Maruwa bows at the altar of ‘90s prog house and IDM. Classically trained as a pianist, the St. Petersburg born Frankfurt based artist has made it her mission to join the dots between big room rave and a decidedly off-planet approach to melody. Now, making a debut for X-Kalay, that journey continues…
‘Liquid Night’ genuinely sounds like something you might have heard during Love Parade’s golden era. Meshing noirish sci-fi atmosphere with trance synths and EBM flex, the shadowy territory it occupies also carries through to A2’s ‘Midnight Caller’. That said, the followup cut evokes an essence of ‘90s dancefloor utopia, balancing euphoric melodrama with tough, propulsive NRG.
Taking inspiration from mid-‘90s acid prog, ‘Tricky Question’ summons the divine wide-eyed and sublime – less urgent, but still imbued with that ’90s halcyon daze. Rudolf C then rounds things off with a fathoms-deep remix. Ushering ’Tricky Question’ into that techy space he navigates so well, the Salt Mines co-founder provides his own spin without losing the essence of the original.
Title: Spiral 2 the Other Side
A1. Spiral 2 the Other Side
A2. Take the Wheel Miss Sweetie
B1.Forget the World
B2. Maara – Doom Quest
Maara makes seductively uninhibited, proggy dance music. In fact, she’s quickly becoming one of its foremost exponents. Barely pausing for breath between releases, ‘Spiral 2 the Other Side’ finds the Montreal artist summoning divine feminine frequencies with a hypnotic, ritual-ready 4-tracker.
Some Maara productions are shot through with an almost radiant optimism, but here, darkroom throb prevails. Big on the gated vocals, ‘Spiral 2 the Other Side’ achieves cybernetic sensuality through trippy,
moiré-d electro, while ‘Take the Wheel Miss Sweetie’, with its driving, fathoms-deep approach, provides a direct take on the blueprint.
The Canadian assumes the role of high priestess on the flip. ‘Forget the world’ is a ritual incantation for bridging seen and unseen worlds; prog house magick with shades of ‘90s trance utopia. Rounding things off with a tunnelling electro tripper, ‘Doom Quest’ references the vortex-dwelling atmospherics of early tribal modes to mind-altering effect.
Artist: Escape Artist
Title: Wanna Dance?
A1. Escape Artist – Wanna Dance?
A2. Escape Artist – Wanna Dance? (Roza Terenzi’s Bassbin Mix)
B1. Escape Artist – Levitator
B2. Escape Artist – Time Knife
The first X-Kalay release of 2022 finds Melbourne’s Escape Artist traversing wormholes, complete with an assist from the ever-prolific Roza Terenzi.
Picking up where a 2019 Salt Mines debut left off, ‘Wanna Dance’ allows proggy tendencies to flourish across some mind-altering electro. Portals to higher planes of consciousness and uncharted star systems fling open as widescreen, celestial pads make way for lysergic climax.
Ramping up the intensity with her ‘Bassbin Mix’, Roza Terenzi jumps on remix duties; another electro workout, but this time more urgent, more propulsive. Bringing the tribal-breakbeat pressure in spades, it’s quintessential Terenzi.
More prog, but leaning further towards cosmic techno percolation, ‘Levitator’ finds mazy arpeggios in seemingly infinite ascent. ‘Time Knife’, on the other hand, is a radiant, beatless highlight. Deploying cascading synth arps to truly mesmeric effect, it sees the Antipodean achieve sublime tension in a rare moment of introspection.
Title: Disc Trail
A1. LT – Disc Trail
A2. LT – Grain
B1. LT – Grain (No Moon Remix)
Lewis “LT” Taylor returns to X-Kalay and follows up 2019’s “Staminize” with his latest effort, “Disc Trail” – two tracks of blistering proggy techno and hazy breaks backed with a remix from fellow label artist No Moon.
Spanning the full A side and cut to a crisp 45, “Disc Trail” is an epic 9 minute peak time destroyer. A huge proggy roller complete with trance inducing breakdown, it goes for days and absolutely slaps at 140 BPM.
On the flip, Grain sees Taylor in familiar territory; lush enveloping pads cascade over a finely crafted breakbeat and pulsating sub – the adeptly syncopated percussion perfectly showcasing his first love and talent as a trained drummer.
Topping things off No Moon is on remix duty, reworking Grain into a chugged out 4×4 with some expansive arrangement and jacked up bass >:)
Artist: Cloudsteppers (Ciel & Dan Only)
Title: The Limit
A1. The Limit
A2. Slinky Bork
B1. Diva Loops
B2. Trigger Happy
XK025 sees a fresh label debut in the form of Cloudsteppers – a collaboration between Toronto based artists Ciel and Dan Only. Born out of an impromptu jam session at Dan Only’s NDG 208 Studio in late 2019, the pair quickly hit it off. Ciel brought her trusty Korg ESX-1 sampler, and alongside Dan Only’s arsenal of vintage synths and samplers, they quickly wrote the first two cuts of what would eventually turn into the first Cloudsteppers EP. After getting great feedback from playing them on tour and sharing with friends, the pair wrote the last two cuts when lockdown restrictions loosened during the summer of 2020.
Both artists are instinctively melodically-inclined producers, so for this release they tried to focus more of their attention on the drums and fx, while limiting the amount of melodic parts in each track. Working within those parameters resulted in what is now their debut EP.
Title track, “The Limit”, is a huge undulating cut of 160bpm energy – it shimmies effortlessly between skittish jungle, breakbeat and techno rhythms, centred around a tripped out sample of Manchester’s finest physicist, Brian Cox. “Slinky Bork” brings a distinctly UK Tech House flavour reminiscent of Housey Doingz, Get Fucked and others of the Wiggle/Euka House era – underpinned by a solid 4×4, subtle rhythms and spacey atmospherics abound.
On the flip, “Diva Loops”goes in hard with a pounding kick, warbling bass and some massive clattering drums before breaking out into a playful melodic refrain. Closing things out, “Trigger Happy” is another functional 4×4 club cut full of skippy tech styles and punchy rhythms. A dreamy melody floats along into a tension building crescendo, complete with massive reese-ish bassline. Big!