Release Date: Feb 3, 2015
Record label: Kompakt
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
On "Two 0 One," the first track on John Tejada's new album, a graceful melody drapes itself over a steady house kick and snare, while an array of synths billow in the distance. At once ethereal and precise, it's archetypal stuff from the veteran LA producer, as is much of Signs Under Test, an album that shows Tejada using his well-honed studio acumen to transcendent effect.Signs Under Test is typical Tejada in a more prosaic way as well: its titles. Tejada's always had a thing for sci-fi-influenced track names, dating back at least to "Prism War" and "Solar Eyes," both from 1997's Little Green Lights And Four Inch Faders.
Despite a long and celebrated career, Los Angeles-based DJ and producer John Tejada's third full-length album for Germany's Kompakt Records may be the strongest representation of his well-crafted ideas to date. Not to say that Tejada hasn't been thematically focused on his albums before, but there is a deeper than usual sense of connectivity between the songs on Signs Under Test. Whether that is because of the hardware-based equipment he works with (most notably a tape delay unit that adds a wobbly texture to many of the songs) or just his careful attention to the details that bring the subdued melodies, woozy synths and meticulous percussion programming that are the foundation of many of his tracks together, it's a current that runs through the album.
It is often said that some of the best things in music come about through mistakes. John Tejada is certainly aware of that notion, for when approaching his tenth studio album he decided to take advantage of the opportunity offered to him by equipment that was beginning to malfunction, with his delays and patches on the verge of being broken. This lent an essentially analogue function to his digital set-up, introducing what on the face of it becomes a vulnerable, human element.
In the court of electronic musicians who are acclaimed for being able to tickle your brain, John Tejada has worked himself up to be a prince of darkness. Despite his residence in California, music writers are always quick to point out that his music is definitely not sunny. But hey, if it’s not sunny we’re after then the ground is as deep as the sky is high.
With a career that’s almost passed the two-decade mark, John Tejada is one of the techno scene’s most consistent producers. After years of releasing solid club singles on his own label Palette, Tejada made the jump to Kompakt in 2011. The collaboration spoke to his influence as a dependable underground producer and it led to the excellent Parabolas, an album that revealed a deliberate shift in his aesthetic; instead of crunchy, textural techno, Parabolas was sweeping, fleshing out the lush harmonics and studied melodicism he’d hinted at in earlier work.
For his 10th album, Austrian-born, California-based DJ/producer John Tejada focuses on his collection of vintage synths, drum machines and tape echo machines in search of warmth and unpredictability. Rather than revisit the electronic music sounds of the 70s and 80s, he's applied the equipment to the melodic tech house with which he's long been associated. While that musical direction won't surprise fans, the overall feel of Signs Under Test is distinctly different from what's currently filling the dance charts.