REVIEW: Mistress 05

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Here in Europe we are lucky to have such a vibrant underground music scene: London, Berlin, Lyon… the list goes on. The American techno scene, on the other hand, can often be over looked; it’s not all fuzzy EDM – excuse the embarrassing acronym. 

DVS1’s Hush Label splintered off into another sub-label ‘Mistress Recordings’ a while back. These instrumental portfolios started in October 2013 and we are currently on the fifth edition: Mistress Recordings 05. Think of these releases as the NOW compilations for the underground house and techno world, albeit far less embarrassing. 

Mistress Recordings 05 is split into three 12” vinyl records. 5.1 – THE BLONDE, 5.2 – THE BRUNETTE, 5.3 – THE REDHEAD. It’s only logical to start with The Blonde; that’s not a direct quote from Dan Blizerain.

The Blonde brings exclusive material to the label; similar to a live event these are opening the floor and coaxing the listener to the label’s headline act. This should in no way be overlooked, 5.1 boasts four impressive and moreish tracks.

A1. Jonas Friedlich – Thuesdub

A2. ASOK – Purple Saturn Day

B1. Nicson & An Gelo – Freek

B2. Kirill Mamin – Cutting

Most of the tracks are around the seven-minute mark. Jonas Freidlich starts with sweeping synths that scream “Dimly lit underground club“. After journeying through the arrangement of dark percussion, a murky bass line creates a minimal structure on which the song evolves.

Focusing on the drum samples in ASOK’s addition to this album, you wouldn’t be a fool for thinking it could have been the inspiration for the Oscar winning ‘Whiplash’. A low pitch and addictive melody backs up the mind-blowing percussion that forces you to nod your head. You can almost hear Erol Alkan.

The B side of this record is more structured. ‘Freek’ sounds like it’s going to feature in every techno-orientated boiler room set of 2015/2016 and it wouldn’t seem out of place disco 70’s Chicago disco. The old school vibe and harmonic vocals carry more groove than you would expect from a techno record.

Last up, we have ‘Cutting’. High tempo drums keep this masterpiece in check with chord progression gradually flowing over the top. There’s great mixing potential to be heard here and as a composition, is the perfect end to a great album.

As we literally and figuratively get darker, it’s the turn of to 5.2 – The Brunette.

C1. Ombossa – Bonish Thuggish

C2. Jerome Baker – Track 20

D1. Juxta Position – World Domination

D2. Discrete Circuit – Incursion

Ombossa kicks off with an eerie submerged sound, which over the course of the track stays true to the label. Bonish Thuggish is like a passing F1 car: we can hear it coming and getting more intense, then for a few moments it fully opens up until it starts moving away again.

The second track on 5.2 is confusingly named ‘Track 20’ but despite this, the track is pretty self explanatory. Techno with a solid direction; Jerome Baker hasn’t let us down. An arrangement of clicks and capturing bass lines sums up this incredibly listenable addition with an instrument rack Four Tet would be pushed to contend with.

Juxta Position is is next with ‘World Domination’ and from the off appears heavily loop based. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. The track kicks off with a sense of innocence but the listener is quickly reminded that this is Mistress Recordings; trippy turns and shifting synth are never far from surfacing.

Incursion closes the forward thinking album, the track sounds as though it was recorded at least 30 years after The Blonde. Discrete Circuit gives the drums a head start and gradually brings in a rhythm of two repeated notes, which are intoxicating.The whole song needs to be swallowed to experience the melody eventually overtaking the percussion. DVS1 ditches the first two and moves on to his final squeeze: The Redhead.

E1. Nutype – Noisy Ride

E2. Mike Gervais – Grind

F1. Opinion – Autobahnkirche

F2. A&S – Xenix

Nutype kicks us off with ‘Noisy Ride’ and it appears to be lighter than the previous two albums and hangs on the housier side of tech-house. The bass and clap denotes footsteps in this musical journey and panning tambourines coupled with reverb doused, bizarre harmonies point you in the right direction.

Mike Gervais manages to give a church organ street-cred. This futuristic ensemble uses unconventional samples and what seems like a washboard for percussion… and it works. In a slightly higher tempo track ‘Grind’ expertly delivers pounding energy.

‘Autobahnkirche’ loosely translates to ‘Road Church’. Opinion keeps things incredibly minimal. It’s easy to forget that a lot of this tech-house is from Germany but the efficiency shines through with an dynamic use of instruments.

There’s a lot variation to be heard throughout the 3 albums and this last track confirms that Mistress Recordings know exactly how to play the game. A&S don’t hold back with the tempo and the hi-hat variations ring. The urgency of this song is powerful and acts as a fitting ending to a strong compilation.

The final offering embodies the vision and direction of DVS1’s creation; to push these talented artists to the masses. As sub genres are merging, it can be difficult to stay true without pulling influence from the areas around you. Everything about these releases proves that Mistress Recordings are holding the line.

Written by Mark Campion