- A smart techno double pack with sci-fi roots.
- Charlie Duff's playful style made it seem like he was poised to be a crossover artist, but then he swerved towards techno and never looked back. Since breaking out around 2015, his music has turned from playful to deadly serious. He makes greyscale techno for labels like Manhigh and Figure, records that, like his trilogy of tool-focused EPs for Dekmantel, could be too barebones for their own good. His latest effort, which also launches his new label, The Grid, returns to the more balanced sounds of his 2015 album, Homesick. It's hard and steely techno infused with Detroit warmth, sci-fi atmospherics (just look at that artwork) and a musician's ear for melody and arrangement.
Techno producers with sci-fi preoccupations are nothing new, but it seems especially ingrained in Duff, who gives his tracks titles like "Data Link" and "Quantum Bandwidth." "Compromised" builds with new elements every few bars until it becomes a pitch-perfect spacey techno track. With its athletic percussion and ringing FM synths, it's somewhere between Luke Slater and Jeff Mills. "Password" features the kind of undulating bassline you would hear on an old Transmat record, with one razor-sharp snare to cut in some Teutonic rigidity. "Emergent Intelligence" has smart sound design that faintly lights up its otherwise workhorse framework.
Duff also throws in two ambient tracks, "Invitations" and "Data Link," that delve into his under-explored introspective side. "Data Link," with its choral pads and epic chord swells, is especially arresting. "Quantum Bandwidth" is somewhere in between, steeped in ambience but with an indefatigable kick drum underneath. This is music that plays to Duff's strengths. It's one of his finest releases in years, even if it's not doing anything terribly new.
C1 Data Link
D1 Emergent Intelligence
D2 Quantum Bandwidth