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Albums - Issue 603

Traumer - Assembling Pieces

TRAUMER

Assembling Pieces

Berg Audio

Beautifully made French techno
8.0
Parisian producer, DJ, and label owner Romain Reynaud is among the brightest stars in deep house and techno. Over the last decade, his releases for a wide variety of labels have made him a reliable name for subaquatic club cuts and echoic dub-dipped tracks, and part of a bubbling French scene that also includes artists like DJ Deep, Lazare Hoche, and Point G (aka DJ Gregory). ‘Assembling Pieces’ avoids the home listening album treatment that so many techno acts feel compelled to create, instead providing 11 powerful dancefloor moments that revel in space and heavenly atmospherics. ‘Listen’ combines swung hats and solid kicks with diaphanous wisps of synth and a sub-heavy bass, for a dreamy but chunky gem. The sublime ‘Senses’, a collaboration with seasoned dub techno pro and Mosaic boss Steve O’Sullivan, has the crisp minimalist repetition of Basic Channel at their best, warping chord hits combining perfectly with a thick bed of percussion. ‘Strap’ is more disco slanted, with a weighty bassline and stabbing keys; ‘Square Up’, has a funky square-wave synth at its centre, which weaves together with acid bleeps, M1 organ and pads for one of the record’s most intricate pieces. ‘Operation’, another team up, this time with Romanian producer Priku, is gorgeous and oceanic, building its bassy house groove to an angelic choir pad breakdown. ‘Sea Of Clouds’ is wreathed in airy, reverb-laden melodies and susurrating voices, and the final track, ‘Boarding’, is the best thing here, its insistent organ riff eventually joined by a bulbous FM bass synth for what you suspect will ignite dancefloors when it hits. Throughout, there are no genre experiments or diversions into different tempos, just 11 beautifully made, deeply-felt club tracks that will sound just as great at sunset outside as they will at 2am in a packed venue.
Ben Murphy
Swing Ting - 100 Dances

Swing Ting

100 Dances

Swing Ting

Dancehall joy from Manchester
7.0
Platt and Samrai have spent over a decade spearheading Manchester’s prime dancehall-and-friends night: Swing Ting. Adopting the name for their own productions, label, and this resulting album seems like a logical step forward, and the outcome is something of a state of the dancehall nation. Equiknoxx’s Shanique Marie from Kingston, and Gemma Dunleavy from Dublin, both bring some extra sensuality to intensely poppy tracks. ‘Give Thanks’ with Marie is a clear highlight. The Mancs in attendance at the mic throughout though – EVABEE, [ K S R ], HMD, and more – beautifully show off Swing Ting’s intensely dancefloor functional hybrid of soul and dancehall tropes. Somali-born vocalist HMD’s performance is compelling and well worth replaying. Though the productions are on autopilot, the execution here is most certainly on point, leaving a healthy set of party tunes to plunder.
Tristan Bath
Electric Indigo - Ferrum

Electric Indigo

Ferrum

Editions Mego

Metallic electronic experiments
7.5
The alter ego of Suzanne Kirchmayr, Electric Indigo is a DJ and electronic musician with long histories in the Berlin and Vienna dance scenes. In 1998, she founded the influential Female:Pressure platform, promoting women, transgender, and non-binary artists. Electric Indigo’s musical creations are more experimental in substance than her DJ sets, and this second album, coming after 2017’s ‘5 1 1 5 9 3’, arrives on foremost avant-garde imprint Editions Mego. ‘Ferrum’ explores the sonic qualities of various metals, with mechanical reverberations, droplets, and harmonic tones creating a shadowy netherworld on the beatless ‘Ferrum 1 2’. On ‘Ferrum 4’, though, a thundering four-four kick enters the picture, accompanied by clangorous percussion hits. It peaks on ‘Ferrum 8’, where the metal noises gradually merge into something halfway between bleep techno and Hessle Audio at its weirdest. Unique and compelling.
Ben Murphy
Nazar - Guerrilla

Nazar

Guerrilla

Hyperdub

Kuduro, thrown into chaos
9.0
Nazar’s self-described style of music, “Rough Kuduro”, started popping up almost five years ago, and stepped out fully-formed on an excellent 2018 EP on Hyperdub. The Angolan producer, who was raised in Brussels before returning to his home country, pits the upbeat rhythms of Kuduro with much darker, bleaker soundscapes, a distinctive sound that conveys the violent reality of the Angolan civil war. On Nazar’s debut album for Hyperdub, Guerrilla, he further distorts and mutates the sounds of Rough Kuduro: to tell a personal tale of his family’s collective memory of war, expanding on re-telling the horrors that his country has experienced. There’s often a stark duality between vulnerable moments and aggression throughout ‘Guerrilla’, which are set in place from the album’s opener, ‘Retaliation’; searing synth stabs slice through an otherwise tender recording of a folk song. ‘Diverted’ follows, introducing the blown-out beats that punctuate the rest of ‘Guerrilla’. Menacing pads roll in and out like thunder, evoking the hellish landscape of war. Nazar has created something profound with this release, evolving Rough Kuduro as a vital new electronic music style rooted in socio-political commentary.
Zara Wladawsky
Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini - Illusion Of Time

Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini

Illusion Of Time

Phantasy

Great minds synth alike
8.0
A man who’s made no secret of his rock-obsessed upbringing, Daniel Avery is happy to admit to a penchant for Nine Inch Nails. However, his collaboration with that band’s keyboardist Alessandro Cortini sounds like Avery spent his youth meditating to Terry Riley rather than moshing to Trent Reznor’s merry men, with ‘Illusion Of Time’ indulging the ambient leanings displayed on his ‘Song For Alpha’ album combined with the experimental electronics of his partner’s solo albums. Produced over several years, the album feels as unhurried as its gestation, with tracks like ‘CC Pad’ ebbing and flowing with an intuitive interplay all the more remarkable given the pair only met face-to-face in 2018. The title track’s limpid ripples and ‘At First Sight’s soothing pulse are particularly beatific, with only ‘In The Ruins’ Tim Hecker-style distorted drones disturbing the general sense of serenity.
Paul Clarke
Grimes - Miss Anthropocene

Grimes

Miss Anthropocene

4AD

Dystopic, genre-blending pop
7.0
The latest album from Canadian multi-hyphenate artist Grimes is a future-facing project that morphs genres, bending instruments in an attempt to find a new signature sound. The album surges and drops, emitting otherworldly sensations throughout. With experimental instrumentation, ‘Miss Anthropocene’ oozes robotic steel-like tones harking towards a dystopic future. Guests are kept to a minimum with appearances solely by PAN and i-o. Tracks like ‘IDORU’ and ‘My Name Is Dark’ continue her alternative pop anthem trajectory, while others like 'Delete Forever' are more conventional mainstream anthems. Songs like 'Darkseid' and 'Violence' are sonically more interesting, hinting at future desires for more overt experimentation. It may not be Grimes’ strongest project, as she figures out her footing on a new pathway, but it does delight allowing Grimes to show what she’s capable of while looking towards the future.
Dhruva Balram
Session Victim - Needledrop

Session Victim

Needledrop

Night Time Stories

Smoky and soulful
8.0
The German duo of Hauke Freer and Matthias Reiling are certainly no strangers to the more soulful side of house music; “refined connoisseurs’ would be the fitting adjectives, though their excursions into the album format generally see them lean even more heavily into the soulful, jazz-influenced side of things. This is more pronounced than ever on their fourth long-player ‘Needledrop’, to the point where 4/4 formulas are eschewed entirely and the lush funk-soul arrangements pushed right into the spotlight, while the electronic elements bumped into the second musical tier as sonic embellishments. This is far from a criticism, as the musicianship showcased on ‘Needledrop’ is the type you’d associate with life-long session players. Lead single ‘Made Me Fly’ offers a standout moment, drafting Air collaborator Beth Hirsch for vocal duties, though ultimately its charms lie in smoky understated vibes.
Angus Paterson
TOKiMONSTA - Oasis Nocturno

TOKiMONSTA

Oasis Nocturno

Young Art Records

A triumphant return, in Technicolor
8.0
Californian producer TOKiMONSTA is an unstoppable force. Following two intensive life-saving surgeries in 2016 - after which she had to re-learn how to talk, write, and produce music - within months she was playing at US mega-festival Coachella and working on her Grammy-nominated album ‘Lune Rouge’. Building on this momentum, she follows up with the second act ‘Oasis Nocturno’. On this album, she pulls from the budding talents around her: Atlanta rap duo EarthGang add vitality to the trippy 808-heavy ‘Fried for the Night’ and Bibi Bourelly and VanJess’s satin R&B vocals drape effortlessly over TOKiMONSTA’s poised beats. Her instrumental tracks stand boldly alongside these guest appearances, but when they come without the decoration of vocals, we’re able to fully absorb her sharp production style. TOKiMONSTA doesn’t tread new territory on ‘Oasis Nocturno’, but her dazzling productions create feel-good moments.
Tanya Akinola
Marlon Hoffstadt - Planet Love

Marlon Hoffstadt

Planet Love

Midnight Themes

Blissful trance for a new age
7.5
Trance is back! We’ve been hearing that for years, but while most artists limit their trance flirtations to some cheeky neon synth riffs or ironic nods to Eurodance, Marlon Hoffstadt isn’t afraid to go all the way. Planet Love is his debut album, and it finds him unashamedly reveling in bright colors, soaring melodies, and hippie-ish vocal mantras (e.g. ‘Be kind. Be humble. Take care. Give love. Because only love will set you free.’), all the while exuding an earnest sincerity that almost feels shocking in today’s electronic music landscape. Musically, it’s more Paul van Dyk than Tiesto (yes, there’s a difference), and given that the album was partially inspired by Hoffstadt’s struggles with anxiety, it makes sense that the dominant vibe is a blissful one. Cynics may scoff, but those looking to be uplifted will enjoy it.
Shawn Reynaldo
Joey Anderson - Rainbow Doll

Joey Anderson

Rainbow Doll

Avenue 66

Moody and majestic techno
8.0
New Jersey’s Joey Anderson is an underground house and techno phenomenon. As a DJ and producer, he’s put Jersey City on the map with his reputation as a skilful mixer, while putting out a long list of releases via taste-making labels Dekmantel and Uzuri. ‘Rainbow Doll’ finds him traversing unusual terrain, indicated by the opening ‘My Dream’, where the hiss of tape and burble of moody analogue synth combine with Anderson’s melancholic vocal and minimalist drum machine hits. ‘Heaven Help Us’ is an amphibious techno piece, where a circulating synth evokes Manuel Gottsching’s ‘E2-E4’, and the drums are absent until two minutes in. ‘Beside Me’ features Anderson’s vocals again, with drizzly synths conjuring a gothic, minimal wave aura, and ‘Ocean’ is a gem for long journeys staring through rain-flecked windows. ‘Rainbow Doll’ is moody and majestic, with a haunting atmosphere.
Ben Murphy
Vladislav Delay - Rakka

Vladislav Delay

Rakka

Cosmo Rhythmatic

Subdued intensity
8.0
Sasu Ripatti’s latest album as Vladislav Delay is his first since releasing the stunning ‘VISA’ five years ago, and he’s still got an incredible knack for conveying emotive intensity through vast, textural soundscapes. ‘Rakka,’ like most of his oeuvre, doesn’t have any real melodies or stand-out tracks. Instead, Ripatti layers flickering noises, chopping up and manipulating them, as if each track decays into the next. Apparently inspired by nature, the album certainly brings to mind the great Northern outdoors, with its glacial ambience, but it also feels just as fitting for a post-midnight headphones listen in the steel and cement confines of a major metropolis. Ripatti taps into our universal struggle for survival via his sonic collages of rapid-fire and subdued electronics, and may he long continue to do so.
Zara Wladawsky
Minor Science - Second Language

Minor Science

Second Language

Whities

Lab-tested dance mutations
8.0
Though nowadays he’s best known for his genre-meshing dance experiments as Minor Science, Angus Finlayson cut his teeth as a music journalist. His understanding of electronic culture runs deep, and this knowledge can be heard all over his debut album, following some well-received 12-inches for the Whities label. ‘Second Language’ comes at established dance genres in an interpretive way, arranging them in surprising and thrilling juxtapositions. ‘Balconies’ takes the Atlanta slow roll and distended 808s of trap as a starting point, but finds the drums slipping in and out of new rhythms, with exploratory synth sounds lending an otherworldly element. The stunning down-tempo breakbeat of ‘Blue Deal’, meanwhile, combines intricate drum edits with dreamy melody runs, like a chance meeting between Photek and John Beltran. Subtly investigative but never wilfully obscure, Finlayson’s album is an accessible treat.
Ben Murphy
The Fear Ratio - They Can’t Be Saved

The Fear Ratio

They Can’t Be Saved

Skam Records

Measure of success
7.0
Intended to prove “we can do more than just bang it out”, experimental tracks are as much a part of any “serious” techno album as monochrome sleeves and titles like ‘A406’. UK heavyweights James Ruskin and Mark Broom’s collaborative albums as The Fear Ratio tick all three boxes, but instead of serving as filling between thumpers, their experimental bits are the only course. Preferring to release their solo solid techno productions as 12”s, ‘They Can’t Be Saved’ follows their two previous albums to explore the extra space of the format. The glitch and hiss of ‘BY3’ is perfectly designed to drift around headphones, and when some semblance of rhythm emerges on tracks such as ‘Grey Code’, it feels more like you’re awkwardly skidding on black ice in a fog, rather than stomping through dry ice in a club.
Paul Clarke