DVS1 – Klockworks 13 [KW]
Zak Khutoretsky, aka DVS1 (the ‘Devious One’) is no stranger to the DJ booth. Having originated in the glorious acid of the 90s working his way through the clubs of NYC, he has developed an open, well-balanced style in which his sets are driven purely by the emotional content of the music and not restricted by the genre labels that have been assigned to it. His trajectory has been one of exponential growth, breaking into the craft of producing just half a decade ago. Having had his first ever release signed to Klockworks back in 2009 (KW5), direct support from Ben Klock himself, among other luminaries in the scene, has ensured Khutorestsky’s rise on the global techno stage. It was only in 2010 that the Minneapolis-based DJ-producer featured in Resident Advisor’s ‘Breaking Through‘ series, and yet now DVS1 shares line-ups with some of the genre’s most respected artists (The Hydra‘s upcoming M-Plant birthday celebration in London is but one example); on top of managing his own label and promotions company HUSH (plus sub-label Mistress Recordings), appearances at festivals such as Dekmantel and ADE, and clubs to the likes of Berghain and Space (the pinnacle of any electronic dance music career, really) plainly demonstrate Khutoretsky’s talent and his relevance in today’s scene. Here, we have the latest EP from DVS1, which was released last week (17th July). This is his third outing on Klockworks.
Named presumably after the famous Belgian cocktail, ‘Black Russian’ provides a dance-floor stimulant through its raw blend of techno and deep house idiosyncrasies. The A-side opens the EP with a high energy, the rhythmic dialogue between the solitary kick and the track’s identifiable piano hook setting the tempo. The offbeat shaker enters swiftly, short and crisp before Khutoretsky utilises reverb here to introduce other elements, a conventional method but nonetheless effective. Skipping hats fill holes in the texture, with a clap not far behind to complete the ensemble.
The syncopated synth hook exerts itself over the underlying voices, its interplay with the kick a fundamental component to the track’s operation. With this rhythmic dialogue Khutoretsky creates this leaning sensation, playing on the rhythmic nuance to drift seamlessly between stresses in meter. The formula is simple, but really this is what techno is about – purity and simplicity; every single voicing here is entirely necessary to complete the mix. The track partially retains the kind of austerity DVS1 has become known for (though this is really saved for the B-side), yet hints on euphoric in its energy and harmony. This is straight-up techno tailored for the dance-floor, and the memorable chord stabs will serve to uplift any crowd.
‘Creep’ enters with an entirely different agenda. As the name would suggest, the track is mysterious and its intent somewhat more threatening; driven by the minor tonality of the repeated motif and its lower counterpoint voice, the B-side is a bipolar switch in mood. However there is some continuity here, where he has opted to use similar ideas for the drums and percussion: a tight kick, skipping hats and a sporadic, well-placed clap to tie things together. Metallic strokes echo with an air of curiosity, while the chromatic minor tonality is further accentuated through the call and response. The track saunters through moon-lit back-alleys, under the cover of night, cloaked in ignorance and unresolved questions. The articulate hats in particular add a spark to the dreary texture, and this juxtaposition makes for an effective blend of texture.
The final track on the EP, ‘Spying’ once again provides another facet to the EP. The track opens with the ticking loops of hats and percussion, clicking in motion with the mechanical certainty of clock gears. As the track locks into form, the kick is gradually introduced to complete our rhythmic section. Khutoretsky builds on the chromatic motif of the previous track, introducing the first subject within the opening sixty seconds. The nervous bleeping is wracked with an enduring paranoia, the heated breath of the KGB close enough to feel on the back of the neck. Here you can trust no one. The motif pushes forward insistently, and following the break-down climbs upwards incrementally, its spying eyes peering through invasively. The skipping bass drum adds extra momentum, a classic feature of this style of techno that artfully detracts from the domineering beat of the standard clean-cut 4×4. ‘Spying’ reaffirms Khutoretsky’s ability to adopt the style of his Atlantic neighbours, with that ominous falling hook and active low end percussion hassling the listener.
Judging from the track titles, DVS1 may have had the shady landscapes of socialist Russia in mind. ‘Black Russian’, the drink of choice for some, and perhaps the only safeguard for sanity. Cloak and dagger stories haunt the lives of the oppressed, where trust is a commodity that is bargained with french cigarettes and risky late-night deals. The state is your friend, but also your greatest enemy. What seems is not, what is real is deception.
The contrast between the A-side and B-side is a welcome divergence, and the three tracks work well together and illustrate a fluid ability to switch between different styles. ‘Spying’ is an instant favourite, but perhaps the strongest track on the EP is ‘Black Russian’ and has already been featuring in live sets at this year’s festivals. With its highly accessible House vernacular pulsating over a lovely bed of techno percussion, this one will undoubtedly appear in many a track-list over the coming months.
Additionally, the B-side as a whole is particularly reminiscent of ‘Running’ from Klockworks 05 and comparing this EP shows that Khutoretsky is still exploring his current sound, with elements of his musical syntax clearly evident in his early work. The EP maintains a fairly minimal quality, and while this is by no means his best work, this one is very much at home on Klockworks.