The burgeoning allure of the British and Irish Techno scene hasn’t ceased to relent over the last few years. Since the well documented shift from 140 to 130bpm, many of the Dubstep fall out tried their hands at slower compositions, with recent occurrences having taken on an Industrial inclination. Whatever the reasoning for this latest manifestation of machine music, the focus here is on the celebration of a creatively perpetuated genre, persistent in its evolution and stoic in its functionality.
Back in the 90s a generation of creatives influenced by the Industrial sounds of bands such as Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and the Post Punk scene resulted in a the ascendance of an ostensibly British sound native to Birmingham. Fast forward two decades and the relevance of what came before is more prevalent than ever. Angus Finlayson’s early 2013 article The Industrial Techno revolution documents the rise and influence of current heavyweights such as Perc, Truss and Karenn, arguing that Blawan “inspired a legion of youngsters to toughen up their kick drums”. Those youngsters Finlayson referred to maintain and expand upon a similar ethos, with differences occurring in foundations. What seems to be the notable third wave of British and Irish Techno artists seem to have their roots firmly set in Grime, Dubstep and Hip Hop as well as more traditional Post Punk and Industrial sounds. Supported by their peers and predecessors, the new wave are carving their own path and facilitating their own growth, creating a self-sufficient strand of an existing genre that assists creative involvement and supports sustaining business models.
The substance of that growth was explored and discussed on a brisk London evening with label proprietors Billy Allen and Pris, along with rising producer J.Tijn (who feature in the accompanying photoshoot). Further consideration was given by artists such as Metrist, Manse, Manni Dee and Eomac through online discussions, that touched on musical backgrounds, influences and thoughts on recent developments.
DIY culture has positively filtered down through the generations. A number of newly spawned UK labels seem to be cohesively perpetuating a particular sound, simultaneously referencing Industrial forthright Techno, whilst cultivating a new strand of experimental music for the dancefloor. Two labels that immediately spring to mind are both London based imprints, Candela Rising and Resin. Both labels have risen to prominence in their brief periods of activity, reaffirming the fact that notoriety is a consequence of attentively releasing music of a consistent quality.
The former, Candela Rising, is a vinyl only imprint operated by Billy Allen. The decision to release solely on vinyl doesn’t appear an intimidating concept for Allen. He states that “it’s a personal choice and every label is different, by releasing on vinyl you are in no way choosing to alienate people, just like labels that choose to release only digitally aren’t, it’s a preference and people should respect the format.’ Releases thus far have come from Lakker, Paul Birken and Eomac. Allen has maintained a somewhat British sound with his releases, but it seems this is down to personal taste rather that a stylistic choice. “So much of what the UK has produced has a massive influence on my tastes. Punk, Grime etc – which I see as one and the same, just at different times. I don’t even consider the label as part of a ‘scene’ as such… if we even slightly contribute to making something better then that’s just an added bonus. I think everyone has a slight knock on effect on each other, pulling certain ideas and inspirations from each other even without consciously knowing sometimes.”
The latter of the two labels is headed by elusive Techno producer Pris. Resin was inaugurated in 2013 by the unidentified label owner with ‘Unbeknown To Us’. Since then the label has gone on to release a Various Artists compilation featuring Manse, Bleaching Agent, Divided and Pris. What assists the labels identity is the distinct artwork, a process the producer expresses as one of the most personally appreciated aspects of releasing a record. “I think design is a relatively forgotten aspect of a record these days, obviously the music is first and foremost but good artwork that encapsulates and visualises the music, as well as keeping a strong aesthetic helps to produce a beautiful well rounded package.” The decision to make the Resin catalogue available digitally was due to the freedom and detachment from specific spaces digital music provides. This coalesces with the labels ideals in regards to signing music. A futuristic and experimental approach seems to be encouraged. “I suppose the ethos for the label is to showcase music that has all of the classic elements of Techno, but as interpreted by each of the artists that we release. I think what makes a track a Resin track is that feeling of freedom to take the music wherever the artists wants to take it.”
This freedom is perhaps most apparent in RSN003, the four-tracker entitled ‘The People Without’ by Cambridge’s Joe Higgins, aka Metrist. The jagged broken-beat patterns along with the lo-fi overdriven approach seems to be a serendipitous result of the producers past forays in to Dance music. “I produced Drum and Bass and Dubstep for around 3 years before I started up Metrist. Pretty much 90% of my style comes from that background and making stuff that isn’t Techno. I haven’t been moulded by a 4/4 kick or the culture or purists. So I started making Techno with a completely naive outlook.”
The innocence towards categorising art is a common thread, as Resin, Opal Tapes and Lobster Theremin affiliate Manse details. “I didn’t set out to make ‘Techno’ with this project, the music kind of fell into this bracket. I think a lot of the new Techno at the moment is exciting, and that people are willing to force each other to try the next idea, push it that little bit further.” The newcomer has developed an instantly recognisable sound, attributed to the use of field recordings and jolting cognitive deception caused by the occasional unquantised sound, exploring the possibilities and potentials of repetition. The liberated Punk approach to Techno is again maintained, with the producer stating that Techno is “less refined than other genres” and that “it has no rules”. While producers such as Metrist are less concerned with contemporary developments, Manse embraces proceedings. ‘The word ‘trends’ can be quite tarnishing; it implies something is vapid, and temporary, two things people want to avoid when making music. But actually I think its just common stylistic decisions influencing people. I think of it as an evolution of sound, rather than a cheap knock off.”
A facet that unifies these producers is the support from Techno forebears as well as peer encouragement. Consequently relative newcomers such as Manni Dee and J. Tijn have speedily found musical homes on labels such as Perc Trax and Untold’s Pennyroyal. Manni Dee was added to the Candela Rising roster this September with his four-track EP ‘Amid The Collapsing Scenery’. A diverse musical journey has seen the producer indulge in various forms of Dance music, including releases flirting with the 140 and 160bpm area. The shift to Techno came from an introspective consideration.”I felt musically malnourished towards 2012, I began analysing the music I was making and thought about what represents me holistically. A lot of the music I listen to is by British bands, Post-Punk, Britpop and so on. This music resonates with me on a profound level maybe due to cultural relativism. I’ve always been obsessed with British sub cultures even though my initial connection to music was through American Hip Hop, often quite bellicose. Punk and Techno are aligned to me, the passions and the ethos and the freedom. I do think that innate propensity towards aggressive (Hip Hop) music, which I still listen to from time to time, manifests cathartically through my compositions.”
Pennyroyal regular J. Tijn embarked on a not dissimilar musical journey himself, initiating his musical expedition by making Grime and Dubstep in 2006. “I actually got into Techno a few years before I started making it. The really fast, crunchy, percussive stuff – especially early Drumcode stuff and equally the Basic Channel and Chain Reaction records were my first introductions to Techno. I enjoyed both but couldn’t really see myself making stuff in either style on a long-term basis. It was when I discovered the Fachwerk guys that I realised it was possible to blend the tough elements and the smooth elements clinically and without sounding a mess. That idea excited me because before that I’d separated the two sounds in my mind, they were as opposite to me as jump up clownstep was to liquid Drum & Bass.”
The Pennyroyal imprint has also supported the rise of Ireland’s Myler, who’s prolific output has maintained his unique take on the genre audible in the public sphere. Also indigenous to the Emerald Isle is the equally as prolific Eomac. The producer has released on Candela Rising as Eomac and as one half of Lakker, who’ve found a home on the esteemed R&S imprint. A focus on sound design and musical menace is prevalent in the sound of Ireland’s Eomac, currently residing in Berlin. Claiming the “sounds and the possibilities” are two factors of Techno that appeal to him. “It seems that any sound imaginable is in your grasp, and the possibilities for combining those sounds in interesting ways is endless. I also like the DIY aspect of Techno that has been there since the start – get some cheap equipment and just do it!” Combining sounds in interesting ways is a venture the producer undertakes with ease. The ‘Workout EP‘ under his EeOo alias sounds like a cross between Zomby and Mr.Ozio, whilst the ‘Hither, Pappy’ EP on Trilogy Tapes creatively references Grime and Techno. The lack of confinement in the artists work is liberating, and demonstrates that musical freedom can be exercised without compromise.
The culmination of various genres in Eomac’s work becomes even more apparent when considering his background – “I’ve made every kind of electronic music you can think of. From Gabba and Breakcore, to multi-channel ‘Contemporary’ pieces, to House, Dubstep, Techno, Hip-Hop.” Recognising his sound as an amalgamation of styles, he also states there wasn’t an intentional move to Techno, and his music often falls outside of that bracket. This is evidently due to a diverse musical interest and a self-monitored approach to composition. “I’m very directly inspired by something I’m listening to – I’ll start to sing a melody over what I’m hearing and that will spark an idea for a new track. Or I might think ‘it would be great if this track would do X and Y’ – and then I’ll go and do that in a track of my own. You have to be vigilant and honest with yourself in your own music. If something doesn’t resonate with you and you are only doing it because it’s hyped, I think that will come through in the music.”
Whether a consequence of recent musical developments or formative influences, the current state of Techno is as invigorating as ever. Whilst Europe is often the focal point, worldwide counterparts such as Yuji Kondo & Katsunori Sawa’s 10 Label (Kyoto), and Hound Scales and Divvorce’s Fifth Wall (New York) imprint are also sustaining and nourishing the genre. With many artists releasing on their own labels, the patent Punk ethos attributes a sense of freedom and artistic ownership without compromise. A youthful flare and a myriad of musical and non-musical references maintain the steady heartbeat and continuously contribute to the present, whilst simultaneously shaping the future.
Words: Josh Thomas & Manveer Roda
Photography: Alex McBride Wilson