- Has Sherard Ingram, AKA DJ Stingray, ever been more popular? Last year, the artist moved from Detroit to Berlin to better accommodate his regular DJ gigs in Europe, or, as he recently told Crack, "to be near where the love was." The music Ingram makes and plays—what's known as electro, though he prefers the term techno—has come into vogue thanks to several converging factors. A disparate array of DJs (Helena Hauff, Objekt, Binh, Onur Özer) have slowly introduced the style, previously the preserve of acts like Aux 88, DMX Krew and E.R.P., to fresh audiences. Labels that incorporate electro (Cabaret Recordings, Time Passages) or embody it (Central Processing Unit, Shipwrec) have helped do the same. But Ingram hasn't necessarily been swept in the tide of circumstance. His catalogue as a solo artist and collaborator—he's one-quarter of Urban Tribe, and one-half of NRSB-11 alongside Gerald Donald—is extensive and estimable. As a DJ, he's long been recognised as one of the most thrilling you're likely to see. His sets capture tense, dystopian moods via needling arps, synthetic squalls and scattered drum patterns mixed with surgical speed and intensity.
This style is rendered on Kern Vol. 4 with a disorienting twist. At the 44-minute mark, where hour-long mixes tend to accelerate, Ingram presses the stop button on Drexciya's "Running Out Of Space." The next track, Illektrolab's "Overdrive," is a fall through a trap door. The waspish thrum, the distorted vocal, the hollow space these parts occupy—it's a misdirection that loads gravitational weight on Kern Vol. 4's momentum. A few minutes later, another Drexciya track, "Dr. Blowfins' Black Storm Stabilizing Spheres," effects a more severe downward pressure. AFX's "Serge Fenix Rendered 2" gives way to the mix's final track, "Cascading Celestial Giants," from Drexciya's Grava 4, whose choral chants float over what sounds like churning quicksand. At these key points, Ingram isn't so much surging as submerging.
Ingram situates the Drexciyan mythology—in brief, an underwater civilisation descended from pregnant African slaves thrown overboard—in a DJing context that usually demands plateaus and elevations. His intimacy with the catalogue stems from a longstanding association with the duo. In the early '90s, he'd mix Drexciya records with Professor X tracks (one of which, "Professor X (Saga)," is on the mix) and Miami bass in a Detroit motorcycle club called The Outcast. Before Stinson's death in 2002, Ingram was the group's tour DJ. These days, the Drexiyca material he plays out tends to be aggressive and atonal, as opposed to the warm-hearted melodies of, say, "Andreaen Sand Dunes." Kern Vol. 4 is an insight not only into the steely techno and electro for which Ingram is known, but also his personal history in Detroit.
But Kern Vol. 4 is notable, too, for the volume of more recent material. The run of tracks from Alex Cortex's "We Run Your Life" to Gesloten Cirkel's "Submit X" were all made in the last three years. NRSB-11—whose music renders electro in alien sound design and austerely beautiful melody—feature on the mix with "Nationalised," a brutal 4/4 pump with skittering arps and offbeat bass throbs. Anna Meredith, a Scottish classical composer who has recently turned to electronic music, makes an unlikely appearance on Kern Vol. 4 through a LoneLady remix of "VapourIsED." Though the mix's highlights tend to orbit around Stinson and Donald's music, Kern Vol. 4's contemporary inclusions pull their weight.
Save for Drexciya's "Lost Vessel," explosive moments on Kern Vol. 4 are rare. The transfer of energy from track to track depends on techniques—fader slicing, short blends, platter stops—that keep the mix a few degrees below boiling point. In transitions like Creepy Autograph's "Night Stalker" into Drexciya's "Aquabahn," Ingram forgoes tension-dissolving flashpoints. The mix's anxious funk isn't only a result of its contents, but the way in which such twists contain its energy.
The mix's unusual sequencing is made possible in part by track selections that amplify contrasts. (Though deeper broken techno cuts, by the likes of Kris Wadsworth and Silent Servant, give the opening third a satisfying flow.) Two tracks by DJ Di'jital, whose versatile techno has surfaced on Underground Resistance, Direct Beat and Twilight 76, supply moments that are variously playful ("Mind Of The Master") and severe ("Bang"). Vocals and melodies help convey other moods—the mix can be arch (Dopplereffekt's "Scientist"), boisterous (Herva's "Slam The Laptop") or sinister ("Nationalised").
Kern Vol. 4 bonds styles of music separated, according to Ingram, by arbitrary categories. "The problem starts with the term 'electro,'" he told RA seven years ago, "which in my view is used far too loosely." He was making a point about the habit of naming every iteration of a sound, but he was also resisting the idea of having his music cast as retro. At a certain point in their careers, some artists find comfort in plumbing the past. But by summoning fresh feelings from club music that spans nearly three decades, Ingram continues to master a sound that seems as futuristic as ever.
01. Dopplereffekt - Scientist
02. Alex Cortex - We Run Your Life
03. Kris Wadsworth - Infiltrator
04. Christopher Joseph - Mind At Sea
05. Silent Servant - Dissociation
06. Adam Jay - Lexic
07. Herva - Slam The Laptop
08. Gesloten Cirkel - Submit X
09. Professor X - Professor X (Saga)
10. NRSB-11 - Nationalised
11. Luke Eargoggle - I Belong To The Past
12. Drexciya - Lost Vessel
13. Dynarec - Moving Corridors
14. Syncom Data - Musik Politik
15. Creepy Autograph - Night Stalker
16. Drexciya - Aquabahn
17. Faceless Mind - Ocean Movers (Vcs2600 Science Remix)
18. 065 DJ Dijital - Bang
19. Drexciya - Running Out Of Space
20. Illektrolab - Overdrive
21. Anna Meredith - VapourIsED (LoneLady Remix)
22. Drexciya - Dr. Blowfins' Black Storm Stabilizing Spheres
23. DJ Di'jital - Mind Of The Master
24. Morphology - Vector Plant
25. Luke Eargoggle & Kan3da - Night Smoker
26. AFX - Serge Fenix Rendered 2
27. Drexciya - Cascading Celestial Giants