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Sam McQueen - Moments in Time (Altered Sense, 2021)

On his latest effort, producer Sam McQueen keeps the Detroit Techno flag flying very high indeed, with a gorgeous collection of cuts that continues to tread the fine line between clear-cut sublimity and enriching delicate densities.

There's a certain timelessness to certain genres, to sounds that never quite feel of their time or indeed show any age, but instead float through the ages, acting as a continued source of inspiration that ensures that it's relevancy will forever remain at the forefront. Some genres have evolved very much beyond their original state of being, with new sub genres and movements helping to push forward the boundaries of their parent sound and break through into new spaces, and within Dance Music these kinds of evolutions have occurred so frequently over the past few decades or so. And whilst some sounds elevate themselves to legendary status and enjoy perhaps slightly less reinterpretations than they used to, there's certainly one genre that has not only remained at the forefront of cutting edge sound design and technical application, but has stayed very much in the hearts and minds of all it touched when it came out, and it's ingredients came together beautifully to provide visions of the future which we all find ourselves living within today. Detroit Techno is a genre that has and always will inspire, tantalise and involve, it's incredible blend of enriching percussive outlines, deep expansive key lines, and a hefty dosage of social consciousness and reflectionism combining beautifully into a sound that well sounded like no other then, and indeed stands alone even in the contemporary age. The genre was and still is deeply rooted in the African American experience, with the music a reflection of how the community was shaped and impacted upon by the car industry and it's subsequent decline, which deeply effected the city and the people who lived within it. Techno represented the repetitiveness, the complexities of the production line, and atop the rhythmic pulses, presented an emotional escapism, a view into the future where fantasies and realities became one with one another, and it's perhaps these features that give the genre it's otherworldly and timeless appearance. Despite Techno evolving enormously since it spread out beyond the realms of the Motor City, it's original format has stayed true to itself, with plenty of producers from Detroit and many more outside the city continuing to pay homage to the original sound with new records that epitomise it's energy and it's expressionism. In the contemporary era, there are a number of producers who continue to fly the flag high for the original sounds of Techno, where the music moves and grooves through all manner of complexities and spaces, with the listener firmly taken along for the most intriguing and captivating of experiences. The fact that the main ingredients of the original sound remain within the music of today tells us all we need to know about the genre's foundation and it's continued sense of depth and presence, and in many ways it's relevancy and future-leaning qualities. The music that came out around the time of Techno's creation did, in many ways, sound like it came from the future, it was simply just so different to everything else that it certainly made sense that it was sent back from today to be placed in the right place at the right time. Now, we simply reside in that future, with the contemporary producers helping to bridge that invisible divide with music that feels like it could sit alongside the icons, and that is a very special thing indeed. The past, the present and the future, all seamlessly bought together into one sequential experience, as we stand aback, pointing to the stars, the heavens and the ground we stand upon, mesmerised beyond belief at the unravelling beauty of it all.

If there was ever a producer who embodies the ideals that Detroit Techno stands for in regards to it's past, it's present and it's future, then it has to be Sam McQueen, who for some time now has been conjuring up some of the finest interpretations of the genre in recent memory. His music reads and feels like the stuff of dreams, where cascading hats and cymbals roll out over a series of succulent melodic tones, with plenty of arpeggios, key sequences and additional textures placed within the mix to great effect. The music toes the fine line between Ambient and Techno, with the resulting music as such feeling incredibly enveloping as a result, it's scale and presence wrapping itself around us in an enriching display of feeling and elegance, with the horizon line feeling infinitely scaled as a result. It's the kind of style and composition where anything could happen, such is McQueen's sense of direction that you always feel like something new and exciting is right round the corner, and this feeling never really leaves your side as time passes by. We feel emboldened to take steps into the compositions, to get involved and feel enriched, to touch upon and cherish every single moment that moves past us, and as we close our eyes that is exactly what we do. McQueen's music is melodically beautiful, with emotion and meaning pouring out of every chord and note, and when this is paired with the rhythmically dense drumming patterns, then the feeling is amplified beyond belief, such is the balance of tones and the emphasis placed on the relationship between the two. It feels like an accumulation of a number of strains of Techno, where escapism and vividness is championed through the art of placing hats, chords and feeling, and McQueen pretty much nails it on the head when it comes to bringing together numerous styles to co-exist under one roof. Techno has always remained looking very much into the future, and McQueen embodies that future in it's totality, be it either through his ever so slightly up tempo numbers or his gorgeous long scaled horizons, his style remains forever at the forefront of the genre's continual development, with an eye for the past but two feet firmly in the future of it all, and for anyone who loves the genre his music remains indefinitely exciting. Expansive, life affirming and broad to the max, McQueen set his sonic boundaries far and wide, and has come to the surface with a collection of records that have maximum staying power, with plenty of aspects to revisit and relive as often as you could wish for. McQueen's first music project, Indio, which he shared alongside John Beltran, introduced us to his expansive Techno style, and the small collection of records the duo produced remain to this day some of the finest made in the Ambient Techno style, with their debut self titled LP (1999) considered a landmark within the genre. The two EPs that would follow, 2003's 'Indio EP' and 2008's 'Inca EP', would move into more uptempo territories, but the melodic excellence that characterised their debut would remain very much at the forefront, as the duo merged their established audial ideals with new frequencies and rhythms. Around this time, McQueen would release his debut solo effort, 2004's 'Sephoria', which saw a return to his ambient stylings, and the results are simply gorgeous, with meandering synth lines converging within a sea of rhythm and feeling. 'Eclectic - Zero Zero Four' would arrive next in 2011, and this one saw McQueen elevate the tempo just a little bit with some more kick laden action, but the emotional outlay remained as strong as ever. A few years later in 2020, McQueen would release his debut solo LP, 'Dreams In Sepia', a fierce and exceptional piece of music that represented everything that McQueen is going for with his music - delicate rhythmic blemishes, synth laden swells and mesmerising arpeggios, this record has the lot, and is perhaps McQueen's most dynamic release to date. In all, McQueen portrays an essence in his music, one that resonates deep within the neurones and beyond into the heart and the soul, an encapsulating form of music that does much to change perspectives and put you within a very special space indeed. When listening to his records you really do go on a meaningful journey from point A to point Z, taking in all you can as blissful tones and simmering rhythmic structures pass you by, never for one moment do you feel alone or missing out on anything, such is the density and clarity presented within his music. His music is the stuff of dreams, the essence of the past and of course, the soundtrack to the future. Be sure to check out his previous works, they're all excellent.

And now we arrive at his latest effort, 'Moments in Time', which lands via the Altered Sense imprint. By this point McQueen's peerless sound has been widely praised for it's dynamism, depth of field (and feel), and it's incredible sense of purpose, and this EP is absolutely no different, with the sounds very much converging into one another but still retaining an individualised feel through. The progressions are heartfelt, the moments of melodic soaring are very much present, and overall you leave the experience feeling that much bolder, with plenty of moments within the record to hold in your hand and cherish forevermore. The record serves as a reminder that McQueen is able to tirelessly search within his audial universe and continue to serve up a multitude of goods, and it just goes to show what a visionary he really is. Special in more ways than one, it's time to take the plunge yet again and get to know this sparkling beauty.....

First up comes the title track, and this one begins with the suitably blissed out chordal progressions to get us going. The pads swell right to the surface, looping round and round with a purity and elegance, as the hats underneath come into view to lift them higher and higher, with the pulse of the track set very much from these two elements. Further melodic elements enter the fray soon after, coming in the form of delicate key lines that flicker in the distance and the brooding deepness that cascades in from the top right hand part of the pan, and as we begin to see the whole picture come together we feel this incredible sense of warmth rise from deep within. The music is incredibly involving, it's path never needing to deviate as it simply persists on it's own journey, as the lightest of flows ebb through us and out into our surroundings, it's energy never faltering but simply moving onwards, into the night sky. Beautiful stuff. Up next comes 'Resist', and this one begins with the kicks and technological sounds to get us going. The rhythmic outlay is immediately engaging, as the top layer weaves across the pan with a feverish intensity, as snares and additional hats come swinging into view to create a picture clear as day, with all layers taken care of in the tone and texture department. A slight dip sees the melodics come into view, and the way in which they are introduced is incredibly measured, balanced and delivered to a T as the momentum never stops, but simply moves onwards and upwards. The track then reverts back to it's original structure, but the melodics aren't far behind, and this time they have bought friends, with the original chordal progression accompanied by a new layer that operates just about drums, and as this slips in and out of time we see it grow and develop even further. The track then takes a long dip downwards in order to provide some time with the full outlay, the keys sweeping across the surface with a beautiful intensity, lulling us into a deep mood as the kicks come right back into the mix, with the original chords remaining to keep us fully informed. The track then dips once more, this time to provide space to the brilliant dynamism that has a vice like grip over the rhythmic structure, with the keys arriving soon after to provide us with yet another moment to loose ourself in, as our eyes close to receive this wondrous gift. The progression keeps building in scale, and for the first time it's allowed to completely swallow the drums, until we are left with just the chords in all their majesty, and as we see the track out, we are left with the fondest of memories. Special stuff.

Up next comes 'Exhale', and this one begins with the chordal outline to get us going. The tone and feel of the two chords is beyond words, their presence growing from the smallest of spaces before growing in scale and magnitude, filling up the pan with a breathtaking feel and ever impressive tone. The drums have been quietly growing from singular moments through to rapid fire snare groups, and as time passes by the ensemble swells in numbers to include further synth expansions, with the pace of the track mingled between two very intriguing plains indeed. Additional arpeggios combine very effectively within the top layers, and it's around this time that the kicks arrive to really take us away, with the overall picture characterised by a wonderful rhythmic breeze that keeps you very much on your toes, head swinging from side to side as if the rhythm is leaping out and guiding our every move. The way in which the top end chords move between your ears is stunning, a touch that remains testament to McQueen's excellent ear for sound design and how these elements operate within the mind, and as we take a dip through a melodicless segment we are reminded of just how special these drums are. The chords return soon after to see us through to the end, and it's an experience we won't forget in a hurry. Mesmerising, in every sense of the word. To wrap things up, we have 'Manifest Our Destiny', and this one begins with the key lines to get things started. The intricate weaving lines and sequences do much to paint a very compelling picture indeed, and before long the kicks and hats arrive to really move things onwards, their complexities perfectly matching the ebbs and flows of the keys, with plenty of emphasis placed on the ways in which both elements move within the structures. The keys start to unravel and become more fleeting in appearance, with the drums provided a greater level of freedom to really express themselves, and it's during this moment when the kicks arrive to shift the song into the next gear, with additional chordal sequences lavishly laying themselves on top of proceedings to provide that little bit of extra flavour. The track then continues onwards and upwards, with McQueen doing all he can to provide a fitting end to an EP that contains all his hallmarks, techniques and visions, and he certainly achieves that with flying colours. A triumph, once again, from the man who can do no wrong.

There are many artists in this day and age who homage sounds that came before, but rarely do we come across a producer who not just embodies the ideals of genres from the past, but does all they can to further it and keep the fire very much burning. Sam McQueen is very much one of these artists, who for some time now has honed his craft and pushed forward the realities and imaginations of Detroit Techno, and this EP only ensures that he continues on the right path. Throughout we are treated to a totality in experience, where intricate driving beat structures float alongside a simmering sea of melodic brilliance, with transitions placed at all the right moments as a sense of encapsulation comes at us from all sides. It's a delight to meander through McQueen's compositions, and here you will find four exquisite cuts that will always be open to showing you what a sense of direction and mastery of hardware can achieve. Stellar work, right across the board.

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