Various Artists, 100DSR/VAR1


Artwork by Roland Flexner

[Delsin]


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Delsin really is one of the greatest labels of all time. It just seems unreasonable to think otherwise. Since it opened in the mid-90s, the Dutch imprint has crested wave after wave of trends — both musical and technological — appearing stronger and more relevant with each passing current. But the remarkable thing is, in doing so, it hasn’t compromised the original vision of its owner, Marsel van der Wielen, nor degenerated into a mere haven for innovation-hating purists. Sure, while its records often have a classic feel — Detroit techno and electro, Basic Channel-type dub, etc. — they rarely feel staid, formulaic or derivative. In short: for over 15 years now, Delsin has walked a spectacular tightrope between the past and present. It’s hard, then, not to feel excited about 100DSR: five new mixed-artist 12″s to celebrate the symbolic arrival of catalog number 100 (the label has released over a hundred records already).

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Starring Claro Intelecto, Gerry Read, and Unbroken Dub — three artists who joined Delsin’s roster just last year — the series’ first installment hints there’ll be more future-gazing than reminiscing. It’s a good start. Though the trio produce fairly varied music, they’re united by a common deftness. For example: while it may lack the gossamer strings that imbued last year’s Reform Club LP with such palpable tenderness, the murky torrents of Claro Intelecto’s “Fighting the Blind Man” reiterate his ongoing talent as an arranger. Then there’s its nasally bass line, which sounds particularly Claro-esque and just downright cool.

Gerry Read, on the other hand, cultivates a ragged, boundary-pushing approach to 4/4 sounds, like L.I.E.S in higher fidelity. Underwritten by metronomic bleeps and decorated with croaking synths, “Granny Bag” sees him testing the limits of coherency, unravelling a diverse five minutes in the process. But perhaps the biggest track here, and the one that best illuminates sheer deftness, might be Unbroken Dub’s. As he’s popularly done for Rawax in recent times, the track furthers the Russian’s exploration of pure dub techno. Importantly, though, he doesn’t fall into the genre’s classic trap of prioritizing form over function. “Spacing” is still filled with an enormous sense of space, but it’s not a slave to the tedious minutiae of delay and reverb. As arcing synths fly overhead and ping-ponging bells jingle underneath, everything feels incredibly natural. This is Delsin, after all. Would you expect anything less?

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