This is the Way, Step Inside….

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This is the Way, Step Inside…. Various Artists: Privileged Frames [V/Vm]

Hack Intro…After having spawned the early acid-house LPs of 808 State and the early crossover pop-techno of a Guy Called Gerald, Manchester hasn’t been noted for providing the scene with much to get excited about. The predominance of Warp in the Northern swathe of England has meant that many Northern producers have been ‘signed’ up to the Sheffield label and had their identity swamped not only by corporate design but by becoming easily labelled as ‘Warp acts’. However, over the past years a more ‘minor’ independent label activity that services the electronic dance scene has been becoming more visible. Of these the Skam label, notable for releasing the first Jega EP, Bola, Freeform and Autechre’s Gescom project, has been growing more noticeable up to the point where Jega are attracting the interest of Rephlex. Whereas Skam are bubbling under, a younger label, V/Vm, is ploughing a linked, but often more abrasive line of experimentation.

Moving Away… A cursory listening to V/Vm’s Privileged Frame release would relate this compilation to the Rephlex brand of ‘techno’. As much as it would appeal to those who were into the Aphex Twin and Leo Anibaldi sound it must be said that the tracks on this compilation have more of a vitality, a divergent urgency. Rephlex’s visibility as a major independent leads to a homogenised sound, a cerain complacency that is reflected by the predominant cleanliness of their cuts. It’s almost like they’re hard but not hardcore. Tracks seem to be rattled out. There’s a flippancy to be heard. V/Vm is closer. The producers featured on their second release are closer to their equipment, closer to their sounds and as a consequence closer to their listeners. What they inject is attitude and this is a key point about such labels: it is not that they are ‘distinct’ because they are more obscure but that their tracks are made from a desire to make music and this desire transmits decoded urgency. Being closer makes for a music of detail. V/Vm select the syntax, adds roughed up inflection. There’s dirt in the groove and crafted-flaws that inspire.

Moving Closer In…Eleven tracks on a twelve makes Privileged Frames an LP? an EP? A sampler? AN assemblage of connection and tangent? A multiple vector of ennunciation? Like Skam the packaging is personalised not mass-produced. A booklet and stickers raise the spectre of A Factory Sample and prepare the listener for a dose of idiosyncracy that opens with the Alien Porno Midgets butchering of steel-guitar muzak through deceleration and bass distortion. Next up is a track by Japanese Industrial Agent: a slice of industrial-electro, backed by low strings, that moves through 3 phases as it builds towards sinister melodics. Oleg provides a full-bodied bass drone and Moog hiss before the schizzy Mild Man Jan weighs in with the first of two tracks that play with overload and groove-distortion – the second buries its beat beneath radio voices and reverberation. With a further take on muzak (sardonically entitled, End) BriocheKretzaal adds a piece of harmonic stripped-down electro-pop that exploits, and looks for new room within, the New Order formula before wavering out of tune. The second side opens with a track from Jega Datathief: low dark synth sweeps, shrink couch talk, a repeating metallic howl before neo-electro rhythms burst through to carry the momentum. Sherpa delivers a beatless track of icy electronic winds which carry the faint traces of a spoken narrative beneath them. Objective is up next with springy bass notes filled in around the rhythm in such a way as to create a vertigo of contrapuntal movements. A lock groove separates the two parts of this track entitled Crash/Course. Last up is JowonicProductions: a poem read out against a bricolage of techno styles. As it says in the run off – there are no boundaries. Contact V/Vm on 0850-076 262.

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