The Untold Stories - Chapter I

Label: The Untold Stories - UNTLDSTORIES002
Format: Vinyl, 12", LP
Country: UK
Released: 15 Jan 2015
Style: Minimal, Dub, Deep House

The underground electronic music scene has been bolstered these the past few years by new arrivals, partly due to the recent increase in vinyl sales and a growing number of producers, promoters, label managers and also thanks to distribution companies that have taken an active interest in the creation and the overseeing of new vinyl labels. That being the case, the market has experienced a boom, with small labels appearing virtually every month now that fill the demand for a platform that benefit both lesser known electronic musicians and the scene as a whole.

One such label is The Untold Stories which represents a concept series and a duality of sorts. The duality comes in the form of two different series: the Select Artist Series, which we are going to review today, and the Protagonist Series.

The duality comes into play again as the Select Artist Series, now at its second release, features 8 different producers. A constant feature throughout the series is the fact that one disc is a yellow transparent cut, which is a representation of the sun and the second disc , classic black vinyl, of the moon.

So, from what we know, the label does have a certain identity off the bat, it is not merely a platform, but an idea behind it, which is all fine and well, but what matters most is the music. In that regard, we're treated to a rather merry gathering and the VA, in it's entirety, has a sense of cohesiveness and it truly is a story of sorts, even though at times it seems to sidetrack.

The A side starts off with a rather unknown individual outside netlabel territory.
Furz, a young Argentinian, begins the series with "420 Error", a rhythmic micro house tune that would do nicely for just about any warm up act, except if you're playing before Octave One.
It starts off slowly, building itself from the ground up - bassline, roomy hi hats, atmospheric white noise and subby kickdrums all come in slowly, progressing towards a sort of latin zombie dance. The minimalism gives it ritual feeling and the well balanced groove between the high end and the bass helps a lot in that sense. At around the fourth minute, a woody one-two percussion is looped till the very end of the track and leaves it at that, fading everything but the percussion.

Now here's where it starts getting interesting.
The A2, entitled "Holy Moment" is signed by another obscure artist by the name of Sergey Suokas of Russia. If the "420 Error" ended on a note, "Holy Moment" seemingly picks up right after, though in a much clearer and forward speaking manner - ethnic oriental strings, horns, a thick bassline and as housey of a kickdrum as you could wish for build up for more than a minute and keep on at it, layering hi hats upon hi hats, cymbals and a speech about layers and being in and out of the "Holy Moment".
At precisely the third minute mark, things get even better - the jazzy, Arabic horns that sustain the track and give its direction are a delight as they progress and loop about in a very pleasant manner, never becoming boring or overbearing and, by the 5th minute, it's an all out jazz fest of epic proportions. Everything is well balanced out and keeps you pumping away till the very end, when the track ends with a camera roll, literally.

The B1 side will be a more familiar experience for most, at least where names are concerned. "Strobe", signed by Andrey Zots brings thing down a bit with a rough, subby dub track in the purest sense. Background noise of what sounds like gremlins on their night out shifts from left to right and delayed stabs play the part of one the themes.
It kind of reminded me of the old C-Rock and Dubstar bits, though it is undoubtedly Andrey Zots you're listening to - dark chords soon come into play, modulating alongside two small note strings and by the 4th minute passage, the chords layer and harmonize into a dramatic sequence before smoothing out, propelling the track further into dub territory. Zots truly did a number with this one and it shows off his excellent sound crafting and mixing abilities.

Ivan Lopez's "L'Harmonie Sociale" follows up on B2 as an ode to natural surroundings. The title might be ironic, since society would be the last thing that comes to mind while listening, even though the vocal that comes in the form of short interjections that accompany the track plays a big part in the rhythmical picture.
Wandering kicks pitch upward and downward, strutting about, sitting side by side with a big boomy tom drum. The rhythm is interesting and it gets the blood pumping even though, as far as percussion goes there's really not much to say - conventional claps, hats and other drums are scratched in order to create room for chirping birds, alien like LFOs, plucked guitars, strings and a continuous pad that filters upwards as the track progresses, resonating at various frequencies. Even though the accent was clearly placed on the harmony and progression of a small number of elements the track is rather naive and maybe a bit self indulgent, but it's a pleasant treat to the ears nonetheless. It's well enough mixed that it could easily be layered in a DJ set and be used as an atmospheric tool.

The C Side starts off with Canadian producer Pheek's "Interne". The Archipel chief honcho delivers what seems to be a two-step nerve grinder which is, by far, the most atypical track of the bunch, and the weirdest at that - the robotic rhythm around which the track is centered is relentless and almost goofy. That being said, it's as serious and tense as they come, it's twisted and turned through the use of eerie chords, a looped background rhythmical melody, haunting growls and woobly high pitched sounds backed up by white noise.
To be honest, I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one and seeing as it's Pheek we're talking about, the idea might just be a bit too out there for me to comprehend.

C2 brings us Schaa's "Exil". Even though it continues down the dark path that Pheek left us on, it's much more organic than the before mentioned and significantly easier on the ears.
Whispers and muffed out screams in the background skip around a very catchy groove which is rounded off by a reverbed micro clap as the track evolves slowly but surely into a elongated story that doesn't really have a main theme but wanders here and there, playfully making use of its low end groove that is backed up by modulated low pitched vocals, delayed higher bass notes and alternations in the main bass groove. As the track progresses, weird oscillator sounds and sinewaves make out what seems like a sort of ghostly pad that continues for a good while, backed up by offbeat square wave bass notes. You barely even notice when the clap switches to a higher end version but you surely notice when the groove comes back in and, suddenly, you find yourself dancing again in the company of a layered 808 clap sample that unfortunately only sees the light of day at the very end of the track. It's intelligently crafted and explores different sound techniques and various themes, causing the listener to lose track of time as it comes to a staggering end.

The final parts of "Chapter 1", the D side, begins with Suburbs "Regarde Le Ciel", a lengthy, roomy environmental piece . It's rather similar in a sense to the C2 side, picking up where Schaa left us with intricate details and organic sounding percussion, but it strays from the path with classic horns and a solid base rhythm that is more on the breaky side. Bells, toms and tension filling synths make this track into a somewhat difficult to describe piece. It's apparent randomness is actually a well constructed arrangement that follows a longer rhythmical pattern, at times even breaking the rhythm with the use of additional horns and bells.
The only problem with it is its length - it could have been a bit shorter, since the number of elements doesn't really make up for almost 11 minutes worth of playtime and, as danceable as the main groove is, the pace or rhythm of it don't really change at all. It just seemed that there should have been more to it in order to justify it being the longest track on the release.

D2 - Mikael Stavostrand's "Never Stop", featuring Janet Davis, better known as K.atou, is the the final track on this lengthy and diverse compilation - it features string chords that sooth the soul, backing percussion and basic a 4/4 house rhythm that builds into a deep house anthem, graced by K.atou's voice which is apparently speaking to an imaginary lover, making the listener fall for this track hopelessly. At around the halfpoint mark the main bassline slowly comes into place and a sort of distorted acid theme accompanies it as we're repeatedly told that "we never stop". It seems fitting that the best is saved for last, as is the case with "Never Stop". It is, arguably, the most inspiring piece and leaves you with a sweet aftertaste with its catchy bassline and and effective use of vocals.

As you approach the end of the 8 tracker, it becomes rather evident that an idea is truly at play here, not a mere selection of tracks strung together. If in the opening acts of the release we've been treated to everything from dub, minimal, microhouse and straight up Arabic jazz house, we are now left with a soulful piece that takes us back in time and grips the listener emotionally.
I don't know if a release such as this should be measured by the sum of its parts and the idea behind it, or by taking each individual track and dismantling it from the plot altogether. One thing is certain, it is a worthwhile journey to embark upon and shows immense promise for future releases as pleasant surprises surely await.