The Express, First Class

Speed of Light installation by UnitedVisualArtists


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Keen-eyed LWE readers will already be au fait with tracks on this EP, which featured on Ryan Elliott’s recent podcast for the site. But for those who missed this introduction, the full release of First Class provides an opportunity to find out what the fuss is all about. So should we believe the hype? Yes and no. In many ways, First Class defines much of what is right and wrong with techno in 2011. The analog beats of “Bost” are derived from the legacy of Dan Bell and Shake underpinning a filtered chord riff that recalls Ian Pooley’s 90’s melodic techno incarnations. “Host” is also nicely put together, its emotive techno riffs combined with the stepping dub shuffle of post-Chain Reaction labels like Frozen Border and artists like Mike Dehnert.

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But despite referencing all the right artists and providing the core audience — DJs — with the right dynamics, is this really enough? Perhaps it is unfair to hold a new act responsible for the failings of an entire musical scene, but the thrall-like abeyance of modern-day artists to nuances that last had resonance in the mid to late 90’s is at best disappointing. Let’s not forget that this is techno music: it’s meant to question, confound and bedazzle, not received redundant platitudes like “it’s nicely put together” — the kind of comment one usually reserves for a Lady Gaga composition.

This is not an attack on The Express themselves, but more a comment on the inherent conservatism that is plaguing techno; and in fairness to The Express, they redeem themselves in the second half of this release. The skewed rhythms and grungy, upwards-arching stabs of “Rost” show they are not to get their hands dirty and depart from the sanitized script. But “Rost” provides a taster for what they are capable of and “Lost” shows exactly what is possible when The Express push themselves to the limit. A jacking, jarring workout, its rudimentary, central riff moves up and down a note or two throughout the arrangement, but its incessant jarring sound is exactly the kind of two-fingered elixir techno needs. It’s the kind of basic, repetitive, almost vulgar track that is sure to piss off a load of techno purists — and ask yourself this: when was the last time that happened?

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