Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Montréal Dances Across Borders, vol.1: dark, dense, punchy techno

October 17, 2020

Deep house got me into electronica in a serious way, but it’s Traversable Wormhole’s bass-heavy, staccato, punchy techno that captured my attention most fully. Montréal Dances Across Borders vol. 1 gives me more of that dark, dense, aggressive techno. And the album is for a good cause! Who can’t get behind that?

I don’t usually bring in the press verbatim, but I can’t do much better than this on the concept, so I’ll let collection curator Jean Grünewald (ottoman.grüw) take it away:

Montreal Dances Across Borders vol.1 is a collaborative album bringing together 10 artists of “underground dance music” in Montréal (originally Tiotia:ke in the language of Kanien’kehá:ka people). This project is to remind that this music is above all made to unite through differences, across all types of physical or abstract borders.

Although the tracks from this album will be downloadable for free, it will be possible for those who wish to make donations for Solidarity Without Borders (www.solidarityacrossborders.org), a migrant justice network active in Montreal since 2003.

Throughout the whole release, the music is dense, dark, and punchy, which thrills me. Opener “Nanobodies of Love” by CMD marshals buzzy synths and dry percussion against thudding bass hits and a siren-esque lead synth. It’s excellently crafted, making the most of every sound to create atmosphere. It’s got hints of cyberpunk, hints of minimalist techno, and more. It’s a perfect opener. “Zone Chaude” by Tourment is a fun, EDM-influenced track, moving swiftly on thrumming arpeggiator-esque rails and phased synth wails that evoke club house. There’s still an undercurrent of ominous cyberpunk vibes, but it’s got some more fun in its veins. ottoman.grüw kicks up the pace with hardstyle-influenced techno cut “The Sound of Joy Is Enlightenment”. It’s all big, speedy bass hits and wiggly noises above it, aside from the spoken-word sections accompanied by ambient squiggles.

FXBIP’s “Expectations” is a bit more maximalist, stacking layers of percussion and synth to create a big, dark, exuberant sound similar to the work on Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack and remixes. Spraelle’s “Hankering,” one of my personal favorites on the whole album, has the maximalist cyberpunk high drama vibe as well. The melodies are excellent and memorable. Honeydrip’s “Criticism Again” is a bit more abstract, focusing on syncopations, bubbly sounds, and tiny vocal samples to create a pleasantly stranger sonic palette within the overall landscape of dark’n’tense. “Expanding Uncertainty” by Aquaventure keeps the thumping beat but layers tense, brittle synth washes over it. The title is an accurate description of the mood the song creates.

This is big, bold, interesting electronica that focuses in on varieties of dark techno. The comp doesn’t have any clunkers on it at all, which is a huge achievement. This is an excellent release that techno fans should seek out immediately. Highly recommended.

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Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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