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The Cut with Filter Musikk

We don’t always go into Filter Musikk looking for music. Sometimes an aimless wander might take us through the glass doors looking for some innocuous conversation with Roland Lifjell from behind the counter. We know the risk we run whenever we saunter into the little record cave, especially on a Friday when a new batch of records have just arrived. Before we’re even aware of it we’re flipping through a stack of records, neatly organising a pile into possible new additions to our record collections, completely oblivious to the world around us.

We don’t even know how we got there, how these headphones are in our hands, how we arrived at a pile of records… hell we don’t even know who half these artists or labels are we’re listening to. Somewhere between saying hello and a cup of coffee, Roland has forced a bundle of records under our arm and before we realise, we’re adding a few of those to an ever-expanding library that’s already consuming our lives. 

But, isn’t that what it’s all about, indulging new experiences, broadening your horizons beyond the obvious. Surely we can’t keep listening to everything Strictly Rhythm releases or re-issues. We are grateful to Roland and Filter’s resilient and determined meddling, informing our continued musical education through the record store as the last vestige for truly underground music.

These aren’t the records you’ll find on your weekly “discovery” playlist or the records that make it past the ever-increasingly sanctimonious pay-gap of modern music media. These are records that if Roland didn’t pick them out for you, you would remain unaware of their presence. These are the records that make no real overt signal to their presence, very often only divulging  any information as to what they are in an invisible etching on the inner radius of a black disc. 

These are the records, handpicked out of a box of new arrivals at Filter Musikk by Roland Lifjell, this is the cut with Filter Musikk.  

 

Zeta Reticula – Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (Mechatronica) 12″ 

Nothing is safe from the conservative monotony creeping in on electronic music… even Electro. There’s been a surge of Deep- and Tech House “producers” that have stumbled onto the genre lately, applying their innocuous voice to a genre like a balding middle-aged man getting political on facebook. Nobody asked for your contribution and you’re not offering anything new here. 

Electro has had this covered all this time…there is absolutely nothing a hype producer looking or a breakbeat on Deep House EP could possibly do for the DIY genre at this point, so best just leave it alone and leave it to people like Zeta Reticula, who’ve been doing this kind of music since 2001 for established Electro labels like Electrix Records.

Zeta Reticula has maintained the fundamental building blocks of Electro in his work. Funky grooves, an evocative melody, a bridge-chorus-like progression and a futuristic eye for synthesis has followed him across two decades worth of discography and a myriad of aliases. With so much music and so many creative outlets, even an established artist like Zeta can lose focus sometimes and has, especially  with those cringing electro-clash attempts early in his career. 

“Formation of Life” however on his latest EP for the rather new Mechatronica imprint is pure masterclass. The bass figure running like train on autopilot; those bold swooshing pads and melodies with their heads above the clouds leave a remarkable impression.

He retains a similar cinematic approach to his music throughout the rest of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, and from the dubby delays of “Double Star” and the punky sounds of the title track they offer a few different moods to the fundamental designs of Electro with Zeta Reticula’s noisy and distorted treatment maintaining his artistic voice across the record.

 

Interplanetary Criminal – Sleepwalker Ep (Sneaker Social Club) 12″  

“Filter Musikk has become a breakbeat and jungle store” says Roland Lifjell with a grin. And yes, looking at the list of new arrivals, drum n bass, jungle and electro mark the majority of new records, even taking over from Roland’s Lifjell’s hallowed Techno as the majority of new music coming in this week. Like every genre today, these broken beat genres are also subject to micro-trends and fleeting-fads, but even those can have their moments like this latest EP from Interplanetary Criminal.

Interplanetary Criminal has been bouncing through various styles and microcosms of music since his first record in 2015, coming into the fray on the tail end of the Lo-Fi House movement with records for E-Beamz and Kalahari Øyster Cult. He’s dabbled in everything from Ghetto Tech to UK Garage at a rate of a new genre a record. If there’s anything consistent about the records Interplanetary Criminal creates, it’s that their not consistent, beyond maybe a penchant for nostalgic glares at the past and wispy textures.

For his latest outing he’s chosen breakbeat genres like Drum N Bass and Jungle as touchstones, spinning them into something more palpable for today’s audiences. Interplanetary Criminal checks off tropes as he channels those classic elements across four downtempo tracks. We’ve never heard James Brown that relaxed as snare drums roll past in slow motion and elongated pads drift by in a cathartic whine. 

The sub bass drawl is etched just a little deeper as a result and the entire record pulses along at a pace that gently coerces you through the tracks. Interplanetary Criminal loses a bit of steam by the time he gets to the finale and title track, but through the first three dynamic and versatile breakbeat arrangements this record makes a notable contribution to the ever-expanding breakbeat genre.

 

Forest Drive West – Static / Escape (Livity Sound) 12″ repress

Some records are so good they need to just stay in rotation and what we might have missed in the past can still make for a future classic. Take this record from Forest Drive West on Livity Sound from 2017. Deep, brooding bass lines, a muggy atmosphere and minimalist construction make for a record that just keeps giving. “Static” and “Escape” live on in infamy on this recent repress. Bordering on the cold UK sounds like Grime and the incessant rhythms of Techno, they mark two significant contributions to Techno DJ sets.

Forest Drive West produces this kind of record with the same clinical precision that UK artists like Blawan and Pearson Sound produce a record; everything in its place in a stark, frosty landscape. Cues from UK sound system culture like those big heavy sub-bass-lines and metallic melodies are stripped back and streamlined into breathy Techno workouts that instil just the right amount of temptation and fear in the listener.

 

Celestial Circuits – Autonomy (In A Spin) 12” 

Techno’s origins are rooted in inspirations from Science Fiction. Themes of space, the future, robots and dystopia inspired people like Derrick May and Juan Atkins to create Techno, but those themes have been lost somewhere in the queue to the club. Techno is all about being promiscuous and aloof today, and not nerdy and playful like it was intended. Somewhere along the line to Berghain Techno’s mandate changed into your uncle’s anorak, and started lecturing you on the correct tuning of a kick drum. Happily there is some relief in a group like this.

Celestial Circuits are pursuing the original ideologies of Techno built on spacey themes and futurist electronics. They’re called Celestial Circuits after all and over the course of two releases they’ve taken back the term Techno to mean something machine made, DIY, futuristic and not of this world. “Autonomy” is the second release from this unknown artist (or I suspect a duo) and it has a picture of an angry robot on the centre disc  – that should be enough shouldn’t it?

It’s a record that could also be described as an Electro record, but if you trust DJ Stingray, you’ll know that the two genres are essentially inseparable. Bouncing 808 kick drums; amorphous layers of a synthetic breezes; and lysergic chirps from a 303 bass machine, transmitting frequencies to outer space are contained on “Autonomy” and “Dark Sines.” It’s not some throwback Techno record however and here are some interesting sound design elements that continually crop up – some with greater effect than others –modernising the Science Fiction themes in the era of AI and interplanetary migrations.  

 

Suvatne – M.F.I.D.S (Sunlab) 12″

Sunlab is a new Norwegian label that is currently bringing a ray of sunshine to the dreary world of electronic music in Norway and beyond. The label and DJ collective comprised of a few young and eager artists, bubbling up through the ranks of Norway’s DJ community made a striking entrance when they made their debut at the beginning of this year with the Sunlab001 compilation.

It was all about B.2 or Brand’s “Juli” on a record that brought a little something different and forgotten back into the scene. With a musical approach nodding its head in the direction of early nineties Trance and Balearic and a group of producers and DJs that are even nerdier about electronic music than Roland Lifjell, they are doing everything on their own terms, outside of any trend-informed scene. They are back with the second edition to their quickly-expanding catalogue and a solo effort from Suvatne.

M.F.I.D.S are five tracks that expound on the first two the artist created for Sunlab’s original release. Airy melodic movements heading out into the stratosphere on the tail of effervescent kick drums streaking across the heavens define Suvatne’s sound across the five tracks of this release. At times he might favour a downtempo or ambient interpretation when combining these components but breezy melodies and punchy rhythms hold fast the Trancy nature of Suvatne’s music.

It’s a Trance record with that distinctive Norwegian approach to electronic textures, like a balearic arctic, if it existed on a different planet. It’s great to hear somebody that’s not doing brooding Techno or Deep House out of Norway and although Sunlab is mainly sticking to Trance for the moment B.2 from the last record might indicate a more diverse output from the label in the future. M.F.I.D.S will appeal to people looking for an upbeat rhythm and hedonistic tunes from their dance music, as it winks at you on its way to sunny isles of post-EDM Ibiza,