Whilst many techno labels profess themselves as champions of diversity, Luca Mortellaro’s AKA Lucy’s ‘Stroboscopic Artefacts’ are one of the few techno-centric imprints that can genuinely consider themselves so. Comprised of a close knit community of Berlin based artists, SA have been putting out intricately crafted productions since late 2009. The four part Stellate series acts as a vessel for SA artists to indulge in their most far flung, experimental musings, each artist given a loose concept to interpret- resulting in two tracks per artist. The third in the series consists of contributions from Raster-Noton artist Kangding Ray, Max Loderbauer and Tobias Freund working as NSI, Xhin, and Reformed Faction. Mortellaro once enthused about the interplay between aesthetics and sound design, and this is none more apparent than on this record; released on clear 10” vinyl accompanied with limited artwork by Mortellaro’s brother, Ignazio. Like the music the art is minimal and abstract; composed of geometric lines against a stark metallic background, which is analogous to the music.
The two musical reference points for the record are predominantly drone and ambient, which can often feel clichéd when applied to Techno, as a natural turning point away from dancefloor centric productions. However SA have managed to present these tracks with the vigour and conviction required to carry them off successfully. This is helped by the fact that several of the contributing artists such as Kangding Ray and Reformed Faction have a strong background in these areas, helping to make the contributions feel organic and legitimate. Xhin has proclaimed the strong influence Aphex Twin has had on his productions before, although this influence is especially prominent through his two contributions to the penultimate Stellate 3. Indeed glitching beats and warped piano samples isn’t the modus operandi for the Singaporean, the tracks having more in common with Warp luminaries Autechre than Xhin’s brand of incendiary broken techno. As it Unfolds paints the listener a bleak portrait of rainwashed streets and the unease of the city at night, resonating much deeper than the usual 4/4 fare. Stellate 3 Occupies a hinterland halfway between the sculpted fizz of Raster Noton and the melancholic electroacoustic experimentation of Bedroom Community poster boy Ben Frost, inviting the listener to explore a world of musical glottal stops, shimmering strings, grating FX, humid pads and highly intricate sound design.
Taking a holistic approach to sound design, the eight tracks presented here move beyond the template of ambient or drone encompassing elements of glitch as well as more regular dance floor fare. Tellingly the sound doesn’t allow itself to be tied down by sheer abstraction, the tracks flowing into one another, feeding into an overarching broken narrative. This doesn’t fit easy categorisation and is much more than your typical ‘ambient record on a techno label’.
Far removed from the confines of the club, this is paranoid, stimulating and above all fascinating music for the early hours.