INTe*ra - Aqueduct (Acting Press, 2020)



Lucid soundscapes, lush tempos and epic beaty delicacies make up this absolute gem of a record from the always brilliant Acting Press imprint.


The past and the future, melding into one, to make something new, fresh and invigorating. On the premise of using the sounds of the 90s as a tool, it is done across the board by a wide range of producers and labels, the anchor that holds it all together. The rhythms that once flowed through the raves have now found a new home with the contemporary scene, their influence and textures not merely an echo in time, but a living breathing reference for those now making the most cutting edge of dance music. The manner in which modern day techno particularly has morphed is very much inspired by the ebbs and flows of the 90s, where musicians continually pushed the limits of possibility and experimentation to produce music grounded in texture, emotive tone and out there rhythms. Now, we see the bedrocks of these ideals spread and multiple, not just the music being used as a guide, but the spirit of it all, the concept of no end in sight, the concept of embracing the liberalism of experimentation, being brave and believing in ones convictions. The labels and producers who lie within this spectrum truly embrace it, and as a result are responsible for continuing to push the realms of current imagination to new plains of existence, moving from the moments where listeners feel comfortable towards areas where we become mesmerised and fascinated by the effort and craft put into it all. These sorts of tunes, these kinds of producers, and labels, are so necessary today in the over saturated world of dance music, where inch by inch they move things forward just a little bit, one track at a time.


When expansiveness and tonal excellence lie at the heart of a record label, it always leads to undeniably brilliant results. Acting Press have been exercising this motto for their entire history, and this is reflected in their brilliant, brilliant discography. The label, helmed by PLO Man, C3D-E and All Rest No People, has since 2015 slowly claimed the mantle of most genre blending, beat exuding and progressive as fuck imprint out there, every release flowing through time to give us the most atmospherically brilliant and thought provoking music around today. The tracks are always so vibrant and unparalleled in terms of depth, a testament to the label having the vision to incorporate the spirit of early Techno, Ambient and IDM, but always infused with a modern twist, flavours that resonate with the contemporary listener as much as they would with old school ravers. This balancing act is the real core of the listening experience, as many doors are opening to you upon listening, and the fact that this continues to happen with every new EP says it all about the labels overall vision for their music. The characteristics have been honed from the very beginning, an effortless blend of progressiveness and deep beaty goodness with cosmic chordal workouts remain as the gift that keeps on giving. Their discography is a landmark in curation and definition of sound, with every release giving out some bold intentions, but some selected favourites include their debut, CC Not's 'Geo Fi', PLO Man's 'Stations of the Elevated', Attitudes in Error's 'Vplay' EP (all from 2015), Globex's 'Inversia 1' and '2' (from 2016 and 2018 respectively), Money Morning's 'Corporate Karma' record from 2017, and Neurotribe's 2018 effort 'Life Recorder'. There is also a wonderful collection of the self found in the label, with various label mates banding together or contributing to each others releases, a collective hivemind that reverberates through every release and aids in the consolidation of the label's unique sound. Add into the mix a number of cassette and CD Mixtapes, and you have a label fully entrenched in the ideals of everything that has come before, to define the very best of the here and now.


So, we arrive now at their latest effort, the first sort of Mini album from the label, the double 12" 'Aqueduct'. INTe*ra, a group consisting of PLO Man, C3D-E and Hashman Deejay, band together to create a record with all the classic references of a Acting Press release. The big, bold and exciting progressions, the mood switches signified by incredible drumming patterns, and the ethereal and beautiful atmospheres that unravel so naturally, this record stands so proudly alongside its siblings as just another marvel from the archives of the Acting Press gold mine. So lets take a dippppp.


Up first comes '697', that begins in suitably sparse and technologic surroundings. The lone series of drum loops appear over an ominously building sub synth, electrical cells abounding in and around the beats to give a real sense of the machine. The density swells with the intro of shimmering hats that caress the scene, the pads in the background adding weight to the proceedings. The computer sounds grow in intensity, building in flavours and energy, ascending before descending as quickly as they became built up. The pads grow once more, emerging from the murky depths to the forefront, as the scene opens up to really fill the room. The intensity simmers at just the right level, the addition of the cymbal adds more rhythm to proceedings, but never taking away from its gradual build up. The kicks hit soft but true, meandering around the delicate threads that emerge through the flows of the musical narrative, the beat now really moving between gears, but in the most organic way possible. The brief interlude when the synth becomes more sparse signal the beginning of a new sequence. Where before was about emergence, now we feel the true innards of the spirits unleashed, the keys morphing into their true selves, deep, endless and all encompassing. Even the drums move up a notch, the snares adding yet another layer to this epic of a soundscape. Next comes '463', that is certainly adding to the energy levels. The signalling bleeps feel like light houses communicating across the bay, their flickerings but a mere drop in the ocean, but together make up a beautiful display. The backing synth comes in like the waves on the pebble stone beach, enveloping and soothing to the touch and the ears. It is truly perfect, a real moment of excellence, the pads washing over the interluding notes, that before you now it, the bass and the drums kick in. Jesus. The energy levels now plummet sky high, the feels go beyond comprehension, all senses thrown to the wind as you completely give in to the experience. And yet, the song hasn't completely given itself over to relentlessness just yet, moving the rhythmic patterns between levels that seem so fitting with the series of pads that soar so very high. Before long, however this happens, as the track moves quickly into its chuggy phase, the chords disappear to reveal a tune that wants to move at the speed of life. The aquatic like pads that come in are quintessential Acting Press, their brief interludes a perfect match for the rolling intensity of the drumming patterns. Before long, we are rejoined by the deep pads though, that come back in to ease us back down to earth. Next comes '548', that slides right into proceedings from the previous outing. The drum work out at the beginning is up front and effortless, a real sense of the flavours about to unfurl from beyond the realms. What better way to counter balance the seamless fit from the previous track with a true techno workout, the drums ring true and deep, the boundless energy really on display here for all to cherish and nurture. During the break down, the aquatic chords make an appearance, keeping the fire burning true, and counter act the thick and dense drumming patterns, that only get more enveloping with every additional sequence. The track just continues on with this sense of energy, constantly searching and exploring every facet of the mind as elements move in and out of time. A real leader in terms of the beat.


What follows is '653', featuring label mate Downtown Solutions. The track begins off more harmonic than previous, the stabby chord sequence interluded with fading pads that contrast in true second wave Techno fashion. The tune has a real sense of urgency to it, the drums constantly searching for new friends to pick up and take along for the ride. The kick comes in, and oh boy does it ring hard and true, the feels really taking us to the misty night, eyes closed, fevers running high. The subtle movements between small elements always keeps us on our toes, the pads taking their time out, along with elements being silenced just for a brief moment, then magically reappearing just at the right time. Its organic progression at the highest level of execution, just so masterfully pulled off, we get all we need from this piledriver of an experience. Next comes '414', and oh yes are we ready for more! the track starts off enriched in beaty goodness, the soft key lines moving between the drums, as the cymbals and hi hats hark back to the progressive house days. The kick quickly comes into play, and acts as the base for all to move from. The first major change comes in the form of a new two note key line, floating high above all the progressive goodness happening underneath, and this could go on forever to be honest. To finish things up, we have '410', to ease us softly to sleep. The bass persists from the previous outing, but the levels remain the same, the cymbals continually keeping the ball rolling. As is customary with the label, they really want to help you focus on the essence of the groove, the little things they add serving as a means to really engage you and snag your attention. They always pull this off, but the variations each time they do it always gives over to us an experience like no other. The environment here is one of playful downtemponess, given the energy levels that ballooned in the listening experience. The track winds itself down perfectly, easing into the night with a wonderful sense of mission accomplished.


There are times in this record that you really do stand back from, trying to take in all it wants to accomplish. The level of craft here is unparalleled, a blissful experiences await whoever wishes to take the time to enter into the producers world. This record contains it all, the moments of beauty that perhaps only techno can create, the pumped up grooves that create whirlwinds of delights in our minds, and the combinations of sound that conjure up moments of pure joy. Its all here, you just have to reach out and touch it. Album of the year? quite fucking possibly.


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