Bedrock’s first release of 2014 revisits last year’s album ‘Disconnect/Reconnect’ from The Japanese Popstars. ‘Vision’ and ‘Heavy Hitter’ appear in their original album versions, while the latter and ‘Matter of Time’ receive brand new remixes from Sharooz and Coyu respectively.

‘Vision’ remains one of the The Japanese Popstars most compelling creations, with its ghostly central hook complemented really well by chattering synths and the unnerving and twisted vocal samples that pick up with the kick-drum. Two long breakdowns set up the main drops into the pounding, galloping paranoia that characterizes the track. Melodic and haunting but still really firing, this is a fantastic slice of techno.

From the intro ‘Heavy Hitter’ fizzes with rock energy, pitting periodic synth shrieks against an explosive yet grungy groove. There’s a huge sense of urgency here, much of it provided by the driving high-pitched central synth motif. The breakdown offers another nod to the track’s rock roots, offering a distorted spoken-word take on Motörhead’s ‘Orgasmatron’ before wicked drum-fills reintroduce the madness. The combination of carefully control panic and churning bass reminded me of Soliquid’s incredible ‘Piknic Bugz’, a record that of course provided the memorable finale to Digweed’s entire ‘Transitions’ series (so far at least!). This one goes up to eleven, for sure.

London-based producer Sharooz makes his debut on Bedrock with his more stripped-back take on ‘Heavy Hitter’. Sharooz takes the housier elements of the track together with an ascending twist on the original’s central synth, and works them over a cool electro, twangy bassline. The high points are the two breakdowns, which see the bassline hover up an octave and intensify before dropping back into deeper waters. It doesn’t appeal to me nearly as much as the original, to be honest, but it’s an expertly and compellingly constructed piece of club-gear that balances neatly on the boundary between tech- and deep-house.

The Japanese Popstars’ collaboration with Green Velvet, ‘Matter of Time’, was one of the rawest sounding records on ‘Disconnect/Reconnect’. Having featured on two of Digweed’s latest ‘Live in…’ albums, Barcelona’s Coyu offers a fresh perspective on the track. A rolling groove quickly gains momentum with crisp percussion and cool effects, building into the breakdown where the familiar alternating vocal refrain from the original takes centre stage. Coyu allows just a hint of the original’s rawness to surface towards the end of the breakdown, just in time for a wavering synth to introduce the drop. There’s not a great deal to the remix – it’s really a heads-down moment for the techno-heads, although boasting the original’s vocals. It doesn’t appeal much to me, personally speaking, but I’m sure it’ll sound deadly in the right setting.

The strongest moments here remain The Japanese Popstars’ own superb originals, for my money, with the new remixes creating more directly floor-aimed weaponry out of the tracks but stripping some of the distinctiveness out in the process. Still, you can hardly go wrong with any of the four tracks here. 8/10

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