Helen Copnall - Lotuses In A Sea Of Fire (Miles Atmospheric, 2021)
On her debut record, Copnall channels many angles and energies of the Techno spectrum to provide to us two killer cuts that as as bountifully rhythm as they are infinitely melodic.
Swirling, weaving, dipping and interloping, constantly searching and evolving as a sequence right before our eyes. All encompassing and ever present, never for one moment letting up or letting go, simply progressing our minds and bodies to new heights of inner relfectionism. A commentary on society through shades of melody and powerful undertones, a picture painted so vivid you could reach out and feel its texture. If there was ever one genre that these thoughts embodied, then it would have to be techno, a movement that over the years has continually strived to release us from day to day mental ills and introduce us to a world where cares and pains wash away into a sea of cascading rhythm and movement. From the other worldy trips of Detroit's 1st Generation through to the power and grace of the 2nd, the globe became infatuated with the Motor City's latest invention and were eager to reflect back the energies that washed over all that listened, and a global musical revolution began. The resulting inspirations led to many axis forming with Detroit, with cities dotted around Europe in particular paying homage and reverence before birthing their own stylistic take on techno, and since that point each country has curated its particular vibe through the club scene, raves and the like. The UK had a particular appetite for the genre and as ever it was quick to spin its own take on the genre, with some of Europe's most iconic techno being produced on this island we call home during the late 80s, 90s and beyond. Its a sound that combines in a particularly organic way the raw power of the 2nd generation - where looping bass lines and hard hitting drumming patterns ruled with an iron fist - and the delicate environmental and social story telling of the 1st wave, which then combined is a particularly effective audial experience indeed. Nowadays the musical landscape has shifted significantly into the digital age, with countless labels and artists doing their bit to contribute to the market place which leaves listeners with an awful lot to get to know, whether it be the softer side or the harder rhythms, there's a little piece for everyone to enjoy. More often than not however, we get drawn to the refined, the polished, the beautifully made and the deeply engaging, pushing aside records that sound a little bit too similar to a majority found within the contemporary landscape in favour of individuals and labels who spend a great deal of time to refine and craft their sound. These labels stand head and shoulders above the rest, spinning a yarn that keeps the mind moving in all manner of directions, as we become invested in the unravelling nature of the worlds that lay themselves out in front of us. In relation to techno, it feels like an appropriate approach to make, as so much of the highly praised tunes that came before were always about exploring the many facets of possibility, either via boundless rhythmic expressionism or the most enriching melodic experience you could possibly imagine. Today, these labels and individuals persist like guiding lights, drawing us closer when new records come out so we can traverse to the next location, eager and willing to follow whatever they might present to us next.
One such label that has overly achieved in curating a beautiful and dynamic vibe is UK label Miles Atmospheric, which since 2009 has been serving up some of the most intriguing House and Techno you are likely to hear from a contemporary imprint. The label is the brainchild of producer Miles Sagnia, who has used Miles Atmospheric for his own releases alongside some of the most cutting edge producers around, with his sound acting as the anchor for all manner of brilliance to flow around. The label itself is awash with sublime melodics and driving expressive percussion, the soundscape a mixture of progressive thinking tones that really do send you to very specific contexts where the colours feel effortlessly vibrant and the mood is always hopeful. The sounds found within are a very broad mixture, perhaps stemming from Sagnia's audial identity that remains big on exploration, with Techno and House represented as the key drivers whilst treads of IDM, Acid House and Ambient all swirl around the foundations. Its a label that sounds like no other, providing a brilliant blend of all things soulful and electronic, music that fits the bill when it comes to sitting alone whilst wishing to astro project, or if you find yourself deep within the mix on the floor, you can't get much better. Out of its discography there are so many highlights, starting off with the truly breathtaking House laden beauty that is the label's debut, 2009's 'Introspective Soul', that features some inspired environmental work and gorgeous simmering key work; the incredible split EP 'Eternal Radiance', that came out in 2011 alongside Aybee, with the flavours contained within simply astonishing; the extraordinary family affair records 'Refined Textures' Vol.1 and 2, both of which see some inspired work indeed across the board from a selection of very very good producers, with the albums coming out in 2010 and 2012 respectively; the equally excellent 'Altitude' EP, that again saw 3 artists come together to whip up a storm, with the record arriving in 2013; the phenomenal 'Aeration' record, the debut LP release on the imprint that arrived via Sagnia, with the record arriving in 2016; and finally, the warm but incredibly powerful 'Orbiting Architecture' record, which again arrived via Sagnia in 2018. In all, the label has released some truly compelling music, with the vibe being created constantly shifting within a specific realm of melodic and percussive expressionism, with Sagnia aiding in crafting an identity that serves so many purposes indeed. Its beautifully considered house and techno that works on so many levels, not just in its inner workings but in the surface level it portrays, inviting us to take a closer look at all the ingredients that were injected into the strata. We recommend going back and checking out all of their works, trust us you won't be disappointed.
After a relatively quiet couple of years, the label is back with the debut offering from 50arc founder Helen Copnall, entitled 'Lotuses In A Sea of Fire'. In a continuation of the spirits and ideals of the label, Copnall serves up two techno cuts of the highest order, combining beautifully many of the sentiments we expressed in the introduction paragraph, with the music representing just how deep you can go when the beats are fast paced and the key work unravelled so impeccably within the progression. Its the kind of techno you want to dip your head into, our eyes gazing over a simmering display of intuitively designed structures that do much to evolve our perceptions as time flows by. With plenty of objects to look at, vistas to lovingly glaze over, and deep rhythmic sub sections to align ourselves with, there's a lot to celebrate within these tracks, as Copnall simply smashes it out of the park in relation to starting off her production journey. There are also two brilliant choreographed videos that accompany both cuts, which we will share below as we look at both side of the record, with both acting as mesmerising visual aids to the flows and movements found within the tunes. So, without further delay lets dive right into this mesmerising display of beats and keys....
Up first comes the title track, and this one begins with the deep set keys setting the tone for things to come. The distant keys are then accompanied by liquid like vocals, that meaningfully portrays its message about archetypes, and as the vocal line disappears for a moment the drums take their moment to introduce themselves, the structure of which is simply gorgeous as the keys being to swell to respond to this new environmental shift. The vocals return once again to provide more narrative meaning to the composition, as the underbelly of rhythm and melody keeps a consistent groove going, relentlessly shifting out across the pan to include all the spaces we see in front of us. The track builds for some time before switching the density, where the vocals talk of partnering women up with their sons, fathers and such, and before long the track moves into a instrumental section where the hypnotic key work is given an extended period in which to work its magic. Its utterly mesmerising, as we stand right in the middle of such expressiveness, the raw power of all that is going on taking the breath away to such a degree, the sequences something to behold and treasure. The keys then retreat a bit further as we are left with the core drums and bass line, as the cut looks to build itself up once more with additional hats and scattered drum elements filter across the broad plains, the arpeggios swirling around in the backdrop, waiting for the right moment to release themselves into the world once more. The swirls reach a climatic point as the pads return once again, as the track prepares itself for its fade out, but there's still time to demonstrate all that makes this cut so damn effective, with our mind firmly locked into all that it has to show, with the arpeggios moving away to leave the pads sailing high by themselves, the beats left to their own devices as we loose ourselves one final time. Beautiful stuff, truly.
On the flip we have 'Cedars', and this one begins with the delightfully playful keys to get us going. Their rhythmic feel gives a sense of progression and drive to proceedings, helping to craft a notion of momentum that arrives firmly with the drums arriving, which makes the scene feel very complete indeed. The track then converges within its boundaries, with a view to explore all facets of possibility with a number of intriguing sequences arriving on the scene to keep us firmly locked in, with the rising key lead key line something to behold. The manner in which Copnall handles the fluidity of her key work is just wonderful, with the resulting flow filled with texture and vibrancy, never for one moment letting go of the core foundations but simply expressing above and beyond what feels possible. The energy is one of consistent bubbling, keeping us firmly in the drivers seat as so many monuments and structures catch our eye as time passes us by, the experience propped up by the consistency in rhythm and feel. The track takes a dive into melodic-less territories around the 4 minute mark, which draws our focus firmly towards the drums and their raw power, with this segment allowed to flow on for quite a few bars as to really bind us to the sequence. Brief pad interludes help to add scale and depth, setting the tone for the song's outro which sees itself launch into the outer realms, and like that the track leaves this earth, but we get the feeling it won't be out of our minds for long. Simply beautiful, in every sense of the word.
Techno is expressive, it has meaning and soul, and can operate on levels that translate well in both the body and the mind, a combination of internal meanderings and out-of-body euphoria. On this record, Copnall achieves both in spades, her sound a deft blend of hypnotic passages supported by rhythmic foundations that shake the ground that moves beneath us, with the energy that transpires from both songs just unstoppable. From the very beginning of each track we are locked into all that it has to showcase to us, never for one moment looking back but merely looking in every single other directions, as cascading keys and rolling drums keep us ticking over as time passes by. Copnall infills a hell of a lot of detail into each moment, the layers of each song delicately balanced to help craft an experience that caters for all the senses, vividly painting a world that will always remain compelling on each listen. Narrative comes in both vocal and melodic format, with these elements helping to bind us further into the tracks and the essences that guide them both, and Copnall certainly has a meaningful message to convey to us. A triumph, a soaring majesty, call it what you will but this record will live long in the memory. A real statement, and we cannot wait to see what comes next.
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