This is dave the silent ssg... breaking his silence. I want to talk about several very encouraging and exciting trends that have been developing both within and outside of the the techno scene. Trends that point towards the development of a new sound which i'm calling, for lack of a better term, "Post Techno" .
I've always felt that there was a strong correlation between techno and punk music. Punk music arrived with a particular sound but also with philosophies and ideologies which were probably even more important than the sound itself (rebellion, anti-authoritarianism, individualism and so on...) Punk music at its peak was dangerous, unpredictable, unique and challenged its audience. The music was able to carry the core messages of the punk music movement which is what drove the scene. However, the music soon became formulaic, institutionalised and predictable. This resulted in the emergence of post punk.
Post punk took the punk music template and took it in new directions. Some of these directions were more subtle refinements of the punk sound (such as The Clash and Wire) while others were more drastic departures (Public Image Limited, Suicide) but the one common theme was a movement away from the core sound in order to either maintain or upgrade the original punk philosophies and ideologies. This transition from punk to post punk is well documented by Simon Reynolds in his book Rip It Up and Start Again and is well worth a read.
Techno, like punk, has ideologies and philosophies as well as a sound. Many people may not agree with me but i feel that the principle drive of techno is the relationship between man and machine as they work together to create new sounds. If i were to simplify techno history you can see the relationship between technology and man in two primary ways: Extracting the human from machines (Detroit) and extracting the machine from humans (Kraftwerk). Yes that's simplifying things quite a lot but you get the idea...
People continued to learn to extract more sounds from machines as well as create new machines (and software) as technology progressed. This kept techno progressing and developing which is why, save for a few lulls along the way, techno remained relevant and interesting for a prolonged period of time compared to other genres. As a core ideology of techno has always been man's relationship with machines and technology, techno would always progress as technology progressed.
This progression came to a halt in the mid 00s. By that time it was the laptop which was the tool of choice for techno producers... However, technology was starting to lose its relationship with people in a creative sense... Software had advanced to such a state where many of the processes that people would need to do in the production process was being performed by the machines themselves. New software had created a wedge between man and machine, thereby resulting in the core techno sound no longer serving its initial ideologies and philosophies. The man/machine was replaced with man/software/machine. I could no longer hear the human expressed through machines or the machine expressed humans... all I could hear was software.
I should point out that I'm not saying the laptop killed techno. A lot of the laptop driven minimal techno that came out initially is my favourite techno sound... Then there's the 90s IDM and early 00s Mego sounds which to this day remain probably my most loved eras of music. I am, however, suggesting that techno had for a long time failed to progress beyond its laptop love affair... which, for me at least, lead to its downfall. I good example of this, I feel, is Richie Hawtin's development. Initially, Richie's use of software was fascinating... He was expressing himself through the software, using technology to develop his sound and express his vision. However, around the time the Transitions mix came out, his sets started to lose any human quality at all. The software consumed Richie and we were left with hearing a relationship between Richie's software and machine, rather than Richie himself. It was a logical progression for him to make, and one i feel he shouldn't be criticized for making. However, a soon as this progression was made, his music was no longer serving the ideologies of techno. It was techno in form, but not in spirit.
So, what is this post techno sound I'm talking about? Like post punk, it's a return to the core ideologies of techno: man/machine music. Much of this music isn't for the club, and a lot of it isn't being produced by people within the techno scene. It's not always loyal to the traditional structures (or bpms) of techno, however, much like was the case in post punk, sometimes traditional sounds need to be either refined or torn up and thrown away to ensure the original core values of the genre are maintained.
As i mentioned before, technology is no longer advancing in a manner that can be used to make interesting music. So what post techno appears to be doing is looking at primitive technology and using that to create different sounds. Yes I'm aware that this has been done plenty of times before... the Chicago and Detroit sounds have been revisited countless times... as has acid techno. Post techno, however, is taking older gear and pushing them in new directions. They're also incorporating methods previously used in other genres (industrial, noise, electroacoustic, krautrock, drone) that haven't been used in techno before. Tellingly, many of the major players from this scene were previously from the aforementioned scenes and have crossed over.
Not only does post techno appear to be ignoring new technology, it almost appears to be flat-out rejecting it. In some cases very primitive gear, previously used well before techno was created, is used. Lo-fi recording methods are employed. Many releases are on cassette only and digital downloads are very rarely offered. This could be seen as rebelling against technology... however, i also see it as a form of asceticism, where luxuries that make producing music easier and more convenient are intentionally avoided in order to increase creativity. As has been discussed before, new software makes producing music easier than it used to be... however, this convenience comes at a price whereby creativity and risk taking are sacrificed as a result. That's probably why these new releases sound so exciting to me... they sound raw and unpredictable... they sound human and they sound like they have been made by machines played by humans. Machines as instruments, not as tools. While many of the releases are highly inappropriate for a club or for DJs in general, they sound like man-made machine music. and to me they sound more loyal to the original ideologies and philosophies of techno than anything else I've heard for several years.
So before i go through some of the releases and artists involved in this scene, it should be mentioned that I'm analysing the releases and scene from a techno perspective. As many of you are probably aware, most of these releases are from people and labels who have been operating in the cassette synth/drone scene for several years now. If you were to ask people from that scene, they'd probably perceive this new sound as just a natural progression within that scene... A progression where people already within the scene have moved from just flirting with techno to a fuller embracing. It could then be said that these techno-flavoured releases are just a temporary infatuation... one that will soon pass. However, i feel that the involvement of techno people suggest more than this. This isn't just simply "outsider techno." Also, it could be argued that the industrial and post punk influences of Sandwell District and Blackest Ever Black were early steps taken from within techno towards this new sound too. So there is more going on here than drone people embracing techno... While the drone/cassette crew have perhaps done more of the heavy lifting thus far, it could be fairly argued that there is a convergence between the drone and techno camps happening here. Also, if this sound catches on i think we'll find the amount of movement within the techno scene to grow rapidly. The Container album and his reportedly amazing live sets (check out youtube and you'll see what i mean) is already making significant waves within techno.
Regardless of what these releases mean (or don't mean) to techno, they're all really bloody good and and interesting. Some of you like new genre tags and movements... it can be interesting to analyse waves of releases and and classify them. However, some of you probably hate it too... and that's fair enough. If you fall into the latter camp, all i ask is to not let my theorising and ranting dissuade you from giving any of the below your attention.
OK so anyways... on to the music!
Container's LP on Spectrum Spools is the most well known release in this list and the first to crossover into mainstream techno. While it's also quite closely aligned to traditional techno sounds, there is also an undeniable rawness which is why it feels very much to be a post techno release. Ren Schofield, the man behind Container, was previously recording under the drone alias "God Willing" and runs the cassette label I Just Live Here which has Container releases dating back to 2009. His label is also doing much to push this new scene forward with its "Fake Sound Routine" compilations containing many new artists producing these new sounds. The highly anticipated 2nd volume of Fake Sound Routine is currently available for sale at his website.
These guys already have 9 releases since their debut last year. However, while I personally like all of the material I've heard from them i'd have to say that much of their earlier work is more akin to noise and industrial music than techno. However, of late they have taken a definite turn towards techno sounds and structures... Particularly on their recent EP (and first release on vinyl) "TEK NO MUZIK" and upcoming self-titled debut album.
I should point out that these guys are pretty abrasive, and their own PR releases point out that their music "is not techno music in any sense of the term." They describe their music as mechanised, minimal, repetitive acid. Going by my earlier definitions, I feel that such a description is as "techno" as you can get. KPLR make repetitive, machine music.... they push their gear, themselves and the listener to the limit. In that sense, I actually think they have a lot in common with Pansonic, who would also explore the boundaries of their machines. The one key difference however, was Pansonic were always very precise and disciplined with their compositions. Everything was always in its right place. KPLR, on the other hand, seem happy to push beyond that point where their machines will produce errors or imperfections. In the spirit of post techno, their sound is looser, unpredictable and raw.
The abrasiveness will be a turnoff to many, but what these guys are doing is absolutely brilliant and I'd place them as the best producers of 2011 so far. If you are up for the challenge, they are very much worth your time.
This is an alias for one of the members of the popular drone group Caboladies and his self-released album "A Party Tide" is one of the best releases of the year. Like the other releases mentioned, this is quite raw and lacks the polish of mainstream. However, Carl Calm's sound does contain some traditional techno synth sounds and structures, making it a relatively easy listen. Despite the lack of a techno background, the limitations of sounds used, and the low-fi recording techniques, A Part Tide sounds confident, bursting with ideas and effortless. It's the kind of release that sounds fresh and inventive but at the same time like an obvious development that could have easily been done earlier. It's releases like this that show the potential benefits of people from outside of the techno scene producing techno. Their fresh, unbiased perspective allows them to see ways of development that those from within can't.
Previously known as Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting, Diamond Catalog's debut LP "Magnified Pallette" is one of the highlights of the year... While this isn't the most unique release soundwise, (it almost sounds like a lost Basic Channel release) the LP's 2 long tracks are constantly mashed up, dissected, then reassembled in a way that is both disorientating and entrancing. It is a divisive release and it won't be for everyone but if you're feeling adventurous then i strongly recommend it. He also has more releases on the way, including a track on Container's label compilation, so it's someone you should keep an eye on.
This is an alias of the man behind the experimental/noise group (noticing a pattern here?) Kites. His Mark Lord releases are heavily influenced by early industrial music and use primitive electronics and minimalism. You can purchase his latest cassette here:
Of all the artists on this list, Mark would be the one most closely aligned to post punk and industrial music. I'd say his sound owes more to punk and industrial than techno actually. However, techno and industrial has always had a lot of overlap... particularly in the early/mid 80s... which is the particular sound that Mark Lord is pushing. Much like KPLR, his sound feels like techno to me. The man/machine relationship is there and minimalism is employed.
Better known as Pita, co-founder of the Mego label, Peter Rehberg allegedly first coined the phrase "Post Techno" in an interview back in the early 2000s when describing his DACM project. Although he has spent much of his time making drone music with Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley of late, he did put out the Kubu/Zikir EP with snd's Mark Fell which and it's absolutely brilliant. While it's quite abstract, the use of loops and even a drum machine on the track Zikir (my fave track of the year so far), gives it a strong techno influence. Perhaps this release is the beginning of a return to Pita's post-techno sound? Even if it isn't, Peter's contributions to outsider techno can not be overstated.
Patten's GLAQJO XAACSSO is another great post-techno release. The way it effortlessly pulls together many influences is reminiscent of Carl Calm, only Patten's sound is busier and more glitched out. I've read some comparisons to Actress, which are not without merit but i don't think his sound is directly comparable with anyone else.
Chris has already sung the praises of Prurient's alias and rightly so. While many of Vatican Shadow's influences vary from the rest of the artists on this list, its ties to noise, industrial and post punk is enough to justify a spot on this list.
The reason why Kassem is on this list is not for his releases but for his label Ominira as he is, to my knowledge, the first established techno artist to attempt to crossover into this new scene. As I've already mentioned, much of this sound is coming from those outside of the techno scene. While this has its benefits, involvement by those inside the techno scene is required for this new sound to progress from a new trend to an actual techno movement which has a lasting influence.
Kassam has released a track on Ominira's "The Weekly Contract Events EP" under the alias Kareem Moser. I haven't heard this release myself but i have heard the EP by IMG_6502 which is a brilliant mix of industrial, techno, world music and god knows what else. By all reports, the other releases are just as good.
Released under his Farben alias, "Xango" is another great post techno release. Interestingly, Xango contains the unpredictable, tilted sounds that the other mentioned releases have. However, Xango isn't raw or lacking in detail. As you'd expect, it's quite complicated and obviously the work of a very talented producer. These key differences shows what "techno insiders" can contribute to this new sound.
I've discovered the above music in the past 2 months and most of it has come out in the second half of this year. This is all new, fresh and exciting music that deserves your attention. I'll apologise to readers who don't appreciate people tagging new genres to sounds all the time. I'm not doing that to try and be first in to place a label on something... i wouldn't expect anyone to use the tag post techno and nor should they feel the need too... the only reason why I've mentioned the term is in an attempt to take a look at what is currently happening in music and what appears to be on the horizon... I'm aware that I could be taking a snapshot of something and trying to make it out as something it isn't... but maybe... just maybe... we are witnessing the beginning of a new movement in techno. If we are then that's pretty fucking fantastic... and if we aren't then that's fine we can just enjoy the new sounds coming out. Either way, try to track some of this stuff down and give it a shot... it could be the best decision you make all year.