Jay Bliss, S.A.M., Vlad Radu - Stomping Grounds 002

Label: Stomping Grounds - SG002
Format: Vinyl, 12"
Country: Romania
Released :16 Oct 2014
Style: Techno, Minimal Techno

Jay Bliss, S.A.M., Vlad Radu - Stomping Grounds 002

Stomping Grounds is a newborn label, guided and conceived by Hermannstadt native Jay Bliss. The labels first release came out in December 2013 with a three track VA signed by label owner Bliss, OCH and Egal 3. It seems that the labels focus is a mixture between a platform for Jay Bliss to release his own music and a concern for quality rather than focusing on big name producers and DJs that are usually featured on newly incepted labels in order to insure sales. So far the pattern seems to be set in stone: the second release is also a VA, featuring 2 Romanians (Jay Bliss and Vlad Radu) and one foreigner (Samuel Andre Madsen aka S.A.M.)

The EP starts off with Jay Bliss's "Zambet de Soare", which translates to "Sun Smile" from Romanian. In contrast with his earlier release on his own imprint, it's a lot deeper and warmer than "Voynich Manuscript". Even though the official release text describes the track as being "techno" it's hardly techno - minimalistic deep house would be the best way to describe it. It features a soft curvy synth pad that is the main theme of the track, layered underneath the drum elements which are typical of any house track - straight to the point 4/4 kick pattern, subbass, claps and hi-hats. It's anything but complex, but it's sweet and almost innocent, as the name suggests. The main pad we talked about earlier that would stand well enough on its own is coupled with an almost dub-techno worthy melody later on in order to further ease the track into deeper territory. The result isn't quite mesmerizing, but it gets to where it's going, the only problem with it is the lack of narrative.

The second part of the A side is occupied by S.A.M. with "Er Du Gal". It's vaguely reminiscent of early Detroit minimal techno tracks from the likes of Daniel Bell and Robert Hood. The bleeps give it a very distinctive feeling of that Detroit mindset, also the underlying pad holds it well in place, almost to a hypnotic effect. Drum programming is effective and dominant, the mixing is extremely well done and gives way to each every sound to be fully heard. The shift of hi-hats towards a 909 mid-track might seem a bit over the top for this particular type of track but it does provide respite and a transition period. The most atypical element in the mix and the most obvious, along with the assorted bleeps, is a mid-range growl that will surely cause quite a bit of damage to the dance floors of places like Arma 17. Everything is very well put together, even the spoken male vocal uttering "Underground" and snare rolls that keep pushing the track forward.

The final piece and arguably the most impressive of the bunch is Vlad Radu's "Dedinainte" (Romanian translation "From Before").
Vlad Radu has been relatively unknown outside the borders of Romania until recently, when he has featured on Rhadoo's Fabric 72 with the track "A2". He's one half of the VRAC duo, alongside fellow Romanian Andrei Ciubuc and together they released their first EP on Subtil Records earlier this year, entitled "Pertu".

Indeed, "Dedinainte" is the most accomplished piece of this three tracker. It starts off slowly, with nothing but a typical break beat type kick pattern, short bass notes, extremely shy hats and a barely noticeable clap. It's subtle and evolves progressively through a pad and warm piano notes, along with alternations in the clap sounds. Just before the 3rd minute mark the main drums blast their way into place - layered snares, open hats and a much deeper kick drum come seemingly out of nowhere. Even though the drum pattern stays pretty much the same throughout the track, it really doesn't need to change - it's more than enough to keep you dancing on every given Sunday morning. The true quality of the track stands in its melody: the pads and the piano to be more precise - it's haunting and extremely emotional, even if there are only but a few notes being played in the whole interval. Every element keeps you locked in while the tracks main theme works its magic. It might not be as crisp as S.A.M.s track, but it is, without a doubt, the centerpiece of this EP.