Released in October of 2016, the latest 12” to come out of Melbourne’s Finn Audio Record label is an insight into the sort of highly-crafted and versatile techno that can be unleashed when three undisputed pioneers of the Melbourne Techno scene are brought together. This three track vinyl release is aptly named: Planet Melbourne.
Making the first appearance on side A of the release is Steve Law, better known by the alias ‘Zen Paradox‘. Having maintained a steadfast dedication to electronic music production since the early 1980’s, Steve brazenly explored a vast number of sub-genres and music scenes as he built up a reputation for being one of Australia’s foremost electronic artists. After various creative explorations in both group and solo projects, he went on to begin the formation of his ‘Zen Paradox‘ project/alias in 1992. Over the remainder of the 1990’s he further established himself by unleashing new material on his eager Australian followers, as well as embarking on several successful overseas tours. Further adding to his success and recognition was when in the year 2000, the Australian live music awards named him as ‘Best live electronic act’.
Flipping to the opposite side of Planet Melbourne reveals the B side, containing tracks from Jani Ho and VoitEck tD5. Beginning with B1, we see a very metallic and spacey sounding techno track from VoitEck – a techno artist known both for his infamous ‘Truck Music’ label, as well as for his reputation as one of the best live techno acts that Australia has to offer. His raw skill and finesse from live techno performances clearly carries over to his studio productions as well. VoitEck’s track on this release, titled ‘Wobble Plate’, demonstrates a strong mastery over FX processing, sound design and tight mixdowns. His years of experience in performing energetic live techno sets that are heavily dependent on the movements, and reactions, of a busy dance floor enable VoitEck tD5 to preserve the grooves and shifting rhythms normally found only in the club, and then go on to inject them into his own techno compositions in the studio.
The third and final cut on this stunning 12” release is an uplifting, hypnotic, and driving techno track produced by Finn Audio‘s original founder, Jani Ho, and is entitled ‘Flight 101’. Jani is a global citizen of the techno world, having previously toured in Asia, Europe and the USA. He is particularly influenced and inspired by the genres of Detroit Techno and New York House, and this is clearly evident in both his productions and live sets – which are full of grooving funk and uplifting synth stabs and chords. Boasting a very impressive hardware setup he delivers unforgettable unique live performances where ever he plays. Jani Ho has supported numerous techno pioneers in past events, such as Juan Atkins, Detroit Techno Militia, Underground Resistance and Derrick May. His versatility, unique live shows, and strong understanding of the concepts underlying electronic dance music as a whole – all showcase why Jani is one of Melbourne’s most talented creators of modern electronica and techno to date.
The Planet Melbourne release has received quite a lot of support from some rather important names in both the local and international techno scenes, including the likes of: Simon Slieker, Mike Callander, Detroit Techno Militia, Sebastian Bayne, Matt Radovich, and DJ Skurge & DJ Dex of the legendary group, Underground Resistance. Whilst this is the first EP that these three highly respected producers have worked on together – you can be assured that it won’t be their last.
A1. Zen Paradox – Shadow Sculptor
A gentle ambience of ethereal atmospheric pads and filtered chord stabs serve as a stellar introduction for the upcoming euphoria and tranquility preparing to float in a direct path through the listener’s ears, down into the mind, and then striking them right in the core of their soul once the lengthy track unfolds gradually.
Strong emphasis is placed on the atmospheric and synthesized elements of the track, with percussion taking most of the back seat for the primary duration. Whilst the kicks, snares and high hats are clean and tightly controlled in both groove and forward drive – they end up serving much more of a structural support for the track, rather than being a pre-eminent focal point as one would typically find in more conventional driving and rhythm based techno.
Zen Paradox therefore opts to focus more on the heavy modulations and drifting fluctuations of the chord stabs, synth note plucks and background pads: which is what creates the overall serene and mellow vibe of the track, as well as its euphonious soundscapes. This combination of sonic elements act like a personal tour guide, collecting the mind and body from the beginning of the track’s voyage, ameliorating any thoughts, worries or distractions throughout the expansive musical odyssey, and finally softly returning them peacefully at the end destination.
The dub techno style delays that take hold of the lively chord stabs are washed under generous amounts of reverb effects, giving way to ghostly echoes and a celestial, day-dream like vibe. Perhaps all of this is what eventually led to the title of this wonderful track. The celestial expedition through electronica that Zen Paradox has conceived is one that traverses rich cosmic soundscapes, whilst simultaneously transforming the very environment around it: crafting both light and darkness in a disordered but deliberate fashion. Shifting and morphing the enveloping shroud of blackness lurking in the foreground, or to put it more simply: a Shadow Sculptor.
B1. VoitEck tD5 – Wobble Plate
Right from the beginning, Wobble Plate sets its own phonic premise of what to expect.
The listener is met immediately with spacious, raspy and metallic soundscape, which is the real characteristic sound of this track throughout. Deep, bouncy 808-style kick drums hold down the fort in the low-end frequency spectrum, and prove to act as great contrast against the track’s main focal elements – which are the crisp, tight and dry percussion elements, and the reverberated synthesizer stabs.
Upon first listening to Wobble Plate, those with a keen ear for sound, or who have prior production experience, can sense a clue towards the origin of track’s title: VoitEck tD5 has cleverly utilized various Plate reverbs to create a new sonic character within the track, one that results in the different elements in the track changing in their range of depth and space, as well as varying in amounts of delay and delay time.
By setting just the right amount of decay, pre-delay, and room size on the reverb(s), he manages to imbue a new sense of melodic “call and effect”, rather reminiscent of dub techno, and showcases his prowess as an especially skilled producer. The sort of producer who can start out with quite simplistic sounds, and then morph them into having a brand new identity and sense of being through merely adhering to tight, clean mixing and intelligent use of, and application of, various FX units.
The sharp, metallic sound of the hollowed out synth stabs repeat for the duration of the track, and, by using some tight EQing and filtering of frequencies, they hit the listener with a very striking resonance, as well as giving off a sort of sound characteristic of frequency or ring modulation. Different types of delay FX are also working to modulate the highly hypnotic synth stabs all throughout Wobble Plate, and they add quite nicely to an overall sonic journey of chaotic (but tightly controlled) rhythm and movement.
Whilst the initial basis and structure of this tune is inspired somewhat by minimal and Detroit styles of Techno: VoitEck tD5’s masterful usage of time-based effects, soundscape design via the use and implementation of reverbs, and the nice contrast between crisp percussive elements and spacious metallic synth elements, all combine together to result in a sonically interesting and infectiously groovy tune, guaranteed to sink its teeth into the ears of anyone who approaches it – and many repeated listens are sure to follow.
B2. Jani Ho – Flight 101
Flight 101 is a composition that relies heavily upon the use of opposing aural elements, resulting in a very harmonically balanced track. It could quite easily transport the listener up amongst the clouds and stars, despite their feet being solidly anchored down upon this terrestrial plane of ours.
Jani uses a symphony of synthesized chords, stabs and pads that seem to be enshrined by positivity and hope, drenching the mind and mood of anyone who listens to them with rays of warm sunshine. An almost angelic sense of ethereal ambience lifts the mood of his track, imbuing in it an upbeat and euphoric quality. This makes it not merely feel unique, but it makes it feel quite special to behold.
With our Flight now set to soar through clear blue skies, Jani decides that now is the perfect time to inject a bit of sonic turbulence into everything, and does this by introducing some melancholic and gloomy soundscapes within the confines of Flight 101.
The original upbeat, light and heavenly vibe is both matched and contrasted perfectly by anchoring it to a grooving hotbed of intoxicating cerebral melodies, melodies which are infectious enough in their own merit, but when paired alongside those original angelic harmonious chords and pads – the resulting raw hypnotism of the repetitive looping synths in combination with the track’s funky, crisp and shuffled percussive elements, form the total symbiosis of what Flight 101 really is at its very core.
Which is this: A magnum opus of seriously danceable, thought provoking, and emotive techno production. Jani Ho is the type of electronic artist that should be cherished in the local techno community: One who is immensely driven, extremely dedicated, musically diverse, and one that exudes a raw and unbridled passion for his artistic creations, solely motivated by the sheer love of creating and enjoying music in any form imaginable.
‘Planet Melbourne’ is a solid demonstration of just how much world-class talent we possess in our city. And the fact that we are fortunate enough to have such masterful techno producers as active members of our local music scene, speaks volumes as to how passionate and driven many electronic musicians are in the city of Melbourne.
Purchase Finn Audio’s Planet Melbourne 12″ vinyl release:
FINN1201 Planet Melbourne
Finn Audio Bandcamp page: