Speedy J's Electric Deluxe is a reliable label that continues to issue a steady flow of thoughtful, well-produced contemporary techno. Three recent releases by Endless, Brendon Moeller and Terence Fixmer showcase the different aspects of the label's approach.
Endless is an Anglo-Italian collaboration between Perc and Giorgio Gigli and The Connection is an epic digital EP that at close to an hour is more like an album in terms of length and depth. There are three tracks plus three DJ Tools which work very well as varied alternate tracks in their own right rather than being mere loop or sample-banks.
three tracks plus three DJ Tools which work very well as varied alternate tracks in their own right
'Synchronising' is full of tension, propelled by a dogged bassline in a dark sonic field only occasionally lightened by more ethereal tones. The Synchronising tool is a more energised version with some of the subtler elements and chords brought to the surface and a more “cinematic” sweep. 'Varying Paths' has a slight trace of Richie Hawtin's early 90s FUSE work such as Train Tracs but is far darker and wider in scope. The way the bleak drones repeatedly flare up and evaporate is very distinctive and impressive.
The last section is especially soundtrack-like and the track begs for some appropriate imagery to be added. The tool version is even darker and more ominous with decaying, distressed frequencies dominating the bassline, making it sound like a dark ambient track with an almost unrelated dance track playing somewhere in the distance. 'Clearing' is the most linear track on the EP but still markedly bleak, if not dystopian. The tool version provides no respite. The busy bassline reminds me slightly of Front 242's 1993 track 'Animal', but even though it could be uplifting it's actually marooned in a sinister sonic fog of drones and echo, pierced by a repeated tolling electronic bell sound.
markedly bleak, if not dystopian
Anyone looking for some consoling, escapist lifestyle techno is going to be bitterly disappointed, if not chilled, by this epic and highly recommended release.
The New York-based South African producer Brendon Moeller's Wanderer EP is much more varied but far brighter and less intense. The original is bright and optimistic without (quite) being kitsch, and there are some powerful dub effects and subtle noise elements further down in the mix. The Fuck Yeah vinyl mix is a quirky, experimental mix, that never settles for long in one mode and seems to have been the result of an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. There are some really interesting details but ultimately it's an experiment straining in several directions at once more than a clearly-structured track.
The most straightforward and most successful version is Jonas Kopp's kick-drum centred, acid-tinged mix that feels like a more clinical and precise update of Robert Armani's legendary early 1990s club tracks. This is probably the most surprising track but still slightly restrained – it would be good to hear Kopp really go for it. Tommy Four Seven's percussion-driven mix is slower and heavier but with some more brighter chords that produce an unresolved tension between dark and light elements.
Finally we come to Terrence Fixmer's When the Sun which demonstrates the brighter and more restrained sides of the Belgian producer's work. The title track is unusually melodic and optimistic, with some intricately phased filter patterns. Technically it's very impressive but almost too sweet.
intricately phased filter patterns
The most effective and focussed track is 'When the Moon', which is close to the Endless style but with almost metallic textures and syncopated mechanical details. 'When the Earth' is more minimal, built around a nagging and slightly repetitive bass motif with tantalising traces of Fixmer's earlier EBM and industrial-oriented work. It works best when it drops away to pure percussion and uneasy drones but the effect is tantalising, leading you to expect it to be a prelude to a more frenzied outbreak.
Overall, a solid set of well-crafted Fixmer tracks but not quite at the level of his strongest and most dynamic tracks.