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New Releases: May 2023
Weeded Machine Funk, Dubwise Ohio Beatfreaking & Outsider Aussie House
A nice grippagé of new plates this month. Three unique releases that are all standouts in their respective vibes and sure to stand the test of time. Three more Bonus Bumps in blurb form down low.
Soft Pioneer, Roger Versey - Chaos LP [True Confession Record]
Soft Pioneer is Switzerland’s all-genre elder statesman Dan Piu (gov’t name: Georgios Boutopoulos), whose No Acting Vibes and Moto Music labels have been pushing US-rooted House and Techno since 1992. Dan was first introduced to me in 2017 after I released Archetype’s Glyph03. Dan had put out Charles’ (Arch) excellent Le Nid D'oiseau EP on Moto Music and acted as host / fixer on Charles’ EU tours in the late ‘90s. I was looking for more vault tunes for was / is and Dan had the goods. He passed me a nice caché of 90s-era demos and crucial plates from the No Acting Vibes and Moto Music back catalog including the hilarious ballroom House-emulating Positive Elements EP, which remains one of my goofiest but most charming records (“yeah you, wearing fake Chanel”). Nothing else came from our connection, but Dan’s new and unreleased works were suddenly in high demand. After 15 years of silence Dan opened the floodgates for a tsunami of new and old tunes to hit shops under his primary nom de plume as well as Intense Audio Vision, Allstar Motomusic, Soft Pioneer and a slew of collaborations. With ten LPs and nearly twenty 12”s to his name since 2015, it’s fair to say that Dan is in his musical prime.
While first wave releases on NAV and Moto range from Trance to wonky takes on NY Garage and Dan Bell / Rob Hood mnml tributes, Rennaissance-era Dan has been focused on the deep, melody-driven zone between classic House and Techno whose forefathers include Virgo 4 and Larry Heard. The Dan deluge has been a bit overwhelming, but 2019’s Alphaville stands out as a high point in space-age machine funk and one of the strongest four trackers in recent memory.
Chaos is even more successful. On it, Dan teams up with frequent-collaborator and vocalist, Roger Versey. The two already have a pair of Deep House LPs as Passport under their belt, but the dudes flip the script here with a smoked-out, murky approach that references druggier Nu Groove jams and early UK Techno. Dan provides old-style jak’n rhythms under advanced synth melodies while Roger flows with bars and poems in his husky baritone. It’s a total success. “The Lost Track” hits like Joey Beltram on Xanax. “Annihilate the Mandate” is vintage Stasis with a bold message.
“Giana Upgraded to Blueray” takes the LP into freakier waters with spiraling layered synths, a sick rezzy bassline and spicy poetry. “Flex” goes 80s-mode on ‘em with Poppy synth leads, a live bass patch and lyrics that include “No fake soldiers, she rides me with the force like Yoda”. Dan and Roger land their spaced out voyage with the ez-groovin “Nutritional Data Interface” – the logical conclusion to an amazing mini-LP of adventurous but nostalgic funk made novel via Roger’s sometimes-edgy, always-smooth flow. Play it out or jam it at home, it gets a 10/10 either way.
Teakup - TKP 001 [Teakup]
Teakup is longtime associate and fellow-Ohian (of Finnish extraction), Lauri Reponen, whose first vinyl outing I released on is / was in 2019. Miscellanea I was the product of over 50 completed tracks he’d sent over a 2 years period. It spanned the breadth of Lauri’s production acumen through Breakbeat / Hardcore, crunchy UKG-inspired Techno and mellifluous Tech House. It was a very tough record to compile given his massive backlog of tracks and the breadth of his productions. The end result was something of a sampler – a ‘best of’ the various sounds of Teakup (hence the name). Since then, Lauri has released a plate of Ohio-Style UKG on Columbus’ Shut Off Notice, a mini-LP of dusty, swung House experiments and a series of Bandcamp self-releases that have served to slowly leach his tremendously taut sack of unreleased jams. This is all to say that while Teakup may be not be a household name, his unrelenting stream of tunes and multi-genre mastery make him one of the most versatile and prolific producers out there, even if 90% of his material is languishing on my hard drive.
Thankfully, Lauri has taken matters into his own hands and pressed up the first release on his self-titled imprint. TKP 001 is, like so many self-funded American records these days, a pure labor of love. On it Lauri has assembled a selection of stripped, dubby broken Techno that perfectly embodies the melancholic beat-science experimentalism that’s been the dominant sound of his post-2020 demos. Not always club-friendly, but entirely engrossing, the EP is an uncompromising glimpse of challenging, cutting-edge explorations that more commercially-minded labels (ahem) would pass on. The sum-total is an EP that marries the echoic swing of vintage Gez Varley with Mille Plateaux ambience and a healthy dose of 2023 Bass Techno to make a very happy throuple.
The A-side hosts the most out-there excursions. “Vapor or Floating Stone” flexes Teakup’s meditative rhythmic experimentalism while “Sublimation Station” sounds like a long-lost G-Man b-side from his Kushti era. Things get bumpier on the b-side with “Phase Loss and Pad”, a Techno dubout that employs signature Teakup conceits like subtle synth sweeps and esoteric Ableton FX-chains while referencing Archetype’s Glyph EPs – also of Columbus, OH provenance. TKP 001 rounds out with its most floor-friendly cut, “Soul Recovery Beat”. Filtered breakbeats, pitch-shifted pads and bubbling, reverbed glitches combine to make a restrained but killer cut for new school Bass heads and 90’s Techno dorks alike.
As of 2023 I’m of the opinion that a record’s success has become untethered from its sales. The success x sales relationship is often proportionately inverse. As so many deeply shitty records put up big numbers, it’s the adventurous and often ignored plates that offer the most cultural value (ie. success). I wish the best to Lauri and TKP 001 but I think it’s fair to say the record will be a cult favorite rather than a club smash Not a bad template to follow when you consider the near-legendary status Archetype’s Ohio-born bruk Techno has obtained in recent years.
It now seems relevant to mention Teakup will be providing the second release on my new label, Data Disk (more on this next post). Expect the deep looping mysticism of TKP 001 with liberal helpings of Lauri’s raucous, ripping and tripping modes.
This one has no international distribution at the time of writing. Support direct via Teakup’s Bandcamp.
Ewan Jansen - Ciclo Mental EP [Red Ember Records]
Long-time Aussie House innovator Ewan Jansen returns to his own Red Ember Records with another plate of his singular House stylings. Jansen kicked off Red Ember in 1997 with a series of six DIY lathe cut plates from himself and Justin Zerbst. All were produced in runs of less than forty and are, of course, unobtanium, not just for their rarity but for their unique, high-quality take on Deep and Tech House. There’s an ‘outsider’ streak that runs through all of Ewan’s music - understandable given its provenance in the isolation of Western Australia. His tracks are collages of elements from all parts of the House pallet. Blissed balearic melodies coast along at 130+ bpms over swung ‘n steppin Tech House rhythms composed of drum samples from Theo Parrish’s MPC. These structural discrepancies don’t necessarily break the mold, but the cookie do taste different.
Ewan’s Cottlesloe Girl EP (one of the last of the Red Ember lathe cuts) reps this fusion to great effect. “Ultraviolet” mixes crunchy, stuttering, Confetti Records UKG drums with Ohio-style minor key melodies a la Dan Curtin or Titonton Duvanté while “Smokey” flexes slappy UK Funky drums with gurgling Tech House basslines – clocking in at 140 and 133 bpm, respectively.
Ciclo Mental has Ewan in a more polished and mellow mode that still harkens back to the improvised, naive elemental fusion that made first wave Red Ember 12”s so special. “Solanoid” kicks the A-side off with a building, not-quite-Tech-not-quite-Deep House approach “Caravania” keeps it up with a spectral chords, FX’d percussive lashes and wiggling flourishes on top of dueling basslines.
The B-side pulls a hard left, exchanging House for teky, modern wonk. “Mistik” comes through with driving rhythms and bold synth leads that land it on the benevolent end of the progressive spectrum. “Gecko” milds things out via innocent bleepy lead and cute melodies to make for a friendly easy rider. Ciclo Mental doesn’t miss and offers at least a couple of winners if forward-thinking House is your thing. It’s an excellent addition to the Red Ember catalog and a welcomed lesson in achieving levity in modern, floor-friendly House without resorting to retro-pastiche.
Minimono – Half Way Trough (Pt.2) [Bosconi Records] : From the dudes that brought you March’s TerraFirm 9. More melodic synthesizer exploration in a Tech House format.
Cignol – Lost Signals Part 3 [Further Electronix] : IDM / Intelligent Techno outings, including the 303 ballad “Electrob”.
Laff & Wow - Laff & Wow [Beatbude Records] : Experiment LP that answers the question “what would my synths say if they could talk?” From the release notes: “Improvised sounds of different instruments converted into lyrics by an automatic speech recognition program and recited by international robo voices.”
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