Jonas Kopp: Beyond the Hypnosis
Tresor Records

VA: Aphelion
Token Records

Since Inigo Kennedy inaugurated Kr!z's label in 2007 with his Identify Yourself twelve-inch, Token Records has progressively marked out a readily identifiable corner within the techno universe. The Belgian label's new compilation Aphelion—a word that refers to the point in orbit when a planet or comet is farthest from the sun—brings that picture into ever-clearer focus in complementing new and exclusive material by label stalwarts Ctrls (Troels B. Knudsen), Ø [Phase] (Ashley Burchett), and Inigo Kennedy with equally heavy-hitting cuts by, among others, Planetary Assault Systems (Luke Slater), James Ruskin, Surgeon (Anthony Child), and—on temporary loan from Stroboscopic Artefacts—Lucy (Luca Mortellaro).

Fittingly, Aphelion begins with a track by Ø [Phase], an artist whose polished sound embodies the Token aesthetic—absolute techno of an uncompromisingly pure, raw, and militant kind. In that regard, “Insectoid” plunges forth relentlessly with a precision-tooled pulse, its incessantly repeating melodic pattern accompanied by a locomotive chug before the coup de grace, a trippy synth figure, surfaces five minutes in. So strong is Token's signature that “Sana Sana Sana Cura Cura Cura” retains only modest evidence of the style Lucy works into his own Stroboscopic Artefacts output. Instead, the thrusting track presents itself as a pure example of Token techno, even if some Lucy-styled experimentalism does emerge in the wiry pyrotechnics the producer scatters over the track's pounding base. Rødhåd takes no prisoners either with “Haumea,” a cosmically inspired affair the Berliner alchemist darkens with cut-throat hi-hats and ever-burbling sequencer patterns, though James Ruskin does change things up by injecting a strong dose of old-school funk into “No Trace.”

Aphelion allows the tracks to stretch out, with three of them weighing in at nine minutes each and the rest not far behind. While differences naturally are audible between the nine cuts, they share certain characteristics: a furious locomotive thrust, for one, and an uncompromising allegiance to techno. It's unlikely anyone will mistake any of Aphelion's tracks for house, even if Planetary Assault Systems' endlessly percolating “The 808 Track” (Parts 1 and 2) does manifest a generous degree of house-like swing as it powers through its various wind-ups and Inigo Kennedy's euphoria-inducing “Arcing” shows a similarly minded propensity.

Emanating from another corner of the techno universe is Jonas Kopp's first full-length effort Beyond the Hypnosis, a seventy-one-minute, twelve-track opus issued on the long-standing Tresor imprint. If the Buenos Aires native demonstrates one thing above all else on the release, it's an impeccable sense of pacing. By that I don't mean the contrasts in style, mood, and dynamics that emerge as the album progresses but more his sense of timing in knowing when to let a particular thing happen within a given track. A subtle first sign of that arrives at the end of the pulsating opener, “Ork,” when an echo-laden click signals the music's terminus. In like manner, the second track, “lroncry,” unfolds steadily for the first four minutes before a pile-driving bass drum pattern comes in to push the track deeper, while swirling hi-hat patterns work a similar kind of magic when they show up four minutes into “Voices in MyHead (Dub).” It seems as if in almost every track a moment occurs when an ear-catching sound—often drum-related—arrives to give the material extra kick.

In true artist album fashion, Beyond the Hypnosis eases the listener in with an overture heavy on sweeping, ambient atmosphere, though it does gradually grow muscular through the addition of a pounding bass drum and sequencer-like patterns. Kopp also breaks up the beat-driven flow with the deep space meditation “Sea of Pluton,” lets his material take a funky turn during “Alpheratz,” and closes the collection on a relatively peaceful note with “528 Hz.”

A word or two must be said about the impact his massive kick drum has on the music, especially when there are moments on the album that are as punishing and unrelenting in their forward drive as any on Aphelion. “Voices in MyHead (Dub),” for example, charges forth with a single-minded intensity, its gallop reinforced by waves of claps and strings, “Green Square” and “Seven” roar with a barely contained fury, and Kopp clearly has his eye focused on the dance-floor in numbers such as “Red Plented” and “Planet MU,” two prime examples of Tresor-styled techno thunder. But though Beyond the Hypnosis includes a number of club-designed floor-fillers, the album's almost more satisfyingly experienced as a headphones listen. Heard in that manner, one comes to appreciate all the better Kopp's talent for arranging layers of sound and the way he builds a track up piece by piece.

November 2014