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Asok - Mistress 14 (Mistress Recordings, 2020)

No depth is left unexplored from Asok as he weaves his way through all the very best contemporary techno has to offer.

Dipping and weaving around the pure essence of a genre is never a bad thing, and when it is done right we all revel in its excellence. Many producers broaden their horizons via taking into account as many facets as possible from the genre most closely associated with them, with records in their discography merely delving into a side of a genre, reflecting a moment in time when someone did this or something changed that. It keeps the momentum going, the interest always fresh, the enjoyment levels consistently high and maintained at the highest level. The purity is constantly rejuvenated, with new angles and inroads always taken to ensure that listeners await each release with baited breath. Its these kind of artists who also keep the ball rolling, ensuring that their genre always has some kind of new outlet to look at, a new spectrum within a spectrum, keeping the fire burning and fuelling scenes and even inspiring new producers. It also gives a wonderful opportunity to read back catalogues in a new way, meaning that dives into the past don't become boring and somewhat unnecessary, but somewhat essential to understanding the drive of a musician and their intentions from record to record. And due to the expansiveness they display, it means that you can take a dive backwards and find tracks that are on par to their current record, providing a foil to their most present method of demonstrating their version of music.

Ever since his debut back in 2014, Asok, aka Stu Robinson, has been serving up the goods to all those with even a slight interest in the realms of high quality techno. As described by the man himself, all his tracks come from outtakes from lengthy recording sessions, and you really feel like nothing has been lost from taking potential tracks from a long long set. Its the organic feel and the broadness that shine through so brightly in his music, giving it this instant feel of freshness and vitality, music that is really hard to not feel very much involved within. Each EP and LP gives off another notion of techno's ideals, sounds and flavours, be it more rooted in the 80s and 90s stylings of Detroit and UK techno, or indeed within the realms of the contemporary scene. If you enjoy either, or both, then Asok certainly has you covered, in every aspect. Some selected highlights from a dazzling discography include his 2014 debut EP, 'Poltergeist'; 2015's 'Scenery White 01' joint EP with Neville Watson; the 'Count Zero' EP from 2015; the excellent 'Inner Circle' EP from 2017; the always surprising 'A Mind Forever Voyaging' LP from 2016; and the 'Better Dead Than Alien' EP from last year. Each record always delivers, be it from the intuitive and deep method of its sound design, through to the high octane energy levels that feel quite soothing, through to the composition always throwing up new sides to his sound, its a testament to Asok as a producer that we are always left very fulfilled after every listen, left in a state where contentment comes in the form of deep stabs, powerful drumming patterns and textured environments that feel full of life and vitality.

And now we arrive at his latest, 'Mistress 14', his second outing on DVS1's Mistress Recordings label. Very much inkeeping with the label's diverse output of all things good and techno, this EP is no different, offering up four cuts that demonstrate a musicality that morphs as much as it teaches. From the very off, the ground is set for an excellent trip through a long and enriching series of environments, a road trip with many destinations through all the landmarks of the genre. The range, the sonic beauty, and the beats, are all here, and then some. So, lets get into it.

First up we have the track 'Space Rockets', that begins with the pounding drums. Bass kicks are intermingled with the hollow drums, with cymbals then beginning to merge within the sea of pulses. This pattern builds up steam, as the wide expansive pads move into the backdrop, like water running over a picturesque collection of stones by a river bank. As the pads grow in stature, the lone and perfectly placed high pitch snare joins in, as the drums fall away to give into the all encompassing pads. The synth is left to add texture and warmth, losing its solid body and becoming fuzzy, as the drums kick back in, with added shimmering hi hats to boot. The synth then drifts away, replaced by a bass sequence that dominates the room, moving from the depths and bounding down below, before the synth demands its place back in the track. When it all comes together, the range of dynamics is something else, the combination of the full pads contrasted with the harrowing bass line is pure futurism, and pure old school. But yet, it seems repackaged in such a way, the elements moved and intricately blended to create that sense of refreshment we always get from an Asok track. What an opener. Next comes 'Is Anyone', and we now begin with the kick in the foreground. Riding high and true, the bass line soon joins in to weave its way around proceedings. Then, we are hit with the two chord progression, with the pulse now really racing, as we feel that certain warmth that only the best can deliver. The way the high pitch moves into the mid range is superb, creating that distinct sense of progression, before switching up to the high again. The pad slowly fades from sight, replaced by all manner of new textures and sounds that move in and around of the beat, an ever present that holds it all together so tightly. Asok really gets inventive with the melodic sequences here, replacing the fullness of the pads with a series of wonderfully fluid key lines that do the job perfectly, so when the pads do come back in, it all feels linked and together, a seamless series of transitions between all the feels. Truly an experience to get lost within, time and again.

Next comes 'Last Refuge', that keeps the fire burning very bright. The kick hits very hard and true, as we are greeted to the most dense layering of melodic elements yet, a series of morphing and evolving synth lines that keeps growing and growing. The layering wraps itself around the beat so well, the delicate balance between deepness and high melodic richness not lost at all on the listener. The track moves between varying degrees of intensity, where the lines fall away to be replaced by soaring pads that rise to the occasion. The drums then fall away, to provide a breath taking backdrop of pads and lines, the expanse filled with all kinds of small and wonderful things. The layering takes over, that then signals the lines to come right back in, lapping at the heels of the kicks, as the track takes a few more twists and turns on its quest to techno perfection. To wrap things up, we have 'The Alchemist', that takes the vibe into the murky depths of electro. The bass line sways and swaggers on top of the kicks, moving through the ranges with grace and elegance. The cymbals and hi hats fall into place perfectly, but its what emerges next that really takes the track to the next level. The intro of delightful keys, melodically so on point, tonally perfect, shift the track into new realms, transitions par excellence. The energy that exudes from this track are something else, a real joy as the engine room moves into over drive to achieve all the feels in the world. The track begins to flatten out, but not give out, as the evolving nature leaves us always in the right frame of mind. The fluidity between it all is perhaps the strongest on this cut, the manner in which elements peak and trough, moods shift in the night, it all amounts to an experience that feels like vitality is unravelling before our very eyes. Fucking yes.

What more could you ask for? its all here, right here. This EP gives it up really beautifully, a series of moods that feed into every context, providing the right balance between forward thinking club environments but also a absolute pleasure of a home listening experience, where we can really sit and listen to all the bold and beautiful moves found within this astonishing record. We really are welcomed into the full spectrum here, a living breathing world of sound, colour and light, and that only comes through the most innovative of producers. Take a bow.

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