NOW ON BANDCAMP 50+ Exclusive Tracks on the Electronic Explorations Compilation

“So, here we are..  We wanted to do more of a mixtape rather than a straight techno DJ mix, let’s face it, there are enough of those around. So, really this is a collection of stuff that both inspires myself (Shifted) and Ventress as artists, and has helped us to form an aesthetic vision of what we envisage Avian & now Mira to be. We’ve also included some forthcoming to Avian & Mira stuff to hint at where we want to take the labels over the next year or so.”  Shifted

There’s not much really known about Avian, the London-based label run by Shifted and Ventress dedicated to pushing hard, sonically abusive techno from the shadows. Part of this has to do with the fact that both of the label heads refuse to reveal their identities; rumours are actively circling, but the few lucky enough to have met them in person have been polite enough not to tell the rest of the world.

They’re also certainly not the only anonymous producers to appear here – aside from MPIA3, now unveiled as a pseudonym of Truss, everyone on the label has remained nameless, and it’s a ruse they seem to be holding onto even as the cast has expanded considerably in the last few releases. It might actually be a joke conducted by a small number of participants exchanging various made-up identities, but so far only one release on the label by AD/S has been revealed as a collaboration between Shifted and another party; other unknown entities like Shadows and Shxcxchcxsh remain mysteries.

Whatever is actually going on behind the scenes, the music that has emerged from these darkened realms speaks for itself and occupies a steadily broadening area of caustically-minded techno designed to scorch dancefloors and go further than many would dare in erasing the barrier between hard-edged industrialism, noise, brutalist pummeling, and old school Detroit minimalism. It’s a fertile ground that British techno had looked to before, but whose early explorers were mostly limited to those like Regis and Surgeon who could somehow balance experimentation and dancefloor impact – no mean feat when dealing with the kind of knife-edged sound palette employed. Avian is music of the fringes designed to blur boundaries, but it’s caught the imagination of many who, finding techno’s more obvious sonic avenues exhausted, are looking freely towards its edges as a way to break the deadlock.

Importantly, the imprint is not simply rehashing the extremes of the previous era, but, by employing modern, computer-based sound design, they’re combining the esotericism of sources like Force. Inc, Mille Plateaux, and Raster-Noton with historically important sounds like industrial, modern drone music, sound art, and more obvious nods like Downwards and early Blueprint releases.

 

The sum total of all of this adds up to something that, for those who have ears open enough, has once again brought techno to the forefront of modern experimental music after considerable fallow time at the end of last decade. halcyon took a run through some of Avian’s most recent rippers to uncover what has placed these plates in such high esteem amongst techno listeners around the world:

MPIA3 – AVN004: Effectively opening a new chapter in the label’s history, Truss’ side project specializes in righteous, acid-inflected techno bangers apparently with modular synth sound sources. Truss is his more sophisticated side so don’t expect that here… Instead we get two faces of deranged, abrasive stomping that seem to have been recorded in one take on the fly. If you can take the ear-searing filters on A-side Wttp, it could almost be called deep; overloaded kicks and demented synthesizer layers build unbearably and propel flipside Casual Welding fearlessly over the top. The kind of caveman-like approach on display here must be burning preamps at a ferocious pace because this is definitely NOT digital distortion. As evidenced on his newest release for Our Circula Sound, if Truss is trying to separate his projects he’s done a damn fine job.  Get your clubs out…

MPIA3 – AVN005: Apparently the producer considered the previous effort a failure because this one beats it hands-down in almost every respect. It’s pretty difficult to make out the borders between the different sounds on A-side Ely because everything is so intentionally distorted, excepting the razor-sharp hats that enter later to shred the noise floor. Occasionally stuttered, overdriven kicks simply add to the uncomfortable intensity of the piercing acid that writhes its way through the middle. The whole thing hammers away for seven minutes with gleeful stupidity, and he intentionally pushes the acid line WAY into the red just for extra impact. B-side Squatter’s Dog plays similar games at a lower tempo and slowly mangles a liquid-sounding synthesizer sequence before bleeps and some piercing high-hats come in later. If there’s any doubt as to the producer’s abilities, listen to the clever treatments on the hats, but there’s still no stopping the visceral impact of this one. Ouch.

Shadows – Where There is Only Light (AVN006): Not that it would be too hard, but there’s significantly greater sophistication shown by mystery duo Shadows on the sixth offering. Booming, distorted bass and unrecognizably crunchy percussion makes its due entrance a minute into the title track, but it’s what is in the middle that makes it stand out… It barrels forwards in distinct sections, each adding additional destructive layers: sheets of metallic synth, bleeps buried under the distortion, and a twisted kick pattern, all combining into something like an Ancient Methods tune splattered and reconstructed through the messiest surgical procedures. Offset percussion is sutured onto the distorted, broken kicks, a filth-encrusted bass heave, and a synth nag on the comparatively simpler Distorted Images, while Mike Parker brings up the rear with a reduced remix of the same track that zeroes in on cleaned-up bleeps and purified pound. A standout for the label.

Shxcxchcxsh – Rjrjrffrjrj (AVN007): Ah, the practical jokester of the bunch. Fortunately his music is easier to listen to than his name is to pronounce, but not by much… A heaving, acidic banger leads things off, so dense in its overloaded midrange you couldn’t cut it with a buzzsaw, while squeaky percussion floats over the top. Surely he’s laughing at his decision to follow this with a gently buzzing dub tune, all texture and slow swells of delayed hiss. The B1 gets clever with enveloping static overlaying what sounds like a late-90s techno track that you can’t quite make out through the druggy haze. It all comes to an intense conclusion on B2 with the industrial closer that keeps the in-the-canyon whistling sound but applies a punishing, martial drum track to it. Based on this, his forthcoming Semantica release should live up to the hype; techno this good from Sweden is also a rare breath of fresh air from a country not known much for fresh music since the ’60s.

Bleaching Agent – Part One (MIRA001): First release on 10-inch wax of sublabel Mira just in case Avian wasn’t weird enough. Evidently from another longtime veteran, most likely from England, who has shorn his past to explore techno production. 4 short tracks, two lock grooves, each made in under an hour according to a recent interview. This is far calmer than anything on the main label, but it’s also entirely focused on sound design experiments as it unravels its numbing, narcotic thud over four downcast tracks. If you’re looking for musical progression, you won’t get it here; clever DJing of the lock grooves could do as much as the producer does, although there’s something fascinating about his approach to filtering and his bizarre soundscapes. The most propulsive, and also the weirdest, is closer 9ml, which reaches for double kicks in places while an alien spaceship hovers over it garbling the transmissions. Hmmm.

Bleaching Agent – Part Two (MIRA002): Snappy snares, swooshy noise, and some really wigged-out sound squiggles in the upper mids make 22ml a lot more extroverted than anything on the first edition, and the rest of the record continues in a similar path and makes an upbeat contrast to Part One (maybe he switched drugs?). Running somewhere over 130BPM, the quasi-dubby 95ml wouldn’t sound out of place on a Chain Reaction record if it were a little longer and if the synthesizer contorting in the midrage were at least a little more stable. Rigid percussion sequences in 89ml place it as more appropriate for moshing than dancing, while vocal samples (gasp!) make a nagging appearance in the oddly stationary but still suitably heavy 89ml. Short tracks like this might suggest ADD DJing; we suggest mixing this with the first one to see what happens. Written by Albert Freeman, thank you for your permission to use your words.

Tracklist

  1. ELECTRONIC EXPLORATIONS - 245 - Avian Record Label
  2. _________________________________________________
  3. 01 - Mike Shiftlet – 1917 – [Under The Spire]
  4. 02 - Lull – Eyes Through Walls – [Rawkus]
  5. 03 - Hair Police – Theif's Spring – [Type]
  6. 04 - Led Er Est – The Diver – [Sacred Bones]
  7. 05 - Bernard Parmegiani – En Phase, Hors Phase – [INA-GRM]
  8. 06 - Pan Sonic & Keiji Haino – Perhaps There Is No Need To Return – [Blast First Petite]
  9. 07 - Sutekh – Let There Be Night – [Creaked Records]
  10. 08 - SHXCXCHCXSH – LTTLWLF – [Avian] (Forthcoming)
  11. 09 - Aaaron Dilloway – After The Showers – [Hanson Records]
  12. 10 - Caroline K – Animallattice – [Earthly Delights]
  13. 11 - Kevin Drumm – Dimming The Gas Lights – [Hospital Productions]
  14. 12 - Covered In Sand – Burning Tyres – [Unreleased]
  15. 13 - A Vision Of Love – Symbols Of Faith – [Mira] (Forthcoming)
  16. 14 - The KVB – Old Life – [Cititrax]
  17. 15 - Motion Sickness Of Time Travel – Clairvoyance – [Digitalis]
  18. 16 - Digital – Far Out – [Metalheadz]
  19. 17 - In Aeternam Vale – Kitchen – [Nostalgie De La Boue]
  20. 18 - Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement – Abaxial Masks With Sockets Closed to Hide the Face When 01 The Destroyer Comes alive – [Hospital Productions]
  21. 19 - Covered In Sand – Kamajo – [Unreleased]
  22. 20 - Worn – Untitled – [Mira] (Forthcoming)
  23. 21 - Prurient – I Understand You – [Hydra Head]