Ismistik - Remain (Emotions Electric, 2020)
Like a endless comsos with so much to say, come imprint yourself into the sonic mastery found within this glorious 90s techno masterpiece.
When music is able to craft those spell binding moments, be it either the singular transition that wows us every time, or the vast expanse of sound that wraps us up into a cloud, then you really do have a winner on your hands. Tone and atmosphere become the imperative feature, working alongside each other to make worlds that stand alone due to their intrinsic deepness, texturally shifting between varying plains of existence and space, content to unravel as time goes by at a slowed yet wondrous pace. This allows the listener to get involved and feel engage with all the features that crop up, the little elements and pieces that reside within this new planet we have come across, where the music dictates all we see, acting as a guide to all the landmarks and places of interest that are begging to be explored. There are a select few genres that really allow this ethereal kind of space walking, with the Detroit school of techno acting as perhaps the standard for when ambient cosmic feels met the rawness of drumming sequences, a melting pot that when blended with the social and political consciousness of the origin artists, crafted a very very special feel indeed. It was music that was grounded in the socio-economic state that Detroit found itself in at the time, alongside including Pan-Africanism and futurisim as musical, social and conceptual elements, which resulted in a genre of music that inspired countless producers across the globe, who became devoted to its message and its sound. The now famous 'axises' began to crop up, linking cities in Europe to the Motor City, and as time moved from the 80s and into the 90s, the sound of the genre would certainly evolve with the 2nd generation of Detroit Techno, but producers were still obsessed with the ideals that sprung forth from the pioneers - one that paired tracks with breathless energy and an ambience that allowed people to truly escape from this earth. The softness that radiated from the keys, the manner in which the sequences and paired back drums combined to soundtrack astro travelling and projections, a moment where people stripped away their conceptions and immersed themselves into the deep pool of possibility and the unknown, a distant dream now a liveable, breathable reality. Its these moments that we fall in love with, the moments where the universe that expands and grows around us becomes so vivid, driven by meaning, passion and perhaps most importantly, a realisation of context and vision, something born from environments that still to this day resonates with its feel and tone. It was this essence that travelled around the world, transfixing a generation of music makers who yearned to emulate their idols, to transcend and travel through the galaxies of human experience, elevated by a passion for crafting worlds driven by pure rhythmic and melodic ecstasy.
There were many producers in the 90s and beyond who extended way outwards in regard to genre, and Bjørn Torske is certainly one of those music makers who stood the test of time via continually reinvention and exploration. His music, when taken as a whole, is extremely diverse in regard to genre and mood, spanning all manner of styles that made up the foundations of 90s dance music, which includes techno, dub techno, ambient, deep house, hard house, rave, breakbeat, and progressive house, and everything seemingly in between, with a variety of aliases and groups used to continually craft new and exciting worlds for us to all inhibit. His music always comes across as a beautiful pairing between intelligence and musical expressionism, in that the music feels exceptionally well considered and played out, the bars and chords delicately balanced within a bedrock of groove, with the conceptual spaces left allowing so much room to grow, an expanse to fill up the room, to light a fire in the hearts and minds. Perhaps it is this core feature of Torske's music that endeared so many people to his music, engrossed by the flavours on offer and the experiences that can be found within his cuts, where emotional idealism meets pragmatic progression in the best way possible. Each alias or group involvement he released under had a distinctive style to it, tapping into a new genre or sound as the years went by, representing differing stages of his production career, as the times saw such flux and change in the dance music world, with Torske more than happy to follow the transitions and his passions to keep crafting brilliant music. To look back through his discography is to listen through to some incredible releases that sound as fresh today as they did back then, and we will begin with our favourites from records from under his own name, starting off with the
the explosive two tracker 'Expresso / Railtrack', a real mirror image of house and techno, that landed in 1998; the softly spoken dub laden brilliance that radiates from the 'Ny Lugg (Kort Bak / Lang På Siden)' record, that arrived in 2006; the freaky funky grooves that shine forth from the 'Kokt Kveite' EP, which was released in 2007; the outer worlds ethereal tones that reside on the 'Kan Jeg Slippe?' record, that arrived in 2008; the true excellence in sound and progression that slams right off the 'Høst' EP, a joint effort with the always sublime Dj Sotofett, with the record arriving in 2016; and finally, his latest EP effort, the wonderfully joyous 'Kickrock / Blue Call' record, that arrived in 2018. Torske didn't just release EPs under his own name, but some timeless LPs, which include the deep house downtempo majesty found within his 1998 LP release 'Nedi Myra', that crafts the summery feel good vibes perfectly; the wondrous spectrum of sound that one can dwell within on the excellent 'Trøbbel' LP, that arrived in 2001;
the full on melodic spectrum that characterises the 'Feil Knapp' LP, that landed in 2007; and finally, the dubby slowed down goodness of the LP 'Square One', that was released alongside fellow Norwegian producer Prins Thomas in 2017. Other releases include the the emphatic explosive brilliance contained within the Open Skies 'Deep In Your Eyes' EP, that landed in 92', with the project also contained producers Ole Mjøs and Rune Lindbæk, and the the good vibrations found deep within the 'Truckstomp' disco edits record, that landed in 2012 under the Krisp moniker. All of these releases are absolutely stellar in terms of their complexity, mood and tone, with some excellent synth work and subscapes to explore, Torske truly did craft house in his own unique way, and in some ways paved the way for the brilliant Norwegian scene we are lucky to experience today. If you enjoy your varied tastes, feels and emotional investment, then do have a saunter back through time and immerse within some vibrations defined by true excellence.
And now, lets turn to the time period in which the record for todays review was released in, a time where Torske was conjuring up some truly sublime techno records that remain regarded as some of the genre's finest, certainly from a European producer. This began with the two cuts off the brilliant SSR Records comp 'T.O.S. EP #1', that landed in 91', with both the Radikal Buzz and Alegria aliases given a moment to shine, but it was with Ismistik, who he started with fellow producer Ole Mjøs, that really caught people's attention during the early 90s - their three EPs,
'Bonus Bouncers' (1991), 'Oasis' (1992), and '3rd Trace' (1993), are flawless slices of techno heaven, which span across the spectrum to give you what that combined 1st and 2nd generation sound was all about. After the pair cemented their place in European techno royalty, Torske moved to Bergen, with the project becoming a solo venture, which resulted in the 1995 record 'Remain', which is the subject of todays review, with the reissue coming courtesy of the Emotions Electric label. The increasing relevance of music from the 90s and its enormous impact on todays current crop of music makers has really come into the light recently, perhaps due to the fact that the ingredients and nucleus of these records was far ahead of its time for then, and simply hung in the air until finding a new generation to discover it and fall in love with it. 'Remain' is simply a masterpiece in this regard, an album that flings itself through time to land in our minds with its glorious meander through expressive melodic techno, taking all the time in the world to explore every facet of the genre and all that it remains celebrated for. You have the quiet moments, you have the drawn out expanses, you have the expressive drum workouts and the hard hitting, emotive burners, its all here, to experience and get within and enjoy, in all its triumphant brilliance. If a spectrum of sound within the genre was to be believed and experienced, then this is the album for you, a gateway to the sonics that never fails to disappoint at every single turn. So, without further delay, lets get into it.
The opener, 'Absence', couldn't be any more appropriate, as we are welcomed into a sea of sound that stretches as far as the eye can see. Warm, ethereal tones and colours jump out immediately, a quiet display of texture that swells and expands with increasing meaning, moving between the lines and visions to craft a sound that remains so inviting, even when listening to it for the umpteenth time. The light drumming pattern then adds itself into the mix, before drifting away to bring in the delicate bass line, as light arpeggios light up the side views with their expressive feel, with the deep set pads begin their swells once more, add in such a compelling feel to proceedings. The flow then moves into the drums and the bass line, with added technologic sounds to add further to the flow, as little snippets of melodicness work between the lines to craft a feel of pure bliss, as the swells return to let their presence and feeling known. Torske then mixes it up, as the drums drop out to reveal some beautiful chiming keys, which simmer within the heated hues of the warm afternoon skies, their emotional depth so pure and airy, transporting us to a new plain up above. Its the little things in this track that make it work and operate so well, from the manner of each element and its feel, to the overall environment they all work so hard to paint, it flows and works together with such intensity and passion, with all the little key and chord lines that come in and out of view something to really behold, as the track enters its final phases. There's time to add in some arpeggio techno tinged lines towards the end, which act as a final bookend reminder of what this track is all about - pure unadulterated sonic excellence. Something we can all get behind, just brilliant, the perfect opener for what is to come. 'Woodvibe' arrives next, and the melodies keep on coming on this one. The chiming chord structure at the start is immediately warm, setting the stage for what will arrive, their beautifully timed rhythm crafting the spaces, and just like that the kicks come into the picture, with the soft hats not far behind at all, and like that we arrive in the groove, as the drums kick out for a moment to introduce the bass, alongside the chords holding back for maximum impact. Its pretty masterful, the tone of the track already defined superbly by the produced textures, with the cut now providing swells that wash over the listener continually. The distant call of the synth is seen in the distance, inviting us to come in even further into this entrancing world. The combination of layers is effortlessly delicate, with the looping melodic features constantly serving up the goods, but its the variations in the drumming sequences that carry the track forward, signalling other elements and features to join in or move away, with an extended melodic light segment inviting a light acidic line to come into the picture. Before long, we are further joined by little light key touches that add further to the engaging character of the track. The cut descends into a melodic breakdown of sorts, highlighting the complexity and feel of all the layers, before moving back into the full spectrum of sound, and its all pretty wonderful indeed.
'Orange Peel' arrives next, and the energy gets upped even further on this cut. The drums that arrive immediately are expressive and groove heavy, laden to the brim with all manner of imaginative elements, with the first breakdown seeing the intro of that classic old school techno bass line, bubbling underneath it all to give that additional sense of depth. The chirpy key line quickly joins, with itself and the bass working in tandem around the ever morphing beat, as distant chords radiate in from afar. The track goes through the motions a few times before suddenly cutting things emphatically, as the rumbling bass line takes over, the sub base of the track given its time to shine, before the cymbals and hats signal the beginning of the descend back up the ladder. The key features from before feature prominently once more, as the track swims through some typically excellent techno driven beats and atmospheres, before dimming out into the night. Up next comes 'Running Water', and this one begins in more surreal and cosmo aligned spaces indeed. The repeating bass sounding note keeps the pulse underneath the cascading arpeggio synth line, crafting an intriguing soundscape for us to involve ourselves within, as elements and features come together to populate the imagined world as we travel through it. The slight distant synths add a compelling backdrop to proceedings, their tone and feel just right for the cut, simply aiding in the deep and futuristic feel on display here, as the light kicks permeate through every so often, throwing their heads above the parapet. The kicks then add in the hats for good measure, which dimly reverb in the distance, a far away landmark of rhythm for us to marvel at, as the arpeggio synth line begins to reach its climatic peak, as the track begins to play itself out through the windows of the mind. Up next comes 'Cassis', and we welcome probably the first real mind melter of this record into the mix. The eerie pads in the background add an air of mystic to proceedings, as the drums quickly gather pace underneath, with the kicks and pulsating toms and snares all amounting to a beautifully soft assault on the body and soul. The track then descends into its core driving groove, the rhythmic quality hard to deny as the melodic features remain stripped back and replaced by drums that do their job impeccably well, with the acid line we all felt was coming arriving just as the pads re-emerge from the caverns beneath the drumming lines, as the energy shows no signs of slowing down at all. The drums do kick out to an extent, allowing the melodic features time to shine and breathe, with all the elements diving down before coming up for air, crafting a dynamic sonic experience that is pretty breathtaking, and allows us to get into the melodic structures that pepper the track. The kicks come back in full force, as a whistling high end key line accompanies the main flow this time, adding further to the compulsive and relentless feel of this epic slice of techno goodness. The track then filters away, and probably continually plays out in a distant realm somewhere.
'Daybreak' lands next, and we begin in suitably alien sounding terrains indeed. The high pitch synth dominates the backdrop, crafting an intense feel that resonates deeply within the listener, the creeping sensation of what might proceed, what might fall into our view, captivating and invigorating in its presence and tone. The synth is joined by blinkered lights and deep bass notes, as the drums help to craft the spaces that the listener begins to inhibit in the track, as the singular starts to move and groove between the progressions, our mind soaking up everything that comes our way. The track has a real slow burn to it, taking its time to squeeze every single conceivable notion from the set up, with its intoxicating swing and deep dubby vibe, its hard to not get real involved with the sequence. Then, the big reveal occurs, and its incredible - like the sun rising over the distant horizon, the clouds breaking just a bit, the fact that you were locked into this deep 6am intensity, before it all opens up in the most beautiful way possible. The sun tinged chords fill the space, the room, and our hearts, a moment to really remember on this record that has been full of those captivating moments. 'Bulb' arrives next, and the stabs greet us on this one, in all their delicate intensity. The chords swing between the two, whipping up a real fenzy as the track looks to open up, with the drums looking to get their presence known, which occurs as the track looks to build and build with rhythm and feel, the two working alongside each other with all the brilliance in the world. The chord structure switches up as we move deeper in, the octaves going up as the track looks to reach a climax, which sweeps through the listener with such feeling, before starting to wind down. More pads emerge during this time, soft and undulating in their tone and feel, as the kicks move away before coming back in for one final hurrah. Absolutely brilliant. 'Tortoise Thoughts' arrives next, and the atmosphere comes down a notch to one of pure reflectionism. The chiming simmering keys underpin the chuggy chordal undertones that set the pulse to proceedings, as light stabs permeate through the deep set clouds, as tonal exercises begin to occur with chords swelling and receding with all the pleasure and sultry feel in the world. After so much energy and passion, its a great moment to explore a more downtempo feel, where the environment stretches out and explores every single facet of the sound available, taking the listener on a journey through the sub sonics of sound. The track moves away from its melodic expressiveness and into a real deep mist, where feedback and noise poke through to really dominate the picture, before the melodies shine through once more to give us the dosage we need.
'Phidou' arrives next, and thus begins the outro sequence of the record, and its sure to blow some heads. The chordal structure is one of up lift, keen to exercise emotive workouts and set the tone, and as the kicks come in you know we are in for something special indeed. What follows is a phenomenal drumming sequence, filled to the brim with expressive tones and endlessly excellent kicks and cymbals, constantly shifting and exploring around what remains possible and achievable. The chords come back in after a while, and compliment the drums perfectly, slotting into the vibe so very well indeed, as the track continues further into its dubby workout phases. The cut blends such excellent variety in its various structures, building up to melodic frequencies with power and meaning, making these peaks stand out that little bit more. Excellent. 'Flowcharts Remade' comes next, and the immediacy is one of twinkling lights in the distance, which are quickly joined by the drums, and away we go. The set up is wide reaching, taking in the beats whilst hinting at the melodic brilliance to come, and when it does arrive its a real hands in the air moment. The chords spread themselves over all the corners of the track, spreading their influence from the bass right up to the gorgeous key work, and when paired with the stripped back drumming, its quite the feel indeed. We get totally hooked on it all, and when the break down arrives, with the melodic features on full force, you can't deny this tracks power, with the incredible pairing of elements and features leading right back into the breakdown, one that is such a vibe for all to see. To finish up, we have 'Cycling', and here we have an accumulation of all there is to celebrate about this wonderful record. You have the ethereal excursions, you have the downtempo considerations, you have the melodic tendencies that shine forth from a deep set bedrock of warmth and texture, it all comes together to point us in the direction of the stars one final time, the galaxies beckoning us to come into its world one final time. A voyage we are sure to take time and time again, and maybe you should to.
A network of sounds, rhythms and intensities come to the surface on this record, and do their absolute best at accommodating you and all your hopes and dreams within its deep deep hues. Never for one minute do you feel lost or confused, just meandering along to the sultry melodies that soundtrack life itself, a feeling replicated through such intelligence and creative will, alongside a vision that feeds into the very essence of techno. The magic that shines through from the music within shows such variety and depth, touching and powerful in equal measure, with a delicate blend placed on the switches between rhythmic workouts and ambient driven soundscapes, a contrast that is welded together so well between the varying ebbs and flows. This record remains one of techno's enduring tomes, an album that spoke volumes when it first came out and continues to this day to remind everyone of the blueprint references that should be made and respected when looking into the genre. So much to unpack, an enormity to dwell within, a lifetime to explore and appreciate. A masterpiece, through and through.
Support the troops: