Spotlight 15
Favourite Labels 2014

Poppy Ackroyd + Lumen
Avec le soleil sortant ...
Brooklyn Rider
Del Sol String Quartet
Nick Gill
Stefan Goldmann
Chihei Hatakeyama
Robert Honstein
Jonas Kopp
David Lackner
Last Ex
Neil Leonard
Little Phrase
The Mark Lomax Trio
LA Percussion Quartet
Near The Parenthesis
Newman and Cox
Pan & Me
Bobby Previte
Marc Sabat
Hein Schoer
Wadada Leo Smith
Templeton + Armstrong
Ken Thomson
Ulterior Motive
Joris Voorn
Andrew Weathers
Ezra Weiss Sextet
Stefan Wesolowski
Keith Worthy

Compilations / Mixes
EPM Selected Vol. 3
Universal Quantifier

EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Blu Mar Ten
Michael Jon Fink
Oceanic Triangulation
Northumbria and Famine
Total Science
Simon Whetham

VA: Universal Quantifier
Halocyan Records

There's a philosophical dimension, one having to do with the distinction between episteme and techne, to this double-CD set of originals and remixes from the Los Angeles-based Halocyan imprint that can be pondered or ignored, depending on your inclination. As students of Ancient Greek philosophy are well aware, episteme refers to authentic knowledge as opposed to common belief or opinion, which thus accounts for the term epistemology, the study of knowledge. While techne, on the other hand, still has to do with knowledge, it's knowledge of a different kind, one concerned with physical production rather than intellectual understanding—craftmanship, in other words. So what does this have to with the Halocyan release? The underlying contention is that the earlier separation between episteme and techne has collapsed due to “the computerization of everything,” a move that's in turn prompted Halocyan to produce Universal Quantifier as a way of encapsulating the label's mission: “to focus on pure ‘techne' or human-made craft that makes techno unique from other genres.”

If the preceding strikes you as so much unnecessary verbiage, don't worry: Universal Quantifier can be experienced perfectly well on purely musical terms with the intellectual baggage parked outside the club door. If anything, it's surprising that of all the philosophical distinctions available, it's the one involving knowledge and craft that's the focus, given that the mind-body distinction would be a more natural choice for a techno-based project. Regardless, the level of craft—techne if you prefer—is high on the compilation, and there are satisfactions aplenty for both body and soul.

The first thing one notices is the silver slip-case the two discs are packaged within—an eye-catching visual detail that nicely sets the mood for what's inside: twenty-four tracks, including some that first appeared on twelve-inch releases during 2012 and 2013 as well as remixes and previously unreleased originals. Artists such as xxxy, Chrissy Murderbot, Hackman, Sumsun, Paul Woolford, TheThird Man, Arkist, and Raudive take part, while remix contributors include Matthias Zimmermann, Max Cooper, DJ Pierre, French Fries, Legowelt, Kangding Ray, and Joey Beltram.

On disc one, xxxy's “Bash” gets things off to an effervescent start with an infectious slice of slinky electro-funk tinged with deep house flavour in its vocal accents. Sweetened with piano and cello details, Hackman's “Semibreves” presents one of the collection's more elegant constructions without compromising on its clubby swing. In addition, Paul Woolford eschews the jungle-styled freneticism of his Special Request material for the synth-heavy house swirl of “5meO,” dubby treatments thread their way into The Third Man's driving house jam “Red Boxing,” and Oliver Ho's Raudive cut “Last” opts for motorik, mechano-techno. Disc one's biggest surprise is Minilogue's “Ocean of Love” makeover of Sumsun's “New Piano,” which transforms the original into an episodic, seventeen-minute acid-techno odyssey charged with motorik locomotion and peppered with choral voices, dub stabs, and woodland flute melodies. The second half gets jumpstarted by Artifact's feverish jam “Cry,” after which remixes dominate: French Fries' fleet-footed rendering of xxxy's “Bash,” Legowelt's hyperactive rerub of Chrissy Murderbot's “Friendship,” and Randomer's old-school electrified handling of Stabber's “Huh!,” to name three. Elsewhere, AlTourettes & Appleblim loosen up Raudive's “Last” with serious swing, Hyetal shines electropop sparkle on Dntel's “Peepsie,” and Beltram gets down and dirty with his cut-throat windup of Dosem's “Atica.”

With more than 150 minutes on offer, there's a lot to digest, but the consistently high quality level makes the task a painless undertaking. Characterizing the release as techno is misleading, however, given the broader genre terrain encompassed by the material. Elements of house, funk, electro, garage, and bass music surface repeatedly, and the tracks, fresh, breezy, and energized, play like a collective snapshot of experimental club music in its current form.

November 2014