A video recently surfaced in which producer, Manni Dee manipulates the sound of a clap into dense layers of frequencies feeding back onto each other, rumbling towards a deep incisive drone. The video sees the whole room shaking as the UK producer modulates the volume envelope to create an approximate minute of development around the single sonic event. What is significant in the video is that it emphasises a universal approach to Techno of late, and approach where experimentation is again at its core and the sound of the genre is the sound of the future. It’s an element that was lost somewhere during its minimal days as the sounds became somewhat predictable and forms were premeditated. It’s only recently that a newer generation has brought it back to life again through labels like Leisure System, R&S (in its latest form) and Lux Records, with artists like Objekt and Lakker. They’ve lifted the stale sheet from Techno’s most comfortable chair and shook out the cobwebs, redefining it as the music that symbolises the sound of a time to come.
Barney Khan makes up part of this burgeoning movement, forging a path ahead into the future, using his label Bis Bald as an exclusive vehicle for Techno that pushes at the boundaries of the genre. Barney Khan’s latest 12”, Wrath is the most recent chapter in his working biography, and continues on the approach set out by the emerging artist by his two previous releases. Aspects of drone consume the lower register of the work, while dense layers of immersive sound design create striking atmospheres of disconcerting beauty when the listener chooses to follow them deeper. Sound design is the key phrase here with many of Techno’s newest purveyors turning their focus solely to this device with fantastical effects on harmony and melody following in its trail. Khan’s harsh metallic synthesisers cut through the muggy atmosphere of contrapuntal melodies and filtered percussion on Wrath before a beat can truly establish itself in amongst the high frequency noise and menacing sub frequencies.
Much of the sound design happens within the moment and for some aspects like the development of the tracks, Khan does inhibit the music with unnecessary impulses at times. But for the most part the experimenting nature of the music keeps the listener tuned in and accounted for. The use of the Shepard tone is effective on Dawn in symbolising the feeling of a rising emotive state from the dance floor, something that Barney wished to imbue in the music. It often overwhelms the listener through the more intense phrases where the illusionary rising pitch of the grinding synthesiser delivers the call to the response from the big beats that follow, but its quite effective in piquing our interest through the introduction and the more eloquent phrases of the music.
Barney Khan visits some uncharted territory in this two track EP, territory where the likes of Objekt, Lakker, Leisure System and Lux are forging a path, way ahead of their peers. At times it does lack some of the refinement of his contemporaries, but there’s no doubt that Khan’s music is infecting Techno once again with a healthy dose of experimentation it needs to survive. In a recent article that surfaced on social media, written by James Stinton of Drexciya, the producer claimed that Techno is not the sound of the future that it used to represent. Barney Khan’s latest offering begs to differ, and would suggest that James is perhaps not looking in the right places.