- For the last few years, Stephen Bishop (AKA Basic House) has run Opal Tapes and its vinyl offshoot, Black Opal. By now, we're well acquainted with both labels' dark and gritty take on techno, ambient and noise music, even if many of their releases come from unfamiliar artists. As Bishop told Juno in 2013, "We're in a phase at the moment where techno and house and musical tropisms are just being blown apart by punks, essentially. By people who aren't necessarily very good at composing music, but who have got an intention and have got a heart, and they just want to stab it in. I feel that."
Over two cassettes, Contemporary Dance showcases a range of artists, many of whom have worked with Bishop before. Its strength lies in the ways its tracklist creates a sense of narrative: like a typical Opal Tapes track, the music starts off one way and ends up another. The first third—comprising slow, stark and pulsing textures—is a seductive opening and perhaps the most intriguing section. Drums are rare, putting the focus on atmospheres that range from distorted and nightmarish (Happa & Pete Martell's "NR Off") to soft and gorgeously innocent (Perfume Advert's "Emotion Engine"). In between, two of the compilation's strongest tracks appear: Lumisokea's snaking industrial churns (following their Opal Tapes album from last year) and Stefan Jós's "Drinking From The Well," a sparsely designed, delicate dub track. By the time label newcomer Lyubocha picks up a drowsy house sway, the style starts to turn.
Contemporary Dance's next phase is more vigorous. This begins with Patricia, one of the labels' more recognizable artists. True to his work on 2015's Bem Inventory, his raw but coaxing techno on "Static Scene" is easily the best dance floor material here. When Annanan and Clouds, make consecutive appearances, the album ramps up to its blown-out conclusion. It's all scorched techno from here on out, with E-Saggila's "Assisting God" as the most ominous cut and MCMXCI's "Begin Harassment" the most infectiously banging. Throughout the compilation, standout tracks are surrounded by others that merely maintain the aesthetic. But taken as a whole, Contemporary Dance is a satisfying string of ideas from 19 producers whose disorder serves them well.
01. Happa & Pete Martell - NR Off
02. Lumisokea - Jenseits (Dub)
03. Stefan Jós - Drinking From The Well
04. Emra Grid - Overhead Lume
05. Perfume Advert - Emotion Engine
06. Lyubocha - Antipatiya
07. Patricia - Static Scene
08. CAO - Black Jungle For Geometrist
09. Manse - Athletics
10. Cop Envy - Cue Two
11. DJ Ford Foster - This Track Is 4 U
12. Annanan - Tired Of You feat. Maroje T
13. Clouds - Peder Skram
14. Metrist - Assume I Do It All On Purpose
15. E-Saggila - Assisting God
16. $$$TAG$$$ - 60B
17. MCMXCI - Begin Harassment
18. XDCVR - X