Label: Mental Disorder
Release Date: 25/02/13
Now with over a decade of releases to his name, Spanish producer Juan Rico (here producing under his Reeko nom de plume) and his Mental Disorder label have become well-established names within the international techno community. The respected profile of Mental Disorder is a testament to Rico’s talent as a producer, as it and its sub-labels have almost entirely been outlets for his own productions. Under his various alias Rico has also put out tracks on multifarious techno labels, including fellow Spaniard and occasional collaborator Oscar Mulero’s excellent Pole Recordings, Ben Sim’s Theory Recordings, and mainstay Planet Rhythm Records; which leads one to wonder what criteria (if any) Rico adheres to when deciding upon a vessel for his productions. The variation on Passage mean parts of it could be at home on each of the above imprints, and yet it feels entirely suited to Mental Disorder as each track bears Rico’s sonic stamp and thus marks a continuation of the distinctive sound he has cultivated on the label. Passage is a like a palimpsest, a re-configuration of territory Rico has trodden before, but with familiar elements laid down afresh. 17.1, for example, sounds like a reworking of last year’s ‘Segmento 2’. This is not to suggest that the Iberian musician is merely treading water; rather it displays a commitment to an idea and sound, and a desire to extract as much as possible from a certain assemblage of elements.
According to his press release, Rico has a ‘passion for the darkest and sickest part of the human mind’ – quite the revelation. Whether that passion manifests itself here I’m not quite sure. A techno release on a label called Mental Disorder is never going to be the most cheerful or optimistic music in the world, but the mood is spacious and frosty, rather than claustrophobic and sinister. The name ‘Passage’ doesn’t give away much in regards to the content and concept behind the release, and the tracks are given numbers rather than names, which, forgive the cliché, suggests that Rico is intent on letting the music do the talking.
The aforementioned 17.1, as well as marking a continuation of Rico’s own earlier ideas, also sounds similar to Function’s ‘Immolare’, with high pitched bleeps which in Function’s case sound entirely electronic but which on 17.1 sound more acoustic – almost like bell chimes. This similarity should not be surprising, as Function has previously done remix work for a release on Rico’s Evidence label. Moreover, as with most Sandwell District releases, these tracks are similarly atmospheric - sound design is not secondary to rhythm.
The sounds Reeko works with are often unusual. Whilst not wildly different from those conventionally deployed in techno, they are more natural sounding; like a more organic counterpart to the slick, metallic noises that are so familiar within the genre. On 17.3, the offbeat rustling could easily be irritating against the 4/4 backdrop; however again an icy atmosphere takes centre –stage, and so such brittle-textures feel appropriate. 17.4 is the highlight – at times it’s pure filth. A dirty, growling rumble underlies the entire track; re-contextualising the surrounding sounds and making them co-conspirators in this occasionally rough and grotty escapade. The Blawan-esque kick-drum is more prominent here than anywhere else on the release, although its effect, and the raw mood of the track more generally, is dampened by ambient synths which slowly rise in intensity. Even at its moodiest point, Passage exhibits Rico’s ability to combine ruggedness and beauty.