Inigo Kennedy: Vaudeville

Tripeo: Anipintiros
Darko Esser Bandcamp / N.E.W.S.

Techno's indomitable spirit is well-accounted for on these new releases by Tripeo and Inigo Kennedy, both of them high-quality affairs that speak strongly on behalf of their creators. Though the releases are available in digital form and as double twelve-inch sets, it's admittedly the vinyl format that naturally best serves the artists and their material, as it allows the tracks' deep grooves to dynamically lunge forth from the medium's surface.

Dutch DJ-and-producer Darko Esser dons the Tripeo alias for his sophomore album, Anipintiros, which arrives four years after his debut. Without question, the material has its sights firmly set on the dancefloor, though Esser, like most producers of his kind, also sprinkles the recording's eight cuts with enough ear candy to satisfy those with a jones for artful production design. The tracks are straightforwardly number as “Anipintiros #1,” “Anipintiros #2,” and so on, but don't think their contents lack for imagination for being so prosaically named. By his own admission, operating under the Tripeo guise has been invigorating for Esser, who had been issuing electronic music under his birth name for a decade before tackling the album project.

“Anipintiros #1” situates the album at a high level from the outset, as Esser rolls out a deep techno pulse whose groove is as airtight as a bank vault. The track's not just a run-on groove, however, but an hypnotic shape-shifter that Esser elegantly amplifies with ethereal background textures and rising chords. The second cut gallops with fierce determination, its pumping pulse as raw and forthright as a quintessential Token or Tresor track. And while Tripeo does make room for atmospheric touches of a celestial kind, don't be fooled: it's the jackhammer pulse that's ultimately the most prominent feature.

The Tresor-like workout “Anipintiros #3” sees Esser offering his studious take on wiry, tripped-out techno, while the also Tresor-styled “Anipintiros #5” gets its bubbly, techno-funk groove on courtesy of a muscular bass line throbbing through its dense, motorik undergrowth. A squiggly melodic figure helps “Anipintiros #4” stand out as one of the album's more memorable tracks, though its forceful Detroit-styled groove also strongly recommends it. Much the same could be said of “Anipintiros #7,” whose thumping groove roars with acid-tinged ferocity, just as it frankly could be said of each the recording's eight throwdowns. Only once does Esser take his foot off the gas, and it's fittingly during the dramatic closing setting, which emphasizes epic synthetic design instead of club-focused drive.

Compared to Anipintiros, Inigo Kennedy's Vaudeville is, if anything, an even more artful collection—not that that comes as all that much of a surprise, considering that the British producer's first EP appeared all the way back in 1996 and that since then he's issued in excess of 100 records (on labels such as Missile, Semantica, Token, and his own Asymmetric), either under his real name or monikers such as Reducer and Tomito Satori. Exemplifying that difference right away, Kennedy opens Vaudeville with a beatless overture of an icy type one might expect to find on an ambient label like Glacial Movements as opposed to the Ghent-based Token Records and then flexes his atmospheric scene-painting muscles again by cloaking the ominous “Birth” with rain-soaked sheets of sound.

What generally follows that beginning, however, is very much in line with the kind of ultra-polished techno one has come to associate with the label. Initiating the series is the locomotive “Requiem,” a detail-packed exercise in interlocking rhythms and melodic patterns, followed by “Plaintive,” an auspiciously sombre yet nonetheless beautiful setting that finds mournful organ chords draped across a percolating pulse of barely containable energy. The towering cuts “Lullaby” and “Vallecula” are so deeply textured and reverb-heavy, they achieve a level of grandeur one associates with the renowned Chain Reaction catalogue of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Lest we get too mesmerized by the album's sound design, let's not overlook its rhythmic dimension, as a representative track such as “Aleph” so powerfully reminds us. In this case, the groove is a jackboot strut that roars unstoppably through a swirling hall of melodic mirrors.

Token's established a reputation as a superior label, one listeners can depend on for quality output, and Vaudeville will do nothing to alter that reputation. Every track has been fashioned with care and the kind of attention to detail that comes from someone with years of experience to draw upon. It doesn't get much better than “Plaintive,” “Lullaby,” and “Vallecula,” as far as artful techno is concerned, but they're hardly the only pieces to warrant repeat visits, and the material repeatedly shows that Kennedy's a sound designer of no small merit. (Note that the CD version features the full ten tracks whereas the double-vinyl includes eight only, as “Lullaby” and “Petrichor” appear on a separate twelve-inch.)

June 2014