Techno is particularly difficult to write about because it doesn't fit into a neat little box with trademark descriptions (funky! smooth! upbeat!). It's often driving and repetitious, emphasizing angular subtleties in tone and bass; it's a much moodier version of its cousin, house. Consequently, it isn't as commercially accessible as most house music, and is therefore much more difficult to market. Most of the genre's output is reserved for limited vinyl pressings, but the German label Tresor is attempting to buck this trend by releasing both vinyl and CD versions simultaneously.
Tresor Compilation Vol. 9 and James Ruskin's Into Submission are two of the label's recent releases. While Vol. 9 is a great way to get acquainted with Tresor's diverse blend of techno, from a listening standpoint the Ruskin album is superior. The London native's album is intricately crafted, focusing on the cerebral, percussive side of experimental techno with gradual shifts in tone, tension, and rhythm. The minimal music can be compared with architecture: sharp, concrete, percussive rhythms and iron-girder beats collide with long, placid corridors of spacey white noise and steely grooves. Each track builds upon the last, creating a series of crashes and crescendos.
Vol. 9 features eight new tracks (and six previously released) from a wide array of British and Detroit artists. Punishing kick-drums, searing high-hats, looped keyboard snippets, minimal funk licks, and crackly white noise are prominently featured. There's also plenty of highlights from Matthew Herbert, Cristian Vogel, Surgeon, Scan 7, and Daniel Bell. Just make sure your subwoofers are ready before cranking up the volume.
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