Hemlock Recordings’ absence in 2013 has been noted. A label that aired the early offerings of James Blake, Ramadanman, Cosmin TRG and label boss Untold, it played a key role in expanding and defining the post-dubstep horizon and has remained a frequent touchstone in the years since. The last we heard from them was 2012’s ‘Chapter One’, a collection of tracks that acted as both a retrospective of the first four years of operation and a glance ahead to the label’s future.
Whilst its inactivity has been subsidised by Untold’s acquisitions on the Pennyroyal label he launched in March, Hemlock fans will be relieved to learn of the arrival of HEK021. Opening the next chapter is Hemlock regular Rohan Walder, aka Randomer, distilling a sound that underpins the output of both label and artist – techno.
Place an ear to the Hemlock back catalogue and techno’s devices are rife, at times glaringly obvious (see Cosmin TRG’s 2010 cut ‘Beton Brut’ and Randomer’s more recent ‘Scruff Box’), and other times cleverly veiled by the myriad of reference points that inform the label’s identity. Randomer’s broken drums and merciless bass tendencies often borrow more from the legacies of breakbeat, garage and hardcore, but techno has consistently infiltrated his work, from the distorted jack of 2011’s ‘Real Talk’ on Numbers, to the recent ‘Ruffa/No Hook’ on Turbo Recordings, an iron-fisted excercise in jilted techno and electro.
‘Bring/Curtains’ is a release that introduces a colder side to Randomer’s methods. The scuffed drumwork and gaping low end are still there, but the two tracks hint at a purer, more clinical approach. The thudding kick and bass of ‘Bring’ straddle dulled snares and chords that dance eerily amongst offbeat vocal stabs, imposing a swung, drunken lean on its icy 4/4 exterior. Randomer reduces things even further on ‘Curtains’, a slow, pounding dread-march with an impact that relies on little more than its relentless bass drum, lo-fi robotic ticks, and the same claustrophobic omnipresence that haunts ‘Bring’.
This release sees Randomer and Hemlock entering new territory, purposefully refining the techno accent that has inflected both their arsenals over the years. It’s simple, suffocating stuff that lies somewhere between the steelier regions of the Berlin spectrum and the current no-nonsense attitude of UK producers such as Karenn, Clouds and J.Tijn. However, it’s a release that would feel equally at home on the techno-specific roster of Pennyroyal, a point that does raise questions about why it was chosen for Hemlock, and the sonic direction that lies ahead for the label. This is uncertainty in its most pleasing sense though, a question mark that defines the chameleonic trajectory of the imprint. What comes next for Hemlock and Randomer? Who knows, but it’s in very safe hands.
‘Bring/Curtains’ will be released on 30th September on Hemlock Recordings