U.K. producer Matt O’Brien’s refreshingly sporadic Off-key Industries follows the label owner’s From the Periphery release from 2009 with a series of remixes that bring together some of the past and present leading lights of techno and house, and which in many ways neatly sum up O’Brien’s approach to music-making. When Josh Brent started to make his name during the mid to late-90’s as Schatrax, his atmospheric yet forceful grooves, inspired in equal measures by Detroit techno’s etherealness and the raw garage dubs of N.Y. house, were described as tech-house. Although that term has since been hijacked and now serves to describe either post-mnml mush or the overblown melodrama of C2, Brent rekindles the magic of his golden period with his rework of “Dodaso,” with a jacking rhythm and subsonic blips and bleeps permeating through a grainy bass.
O’Brien recruited another old schooler, Todd Sines aka .xtrax, to rework the track as well. Remaining true to his sparse ‘n’ squelchy trackiness, the sprinkling of piano keys is a pleasant surprise, but it ends up sounding strangely flat and underwhelming — possibly a consequence of appearing alongside Brent’s resonating timbre rather than a shortcoming on the part of Sines. KiNK is up next and it’s clear that he has spent a lot of time listening to producers like Dan Bell, Sines and even some of Dan Curtin’s early Purveyors of Fine Funk releases on Peacefrog, but somehow, his one-note bleeping paean to these artists sounds muted when it should swagger and slick when it should bristle with raw intent. The final contributor is The Subliminal Kid: if you haven’t checked his To the South release on Off-key Ltd. from last year, then shame on you. In the meantime, this version of “Blackwood Freestyle” provides more of the same breezy, atmospheric techno, with airy, filtered melodies accompanying a rolling, undulating groove. Simple, smart and like the rest of this EP’s highlights, timeless.