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Bristol-based techno producer, Bruce, delivers an experimental club LP packed with emotion and personality

ALBUM: Bruce – ‘Sonder Somatic’

WORDS BY JACK MCKEEVER

In electronic music, the most resonant albums and tracks are those that strike at the heart of the community, conveying memories while aiming to create new ones. Bristol-based techno producer Larry McCarthy, AKA Bruce, is devoted to the most personal aspects of the diagram. His music has always torn away any veils of conventionalism to underpin a playfully outlandish hand, taking core elements and twisting them out of time and place. Making the obscure accessible is hard to perfect, but in the case of Bruce’s back catalogue he’s often managed it with a thrilling smoothness.

In many ways, the release of his debut full-length album ‘Sonder Somatic’ on Hessle Audio feels like a homecoming. His previous releases on the label (2016’s ‘Steals’ and 2014’s ‘Not Stochastic’ – EPs respectively) have occupied the same innovative world-scape, playing sumptuous floor-filling kicks and alien atmospherics off against each other, with a mischievous sonic smile overhanging it all. But it’s the exploratory nature of Hessle Audio’s output that suits Bruce‘s placement here so brilliantly. He’s talked openly about the label’s influence on him over the years, so the synergy that winds up here seems only right and proper.

The LP was written ‘partly as an attempt to capture that rare transformative feeling that can cause you to fully lose yourself in a club space’, and on ‘Sonder Somatic’ Bruce wastes no time in going for the jugular. The whole thing sounds absolutely huge, for starters. Whereas before the late-night rawness of his music could occasionally feel opaque, on the LP a crystal-clear sheen sets its primal nuances and physicality against a gorgeous big room backdrop.

Crucially though, he focuses on inviting and then reducing ambiences, atmospheres and myriad percussive senses. It allows for a constant sense of idiosyncratic motion that rises and falls and creates new imperatives whenever they are most necessary. This is executed most effervescently at the mid-way point and the trajectory between the shuddering tension of ‘Meek’ and ambient of ‘Torn’, which is spotted with ghosts of breakbeat-y decadence, into previously released single ‘What’. The latter re-engages his most banging sensibilities with an intense sense of joy – caterwauling vocals, a deliriously catchy lead loop and the same unpredictable drum sequencing brought to a mighty zenith.

The notion that ‘Sonder Somatic’ reflects both Bruce’s professional and recreational relationship with club culture is purveyed inimitably too. Whether it’s through swaggering heaters built upon historic UK bass mechanisms (as on the opening salvo of ‘Elo’ and ‘Cacao’) or the freezing, small-hours surging lope of ‘Baychimo’ and lullaby-esque grind of ‘Patience St Pim’, a see-saw of hedonism and an absorbing approach is delivered near-perfectly.

 

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Back in manc next month! Chuffed as it’s quickly becoming my home in the north 🐝 Grab ya tickets whilst they’re only £8 (ikr)

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While the LP will do plenty for chin-stroking types and those always seeking to be challenged on dancefloors, at the core of ‘Sonder Somatic’ is the most communal aspect of club culture; personality. Bruce is one of the most singular techno artists operating right now, and the music here continues to define him as one of the most innovative and sensitive.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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techno future

Future Five: Techno

From Mexico City to Copenhagen via London – These are the Producers Pushing Techno Outside of it’s Comfort Zone.                  WORDS – JACK MCKEEVER

To the casual listener, Techno might occasionally seem like an insurmountable, soulless kind of music. But while cold, grey and metallic sounds still lay the foundation for much of the genre’s fervour, to write the most linear examples off as being representative is as dangerous as doing the same in any other genre. Artists like Marcel Detmann and the sadly passed Trevino (Marcus Intalex) have always revolved around this notion, and more recently the likes of Helena Hauff and Bruce have twisted the form to fit their uncanny, inimitable wills.

This edition of Future Five contains five rising and lesser-known artists who are incorporating a multitude of feeling, musical dexterity and evolutionary vision into their Techno orientated head space, pushing it to regions beyond its usual comfort zone.

Object Blue

Born in China and now based in London,  object blue has a hugely rich tapestry of musical and literary culture to draw upon, and her earnest approach to incorporating both in her own productions makes for brain warping results. Her two 12” records to date have been released on Tobago Tracks and Let’s Go Swimming, proving that she’s already grabbed the ears of some of UK techno’s most forward-thinking minds. Tunes like ‘Act Like It Then’ from Do You Plan To End a Siege? Is the pinnacle of club-inflected home listening, opting for cavernous antics but using unnerving initiatives and – like most of her tunes – behaving far more confrontationally than anything that could be described as ‘club friendly’.

Her REX EP fuses Shakespeare’s King Lear and tumultuous personal experiences and takes tension to ecstatic new places; from the footwork glean of ‘(time to) Work’, to the rolling, multi-faceted sequencing of ‘Chipping Away at the Kingdom’ which sounds like a full-force charge at the palace walls. Akin to New York’s DISCWOMAN crew, her vehemently pro-equality transparency on social media seeps into the pours of her extraordinarily wonky production chops.

SHYBOI

Those with a more-than-passing interest in dance music and political activism will probably be peripherally aware of New York’s DISCWOMAN collective. While Jamaica native SHYBOI is slightly less prolific than her comrades Ciel and Umfang in terms of her own productions, it’s with her DJ’ing that she’s starting to make a thunderous stir. Her Resident Advisor podcast has been one of the most replayable examples of searing, intense and fun hours of techno music so far this year. Its visceral, warehouse, feel is laced with a virtuosity that smashes gritty unknown edits & mind crushing classics together with immense confidence before a glorious denouement that rolls through tracks from Krome & Time, Sax, Future Sound of London and Tessela.

Like the rest of DISCWOMAN, SHYBOI’s unrelenting fight for equality and her musical nuance to match make her an essential figure to watch.

Sugar

Copenhagen’s techno scene is becoming one of the most encapsulating in Northern Europe, and it’s all thanks to artists like Nikolaj Jacobsen. A producer, DJ and mastermind behind the city’s Fast Forward Productions outfit, his latest four-tracker for Euromantic – No Sex Only Feelings – not only has one of the best titles of any release this year, but also some of the most mammoth tunes. His music is a kaleidoscopic rush of bubblegum energy via the 140bpm format, embracing big room emotion that stops well short of cheesiness and offering enough percussive virtuosity to make for immersive home listening. He’ll appear on Kulor 001, the debut primer from Copenhagen legend Courtesy’s new label later this year, which will be sure to stamp both his and his rising futurists’ music on the map.

Mor Elian

Originally from Tel Aviv, Mor Elian now spends her time between LA and Berlin, fruitfully contributing to two of the world’s most exciting party scenes. She’s a booker for LA’s Into The Woods crew, who have secured names as resonant as Kassem Mosse, DJ QU and hosted Bunker NY’s 15th anniversary session back in March. Later this year she’ll be knuckling down at two of Europe’s most legendary clubs, Phonox (London) alongside object blue and then a week later at Amsterdam’s De School with Randomer and Galaxian, proving the swiftness of her rise.

That ascent is as equally spurred (if not more so) by her productions. Across EPs such as Cymatic Ring and 2017’s Fairplex Drive, Elian has melded EBM, electro and expansive techno into one core. While the techno scene may be awash with examples of that same artistic expression at the moment, Elian’s work is amongst the most vital, frequently veering between rib-cage deconstruction (‘Feral chime’) and meditative, long-form dreaminess (‘Paralysed Focus’). She’s unafraid to wield a now slightly-worn formula into gripping new shapes and lead it down steely, gloomy alleyways and – at the same time – courage permeates highlights from behind the decks, like her excellent FACT mix broadcast in June.

Tomas Urquieta

Tomas Urquieta is a Chilean producer now based in Mexico City who I first heard through Mumdance’s NTS residency earlier this year. Just like a wealth of Mexico City’s techno outliers, his music is supremely primal, owing as much to industrial scree and eerie sample-based innovation as it does earthly Latin rhythmic sensibilities. His latest single is the title track from his forthcoming debut LP for Infinite Machine, Duenos de Nada, and in a way it fuses all the most experimental, spacious and precision-guided tendencies of the EPs that preceded it; smoky synths and dizzying bleepery feed off of each other, using their elemental cores to spur themselves along in deeply mesmerising fashion, particularly reminiscent of the no-nonsense rampage of his earlier track ‘Koob’. The darkest corners of Mexico City’s hulking city scape are laid bare across La Muerte De Todo Lo Nuevo and Manuscript too, making Urquieta’s work a beautiful introduction to the region’s techno mire.

Need some new music recommendations? Read back on all of our Future Five posts here!

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helena hauff qualm

Review: Helena Hauff – Qualm

A bleak future sparkles gloriously on the German heroine’s second LP, Qualm

So much has been written about the dystopian futurism of electronic music that, these days, portraying any deep-slung industrial techno record as ‘the sound of the future’ is a hackneyed cliché. In the early days (and arguably rightly), genres like acid, electro and EBM were straight-faced and categorically freezing – oozing the dinginess of the Berlin Wall era and Reaganomics. More recently, artists like DJ Stingray, E. Myers – and this review’s own protagonist Helena Hauff – have taken the starker implements of these purveyances and turned them into spectacularly warm, if still deeply twisted workings. Hauff’s second LP Qualm is at the pinnacle of that notion not just for her back catalogue, but for flavour-spanning techno in general.

In her astonishing Essential Mix for BBC Radio last year (awarded THE Essential Mix of the year by the show’s panel), Hauff took the essence of the decidedly imposing, seamless charisma of her Golden Pudel residency and exposed further just how much genre traits could be manipulated – pulling and diverting sounds to create refreshing glances at age-old themes. Her meticulous record digging further seeps into Qualm too; everything is positioned for full effect, whether that be aimed squarely at club orientated vibes (‘Lifestyle Guru’, ‘Hyper-Intelligent Genetically Enriched Cyborg’) or subterranean no-man’s-land apartment buildings (‘Primordial Sludge’). But crucially, no matter how harsh the sounds get, everything glistens deliriously. Instead of wanting to watch the world burn, Qualm makes the most of the aftermath.

There is, of sorts, a narrative arc to the record. An arc that doesn’t wholesomely accentuate a dystopian setting, but does hint at a cycle – an evolutionary foot forward into the abyss. ‘Barrow Boot Boys’ and ‘Lifestyle Guru’ are both deeply hypnotic death dances, the former like wasps lured into a citrus soaked metal tin and the latter a searing strobe light angling its way around a Bladerunner- style bar fight in the year 2182. Next comes the heady descent into truly head-spinning realms, as ‘bdtr-revisited’ marries influences like Drexciya and Autechre in an effortlessly paranoid way before the beatless sci-fi wooze of ‘Entropy Created You & Me’ stamps its claim as the most melodic moment thus far.

The phenomenally titled ‘Fag Butts in the Fire Bucket’ continues the discombobulation by offering seismic but steady jabs to the rib cage with side lashings of screeching synths and deep-set kicks, before the aforementioned ‘Hyper-intelligent Genetically Enriched Cyborg’ rolls through as one of the squelchiest and most grin-inducing records Hauff has recorded to date. Throughout the record, Hauff guides one through neon EBM-indebted keys and an irresistible, intoxicating 4/4 groove. ‘Primordial Sludge’ is nail-bitingly tense, but its increasingly wet sojourn through mucky matter and Stranger Things-esque cinematic overtures oozes out like a genial – almost comical – beast from a tide of filth.

It’s towards the record’s end, with the scintillating double tap of the title track and ‘No Qualms’ that Qualm sounds most mournful, but even that sense of uncertainty is delivered with a spring in its step. The LP does depict the future as bleak, but never offers this up as a totally negative thing either. Maybe Qualm is the comfort blanket we all so desperately need.

Listen to the full album, below.

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dj lakritze

DJ Lakritze W/ Mike Smaczylo | 14/ 05/ 18

DJ Lakritze aka Seb Theodossiadis hosts a show once every four weeks on MCR Live, usually with a guest mix.

Expect obscure and well-known music from across the board; house, techno, electro, drum & bass, jungle, dub techno, experimental, ambient, garage, reggae, dancehall, dub, dubstep, balearic, rock, jazz, folk.. you know the score.


 

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henrietta

Henrietta moonlights on BBC 6 Music as a producer. Usually you can’t hear her voice, but now with the miracle of technology… you can!

Expect to hear Henrietta interspersed between anything from warping techno, to 1970s Arabic funk. There’ll also be fragments of chip-tune, field recordings and a smattering of random wonderfulness found on the web. Henrietta goes to a lot of gigs and club nights around Manchester, so you might also see her with your eyes, head-banging front left.

Listen back to all of Henrietta’s shows here.

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