Ostgut Ton has become something of a haven for Techno producers to experiment with longer formats. Patrick Gräser, aka Answer Code Request, joins the ranks with Code.
In 2013 alone, the label delivered albums from Marcel Dettmann, L.B Dub Corp, Function and Marcel Fengler, as well as a V/A compilation in which all the producers were actively encouraged to do something different. Perhaps most revealing though, Ostgut released a ballet score, entitled Masse, and hosted its performance. 2014 has already supplied Tobias Freund’s A Series of Shocks, and now awaits Answer Code Request’s highly-anticipated debut LP. That Gräser, too, would produce something to transcend the dancefloor was inevitable.
The first four tracks are reticent, detailed and meticulously produced, offering an insight into the more reserved side of Answer Code Request. The eponymous opening track is an appetising minute of processed vocals and soft synths. ‘Blue Russian’ is more ominous. Off-kilter beats and delayed bleeps never quite settle into a steady rhythm, instead leaving you wondering whether ‘Field Depth’ will. It does and marks the first sign of typical ACR fare. The drums are loose but dynamically mixed, rolling above base frequency sub-weight with a coarse swagger indebted to UK Garage and Jungle. As the name suggests, ‘Odyssey Sequence’ is beatless and other-worldly, like something from The Jungle Planet.
It is not until ‘Zenith’ that Gräser properly confronts the dancefloor. The previous fifteen minutes of pulled punches fall into place as tightly-coiled percussion loops with newfound urgency. ‘Status’, the only straight 4×4 track, is similarly DJ-friendly, though far deeper. Rig-shaking bass drives the track forward and compensates for a vacuous mid-range. It’s tailor-made for sound-systems and breakdowns in marathon DJ sets, where low-end presence alone holds the dance floor in limbo. ‘Haul’ is more of the same. It sounds, like a number of tracks on this album, specifically made for Gräser’s own sets.
Like his close affiliate Shed, Gräser has a keen ear for incorporating nostalgic, rave sounds into a Techno template. He does so on ‘By The Bay’, providing one of Code‘s many highlights. The mid-range is dominated by surgically-equalised breakbeats, they provide the most euphoric moment and tee up the soothing collaboration with Elizabeth Bernholz. Closer ‘Thermal Capacity’ sprawls out like the final hours on a Monday morning at Berghain. Filtered, panning synths take centre stage and temper the punchy drums below, making you forget, for a moment, the darkness gone by.
Gräser leaves behind the pent-up aggression of his first EP for Ostgut, ‘Breathe’, but more than makes up for it with a masterclass in arrangement and balance. Code favours the emotive blueprint of Basic Channel Dub-Techno and rugged, UK-influenced sound design over the often cold, clinical workouts associated with much of the Ostgut roster. This is by far the most refined Answer Code Request material, and as good as anything this Techno institution have released of late.
‘Code’will be available on vinyl and digital from June 9. Pre-order here.