Various Artists, Sandwell District Sampler Single One/Two

[Sandwell District]

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Amid numerous anonymous labels, many of which are growing less mysterious by the day, Sandwell District has somehow retained its enigmatic edge. This is somewhat peculiar, as all of the artists associated with the label are well known, highly respected and have been around since the 90’s. Yet their blog provides more questions than answers, and by placing little importance on track titles or artist credits, Sandwell District have strongly defined themselves as a collective. Two new multi-artist sampler singles, which are apparently appetizers for the forthcoming Sandwell District collective album, only reinforce this perception.

Sampler one kicks off with an “Intro” that consists mainly of the ominous sounds featured on last year’s “Variance” and industrial drones. Things really begin in earnest with a shuffling bit of techno from Function, which combines bubbling, arpeggiated melodies and sweeping neo-Detroit synths for one of the more grand and sprawling Sandwell tunes yet. While Function’s offering owes a good deal to early Belgian techno, it manages to feel especially timeless, even in a musical climate choked by conspicuously retro house and techno. The record comes to a close with a short, uncredited bit of bass rubs and drones at B2, but the B-side’s main attraction is the Regis edit of a Silent Servant tune found on the second album. Its slight stepping attitudes and hissing, affective melodic touches, reveals some of the softer side of the British Murder Boy, making the best use of its source material. However, Silent Servant’s original, stocked in whose submarine radar bloops, driving percussion and dour melodies, easily emerges as the highlight of the two records. Regis reshapes it nicely, but Juan Mendez puts his best foot forward and produces perhaps one of the most stunning tracks of his career. It’s epic and misty-eyed in the way few techno tracks are, and while Sandwell District may have championed a sort of austere brand it shows they’re capable of much more.

The opening atmospherics of sampler two lead into an attractive ambient piece by Female, here as a “Live Extract,” which fits in well with the similarly melodic and aurally pleasing tracks found across both samplers. Regis re-edits this one as well, but to greater effect than before. Rediscovering Regis’ Downwards albums has been a real joy for me, and while doesn’t approach the sonic roughness of his 90s material the harsh vibes and underlying brutality still remain. Silent Servant provides a second tune on sampler two, this one colder and more heads-down as the aforementioned radar bloops reappear accompanied by backing drones and delayed voices. With over 40 minutes of music on offer here, plenty of room is left to be filled in once the eventual album rears its head. Yet these teasers reveal that Sandwell District are not only maintaining a high standard of quality, they’re branching out into moods and tones that their many admirers might not have expected. And by expanding the scope of their sound without compromising their vision of “true” techno music, the Sandwell District collective will continue to add adherents to their already devoted legions.

kuri  on July 23, 2010 at 9:46 AM

i’m really feeling these. i like the way they have stepped out and given these tracks a more melodic touch, even if it is slight, it stands out, reminding me of early Aphex Twin even.

ryan  on July 23, 2010 at 9:03 PM


Wednesday  on July 28, 2010 at 2:20 PM

Great tracks here. The pads on end of #2 remind me of Christopher Ernst’s “Nur fuer Verrueckte”


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