Predictions have been abound with the musical trends and artists that are going to soundtrack the next decade. From folk industro-pop to Techno’s successor, everybody is waging their bets in an increasingly banal world of music dictated by industry. It’s an industry we’ve facilitated in an era of homogenized lineups and repetitive loops where the banal thrives and the esoteric is slowly being choked out. It’s where conformity prevails more than ever, at odds with the original spirit of this music and its scene. We are both victims and agents in the business of DJing and club culture, leaving little room for the freaks and geeks operating in the margins. But not all is quite lost.
There are still some places and institutions that remain loyal to the spirit of it all. They’ve been there since the beginning. They’ve endured the hardships of a failing record industry and thrived in the popularity of the music, but they’ve remained steadfast in all their endeavours and have avoided hype over something more sincere and committed. In Oslo, one of these places is called Filter Musikk. A record- and music store, Filter Musikk and its proprietor Roland Lifjell have been an institution in the city, supplying the city’s DJs with music and facilitating a scene around it working on the fringes of electronic club music.
The vinyl format might never be as popular as it was in its heyday in the nineties nor will it play continue to play a role in the future of DJing, but what it signifies today and what a shop like Filter Musikk perpetuates by stocking records, is the essence of club culture. And for those that continue to release records and DJs like Roland Lifjell who still carries a bag of vinyl to every set, there’s a dedication and sincerity to the original spirit that remains central to what they do. It’s an enigma, elusive to those that seek to capture it and inherent in those that live it. It will prevail long after the industry implodes, with places like Filter Musikk and figures like Roland Lifjell as beacons.
This is the cut with Filter Musikk.
Plaid – Peel Session 2 TX 08/05/99 (Warp) 12″
John Peel was a leading light in radio broadcasting, the likes of which we’ve never seen before or since. He had been there at the forefront of punk, assimilated post-punk into the UK’s living room and continued to pursue new and innovative music through his long and extensive career at the BBC. When electronic music had arrived through labels like Warp he was one of the first people to pick up the clarion call for the emerging music and through his Peel sessions, he shined an incandescent light on the scene.
At a recent NTS label showcase, the label unearthed some Peel Sessions from the label’s stable of artists and after some public demand these sessions have been released as records via the label. Warp stalwarts, Plaid’s 1999 session follows Aphex Twin with 4 heretofore unreleased recordings from the UK duo.
The record is a pristine archive of its time as the fusion digital- and analogue synthesisers in the dominance of computer technology that laid the foundation for IDM – the genre that defined Warp and continues to inform labels like CPU and BBBBBB. The live element brings a dynamic progression to this kind of music, one we rarely experience in the age of sleek perfection that dominates the computer mixing today.
Plaid’s playful video-game-melodies and abstract rhythms find a happy common ground in this record with everything from dub to broken beat informing their unique style. Tracks like “Kiterider,” which was never recorded before or after give us a glimpse into the past where a revisionist rhetoric has smoothed over much of the eccentricities of this music that went beyond Aphex Twin and Authechre. “Lazybeams” and “Kiterider” show a penchant for melody over functionality that eludes modern interpretations while retaining that level of inquisitive exploration that was the original charm of this music, and drew a forward-thinking radio broadcaster like John Peel to this music.
Rikhter – RIK2 (R – Label Group) 12″
Even while it looks like Techno is going to maintain its position as a leading light on club dance floors for the first part of the next decade, there are still factions within Techno pushing boundaries beyond conventions while others merely add to the ubiquitous pile of records cluttering the scene. Kobosil and his R-label group is one of the prior, picking through influences of EBM and industrial music in search of a sound to soundtrack our post-digital age.
There’s very little by way of conformity on the latest edition to the catalogue coming by way of anonymous label affiliate Rikhter, who is sure to be the alias of a DJ and artist of some repute, judging from the sonic quality of the music. This is music made for vacuous concrete spaces and unforgiving sound systems.
While it’s certainly contemporary in its sound design with bold atmospheres and prominent percussive arrangements, the music contained within harnesses echoes from a distant past where melodies and harmonic progression inform dogged machine rhythms. It goes a little beyond the simple functionality where the distorted electric guitars of “11F66” and the monophonic arpeggios of “Dissolution” distinguish RIK2 from the rest of Techno the scene. It remains a functional record and it’s resolute in its marching rhythms, but it’s not exclusively about the beat on this record.
Marcel Dettmann – Bad Manners 3 (Bad Manners) 12″
For the past 3 years, it seems that Marcel Dettmann has been re-inventing his sound as a DJ, producer and label owner, slowly disentangling himself from that Berghain Techno sound that established his international career. His sets have been re-appropriating the EBM and minimal wave sound of his formative years in modern electronic music dialects, moving away from the stark minimalist sounds that has followed him throughout his career.
In the latest iteration of this next phase, he established the Bad Manners label, as a sister label to his highly successful MDR with the aim to find an “undefined space for expression while encouraging unpredictability in format and sound”. That’s quite a sentence to describe what is essentially Techno DJ tools, but over the course of two releases, Dettmann has favoured a more oblique view of Techno through the Bad Manners imprint.
On this second release for the label – yes, second even though it’s numbered 3 – Marcel Dettmann delivers some previously unreleased remixes from his own catalogue via the Bad Manners conduit. Morphosis droning progressive take of “Work” and Anthony Shakir’s racaus interpretation of “Eruq” sit side by side on a record that could facilitate two very different parts of the night. That pristine perfection that dominates Dettmann’s earlier work has coarsened to a calloused noise with both remix artists finding something visceral in the boisterous machines.
It contributes to what seems to be Marcel Dettmann’s growing dissolution to the business end of Techno; a music that bastardised what he in part established at the genesis of Berghain, and confirms that you can still find a space to explore beyond the increasingly narrowed view that dominates the dance floor.
Freak The Machine – Am I Dead? (Murder Capital) 12″
Speaking of which… Murder Capital has never so much as feigned an interest what’s happening in the popular realm and the little Hague label running on the side of Viewlexx has maintained a vision of Techno as the honorary descendents of their Detroit counterparts. Submit X by Gesloten Cirkel stands as a landmark LP, not merely in their discography, but in the bigger narrative of Techno for anybody with an interest in the more obscure corners of the genre.
The sub-label’s reserved output hasn’t seen any new contributions since 2016 until now with unknown newcomer Freak The Machine. It’s a record that harnesses all that attitude from the DIY origins of Techno with energetic drum machines, distorting kicks and some faint strain of an undeveloped melody coursing through the four tracks of this EP.
Snarling synth bass-lines count out rhythms between crushing kick drums that stay the course through Techno’s 4-4 insistence, but with other percussive parts counting out syncopated beats, there’s a definitive electro mood that courses through the EP. On the A-side it’s at its most developed with the disembodied vocals of the the title track and share your fear channeling some Nitzer Ebb and Front 242 into a modern dialect with a sinister slant to modern Techno.
There’s a claustrophobic air that suffocates all the tracks and especially, “Can you feel the rain” with muggy basslines and sweltering acid motives raining down on the track in tyrannical power. That track, and it’s unusual development is in fact what stays with you long after, and while the a-side caught your attention, it’s the finale that offers something incredibly unique across the release and will keep you coming back to it, even in the next decade.
I Hate Models – Intergalactic Emotional Breakdown (Arts) 12″
This kind of new wave, EBM and breakbeat interpretation of Techno has been en-vogue across Europe the last couple of years, and while there’s been a lot of stress on the DIY aspects with noisy machines, distorting percussion and untreated samples dominating the alternative landscape, there are also super-producers like I Hate Models, who have taken those ideologies and harassed them in totally modern way.
Traces of a broken beat arrangement haunts “Intergalactic Emotional Breakdown,” but instead of utilising the obvious amen-break sample, I Hate Models synthesises the trope, in piercing metallic sounds that weave their way in and out of a very sleek production through the opening and title track.
Through the three tracks of the digital release, I Hate Models favours progressive arrangements, with long sweeping modulations that appear point perfect on designated beats. The syllabic vocal hook of “Death Engine,” the entrancing melodies of “Velvet” and the metallic snairs beating out a reluctant melody on the title track, add a dimension beyond the superficial which endears the listener to the record and makes for something that can stand out in a Techno mix. It’s not a mere tool to be played on the fourth deck of droning Techno set, but something that can hold its own on the dance floor and beyond.