It’s always a pleasure to review the output of the well respected Forte Techno label, and especially so in this case as this is the imprints first vinyl release. “Basement Genetics” pulls together some heavy hitters from the UK and European underground for a four tracker. We caught up briefly with label bosses Ross Alexander and Steven McDonagh to find out more:
It’s great to see a label reaching the point of being confident to make a vinyl release. How did you know the time was right for Forte?
Steven: A vinyl release was something we had on our radar probably since we started out but hadn’t acted on for some reason. We felt the time was right when we had gained a good enough following and were more established.
Ross: The more that time went on with my involvement with making music, the more I realised that there’s still a real love and respect for vinyl as a medium. We thought it was time to get involved and try and put some things out there that we could be proud of in years to come.
What are your tips for others that might be considering a vinyl release?
Steven: Do your homework on pressing plants/distribution etc. Don’t be afraid to ask questions no matter how trivial you think they are, the small details are very important. Ask somebody who already released on vinyl if you know any.
Ross: From the experiences we have had so far it’s important to realise there are many ways to go about it so be cautious about how you do things. We investigated a number of avenues and heard a large range of experiences not all of which were positive. We think we have found the right balance now between a more grass roots way of working along with an independent distributor that can give us the extra push to get the music out there.
How did you select the artists for the release?
Steven: We were both in Leeds along with David Meiser at Dubtek last summer and got chatting about the label. As fans of his music it was brought up if he would be interested in releasing on the label, and he agreed. Both Jake and Kereni have released with us before and we knew their quality.
Ross: David has been sending me tracks now for a number of years which I thought were really good quality and he’s been playing my tracks as well, so I was very keen to get him on the label. Rich Kereni I’d known for a number of years through various releases and it’s been good to see his sound progress and mature; he’s now getting a lot more attention and deservedly so. I came across Jake’s music through social media and we met through mutual friends. The scope and range of his work is outstanding, I believe he’s one to watch for very good things in the future! Overall it’s been nice to bring some artists we like together and hopefully we can continue to do so in the future.
Having had this experience, what do you think the vinyl formats place is in the digitised world? What do you think the future holds for it?
Steven: I think as long as there is vinyl there will be purists which isn’t a bad thing as far as we’re concerned. We won’t be drawn into a vinyl/digital debate as we both own decks and midi equipment but with vinyl sales at an 18 year high the future looks good for the medium.
Ross: Vinyl will stay strong and it’s the medium we grew up with. It seems a lot of the younger heads have embraced it as well which is very positive for the future. Not all good music is on vinyl but I’d say the majority of stuff is. I think that aspect of digging for music and sharing music is very important. Searching for music, word of mouth etc are in my opinion what makes this kind of music special, not bulk downloads and masses of free music.
How do we get hold of our copy, and more importantly, who’s on Forte 002?
Our first release will be out 22nd June all being well, physical and online outlets will be confirmed soon. You can also get it direct from our Bandcamp page https://fortetechno.bandcamp.com.
Forte 002 will be confirmed soon that’s all we can say at the moment!
Now on to the music.
David Meiser’s “Descending into the Abyss” opens with such ferocity and pace that you’d be forgiven for questioning the descending noun, already finding yourself deep in the abyss. This is a clever track that takes a raw and powerful groove at maximum affect and subjects it to a number of transformations over 7 minutes, retaining the structure and notes of the melody. Said melody goes through reverb, echo, filtration, gating, swing, ADSR, you name it and is at its heart a marauding, untameable beast of a tune, built on trademark solid kicks and an impressive array of percussion. Devastating.
Label boss Ross Alexander’s contribution “Impervious to Hype” is home to some of the heaviest kickdrums I’ve heard in a while. Built around a flat, powerful hit, with a serious dose of growling echo/static on top, these provide the perfect base for the experiments in melody that are the tracks main feature. Clipped synths, building echoes, rattling percussion and drawn out sawing notes are all expertly woven together into a track that gives more and more on each listen. Special note to the hihats too, shakers and double notes adding funk and tension in just the right amounts. Close out with those huge kicks – peak time business.
Next up Jake Conlon provides a trippy and powerful exercise in broken beat techno with “So Long Farewell”. The reverb on the lead synth notes is just beautiful and makes for an immersive and uneasy atmosphere, especially as more bottom end is added to them through the the track. Moments of light sneak in via a funked out hihat, filtered out drums and a muted bell note before the tension builds again. At the breakdowns everything slides and echoes out almost dreamily, allowing the strong kicks centre stage before the track builds again. One to get on repeat.
The last piece of the puzzle is served up by Kereni. “Kepler 186” wades in with a schizophrenic acid-tinged synth line that stays front and centre for the whole track. What’s interesting is that the variation is in the kick drums and percussion here, with the top line remaining the constant – we get straight 4/4, broken and doubled beats and fills, and both measured and frantic hihats as the track progresses. Further, drawn out synth notes and stabs cycle over the original line and then slowly fade off, kicks and percussion seeing us out.
Overall, Forte 001 is a varied and rich package and shows a label growing in confidence and strength. The EP is limited to 200 copies only so grab it while you can, and look out for a bright future for this label.
Interview by Stringer