It was a busy summer for Amsterdam’s revered techno zealot, with his own festival ‘Voltt Loves Summer’ celebrating a decade at the forefront of the dutch techno scene. Opening it’s doors to some 20,000 people it’s fair to say that Bart Skils’ 20 year-long mission to bring the world’s most exciting and innovative techno to his home city looks to have been, somewhat accomplished. However, I don’t think he sees it that way. Somewhere between hand picking a line up of some of the most exciting artists from around the world, and juggling a tour schedule with more dates than the Mayan calendar, Skils always makes time to retreat into his studio, or as he calls it, his “personal music heaven”.
Renowned the world over for creating some of the most spellbinding and concise techno of his era, an esteem reinforced with the release of his fourth EP ‘Lost Boys’ on Drumcode last June, there is no doubt that the announcement of his new offering produced a ripple of excitement amongst the techno faithful. ‘Black Vans’ marks a fifth release on, Adam Beyer’s Swedish behemoth Drumcode, a feat which is a testament to Skils’ consistency, and luckily for us his scintillating recipe for creating deep, driving techno hasn’t lost any of it’s potency. Leading the charge, title track ‘Black Vans’ definitely fits in with Skils’ own description of his music as “stripped rolling techno”. A deep pulsating kick drum forms the backbone, lurking beneath an undulating, and menacingly tentative bass synth which teases you throughout. Occasionally pierced with sharp, discordant highs, the combination produces a subtle sense of urgency, which slowly grows, becoming a theme throughout the release.
The next track ‘Fifth Gear’ feels like a step up in energy. Flowing well from the urgency of ‘Black Vans’, the leap in key creates a feel of imminence, almost as if the two songs have been building up to a climax and have now reached the precipice. Once again foreboding and heavy bass forms the foundation, slowly followed by a carefully woven high synth which reverberates during the build ups to elicit a tense choral effect. The well crafted mixture of repetition and subtlety work together to create a solid tune, one that reflects Skils’ description of “stripped techno”.
‘Starfighter’, the third installment, really puts pay to Skils’ versatility in the studio. A heavy
repeating drum loop is overlayed by a lingering, distant vocal, dripping with an almost static charge. Suddenly the atmosphere is perforated, high-pitched needle like notes sting through the established beat, heralding the introduction of the lead synth’s repeating, warped verse which seems to orbit your ears. The way this track’s illusive groove resonates inside your head like a trapped wasp really sets it aside as something that feels genuinely fresh.
The fourth and final track in his latest offering, really outlines what an accomplished producer Skils is. Filled with deep, piston like drums, delicately placed reverberating vocals and clever, enticing lead synths, ‘Rising Sun’ has a real kinetic feel, with bags of potential energy. To my mind, ‘Black Vans’, as a whole, seems to hold a real feeling of motion. It’s as if each song represents a new stage of a compelling, evocative journey. A theme which is prominent throughout the release, Skils uses a clever combination of tension and release giving each track a definite purpose or destination. Whether you agree or not, one thing is certain, Skils and Drumcode have produced an EP that continues a long running theme of dark masterful techno from a partnership that continues to push boundaries.
You can get Bart Skils – “Black Vans” EP over at Beatport.