Following the well received debut release in 2015, the Forte Techno imprint returns to the fray with a second four tracker. It’s a huge pleasure to see small labels like this, run by people in it purely for the music, putting out consistently high quality discs. This one is distinctive in the range of ground it covers over the four tracks – any one of which would hit the spot on the floor. It was a privilege to be asked to review this by the Forte guys, and as soon as the promo arrived, I dived in…
Paul Mac (Don’t Leave Me)
Heavy and deep vibes here from Paul Mac of Theory, Stimulus, Hardgroove, and one half of Fokus Group. And I do mean vibes, this is a relentlessly groovy slice of techno. An echoing undertow lies over some proper sub pressure, providing the perfect meat to be sliced and diced by the stabbing, choppy, synth notes. Some serious funk in the hihat here too, just the right amount of click, and little variations always announcing the end of phrases, absolutely lovely. The track is completed by slowly building, muted synth notes, winding around and around the head like a slick embrace. Precise snares round out the percussion side of things and gradually applied distortion brings things to a pumping climax. One to wind your floor up a notch or three.
Binny – Machine 101
A classic fusion of power and delicate notes served up by the mighty Binny, a man needing no introduction, and known for his powerful productions on labels including CLFT and Orbis. The track starts with a furious, almost schizophrenic synth line and flat kicks setting the direction of travel. Clipped hats open up and introduce lush, dubbed out tones, and the track builds intensity using claps and tight, almost plucked bleeps into a beatless break, powered forward by the relentless synth line. It’s the perfect example of a small number of things done extremely well, everything builds, echoes, changes and detunes at exactly the right moment. The track feels longer than its 5:45 run time, and this is a special skill in itself. Big up the bin man!
Ross Alexander – Evening Talk
Next up is one of the label bosses with a tough edged workout. There is a proper warmth and restraint in the use of echo and distortion on the lower synth notes, and just the right hint of menace, you feel it could explode into a wall of sound any second, but it is kept contained and drives the track onward, almost breaking free only occasionally. A short way in and a new melody tickles the ear, the same five notes endlessly falling over and over, growing in intensity, ripening into a fuller sound, and leading in a second set of cascading tones. An absolutely maddening sample (what is that?) is a touch of genius, adding funk and a human element, and accompanying the higher melodies through the breakdowns. A wonderful tune with loads going on.
John Mitchell – Contaminated Circuitry
Rounding out the release we have this atmospheric and pacey cut from John Mitchell (Clutch Trax, Vision Division). A power plant bassline and drum combo underpin bright, repeating top notes. Two notes sound ceaselessly in the background, with the air of warning like a muted foghorn. The first breakdown introduces a delightful string line, and the bright notes go nova, delayed and echoed to great effect, suddenly sending information overload – it’s easy to see where the name “Contaminated Circuitry” fits in! In common with the other tracks on the EP there is plenty of variation of emphasis with the various elements waxing and waning in the foreground, peppered with precise claps and emphatic hats, and collapsing down to just two parts for the outro – stylish.
The Forte label was started in August 2012 by Ross Alexander and Steven McDonagh, and its stated aim is simple – “to bring you the finest in cutting edge, fresh techno music that is rooted in the future with a keen eye on the traditions of this vibrant, forward thinking musical form.” This is more than achieved on Forte 002, which oozes quality and craftsmanship in the individual tracks and the selections included on the EP. We got together with the boys for a brief chat about the label and the new EP:
It’s great to hear a new release from Forte. Tell us what’s being going on since the first EP.
Steven: Our aim has always been quality over quantity and this shows in our releases we like to think. Since the first EP we have only released 3 digital EP’s as we prefer to keep to a minimum output that we like and think others will too. We’re happy with what we’re doing and have accepted some really nice demo’s for digital releases lined up for this year, and we may just be looking at FRT003 too. We like to leave plenty of time between releases to advertise etc as we don’t find it fair on the artist if we don’t put in the time to do so.
Ross: Since the first EP we have been continuing to try and push forward with the label, considering demos, contacting people etc and trying to push the music out there as much as possible. Business as usual really! Each of these first releases is a blend really, of people we respect musically that have been with us for a while and new people whose music we enjoy.
How are you finding things in the vinyl producing game – it’s an increasingly crowded field!
Steven: The first thing I would say is that it’s not all plain sailing as far as getting the vinyl out there as it’s a big learning curve and we’re learning new things in that respect all the time but that’s another story. I personally don’t look at it as a crowded field as people will buy what they like and I’m confident people will like and buy our releases. With the upsurge of people buying vinyl and the reintroduction of companies making turntables it’s a good time for vinyl as a medium and that sits well with me.
Ross: The response to the first release was really good and drew a lot of support and brought new people to find us. The field itself is tricky as the only real boundary to entry for people is cash, and I’m sure for a lot of people it’s a prestige or a “wonder if I can make money” thing (both are not really correct!). We just hope to continue to bring new and established artists together to create usable products that reflect our various tastes in techno. At the stage we are at, we hope that our network will support us to help balance the books so that the label can grow naturally as things should!
What were your thoughts on attending the cut at the Exchange? What stood out for you?
Steven: I couldn’t make it this time unfortunately but from what I saw from short vids and heard from Ross its definitely something on my to do list.
Ross: This time I attended the cut with Simon Davey at The Exchange Vinyl. I gained loads from that day as there’s so much knowledge and experience he has and some serious wax has come off his lathe over the years, and still does! Highly recommended as it really gives you a greater understanding of the medium and it’s peculiarities. Would recommend it to anybody to do this themselves as he test cuts as you go along and tweaks the cut to maximise the available loudness over the time available. This for me is definitely a worthwhile step to take!
This is a very varied release like your first. What attracted you to these particular tracks?
Steven: We thought a various artists EP would be a good idea for FRT001 as with 4 different producers and 4 totally different sounds there would be something for everyone which turned out to be the case so we will carry on with the same format for the timebeing as it works for us. As for track selection we handpicked the artists as we have respect for them and feel they are keeping underground techno alive in their own way and this shows in their productions. Paul Mac and Binny need no introduction to those who know and we’re delighted to have them on board with this release. We believe John Mitchell is one to watch for the future and hopefully this release will get him the credit he deserves. Ross for me is a very underrated producer who in my opinion should be out there playing live every other weekend as his production is superb as you can tell with his track Evening Talk.
Ross: I think with the first few releases the intention has been to set out our stall in terms of the sorts of sounds we like as well as make each track usable for DJs. Each time so far it’s been a mixture of artists we have worked with on various projects before, as well as people that we respect for what they are up to as well. Hopefully this approach will give something on each release for most people interested in underground techno. As things move forward we can then start introducing other ways of working with the releases and continuing to work with artists we enjoy!
Connoisseurs of techno, you need this!