MUSIC

Tvardovsky – Stereo Paradise LP (99percent Recordings)

Label boss Mark B recently announced that 99percent will be winding down to make room for a new venture, but while we’re still processing that news, the label just continues to release better and better music. Here Mark and Stereo Paradise Records head Tvardovsky have put together a collection showcasing the freshest progressive house, tech house, and melodic techno. Tvardovsky’s mix expertly takes the listener on a guided tour of the tracks, and this is definitely the best introduction to them, so I’d recommend beginning there.

Rodskeez & Adam Jace get things off to a fantastic start with ‘Zenith’. Rodskeez provided one of the highlights of Hernan Cattaneo’s recent Masters Series with the beautiful ‘Left in the Dark’, and his collaboration with Jace here takes things deeper, with airy synths floating over a galloping groove. Argentinian Antrim’s ‘Shine Evolving’ follows up nicely in the same vein, before Stereo Paradise Records regulars E-Spectro take us squarely into melodic techno territory with ‘At Heart’, which pits a warm, buzzing bass against gentle melodies and trippy vocal samples. Reflection Soul’s ‘Nonchalance’ is a really lovely progressive gem, which lightens the mood of the album at just the right moment, and it’s followed by tracks from two of the most talented contemporary producers from the Ukraine. Stas Drive provided several of the musical highlights of last year, including his collaborations with Enformig and his stunning remix of Peet’s ‘Full Blend’. His contribution to  the Stereo Paradise LP, ‘Samsara’, nicely evokes the spirit and sounds of early goa trance, while channeling it into a powerful and forward-thinking club track. Tvardovsky’s own offering ‘Interpolation’ characteristically contrasts intricate, trilling melodies and speaker-damaging rumbles to great effect, fittingly providing one of the album’s highlights in the process.

Russian act qoob cranks up the energy levels on neo-trancer ‘Stratus’, which boasts a massive, driving bassline, before Xzaltacia’s ‘Choice Nature’ strips things down to the bare essentials. I first encountered Xzaltacia’s work on his amazing collaboration with Modum on Inlab last year, ‘Space’, and since then he’s had a string of really strong releases on a number of different labels. Definitely one to watch. ‘Choice Nature’ finds him in a less trancey state of mind than usual – this is a nasty tech-house number, a minimal bassline dominating while fragments of melody provide additional texture. It will be sure to gain this young producer more of the attention he deserves. Next up Modum himself provides the perfect followup. Modum is fast becoming one of my favourite producers, having already turned in one of the highlights of 2013 so far with ‘Core’ on Stereo Paradise Records last month. ‘Blow’ is similar in style, but utterly different in mood and tone, building a thick, paranoid atmosphere with detuned bass tones and unnerving chimes. Hells Kitchen is another Stereo Paradise Records artist, and ‘Destructor’ shares similar musical DNA to ‘Blow’, but takes the album once more in a slightly lighter, more melodic direction. Dutch techno wizard Alessandro Diga wraps things up with ‘Onverwachte Wending’, which brings the album to a close with a distinctive, rich piano layered over a surprisingly effective blend of house and techno dynamics. As a bonus, regular collaborators Hells Kitchen and E-Spectro team up for a really nice melodic techno track, ‘Coma’, which you won’t find on Tvardovsky’s mix.

This is the perfect sequel to 99percent’s hugely successful ‘Ten’ album, once again bringing us the absolute cutting edge of contemporary progressive and techno from some of its most talented new voices. I’m not sure what exactly Mark B has in store for us after the label has run its course, but it’s hard not to interpret this superb album as something of a statement of intent. The future is ours, and no doubt we’re in for something special. 9/10

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