Despite the fact that I have yet to actually return to DJ'ing in the sense that I haven't played a gig in like four years, you'd be forgiven for thinking I had joined the jetsetting elite at the rate I've been getting dance 12's the past few months (And no, you'd never actually think that). In the three years that I took a break from buying records, twelve inch prices went from costly to silly pricy in my book. I don't doubt that some singles are priced at $20 for a reason, same with those $30 and $40 single LPs floating around out there. But I don't have to like it.
However, maybe someone is looking out for me as lately I've been scoring an obscene amount of both recent and vintage twelves at a very low cost thanks to my old friend, the discount bin. With so much great dance music being made and reissued, it only stands to reason that some gems will fall through the cracks as dance music is still not very well-understood in the states. It's one thing to see classics from Kenny Larkin, Paul Johnson, and Newworldaquarium (NWAQ) discounted to five or ten dollars at that Wal-Mart of indie record shops, Rough Trade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But it's been rather eye-opening to see the litany of obscure titles filling the half-off bin at Manhattan's new powerhouse record and book shop 2 Bridges, which has carved out a nice niche for itself as the purveyor of weirdo dance music in NYC.
Following a trip to Chinatown last Friday when I took off early to ensure I grabbed the first volume of Safe Trip's fantastic Welcome to Paradise: Italian Dream House 85-92--the eight copies the store had of the first volume back in March sold out in under twenty-four hours, leaving me with only the second volume--I was surprised to find the small crowd of DJ's and music nerds already assembled clamoring instead for the new Giegling release from Kettenkarussell. I last wrote about the label in an unusually negative review of the glorified edits twelve put together by Olin (which just so happened to feature two killer remixes by Huerco S.) What I wrote then still holds true--while I respect the label's DIY ethos, their brand of "safe" house and techno leaves me yearning for the days of the more risk-taking yet equally lush Dial label. And thus, in picking a group of recent dance music twelves to review, I found myself going back to some older voices to get my fix of forward-thinking dance music (though I'm kicking myself for not grabbing Mix Mup's fantastic return in Gravity). Of course, as much as dance music critics love to deify 90s house and techno, there's still plenty of new producers plotting exciting and new paths for the genre. But unfortunately, with so much adequate dance music out there, artists and labels are employing new methods to stand out that employ brazen cultural appropriation or offensive imagery with little purpose, casting a dark pall over the music associated with those artists or labels.
First, let's go back to the old school. I'm always keen on finding overlooked and should-be classics from especially the late 90s as sample-based house gave way to the more gear-driven sound of microhouse--Common Factor's 1998 disco pop opus"Get Down" in particular has been on constant rotation and an interview with the producer for this site is forthcoming. And while I'll happily make exceptions to my no-new-twelves rule for personal favorites, I'm not bending over backwards to grab the latest imported white labels. But when they carry the logo of Amsterdam's legendary outpost of hazy house and techno Delsin, well, it's hard not to give it a listen...especially when it's an unknown release by an artist named Norken who I assumed to be a new name.
Someone who's not a new name is Chicago house deity Ron Trent. He's been enjoying (I hope) some serious renewed interest in his legacy and music thanks to that other Amsterdam dance music powerhouse Rush Hour's retrospective anthology Prescription: Word, Sound & Power. I mention this because recently he was on the outstanding NPR show Code Switch discussing with the inimitable Gene Demby the origins of house music and its appropriation by white European producers who not only imitate his and other originators of dance music's production styles, but don fake black identities and backstories as well to fulminate interest where there would otherwise be none. The whole thing is worth a listen, not least for its introductory half where Demby professes his lack of knowledge about house and techno and then goes on to give what, to my ears, was the most succinct and on-point introduction to both genre's development I've ever had the pleasure to hear.
While an essay on fourth world-informed contemporary dance music, exoticism, and cultural appropriation in music is also forthcoming from this site, I mention that episode today because at one point, he and Trent give an illuminating discussion of what "House is a feeling" actually means. As they shrewdly point out, house music tracks can seem indistinguishable from one another to those with a passing knowledge of the genre. But for those who listen and contort themselves to dance music endlessly, the tracks that manage to stick out from the rest and become classics are those that evoke an instant feeling of familiarity in the listener. No matter how alien-sounding the sonics may be, when the elements click together just-so, the track in turn transports the listener to that special headspace where all you can do is close your eyes and let the music overtake you.
This is a feeling I was lucky enough to experience that afternoon via that mysterious Delsin white label from the producer Norken who has actually been releasing hazy deep house and techno for two decades now and perhaps better known for his IDM-leaning Metamatics project. Delsin has done us all the great service of reissuing the "cult" classic title track--which is currently fetching prices starting at $31.87 as of writing--from his debut 1997 EP on REEL Discs entitled Southern Soul. Taking up the entirety of the A side, it took me approximately ten seconds to decide to purchase this release, not knowing it was even a reissue at the time as Norken goes about eliciting all the feels from the listener that result in a truly timeless-feeling EP. A simple-but-effective four-chord cycle forms the bed for the producer to deploy a limited arsenal of sonic elements consisting of skipping drums, luscious lingering pads, a steel drum-esque countermelody, and a lead high-end melody that manages to split the difference between microhouse and bleep techno. As a result, he carves out a cosmic mental space for the listener to explore and stretch out within. And for as transportive of track that "Southern Soul" is, it's truly the plinking and plonking of that distinctive high-end that makes it a winner. The producer, born Lee Norris, takes his looping lead and imbues it with a live sensitivity as he moves back and forth between two main melodic motifs, stretching and contracting them with each passing phrase. Capping things off is a rhythmic set of department store-ready chord stabs providing an anchor of familiarity to ensure that this singular track will find a new life on dance floors big and small alike.
On the flip, we're greeted with a restlessly funky and playfully clipped rhythm-melody that serves as the beating heart of "More Frequencies" as Delsin fills out the rest of this EP with two cuts from Norken's 1999 debut album, Soul Static Bureau. Sounding like it would be right at home on a Herbert record from that time, Norken manages to achieve a similar level of surgical soulfulness by recasting familiar scenes in new lights and staging, taking that spiky loop, drenching it in decaying pads, and affixing it to a propulsive, no-frills beat. But no loop is ever left untended to for long, with Norken tweaking the sonic and temporal parameters on each recurring pass. Like the title track, what strikes this listener is the producer's ability to craft superficially-familiar sounds from his hardware that call to mind an organ or bolt of electricity, but infuses each with a textural heterogeneity that envelop the attuned listener both at home and on the floor. The robotic melancholy of "Frequencies" soon gives way to the pre- or post-peak time closer of "Shifting Towards." Undergirded by a Chicago-informed bassline that takes centerstage in the mix, the streamlined Detroit dub engine of the preceding two tracks also comes to the forefront with the producer exercising considerable restrain in weaving these disparate yet complementary stylistic impulses together into a track all its own. Lilting stabs are left to wither in the sun as the track opens up with the kind of dynamic attack-and-decay interplay upon which the house of Basic Channel was built. However, it's the ear worm of the track's wiggling lead that serves as the shimmering bow tying the whole thing together, echoing in the listener's ear long after the groove runs out.
Speaking of Basic Channel, whereas there is a certain narrative quality to Norken's tracks as they build and fade away like short vignettes, part of what made 90s house and techno so special was groups like the duo of Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus who set out to make functional, track-y dance music and ended up creating a whole new paradigm in the process that continues to inform music to this day. Together they pushed contemporary dance music into wholly new dimensions through drawing upon the time-tested tools of echo, delay, reverb, and repetition to create tracks that didn't really seem to end or begin, but whose very existence could totalize dance floors while serving as a perfect soundtrack to daily life.
I've always felt a similar way about the music that Jochem Peteri makes as Newworldaquarium. Another veteran of 90s IDM and techno, this Dutchman helped in establishing Delsin as the outré techno powerhouse that it remains today, primarily off the strength of his career-making smash "Trespassers," which the likes of Carl Craig helped to make one of the last decade's most critically-acclaimed dance tunes (while bailing on a proposed Planet E pressing when the 300 copies printed failed to sell well enough). Riding out a booming 909 kick and chirping high-end courtesy of a crafty Sergio Mendes sample for eleven minutes, Peteri managed to create the kind of functional dance track that could work as a peak-time, big-room banger and as a driving soundtrack to the rest of life that occurs off of the dance floor. So it was with no small sense of irony upon first dropping the needle on "Chubby Knuckles"--the title track from his first new EP of material since 2008--that I was met with that same pounding 909 bass drum and a fluttering high end that could be described as less of a chirp and more of a bird song. Joining those familiar elements are a sampled bit of what sounds like the strings and guitar of some lost disco hit, a staple of Peter's NWAQ tracks and reflecting the diet of American house and techno upon which he raised himself. Like Moodymann's eternal gliding strings that often drone on for entire tracks, Peteri uses a similar trick but blows up to a grainy 16mm print, shimmering a faded gold beneath the caked-on layers of reverb and delay. In short, this is classic NWAQ material given a healthy update to ensure its viability on dancefloors and headphones the world round as an accessible yet transportive dancefloor filler. Appearing almost fully formed within the track's opening moment, "Chubby Knuckles" rides its shimmying groove for eight-minutes straight as Peteri tinkers endlessly with the mix to create the kind of track whose endless repetition transforms into a kind of transcendent, planar sense of being, as if we're all just surfing on the cosmic waves of time, man.
And while "narcotic" is the perfect descriptor to nail down the effect of NWAQ's music, that word doesn't even begin to describe the effect had by the superego-crippling sonics on the loping, endlessly engaging "42." It bears worth noting that the producer's tracks are the products of one- to three-hour-long jam sessions in which he places himself at the center of his music, tweaking and arranging each second of each minute just so to create repetitive music that creates an infinite sense of depth (something that another ambient techno master of the 90s, Wolfgang Voigt and his GAS project, has also brought back for the first time in nearly two decades in the form of his majestic, epic Narkopop long-player). I'm not quite sure how long "42" and its accompany "42 (Yoga Outro)" take to fully unspool, and I don't really care to know as both tracks reunite the listener with the producer's more abstract, inward-looking side that has produced such droning monoliths as "Heavy Metal" and dancing-while-sleeping leathery of "The Force" as he plunges the string-laden bedding and a precious three-note 'hook' into the depths of his oceanic sound world. Of particular note is the accented bass drum pattern that serves to move things along with Peteri pitching up each note's frequency until what sounds like the world's first bass clave-like noise comes into focus, wobbling back and forth like a wooden metronome on smack. The track reaches something of a climax as the delay that has been giving the track its distinctive shimmer threatens to untether itself all together, signalling to Peteri to mercifully end the take. The kick drums are absent for the "Yoga Outro" as a snaking, arpeggiated bassline undulates for a few minutes and disappears before the listener can really quite make sense of it all. While Norken's attention to detail is what causes his music to soar, it's hard to imagine many other producers outside of a select few who are able to achieve so much with so few variables and an endless trove of ideas. If you've ever spent a lot of time listening to GAS, you've likely noticed how nearly impossible Voigt makes the processing of musical memories as his tracks seem to just glide by, arising and dissipating with what comes in between never quite coming into clear view. I've come to think of Peters's music as NWAQ and Ross 154 in a very similar light and thus look forward to introducing new crowds to these two tracks for years to come.
Going back in the release timeline a few months, the debut of Gordon McKinnon's Strange Culture project has received considerably less attention than other recent releases by his Invisible Inc. label, such as Sordid Soundsystem and the SPACEROCKS project. The beauty of a record store's discount bin is that it usually contains releases that didn't sell particularly well, but were bought by an informed buyer who thought they were of enough aesthetic merit so as to order them in the first place. And that makes the discount bin at a store like 2 Bridges so special, the chance to get a great record at an even better deal. So when I saw the hand-written sticker (hyping the "hazy, dreamy techno") that adorns featured 'special wall' releases on the sleeve of Strange Culture's Sublimed EP, I knew I would be going home with that twelve.
Invisible has already made something of a name for itself for specializing in both live-feeling nu disco and plastic tree-adorned balearic, which makes the Sublimed EP both fit it and stand out from the rest of the label's catalog as McKinnon is interested in creating compositions that evolve organically while featuring hyper-attentive compositional detail. As noted on the record's Discogs page, each of the four songs are based off of "arpeggios created on a customised Jupiter-4." The racing arps of "Apples in the Airlock" kick things off on a high-energy tip while displaying the producer's ear for gooey, sunbaked melodies. Where NWAQ'a and Nordek's music shines through in its textures and detailed effects, Strange Culture's music is all laser-sharp harmonies and interlocking phrases. As the opening arpeggiated bassline soon settles into its respective pocket, McKinnon brings in a rolling high-end arp over a disco beat before the song's lead melody casts the whole tableau in a dusky, beach-ready ambience. If "Apples" resembles a Balearic beat on uppers that works equally well played at 33 rpm, "Violet Ocean" is of a decidedly more laid-back disposition, riding a toy-like drum machine beat at about half the tempo of the preceding number. While I can't speak to McKinnon's influences, when it comes to contemporary counterparts, one can't help but think of the hypermelodic sensibility and versatility of a Legowelt or the under-appreciated modern balearic of the Windsurf project. By the time the producer brings in the laid-back vibraphones that provide the song's leisurely lead, the listener is calmly at ease somewhere else entirely, some place sunny, warm, and with the chillest of vibes.
"Garden of Unearthly Delights" sees McKinnon picking up the tempo and energy considerably over a pneumatic disco shuffle churned out by his drum machines. A charging arpeggiation soon quickens, turning into a wave of ASMR-like echoes that provide the song with its lush foundation before turning its head downwards for a spacey middle section that sees the producer injecting a bit of drama into the situation. A cluster of terse, staccato melodies and lunging sonics gradually come into being as the fog lifts and we're left with a robo-disco coda low on batteries. The often-unresolved nature of McKinnon's compositional sensibility--he's great at beginnings and middles, but his bangs often end with a whimper--is given a resolution of sorts with "Transfer Closer." A restless, enervating four-note melody placed at the end of each phrase is the turnkey by which McKinnon ratchets up the energy and tension, turning in what is perhaps his trackiest and most effective effort on what is ultimately a promising EP from a multi-faceted producer still developing this particular voice.
As we enter the final stretch of this record round-up, we're gonna zero in on two remixes that totally passed me by (and seemingly most other listeners that I know) last year, sharing what can at best be referred to as a problematic throughline in the form of label Berceuse Heroique. First up is Japan Blues, an artist who first popped up in my Instagram feed when Bent Crayon posted a picture of the LP. From there, it was like watching dominos fall in real time as each friend I'd see who knows their shit would invariably ask me if I had heard his debut album, inspired by "an imaginary geisha opium den" and fitting nicely in between GRM-esque sample collages and fourth world exoticism (the album is cheekily called Sells His Record Collection, so he's no DJ Blackface...or is he???) Anyhoo, I initially set out to review a set of remixes that he did for DJ Slyngshot last year that recently have been popping up in stores and conversations in my neck of the woods, so I figured I'd try and tap into what seemed like a vital vein of the current dance music zeitgeist.
Hoo boy, did I ever. A remix of the meme house-adjacent DJ Slyngshot by Japan Blues, an artist who put out his first couple of culture-spelunking twelves under that moniker on shit-stirring label du jour Berceuse Heroique alongside a Convextion remix of Berceuse artist Interstellar Funk? Berceuse is a label whose owner is a misogynistic shithead with trendy taste...y'all remember 1080p? And that was all behind closed doors. No thanks, I'll pass on this one, right?
And yet...while a discussion of meme house might seem relevant to me someday, as of late I've been thinking a lot about the calculated aesthetics of certain labels and artists who seek to simulate/emulate a degree of "authenticity" or gain attention through outsized backstories and offensive and purposefully ambiguous artwork. The latter of these two found a figurehead in the fall of 2015 when Berceuse Heroique label head Gizmo posted on Twitter defending his right to stalk a woman for three hours while ogling her ass. While casual misogyny still gets the pass more often than it should in the Twitter woke police state, this came after several years of ruffling more than a few feathers with the label's purposefully offensive and provocative artwork featuring lynchings and executions of persons of color and minorities. While initially apologetic for his "bad joke," Gizmo soon decried the "witch hunt" that arose around him and asked that his detractors not "take it out on my boys."
At this point in time, any collective action on social media that involves condemning acts of prejudice and discrimination--no matter how heinous the transgression--will inevitably attract a vocal, well-read detractor who is often clearly wary of the younger generation's political "agenda" and in turn attempts to defend the perceived victim of Twitter's countless SJW's (ew). The Wire's David Keenan made a strong case for why that magazine is currently hurling itself toward irrelevance by stepping up to this role in an essay that attempted to dismiss the controversy as a short-sighted reaction from armchair activists. And as these essays often are, it's full of useful historical context tracing this aesthetic tradition of provocation through offense, charting its modern origins in the music and visual art associated with Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse, and Boyd Rice up through modern practitioners like Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Vatican Shadow, a shitload of half-baked other projects). First addressing that the responses to Gizmo's "problematic" and "offensive" tweet "sounded like rock and roll to me"--falling back on the classic rockist argument that it's in rock n' roll's DNA to provoke and upset--he then proclaims to "understand where these guys are coming from." After all, they're just diligently upholding the tradition of "night side" imagery in which the formless music of Whitehouse was given a visual corollary in the form of purposefully upsetting imagery "without signposting exactly how you are supposed to react."
OK, so far, whatever. Where Keenan's argument really goes off the tracks is by holding up 70s UK punks as examples of a group of individuals who engaged with offensive imagery like swastikas, albeit in a "more straightforwardly adolescent way." Citing truly stupid and insensitive acts like Sid Vicious wearing an armband with a Swastika around Paris' Jewish Quarter, he implores the reader to question why these punks weren't held up to the same scrutiny as Whitehouse or TG. It's almost like someone has never read his Dick Hebdige:
These “humble objects” can be magically appropriated; “stolen” by subordinate groups and made to carry “secret” meanings: meanings which express, in code, a form of resistance to the order which guarantees their continued subordination.
In his landmark book Subcultures, Hebdige zeroed in on UK punks' spectrum of appropriation, ranging from safety pins up to swastikas, worn as a means to distance themselves from the dated and racist culture of their parents' generation. And as Shuja Haider acutely observes in her article "Safety Pins and Swastikas," it's likely many former punks shudder at the idea today of donning a swastika, having learned that "its previous connotations were not so previously overwritten." Now, the fact that there is no stated political agenda to this type of shock-and-offend art is, Keenan believes, what gives the art form its power and any attempts to curtail that is censorship. While censorship is something that should always be interrogated--see my discussion of Hannah Black's cries for the destruction of art in this year's Whitney Biennial--as others were quick to note, the white males who typically perpetrate this kind of art-shock aesthetic tend to immediately cry out in defense of their "right to offend" rather than engage with those who have been offended and/or actually felt racial and political oppression in a constructive dialogue (or at least give it a shot). And ultimately, that's my issue with artists like Violetshaped and Fernow using upsetting imagery in their release artwork and shows as it's solely in search of causing an affect in the audience, ideally one of revolt and disgust, which will somehow magically result in them reevaluating their own aesthetic beliefs. In short, it's a bunch of mostly white and entitled males (and females) exercising their "right" to offend without ever reflecting on just how that might affect someone with a completely different upbringing and set of life experiences than them.
And I should note one thing here: I've been encountering Berceuse Heroique's confrontational record art for a couple of years now because my local, go-to shop of choice is a store called Material World that specializes in carrying the Throbbing Gristles, the Fernows, and Whitehouse's of the world. So believe me when I say there is wayyyyyyyy worse imagery adorning plenty of releases that likely are selling as many copies as a lot of the Berceuse releases. That said, this is dance music, a genre of music created by queer and straight persons of color, marginalized music created by and for marginalized people. So when white males like Fernow and Gizmo play dance music gatecrashers to stand out from the other angry white guys, they make a significantly greater splash, just like Ten Walls did when he decided to sound off about homosexuality. So let me just say this once more: In the genre of dance music, where its creators, innovators, and originators rarely seem to achieve the same financial success as their white European counterparts, to deploy racist and fascist imagery is simply disrespectful to the genre as a whole and, pardon me, fucking rude.
And I apologize for the political tangent in what is supposed to be a music review, but at the same time, it's becoming harder and harder to write about music and not at least engage with the greater discourse happening both online and IRL. While provocateurs like Gizmo are acute readers of culture, knowing which musical trends to ride and how to market them effectively (if not irresponsibly), what does that mean for the music itself? Should any artist who agrees to release their music on Berceuse automatically suspect? Of course not. We do not know Gizmo and how he conducts himself with "his boys" (I'm pretty certain no women have released on Berceuse but still need to confirm). I also have a hard time giving Gizmo much benefit of the doubt, especially when looking at the cover art of Interstellar Funk's Caves of Steel, featuring what looks to be a stereotypical housewife from the 40s or 50s (not exactly great times for women) paired with a picture of an actress who is seemingly being swallowed whole by the darkness (I know I know her name, but am spacing, input appreciated). I'll be the first to admit that taken on their own, both images are starkly and mysteriously beautiful and caused this viewer to reflect on the gender norms that were prevalent in the first half of the twentieth century. But when looked at now, after spending much of today reading up on both the controversy and the label's social presence, it's near impossible for me not to see this as some backhanded response to the whole controversy, with Gizmo relishing in his right to present women however he wishes (which before this release was either nude or with an obfuscated face).
At it turns out, hanging out in the discount bins also means that over-priced records from controversial labels like Berceuse Heroique will tend to pop up. And while I didn't know much more about the label other than they tend towards the type of aggressive techno that's not typically my tea, since falling in love with the Convextion remix contained on the Interstellar Funk record I now own and buying a copy of Japan Blue's Sells His Record Collection, it's an issue I've felt at least compelled to look into and learn as much as I can about. Will I be seeking out Berceuse Heroique records in the future? Not likely. Will I turn down an incredible (and basically free) cut from one of my favorite artists just because it's released on a problematic label? Nope. I will be keen to let anyone know that I tell about this track the backstory behind its pointed sleeve images.
And now, onto the music. As a YouTube commenter might say, '"Ain't Got No Time" brought me here' in the first place as it full-on charmed the pants off of me when a DJ friend sent it through yesterday. Little did I know the journey it would take me on, considering that it's a relatively straight-forward post-disco house jaunt featuring a killer bell sample. However, te remix becomes considerably less impressive when placed beside the truly shitty original, which sounds like an ironic Four Tet demo from his Dialogue days if he had been friends with Ross From Friends and DJ Seinfeld. The thing is, sometimes you can polish a turd and this remix is a perfect example of that, picking out that cherry of a sample and placing it over a sauntering beat for maximal dancefloor fun. And even though it sounds as if it was made in about thirty minutes or less, it just fucking works. Sorry for the lack of eloquence here, but sometimes a quixotic glockenspiel sample placed over a sassy breakbeat and satisfactory bassline means magic and this song lands somewhere between Jus-Ed's "CT. Beat Down" and Daniele Baldelli's "Chop and Roll" for me, and that's not a bad place to be imho. "O Town (Japan Blues Remangle)" gives the producer considerably less to work with and so he churns out a fine, downtempo house tool that I already have like twenty of so thanks, I'm good.
Finally, let's turn our attention to Interstellar Funk. Our third Dutchman this week, he peddles the kind of adequate hardware techno that labels like Rush Hour and Dekmantel seem to live for (and I say that lovingly as both labels have put out great records that I own). Hell, once I took it home and learned that their fascist imagery and depictions of mutilated and hung persons of color only became the subject of controversy following a tweet defending a creepy-ass instance of the male gaze, well, you can understand if that caused a bit of soul searching. But controversy or no controversy, when you see a record that would typically be $18 marked down to basically nothing and boasting a Convextion remix no less, well, I'd like to see you resist checking out the ol' YouTube.
Until about an hour ago, I couldn't for the life of me understand how a Convextion remix this good, this vital-sounding would have gone seemingly totally overlooked by the dance music media. I mean, listen to it. That is one bad-ass, Terminator Techno track, huh? But now that I know that the whole Berceuse controversy was kicked off by a tweet by the label owner about staring at a woman's ass for three hours and released in December of last year when little short of a Burial or Beyonce surprise release will rouse anyone into being proactive? Well, let's just say I've cooled down a bit as I totally get now how this track got (unrightfully) buried. Hell, Convextion released his first album in ten years that same month! I was rushing to give that a thorough review so I could decide whether or not to put it on my best albums of the year.
Having said all of the above, let's just focus in on this truly stellar track by one of techno's greatest talents. I don't know about you, but I haven't exactly been reaching for 2845 nearly as much as I expected to at the start of this year. I love that album's opening sixteen-minute opus of spaced-out dub techno, but as the album carries on some of it hews a bit too close to sounding like vintage UR and other Detroit techno for it to warrant repeat listens like Convextion does as the tracks begin to buckle under the weight of producer Gerard Hanson's maximalist compositions. 2845 is desperately missing a track like "Caves of Steel (Convextion Remix)" with its rapid-fire bass line and pounding electro beat, eerie chants serving to offset the inhuman pacing. For six minutes straight, Hanson's driving bass and drums don't let up once, taking up most of the room in the mix until the haunting highs that had been building for the first half let loose the type of atmospheric organ line that separates the Convextions from the Interstellar Funks of the world. It reminds me of another favorite track of Hanson's, this one also a remix that takes a lackluster Tom Trago track and straps on rocket boosters to send it to the stars. The difference with the "Caves of Steel" remix is that while he's peddling in high-octane electro once again, the soundscape it evokes is a lot less Star Trek and a whole lot more Mad Max: Fury Road as this masterful producer manages to captures the thrill and desperation of throwing a vehicle into fifth gear and not letting up on the gas pedal till there ain't no more gas.
So what is there exactly to take away from all of this? Well, sometimes nineties fetishism is tolerable when it comes to pristine house and techno that has been priced out of accessibility. Also, the dance music track in the hands of a Basic Channel or, in this case, a Newworldaquarium, becomes a tool of transcendence that transfixes the listener in a hypnotic head space while providing a pulsating, ethereal background soundtrack for your day-to-day journeys. Oh, and when it comes to younger guns engaging with a controversial aesthetic tradition and behaving like a total dumbass, that has serious repercussions for the artists you espouse to champion and their fans who care to stay mindful. Lastly, a Convextion remix is a Convextion remix is a Convextion remix. Oh yeah, and it sounds just as awesome played at 33 and thanks to the internet, let's cue the title music. The end.
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