STL, The Unseen Voyage



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2009 may go down as the year of the private press, but STL (aka Stefan Laubner of Bad Harzburg) has traveled this hand-paved road for six years with his Something imprint, issuing scuffed-up house and techno tracks, field recording collages, and numerous combinations thereof. The best of these come off as soft-spoken bedroom curios, but garner enthusiastic support as potent groove tracks. Juggling a prolific release schedule and bankable quality control, STL’s steadily amassed a loyal fan base. Farming out the occasional release to Perlon can’t have hurt either, but it’s a new alliance with Smallville, bringing with it the overwhelmingly embraced “Silent State” EP, that’s really raised STL’s profile this year. Yet his in-house press is as busy as ever. Arriving in June, “The Unseen Voyage” is familiar, steadfast STL, a sign perhaps that neither “Silent State” nor the increased attention have disrupted the Something agenda. Don’t mistake it for a retread, though. “Space Warriors,” the EP’s opener and longest track, manages to feel unmistakably like STL while sounding nothing like anything he’s done before. The track layers a shrill ascending squeal — sounding like the Something logo’s UFO soaring into the heavens — over a frenzied keyboard jam that similarly presses us forward, but keeps us on the ground. The shortcut description, though, is to call this STL’s “Mouth To Mouth” basement tape, a feverish cycle of swelling build and celebratory release, all captured on Super-8.

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The B-side switches to weathered, dusty house, following a line of Theo Parrish-derived, plaintive deepness that’s regularly turned up on Something and seems to be getting more and more raw. “Walk With Me” works a rough sketch of a keyboard line, a brief spoken sample, a patter of hand drumming and, of course, a muffled kick drum heartbeat. A different kind of “late night” feel than we usually talk about at LWE, it’s eloquently emotive, but retains a smoky funk — ideal for solitary headphones listening. Ditto the aptly titled “Me Myself And I,” which lays haunting Carnival of Souls organ over a rhythm of metallic taps, smothered crashes and, yes, more of that dull kick drum throb. There are echoes of “My Home,” my favorite from 2007’s Night Grooves, but this is a more jagged and altogether eerier track. Add to all this a two-and-a-half minute slice of musique concrète and the usual bundle of locked-groove miniatures, and you get the impression that Laubner must have cabinets bursting with this stuff. Indeed, while reviewing this one, another new EP popped up on the Something site. Not to worry, though; Laubner will find plenty of listeners happy to help him clean house.

Stephen  on September 10, 2009 at 2:16 AM

Stephan has really been doing some wonderful things as of late, this one is no exception. Well worth checking the entire catalog I’d say…

Chris Burkhalter  on September 10, 2009 at 11:32 AM

It’s always a good time to look back on the STL catalog, for sure. My turntable is locked away in a storage unit on the other side of the globe right now, so I had to go digital on this one. The silver lining was that I took the opportunity to buy a bunch of favorites from the back catalog while I was at it. A heads-up to anyone who doesn’t already know: you can email Laubner to buy .wav files of his tracks for a very reasonable price.

Greg Swindle  on September 10, 2009 at 7:17 PM

@Chris: thanks for the tip, I didn’t know that!

pablo/beaner  on September 13, 2009 at 6:27 AM

so great. stephan is one of the few constant high quality guys in house/techno. “qrz” hasnt left my dj bag for years.

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