From Berlin and Britain, virtuoso producers imagine a futuristic take on techno that elevates technical craft. Among many fine labels that have somehow flown under the radar this year, the surging productivity of Leisure System is surely one that merits some attention. It’s a producer’s label, in a sense, dodging trends to find music that is both danceable and listenable, ready for brain and booty and ear.
Berghain in Berlin celebrates its ninth anniversary Saturday, but let’s not overlook the Leisure System party on Friday – and the artists the label has brought together.
For starters, there’s the evergreen genius of Tim Exile and his mad-scientist brand of custom-built sound designs, heavily reliant on Reaktor. Tim Exile and Imogen Heap joined us last year here in Berlin at the CDM-hosted MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival, experimenting and patching and soldering with lab participants to imagine the future of musical instruments. In the video at top, Red Bull Music Academy visits Tim (and eventually Imogen, too), to tap into their music-technological imagination.
Tim as a person and as an artist is delightfully hyperactive; seeing him play live is no difference. But his release on Leisure System’s is one of my favorites from this year, because he manages to make the sound design ultra-saturated yet channels all that unrestrained creative energy into music that retains structure and form. The mold of dance music track here is actually a useful one, a perfect frame for all of Tim’s endless sonic chops.
It’s a bit unfortunate that Friday their sets will overlap – Kassem Mosse in the smaller Panorama Bar, and Tim in the big room downstairs. But there is some symmetry to Tim’s work and the complex, nervous intricacies of Kassem Mosse – deep rave music. If Leisure System brings the likes of Sam Barker from England to Germany, Nonplus Records out of London here mines the music of a German producer to terrific effect.
And speaking of hyperactive English production, the latest in a line of EP gems from Leisure System is the standout from 25-year-old Kommune1. Grooving and unashamed to get vocal samples facing forward, “Kronos” – just out on the 2nd of December – is brash and beautifully produced. It’s techno without inhibitions or self-doubt. Here’s what the label PR says about it:
After releases on Lone’s Magic Wire imprint and the digital-only label GND, Kommune1 cements his reputation for electric eclecticism with Kronos, coming out on Leisure System December 2nd, 2013.
UK native Daniel Martin takes inspiration from an amalgamation of genres past and present, with a particular debt to psychedelic techno, acid, and garage. The three tracks on Kronos are his most belligerent productions to date, and an ideal match for the diverse musical aesthetic of the Leisure System label and party series. Only 25, Martin has managed to create an EP that is disorientation incarnate, full of engorged tones, aggressive vocal samples, and thwacking percussion. Kommune1 productions have been previously championed by the likes of Ben UFO and Blawan, and Kronos should similarly thrill fans of adventurous, throbbing techno.
“Kronos,” “Mesonoxian,” and “Ls6″ are all ambient-tinged bangers, and have been secret weapons for Leisure System’s resident DJs for almost a year. We’re proud to offer everyone else the chance to add this stunning EP from Kommune1 to their bag.
It doesn’t really feel like an EP so much as a condensed LP – covering lots of different bases without losing a coherent arc in total. In short, it isn’t boring.
As a gentle balm to that frenetic energy, we can turn next to the gentle, relaxed shuffle of Hubie Davison. He won’t be at Berghain on Friday, but the EP is a wonderful listen.
And he demonstrates his taste for bass music with a wide focus rather than a narrow one, in a great mix on Live for the Funk:
Commentary / their site: Hubie Davison LFTF Mix
I’ve saved my favorites for last. Behind a lot of this excellent mayhem at Leisure System is Sam Barker. We toured his studio with Baumecker back in 2012.
The latest Barker/Baumecker outings are beautifully spacious, obsessively detailed, and with calculated precision push toward something that sounds forward-thinking, belying the time spent cloistered in the studio.
And they’re simply gorgeous, like this remix:
— or a happily-vibrating release for Ostgut Ton, far from the somber productions I think many people imagine on that imprint:
— or the cinematic heights of this shimmering Clark remix:
If you are in Berlin tomorrow night:
Berghain Leisure System
And if not, just turn up the radiators, turn off all the lights, take your shirt off, and stay up for 12 hours listening to these artists.