Release Date: Jan 22, 2016
Record label: R&S
Genre(s): Electronic, Techno, Experimental Techno
This Glaswegian producer has been releasing for well over a decade now, and has certainly dropped some gems as he wove through techno, electro, weirdo hip hop and bass styles – but it's been hard to pin down his musical personality until now.There are echoes of recognisable genres here, but the overwhelming sense is of a burned-out mind, muttering freaky things to itself, as sounds fizzle and char around it. Yet somehow, as the rhythms chatter, vocoders sing hymns to deviant gods and the synths melt, it sounds like something you want to get involved with. Frankly, we fear for Alex Smoke's sanity, but we salute the brilliance of this record.
The 2013 arrest of Ross William Ulbricht, a.k.a. “Dread Pirate Roberts”, alerted a large cross section of the populace to a seemingly sinister phenomenon that had been right under their noses for years: the dark web. Ulbricht’s Silk Road online marketplace utilized hidden Tor networks to peddle drugs and other illegal contraband to well-heeled bidders, a familiar service on the underground internet, but the dark web also has it’s legitimate uses as well: bitcoin exchange, corporate whistleblowing… basically anything that requires a high degree of security in the service of anonymity.
Glaswegian producer/DJ Alex Smoke (aka Alex Menzies) has never made techno you were supposed to dance to. In his more than decade-long career, his mixes and productions have veered far from the main drag of club and dancefloor appeal. More important for Smoke, in all of his work, was emotional exploration. It’s obvious that he has the disposition of a sensitive soul, and on his first outing with R&S Records, Love Over Will, Smoke swings for the fences, trying to complete a vision which could really create a puncturing and memorable experience.
Glasgow-based techno producer Alex Smoke made his name crafting glitchy microhouse tracks with a cinematic sense of drama and a flair for rich, emotive melodies, reflecting his classical training as a child. His first three full-lengths were filled with six- or seven-minute dancefloor mini-epics as well as shorter pieces, and he progressively incorporated more of his own vocals into his music. Following more experimental albums as Wraetlic and Alex Menzies (his given name), Smoke released Love Over Will, his first full-length for Belgian institution R&S, in early 2016.
Dance music is a hard thing to write about. In many ways, the nature of the style – its eternal variety of thumping kicks, rattling high-hats and swelling synths – opposes general notions of narrative and criticism, ones generally rooted in sharp, detail-oriented attempts at the seemingly endless, overarching explanations of art. Where dance music explodes, barraging clubs with dark grooves and infinite immediacy, narrative soberly seeks to unpack the mystery of devices themselves, attaching sounds (many of which critics, who often aren't asked to be producers themselves, can only grasp at in words) to colourful diction, astute references, and messy, inaccurate metaphor.