VA: Futuristic Experiments #006
Background Records

Andy Vaz formed Background Records in 1996 and ever since a steady stream of top-notch techno discs has poured forth. Consider for a moment a sampling of the artists who've issued 12-inch material on the label: Submania, Todd Sines, Sutekh, Deadbeat, Akufen, Stewart Walker, Dave Miller, and Jeff Milligan. However, the label's inaugural release wasn't a solo release but rather a 12-inch collection of tracks by Terence Dixon, Ectomorph, DJ Hyperactive, and Todd Sines titled Futuristic Experiments #001. Volume two, also a 12-inch, featured Walker, Clayton, Sutekh, and Submania, while the third installment included Jan Jelinek, Dean Decosta, The Rhythm Maker, and Submania. With Futuristic Experiments #004, the series expanded to a full-length format and naturally became more comprehensive, with volume four collecting tracks from Akufen, Sutekh, Geoff White, and others, while volume five featured tracks by Portable exclusively.

Which brings us to the latest chapter, Futuristic Experiments #006. Much like volume four, the comp features tracks from a representative cast of label contributors. But any lack of innovation in format is more than compensated for by the superb quality of its contents. Need proof? Akufen's opener “Red Skies” swoops in with some stomping Schaffel rhythms, synth washes, and lumbering bass lines, followed by Ben Nevile's “Some Bass for the Sheep” whose electro patterns provide a nimble backdrop to an hypnotist's hilariously lugubrious count-down which at zero changes to George Dubya tripping over a speech anecdote. Glitchy surges and microsampling sweeten the clickhouse of Dave Miller's “Hue Hip Shizo Censor,” while Vaz weighs in with “Last Minute Variation,” a typically intricate microhouse concoction. If there's anything that differentiates volume six from its precursors, it's the marvelous African strain running through tracks from Helvetica, Rhythm Maker, Portable, and db. Helvetica's “Intension Release,” for example, drapes syncopated patterns of percussive pops and sweeps over a whomping bass drum in a track that becomes some sublime digital re-imagining of African music. And unlike some compilations that weaken in their latter halves, here's one that maintains the high level with these artists' distinctive global-techno excursions.

Background Records has always been a label worth celebrating for the quality of its releases. Its music finds a magnificent middle ground between head and heart, as the music's rhythmic essence is never lost in spite of the sophistication of its advanced compositional design. If anything, the label has only improved with time, as recent releases from Portable (Cycling), db, and Repeat Orchestra indicate. Furthermore, with Mille Plateaux currently inactive, the luster of Background Records' music shines ever more deeply. In brief, Futuristic Experiments #006 is a superb collection of adventurous cerebral techno.

June 2004