As Dekmantel creeps ever closer around the corner, we look at 10 artists that we’re most excited to see, and delve into their back-catalogue to pull out the single record that in our opinion – defined their career.
Having recorded for over 50 years, Jamaican born Lee Scratch Perry has an enormous back-catalogue to explore. Lee has won a Grammy, and Rolling Stone Magazine featured him in their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. From his earliest Ska work he then led into starting a production career with his Upsetter label during the late 60’s. It was then during the Roots era of the mid/late 70’s with the birth of his Black Ark studio that he explored and spearheaded dub, whist developing his artistic identity. By 1978 The Black Ark was struggling to stay afloat, and eventually the studio burned to the ground. Perry insisting that he torched the studio himself in a fit of rage. It was then during the post-Ark period that Perry formed partnerships with other artists, most notably here: Adrian Sherwood.
English producer Sherwood is highly regarded for his contributions to the dub movement. Alongside co-founding labels like Carib Gems and Pressure Sounds, he is probably best known for establishing On-U Sound Records. During the 80’s he formed the collective Singers & Players with artists like Prince Far I, Mikey Dread, Bim Sherman. But it was during the mid 80’s that he met Perry which led to the album Time Boom X De Devil Dead.
TIME BOOM X DE DEVIL DEAD (released 1987) was the first album Perry recorded with Sherwood and was first released on Sherwoods On-U Sound Records. It was Sherwood’s fusion of rock, funk, and jazz and multi-cultural influences that garnered Perry’s initial interest. This album and Sherwood’s collaboration was critical in the re-launch of Perry’s career.
Kenny Dixon is Detroit’s success story of recent years. Hailing from the motor city, Kenny combines charm and charisma alongside highly addictive sampled house music, to create a distinct identity that is un-replicable and unique. Combining Jazz, Funk, Soul, Blues and Rock, he has released on the likes of Planet E, Peacefrog as well as his own KDJ and Mahogany Music. Kenny is an enigma and for the great part of his career his identity and profile has remained mostly under-wraps and un-exposed. Moodymann’s been doing his thing from back in the 90’s, taking addictive loops, and producing loose, messy and un-polished tracks oozing in character. Carl Craig’s Planet E took Moodymann’s productions into European HMV stores and this would launch Kenny to a more global audience. But his identity remained relatively unknown and it was only until 2007 that he did his first interview with Giles Peterson. A later RBMA interview with Kenny exposed more of his story giving avid followers more meat to chew on.
‘I Can’t Kick this Feeling When It Hits’ was part of the SilentIntroduction release on Carl Craig’s Planet E, and still sounds as relevant now as it did when it originally released back in 1996. Sampling Chic’s ‘I Want Your Love’, the track was what formed part of Moodymann’s surgence into European soundsystems, and is testament to the effervescent energy of his production style.
UK born Antony Child aka Surgeon has been a stalwart of the techno scene, and his array of industrious minimal productions are as much forthright as the hapdash funk of such releases as the erratic 2000 ‘La Real’ on Counterbalance. And alongside Counterbalance, Surgeon also boasts three albums on Tresor (where he’s also held a longstanding residency), alongside Downwards records and Dynamic Tension. His brand of hard techno inspired a swathe of artists coming through the ether, in particular, prevalent techno scenes happening in Berlin and Ostgut. He’s worked with the likes of Dave Clarke, Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and Shed, and through his forward thinking and highly complex live sets has been dubbed by Fact mag as “Arguably the best Techno DJ in the world”.
Issued in 1999, and gaining a re-issue back in 2010, Force + Form was dubbed as arguably “One of the finest techno full-lengths ever to have come out of the British Isles” (FACT). Much of his productions draw influence from genres as far reaching as Krautrock and Whitehouse, but it was his love for Coil that most influenced this album, whilst also acting as a spring board for his career. This track really seems to embody that period in time.
Border Community boss James Holden seems to find himself caught between myriads of musical stylings, making him a rather hard artist to pigeon hole. That’s why we love him. Making his name in the late 90’s trance movement, his landmark ’99 release Horizons earned him a widespread appraisal, but he soon found himself in other realms. It was the minimalism of the early 2000’s that led to him starting Border Community, which was a hotbed for longstanding friends and collaborators Luke Abbott and Nathan Fake. He’s remixed for the likes of Madonna, Britney, New Order and Depeche Mode, whilst creating music that tips it’s hat to the cannon of greats from Terry Riley to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
His 2006 release ‘The Idiots Are Winning’ was perhaps one of his most notable releases. Besides being his first LP, the sheer musical complexity alongside its critical acclaim, brought James into a new light, and direction.
Donato Dozzy is a very interesting artist. He’s been creating music for over two decades, but has only recently started to gain wider spread recognition for his mix of abstract techno and more obscure and atmospheric prodcution. Having graduated from the University of Rome with a Doctorate in Politics, he later joined the band The Kitchen Tools, which were signed to Virgin records, and then during the mid 2000’s held a residency at the infamous Berlin Panorama Bar. In 2010 he completed his debut album K, however his real turning point came a few years before when he played an infamous closing set at the Japanese festival Labyrinth. This set would prove to be a pre-cursor to a rapid period in his DJ Career. Here it is in all its glory.
The word legend gets bandied around freely these days, but Jeff Mills is without a doubt certified. As part of Underground Resistance with Mike Banks and later Robert Hood, Mills pioneered a futuristic agenda of hard hitting, stripped back, hypnotic sonics and thus laid the blueprint for techno music in the process. Mills has not stopped moving ever since. He is the founder of the revered AXIS records and has over two decades of seminal solo productions that still break ground to this day.
Released in 1997, Gamma Player stands out as a timeless Mills composition. Layered with hypnotic glitchy melodies over precise, atmospheric percussion and synths, it manages to be both ethereal and weighty, relentless and elegant all at the same time.
Robert Hood is another techno forefather who needs little introduction. From the Underground Resistance days to the present, Hood has remained consistently stellar, innovative and diverse in his productions. With an emphasis on soulful experimentation, Hood’s releases have oscillated between minimal techno brilliance (a sub-genre that he helped create) to the uplifting warmth of his gospel-influenced Floor Plan alias.
As Floor Plan, Hood magnificently infuses the essence of gospel with disco, funk and techno. ‘We Magnify His Name’ emanates euphoria and elevation through the combination of precise production, an impossibly funky bass line and a beautiful live choir. You may become a believer.
The Orb helped shaped the electronic soundscape of the early 1990’s as one of the pioneers of ambient house. Citing the influence of Brian Eno and a sprinkling of LSD, Alex and Jimmy Cauty championed aquatic, outer space, sci-fi motifs throughout its unique atmospheric style of house music.
In early 1989, around about the time this writer was born, the Orb released what became an anthem for the acid house generation. ‘A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre of The Ultraworld’ washed ethereal atmospherics and spaced out synths over the listener whilst audibly describing a glorious sunrise in a jungle made of polygons.
Perhaps less internationally recognised, when compared with some of the big names on this list, but Bristol-based Shackleton is a respected heavy weight on the progressive and darker side of experimental techno and prior to that, dubstep. He was the owner of the renowned label and night Skull Disco which he co-ran with Appleblim from 2005 to 2008. Like many of his peers, Shackleton’s sound has moved away from its dubstep origins and has taken a delve into sublime UK bass influenced, percussive minimal techno stylings.
Deep, dark and tribal in its composition. Paper Throne brings me back to head nodding in a dark cellar club somewhere in Bristol, in the post dubstep days when this new wave of percussive heavy UK techno was emerging. It still feels as new, weird and raw now as it did then.
A relativle newcomer, Rødhåd soon established himself as one of the most respected techno DJs in the business. His trajectory into the upper echelons of the scene was confirmed in 2012 with his first release, Blindness. The record was lauded by Marcel Dettmann, Robert Hood, Jeff Mills, Ben Klock, Laurent Garnier, and Sven Väth among others. Rødhåd was a respected figure on the Berlin techno scene for several years prior to the release and built his reputation for flawless mixing of Dub-inflected and deep percussive techno at his own DYSOPIAN club nights and at his regular Berghain sets.
This production is what I could imagine being played at rave in the Blade Runner universe. The Wall feels like a single gigantic sonic wave. A dark ambient, pulse drives the track throughout into mesmeric crescendo that subtly develops and majestically peaks before it subdues back to where it started imparting a sense of futurist bliss on the listener.
Words by Edward Maddocks and Peter Malla