From late 2008 through early 2010, Jay Ahern released three records with Stefan Schneider as Hauntologists and two records as Cheap and Deep, one a reissue of Morgan Geist and Carl Craig remixes, the other a 12″ of brand-new solo productions. Add onto that two very strong podcasts, as well the fact that those five records were of uncommonly good quality (with the first Cheap and Deep 12″ surely ranking as one of the finest techno records of the past five years) and Ahern achieved near legendary underground status. However, he had reached that kind of renown before, and it seems he’s content to phase in and out of the consciousness of the techno cognoscenti. So almost as quickly as Cheap and Deep arrived and then vanished, Ahern is back with two new records and, in what might come as a surprise given his love for analog gear, an iPad app. The iPad app is part of the 25-minute techno workout “Mesa Sequences” with Morgan Packard, but for those who always keep a copy of CHEAP AND DEEP 001 on hand, it’s the other record that is perhaps even more intriguing.
That record, the first on Ahern’s new Modular Cowboy imprint, is fittingly titled Cheap and Deep Rides Again and features two remixes of 2009 stand out “Words, Breaths and Pauses” as well as one new track. First up is Norman Nodge, who tackles “Words, Breaths and Pauses” in his typically Spartan style. A kick, a couple snares and rimshots, some subtle chords, and the vocals from Cheap and Deep’s original are pretty much all that makes up the over-nine-minute excursion, but it’s endlessly engrossing, primed for the kind of dark dance floors that both Nodge and Ahern operate so well in. Jonsson/Alter revisit “Words, Breaths and Pauses” as well, and the Swedish pair naturally pull out the kind of deep analog bass lines that have made their productions so addictive over the past 12 months. But just as you get comfortable, their remix takes a hard left turn and breaks down with arpeggiated swirls, contrasting drastically with Nodge’s version, although both offer shades of complimentary colors. Even with two strong remixes, the pick probably has to go to “Beautiful”, which sees Cheap and Deep veer into rough acid territory. Far from the kinds of throwback acid we’ve seen over the past couple years, “Beautiful” sounds fresh and intimidating, and even with all of those analog machines, its about as futuristic and peak time as techno gets. Cheap and Deep rides again, and we should all be thankful Jay Ahern is back in the saddle.