VA: Underscan Now

Though all of Underscan Now's sixteen tracks were previously issued as part of a four-part 12-inch series, those new to the Berlin label's metal machine music now have a perfect opportunity to catch up. The seventy-five minutes of material should strongly appeal to fans of Schematic and Spezialmaterial and artists like Funkstörung, Richard Devine, and Autechre (circa Incunabula and Tri Repetae). A typical track's sound design (e.g., Somshit's “Elz Zupper,” 3tronik's “Verwirrung,” Onethema's “Monocarpic”) is densely layered and glitch-heavy and the beats funky and boombastic. Though much of the material comes from Underscan-associated artists, figures like Scanner and Frank Bretschneider contribute too. The brothers Funcken also appear, weighing in with hyperactive breaks in the Funckarma track “Brim” and the funkier Quench throwdown “Slick.” In two of the collection's most distinctive tracks, Lambent's “Kaudyoe” and Everest's “Separate Room,” elements of acoustic jazz and funk float to the surface of atmospheric dub-techno flow, and crystalline melodies sprinkle over a crushing pulse. Fibla's “International” and Pytlik's “Atmachb” provide placid and stately respites from harder-edged offerings such as Menu:Exit's clangorous dub-techno rumbler “Querverweis” and Scanner's bulldozing “Interreum,” which ends the album on a memorably dystopic note. There's also squiggly synth-pop (Dalezy's “Silkweed”) and electronic boogie (Bogger's “Honz”)—in short, lots to listen to and pretty much all of it solid.

July 2008