Serendipitously, the techno gods have bestowed three outstanding Seattle techno releases upon us in July. Two are from longtime Data Breaker favorites (Bruno Pronsato and Lusine) while the other comes from a heretofore-obscure producer/DJ (Marshall Watson).
Let's start with Bruno Pronsato's new Lady Collage EP on local electronic-music powerhouse Orac Records. Before analyzing his latest work, I should note that it's getting harder to actually call Bruno (AKA Steven Ford) a local artist; he's spent most of 2006 playing gigs to large, mad-for-it crowds in Europe. As I write, Bruno is entertaining Japanese techno fans. He'll return to Europe after the brief Japanese tour, and is planning to relocate to Germany for good in the fall. It makes more sense for him to live where his music's most appreciated.
Back to Lady Collage. The title track features Bruno's trademark atonal keyboard smears, urgent yet subliminal 4/4 throb, ominously slurred vocal snippets, and intriguing array of percussion sounds. If Wim Wenders were to set a film in a Berlin nightclub, he'd do well to use "Lady Collage" on the soundtrack. "Means Love" bumps its way through an eerie corridor of warped, burbling bleeps, slamming prison doors, and distant klangs. You will vigorously nod your head while it fills with blood-curdling imagery. Papa Sang Bass's pranksterish remix tilts the original into more dance-floor-friendly territory, à la fellow Orac artist [a]pendics.shuffle.
Bruno gets categorized as minimal techno, but there's much fascinating activity happening within that stripped-down context. It's also a rare feat to make such unsettling music that also inspires thousands of people to dance. To wit, adventurous DJs such as Magda, Sammy Dee, and Matthew Dear have been caning Bruno's tracks.
Lusine's third 12-inch EP for the estimable Ghostly International label, the four-track Emerald, pays tribute to Seattle. "Emerald" is a vibrant, punchy electro-techno hybrid that's as inspirational as the sunny 75-degree day outside my window right now. Lusine's masterly use of distorted voices as texture lifts the cut onto a higher psychedelic plane. The other three pieces reveal Lusine's subtle funkiness and ability to forge electro that sidesteps the genre's hoary conventions. "Weaver" especially messes with expected electro rhythmic patterns, and its vocal samples suggest a pop hit in some future advanced civilization.
Marshall Watson's Another Back Porch Lonely Day EP (available via download at myspace.com/echospin) showcases the producer's propensity for beautiful, grandiose melodies and subtle glitches within a midtempo techno framework. (The exception is "An Evolution of Sorts," which evokes Boards of Canada's enchanting atmospheres.) Classic Detroit techno soul, Warp Records ingenuity, and muted yet majestic, Gas-like propulsion form the foundation of Watson's glittering, classily designed productions. I'll definitely be monitoring his progress.
FRIDAY JULY 21
Zabiela is one of Sasha's protégés, but on the former's double-disc mix Utilities (Renaissance/Thrive), the disciple has surpassed the guru. On the "Computed" disc, Zabiela relies on Ableton to create his 15-track mix. With the "Recorded" CD, he employs three CDJs and an effects unit. Essentially, Zabiela is giving listeners a chance to decide which technology is superior. But DJing ultimately is about track selections, and it's there that Zabiela excels. It's a sign of the times that a relatively mainstream DJ brand like Renaissance is now championing quality minimal techno (Trentemøller, Decomposed Subsonics, Ellen Allien). One hears the influence of the Kompakt roster's widescreen, melodic microhouse on Utilities, which suggests that maybe the time's finally arrived when less cheese on the dance floor doesn't automatically equal less cheddar in DJs' wallets. If that's the case, Zabiela is helping to lead the charge into higher quality big-room sets. With DJ Colby B. Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 9 pm–2 am, $12 adv, 21+.
TUESDAY JULY 25
British DJ/producer Intalex is credited with helping to instigate a drum 'n' bass subgenre called "liquid funk" (isn't that sweat?). Expect him to drop a load of cream-of-the-crop-like specimens. With the Dowlz, Rob Noble, the Specialist. War Room, 722 E Pike St, 328-7666, 9 pm–2 am, $10, 21+.
After winning a Danish Grammy for songwriting, siren Tina Dico garnered much American attention with her vocal contributions to Zero 7's 2004 album When It Falls. She shone on that disc's "Home," coming over like a Scandinavian Joni Mitchell, all feathery delivery and poised passion. With her Nordic beauty, crystal-clear voice, and penchant for pensive, post–Lilith Fair songcraft, Dico is shrewdly positioned to capture major market share among mellow latte-sippers. Her latest album, In the Red, might've been more accurately titled A Lighter Shade of Beige. In the Red makes a strong case for downtempo lite being the new Muzak, and the AAA radio format being the new zzz. With Joe Purdy, Tiny Vipers. Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 9 pm–2 am, $10 adv, 21+.