Freq - Heaven (Substance, 1997)
On this timeless techno record, we see producer Sean Deason craft a series of scenically intense soundscapes that explores all manner of intense depths and soaring highs, with an afterglow of maximum warmth and groove confirmed.
Techno will forever remain somewhat of an impulse, a reflection of the forces that move and bind itself to the producers and their context, a powerful tool to move minds and dance floors alike that has been inspiring so many since its initial inception. Going back through its annuals, you see a whole range of emotional ranges being explore, where musicians took it upon themselves to delve deep within the genres essence and bring forth new and exceptionally exciting sounds that never strayed far from the original concept, but kept the genre perpetually moving forward. Where the 1st generation of Detroit techno set the boundaries in relation to feel and mood, the second would look to build upon this legacy, with the tempo often leading by example, and in turn both families of musical interpretation crafted the core tenants and ideals of the genre, with many who came after infusing the two together in so many incredible ways. Whilst the musical stylings and tempos might revolve around a core essence, the elements that flow around these rhythms are often defined by the creative character of the producer behind it, with futurism sometimes replaced by raw industrialism, cosmic fury realigned to singularity that remains very much in the realms of excellence sound design, or the blissed out areas taking over the whole track as a means to transport listeners to very alien realms indeed. Its a genre that from the off set the perimeters very far and wide, with a core axis that binds it all together but a sense of flexibility when it comes to sound design and overall tone. The environments that have continually come forth from across the globe is nothing short of mesmerising, with differing scenes and communities showcasing a new side to the sound that always leads back to the Motor City, its power and important in the genre never to be forgotten. Whilst Techno has continually evolved throughout the years, we always seem to come back to and revere the producers who continually set the tone, the music makers who not only act as place makers but cross road initiators, producers who craft new possibilities and directions with their creativity and drive. They act almost as network signals, places where music lovers congregate due to the power found within their music, keen to understand and learn more about their processes and abilities. We are drawn to their music not just in techno but across the dance music spectrum, their ability to see beyond what is possible and doable a driving force to change and development within electronica, a series of worlds that remain possible and within reach, but only by them showing us the way forward in this new expanse world.
Sean Deason has been leading the way in this regard for many years now, with his discography very much a testament to his board and wholly unique sense of taste. Despite not necessarily seeing a career in music when he began in the early 90s, Detroiter Deason became firm friends with Richie Hawtin, Kenny Larkin and Dan Bell, who showed him production techniques and arrangement styles that would ultimately lead to Deason dedicating himself to music and the creation of his seminal techno label, Matrix. Alongside his music career, Deason had already made significant connections in the music industry as a graphic designer, with clients including Carl Craig, A Guy Called Gerald, Def Jam Records, and One Records, and via both inroads of inquiry he formed the foundations of an extraordinary career in music that would see so many brilliant highlights come along the way. Like with the big hitters already mentioned, Deason spread his sound into many differing styles and blends, with a unique feel to his craft resonating from every corner of his records, with an overarching feel that resonated around excellent beats and a wide variety of melodic features. He paired drum'n'bass and techno with surprising ease and excellence, along with a real understanding of the textures and tones that make the 1st wave of Detroit techno so engrossing, and this is what he truly excelled at. Throughout his career, we see a excellent selection of records emerge and unravel from his various aliases, with each one showcasing a differing side to his sound, all of which seemed to build on the previous two generations of Detroit producers in a very hybridised and flexible sort of way, an approach that would define very much so the third generation, of which Deason is considered an integral member. From across the board, there is so much goodness to pick out from, as Deason dipped and weaved around his core sound with ability and passion, his music often singled out as some of the various best of the mid to late 90s due to its variety in tone and quality musical content. Some selected favourites from his works include a fair few EPs from his own name, such as
the hard hitting techno masterclass is the 'Pump' EP, that landed in 1994; the drum n bass tinged cosmos that reveals itself to us on the 'Within' record, that arrived in 1996; the gorgeous rhythms and melodic work that groove and move on the 'Jupiter Sunrise' record, which released in 1996; the balanced and highly effective grooves found within the 'Visionary EP', that arrived also in 96'; the excellent 'Zig' record, that featured fellow techno enthusiast Claude Young, that landed in 2000; and finally, all the 'Elements' volumes are well worth checking out, which demonstrate Deason's ever growing style and sound within the techno genre. Some LPs too were brilliant, such as the excellent variety in genre and mood , alongside the style pushing musicality, that is found on his debut album, 'Razorback', that arrived in 1996; and finally, the spacey grooves that dwell deep within the 'Allegory & Metaphor' record from 2000, where all manner of genres reside alongside each other in perfect harmony. Under the Code 3 name, he released the exceptionally spacey and dynamic sounds found within the 'Cyclops E.P.', that landed in 1992; as Psykofuk, our favourite was the never ending power found on the 'Psykofuk' record, that arrived in 1996; and finally, as Freq, a couple of records to check out include the
the futurism leaning grace of the 'Green' record, that arrived in 1994; and finally, the true slamming masterpiece that is the 'Innerspace' record, that landed in 1996. What you find here is a producer very in tune with what came before and importantly what was occurring on the boundaries of music at the time, with the outputs something to truly marvel at, as we were greeted with sheer brilliance on a very continual basis from Deason and his music. As discographies go, there's a lot here that blurs the lines so well between varying genres, bringing together elements of techno with a broad spectrum of electronica, merging the two into self contained records that give over so much to the listener as an experience both mentally and physically. His music speaks volumes, echoing through time with its sheer magnitude and intrinsic deepness, always taking the time to bring us into proceedings whilst having the ability to move mountains and the world around it at will. We highly encourage you go back through and check out his works, there's an awful lot of goodness to get through, and you will feel overtly fulfilled as a result.
And now, we arrive at the record for today's review, his 1997 Freq album, 'Heaven', that landed via the French label Substance. With much of Deason's music, you see a lot of flowing between genres and styles with ease and fluidity, and with this record you see the producer at his most dynamic and ambitious, with a record that chimes along the rhythms and interconnectivity of life itself. All of his stylistic intentions make themselves visible on this record, from the big beefy ambience of progressive dub techno, through to choppy curvy d'n'b styled numbers, through to electrically charged old school techno slammers, and back through to gorgeous deep house textures and lovingly crafted soundscapes that allow the mind to drift and then drift some more. With so much to marvel at, we felt this one was the right one to look into a bit further, as it really showcases his talents at their absolute fullest, a record not afraid to go the extra mile when it comes to exploring the very cores of dance music and electronica, alongside never for one minute loosing sight of Deason's creative identity. So, without further delay, lets dip into this absolute pearl of a record.....
Up first comes 'Xirtam', and we begin right from the off in the vast expanse of space, with the kicks opening up things for us. The drums are effective in reverberating around the space in which the song exhibits, highlighting a loose membrane that expands and contracts with each passing second, and as the kicks go by we start to see the undulating stabs begin to emerge over the horizon. The chord remains in a ever moving status, quickly stabbing down before releasing sides to its nature, with little melodic quivers filling up the spaces between the chords in order to craft a top side to the track that could fill up an ocean in terms of its feel and weight. The chord is very well considered in terms of its dynamics, taking the time to swerve and outline itself on top of the drums, before leading the track into its more dense section, as the the drum rise to the occasion with gusto and enthusiasm, leading the track into its first real sense of swells, as the track then moves into dub leaning territories. The swerves continue onwards in their trajectory, moving between the two structures with momentum of a thousand freight trains, the core hook worming its way into our minds, imprinting itself on our brains as our bones shake to the core. Its energy and majesty are completely infectious, driven by a desire to rock the very foundations of the earth, not just in its rhythmic depths but also with its considered sound design, the looping chords demonstrating such heart and feel that clearly went into its design. As openers go, that one was pretty special. 'Dreamscape', and the immediate tone is very appropriate considering the title of the track. Deep set keys craft the foundation of sound, as technological synth sounds permeate through alongside soft key sequences that drift and sparkle in the distance. The cymbal arrives soon into it, as enough time has passed for the listener to get into the melodic beauty, and then the track hits its stride with the kicks coming into play. Deason furthers the credentials of the melodies that little bit more with the introduction of the sweeping key line, which transports the track to even more blissed out territories as we move and sway with the breeze, confidently grooving along to a track with so much brilliance. The sonics in place allow for maximum involvement and engagement to occur, the tune so well balanced in terms of its melodic features and sequences, allowing us to get into everything it has to showcase to us. It keeps on with this arrangement for a significant amount of time, moving between varying minute transitions that keep us on side for its entire length, never for one second feeling left behind or unmoved by the emotive brilliance on display. Elegance personified.
Up next comes 'Dolphin Dreams', and this one is a mood turner. The techno laden key line couldn't be more effective if it tried, filling up the expansive backdrop with its quick switches and transitions, as the drums on either side remain expressive and textured, crafting a frame for which the melodic sequences are allowed to do their thing to their fullest extent. The kicks arrive not soon after, their pulse carrying the track forward with all the gusto in the world, moving between a standard beat and quick fire kicks that allow the tune to move into very exciting places indeed. The little key lines that align themselves in the tracks flow give over a further sense of progression and movement forward, which then leads into the breakdown where further engagement takes its hold over us. The kick doesn't fully return, instead really highlighting the swinging fast paced transition of the chord lines, the drums acting as the main source of change in the track, as the looping chord line acts as a kind of pivot for all the drums and progressions to continue moving onwards and upwards. Up next comes 'Xirtam 3, and this track is a real game changer. Building on the foundations of the album opener, we are greeted with a pulsating rhythm section, with the kicks and hats really going for it in terms of driving things forward, along with the repeating bass note that keeps pace underneath. The vocal sample chimes in the backdrop, providing a reference for which things to follow will inevitably do, its looping nature reminiscent of the album opener in its feel and groove, as the track continues on with its epically scaled journey. All the while this has been occurring, some very interesting drumming developments have been occurring, as if Deason has been messing around with the rhythmic patterns and feel, a constant movement between structures that crafts a brilliant sense of dynamism, before the breakdown then reveals the next phase of the track. The chord line from the original cut make an appearance, only this time their nature is more dense, the spaces between each stab brimming with additional tone and texture that fills the room up with life and energy. The track then continues on in this vein until its ending, but we imagine the track is playing out infinitely somewhere in time and space. A real powerhouse.
Up next comes 'Untitled', and here we begin off with the soft undulating chord line that gets the blood pumping right from the off. The chord line remains full and vibrant in the backdrop, acting alongside increasingly intense and ever growing drumming patterns, that begin life quite subtle before building in intensity as the hats emerge as a rhythmically dominant feature. All that set up then leads into the core groove, and believe us when we say that this one really hits home hard, its raw pulsating energy blends the initial melodic features into an absolute power house of a track that moves through the lines into this techno masterpiece. Little flairs of bass progressions and movements forward craft a ridiculous sense of momentum, all the way from the kicks underpinning it all to the gorgeous bass lines that run through the middle, all the way to the very top with the dynamic movements between melodic features. This one is hard to deny when its in full force, an absolute gem of a cut.
Up next comes 'Darkness', and this one begins in much quieter waters. The drums are sparse yet considered, skipping along with a broken type feel that allows for a significant amount of space to exist between, which is filled with all manner of swelling chordal lines, crafting a sea of sound that is beautifully rich and invigorating. The larger than life chord like that sweeps over the top is counter acted by the repeating line that dips and weaves under proceedings, the light bass touches also adding in their piece as each passing moment becomes even more engaging and forward thinking. The subtle manner in which the track builds and builds makes for fascinating listening, allowing us to really meander along with the progressions that reveal themselves with every passing moment, just like the kicks that align themselves into the song structure as time flows onwards - its just that well conceived you barely notice it, like a heart beat that started life somewhere in the stars before floating down into the mix. The change in beat then leads into the introduction of a dense as hell bass riff to move into the picture, its pulsating heart something to really marvel at as seconds pass us by, giving the track a whole new feel. The tune then descends into a dubby underbelly, its tone now fully given over to the nature of the bass line, its feel leading the charge as the track moves into the outer hemispheres. Top notch shit, what a brilliant self contained experience. 'Fury' arrives next, and we are greeted with all manner of melodicness on this one. The chord and key sequences all weave and dip around each other, consisting of a tonally sweeping chord line and a fuzzy jazzy key solo on top, in a nod to the techno jazz gods of before but with Deason's own twist on proceedings, as the big bass stabs begin to make their presence known. The view is absolutely spell binding in its complexity and feel, and we are completely locked into whatever might flow next from its energies, and we are then greeted with the next phase of development. The drum and bass style drumming that moves into view is simply stunning, with high end snares doing the business of leading the line, with such a sense of dynamism on display which works alongside the drifting keys with real intent and passion, the two elements in sync completely with each other, as the melodic sequences give way to allow for the drums to really be heard in all their blazen glory. Here, Deason really lets go with the sonics, leading the dance up and down, left and right, to there and back again, which then leads perfectly into the vocal line, that packs the biggest punch in terms of delivery and passion. Their repeating nature eventually leads the track into a downtempo section, where the keys come back into the picture to ease the track downwards a little bit, but the drums remain prominent for some time still, having not quite completed their quest for sonic perfection. Absolute bliss. To wrap things up on this wonderful record, we have 'Phoenix', and we start off in sonically rich territories with the chords and keys. Pretty soon into it we see the drumming structures begin to emerge, as the sonic palette is broadened by cosmic key lines moving and grooving around the ever evolving soundscape, with all these little elements and feels looking to make their presence known and involved with whats going on. The drums then begin to develop with sound and density, their journey upwards becoming more complex and moody as time flows by, with the track reaching a head as the bass line becomes the dominant force in proceedings. The bass is allowed to flow onwards with its dense feel, providing a foundation for which the track then moves on from there, demonstrating one final time Deason's brilliance when it comes to developing tracks and managing all the varying lines and elements that flow eternally from his music. A perfect end to an album filled with such beauty and diversity, a record you will keep coming back to constantly for your general fix of techno and all its associated wonderment.
There's a real sense of coherent complexity and intelligence that runs through this record, that always remains slightly differing between the various cuts. At times the progressions are allowed to really shine and move along at their own pace, a revealing nature to the music that gives over enormously in terms of engagement, a technical side to things that represents the passions and tones that Deason is going for. But there are certainly moments destined for the deep of the night, with gigantically scaled tracks that shake you to your very core, but still displaying a real knack for sound design that accommodate wonderfully slight variations which keep us all on side. As a balanced product, you won't find a record much better to suiting your varying mood or context, with such groove and feel which is always presented differently each time. A record that remains as relevant and brilliant today as the day it was released, and one that will forever be remembered by techno heads the world over. A absolute pearl of a record.
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