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Various Artists - Outer Solar System (Distorted Sensory Perception, 2020)

The second release from the Bristol label sees a continued dip into the still uncharted realms of textured cosmic techno and electro.

In many ways, it feels as if the old stylings of techno and electro will never ever fall out of fashion. The genres began with its eyes to the stars and the ocean, hearts within the machines, a blend of the rhythms of industrial life combined with all the mystic and glamour of deep space and the deep sea, the unknown meeting the regularity of modern life. The pairing of dreaming with futurism has left a compelling legacy, handed down by the first generation of Detroit to the world, where many others were significantly influenced to write their own stories, feed into the wider consciousness of it all and conjure up new urban landscapes underneath star lit skies. Within the music, powerful rhythmic patterns were interlaced with humanistic keys work, drawing from the emotive chords of Italo whilst also injecting their own eerie feel to proceedings, a sense of the dread felt by many in urban centres as things slowly change. Its the tones and the atmospheres that are rounded by and packaged for listeners, the world within giving this incredible character and texture as a result. At points metallic, at times soft and caring, at others unforgiving, relentless, and maybe at the crossroads, transcendent and other worldly. Its the perimeters that other genres found it difficult to replicate, often fizzing out or changing entirely as their foundations were re-written by the up and comers to appeal to their new scenes and audiences. Techno, in its original and most organic form, never really went away, capturing a generation's imagination, inspiring significantly during its inception and always referenced back by many since then. People still find new things within it, still desire and yearn for its bountiful sound, the meaning within the machine, the emotions that flood our minds as the tracks open up to reveal something magnificent. This sentiment is very much still alive and well, as new labels and producers feel the draw of the genre, and this is reflected within their own narratives and stories. More now than ever before, records and labels who look to the styles of the Motor City and the 2nd generation of UK techno has become exceedingly prevalent, inspired by the sounds but perhaps more profoundly impacted by the essence of it all. The spirit remains very much alive and well, delving its way from up high and into the inspired minds of bold and creative producers who take what they admire the most and craft something fresh. These kinds of producers continually push the boundaries forward, exercising the boundless free will and spiritualism that techno and electro held so dear to make statements that smooth and caress as much as they excite and hit hard.

The label Distorted Sensory Perception may only be on their second release, but they have shown themselves capable torch bearers of the current generation, with their pure embodiment and originality creating a real buzz. Their records, both of which are compilations, demonstrate a real sense of community spirit and likemindedness, where the spectrums of sound are utilised to great effect and applause. The label operates very much within the realms of techno and electro, with an positive attitude that seems to highlight their willingness to reach far and wide to create moments of true brilliance. There's the seconds of quiet reflection, the breaks within the fleeting expanses, the fluid grooves that weave between dense mass and sparse sparks, the melodic overtones that speak of concrete and grey matter as much as they do futuristic machines and the endless sea of space. Its pure, its rich, it has substance, and if you enjoy your techno and electro with that little bit of melody, that spice of variety, the surprise around every corner, then their outputs are certainly for you. Their 2019 debut, 'Central Nervous System', was a statement indeed, a swell mixture of progressive chordal arrangements, slick beats, emotive tones, and swirling textures, a journey through the cosmos and back through all the neurones and through your feet and onto the pavement below. It was a record with power and urgency behind it, the balance between the soft and hard moments a particular highlight, the levels just right. The music contained within very much has its place in all eras of techno, be it from the classic era, Second Wave, or the contemporary scene, it floats within the three and gives over to the listener the best of all worlds. Its this piecing together through time that allows the record to reside between moments in time, forever linking itself back but with an eye for the future, an ear to how things can be further melded and fused together.

Their latest effort, 'Outer Solar System', just moves it all forward with an exceptional level of momentum. The label invite a fresh batch of artists to become a part of their world, their outlook on all things techie, electro and IDM like. A record that furthers the diversity in sound, where once more consistent emotive threads are broken up by deep pulsating eerie key work and heavy electro work outs, and we are all for it. It creates a new dynamic, a new balance that furthers the label's credentials as one to seriously keep an eye on. So lets dip into it.

Up first comes Moodex with their track 'Persistence'. The sounds of a Korg Volca (I believe?) abound with ease around a smoothly evolving drum beat, that grows in confidence as the computer noises swirl around. The melodic sequence kicks in, adding depth between the drums, before the bass line rips into sight, whipping up the energy to feverish levels. The track persists in its journey, bringing in new levels and layers, the evolution subtle but brilliantly worked. The bass line slowly grows in prominence, before the synth aligns into view in the backdrop, bringing the melodies up slightly in keeping with the overall swelling intensity of the track. Lovely stuff. Next comes Sound Synthesis with their track 'Early Morning', and we already begin in the clouds, up above. The deep as hell pads move with all the qualities of the old school, the three chord progression never needing to break a sweat. The drums kick in lightly underneath, giving a real sense of rhythm to the pads, as we are also joined by the sequenced key lines that move in between the boundaries of space and time. The break down then leads into the swell, the pads always lurking behind, as the melody goes up dramatically with the new key lines. A real moment right there, they do their thing, appearing for a split second before disappearing, fluttering in the wind, street lights on the long walk home. The track looks to unwind a bit, allowing the drums with space to breath and move a bit more, before the bass line comes in, and wooooweh. The depth this brings, which was already at crazy levels, moves the tune to new levels of existence, and we are so very ready to go along for the ride. New key lines and pads create this phenomenal full experience, where the stars align for a minute and we feel the warm embrace that only this kind of melodic techno can really give. Its pure magic. Next comes Oshkossh with their track 'Impulse Control', and the mood begins to fade into the murky reaches of the not so near distant future. The tone is set in a racy city filled with all kinds of unclear things, the pounding drums under pin a high pitch sequence, it begins in the background then slowly moves into the picture, and then it unravelled quite magnificently. The care and attention is on point, as to when the light pads in the background come into play, it all seems very natural indeed. The track becomes almost a living, breathing organism, taking a break to allow the instruments to readjust before diving back into it all. The pulse weaves and grooves around the intricacies of night life, its power drawing from all realms of existence that dwell within it. When it does decide to unwind just a bit, you just know that something big is around the corner. And how are we surprised each time, it just works, plain and simple. We could listen to this for a long long time.

Caramel Chameleon is up next with 'Brainacid', and opens up with chordal arrangements moving over the lightest of beats. This all transcends, of course, as an all encompassing bass line worms its way into view, taking up the fullness of space but allowing for the other elements to reside within. The track revolves around a series of interplays, between the ever changing chordal movements, the bass line that morphs several times, the drums that keep pace with it all, and the little sequences that add much life into the world. Its these kinds of tunes that remind us of what techno is truly capable of, captivating us in its fluid complexity, inter changing between various textural modes and spaces. To begin from the simplest progression and into a world that moves like water, that is something special. To finish up proceedings, we have Foreign Sequence with the track 'Grny89'. And damn, this one ups the stakes just a little bit. The alien like beat explodes immediately, bouncing between two titanic walls of sound, creating ripples as it moves. This beat is joined by some spacey chords that reside on top, their tempo matching the beats relentless excursion. This brief interlude is then swept away by the most destructive of breakdowns, the kind where you really just get it as soon as it hits. The electro bass line rings so fucking hard here, creating this sense of real urgency, a dynamic that the track simply continues to build on as it swerves and grooves into a jungle beat that creates more and more. A series of walls of energy, each expertly balanced to get the biggest impact possible, make this EP one to really remember. What an ender.

Put simply, you would be hard pressed to come across a better representation of everything good in the techno and electro scene than what is found within this EP. The record shows off some unreal qualities of the heads behind it, and further pushes the label into the limelight as one that releases extremely high quality electronica. The shifts in mood, the representation of so many styles and feels, the contexts and rich environments painted through beat and melody, this is the one. Serious, serious stuff right here.

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