TWO II - Nights In The Dungeon (LBD Sounds, 2020)
The wonderfully diverse Little Beat Different label serve up yet another twist in the form of this impeccably polished dive into the realms of beefed up breakbeats and blissed out techno.
To nurture and encourage multiple threads of musical exploration within a label is quite the task, but for some its just a way of doing things naturally. When devising a label and the justifications for commencing on that journey, its always important to devise and understand the nucleus, the inner essence that governs the prevailing trends that will come forth from every release, in how they relate to one another and how much each one gives over to the next. It turns very much into an extended family affair, where the musicians and producers involved add to and further the ideals of the collective narrative, moving onwards with the belief that there is still much to add and seemingly everything to learn. Its quite a thing when a label is able to achieve these kinds of movements onwards, in that every release seems to naturally broaden the ideals of the identities behind it all whilst also maintaining a close linkage to those who interact with the music. The story grows arms and legs, impassioned and enthusiastic in continually weaving a narrative that never slows or shows signs of wear, merely a somewhat relentless march onwards towards an idealised and total concept. The nature of the audio shifts and fluxes with each passing release, its momentum aided by the ideas bought to the table but also the meaning of what has come before, and this is somewhat achieved by having mini labels within the parent label itself. Covering all the bases when it comes to representing what you wish to achieve is important in that it provides different strands to people wishing to find their own journeys through the music on offer, to escape within deep ambient soundscapes or to dance their ass off to funky edits or reissued gems, through to representing the best that contemporary dance music has to offer, there is so much effort gone into what we can experience from within the labels rich annuals. Its a narrative that has multiple angles to approach it from, with differing experiences cropping up across the numerous threads that we can choose to get involved within or not, dependant on our mood and our context. The fact that this choice even exists is remarkable, and that is testament to the heads behind it all, who clearly desire to explore all manner of their creative spectrums by bringing together like minded individuals who share the same ideologies and drives, a symphony of talents that create a dynamic like no other. The kind of label we want to involve ourselves within, to boldly go out on the journey laid out before us or take the time to craft our own, jumping between releases in the hope of getting a well rounded and highly curated emotional experience.
For a label that offers much of what we just described, you need look no further than the sounds which resonate from the Prague based Little Beat Different, which via a number of differing release series has provided some of the most intriguing music across the board during the past few years. Founded by Olin Soldan and Robert Schön in 2017, the label contains three series within it, that includes the LBDISSUES series, that focuses on reissues; the LBDIGITAL series, that draws attention to experimental and live electronica; and finally the LBDAUDIO series, that releases new music from cutting edge house and techno producers. All three threads are remarkable in their own ways, but meet at some very interesting crossroads when it comes to sonics and tonal expressionism, and that is where the magic lies. No matter what thread you follow, you always find yourself bridging the gaps between the other two, as the sonics, subscapes and grooves all continually feed and lead into one another with a highly satisfying frequency, so much so that the differing styles and genres take on a collectivised identity. From the sublime grooves and synth laden trajectories of the reissues, through to the expansive and deeply profound Digital series, along with the effortless application and thought that resonates from the Audio collection, its a series of threads that all contain such quality across the board, a umbrella narrative that is hard to deny and easy to fall in love with. For anyone who has a wide range of tastes and intrigues, then this is certainly a label for you to revel in, as it contains so much of the stuff you know and love yet it contains so much more than that, with a continually expanding blend of notions and feels which taps into uncharted territory for many, and the intrigue and passion just keeps on expanding. Going through their works, there is a significant amount of excellence, with some of our favourites including the brilliance found within their debut release, in the form of the East Europe dance music band ORM, with a compilation record that brings together some of the groups best compositions from the 1970s, with the record arriving in 2016; the deep and dubby sounds that resonate from the superb 'Yeast EP' by Regular Customer, that landed in 2017; the sonic spheres and realms that resonate through the slipstreams on the 'Charter Of The Forest' record by Dempa, that also landed in 2017;
The intoxicating subscapes that unravel from the 'True Nature' EP by D'Marc Cantu, that also arrived in 2017; the collective spirit and tonal mastery found on the 'Evidence Found no.1' compilation record, that features friends old and new, with the tape arriving in 2018; the ethereal and rhythmically bombastic sounds that spring from the 'Natural Rhythms' release by Arban D, that arrived in 2019; and finally, the seamlessly exploratory and boundlessly expressive soundscapes that dwell deep within the 'Naujas' record by 300 Degrees, that also arrived last year. The records highlighted here are but a representation of the audial journeys you might undertake when looking back through their works, and for such a wide representation to be on display its hard to pick and choose favourites, but perhaps the cornerstones of each sub label and how they intersect with the rest. A label that will surely move you to deeper understandings, a reference book that connects bridges and sparks traversing of plains to new realms within the outer reaches of the mind. No matter what kind of trip you are after, then Little Beat Different has you covered, in more ways than you could possibly imagine.
And now we arrive at their latest offering, 'Nights In The Dungeon', that comes courtesy of label boss Olin and label mate Dempa, with the pairing coming up with some of the most heavy hitting and deep broken techno and break beat you will hear all year. From the very off, we are swept away by the intoxicating grandeur of the drumming, the space age cosmic and occasionally murky synth lines, and the overall depth and scale of the music means we keep diving further and further into highly realised and conceptually impeccable soundscapes that keep on giving over more and more each time. We are transfixed yet moved at the same time, a duality in experience that allows us to further explore and get to know every facet of the sound, our minds encapsulated on both sides by the force de force that is this record. With producers Aubrey and Nothus bought in on remix duties, we in for one hell of a treat, so without further delay, lets get into it.....
Up first comes 'Perlenbacher', and there is no messing around at all as we jump right into proceedings. The initial murmuring of the synth line reaches out from the deep, allowing itself to awaken once more, before the most delectable of break beat rhythms comes driving into the mix, as the overall tone of the track begins to become more concrete and solid in momentum. The melodic lines fit in within the driving rhythm with a breeziness and ease that only comes from the right set up, the correct framing and tonal application, with the feel given even more substance as the bass line aligns itself underneath for added feels. Additional key lines and sequences jump and expand through the ethereal plain, as the drums take time to pause in their ongoing force in providing breaks in the flow, as panning and filters take control in order to provide a respite to the melodic progressions, which dutifully take their moment to shine to their fullest extent. Around the 3 minute mark this becomes highly apparent, as the drums really seep away in order to provide an enormous space for the keys to do their thing, our minds firmly focused on the sounds at hand, before it all comes slamming right back into view in the most beautifully conceived fashion, as the classic vocal sample rings out over the powerhouse that is this musical arrangement. Not a still body in the room, the pulse keeping the heart beat racing, the totality in sound fulfilling and simply excellent. Not a bad start at all. 'Horses' arrives next, and this one begins in similar fashion with the synths permeating across the broad horizon. The drums are subtle and subdued, giving weight and focus to the keys which slyly move across the top ends of the cut, which crafts a memorable set up for the drums to come into full view, their spacing very appropriate for the feel and tone of the synths. The full flow is impeccable, with each element adding further into the ongoing thread and narrative of the sound, with the time taking for us to get the absolute maximum amount of emotiveness we need before anything switches up. That ends up happening as the track reverts to its original structure, which then gives way for a new kind of chordal arrangement, the pads becoming more regular and driving in their feel, descending from the sub base and rising high to the very top, with the sequence going through the motions a few times before the drums come right back into the thick of it, their tone and rhythmic presence simply excellent, with the keys floating between the two variations as we see ourselves moving into the next phase of existence. Damn.
As we enter the B side, we have the Nothus remix of '64 Pad Experiment' to kick things off, and this one begins in highly intriguing territories. The kicks provide the bed rock for the frantic arpeggio of some kind of technological synth note, that keeps a high pace at the top end, with all manner of flickering features occurring from deep within the tonal progression. The drums start to pick up further elements as the bars flow by, with a regular hat line complimented by little cymbals here and there, with the structure leading into a pull up of sorts that completely flips the switch on the cut, as we move into a new tonal space where the rhythm is boosted and the atmosphere becomes more severe and dense. The repeating melodic lines add further to the narrative, their sequencing complimenting the momentum of the track perfectly, whilst adding slight varieties which keep the mind firmly on board. The transitions that occur between differing tonal structures is simply immense, with the track never letting up but simply transferring us to differing spaces and rooms, where the sound is beefy as hell and eternal in its delivery. There's time for a few more switches yet, and by this point we are firmly on board with all the track has to offer. So smooth, so heart, such groove. To wrap things up, we have the Aubrey remix of 'Perlenbacher' sliding into view first. The drums arrive in a fast paced manner indeed, their regularity characterised by deep driving kicks which soon evolves into a highly charged suite of elements and features, with hats and snares abounding endlessly from with the kicks structure. The melodic features are confined to a hauntingly striking bass line that resides deep within the subscape, with its tone ascending within the bars as it pops its head above the parapet, and before long we are joined by some bleep like keys that add another layer of texture into the mix. Its a hard as hell ride, a extremely dense expression that picks up the feel and rhythmic qualities of the original cut and strips it back to the raw intensity, all the while Aubrey imprinting his own take on it all. Superb. What a record.
And like that, another chapter is added to the Little Beat story, and this one is one of their most impactful yet. Over the course of four cuts, the label serve up some truly excellent compositions, where the drums ring true and the keys speak of euphoric moments, all the while delivering a highly balanced record that caters for both sides of the rave. Side A is all about the hands in the air kind of activity, where the keys are suitably big and substantial, whilst the remixes on Side B offer a more dubby and beat driven kind of experience, where the time for feel good emotive keys moves away for a moment to accommodate the power of the drums. It feels like reflective and highly responsive dance music, the kind of music that firmly points to the future and the here and now, speaking to both the contemporary dance floor but carving out a path for what is to come. Brilliantly deep, masterfully composed and produced, this is one for the heat of the moment, and yet another cornerstone for people to refer to in the excellent Little Beat discography.
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