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ESP INSTITUTE

Nathan Micay

Never Rhythm Game / Team Player

Nathan Micay fell asleep in the schnee and awoke in the shvitz. Side A’s Never Rhythm Game is a bubbling cauldron of acid worms, almost seven steady minutes of liquid squelch and bleep riding on a rolling assortment of booming kicks and claps, all glued together by a droning string and soaring feedback modulation. Aimed for peak time, this big-room monster is built on a major chord that carries us to the perfect rave apex, and functions as a pivot from where DJs can steer into any subsequent direction. Side B’s Team Player is equally poignant, yet in contrast to its optimistic predecessor, here we join in a dark mechanical affair that summons influence from a distant sci-fi metropolis – sophisticated metallic rhythms that are not polished but scrubbed with steel wool, and lead by a seductive robot that chants degenerate dancing instructions. These two songs will oil your engine and grease your gears.

Roman Flügel needs no introduction, so lets not hammer on about his lengthy history as a kingpin of contemporary German dance music, his essential contributions to the musical evolution of Darmstadt and Frankfurt, his achievements as a virtuosic multi-instrumentalist traversing genres with remarkable grace, his sense of dynamism and urgency in the construction of big-room anthems or the meticulously woven textures of melancholy found throughout his minimalist work, his ability to pay homage to pioneers of his musical heritage without diverting to pastiche, his fearless combination of familiar melody with synthesized aberration and imperfection, his approach to instrumentation as Haiku poetry where the ordinary is made profound through simple isolation, his rejection of stylistic pretense and acceptance of comforts found in the constructs of folk and pop, his contrast of cold efficiency with a warm naiveté, his yearning to return down previously-forged paths with a new accumulation of experience, the confidence to paint the room blue when it was meant to be black, his belief that a beautifully executed idea will always transcend the need for incessant polishing, the way in which he leads arrangements to the edge and only implies a resolve, his framing of musical narratives as sketches, outlines, or skeletons where the listener’s perception compliments the whole, or his notion that sometimes stories might not need a clear articulation but might only come through in hints of mood, pace, and color, a language which doesn’t rely on words to communicate but which paints for us in Themes. Yes, rather than hearing our attempt to elaborate on Roman’s Flügel’s debut album with the ESP Institute, lets just simply listen.

Xinner

Dream Resonator / Ice

Robotron is the machine formerly known as Xinner and this is its first offering for the ESP Institute. Side A’s "Dream Resonator" is an idiosyncratic network - dexterous machine drum/percussion programming, an ebb and flow of floating arpeggios, syncopated counter-melodies and a hail of stabbing strings continually diffusing into ethereal vapor - all stacked into an (aptly-named) orchestral anthem. Side B’s Ice takes a similar approach with arrangement, each instrument carving out its place in the track’s mechanics for a glorious convergence of patterns, but, where side A proves optimistic, here we sense a more menacing undercurrent, an austerity powerfully articulated through towering kicks and claps so compressed they fill up every dark corner of negative space. Indeed, Robotron has an innate command for building and calibrating robust systems, but beneath this calculated veil we find the remnant human behavior of Xinner. These two songs will whisper loudly but scream quietly.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Class 4 Holodeck heaters here from Robotron, who offers ESP a futuristic yin and yang via the utopic A-side and dystopian flip.

Autre

Everybody In The Past / Frigo

Autre fell asleep in a gondola and awoke in the Krankenhaus. This is his first offering for the ESP Institute. Side A’s Everybody In The Past is sharp techno aimed for the alleys of your mind — gritty, driving, and melodic combinations of blown-out drums and classic electro riffs that relentlessly sprint for a good 4 minutes before a squelching arpeggio and angelic solo kick in — tugging the heartstrings and lighting a beacon for those noble morning dancers lost at the front left speaker, channeling from the deep. On Side B, Frigo completely dismantles any expectations you might have after listening to its predecessor. An undoubtedly seductive Samba rhythm comprised of distant snares, rim shots and cowbells holds together an aggressively active bassline, a steel drum harmony and synth solo that crawl all over like a funky worm. This track is truly something special, a gift for the prodigious selector — when dropped in the deserved context, it has the potential to unlock unprecedented levels of euphoria. These two songs are as fluid as a paintbrush yet precise as a scalpel.

STAFF COMMENTS

Sil says: Euphoric, fast and acidic vibes on 'Everybody in the Past'. Flip it, and you have a sweet melody lead by some tropical marimba accompanied by some relentless beats resulting in some dreamlike escapist affair. Flipping good Sil says.

Ground is an Osaka native, but his soul is truly that of a nomad, traversing the planet, befriending the kindred spirits found in humans, animals and plants. He is exceptionally receptive to the beauty in all that surrounds him -the incidental music of a busy city street, the orchestrated chaos of a scrambling radio, the syncopated grace of a migrating flock of birds, the simplicity of an isolated hand clap - and as his map continuously unfolds, he accumulates a vast catalogue of visceral tools to complex musically recount his experiences. "Sunizm" is a cross section of the artist’s process - an array of complex microcosms overlapping to comprise a thematic whole - gathering field recordings, found instrumentation, jagged electronics, and synthesized chanting, to be woven into a dense narrative that appears both obsessively constructed and divinely improvised. With each consecutive track, the artist gradually constructs hypnotic patterns that 1-up the mind as it struggles to break free from a seduction of loops, steadily intensifying until reaching an apex of sound collage so cerebral that the listener might consider a post-album shower. But alas, the fourth quarter releases a bit of pressure, our gobs still lay smacked but there is a warm confidence as the psychedelic trial delivers us home to nod out. Dear humans, animals and plants, Ground and the ESP Institute present, "Sunizm".

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: I've been all over DJ Ground since I heard his mega edit work on a massive Mori Ra 12". Picking up from where he left off on his Bartellow collab (Still in my record bag), the Osaka producer effortlessly combines futuristic electronic sound, precise sampler work and rich organic textures to create a groovy and psychedelic vision of shamanic house. Highly recommended for any daytrippers out there...

A truly mind blowing VIP package here from cult label ESP who literally enlist a who's who of modern trippy house demigods to remix Benedikt Frey's debut album "Artificial".

Side A leads with "H For Hysteria" remixed by the beloved Nicolas Chaix aka I:Cube, one of the most prolific and respected electronic artists Paris has to offer. His touch is considered and elegant, imbuing the track with a tasteful 303 & 808 backbone to support an array of patiently floating melodies and angelic vocal samples.

Following this, Tolouse Low Trax of Düsseldorf’s infamous Salon Des Amateurs remixes the same track, stripping instrumentation down to a skeletal palette of bass guitar and stabbing percussive punctuations, chopped up inna minimalist stylee that has become his beat-making signature. Side B leads with a remix by another Düsseldorfer, DJ Normal 4, whose re-imagination of "Private Crimes" takes us for an even more menacing ride, half-timing the tempo and skillfully rolling out a barrage of jungle snares from rave days of yore. Closing the release is the most aggressive remix of them all, a bonafide techno beatdown of the same track by DALO, the co-producing artist to whose haunting vocals lace the original version. Her dark vision opens with sparse industrial drums that blossom into a driving assault of raw machinery which fits perfectly into the nihilistic brutalism growing ever more present across the face of electronic music.


Sharif Laffrey

Tangier / Everything Is Nice

Sharif Laffrey can charm the snake out of any basket. This is his first offering for the ESP Institute. Side A’s Tangier is a long drawn-out exercise, an endurance test of the highest order. Over the span of some thirteen minutes, elements bob and weave intermittently and layers overlap haphazardly - the type of exciting dynamic that's born out of restriction - as if putting down a live jam without enough hands to work the console, yet Sharif perseveres. As touch and go as this arrangement may be, there is something that undoubtedly glues it all in place; the combination of his massive rolling 16th-note bassline and his tough-as-nails drumkit is so good that, upon first listen, we spat out our tea and insisted on its release. On side B, Everything Is Nice carries on with loose arrangement, dirty production and layers of inexplicable spoken- word samples (a Sharif calling card by now) but this time we're lead to a melancholy place, the blue comedown to Side A's antagonistic trial. With his ESP Institute debut, Sharif leaves you mentally unhinged, as if you’ve smoked something interesting and arrived bewildered in some Saharan labyrinth. These two songs will guide you through the medina to score the black meat.

Pharaohs is a live band from Los Angeles including blossoming producers Suzanne Kraft, Ale Cohen (from the legendary Dublab) and surfer / synth-geek, Sam Cooper. One might assume these lot are in search of their sound, dabbling in various sub-genres, loosely citing a mixed bag of references… but any listener with a refined palette will acknowledge these three as Renaissance Men of the highest order. They simply know what sounds nice and strive to execute their vision with taste, regardless of what inspiration fuels them at any given moment. Side A leads with "Ahumbo" (named after Sam's dream beach in Zanzibar), blending a dry and simplistic rhythm section with swelling synth chords, a cheeky vocal and a vibrant surf guitar. Following "Ahumbo" is the title track "Island Time," a bouncy jungle vibe with chant about tropical fruits, a reminder that its always Summer somewhere! Last, but not least, Side B doles out "If It Ever Feels Right," a percussive House jam that is literally a JAM… Its on this track, with its live percussion, saxophone and drum programming, that the band capacaity of Pharoahs shines.

Cleveland

Tusk / Aku

Cleveland is forever in search of the brown note. This is his second offering for the ESP Institute. Side A’s "Tusk" is a beautiful paradox—rhythm programs that churn like the inner workings of a grandfather clock, unmistakably mechanical, yet fashioned through muted analogue instrumentation that paints a deceptively organic picture. The crystallized jangle of FM synth voices toy with the softened drum patterns and vibrant animal-like chord gestures over nearly seven minutes of splendor. On side B, "Aku" digs further into mysticism, manifesting digital jungle themes, cleverly abstracted through erratic bleeps, distant tribal drums, atonal flutters and synthetic bird calls. The cinematic quality of Clevelands production shines through both tracks, but its "Aku" that sweeps us from reality to embark on a moonlit expedition in search long lost treasures, proving Cleveland a virtuoso skilled in building complex narratives with sound. These two songs will modulate your frequencies.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Cleveland's back on ESP with more ritualistic business for the club, skirting round the fringes of minimal techno and micro house to offer something hypnotic, exotic and esoteric that we like to call rainforest house.

Greenvision is the collaborative brainchild of two ESP Institute artists, Juan Ramos and Luca Trentini AKA Trent, both longtime fixtures of Berlin’s infamous playground known as Cocktail d’Amore. Separately, these two explore their own very personal avenues of expression, putting their time in the trenches and endlessly polishing their works (this is Juan’s third release with the label), but when their efforts overlap we’re gifted a view into their uncanny synergy. Juan and Trent channel an exorbitant amount of smoke-fueled creativity, building layers upon layers into music so dense that the bulk of their studio time might then be spent navigating and formalizing their output into tangible tracks. Greenvison’s collective debut with the ESP Institute showcases three intense cerebral workouts, "Banana Paradiso", "Rambutan" and "The Color Of Maracuja", an array of experiments pulling from all the corners of the duo’s imagination - it is disorienting, cacophonous, introverted and psychedelic, but at the same time playful, melodic, euphoric and undoubtedly arresting - guaranteed to induce hallucinations under proper circumstances.

Toby Tobias

Second Stimulus / Synchro Surfer

Toby Tobias has a lengthy history of disturbing the peace. This is his second offering for the ESP Institute. On side A, Second Stimulus stirs shimmering staccato chords, roaming pipes and detuned robotic sighs into quite the disorienting stew—the loose arrangement remaining fragmented over 9 minutes of touch-and-go 808 programming, picking up a pseudo bassline assembled from sub toms, introducing a gritty break loop and eventually blissing out into oblivion. With side B’s Synchro Surfer, Toby plays with the notion of suspense by gently teasing a muted kick and percussion rhythm under washes of white noise, bleeps and sirens that are tape-dubbed and which, over time, begin a dialogue with each other, as if the machines have declared mutiny on the garage. Toby continues to stretch his limits with his output for the ESP Institute, possibly headed toward a full-fledged devolution of conventional dance music. These two songs may have you arrested for public nuisance.

Five hundred and seventy-three moons ago (give or take), Thunder Tillman and his personal shaman emerged from the ESP Institute with an epic debut EP of baked psychedelics entitled 'Jaguar Mirror'. We now bare witness to the duo’s glorious follow-up as they initiate us into the 'Night School Of Universal Wisdom'. These two cosmic jokers possess a vibrant and fearless sense of exploration that knows no boundaries, as if their dreams translate directly into song and their bodies exist merely to channel music they’ve tapped into from another world, one where influences are uncharted and any instrument imaginable is available at their fingertips. As with 'Jaguar Mirror', their grasp of all things analogue begins with guitar laying the slightly imperfect foundation for four harmonious narratives, a journey that begins with a fast paced gallop across vast landscapes in search of the Incan god of thunder, Catequil, and gently concludes with us lying horizontally to absorb sporadic beams of healing light. The discourse throughout Night School Of Universal Wisdom is as charming as it is exquisite, orienting the listener with a bouquet of warm tones whilst layering plies of musical dialogue so subtle they require repeated study. Thunder Tillman manage to weave the past into future without diverting to pastiche, successfully merging their characterized production with melodic mastery and a sense of humor, a creative achievement that accredits them as two of our most esteemed scholars.

There is a sense of urgency increasingly infecting the human condition, fragmenting our attention span, accelerating our needs and often influencing our motives when making creative decisions. The result is a lack of dynamics, there is no ebb or flow, its “go” time, all the time. Electronic music is one of the clearest examples of a widening division between great art created in a deeply imaginative vaccum and the soulessly formulaic and branded product that serves the impatient masses. What draws the ESP Institute to Benedikt Frey is his ability to operate on the fringe, outside the constructs artists constantly channel themselves into—his art speaks a pure language that is realized by any means necessary, a process devised solely to articulate his own message, one delivered with patience, never rushed nor dictated by the outside world. Artificial was written and produced over two years, tirelessly sculpted into a sequence abstract pieces that are fiercely independent but accumulate layers of meaning when collaged. It is electronic and rhythm-based, but never reliant on any prescribed instrumentation, arrangement or expecatation. This is our idea of well conceived and executed album; not simply a collection of tracks but a complex narrative that unfolds over peaks and valleys, pulling the listener into emotional corners before leaving a residual impression. Some may describe music very well in words, but there is always something lost in translation—a story only the music itself can tell.

Bartellow's no stranger to the Zener cards and tie-dye lab coats of the ESP Institute, first checking in back in 2013 as one third of Tambien. If you've kept a keen eyar on the more interesting fringes of the underground dancefloor, you'll be well aware of the loose and lysergic heat our main man cooks up alongside Marvin & Valentino, but this debut LP is an entirely different preposition. Fusing the boldly go insanity of his youthful jazz instruction with a perverse obsession with unnatural electronics, the German producer has gone off well beyond the deep-end for ten tracks of mechanical tribalism. The LP kicks off in gloriously unhinged fashion with the future primitive sounds of "Sala-Sensi", wall melting up date of Baldelli's afro-cosmic vision complete with chanted vocals, metallic keyboard stabs and an utterly whacked out groove. From there, "Clypp" nudges us further towards the limits of our own consciousness via cavernous reverb, nebulous 6/8 sequencing and sci-fi synthlines. The intensity drops a touch as we drop into the batshit, breakdance of "W.C.R.", a tropical tune for Venusian beaches, before "Shufflington" turns up the heat in a cosmic techno styleé, perfectly seguing into the industrial distortion and whirly tube action of "EX%". Opening the second disc in off-kilter fashion, "Amenesia" sounds like the imaginary soundtrack to a B-Movie about the condition and not at all like the fabled superclub (thank god). As we head to the finish there's On-U meets Joy-O in the rattling "Operator In Excelsis", chromed out rainforest rhythms in "Saba" and inside out, upside down, zero gravity weird shit from the bizarrely danceable "Notion". After a night of eyeball licking fun, it's only right that we're left with a tender goodbye and the Jupiter jazz and freaked out fusion and Neptunian new age of the title track offers just the right amount of wrong to keep us smiling as we slip into an inner space wormhole. 


STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Tambien man Bartellow goes it solo for this debut LP, treating ESP Institute to some A-grade weirdshit. At times we're dancing through the starfield of Afro-cosmic 2.0, sprinting past machine elves dressed as metal Mario or rolling head over heels down the neon sand dunes of an alternate world. You need your space suit, hazmat gear and dancing shoes for this one - Mint!

Welcome the first in a philanthropic, pedagogical series of compilations from the ESP Institute label (home of Cos/Mes and Sombrero Galaxy). Curated and programmed by Lovefingers, "Concentration" is a narrative blend of obscurities, re-edits and remixes contributed by the label's international family of collaborators including Abel, Alexis Le-Tan, Basso, Bumrocks, Chee Shimizu, Cos/Mes, Eddie Ruscha, Jonny Nash, Lee Douglas, Lexx, Lovefingers, Sesto Falconi, Tako and Tropical Jeremy. There's a CD-only full length collection to come, in the meantime vinyl junkies will need to snatch these two vinyl samplers pretty darn quick! "Concentration Vol. 1 - Sampler A" opens with the sublime cinematic boogie of "Rocks In Me", edited by Alexis Le-Tan & Lee Douglas. Bumrocks take a typically off the beaten track route with the slinky "Piedra" - some kind of Balearic pop ditty that warms the cockles of your heart. On the flip the soft rock driver "Worldwide" arrives edited by Take, while we close with the Laurel Canyon dreaminess of "I Gotta Woman" (Abel edit). All proceeds from this series are donated to http://www.harmony-project.org , a non-profit organization dedicated to youth development through music study, practice and performance.


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