena" w Mark Knight) & newcomer Sonny Wharton drop a double winner here. "Will Do" is fairly big room track that may not appeal to everyone but "The Music" on the flip offers some good Cocoon sounding material albeit with an excessive Dave Dresden style breakdown I could have done without but it's nothing a good DJ can't gloss over in the mix. Solid track!
As Long As The Moment Exists Remix EP 4
EQ [Grey] (Australia)
Key mix: B-Dub (Mark Broom Rmx)
On the second from last EP of the series I feel like I've final hit pay dirt so to speak. Three out of four of these mixes were worthy of playing out with the exception of the Patrick Zigon which did not really move me at all. Joel Mull gets a little too proggy but COTK and Mark Broom bring the noise on number four. Broom's mix is dark and venomous, far too hard and seductive for any of the drunken college idiots I play for but definitely the peak hour cut for me when I get booked at an underground opium den in SF.
Key Track: Petroleum (Jason Short Rmx)
I like Peter Seligman, he's brand new and brings the wide-eyed enthusiasm and unfettered influences that only a talented noob can bring to an underground music scene. This EP shows off the more mature side of the Auralism label while Seligman provides some interesting new musical ideas with a weird combo of old Front 242 sounding industrial drums and basslines along with the speaker shredding aspects of folks like Autechre. He also lists Animal Collective as an influence and back in my day it would have been Spectrum and/or My Bloody Valentine but the musical deliniation is clear in the odd pastiches of melody found throughout the EP. Jason Short's remix of "Petroleum" caps things off with some elegant minimal techno.
Rocha & Lewinger
Key mix: Marc Ashken's Back To The Booty Rmx
Uruguay's Rocha & Lewinger are part of a long line of South American's currently finding success in Germany and beyond. This EP is some above-average American techno with hints of Euro-prog so common south of the border. Gold is struck on the Mark Ashken remix with a creepy robotic voice diatribe against the Church of Scientology and rubber band bouncy Detroit tech house funk that would probably make Theo Parrish proud.
Key track: Dredging
Rift's background is apparently more in the sonic noise terrorism of Skinny Puppy, Aphex Twin, and the entire world of EBM- and I can appreciate that. Captain Beefheart is actually one of my favorite artists ever and definitely a pioneer in the art of extreme noise terror. What a lot of these snooty farts don't realize is that freewheeling sense of adventure actually lends itself well to the narrower constraints of quantized techno. Think I'm wrong, well for starters check out Rift's "Dredging" probably the best tribal house rumble I heard all year far outshining Tenaglia and Bacchetti's offerings in the same category. The whole EP is so techy and precise and yet splattered in off-kilter sounds that goremeisters like Dario Argento would approve of too.
No Time To Get Back EP
Key track: El Matador (Dub Version)
It was hard to really get behind this single, two of three were excruciatingly boring to begin with and "El Matador" only showed flashes of brilliance. That track moves along nicely with a good flamenco feel but gets caught up in long passages of proggy dullness that have a hard time being propped up by the sluggish tribal rumble fuelling the whole affair.
One Of Them
Key mix: Addled's Stripped Kecak Mix
"Contagious Error" is a solid track and I could have just as easily voted for the "Pigs & Mosquitos mix" as my top fave as this mix. You can never go wrong with a track that has noises that sound like-you guessed it-pigs and mosquitos but that's not the only attraction here. Addled turns in a mix and a dub and I went for the dub because it is dark and mysterious techno with some gorgeous melodies that some may consider too progressive but methinks just right.
Atto D'Amore (Orig)
"Atto D'Amore" was THE track of 2007 and here we are at the end of '08 treated to a full version instead of the edit from the italo man of the hour-Serge Santiago. This track is pretty bearded out for my tastes but somehow the retro chic comes across as silly fun when played on a big system with that ride cymbal hit just ringing out some seven minutes in recalling Christopher Walken's oh so relevant advice about more cowbell. I can't say I was a hundred per cent stoked reliving this moment of dance music history but it worked well enough to keep feet moving and people smiling and sometimes that's enough.
Coalition Of The Killing (COTK)
We Are The Glitch EP
Key track: We Are The Glitch
The title cut of this EP for Bay Area label Blipswitch reminds me of the work that Clint Mansell did for the Requiem For A Dream soundtrack. Dark, mechanized visions of a techno future complete with warped vocals make this one a real gem. The others here are definitely more in line with the glitchier soundscape side of COTK's wide palette of techno.
Mini Jack EP
Great Stuff (Germany)
Key track: Can You Dig It
Ramon Tapia de Jonge is yet another German with South American roots finding techno love & acceptance with more of that unique blend of American and European sounds. This extended seven track EP would have been the equivalent of a 2x12" back in the olden days of vinyl and checks in with an amazing (at least by 2008 standards) three dancefloor-ready cuts. The title track is a catchy floorfiller while "UFO" overtly re-works LFO's seminal "LFO". The real winner on this mini LP is "Can You Dig It" with a rough Bassment Boys spoken word intro opening things and some solid Chicago style jack beats that make that record spin right 'round.
Backwards A Pony EP
Key track: Azizam feat Kyaro
This one from COTK comes from Karloff Rekordings, an offshoot of the Sub Static imprint outta Germany. The a-side "Azizam" is a collaboration with Hac Le aka Kyaro, whom I gushed about earlier this year, and is white-hot with a little shuffling drum hook and some solid techno with good basslines and recognizable character for a change. Thankfully the entire EP is also of comparable quality to "Azizam" making this one of the more solid releases from top to bottom.
Nightlight Music (US)
Key track: Dark Alley Disco
As of yet this appears to be unreleased which would make this first occasion where I was on-time enough with this round-up to send you an exclusive. Don't expect many more of those ever again. This single was given to me by Jason Short of COTK and comes via Alland Byallo's Nightlight Music imprint so that would make it an upcoming 2009 release for the label. The opening track "Dark Alley Disco" is good enough for dancefloor play but far too abstract for my needs and that's probably my one critical assessment of the fast-growing SF techno scene-the weird tuneless rut that each of the producers in the scene seems capable of crawling into. It's all over this EP. I am sure the Europeans love it but to me it sounds like the supposedly old cool progressive rockers like Magma or Zappa, stuff that was supposed to sound cool but to me sounded hopelessly arty- and well to be honest-a little lame. Only moments on this one and sadly not enough of them.
Munich Disco Tech Vol. 2 EP
Great Stuff (Germany)
Key track: Tonka-Orca (Ian Pooley's Orca Mallorca Rmx)
This is a compilation of Southern German techno that managed to find some nice deep house moments but also got a little too much on the "Sprockets" tip for my liking, especially on the straight up trancy "Sudwind" by Daniel Bortz. Superslut do turn in a nice piece of Baleric techno on "Bulerias" but there was certainly no reason to include a dub and original version of the track on the same compilation. The one for play here is Ian Pooley's re-rub of Tonka's late summer Ibiza house track "Orca" which is turned into a deep chunk of smoker's delight here. It's great early evening action that will manage to get even the deadest of heads bobbing.
Bitchin Techno EP
Key track: "Track one"
Here's one from one of my local partners-in-crime Holger Honda. Normally I don't highlight producers from here in Chico because honestly none of them have really been pumping out anything beyond beginner's luck stabs at dance music. But Honda is the exception here with years of experience as an indie musician and electronic music producer back in his hometown of Gothenberg, Sweden. His new alias Oil Panic caught my attention with this curious two tracker he gave to me last month. His Bitchin Techno is rough cut and I found the tempo cadences in both a little too uneven for any serious dancefloor consideration but for the most adventurous of thrill seekers. What makes the first of the two unnamed cuts on this demo so catchy is the unusual structure of the song which is a mixture of gritty analog techno, decontructionist punk (think Suicide as an example), and Honda's passion for the 808s of Miami bass. It's challenging and that doesn't always work perfectly but it does force listeners to think so tracks like these almost never utterly fail. I certainly don't see Holger Honda running any time soon into tuneless ruts like some of the aforementioned established names in this round-up do on occasion and that's a good thing. He has promised more stuff in the Oil Panic vein in the future that will up the ante of this first shot and for all of us living here in Chico that's a good thing.
Eighth Dimension (US)
Key mix: All Good Funk Alliance Rmx
Orlando MC Swamburger takes a break from the Sol.Illaquists of Sound and drops a breezy house cut for the Eighth Dimension imprint run by Atnarko and Q-Burns Abstract Message. The track itself is a great summer-time sunny and feel good cut with some decent remixes. Doesn't really fit my style but still makes for a great listen at home in the headphones.