Tag: techno

Acid Hop

voxel records electric jelly

Welcome once again to the Voxel Records view of underground electronica. This month, we have discovered some great tracks by producers exploring acidic techno, hip hop and jungle crossovers. There’s some inspiring ingenuity in this month’s playlist, so go enjoy it right now!

The Source is a project for which veteran techno DJ Freddy Fresh steps out of the booth to collaborate with Dr. Walker of Air Liquide. Straight off, this track lobs us a brief, bouncing motif which is filtered, resonated, echoed and distorted with modular sweeteners as it twists and turns throughout. The percussion sounds are sprinkled with sugary bit crushing to make the drum track equally buoyant, so this funky modular masterclass and should whet your appetite for more creations from The Modulator.

Traveler opens with a simple acoustic drum and bass refrain, but producer subPAR soon injects a gritty bass synth and electro traps, with echoing reverse-keys haunting the background. A few well-timed drops of silence give an extra edge to the overall no-nonsense production, and there are many more great examples of creative beat making over on the subPAR stream, so go check it out.

Our final discovery this month was DnB Ultra  from Tosmen. This lengthy dose of hi-energy dub opens with clean, spiky drums as they splutter like a starter motor, but quickly reach jungle speed. Regular fills and dub FX pepper the mix without overloading it, and acerbic filters eat away at monotonic riffs without losing any energy or pace. The rate and diversity at which Tosmen is uploading tracks should put us all to shame!

 


Dark Electronic Experiments

voxel records theremin music experiment

welcome to our latest update from the world of underground indie electronica. this month we found some experimental producers making music with a dark and moody edge, and the tracks on the playlist are tinged with styles that sculpt acid, techno, electro, dub-step and ambient into their creators’ own niche. have a listen!

First, we found Tabula Rasa which is from last year’s album SEUIL by ArtSaves. This has recently been given the remix treatment with brand new versions of most tunes. The original version of this particular track opens with a slow, haunting techno riff whistling behind bit-crushed percussion, but the rhythms slowly build as bass drum decay extends into an anchoring riff. The pace evolves by its rhythmical complexity, before a giant pad chops the track in two. The string synth signatures of this second movement intertwine into an echoing, ambient soundscape swollen with subtle motifs before fading into the gentle pick of acoustic guitar. This is a sophisticated production which is recommended for fans of Autechre and LFO.

Simplextro by Ring Theory launches us into a swamp of pacey effects from the outset. As the effects subside, the track breaks down into an innocent piano riff before reaching out its spiny tentacles to mash up the track with more effects wizardry. Whilst the production lacks the full bottom end typical of mainstream dub step, the adrenaline builds and nimble drum fills keep it true to the form. The production does well to encapsulate the simplicity of dub step into a more measured, electro context without mounting a full on and uncontrollable assault across the frequency spectrum.

The Time Will Never End by German producer n8front is introduced by a soft, steady heart beat from an electro bass drum accompanied by a sustained vocal pad. A breathy aqualung is sprinkled across the mix, before it breaks into a plodding, yet complex rhythmic shuffle. it is the lumbering variations in the percussion that drive the track, allowing simple sustained pads to breathe their mystery through it. The heavy rhythmical backbone sinks this track into the earth, and the lighter melodic tones to drift around it like mist.

Dark Ecstacy is the only track available from TiNO KREY on the Soundcloud stream. It opens with old-skool acid rave voices prodding a minor 3-note riff that is rendered by a howl reminiscent of the classic Korg M1 synth. The dry 808 drums add unadulterated authenticity, but the rhythms swing in and out of traditional acid and contemporary trap to give the whole arrangement its modern edge. If you’re looking for a bit of that retro rave spice then follow TiNO for any future tracks!

 


Dubstep: Psycho Acoustics

staffie graffiti

Many styles have evolved since technology has become more and more influential in music production. Our previous electronic music adventure took us on a tour of techno,  a groundbreaking genre that has since spawned many other sub-categories and heavily influenced club nights around the world.

For this article, we have investigated the roots of dub-step and the essence of its production. We wanted to get to grips with this relatively new genre, where it developed and how it combines with other music that circulates on modern turntables.

Dub-step is rooted in urban South London, rising in the early 2000s from this bustling hub of ingenuity like many other innovations before it such as grime, garage and break-beat. As with the development of techno, the style is very DJ-oriented, and combined influences from UK garage with deeper origins in dub reggae. The infectious and versatile two-step rhythms, heavy bass and masterful combinations of effects have become hallmarks of the modern dub-step record.

Producers and DJs of the style are devoted to urban themes, and are named with dark or monstrous tags, like graffiti, that convey the depth and power of the music. As we’ve discovered, the extension of the style to its graphic art draws interesting (but presumably accidental) parallels with heavy metal, and this feedback loop has recently produced even more interesting results.

Urban Roots

The general consensus is that the early artists were born out of Big Apple Records, a record store in Croydon (South London). The likes of Digital Mystikz, Skream, Benga, Loefah are just some of the key names that appear early in the music’s history.

Techno sounds merged with sparse, shuffling breaks, stuttering effects and deep bass synthesisers. A lot of the components from these early tracks are pure techno, but laced with thin traps that avoid interference with the detail of the deep bass riffs. It is the unpredictable nature of the ominous bass lines and climactic rhythms that forces the listener to move with their gut feeling and not rely on the predictable rhythms in other styles; and this is probably why the grooves are so infectious. The classic 2-step beat is less apparent in many earlier tracks, but the dub-step still rips up rule books written for techno or house, and drills down into the core factors that get crowds moving. The influence of dub reggae is definitely prominent in Digital Mystikz and Loefah as their music develops slowly from spacious and reverberating delays and doom-like deep bass drops, but is underpinned by the urban vibe supplied by the thin electro traps from tech like the old faithful 808 drum machine.

Dubstep Anatomy

Dub-step tracks tend to sit between 130 and 150 bpm in tempo. They often cue up at half this speed due to the tendency to omit the up beats, making the track appear slower. But this technique allows the producer to inject serious pace later in the track when the atmosphere has been built up. Clubbers will find themselves moving slowly before being hit with a wave of energy as the true tempo is revealed.

Tracks are quite brief – between 3 and 5 minutes in duration. This doesn’t allow much time to evolve, so abrupt changes are introduced regularly every 8 or 16 bars. This keeps the music exciting in a short timescale and doesn’t rely on the subliminal influences or lengthy atmospheres of techno or ambient.

The thick, syrupy bass of true dub reggae and jungle is ever-present in the bottom end, and if you can’t hear it on your iPod it will quake your bowels in the club. Whilst the bass and drums were surgically separated within the frequency spectrum for earlier tracks, modern dub-step employs speaker-shredding synthesisers wailing abrasive timbres, and exploits modulating filters, sirens and delays to the extreme.

A trademark of modern dub-step is the bass wobble or wub, where sounds are filtered to a rhythm, pulling and stretching the bass across triplets and quavers as well as the frequency range. On its own, this effect is something that can be easily programmed using modern production tools; but it is also something that can be created on the fly by the DJ if their rig is equipped with serious filter and overdrive effects. Much as kill switches have been used by DJs in the past to mix tunes together, modern DJ controllers allow effects to be scratched in as part of a live performance, much like hip hop.

As we mentioned, early dub-step tracks were careful to separate the drums and bass whilst maintaining a definite groove. Many modern tracks take the gloves off and throw acoustic, electronic and sampled breaks all over the spectrum for maximum effect. Bass and snare drums sound huge and weighty. Producers will more than likely use these to compress competing instruments or even the whole mix using a side-chain, and this makes modern dub-step far more aggressive than the original productions. A familiar bass drum sound can be traced back to the old Alesis SR16 which has plenty of bottom end but also a sticky, high-frequency attack.

Infectious Rhythms

Most dub-step records make use of the classic 2-step drum beat derived from UK garage, and this is often married with breaks, triplets and fills for maximum impact. This beat gives a slow, heavy, head-rocking vibe but can easily be doubled in time to inject energy and urgency. Dub-step producers use the power of this variation to attack the audience with waves of changing beats which only the most uninhibited are able to surf.

Dub-step also shares features with trap, using the thin, electronic trills of hi-hats. In current releases, this technique is often used during drops, but was used more continuously in earlier records. The use of lazy triplet shuffles further gives dub-step a more human and performance element, even though it is almost entirely electronically generated.

Psycho Acoustics

In addition to the rhythmical improvisation that continuously evolves throughout most dub-step records, the wall-of-sound effects are almost the polar opposite to something like techno or ambient. Whereas the melody within a techno track is implied by evolving timbres, dub-step overloads the frequency spectrum and is appealing in the same way electric guitar distortion is in heavy rock. The clipping of the signal induces all manner of frequencies and not just simple tones, and the effects will be perceived both physically and subliminally. The whole package is more likely to burst forth than chill out, so modern dub-step is not for the feint of heart.

Our survey of contemporary dub-step records shows the genre to be truly diverse. Roots dub-step very much carries the attributes of dub reggae with respect to bass and spacey delays plodding predominantly at lower tempos. Enter the new young ruffian of cousin bro-step, and we hear the trademark wow-filter, heavy metal tainted riffs and drum fills accentuating grooves that may otherwise have lain undiscovered.

Modern And Mainstream

The crew that grew from the seeds at Big Apple Records are still touring strong, but other players have entered the game and broadened the horizons. Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex represents an evolution of bro-step and glitch that has dominated the mainstream in recent years. Bands like Pendulum and The Prodigy could also be credited to some extent with getting punk and metal to permeate dub-step, or equally demonstrate its influence in other music. However, the urban core of dub-step is still the best place to score some awesome tunes.

The Nato Feelz track Showtime combines cinematic power with wub-laden filters and club-friendly drops to dramatic effect., and Energy by Front Artillery’s Dayskid hollers synthwave riffs through watery filters but still keeps a ska-tinged offbeat beneath tumultuous glitch finger-work. The reggae influence, more glitch and bold riffs combine in Bad Trip by Skitear (a.k.a. Blayd), and the stern wubbing in Joe Garston‘s Quickscope demonstrates a crossover of dub-step with popular melodic tech house.  

Everything Everywhere

To us, dub-step is a style that is well at home with laid back reggae and stripped back trap. It fits with breakbeat and jungle to bring energy; and can be refined to slot into heavy metal. The compatibility doesn’t end there, though. Our own crate digging has also revealed a harmony with glitch, when rhythmical accents are adorned with blasts of quasi-random effects and octave-leaping lead riffs.  The cheesy digital sounds of synthwave also often turn up in rude, bold melodies that are further beefed up by heavy filters and overdrive. And last but not least, dub-step influences have washed over many film soundtracks to accompany the visual intensity and action sequences.

Dub-step is probably one of the most diverse genres in terms of creative production dynamics in the world today. From the grime of basement clubs to the sheen of the stadium show, there’s something for any lover of the extreme. It’s music that’s less about soul and more about attitude.

Voxel Records producer Maze Car picked up the challenge of creating a demo track that tries to reflect this diversity. You can listen to it below, and read about the trials of its creation on his blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Formula Techno

Techno Music Mind

 

Here at Voxel Records, we spend a lot of time listening to new and interesting music, and we fill the pages of our blog with words trying to describe the experience. Transforming music into words is something that one could argue is pointless, because music refreshes the parts of the soul that words cannot reach – or at least it does so in a different way. Does anyone know what dark neurofunk cinematic dnb actually is …?

Words are still useful, though. You can probably scan a blog like this for a flavour of sound, without needing to gorge on the hours of tunes that we did in order to write it.

In the first of a series of adventures, we aim to explore the music behind the label of techno that is applied to music by journalists and record stores. What attributes music to this category, where did the genre originated and what it has become …?

Techno Origins

The general consensus is that techno was born in the clubs of Detroit in the early 1990s, where early synth sounds peddled by the likes of Kraftwerk and Moroder were melded with Afro-American funk and jazz. On the face of it, detecting traces of funk and jazz in today’s techno tracks is pretty hard – so perhaps our investigations will shed a bit more light on that aspect.

The term techno is most likely coined because the music was constructed from regimented and synthetic sounds, generated by nightclub warhorses like the Roland TR-808 drum machine. Even in the 90s though, this technology was retro enough to be picked up cheap at a yard sale – probably because it was totally shit at sounding like an acoustic drum and couldn’t replace a good drummer. But as history has taught us, one man’s shit drum is another’s percussive demigod. Nowadays, these wee beasts change hands for astronomical sums.

Whichever way you look at it, techno was something that people could dance to in a club without the need to bring in a large disco entourage. The tempo and key of two tracks could be synchronized easily, allowing DJs to play a crowd non-stop, and all night long.

New Originals

The early days of techno produced classic tracks that may sound rather puny today, but at the time made bold statements and got people moving to a new arrangement of sounds and rhythms. Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman guise brought us Spastik: This is little more than a weedy drum workout to some ears, but at its conception it was ground-breaking, and from this stem much did grow.

Within the simple burbling staccato of Carl Craig’s Sandstorms, rhythms play with each other and develop organically. This is where a jazz influence can be detected, albeit in a regimented and computerized form. Taking a simple one or two bar lick, repeating it, and developing layers and undertones over a constant groove is a hallmark of techno.

Another key piece of technology in the early days was the sampler. However, these digital recorders could hold little more than a drum loop or a vocal hook, so hardware synthesizers still provided most elements of the music, as can be heard in KGB’s Stark.

A dark minor key was also an ally to many early tracks – Joey Beltram’s Energy Flash shows how sinister monotonic prods control the mood. It is safe to say that melody and chord progressions were not a priority for early techno producers.

A generation of producers like Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson are now considered techno pioneers, all of whom are now international superstar DJs.

Techno Production

Let’s get our hands a bit dirtier now. There are some tell-tale attributes that define a techno track, and these prevent it from slipping into other nearby classifications like house or trance.

In terms of tempo, techno tracks tend to tick between 120 bpm and 140 bpm, although hard techno gets a rave up towards 150 bpm. This kind of speed means that even the slower tracks are sufficient to get the blood pumping.

Tracks are usually longer than 5 minutes and will sometimes run to 10, which lets the clubber soak up the development of a track. A novice listener may easily be fooled into thinking that the tracks eke out the minutes by monotonous repetition, but good techno producers will always keep some aspect of the music changing and developing throughout.

Melody is not a feature of techno music. This may be because it is easier to mix tracks with little variation in pitch and tempo when there is minimal adjustment available on the decks; but it also allows the producers to manipulate the listener through other musical dimensions. Some tracks may have long chord progressions, but these would be verging on the trance – techno tries to stick to extremely simple, monotonic rhythms. Those productions that venture into the melody will either exploit automated arpeggios, or ham-fisted three-note stabs.

Rhythms are usually anchored around the ubiquitous 4-to-the-floor bass drum pattern. This is keeps the pace, and allows other percussive motifs to be developed as the track progresses; usually with hi-hats. It is rare to hear a snare drum in techno. The tones of the bass drum and hats are split evenly across the frequency spectrum, but a snare drum just takes up too much bandwidth. As a result, the snare drum can distract the listener from other more subtle variations within the music.

The weapons of choice for drums are the tinny 808 and 909 drum boxes, but these offer quite a wide variation in sound. A techno bass drum often defines the character of the track, ranging from hollow, open acoustic emulations to tight, clicking pulses.

The final ingredient is timbre, and here it is common to hear synthetic bells, pulses and pads. There is quite a lot of sonic breadth, though, ranging from organic, tribal instruments through to hollering analog Junos and whistling digital Korg M1s. Modern tracks also exploit all manner of effects in the form of filters, delays and distortion to twist and turn the flavour of simple base sounds. The aim is to find textures that can be intertwined, generating subliminal undertones that mysteriously ebb and flow within the mind. The techno producer will identify these hidden pathways, and exploit them as the track develops. This explains why a good production becomes mesmerizing whilst still being minimal.

The technique also influences the arrangement of the track. Long periods will be spent building the mood from layers of synths and percussion, and whilst not much has really changed, the listener has been taken on an epic journey. Lengthy ambient drops reset the mood so it can be taken in other directions. Such intermissions are drawn out and not predictably placed by drum fills, crescendos and risers like they are in dub-step and trance.

Modern Techno

The base form of techno has moved on much in the last twenty-five years. Cutting-edge producers experiment and cross over with other styles. A quick quasi-scientific, pseudo-random cross-section of on-line record boxes provides a good state of the nation report.

The rumbling, rolling drums and bass of Artefakt build up into a simple melody that drifts like a cool breeze on a warm summer night, and this ticks all the techno boxes. Conversely, the sticky, vinylized drums, speech synthesis and clanky acidic bells of Bjarki are abstract and eccentric.

Somewhere in between the subliminal and the computerized fits Dr. Double Face, where 8-bit monotony is also present, but somehow these non-musical tones overlap and collide into some happy accident. Some offerings from Gemini offer funkier shuffles with boxy drums and cheesy riffs, showing that modern techno loves to ride the technical limits of sound processing.

Ever present, though, is the technique of building percussive patterns and minimal melodic content, as is demonstrated by recent Illektrolab releases which border on the abstract with fizz and bubble.

Compulsive Sounds 

From this deconstruction, we have found that a jazz influence still lurks beneath the unadventurous melodies of techno. Instead of virtuoso musicianship, the frequency spectrum itself is where the magic lies. The listener can be wholly enveloped by slowly changing atmospheres over a long period of time, becoming wrapped up in the moment and carried along by friendly forces. The euphoria induced by this combination is somewhat inevitable, because the qualities of techno appeal to ancient, tribal and subliminal receptors deep within our human brains. So, whilst the music may be simple and repetitive in construction, it has the power to affect us much more deeply than we might expect.

The human body responds both physiologically and psychologically to the deeply penetrating frequencies of the bass drum. In the social context of the club, this constant rhythm, the evolving timbres and accompanying light shows explain why many find that the music breaks down boundaries and unifies people.

The genre of pure techno is probably more capable of inducing trance-like symptoms than music that is assigned the modern (commercial) label of “trance”. Where trance tends towards melodic and timbral feelgood factors, techno exploits the rhythmical and the subliminal.

There is a whole bunch of science about all this, but in short, techno affects your brain and body, and this can be as pleasurable as you want it to be. Despite the face-value monotony and slow variation, you may find it helps your mind expand and your body move. Whereas the sub-genre of “hard techno” may be designed for infectious, high energy clubbing, the experimental and pure forms of techno open up many dimensions.

The Red Six Production

To put research into production, we set about playing around in the RedSix studio, enlisting the help of Voxel Records‘ resident producer Maze Car. You can read about how he created the track on his blog – and the result is free to listen and download right here:

 


Box-fresh synth pop, electronic grooves and style-busting drum and bass for March 2016

voxel records potent new music discovery

 

Welcome to our latest update from the electronic music underground! We have a bit of a frog-flavoured theme this month, in order to celebrate a new demo from Voxel Records resident producer Maze Car. as ever, we also bring you a short playlist containing three more great tracks we discovered in the internet during the month of March.

The Maze Car demo currently goes under the working title Dub Croaky, and for a limited time you can download it for FREE at SoundCloud! This experiment combines some abrasive 8-bit tones with shuffling grooves and thick deep bass. It’s an epic journey that builds from basic beats into a trancey glitch-house workout – we hope you enjoy it!

First on the playlist for March is Trouble In My Head by Human Skills. This is the only track we found by this brand new, box-fresh band from somewhere in the USA. Launching into an up-tempo rhythm, the bendy, echoing synth motif takes the lead before the crystal clear vocals burst through like a shaft of light through an otherwise lo-fi mix. The wall of synth lines eventually gives way to a clean guitar solo and middle-8 (in true indie style), and there is enough freshness and familiarity to this music for it to find a home with all fans of indie synth pop. If this track serves to demonstrate their potential, we are expecting great things from Human Skills.

Having been available for two years, Rive Gauche by Carlini is not quite as new, but we are glad we found it. A slow, bouncy introduction with acoustic funk feel plays on before the piercing timbres of zither and thin synths form the true mood of the track.  The deep groove and the subtle bubbling of the bass mooch along until a neatly-etched passage of poetry finally plays the track out. This is a moody melting pot of influences that would be well received by any lovers of retro movie scores and Air.

Finally, we have Images With a Heartbeat by LA producer Hermetik. We are always pleased to discover a pioneering genre as we wander the internet in search of music, and this example of drill and bass introduces a new take on DnB. A simple hi-tempo synth arpeggio kicks off before the percussion takes control with a rigid, robotic jungle vibe. After a half-tempo breakdown, dark and dirty pads ebb and flow beneath the drums until more machine-edged synth motifs limp in and out of the mix. Make way for new wave industrial drum and bass!

 


New innovations in electronica and techno

spook key apple

Welcome to our latest update from the world of underground music! During the month of February we have found some more awesome tunes as producers make use of their influences to transcend typical genres. The very nature of these crossovers means that we can’t put a label on the music – and that’s just the way we like it!

Maze Car has spent the last few weeks crossing various boundaries of his own, using some delicious new synths to explore the grooves that lurk between dub, chiptune and house. Head over to the Maze Car blog to hear about how he is stitching his latest demo together.

First on the playlist, though, is From Within, by Canadian synthwave sci-fi gurus c+d. This song is driven from the outset by stabs of thin bass and hissing snares, and the mood is lifted by every iteration of the powerful chorus. The mix fills with dirty synth-vox and wiry strings, and Donna’s vocals gain a dramatic urgency as she tries to keep her head above water. The c+d sound is reminiscent of Broadcast and Add N to (X) (wink), but there are also clear nods to NIN and Depeche Mode. There are more great sounding songs on their stream – so go have a listen!

Next up is Tune WIth Horse by aLLriGhT (featuring Horse). This pair of London DJs drops us straight into rude, spitting synths and heavy, plodding drums. The basic monotonic riff does battle with pitch bending buzzes and shredded arcade effects, resulting in a sound potent enough to demolish the sound system without the need for excessive bpm. Mike and Luke throw slow, weighty techno that was born and razed on the dance floor – keep checking their blog for more releases throughout this year. This is loud. With added Horse.

Finally, Irrealiser beta is the very latest from Japan-based producer Christmas (a.k.a. Dear McQueen), and the track is available for free download. The music has all the power of that uplifting, big hall techno vibe, but it is constructed from a brighter sonic palette and more stimulating grooves. The aggressive synths squawk and squeal over the boom of the beats, resulting in a style that takes old-skool Faithless to a new level of breaks, grit and groovy bass.