Release Date: May 11, 2015
Record label: R&S
Some techno producers approach album-making with the intent to release a statement that is more in line with "proper" music. They seek songwriting vocalists, and maybe a real live musician or two, pare the tracks down to typical song length, devise a thin concept, and tend to do so with subpar results. For their first R&S album, Dublin's Ian McDonnell and Dara Smith didn't really change their approach, apart from opting to emphasize an assortment of field recordings.
Following on from two notably strong EPs last year, Dara Smith and Ian McDonnell return to R&S for their first long-player together. The Dublin-hailing, Berlin-based pair have both been producing behind the scenes for over a decade, with most of their respective involvements being in experimental techno circles. The 10 productions that form their debut remain in this area, while incorporating field recordings from motorway tunnels in Japan, church bells from Schöneberg, an Irish female choir and Inuit throat singers.
A curious thing about the human voice is that it’s a shortcut to the eerie fascination that drives techno music and science fiction alike. Lakker’s Tundra, the Dublin duo's second album in a decade, delves into the uncanny valley of treated vocals, ground up and looped in with all kinds of noise. Lakker weave voices in the style of sacred music into contexts where they wouldn't normally be heard.
Last time I spoke with Lakker it felt like they were still finding themselves. It was the night of one of their first Killekill gigs together at Suicide Circus in Berlin. They were both living in Dublin at the time, they'd released just a handful of records and were ironing out the kinks in their live show. The set that night was visceral and viscous—a little patchy and unresolved, but powerful nevertheless.
In numerous interviews over the years, techno godfather Jeff Mills has often talked about the future of the genre as a music form breaking out and moving beyond the confines of the club environment, allowing it to be experienced in different forms and surroundings. With Tundra, the second album from Irish techno duo Ian McDonnell and Dara Smith, also known as Lakker, we have a mesh of electronic and organic sounds and rhythms that breaks such confines, willing us to step outside from our dark sound system caverns and allowing the elements to connect with our bodies. It's been a patient build up to this moment.