Saturday, 15 August 2009
Delsin: They're pretty good, honest.
Delsin Records are a fascinating techno-orientated record label, hailing from Holland. Formed in 1996 by Peel Seamus, they have a pretty impressive roster of artists. Some particular faves of mine include Vince Watson, Quince, Aardvarck, Future Beat Alliance (who have a particular penchant for synth solos - they are all over the LP "Disconnected" and make it a rare treat), and, the admittedly somewhat overrated, Newworldaquarium.
Planet Delsin was a fairly recent compilation (well, okay, from 2005!!) full of melodic numbers that were spacey, funky and rose above the usual wave of power club techno, and the then burgeoning "popular minimal techno/house" scene. A breath of fresh air.
As an aside, I do consider these chaps to be something of an influence for my music. Techno doesn't just have to be about a loop, a rhythm and mixing changes for 7 minutes - and it shouldn't just be that - and just sometimes, Delsin reach places far beyond that (Future Beat Alliance, again with the Disconnected album, impressed me hugely in this regard). Therefore, I do genuinely have an interest in the label, and follow them, often sampling their records when I'm able to, and I consider many of their artists good producers and good influences.
So, fast forward to 2009 then, and - after lots of hoo-ha, and delays - Delsin 2.0 makes it out the door (and you can even find it on CD if you're lucky... for £18~!) to much deserved applause. After all, this is Delsin, right? These guys put out quality, inspired melodic neo-Detroit techno, "metro-techno" and all sorts of other styles that have been regularly fascinating. Well, not with this compilation. I have to say, I'm massively disappointed with it. I hate to start off with a negative review, so I won't. I'll try and give some thoughts about every track - remember this is a compilation and it's primary release seems to be digital, so I am NOT advising you to skip this entirely. There are some gems in here, but as we'll see, a lot of rubbish.
Disc 1 then:
Nubian Mindz - Afrika Man: This should be a guilty pleasure. Some tribal, Detroit-ian rhythms underneath what is nothing more than a techno stab, drenched in reverb. But yeah, even the full ten minutes is worth hearing - this is where a loop can be good enough to sustain itself across that length of time, if there are enough changes, builds, breakdowns. Here it's edited to 6 minutes, and does suffer a little for it. It's still a great tune, but you'd be better off seeking out the full version.
Vince Watson - Ethereal (excerpt): Vince goes dub. The full version of this is essentially a beat and arpeggios drenched in effects and messed around with for 15+ minutes. This excerpt might be all you need to hear of it, but of course dub techno fans will want to seek out the full version. Personally, I'm verging towards cautiously liking it, but am left wondering what happened to all the pretty soloing from eMotion Sequence.
Redshape - Misc Usage: Delsin goes minimal. This sucks, sorry, but it's too long, and essentially relies on nothing for a hook for 3 minutes. It has some rolling bass over some pathetic, tinny hi-hats and thin kicks, and later on introduces a three-note acid line, and some pads for the remaining ~4 minutes. Dreadfully boring.
Quince - Contracting: The album was gold. Truly, wonderful neo-Detroit "melodic space techno", full of great arps and melodies. Unfortunately, since then, Bram has taken a somewhat more minimal route, as we can hear on this tune. It takes a couple of minutes before anything approaching a hook appears, as the melody it starts with is hardly developed at all. Three minutes in, we have some more stabs over those spiky arps, and incessant chords... it finally starts to build. Swirling pads appear here and there, but no real, solid melodies develop, and it just starts to fall away again. A Quince parody, effectively. Argh!
DJ Yoav B - Organ Satta: As you'd expect, a synth-organ riff starts and drives this piece throughout. There are some more stabs here and there - some soloing, even, although this REPEATS! what a cheat... - and two minutes in, a huge kick comes in and some reversed cyms. This repeats for another four minutes, with minor mixing changes, but the melodies go nowhere, and nothing new really appears. MEH!
Steve Rachmad - Bot: Dreadful. This starts with a blippy, rising bass that changes to a mid-octave melody, and plays over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Pepper with some minimal effects, glitchy drums, and repeat for nearly 7 minutes. To be honest, it's bloody awful. Dreadful, minimal garbage. Skip on!
Djinxx - The Foreigner: This is too long, sorry. I like what I hear, a squelchy two-note riff played a few times then rises to another three notes. This is the hook for this tune, and it's played over some soft pads, and a kinda electro-tech rhythm (the snares are subtle but utterly crucial!). Cruising through Barnard's Star, enjoying the sights, gazing at the humungous breadth of a nearby starbase, and its imposing collection of dark shapes and lights. Yeah, I'm a space techno fan. But this really doesn't need to be 7 minutes though, not without some much-needed extra melodies or "sections", which never appear.
Redshape - Steam: More minimal, quirky "purist" techno now. After 1 minute of pissing about with nothing more than a kick and a pad, a wonky four-note hook finally appears, and gradually un-filters... flanked by incessant hi-hats, the pads re-appear, as well as some effects, bursts of noise and myriad other minimal noises. And for nearly 7 bloody minutes. Skip on, skip on, it's rubbish!
Aroy Dee - All That Remains: Some lovely Detroitian, plinking melodies play over soft pads, and a simple 4/4 beat. A pleasant start, but it improves! Some new melodies appear here and there. It breaks down around 2 minutes, and some high, filtered synth lines come in... eventuall augmented with those soft pads from the start. These new synth lines give it a slightly off-kilter feel, but around 3:30 they stop (along with the kick), allowing other, softer stabs and arps take their place. This is the kind of piece I'd expect from Delsin, tbh, especially a follow-up to "Planet Delsin". And much welcomed after so many poor minimal tracks.
Quince - Sub 01: Thankfully they've included a piece from his album. And it's one of the best: an arp and a beat start, with the arp melody's filter gradually opening. The beat stops, the arp changes to another one, softer and filtered... some shuffled hi-hats come in, and then the beat comes back in. From there this "B D A C"-structured arp melody is looped, and more drums are brought in. The arp later steps back to allow some soft synth trumpet-like sounds to join in. They disappear, and later as the tune breaks down, some pads appear alongside some hypnotic percussion, and some little bell-like synth stabs at 4:30. I'll not ruin the rest, but this kind of development makes "Contracting" seem simplistic and dull, which it is, and is typical - thankfully - of the album. Excellent!
Redshape - Shaped World (Stripped): Another minimal piece by this guy? A high pad plays over some rolling kicks, and a "morse code" effect synth joins it. This is soon joined by some squelchy bass notes. This then repeats for the rest of the track. Now, yes, I can hear mixing changes, breakdowns and filter changes... but no new musical ideas are brought in, and those damn morse code notes play over and over the pad, and they don't seem to disappear. Lazy, boring, and repetitive. NEXT!
Newworldaquarium - Twenty: This is a little overlong, but I'll take it. Arps galore, and that incessant 808 percussion, joined with a simple but effective bassline, the breakdowns, the build-ups... again this is a case of a GOOD loop, which is changed around enough to stay interesting. By the fourth minute, I'm left feeling the main arp melody has repeated enough, and it probably should end a little sooner. But it's still a corking tune.
Onto Disc 2.
D5 - Run: A minimal melodic piece, despite the pleasant funky rhythm and deep basses, and even some little solos here and there... this is mostly an exercise in "dub stabs" and ultimately has no hook. A decent enough groove, but it doesn't really go anywhere.
Steve Rachmad - Rond: Okay, everyone, what happened to this guy? There's a ton of memorable melodies all over his older Sterac releases, here - oh, what a surprise - he's gone minimal. How many times do we have to hear that bloody annoying opening melody? I don't care if it has some nice FM basses, the glitchy, bubbly sounds are a cliche and this doesn't go anywhere or build into anything despite the pad chords that appear later on. Too long and insubstantial. And change that bloody melody already!
Vince Watson - Believer: Well, the one issue with this tune is that the basic rhythm never changes, but I'll quite happily run with it because it's not just the usual 4/4 - it has a real trippy edge and skipping bass drums - and there are some truly pretty melodies that prickle and sparkle above it, as well as some light, easy-going organ solos. Nice one, Vince!
Delta Funktionen - Nebula: This takes a while to get going, and even then it amounts to little more than a two-note bassline and some pad washes. Pretty, and mildly hypnotic, but it's one for dub techno fans. There's no hook in sight!
Shed - Handle With Care I: love the shuffling hi-hats, and the flowery melodies, but it repeats far far too much and the track, overall, relies a little too much on effects changes to sustain interest throughout its 6 minutes.
Newworldaquarium - Bond: Like so many techno tracks, this is essentially a loop for its duration, and its mixed, filtered etc with no "musical" change. This is my major problem with NWA, however on this track (and all of "Twenty EP") he limited the track lengths to 1-3 minutes, making them far, FAR more listenable. So I'll take this pretty, sparkly, spacy loop for a couple of minutes and thoroughly enjoy it. But why did he have to spread them out to 6-10 minutes on Dead Bears? That's too long!
DJ Yoav B - Energize: A minimal piece, relying on an essentially two-note "riff". Synth stabs, specifically, that play over and over a fairly old-school Jeff Millsian rhythm, with some nice bongos. But it doesn't do much during its duration other than the usual mixing/filtering changes and shouldn't be 4 minutes, let alone 6! The spoken word sample seems out of place, too.
Taho - Forest Of Wonders: Slightly shuffled hi-hats, and a solid kick underpin this slightly trancy piece: a huge pad (which never changes notes, mind), under some fairly generic techno stabs make this sound impressive as they build and build... but they fall away leaving me a little unsatisfied. But it 'aint bad, ya hear?
Vince Watson - A Long Way From Home: Another solid number from eMotion Sequence. So some pretty melodies over shuffled beats, again. This one tends to go for a softer, more electro rhythm with emphasis on the synth soloing and the snare drums. Lovely!
D5 - Lab Work: Well, this is still a little "dub-chord" loving for me, but it does have a nice, incessant bassline, some spiky stabs and occasionally some washed out mini-solos here and there. Far better than Run, and feels less overlong.
Chymera - Hundulu: This is a really solid melodic piece, revolving around some rolling, but slow kicks. There are buildups and breakdowns, and some nice - MUCH WELCOMED - extra melodies and harmonised synth parts here and there. However I do feel they're repeated too damn much, and it definitely shouldn't be 7 and a half minutes!
Vince Watson - Solitude: ANOTHER piece from eMotion Sequence (just buy the album). A lovely, downbeat shuffle around some jazzy piano chords, and some washy pad "solos" wander around here and there. Great tune.
Overall then, there's an equal number of solid numbers, and a few standouts, but for every one of those there's a dull minimal piece which makes me fall asleep. Not worth the £18 (!!) the 2CD set is going for in the UK, and overall a bit disappointing for this label.