Nate Krafft - Crimson Arsenal E.P (Infra, 1995)
On his first ever release, Nathaniel Killins IV introduces the world to Nate Krafft, and with it conjures up some of the most emotionally charged and deep techno you will ever have the opportunity to hear.
Techno can be many things to many different people, and in some ways that's the beauty of the genre and it's incredible sonics. The total immersion of listeners in sound goes a long way to helping people get in touch with the inner places, a soundscape that binds and weaves its way around those who are tuned in and takes the time to fill that world with all manner of wonderment and colour, a highly visceral experience that crafts visions of cities at night and large open skys at dawn. That's but just one thread of techno's essence, particularly when focusing on the style which resonated from Detroit, where African-American producers would pair the environment around them (socially and economically) with the sounds of the Electrifyin' Mojo, thus creating a sound like no other that had come before. The genre has substance, every key feels purposeful, every drumming sequence powerful and filled with presence, the tone and atmosphere one of serenity but complex and intricate at the same time, its a feeling that is hard to describe but easy to close your eyes to and simply nod along. Many iconic producers have flowed from the genre over the years, with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generations all dictating how the global scene would define itself and reconsider its sound for many years, with it being argued in some circles that techno from Detroit is the purest and original of it all, and in many ways that is simply confirmed through the music that came our way from the Motor City. There was always something about the manner in which the songs flowed and swayed, eager to showcase a natural kind of dynamism that always felt so right being counter acted by a harsh and incessant drumming pattern, a interface where the machines and industries of Detroit met the idealised and emotional gains of the producers making the music. This informed manner, the reason why Detroit Techno sounds the way it does, just adds weight and meaning to it all, our hearts and minds filled with ideas of originality and inspired to write and do our own version of such an iconic sound. To this day, the genre still inspires many producers to write their own take on expansive, mind melting music, and although the drumming patterns might have switched up and changed ever so slightly, the iconic melodics are still going strong, with their power not waining at all over time. Like we have mentioned before on EG, Techno did and still does feel like the future, and perhaps now 20-30 years or so later, we inhabit that world, with the original cuts and records making so much sense still in this present day as they ever did before when they were first released. We go back and listen to music that sounds revolutionary, it still sounds fresh and exciting, and that is testament to the application and sonics that were found deep within techno and its message to the world. Who knows what might transpire from these listening sessions, where it might end up, and where the journey will even begin, its all outlined in the magic that flows and abounds from the genre's enriching world, where galaxies are filled with possibility and intrigue beyond our wildest comprehensions. The music gives over to us as much as we do it, an open invitation to escape and fall well into the beyond, and its something which occurs over and over as we desire to explore the valleys and the vistas of the music being presented to us.
If there were was such a producer who embodied these ideals of immersion and encapsulation, Nathaniel Killins IV might just be your man. During the mid 90s, Detroit native Killins IV was, like many producers at the time, investigating many avenues of styles and genre, with releases from the man spanning electro, techno and house which were largely assigned to his various aliases, and with each record he certainly applied a certain touch that differentiated his works from the rest. Be it regarding any of the aforementioned genres, Killins very much bought his own style to the table, one that always bought a set of deep chord lines into the mix that were peppered with interwoven melodic touches that carry the mind away to calmer places, along with expertly crafted drumming sequences which work wonders underneath the sea of synths. His short but highly significant discography is testament to his sonic approaches and creative mindset, with each cut found on these records highly memorable, sticking out as a body of work which reflected all that was celebrated about the time period in these genres. Powerful, calming and purposeful, its techno that delves furtherest into its melodic and emotional potential, its deep house that tugs at the heart strings, and its electro that explores the murky depths of technological possibility, with Killins' character always finding a way to present itself no matter the flavour and the mood. It certainly goes without saying that Killins' work contributed significantly to the Motor City's musical DNA of that time, drawing power from the originators of the 80s and early 90s to keep the fire burning moving into the new millennium, as his tunes captured the essence of all things concerned, taking the collective breath away within a discography that really emphasised quality over quantity. It says a lot that we are going to include pretty much all his works in our favourites here, starting off with records released under the Naquil name, with the floating, breezing and other-worldly deep house excellent that resides within the 'Krem De La Krem' record, which arrived in 1996; and the dual electro experiences found on the highly prized (and rightly so) gems 'Spellin P' and 'Bionik Dikk', both of which arrived in 1998 on the Infra label. Under the Super Nova name, be sure to check out the raw and undulating brilliance found on the 'Planetary Invazion' record, which arrived in 1996. And finally, under the Nate Krafft name, certainly check out the unbelievable 'Man ς∑ Machine E.P' for some utterly infectious futurism notions, with the album arriving at an unknown point in time (which only adds to the intrigue). All of these releases, whilst differing quite significantly in relation to mood and feel, all contain hall marks that link right back to the man behind them, with certain tones found under all the varying names that immediately point to Killins and his production skills and visions. There is so much in the music that screams Detroit, and as ever with the music that comes from the city, there is always so much room found within the cuts that furthers the narrative, encouraging us to dig deeper and get into the music just that little bit more, the world presented to us so encouraging and filled with vitality and wonderment. Its hardly a surprise that escapism is always on the cards with Killins' music, the manner in which the synths and keys do much to carry our hearts and minds away into the clouds is no mean feat, and he achieves this every single time, no matter the flavour of the genre. Its music that very much operates between the plains of here and now and the ones that persist in the imagined spaces, the horizon line environments that seem close yet so far, drawn closer to us via the medium of expansive and brilliantly conceived music that draws us nearer and nearer. If you wish to explore some of the finest house, electro and techno to abound from the mid to late 90s, then look no further than Killins' discography, you won't be disappointed.
And now, we arrive at the subject of today's review, Killins' debut under the Nate Krafft name, 'Crimson Arsenal', which landed in 1995 on the Infra imprint (a sub of the Vigilante Cartel). This truly is an outstanding piece of music, one that from the off goes out of its way to craft a highly engrossing experience that touches on all aspect of the techno story and sound to date. From the soaring key drenched highs to the fast paced and relentless drumming patterns, via some dubbed out deepness that remains the gift that just keeps on giving, there is a lot to get through and so much to enjoy too. It remains one of Killins' finest works, a bold and daring piece of techno excellence that treads the line between emotive soundscapes and deep dark rhythms so perfectly, in a style that feels so informed by what came before and thus pointed the genre in a very new and exciting direction. So, without further delay, lets jump right into this essential slice of techno.....
Up first comes 'Mirror', and this one begins with quite the entrance indeed. A pounding bass line runs through the bars before rising, working alongside the incessant drumming pattern with meaning and purpose, with this arrangement giving way to the first of two main key lines, one that displays all the hallmarks of an iconic classic techno hook, where the transitions between chords are seamless and full of flowing joy, and that ain't the last we've heard from the keys quite yet. As they go through their motions, they are joined by another line that smoothly traverses the top plain of the track, following the chords underneath, feeling their rhythms and wavelengths, with the icing on the cake being the soaring high line that just lifts feet from off the ground. The first time you encounter this in the track, its simply glorious, something that sings to the heart strings, as the track moves daringly between differing arrangements that really emphasise the relationships that persist between the drums and the key lines. As the song enters into its final third, there's time for the bass line that kicked things off to return one more time, as to kick off the sequence again, which builds just as powerfully as before, moving our minds to ecstasy in an instance, and as the song leaves us for the clouds, we are reminded of just how touching those keys are, perfectly balanced and poised in their placement feel and touch. A real slice of heaven. Up next comes 'I.Q', and this one begins in similar tonally excellent territories. After a short intro - where the drums are typically swinging and the spaces filled with exceptionally subtle bass tones - the main chord sequence moves into view, switching between two low end chords that work wonders through the middle of proceedings, but they don't remain about for long as we are greeted to an extended drumming sequence that remains in depth and coherent. The chords arrive back soon after, with lovingly placed swirling notes that wrap themselves around the parameters of the soundscape, with an additional bass sequence of sorts simply adding further to the tonal feel of the track. The kicks take a breather as the cut enters into a bass and percussive led interlude, exploring every possible facet of the sound's foundations and sub structures, and before long the main chordal line arrives back into view, The keys are then to stay, retaining their position in the track as we really hit the strides, as a final moment is given over to us in the form of a little solo, a final flicker outwards to say hello, goodbye and so long. Its difficult to find cuts that have as much tonal quality as this one, with a structure that continually shifts in the sands to provide an audial narrative solely built on sonics. Beautiful stuff. To finish up the A side, we have 'Antimatter', which begins with the shuffling cymbals and percussive elements, setting the stage for all manner of excellence to ensue. The percussive foundation surely does give way for the swelling chords to arrive underneath and in the backdrop, their feel and presence taking up the whole of the expansive horizon line, as the drums then move into double time with a kind of rolling feel to them, given additional weight by the hard as nails kick drum that arrives through the centre. There is so much expressionism placed within the drums and their application, moving easily between the lines with ease to provide a rhythmically orientated experience that just so happens to have the softest of melodic notions on top. Whilst the first two cuts were all about boundless enthusiasm, or deep moody foreboding, this cut has an inherent hopefulness to it, as the drums remain uptempo and enthused, and the keys filter in and out to provide a wonderful experience filled with balance and positivity. An absolute gem of a track.
Up next comes 'In Viso', and this one opens up very powerfully indeed. The drums are subdued but filled with fever and purpose, with the focus drawn heavily to the melodic stabs that occur on top, with the shifts occurring as the drums move between the lines and shift to adjust their appearance and rhythmic qualities. The vocal line of 'Riso' calls out across the cut, signalling all kinds of movements underneath, with the track continually looking to interplay and switch it up between its various elements, never for one moment slowing down or standing still, true to Detroit Techno's ever morphing quality. The keys drift in and out of view, powerful when they are present but still felt when they slip away to let the drums breathe, and it works oh so very well indeed. A tour de force. Finally, to wrap things up on this unbelievable record, we have 'Lo FreeK Qincy', and this one feels like an accumulation of some of the previous cuts all bought together under one banner. The tone is sombre yet impactful, with the main chord line set away back deep within the drumming structure, with the percussive features taking the time to move onwards and upwards with fever and meaning, with these little flourishes doing wonders in moving our hearts and our minds. The chords drop out for a moment to give the electro orientated beat some time to really shine, as the drums hit harder and harder as time passes by, with the track swinging between melodically laden segments and drum filled parts, giving over to us one final experience that is driven by all that is great about techno, its power, grace and social meaning emphasised so intently on this gorgeous piece of music.
On a experience that will leave you feeling fulfilled and content, Krafft serves up 5 cuts of the highest order, all of which feed from both his own creative ambitions and the rich life blood of Detroit Techno. Seeped in mystery and intrigue, each track offers up a new kind of experience, with the A side dedicating itself to emotionally charged experiences and places that truly take the breath away, whilst the B side concerns itself with dubbed out sonics that do much to totally immerse the listener in their hypnotic repetitiveness. Both will leave you eager and willing for more, an audial journey that takes the time to get the maximum out of the instruments via Krafft's supreme vision for how they feel and where they should flourish. Touching, uplifting and reflective, its simply one of the finest representations of the genre you could wish to listen to, so need we say anymore. A timeless classic!
Check it out here: https://www.discogs.com/Nate-Krafft-Crimson-Arsenal-EP/master/785659