Various: Osiris Music 50 [Osiris Music UK]
Simon Shreeve (one half of Kryptic Minds) has been in the bass music game since the early ‘00s and stacked up and impressive, heads-down, grafting, back catalogue to boot, turning out drum and bass, dubstep and lately, finding his true voice over the last few years, in more crossover techno excursions under his Monic guise on labels like Tresor and his own Osiris Music UK.
There are definitely some parallels to be made with Pinch and his Tectonic/Cold imprints in their shift towards merging dubstep with techno and deep house into new broken forms and in building solid stables of rotating, like-minded artists. The labels rarely disappoint in scope, vision or production values; they’re always highly crafted, tech, never overtly “experimental” but always pushing the envelope with a moody restraint. Sometimes this tendency can end up sounding a bit muted, a bit formalist for sure, but then there’s a sense of an embedded long game involved, not for radical short, sharp, shock treatments. It’s horses for courses innit.
This compilation marking the fiftieth release is a well-picked sampler of the last few years’ output, with plenty to pique an interest in further exploration of the back catalogue for the uninitiated. Definite highlights are the two Monic tracks, and Killawatt’s cyclical, gritty, bass wobbler “Pressgang” from 2015, still sounding out there as a front runner (although nothing’s yet to surpass the belting, syncopated broken beat Monic version of Manni Dee’s “Sister Nobody” from 2014 in my opinion).
Ian Martin: Sleepwalker [Panzerkreuz]
Viewlexx continue their run of low-key re-presses/re-releases, this one originally from 2013. Never heard of him before? But I’m impressed enough to go digging after this. Quite an achievement; to make a record that seems to synthesise an entire hallucinogenic trip, or the soundtrack to some unfinished, budget-pulled Italian zombie flick. The tone stays within an eery, almost John Carpenteresque, lo-fi Bladerunner Vangelis vibe throughout. Simple, direct, lush, detuned – you’re transported to bleached out, dystopian film rush clips off the cutting room floor; empty suburban shopping malls, streets before dawn, radioactive sunsets, and lonely drug abuse.
The 9-minute magnum opus, the untitled A3 pans even wider and envelops the track in huge washes of reverb and bass drone. Now the trip kicks in strong and we’re trying to white knuckle ride the cold lightning strike of absolute comprehension of everything running through our veins like a morphine steam train. On the flip, B1 takes us further into the humming generator of enlightenment – a ceaseless, paranoid skittering disturbing the edges of focus or concentration. If only it would stop, the voice of the universe would sing through my blissed-out body! But it doesn’t. It never does. Ride it out, ride it out…
And then we’re out of the worst and whisked away on B2 by a sludgy, chugging beat that locks us in for a final cold sweat, skeletal boogie on empty warehouse dance floors. Maybe we’ll make it now?
VSK: 47011 
If you thought Italian techno was flat and dead, think again! Francesco Visconti (from CRSR, Rome) turns in an absolutely essential, storming EP on Tommy Four Seven’s Berlin label. Totally infectious, constructed to a point, thick, phat, rolling, broken beat pummellers firmly aimed at the dance floor with enough metallic, industrial clank and detail to keep it uncompromisingly dark. Very big tunes! Been a while since I liked something so much.
Death Qualia: Intention Versus [Portals Editions]
Multi-textured, sweeping and detailed crispy sound design and concussive beats make for some intriguing genreless propositions. It sounds idiosyncratic; complex without being irritating; much work and consideration gone into it, which has to be lauded, but it works best for me when it’s reined in and tied to the cyclical beat stamps of “It Did Its Worse To Vex The Lake” and “Mask Surgery”, possibly the most accomplished track in terms of its own construct logic. This one teases and builds into a cacophonous wall of sub and digital noise lather that just made me hit replay for a repeat experience, I missed so much the first time. Second time round it’s even better!! You find the irrigated groove, the driving pulse that could be creatively woven into more beat-led dance floor sets. (Rabit should listen up and take notes heh). By “Intention Versus” (clocking in at an impressive 11:52 minutes) you’re a convert, locked in for the ride, wherever it chooses to take you.
But this is where the fly enters the ointment; I often find label blurbs get in the way of the actual listening and taint the vibe for me before I’ve even pressed play, and it’s hard to resist reading the bloody things when they’re right there in front of you, even though I know I shouldn’t. This could be a case in point? I’m not sure what any of this has to do with “examining our inner mythology and confronting the golems”? as we’re told here. If you say so, but I gotta say no thanks to that, mate. I’ll take my subconscious drift somewhere else (which of course is a bit rich, I know, coming from the kind of guff I spouted about the Panzerkreuz release above!) but can’t we make up our own minds?
Cocktail Party Effect: Battered EP [Cold Recordings]
I tell you; I’m so over seeing UK/US ex-pat recording artists prefixed with any mention of themselves as “Berlin-based” (I should start a list!), as if this is some finger-on-the-pulse, elite credential. As well as having your shit mastered and cut at D+M by Rashad bloody Becker. So fuckin’ what? Pointless fetishism that don’t (or shouldn’t) mean shit.
OK, so regardless of Charlie Baldwin being “Berlin-based” or whether he lives in Neukölln, Kreuzberg or Skegness? or drinks punk or craft beer? he’s turned out a rather good slice of thumping bass business on Pinch’s sub label. There’s some nods to wonky footwork beat mongering going on in the skittering, choppy percussion work, a bit of upbeat Jamaican dancehall bounce, but it’s the heavyweight cut “OOYFM” (Out Of Your Fuckin’ Mind) you really want to go straight for; a gliding techno stepper with an itching funk snap to it that will fit nicely into eclectic sets on a deep, dark, roller tip and get feet shuffling. Just what Pinch is all about these days in fact?
Boylan/Oil Gang/Rebore/Slackk/Fallow [Boxed]
I check Logos’s Boxed show a couple of times a year, more often enough, to try and revive my flagging interest in Grime and hear what’s poppin’ in those circles. Sometimes I’m blasting it in the car, things start getting interesting and I think yeah, this is still pretty fuckin’ fresh – and I get all enthused again. Other times, like the other week when Oil Gang came on and proceeded to play dub after dub of dreary, identi-kit, by-the-book, square wave, cock back, gunshot snare shit, I totally despair of it. I mean where’s it all going? Round in circles by the sound of most of it. I can’t quite articulate where the ‘edge’ lies in terms of success or failure for Grime? A tune’s energy is either totally precision, full bore, in yer face, like Boylan’s stand out “Ghosts In The Machine” on Edgem last year, or else they seem to fizzle away rather pointlessly to little effect?
Boylan & Oil Gang’s “Murder One” here is rambunctious enough without being innovative in the slightest. A jump up, youth club party tune no doubt, that ticks off all the boxes, but it’s not somewhere I want to go these days (mentally or physically).
Zuli: Numbers [UIQ]
“Berlin-based” producer, no! whoops, sorry!…Egyptian producer Zuli returns to Lee Gamble’s UIQ label with more psycho/electro-acoustic experiments with grimey, techno blueprints.
It’s a woozy, febrile, undulating journey into experimental bass music territory, sometimes dominated by smeared, fluid textures and convulsions, sometimes swelling with waves of sub bass and snippets of beats. While this could all end up sailing too close to the wind of dry academic fuckery, he manages to keep it playful and propulsive enough with enough beat mongering in sections to bump it over a sound system, especially on “Tongue Chomper”. Worth delving into.
Mike Parker: GPH22 / GPH18 B1 Remastered [Geophone]
You can always instantly tell a Mike Parker tune from the rest of the plod pack and current industrial techno heads. He’s been diligently mining his concession for years now, turning out countless releases on his own Geophone label (and on labels like Balans, Repitch, Mote Evolver etc) of obsessive, almost Steve Reichian phasing, polyrhythm explorations. It’s not a soft dubby affair, like Maurizio/Chain Reaction, say – much more driving and banging (on the occasions when he ramps it up), conjuring up the analogue grit of WPA/Seawolf material on early UR. The tracks always bubble with thick, dense layers of shifting, micro-tweaked sonar pulses that loop infinitely into the universe and beyond on deep narco propulsions.
There’s heavy physics at play here: light travels very quickly, at a speed equivalent to going seven times around the Earth in one second. The diameter of our own Galaxy is 100,000 light years; that is, light from a star on one side of the Galaxy will take 100,000 years to reach a star on the opposite side. Mike Parker loops are still travelling through space as we speak!
Stave: Black Hills [Standards & Practices]
The opener “Black Hills” serves up some functional thumping, surround sound, resolutely brutalist architectural, broken beats. “TASC US” moves into denser, more seismic juddering quakes of bass murk territory; we’re out of the tower blocks now, into the wastelands and the journey doesn’t brighten for a second over the next two tracks. The best is saved to last though, with “Stave 17”, an astoundingly futuristic slice of looped bass tonnage and minimal blip pulse that skirts genres in its construction. It’s odd, creepy, unique, disciplined and just bloody brilliant! You need to hear this one.
ASC: Space Echo EP [Samurai Red Seal]
Every time I’ve listened to a Mumdance b2b Rinse podcast recently, a tune’s come on and I’ve thought, “what the bloody hell’s this?” as my sub woofer rattles the windows and pumps me through the car seat – and it’s always turned out to be an ASC tune off this EP from 2016! Another prolific electronic grafter across multiple styles. This is (apparently) true Grey Area 170bpm techno business.
“Ignite” is pure, druggy bliss! Smoke machine and strobe time and coming up strong on your pill, as the blistering 303 and bleeps build and build and the sub levitates you onto a neo-rave plain. “Space Echo” chills it out some, although with a more rugged kick. There’s no sense of time passing, only suspension and drift.
Then we’re into the more frantic, building paranoia of “Reveal” as things turn moody; again the hypnotic suspension; momentum without hard interruption; masterful construction without show. Where the slight of hand (or rather ear) is you’re never sure? It’s maddeningly clever stuff that demands multiple repeat listening of all four tracks.
D-Rex: Uncreate EP [Green Fetish]
You can always count on Melbourne’s Green Fetish if you get a sudden craving for an updated reboot of some mid ‘90s acidic industrial techno business. If you were there back in the day, in the thick of it, it’s hard not to like and feel the rush all over again.
There’s definitely more low end these days and the tunes grunt and bash in true hardnoize fashion, never getting Gabber silly but keeping an unpretentious, straight down the line stomp, but really, not much has changed if we’re being honest. It is what it is now.
I couldn’t say whether the producers involved are still making this on analogue gear? (Some, like Martyn Hare, are I know), but D-Rex pounds away here in four blistering work-outs, slowly building up the flailing pressure and pulling it back on long teasing breakdowns, to pile it on all over again.