Efdemin: New Atlantis (2LP, Ostgut Ton, February 2019)

Phillip Sollmann throws us a curveball at the start of this album: opener Oh, Lovely Appearance Of Death consists of a sort of ambient wash under an a capella rendition of the (predictably cheerful) Funeral Hymn For A Believer sung by visual and performance artist William T Wiley. It’s simple and affecting and certainly not what I was expecting from my last encounter with Efdemin, 2010’s Chicago. (He’s released one record in the meantime, 2014’s Decay, which I didn’t pick up.)

The rest of the album is more conventional dance fare — though thankfully not too conventional. As you might guess from the move from Dial to Ostgut Ton, this is a little less deep-housey and a little more straight techno. It’s also a fair bit more experimental. A pleasingly bouncy beat weaves its way under a rich palette of synth noises which nicely balance melody with abstraction, and there’s a sparing use of some unusual instrumentation, including a “sing-drum” and Konrad Sprenger’s “motor-controlled guitar“. I guess you could characterize it as Berlin minimal seasoned with equal measures of second-generation Detroit and avante-garde invention (perhaps most strikingly in the moment near the end of Black Sun where it suddenly slows to about half speed, which sounds outrageous but somehow works). And the whole thing is done with precision and flair and it works rather brilliantly.

Incidentally, the title is a reference to Francis Bacon’s 17th century utopian sci-fi novel, which also provides the spoken word element of album closer The Sound House.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Techno.

Nick Höppner: Folk (2xLP, Ostgut Ton, March 2015)

Nick Höppner was half of My My, whose 2006 album Songs For The Gentle was a pretty fine example of the sort of minimal-ish techy deepish house that I was lapping up back then. But I can’t say I’d thought about them much in recent years. So when a friend recommended this to me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, I suppose you could say that this is a sort of techy deepish house, although it’s really left any pretension to minimalism behind. At first, I was a bit worried it was going to be too silky smooth, but it’s actually got something good and wriggly going on as well. There’s a nice range of material, the widescreen loveliness of tracks like Come Closer interspersed with denser clubbier numbers like Out Of and even a touch of real darkness in Grind Show. And the closing number, No Stealing is a proper anthem, the kind of thing that makes you want to hug a stranger in a field. So, yes, a bunch of this record’s appeal for me is its nostalgia value, but it’s a real treat nonetheless.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Techno.

Tobias: A Series Of Shocks (CD, Ostgut Ton, March 2014)

A friend walked in while I was playing the first track of this, and asked me whether it was Steve Reich. He has a point: the opening number is a pretty obvious tribute (although a synthy backing comes in towards the end which I don’t think he’d go for). Elsewhere on the record, we have: a sort of ambient techno which wouldn’t have been out of place on one of Warp’s Artificial Intelligence releases; a sort of acid techno with an echoey vocal which somehow reminds me of one of Underworld’s more restrained efforts; a sort of dark minimal which has more than a hint of Plastikman about it; and so on. So here’s the obvious criticism (it’s one that I’ve made about techno long-players before, and probably will again): with such a range of styles, this doesn’t really hold together as an album, and I can’t listen to it without a part of my brain distracted by the game of spot-the-influences (“hmm, that’s quite B12, that bit…” etc.). It definitely lives up to the Series part of its title — as far as the Shocks go, about the biggest shock is that someone managed to release something so very mid-’90s in 2014 (along with the inevitable realization that that really was 20 years ago, sigh). Having said all of which, I kind of like this record anyway. The thing is, he really does do a pretty good job of making good, proper techno music, whichever style he’s using… he really inhabits each role he plays, rather than just trying on a series of costumes. And as for the mid-’90s thing, well, it’s actually quite refreshing to hear something which is (to my ear, anyway) untouched by the influence of dubstep (and I’m sure my bassbins feel the same way).

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Techno / House.

Barker & Baumecker: Transsektoral (CD, Ostgut Ton, September 2012)

Quite a range of styles here. It starts out quite dubby, and there are some excursions into a kind of glitchy two-step. But the bulk of the album — and, for my money, the best of it — is just really good proper techno like they used to make: complex, sinuous rhythms, gentle plinky melodies. There’s a moment on the third track, Schlang Bang, where a chunk of the beat drops out for just a bar, and then kicks back in with the filters tweaked a little bit fuller… okay, we’ve heard this done a thousand times before, but it’s so subtly and expertly done and I can’t help but grin every time I hear it. It closes with the quietly anthemic Spur, which is like a more reserved (more German?) version of Gui Boratto. It’s maybe not ground-breaking, but it has a gloriously supple power, and I love it.

I bought this from Juno. They call it techno.

Steffi: Yours & Mine (CD, Ostgut Ton, February 2011)

This is really nice, laidback Sunday-flavoured dancing music. I guess it lives somewhere on a line between the less cheesy end of deep house and the more chilled out end of Detroit techno — in particular, there are moments which feel just like The Other People Place. Somehow, I don’t find myself with a huge amount to say about this: it has the feel of an instant classic, and I really like it.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Techno / House.