Antigone: Saudade

Architectural: Seven

Mike Dehnert: Echo 8
Clone Basement Series

That Saudade, a new two-tracker from Antigone (aka Parisian artist Antonin Jeanson), appears on Token implies much about the nature of the material involved; even before hearing the tracks, one expects they'll be hard-hitting techno workouts of the kind we've come to associate with the label. But the choice of title suggests that there's also something else in play, given that it's a Portuguese word referring to feelings of melancholy, longing, and nostalgia (Saudade isn't, incidentally, Jeanson's maiden voyage on Token, the first being last year's double-EP Cantor Dust). Yet while there might be a melancholic dimension in play, Saudade is anything but lugubrious. The opening cut, “Night Adrift,” lunges from the gate with a heart-stopping, low-end rumble that takes little time gaining force. Throughout the track's six minutes, Jeanson weaves layers in smoothly until the cut's a steamrolling behemoth and then artfully alternates between maximizing the intensity and bringing the levels down to a controlled thunder. As forceful is “Hiraeth,” which, like its sibling, builds incrementally in power with in this case a metronomic throb pulsating insistently alongside ringing ride cymbals, mechanoid accents, and surging washes. The track title, a Welsh word with no direct English equivalent, generally stands for “a homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or that never was”; be that as it may, Jeanson sounds perfectly at home in this musical environment.

With Seven, Juan Rico (who once produced under the Reeko moniker) serves up his own two-tracker under the Architectural alias. The release, issued in a ten-inch transparent vinyl format, follows the release of his 2014 debut album Secret Chapter (on Architectural) and 2015's Amour (on the Dutch imprint Wolfskuil), and is the latest chapter in a series dedicated to satisfying the demands of the dance floor without sacrificing personality and atmosphere in the process. Up first, “7.1” engages from the first moment with its lithe house bounce, futuristic sound design, and chunky chords. The cut's fierce funk feel is well nigh irresistible, and it's easy to visualize the club denizens grooving en masse to its mighty swing. The flip's “7.2” wraps a bone-dry bass thud in a thick blanket of hiss and crackle before a locomotive chug and funk feel take the track in a new direction. Much happens over the course of its seven-minute run, so much that the eventual transformation into a quasi-horror soundtrack towards the end doesn't come as a total surprise.

When not managing the techno label Fachwerk, MD2, and the house-oriented subdivision Colomabge, Mike Dehnert releases his own productions on labels such as Echochord Colour, Deeply Rooted House, and Delsin. The prolific producer's issued ten albums over an eight-year span as well as a number of EPs, the latest being his fourth go-round in the Clone Basement Series. The warehouse vibe of Dehnert's sound is immediately evident in the opening title cut, a relentless, metallic-sounding riff on techno at its most raw and repetitive. The remaining three tracks on the twenty-three-minute set share certain properties with the first whilst also offering up variations on the theme. An unusual vocal treatment boosts the appeal of “Wokabeat,” though it's not the only thing it's got going for it; a neo-tribal pulse snakes through the arrangement, and the music's feverish effect is intensified by percussive additions, too. Pursuing its classic techno vibe with obsessive intent, the B-side's “Meckwiki” rolls out a take-no-prisoners mix of slashing hi-hats, ride cymbal showers, and general rave-inspired mayhem, after which “Say How” caps the release with a militaristic shuffle and repeating voice snippets, the combination of which suggests that Dehnert's track, as solidly rooted in techno as it is, could conceivably be heard as a distant cousin to Steve Reich's Come Out and It's Gonna Rain.

April 2016