Tag Archive: The Knife


<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I wasn't keen on ____________ until I saw them live.</p>&mdash; Rough Trade (@RoughTrade) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RoughTrade/status/1127574151588392960?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 12, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Ok, so this week’s Music Question courtesy of Rough Trade is “I wasn’t keen on ____________ until I saw them live.” My answer to this question is Fever Ray. My now ex-girlfriend was a huge fan of The Knife (Karin Dreijer’s first band/music project) and while liked some of their songs I found lot of it difficult to listen to, couldn’t put my finger on why but I did. But I really struggled Fever Ray’s self titled debut album (2009) to point of almost hating it. However, during this early stage of our relationship we had an arrangement where one partner could pick something to do that maybe the other didn’t want to do the rule being they had to pay for it. So we ended going to see Fever Ray in Manchester at the Academy 2 in July 2009. I was blown away both by the incredible show show and costumes and the power of the music as to enveloped me. I was converted to a fan then and there and while I still don’t own a copy of that album (one of few that for some reason I never get round to buying but can’t explain why) I’m a huge fan of it and dove deep into it after going to that gig.

Let me know what your answer to the question is down in the Comments.

Liam’s Recommendations

1st April

Bonobo – “The North Borders” (Ninja Tune)

Ninja Tune beatmaker extraordinaire Bonobo returns with his fifth album. Early signs are of a change of direction with first single ‘Cirrus’ featuring a four to the floor rhythm and plenty of bells, suggesting Bonobo may have been listening to a lot of Pantha Du Prince recently. The album will feature guest vocals from Erykah Badu, Swedish singer and DVA collaborator Cornelia, NYC folk singer Grey Reverend and fellow Ninja Tune signing Szjerdene.

8th April

Owiny Sigoma Band – “Power Punch” (Brownswood)

For their second album, the band, comprising Nairobians Joseph Nyamungu and Charles Owoko and Londoners Jesse and Louis Hackett, Sam Lewis, Chris Morphitis and Tom Skinner recorded in the UK, having cut the first record, 2011’s self-titled LP, in east Africa. With the relocation has come a whole raft of new sonic textures, with electronic genres – like techno and South African Shangaan electro making an imprint on the album.

15th April

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons to Die” (Soul Temple)

“Twelve Reasons to Die” is the result of an unlikely collaboration between producer and film score composer Adrian Younge (most famous for his work on the brilliant blaxploitation film “Black Dynamite) and Wu Tang Clan MC Ghostface Killah. The album is executive produced by RZA (Wu Tang Clan) and comes with a comic book written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon of Ashcan Press.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Mosquito” (Polydor)

For their fourth album the Yeah Yeah Yeahs went back to basics returning to a basic studio set-up in New York and trying to have as much fun as possible. The result is a title track that is literally about a Mosquito, a track that’s produced by James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) and featuring rapper Kool Keith. Though the artwork is awful, Sonic Fiction look forward to hear what we think will be an excellent album of cutting edge pop-rock.

April 29th

Neon Neon – “Praxis Makes Perfect” (Lex)

Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) and underground hip-hop producer Boom Bip return will another high concept electro pop album. This time the subject is Italian activist and publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, responsible for the publication of Doctor Zhivago and The Leopard (plus all manner of political agitation). The album will feature a host of somewhat unlikely guests. Italian singer/TV personality Sabrina is on the record, as is xXx star Asia Argento. Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer will feature, and former Neon Neon associate Cate Le Bon will also return to the fold.

Kirsty’s Recommendations

26th April

Cosmin TRG – “Gordian” (50 Weapons) 

Berlin-based producer Cosmin TRG will release his second album, “Gordian”, on 26th April two years after his debut full-length “Simulat”.  Born Cosmin Nicolae in Bucharest, Romania, he first appeared in 2007 with 12”s on Hessle Audio, Subway and Audio Freaks (all produced under the name TRG), he then prefixed TRG with his first name and began releasing more house and techno-orientated material, which “Simulat” is the result of. According to the press release “Gordian” references an ancient myth, but also “describes the very contemporary, impossible task of discerning between real and replicated, authentic and contrived.” It adds: “Coping with facts, objects and bodies, the necessity of ‘making it,’ fear of failure, fear of ‘not being happy’ are today’s topics, and “Gordian” is my attempt at an exploration of those issues.” Nicolae expands further, “On “Gordian” I tried to shape and distill my sound further, while sticking to a certain narrative and collection of references that make sense to me.” He adds, “It is saying different things to different people, and leaves it open to interpretation, which I find the most interesting. I also think that where “Simulat” was about me making a statement, “Gordian” is about me starting a conversation.”

Listen to ‘New Structures For Living’ below:

What Kirsty’s Looking Forward to

Albums

Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – “Elements of Light” (Rough Trade) 11th January

Sonic Fiction favourite Pantha Du Prince (Hendrik Weber) has teamed up with Norwegian musicians The Bell Laboratory for a collaborative album, “Elements of Light”. The video previews below display the German techno producer and The Bell Laboratory creating an ambitious symphony of electronics, percussion and a special bell carillon, a three-tonne instrument consisting of fifty bronze bells.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Trailer 1 from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Trailer 2 from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

Apparat – “Krieg und Frieden” (Mute) 15th February

The electronic music producer returns with an album based on a German theatre production of Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace, directed by Sebastian Hartmann. Once Hartmann asked Apparat, born Sascha Ring, to contribute music to the project, the producer then spent four weeks working with a 30-piece ensemble in an empty factory alongside Apparat’s live band members Philipp Timm and Christoph Hartmann. After the piece’s final performance Ring, C. Hartmann and Timm transformed the soundtrack into a work for album release. Ring says of “Krieg und Frieden”, “It’s the first record ever that didn’t hurt at some point. It’s full of imperfection because it was made by humans.” He goes on to describe the album as “a bit of a weird record with not many beats and lots of drones.”

Grab the free ‘A Violent Sky’ now:

Function – “Incubation” (Ostgut Ton) 4th March

Nearly 20 years into Function’s career comes his solo debut album “Incubation” on the luminary Ostgut label.  As a member of Sandwell District and as a solo artist he is known for producing sleek, atmospheric techno, which he will explore further on his album, which was mastered by the respected engineer Tobias Freund. His goal,  “was to create something cinematic and heavy on imagery and emotion.” and  a “soundtrack.” The release was conceived as “one endless piece to be listened to straight through. So everything is connected and there are reoccurring themes throughout the album.” Listen to his beautiful ‘Inter’ below:

Ellen Allien – “LISm” (BPitch Control) March

Berlin icon Ellen Allien is due to release her seventh album “LISm” in March. The album is closely based on a soundtrack Allien wrote for the Drama per Musica dance recital performed in 2011 at Paris’ Spectacles Vivants Festival. She called on Bruno Pronsato to aid her with expanding the pieces and to co-produce “LISm”. As usual the album will be released through BPitch Control, the label she’s managed for over a decade.

Stream a medley of “LISm” below:

The Knife – “Shaking The Habitual” (Mute) 8th April

After seven years we will finally see the release of the Swedish brother-sister duo’s third studio album “Shaking The Habitual”. Their last was the flawless “Silent Shout” from 2006. In 2010 they released, “Tomorrow In A Year”, the collaborative album with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock that was written for an opera/performance piece based on the life and work of Charles Darwin. Both members have also released solo records under pseudonyms – Karin as the acclaimed Fever Ray and Olaf as Oni Ahyun. Light Asylum member Shannon Funchess has contributed to vocals to the album which will be released via Mute/Brille.

This video, which may or not be The Knife, leaked online could provide clues on what we can expect.

Listen to the title track from “Silent Shout” below:

Artists

Audion – Matthew Dear has hinted via Twitter that new material from his techno side project Audion could on the horizon this year. Listen to the classic ‘Mouth to Mouth’ below:

Answer Code Request – Patrick Gräser has this far released a handful of refreshingly varied, rolling techno 12″s on labels as Ostgut Ton, Marcel Dettmann’s MDR Records and Music Man. His “Main Mode” 12″ is an essential listen with other tracks of his included on Norman Nodge’s excellent “Berghain06” and Dettmann’s “Conducted” mix. Maybe in 2013 Answer Code Request will take the leap to producing a full length release.

Kompakt celebrates 20 Years

The esteemed German label will celebrate its 20th birthday in 2013 with a host of special events, including an extensive European tour, a documentary chronicling the rise of the label, a “fanzine” and re-issues. The best news yet is they of course will release new music throughout 2013. While there are no exact release dates, we can expect new albums from Justus Köhncke, Coma, The Field and Gui Boratto.

What Liam’s Looking Forward to

Albums

A$AP Rocky – “Long.Live.A$AP” 14th January

Having discovered A$AP Rocky through his “LiveLoveA$AP” (2010) I was looking to hearing his debut album and its finally coming out in just a weeks time after many delays. The album features top underground hip-hop producers such as Clams Casino, Hit Boy, A$AP Ty Beats, Soufein3000, Joey Fat Beats and Rocky himself and has already gained a Best New Music award from Pitchfork. “Long.Live.A$AP” promises to be one of the Albums of the Year 2013.

Jamie Lidell – “Jamie Lidell” 18th February

Jamie Lidell returns with his self titled fifth album in February 2013, pre release track “What A Shame” finds him returning to the electronic sound of his first two solo albums “Muddling Gear” (2000) and the brilliant “Multiply” (2005).

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Push the Sky Away” 18th February

The long awaited follow up to “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!” (2008) has got me excited due to its trailer and the Gaspar Noe directed video for first single ‘We Know Who U R’, a simple but highly effective song with a video to match. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album!!!

Low – “The Invisible Way” 18th March

In 2013 Low celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band, they will also release their 13th studio album. Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at Wilco’s Chicago studio, The Loft, the band visited the studio while on tour and decided to record with Tweedy after hearing his work on Mavis Staples “You Are Not Alone” (2010).

David Bowie – “The Next Day” March 2013

On Tuesday (8th January)  David Bowie announced his return with his 30th studio album and his first since 2003’s “Reality”. The first single from “The Next Day” is ‘Where Are We Now’ which harks back to the “Heroes” (1977) a Bowie classic. This has surprised many critics and fans alike as Bowie is generally perceived as a forward thinking artist. However, this overlooks much of Bowie’s output in the 90’s and 00’s which referenced his own back catalogue on numerous occasions. Producer Tony Visconti quickly aligned any fears of Bowie deserting his innovative roots describing the album as both “innovative” and “quite a rock album” continuing if people are looking for classic Bowie, they’ll find it on this album”.

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons to Die” early 2013

“Twelve Reasons to Die” is the result of an unlikely collaboration between producer and film score composer Adrian Younge (most famous for his work on the brilliant blaxploitation homage “Black Dynamite) and Wu Tang Clan MC Ghostface Killah. The album is executive produced by RZA (Wu Tang Clan) and comes with a comic book written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon of Ashcan Press.

Factory Floor – “Title TBA” 13th May

After a good two years of singles and build up it seems that the band will finally release their much anticipated début album in May 2013 on DFA records. The album will be preceded by the single ‘Fall Back’ eight and a half minutes of slow burning dance floor intensity.

YoungBlood Brass Band – “Pax Volumi” early 2013

The latest from the band is that they have completed their new album with a release planned for early in 2013, accompanied by an extensive world tour. I look forward to hearing this explosive bands combination of raw live jazz and hip-hop elements, been much missed since the brilliant “Is That A Riot?” (2006).

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – “Title TBA” Spring 2013

The band recently announced their new album would be out in the new year, more information as we get it.

Madvillain – “Title TBA” 2013

In a recent interview with Benji B on BBC Radio 1 Doom of Madvillain announced that the second album is almost done and he just has to finish off two songs and that if they’re finished on time the album could be out before the end of 2012. 2012 is now been and gone but the album is close to completion so hopefully it will be released before the year is out.

Artists

AlunaGeorge

AlunaGeorge’s music has been bouncing around the internet for around a year now and now the male-female duo are hotly tipped for success and finishing second in the BBC’s Sound of 2013 didn’t hurt their chances of going supernova this year. However, its their music and not polls that has me excited an combination on Timbaland and The Neptunes style beats, off kilter synths and R&B vocals instantly mark them out from the pack, while never forgetting about a hummable tune and killer hook. Their debut album “Body Music” comes out in June and I can’t wait for it. To read an interview with band on The Guardian’s website click here.

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth started out providing beats for cloud rap acts such as Attrakionz and Deniro Farrar until the release of his instrumental E.P. “Last Words” late in 2012 in which he expanded out into a skewed hip-hop, ambient and dance music hybrid. His main influences are Three 6 Mafia, Mannie Fresh, Hudson Mohawke, Aphex Twin and Ryuichi Sakamoto. I look forward to hearing more material from this promising young producer.

Joey Bada$$

18 year old Joey Bada$$ released his excellent debut mixtape “1999” which perfectly recreated late 90’s New York and catapulted Bada$$ and his PRO ERA crew into the spotlight. It also drew the attention of legendary hip-hop producer DJ Premier and the two will release a free on Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound next week.

Night Engine

Although originality isn’t their strong suit musically Night Engine do create exciting music and show the potential to develop into a great guitar pop band. They recall both Franz Ferdinand and Berlin era and early 80’s David Bowie and neither of those are bad artists to be a reminder of. Check out their debut single ‘Seventeen/Treat Me Like a Baby’ below and read more about the band here.

New Artists

Unbalance

From Omsk, Russia, producer and DJ Unbalance was first introduced to me with his ‘The Russian Technothon’ mix, which incorporated tracks from Ben Klock, Norman Nodge, Marcel Dettmann, Lucy, O/V/R and DVS1 (also in this Sounds of 2012). Inspired greatly by Basic Channel and the Berlin sound, he has released three moist dub-techno untitled 12”s – Unbalance – Unbalance#1, a fourth is due soon, and several tracks on the Ukrainian Indeks Music and Sonntag Morgen. Describing his style as, “techno with different shades of moods, from deep atmospheric dub sound to pushy and aggressive groove, forcing [you] to feel different emotions [while] remaining in the framework of this techno music.”

DVS1

Though not a new artist, 2012 should see Minneapolis native DVS1 break through to wider acclaim like his mentor Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann. His DJ sets at Berghain have seen him mess with the Berlin sound by playing attention grabbing, mischievous techno. Signed to Klock’s Klockworks label, his popular ‘Floating’, ‘Running’ and ‘Searching’ tracks have also displayed his playfulness and the influence of house and techno on his work. Hopefully this year will see the release of a mix on Ostgut Ton and more EPs.

Conrad Van Orton

Conrad Van Orton (a character’s name taken from David Fincher’s ‘The Game’) is a producer from Rome who creates broken and dirty dub techno. His work, like doom-filled ‘Matyr’, has been released on the Italian label Sonntag Morgen and his own imprint CRS Recordings, the name of which is again from ‘The Game’.

Voices From The Lake

Duo Donato Dozzy and Neel release their album on the 31st Jan after their evocative EP “Silent Drop”. Signed to Prologue, a small German label, the two Italians use Voices From The Lake to explore ambient techno and their EP is filled with organic textures and fluid, hypnotic rhythms. Their self-titled album, which recreates and refines their live performance at a festival in the mountains of Japan, looks to expand and enhance this.

Voices from The Lake Feat. Donato Dozzy & Neel – Silent Drop EP

Items & Things

With news last year that Magda, Troy Pierce and Marc Houle had left Minus to dedicate more time to their rebooted Items & Things label and promising releases so far from Madato, Danny Benedettini, party-starters Click Box and Houle’s new album “Undercover” due in March (his first to not be released on Minus), 2012 will see the label grow stronger and continue to sign and release music from talent they love.

Young Hunting

Though not strictly a new act, they self-released their debut album “Attachment In A Children and The Subsequent Condition” in 2010, the Edinburgh duo (not to be confused with the L.A. band of the same name) have just released their first 12” “Night of the Burning”, due for digital release on the 23rd January, on Blackest Ever Black. The duo have landed favourable comparisons to industrial legends Coil, slot beautifully into the label’s gothic aesthetic alongside their peers Raime and share textual, atmospheric and rhythmic similarities with Shackleton. “Night of the Burning” shows great potential for this duo and the label promise more material is on the way.

Oliver Tank

Oliver Tank brings together the disparate worlds of electronica and classical instruments such as the violin in a subtle and inviting way. Many artists spring to mind while listening to Tank’s music including Boards of Canada and Apparat though none truly manage to describe what he is actually achieving. He also shows a taste for pop with his excellent cover of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Beautiful’ and injects real emotion into his combination of ‘serious’ genres. With all this going for him, Tank has a bright future ahead. Oliver Tank’s debut EP “Dreams” is out now via Bandcamp.

A$AP Rocky

The hype around A$AP Rocky has been building for quite some time and he’s graduated to a new level of fame since the release of his critically acclaimed mixtape “LiveLoveA$AP” in November. Since then A$AP Rocky has signed a record deal that will see him release a deluxe version of “LiveLoveA$AP” featuring production from up and coming producers Clams Casino, Spaceghostpurrp and Ty Beats and others with a debut album due later in 2012. With the attention he’s been getting and the team of ‘cloud rap’ star producers he is working with, A$AP Rocky will be dominating the headlines this year.

Doldrums

21 year old producer Airick Woodhead from Montreal creates a unique blend of contrasting genres and sounds that combines “Bollywood strings, electronic smears, strangulated samples, and rickety breakbeats” into a delightfully twisted charming racket. His debut EP on No Pain In Pop followed the release of his remix of ‘Chase The Tear’ by Portishead as its official b-side and features six brilliant nuggets of genre hopping genius. As his label notes, “his music is a reaction to the overhyping and plasticity of modern youth culture. Doldrums’ music reflects this societal change on a personal level, as a member of the last generation to remember life pre-internet and 24 hour status updates. His androgynous voice comes across mid-panic attack, floating in a sea of chopped up samples, disembodied vocals and tribal percussion.  Spearing between electro-hallucinogenic freak outs and languid nostalgia, his tracks somehow manage to elevate classic pop melodies above a sample saturated sound collage.”

Gabriel Bruce

The lugubrious voice of Gabriel Bruce is the first thing that strikes about his music and sounds like Matthew Dear on his “Black City” album or Nick Cave is his tender moments. Repeat listens reveal a skilled musician and arranger who can combine and balance the subtle and the hard hitting on his beautiful debut single ‘Sleep Paralysis’. This also featured a 50 page book on the subject written by Bruce. As the year continues let’s hope we hear more from this very promising new artist.

New Albums

For a full list of upcoming music releases check out our New Music releases page.

Matthew Dear – “Beams” – Described as “a turn towards the light”, following Dear’s 2010 album “Black City”, “Beams” has had a teaser in the shape of the “Headcage” EP, which mixes Dear’s low-register voice with upbeat rhythms. The album should be out in the spring.

The Knife – “title tba” – Typically for The Knife, their announcement that they were working on a new album was spare of detail so nothing else is known but, after waiting six years since “Silent Shout” was released, a new album should be released this year.

Loops Of Your Heart – “And Never Ending Nights” (30th Jan) After his career ascension with ‘”Looping State Of Mind”, The Field (Axel Willner) has created the side project Loops Of Your Heart. The first single ‘Neukölln’ trades The Field’s emotive sound for a more apparent krautrock/kosmiche musik style and points to the direction “And Never Ending Nights” will take.

Orcas – Orcas (Feb) – Rafael Anton Irisarri ( The Sight Below) has formed a new duo with Benoit Pioulard called Orcas. With an album due out in February, the artists combine traditional song writing with ambient music production. Included on “Orcas” will be their cover of Broadcast’s ‘Until Then’:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – tbc – No news on other than Karen O announcing the trio have been working on new music for release in 2012.

Errors – “Have Some Faith in Magic” (30th Jan) – The Scottish electro-post-rock band return, stream 1st single ‘Earthscore’ here. A big favourite here on Sonic Fiction hopefully this will be the year they break through properly and get their just rewards.

Julia Holter – “Ekstasis” (March 2012) – The second album from found sound artist Holter has become much antipated after her debut “Tragedy” did well in the end of year polls, will be interesting to see how see develops her unique sound.

Madvillain – (2012) – In a recent interview with Reverb Stones Throw’s Record head honcho Peanut Butter Wolf said the new album from Madlib and MF Doom is  “three-quarters done”, so hopefully this much anticapated album will be released at some point in 2012.

Congotronics vs Rockers (2012) – After watching the project’s rehearsals and performances unfold via the Congotronics vs Rockers blog the promise of an album of new material by the project is an exciting prospect.

The Avalanches (2012) – a recent tweet by Modular Records promised a new record by these Aussie sampler manglers as they finally follow-up to 2001’s “Since I Left You” album.

Spotify playlist:

Sonic Fiction’s Sound of 2012

The 2000s saw techno tangle with pop music with many artists incorporating directly pop-influenced melodies and harmonies as tracks evolved into songs. Meanwhile minimal techno and its main purveyor M-nus continued to blossom and Kompakt’s rich techno hallmark garnered critical acclaim. The end of the decade also saw the rise of the Berghain and Ostgut Ton artists who have captured the imaginations of many by reinvigorating the ‘Berlin’ sound that some had perceived to be stagnating. Similar to the Three Decades of Techno: The Second Chapter, I will focus primarily on the genre’s development in Germany throughout the last decade whilst covering other European and South American artists who have shaped the sound of techno’s future.

Growing into an empire of distribution with an incredible record and download shop, booking agency and a number of sub-labels (Immer, Profan, Kompakt Pop, Kompakt Extra), Cologne’s Kompakt has a near mythological quality in the techno world, is admired by virtually all techno fans and can be pinpointed from the start of the 2000s as the beginning of techno’s cross-pollination with pop music. Wolfgang Voigt has described the label’s signature as “honest, simple. It is adult techno, cultural techno” and has also frequently spoken about the importance of the “boom boom boom” that underpins all electronic music, something the label has explored by releasing boundless variations of techno, tech-house, ambient, ambient-dub and pop music. In essence the famous “Kompakt sound”, which is mentioned in almost everything written about the label, is the incorporation of traditionally pop music melodies and harmonies into that fundamental pulsing 4/4 bass drum and looped, textural ambience: firm but supple.

Despite first making its reputation as a sponsor of minimal techno Kompakt’s trademark has always been a full and distinctly, a lovingly intimate sound. Thomas Fehlmann’s “Honigpumpe”, the “Nah Und Fern” compilation by GAS and The Field’s “From Here We Go Sublime” embody this eloquently. Its core artists Voigt, Michael Mayer, Superpitcher, DJ Koze, Reinhard Voigt and Justus Köhncke have been with the label for a decade or more. Though they have often released projects under pseudonyms covering different styles these artists have helped the label achieve its distinct and renowned identity. Kompakt has played a remarkable role to techno over the decade with music critic Simon Reynolds crediting it as the “label that’s contributed more than any other to Germany’s dominance of electronic dance music this decade [the 2000s].”

Chilean-German DJ and producer Ricardo Villalobos is one of the most revered names in techno. Though usually described as minimal techno, his productions are too singular to be part of one genre. His critically celebrated 2003 debut album “Alcachofa” from which the seminal ‘Easy Lee’ and ‘Dexter’ were cultivated is a unique collection of intricate and highly detailed tracks; keywords in Villalobos’ discography. Included on several compilations and mixes curated by his peers Richie Hawtin and Michael Mayer and others that year, ten minute opener ‘Easy Lee’ builds slowly with delicate percussion pattering under an uneasy vocodered vocal refrain and showcases Villalobos’ expert hand in creating subtly composed sound-designed tracks. Writing for All Music Guide, Andy Kellman observed “Alcachofa”‘s (artichoke in Spanish) appropriate title, “If the kind of vivid house you hear blaring in the hip clothing store is an apple, giving the mouth an instant burst of flavor the moment the teeth puncture its skin, then the microhouse of Ricardo Villalobos is more like an artichoke – a more subtle fruit that’s consumed by peeling off its fleshy leaves and delicately skimming the pulp off the inner surface.”

An exceptional feature of Ricardo Villalobos’ work is that his productions truly feel equally perfect for both home listening and DJ sets, something that many artists have tried to achieve, because despite the elongated grooves and naturally evolving structures that are suited to the dance floor the microscopic details and the queasy feeling of nervousness that permeates his material, especially “Alcachofa”, can only be detected when listening in stasis.

His bespoke speakers that resemble a gramophone which use every frequency across the spectrum, his passion for audio fidelity and sound design, his immersive Fabric36 mix and the sheer complexity and amount of work that Villalobos puts into creating his productions display why he is such a highly regarded figure in techno who is continuously mentioned by critics and artists. The influence of his work on new producers going in to this decade like Nicolas Jaar, Shackleton and The Field in such a short space of time is a testament to his talent and individual material.

Just over halfway in to the decade The Knife released “Silent Shout” and Ellen Allien and Apparat released “Orchestra Of Bubbles” in 2006. “Silent Shout” is an ideal example of the blurring of lines between techno and pop seen in the 2000s, due in part to The Knife’s conceptual, theatrical heart. The Swedish pair’s music is as much techno as it is pop: it has narratives, chord changes, even sing-able choruses. Karin Dreijer Andersson, singer and co-producer, manipulates her voice to become the songs’ protagonists, enabling her to sing in the first person; making the songs far more personal and significant. Yet they are also distancing – as if the listener is an audience member in a macabre play where each scene introduces a new character – the lyrics are skeletal and leave the subject matter open-ended. Dreijer Andersson has explained that the films of David Lynch, in particular the scene from Mulholland Drive in which the lead characters go to a midnight concert where the music is generated from a playback tape, are a great influence on how she presents the songs.

The nightmares of the title track, ‘From Off To On’’s whispering voices, the naïve character in ‘Forest Families’ who, shamed for having “a communist in the family” and told their “favourite book was dirty”, sings about the particular and the universal as the song rises and falls, the furious sexual equality sea-shanty ‘One Hit’ and the schizophrenic voice in ‘We Share Our Mother’s Health’ going hysterical with fear all create the haunting and uneasy mood of “Silent Shout”. Yet it also offers easy to miss humour in the sly  hip-hop beat that announces the arrival of ‘We Share Our Mother’s Health’ and ‘Marble House’’s ‘singing whale’ synth. The album pushes what we can consider to be ‘techno’ and it is The Knife’s ingenious use of pop melodies and characterisation which play against the techno landscape of rippling filters, de-tunings and thunderous 909 claps that makes “Silent Shout” compelling and musically momentous.

Berliner Ellen Allien, acclaimed DJ, producer, graduate of leading ‘90s club Tresor and chief of the record label BPitch Control has spent the last decade releasing five albums and numerous DJ mixes that showcase her distinctive blend of pop-indebted melodies (she claims to have learnt to speak English by listening to David Bowie records), thick bass lines and techno-fied breakbeats. Apparat who co-runs the record label Shitkatapult has released a handful of albums and EPs which combine his understated voice, not unlike Thom Yorke’s, with home-listening designed intelligent dance music (IDM). Their album “Orchestra Of Bubbles” is perhaps the pinnacle their careers. Their differing electronic music styles: Allien’s sweet, dance floor techno and Apparat’s melancholic IDM make the release a thrilling album where the tracks pull and push against each other. It ascends and descends, the glide of techno is resisted by jerky IDM beats, misty pads contrast oomph-ing bass lines, rippling arpeggios swirl around Ellen Allien’s dreamy, accented voice. The songs present a guessing game of which part belongs to whom: interlocking sections shine through as Allien’s as her huge analogue synth leads go head-to-head with Apparat’s grainy crunches and snapping beats, as presented in ‘Turbo Dreams’ and the gorgeous ‘Jet’.

The triangle on ‘Metric’ and ‘Way Out’’s ride cymbal that quietly pushes the chorus along are hidden gems that mark out “Orchestra Of Bubbles” as something that has being meticulously composed. Every aspect of the album sounds considered yet effortless: the vocal stutter that bridges the two sections of ‘Floating Points’ and builds to a demanding SH101 bass line, to standout ‘Do Not Break’, which breathlessly speeds for 5:13 minutes. Its entirety is full and encompassing, even in comparison to Allien’s effervescent “Thrills” released the previous year, and is brimming with the blending of digital and analogue timbres which are so richly textured they are nearly physical. Those looking for an essential song-based techno album and a microcosm of techno in the 2000s will find it in “Orchestra Of Bubbles”.

Ostgut Ton, the Berlin-based label launched six years ago to provide a base for Berghain and Panorama Bar residents, has become the name du jour in the past 18-24 months. ‘90s pioneers Basic Channel’s unique dub-techno sound architecture has left an indelible mark on the productions of Ostgut Ton’s main artists: Ben Klock, Marcel Fengler, Norman Nodge and Marcel Dettmann. Perfunctory, mechanical, cold: adjectives used to describe Ostgut Ton’s output contradict the productions’ true sound. On closer listen they are clearly imbued with a womb-like warmth and depth. Typifying this is Marcel Dettmann’s debut album “Dettmann”, which is filled with immersive atmospherics and bass frequencies that embrace and surround; more akin to Basic Channel and early techno like Model 500 than the icy, driving beat that is associated with Berlin techno. Despite murmurs of a backlash Ostgut Ton have entranced many with its pure stylistic signature and this with Berghain’s infamously strict door policy give the label an exclusive nature that harks back to techno’s beginnings in elite parties for only the most dedicated. Hopefully this limitation will stop the popularity and hype of Ostgut Ton/Berghain been its downfall.

Ahead of his performance at Coachella last year Richie Hawtin was asked in an interview with LA Times: “You’re based in Europe now, where everyone seems to think the edgiest electronic music is being made today. How do you think the American scene can catch up?” To which he replied, “Well, to catch up would be hard in a way because it’s been sustained for so long there. It’s not about catching up; it’s about following your scene and your location’s individual path. And that’s what electronic music’s about. There shouldn’t be one electronic music hit everywhere, like Jay-Z is everywhere. Electronic music is like a snake that you can’t grab. So it should be different in different scenes. That’s what makes it interesting.”

Hawtin’s point encapsulates what techno in the past three decades has been about and done.  It has mutated and flourished in numerous countries, evolving into different breeds independently and yet the genre’s founding ideologies have remained: emotive and human, pushing the limits of technology, valuing music for head as much as the feet. Techno is so adored and indestructible it will continue to be a dominant force for decades to come.

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