The Dekmantel name, which today carries it with it the kind of distinction and respect of an elder statesman of club music, outnumbers their years by some degree when it comes to their achievements. What started out in the latter part of the last decade in the minds of Casper Tielrooij and Thomas Martojo as a series of events for the newly revitalised sound of Detroit House, soon became a festival, a label and a travelling sound system. Owing some of their incredible success to Amsterdam and the environment that encourages new artists, DJs and promoters working in electronic music constantly, Dekmantel’s rise to this level is largely attributed to their unique ability to find exactly those things the heads are currently drawn to. Whether through their festival line-ups, Capser and Thomas’ DJ sets, or the label, they work with a finger on the pulse of electronic music’s more progressive factions, bringing that sound to Amsterdam and exporting it to the wider world. Never quite negating the dance floor completely, they opt out of the wholesale Avant Garde, preferring to spread their net wide and often bringing the borders of electronic music closer together, especially through the label that’s featured everything from the buoyant House of Juju & Jordash to the stripped back vaporous Techno of FLOORPLAN. Dekmantel’s varied and inclusive scope caters to an extensive audience, from Techno to House, who share in Dekmantel’s belief and admiration of the more obscure corners of the dance floor. Their UFO stage at the annual festival has long been the most extreme interpretation of this ideology and when they established the label of the same name last year it marked a new era for the Dutch collective and music enthusiasts.
Four releases in and the Dekmantel UFO series has given us releases by some of the leading lights of Techno from ita more diversified corners. Randomer, Peter Van Hoesen, Voiski and Graze have featured on four releases to date. As a unit these four artists appear some distance apart, but together, under the UFO banner, they symbolise a sound in Techno, that harks back to the rhythmically enchanting origins of Detroit; explores synthesised sounds of Trance music’s less tawdry days; and abandons the sole focus on percussive rhythmical patterns in favour of a more inclusive attitude. These are not DJ tools, but rather fully-fledged compositions that can be enjoyed independently or in the context of a set. Each track through the UFO series, from Van Hoesen’s hard-hitting dance floor cut, P2ME to the bass-stifling atmospheres of Graze’s ambient track Vast, caters to an audience that need more than just the diaphragm-shuddering four-four kick. Melodies and harmonies extensively reach into translucent feelings for something more than just the obvious. More than that the UFO series compromises where other labels flounder under the weight of their own gravity. In the spirit of the Dekmantel universe, the UFO series also finds that even ground between the heads and the pleasure seekers, winning perhaps a few more over to the former than those other labels could ever hope to do.
Like R&S in the nineties, the UFO series is certainly not the most futuristic embodiment of Techno today, but it is incredibly virile. Tempos that exceed the 130 mark and sonic structures where more is unarguably more, constitute what seems to be the approach for this imprint, with each artist and electronic music luminary bringing their identifiable voice to each release within the broadened context of that UFO design. Voiski brings a post-Trance melodic fervour to the fore with synthesised landscapes that swell outside of the paradigm of any known genre while booming kicks pound out a military march from Techno’s more aggressive dimensions. Randomer applies a grime sonic aesthetic in the realm of 4/4 figure kicks, while hand percussion join in counterpoint filling out the stark origins of the music into bold visceral statements. Graze leave the realm of the post-dubstep, minimalist Techno of their previous albums behind and join in the chorus of new- and old purveyors of Techno, infecting the genre with big melodies and synth orchestrations that extends into the metaphysical and spiritual. Peter Van Hoesen’s Belgium roots sit above the surface in music that permeates with the temperament of a flaneur, progressive and route-less, a miasma of floating textures existing only in the moment, with a dogged kick drum impeding the sonic structures from getting to high into the heavens and slipping into ostentation. Van Hoesen also stands as the catalyst for the series and appears to have set the tone for all those who followed, beating the drum for Techno moving out of the minimalist void, through sonic elements taken from Trance.
I’ll reiterate; this is not Techno of the future, but rather of the here and now, the counterpoint to the Tech House, Minimal and Drone interpretations of the genre, offering much more than the functional without falling into revisionist culture. The UFO series through these four releases have established something as a fulcrum point to everything that has become stale, uninspiring or uninteresting, establishing a new frontier for Techno.