Various Artists - The Elements (Spillway, 2020)



Four deep cuts of techno heaven that demonstrate the very best of the contemporary scene in bombastic and heartfelt ways.


Combining the emotive and cosmic with the fast paced simmery beats has always been where techno has shined the strongest. The most enduring and long lasting of records within the genre have always been those that cut the line between deep and thoughtful plains of harmonic existence, underpinned by technically impressive and fully composed beats. It is this pairing, combining the human with the machine, the stars with the ground we walk upon, that gave Detroit Techno such meaning, its birth a combination of producer's reflections of the city and the processes that dwelled within it. The energy was harnessed and exported to many scenes and cities around the world, where producers took what made the genre so revered, and gave it a new twist. The beats remain, but sometimes became more absent, with the dubby side taking over. But what has endured always was the deep chordal atmosphere, the floating feels that really strike a chord with listeners due to the historical meaning behind their placements. Within the contemporary scene, many artists infuse this energy still, its legacy a guiding light and reference book in order to make compelling and powerful techno music. Around the world, we are now seeing a new breed of producers who are keeping the fire burning with their innovative take on the old Detroit blueprint, the bare bones of which still inspire and nurture to this day.


Spillway have really been embodying this spirt, and then some. Since 2017, the label has released consistently earth shattering releases within the realms of house and techno, not just in terms of volume levels, but the considered and broad approach they have delivered into their craft. The tunes are lovingly deep, cosmic and heaty, conjuring up moments where we revel in the many layers of sub bass, majestic beat work and soaring triumphant chords that do enough to take minds to outer reaches. Not only that, but with each EP comes a slightly different flavour, a twist that churns the wheels on the inner essence of all things techno related. And this has all largely come from the mind of one producer, label boss Kellon. The debut EP, 2017 effort 'The Sophant', was a hybrid mechanist workout that deviated away from the expansive to focus purely on the space, the energy and those little sparse emotive moments. And it was perfect. Kellon would go on to release 2018's more funk tech aligned 'Parallex' EP, then in 2019, two EPs that completely confirmed the label as one to seriously watch. 'The Datum' and 'Rejuv' both built on the previous EPs sound, with the depth continuing to transcend downwards, the evolution in sound impressive and immersive. The fullness become more full, and this evolution is such a joy to revisit, from the first to the last, its all so damn good, unique and forward thinking.


And now we arrive at their latest release, 'The Elements'. A more appropriate name couldn't have been selected, as Kellon brings in two other producers, Neuron Network and Polycon, to serve up an EP that spans the spectrum, delves into every facet, leaves no stone unturned. The record is intensely driven towards the late night drives, the swirling lights, the kind of techno that is as uplifting as it is engaging, operating on numerous wavelengths to deliver everlasting experiences.


The EP begins off with the label head serving up his track 'Siphon'. The track begins off in familiar territory, the cute wee high keys interlaced with the fast pace chord progression underneath. This then builds fluidly into the incessant beat, that carries along the chords in a wave of energy. Building further, the beat adds just the right amount of new elements, as the harmonies in the backdrop welcome soft lines that wrap and weave around the pads. The beat cuts out, as we are introduced to the next element, the bass line. Cutting just under the drums, the melodic elements are all blended together excellently, with all the pads and keys hitting the right notes at the right times. The track swings and moves between variations in the layering, offering up moments of just bass and drums, to full on harmonic work outs. One for the deep night. Next up is Neuron Network, with their track 'Green Eye'. This one has the proper old school vibe about it, very early Peacefrog. The deep chords act as the backdrop, a surface for the drums to reverb and jump from. Their progression works from the bottom to the top, with additional key work existing within their set boundaries. The drum work here is really emphasised, as the producer is comfortable in letting them really breathe and do their thing, the complexity only gaining traction over time. Then, the keys come right back into the mix, the drums stripped way back, so we can then truly engage with them. This is the magic of Spillway, the music is structured in such a passionate and thoughtful way, that every last good feel and impression is etched on the minds of the listener. Pureeee.


Next up Neuron flexes once again with the track 'Kym'. The track begins in broad fashion, the pounding kick drum the only percussive element as a sequence of warm tonal chords lie in wait in the background. A high up bass line slams through the middle, as the drums begin their process of collecting all their pieces together. The build up is precise, and oh yes oh yes. It breaks down, the drums fall away to reveal some beautiful sweet as hell chords, some fine work there, as the arpeggio sequence of keys becomes more tuneful. The drums pick up, and its oh so glorious. The beat is very much paired back here, the melodies are left alone to do some wonderful work. The bass riff re-emerges, and adds further weight to all the magic that is occurring within this utterly amazing track. The chords break away to give the dub elements a chance to show their fullness, the beating heart at it all. Because, you know, we are always ready for one more mental workout. The initial key sequence comes back into play, as the track just continues on within its endless sequence of epicness. To cap it all off, we have some wonderful old school techno pitch changing chords. Amazing. To cap it all off, we have Polycron with their track 'Aroma'. This one begins in a very much percussive state, a pulse that is dipped in layered reverb and all kinds of metallic connotations. The cosmicness jumps up a notch, as the producer introduces some brilliant key lines that bridge the gap between out there and real time. The drumming work is full, the cymbals and hi hats working over time, with the chords in the backdrop filling their traditional role as keeping the peace within a sea of rhythmic excellence. Its one final dimension to the sounds we have experience, one that completes the cycle of energetic and thoughtful techno, and why is this EP only four tracks long......bravo.


This label has crafted a vibe, indeed a world, where anything seems possible. The love and care that has gone into every release feels so naturally right and emotionally logical, in that each EP brings forth qualities from the previous and reimagines it. Here, we see the label head and their pals produce a record that will inspire and delve deep into any mind or record bag, where tones and beats come together that are forged by a grand understanding of techno's qualities, whilst giving it a contemporary feel that is both true to the label and true to its producers. A slice of brilliance, and we can't wait for more.


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