Merck Records’ techno spin-off Narita made a brilliant discovery with artist Arctic Hospital (née Eric Bray). Many of the tracks here have already been released on 12-inch vinyl. This is minimal Berlin-style techno, with slow sweeps over hard beats. The tracks are more club- than living room-friendly, with an emphasis on repetition over experimention. Nonetheless, it’s a solid album.
Citystream opens strong with “Cold Wrapper.” It’s a crisp yet complex composition. The beats get heavier (like a lead weight!) mid-way through. This one would mix well with Monolake’s recent single “Alaska.” “Frost Castings” is simpler, alternating between a couple of chords while percussion rattles and creaks. It breaks apart at the end. “Our Metropolis” is almost headache-inducing in its relentless syncopation. Some squelchy pads help to break it up a bit.
“Rain Six” is another hard, driving track with blips and pulses which morph in and out. It’s difficult to focus on all of the subtle changes. (None of the sounds remind me of rain.) I like “Siren on My Shoulder” much better. It has deep, reverbed sounds reminiscent of Chain Reaction, making it a perfect late-night track. The beats actually get softer as the track progresses. “Oel” is another highlight. Precise digital bass notes and treble highlights interact in counterpoint. “Gift Horse” is the second-best track after “Cold Wrapper,” with distorted, cut-up voices in the background and melodic Detroit-style synths. “Rotating Water” offers a reprieve with slow, uneasy ambience. Finally, the remix of Yard’s “Mitten” is dark and lovely with distortion and hints of acid.
Arctic Hospital makes really tasty techno. While many of his tracks have similar sounds (and have a tendency to peter out at the end), they’re great for mixing, dancing, and driving. The production is top notch. This isn’t dumb dance music—there’s a lot of passion and depth.