Though quality techno is regularly associated with the colder climates of Berlin and Detroit, the recent developments happening on the Iberian Peninsula have been hard to ignore. One of the region’s more interesting and consistent producers in this decade has been Maceo Plex, owner of the Ellum Audio label. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of signature club sounds, and with an ability to investigate ‘darker’ side of modern life (a tendency that can be heard especially well on past Plex-produced tracks like “Conjure Balearia”), Plex has located the “Goldilocks zone” between funk liberation and mechanical control. Mastering this balancing act is a skill that separates the best producers from the legions of also-rans: it shines through in his back catalog and is back in full force for his new “Tesseract” EP on Ellum.
The A-side of the new single is an intriguing blend of urban soundscape and slow-burning, post-industrial drama. The sounds of downtown pedestrian chatter and street musicians (playing horns and steel drums, respectively) build up a feeling of heightened curiosity that makes the incoming rush of rhythmic sound all the more effective. Held in place by a creeping arpeggiated bassline and accented throughout with sonic reflections and subtle shifts in resonance, “Tesseract” has all the suspense of a Cold War spy thriller and a sense of spine-tingling urgency that animates all the classics of electronic body music. This effect is completed by well-placed swells of lead synth, and by devious ‘plot twists’ like an unexpected sputtering breakdown occuring right after the track’s tense groove has fully taken over the listener’s headspace.
On the B-side (“5th Dimensional Groove”), Maceo and the UK duo Swayzak join forces and turn in an attention-grabbing track that deviates just slightly from the energy exhibited on the flipside. While preserving that urgent feeling of racing against time, this power trio strips things back to basics a little more, but without sacrificing innovation or unpredictability in the process. On “5th Dimensional Groove” a trembling lead synth figure snakes in between a pulse-quickening mix of low-end sequences and minimal but forceful pneumatic percussion, and the combined creative energies of Swayzak and Plex also direct themselves towards unexpected breakdowns / meltdowns (in this case, a splash of cold water combined with a reversal of the lead synth sounds).