Alex Smoke – RS 1403

SmokeIt appears that when R&S set their sights on an artist, they intend to hang on to that artist for dear life. I’ve heard rumours that Tessela is signed to an exclusive deal that prevents the producer from releasing anything on any other label. Lone, whose next album will wear the R&S badge has done so on numerous occasions in the past. It appears that this current instalment of the Belgian-come-UK label is building a core group of artists around its bass (pun intended). A key member at the heart of this group is none other than Alex Smoke aka Alex Menzies and he is back with another EP, following on from where the previous instalment, Dust left off.

It’s a monster of a Techno EP and maintains a sound that has become unique to the Scottish producer in recent years. It features break beat foundations covered in swaths of reverb-laden synths and pads which all gives it an industrial, yet warm aesthetic. Green Man is the only track where Alex’s vocals cut through, and like Dust, could easily be mistaken for his Wraetlic alias were it not for the aggressive approach around the rhythmic elements. Sequential bass patterns modulate along the track’s time line as percussive metallic elements provide some of the rhythm.

Filter modulating synths squawk away intermittently on LSD, as the name would suggest, but hints of acid-infused textures are dotted throughout the EP, even on the heavy hitting Tommy Knockers, where big kicks are dominant and conjure images of big industrial spaces and stark concrete environments, in the way only Techno can. It doesn’t however fall into that minimalist static trap that so much of the genre propagates at the moment. The tracks feature much more than just a functional beat and the end results are as interesting as they are entertaining. Oni is the odd one out on the EP, as things get stripped back with little more than a beat and astutely placed sample making up most of the track. Its intention squarely placed on the dance floor.

Then again, any of these tracks could work during the peak of a DJ set. R&S continue to pick them cleverly and the current group of artist that they have around them keep producing excellent tracks. I look forward to Lone’s next album and I’m sure we’ll hear much more from Alex Smoke through the label, but I’m also quite content just letting one sink for some time as I put on again.