Solid Blake is a member of the Copenhagen-based Apeiron Crew, who mixed the 169th Truancy Volume. Her solo debut record is also a first for new label Outer Zone, an offshoot from Glasgow’s La Cheetah Club party. A “long-time friend” of the club, Blake was a natural fit for the imprint’s inaugural release. La Cheetah is a small party that takes place in the basement of a pub in central Glasgow, and it’s known for its raucous affairs (this Truant caught Dr. Rubinstein at the club earlier this year, and it was a riot). It’s fitting, then, that Blake’s Mario EP is as energetic and powerful as her DJ sets might suggest. The eponymous opener is a deeper sequel to The Glowing, which came out on Brokntoys at the start of the year. A dark, two-note bass dances between rattling percussion, while shimmering synths add uneasy turbulence. “Lens” allows an unchanging glitch to trickle through amid mechanical whirrs and horror movie melodies. It’s underpinned by a broken drum line that ramps up the tension, not unlike the syncopated drums of “Yagharek”. Possibly titled after a character in China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station from a species with human bodies, birdlike heads, and huge wings, its squiggling sounds and searing lower register suggest an otherworldly unease. The release also comes with a remix of the title track by Detroit’s DJ Stingray, La Cheetah’s first guest in 2011. It’s fittingly dense and aquatic, riven with heavy sub-bass and frenetic percussion.
It comes out at the same time as Stingray’s contribution to Tresor’s Kern series, his first commercially available mix CD. This follows Objekt’s superb entry last year, a rejuvenation of the series that seemed to redefine what was possible with the format. The artist has had a fascinating career, as detailed in several interviews (notably with Juno Plus and The Wire, and even more recently with Resident Advisor). Working in a store called Buy Rite, he got to know Gerald Donald and James Stinson of Drexciya, who would come into the store to ply their wares. At the same time, he was DJing in a motorcycle club in Detroit, alongside his long-time friend Kenny Dixon Jr. They would play a variety of uptempo music, from Miami bass to acid house and electro, all while teasing in music by local artists such as Drexciya and Richie Hawtin. As Stingray put it, speaking to The Wire’s Derek Walsmley: “Most people don’t drink alcohol straight up, they mix it with something. So you can look at it like that. Where we mixed something in, we mixed it in between the ghettobass, and they liked it. So that was that, and once we got them used to that, we could almost play anything we wanted to.” To Resident Advisor, he said: “If you tried to play a techno track too long, you’d lose the crowd. But if you played it quick, and then mixed in some 2 Live Crew, it would keep the crowd hot.”
In the two-and-a-half decades since, he’s released music on labels like Mo’Wax, [NakedLunch], Unknown To The Unknown and more, and following a stint as Drexciya’s tour DJ, he’s gone on to achieve notoriety as a solo DJ in his own right. That said, the spirit and history of Donald and Stinson loom large over his career. In fact, Stingray opens up Kern Vol. 4 with “Scientist”, a 1995 track from Donald’s Dopplereffekt project. Interestingly, he opts to include the strange intro rather than hopping straight in with the beats, its bleeps and gasps prefacing a trip into space. He jumps back into the present with tracks from the likes of Kris Wadsworth, Silent Servant and fellow mid-westerner Adam Jay. This shows that Stingray is bang up to date with his selections, as well as showing reverence and fondness for the classics. A brand new track by Herva (which features on an accompanying 12″) precedes a thrilling mix that moves from Gesloten Cirkel’s modern classic “Submit X” into “Professor X (Saga)”, an 80s cut from Professor X, a pseudonym used by NWA co-founder Mik Lezan. Remastered versions of both tracks features on the 12″ as does “Nationalised”, a new track from Stingray and Donald as NRSB-11.
Going through every track here would take longer than it takes for Stingray to mix from one to the next (he plays 27 in just over an hour), but special mention must go to: the thrilling “I Belong To The Past” from Luke Eargoggle, the heady yet near-comical “Aquabahn” from Drexciya and lastly their soaring production “Running Out Of Space”. These choices are the ones that stand out most between the bludgeoning slabs of electro that pulse and drive the mix forward. DJ Di’jital also contributes several inspired cuts, as does AFX, whose “Serge Fenix Rendered 2” combines strange warbles of synth over manic electro acid. In fact, if there’s one criticism of the mix it’s that it seems to build and build before falling off the edge of a cliff at this point – only for the finale to ascend to the heavens with Drexciya’s “Cascading Celestial Giants”, which achieves the feat of being both murkily dank and beautifully shimmering. Perhaps there’s no other way to do it? There’s no warm-down, no respite – merely an ending. Like in a club setting, off goes Stingray, on comes the next DJ. Or the crowd goes home, exhilarated but exhausted. Just as La Cheetah offers a way into the club for listeners at home with Mario, so too does Tresor with Kern. Who says mix CDs are dead?