Various Artists, In Loving Memory 4:4

loving

[Styrax Records]


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The title of Styrax’s In Loving Memory series is both intriguing and provocative. Is the compilation intended as the final epitaph on techno’s gravestone? A nostalgic tribute to the pioneers of all things deep and dubby? A signpost to the mournful nature of much of the music contained in the four volumes? Or just a Moodymann reference? The label, along with its subsidiaries Styrax Leaves and Millions of Moments, have always celebrated techno’s past while keeping one eye on its future as well. Alongside essential reissues such as G-Man’s “Quo Vadis” and records by John Beltran, Monojunk and Aaron Carl, it’s also introduced the world to newer artists such as Redshape. The three previous In Loving Memory 12″s paired secret classics by Deepchord, Laurent Garnier and Octave One with newer productions from the likes of Atheus, Remote and Arne Weinberg, reminding listeners that much of the techno made today, and in particular the dubbier side, owes much to innovations made at least a decade or two ago. Whether this is a negative thing is mainly up to personal taste, or perhaps whether you were there the first time around.

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The eight contributors to 4.4, split across two 12″s, almost all do fine jobs, but with the title as an albatross around their neck, sometimes it’s hard to forget it’s all been done before. Predictably, John Daly stands head and shoulders above the rest, with his debut release “Birds” made available again for the first time since 2006. Deep and dubby it is, but somehow the way in which the layers come together so effortlessly make this essential listening. Similarly, Morphosis (the housier alias of Ra.H) does a brilliant job with a handful of elements — a thumping bottom end, a monosyllabic choir and the occasional snare — so that “They Just Don’t Care” can stand side-by-side proudly with Patrice Scott’s oeuvre. STL’s effort is probably the perkiest thing Stefan Laubner has ever made, but steers too close to Theo Parrish’s wonkier side to make it stand out. Of the rest, Sven Weisemann’s “Deep Passion” (Sven’s Repassion Remix) is polite to a fault; Lowtec’s “Stamping Ground” is given a necessary re-airing after its 2002 release on Move D’s Source label, while John Beltran, Sam McQueen and Derek Carr all provide homogeneous homages to the Artificial Intelligence era. In Loving Memory is far from the final nail in the coffin of techno, but also serves as stark warning against having too respectful an attitude towards its past.

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