Since many excellent records weren’t released until closer to the end of 2008, it took me a while to listen to them closely and really zero in on a few that hadn’t been reviewed here yet. Here are a few standouts (some are hidden in the links):
As the name suggests, a re-visitation of the Rings of Saturn album from 1992. The newer tracks on this release could easily sit in the highest echelons of the FAX label, while the remastered versions of the energetic and hard originals sound as good now as they did over a decade and a half ago. The vinyl companions of this cd-only album, one on Tresor and the other on Mills’s own Axis imprint, condense some of the tracks, and add a few quirks not found on the cd.
Mills’s Alpha Centauri also proves that once can still make futuristic music with old machines, and not be confined by rigid boundaries of a genre.
Kenny can still bring the goods, as this album proves. The first track carries an elated, almost orchestral feel to it, while the rest is evocative of the techno-blues style he does so well. Anyone able to bring out the bluesy roots of techno in an ultra modern style deserves a top ten spot in my list. This album is pure excellence, both for the dancefloor, and the headphones (moods galore on most of the tracks).
This is the latest installment of the Frantic Flowers series from Clone. Terrence Dixon manages to stay true to his signature sound, while eliciting new emotions and moods. The Ovatow remix of the title track isn’t half bad either.
While I don’t much care for the A side, Faderpushingsunday on the flip has the melancholy, cold synth lines very reminiscent of the best moments on the Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe album.
I share this as one of my favorites of the year along with my ISM cohorts, since Mr. Smith doesn’t disappoint on this one-sided 12″. Great moods, great beats, great progressions, full of that Detroit mood.
Not much was said about this underrated producer’s album this year. Think of George Clinton stuck in an elevator with some of the best-executed techno, and you might come close to describing this album’s style and musical content. Fabrice Lig even manages to use some dry sounding beats often heard in less-than-spectacular mnml records, and proves that substance still rules over process.
The man that brought us The Secret Life of Machines struck again, this time on the Delsin label. Bot is a rougher version–shimmering hi-hats, prominent bass drum and all–of the A-side, Rond, a melodic number that evokes a mood I experienced during my very short overlay in Amsterdam a little over a year ago. Both tracks are a welcome return to form after a few releases that didn’t fully explore Rachmad’s potential.
Kevin Kennedy is another one of those unsung heroes of techno that makes really good and original music, but doesn’t get the attention or recognition that some less than half as talented producers do. This could have to do with the fact that he makes really original music that retains a fair dose of funk while sounding modern, while the others only seem to focus on the sheer novelty factor. Antherman on this so far digital-only release is excellent. Imagine the funkiest of early ’90s Chicago house tracks, executed in a surprisingly modern style, all the while retaining the mood that so many of the best Detroit releases possess, and you might be getting close to a description of this. This is track is one of the very few that manages to sound modern without giving up the funk or sounding sterile-something that few modern so-called techno labels or artists can pull off. Watch this space for a forthcoming FBK interview.
Great production from this UR operative, on his own label that seems to build on its already strong catalogue. The main mix utilizes a nice Spanish vocal backed by an organic, synth-driven melody–a welcome combination in the techno we like around these parts. The Orlando Voorn remix leaves nothing to be desired, while the Martyn mix of the title trackbrings a haunting vibe in a style all its own. On a side note, the split ep this artist released with Silent Servant and the Rushhour record released earlier in the year are also worth checking out.
Von Oswald doesn’t disappoint on this remix of a remix of his own work. The re-composition of Bolero also has some nice moments that don’t immediately jump out at the listener (there’s even a loop of an echoed moment as a reward for the close listener about ten or so minutes in), especially toward the beginning and end, as the C2 beats in the middle of the album don’t do much for me.
Vince Watson finished off the year with yet another highlight for the Delsin label. The Ethereal EP consists of a beautiful 14+ minute track that makes hairs stand on the back of one’s neck. The b-side offers even more sequencer heaven, harking back to the older days of Delsin, when some if not most their releases sounded more abstract. The ep closes with a 2 minute recap of the main track that sounds like a very welcome to these ears cross between the best of early ’90s melodic techno and some Chain Reaction releases. Watson couldn’t have finished the year on a higher note.