Ryan James Ford's nascent production career is inextricably linked with Marcel Dettmann, who opened fabric 77 with the up-and-comer's debut track and later released it as part of a vinyl set of exclusives from that mix. And now he's given Ford his first solo EP, MDR 17. You'll hear immediately what Dettmann likes about this guy. His productions are tense and atmospheric, but also punchy and light on their feet, perfect for setting a dark mood without bogging things down. If "Arthure Iccon," the kick-free fabric 77 cut, is a prototypical Dettmann set opener, then "Arco Pitcairn," MDR 17's first track, would carry the DJ perfectly into the mid-set stretch, its diamond-tipped drums chiseling into grand chords with deadly precision. The EP's last track, "Rjiyen Orandin," scrapes forward on live hi-hats and unfurling ambience, feeling like the moment some six or seven hours in when Dettmann gives the dance floor over to pure insanity. Every DJ with a label will put out tracks they'd want to play, but Ford's fit Dettmann like a glove.
Ford has certainly found his context, but MDR 17 is also a document of him finding his voice. "Lempt Jarkarin," besieged by helicopter blades and rhythmic thunder, is full of great sound design, but without a compelling composition to adhere to, it's directionless. Similarly, "Hoodlam Klothe" is a smart bassline in desperate need of a track to play beneath. In the midst of all this searching, though, Ford hits on something that feels like it's all his. A brute-force techno track infiltrated by IDM atmospherics, "Lidya Birkett" mixes the EP's wispiest melodies with its heaviest drums. You sense it's here that Dettmann heard not just a fellow traveler but a talent in his own right.