Words by the ever erudite Adam Turner.
Late in 2020, seemingly timed to coincide with a surge in COVID-19 cases, and a January lockdown that felt really grim – confining us all to our houses during the darkest months of the year – a compilation came out on Music From Memory, a triple vinyl set called Virtual Dreams: Ambient Explorations In House and Techno 1993- 1997. I bought it, not least on the strength of Rob`s BBTT review, and it soundtracked that period of time for me. The lushness of the synths, the moodiness of the tone, the crisp, clean production, the alternately warm and chilly ambient drift, all fitting in very well with life in early 2021, and helping to navigate a way through it.
This recent release from Dutch artist, BSS (AMS), on John Talabot`s Hivern Discs, covers similar ground with a healthy side-order of Detroit too. Bredius is a four track EP, with each piece clocking in somewhere between five and eight minutes long. This is 21st century ambient techno picking up where some of those `90s artists left off – the likes of The Primitive Painter, Black Dog, MLO, Global Communication, and LFO.
Raised in Amsterdam, a city with its own rich techno history, BSS aka Luigi Vittorio Jansen, here presses all the correct ambient / acid / dub buttons. This is crisp, sleek modern music – and yes, it`s moody in places too – with synths that shimmer, dramatically, and synths that glide, drum machines that pitter patter away metronomically, all creating layers of controlled sound.
The E.P. opens with De Regenboog – jittery drums and keys and long sustained chords, hints of Vangelis and Blade Runner but with (appropriately for a song that translates as “The Rainbow“) some flashes of colour. Tense, taut and utterly absorbing. Ed’s Night Shop bursts into life with throbbing bass and rattling rhythms. Some early `80s atmospherics blow in, like a soundtrack for life in East Germany in the latter days of the Cold War. Het Stenen Hoof (The Stone Head) is a masterpiece of tension and melody – bass buzzing and bleeps ricocheting between the speakers. There’s some real menace but then at two and a half minutes the rising synthetic strings bring some lushness. Nemoland is seven minutes of serious stuff, like a drive in a new car round a city at night, the corners smoothed out, all the traffic lights on green, Carl Craig’s Landcruising remodelled for post-COVID Europe in 2022. The drums get punchier, more reverb as they pound away, and the computerized chords, almost like a wordless choir, fade in and out.
BSS (AMS)`s Bredius is out now, on Hivern Discs.
You can find more fine prose from Adam Turner over at his own brilliant blog, The Bagging Area.