Oscar Mulero – Vertigo (Pattern Series) [WU]
Every now and then you come across an artist like Oscar Mulero. Having been there almost at the inception of electronic dance music, it would seem the seasoned veteran would have a few things to say; his style is a refined convergence of second wave Detroit, German minimal and golden era UK techno to the likes of Surgeon, Regis and Sandwell District, melded and condensed under the hot Mediterranean sun. Born and raised in Madrid, Mulero has become somewhat of an icon for techno in Spain. The country is often overlooked for its electronic music scene (though Barcelona’s thriving night-life has indisputably put it back on the map), yet brands such as the globally renowned Sónar having been operating since the mid-90s.
Mulero’s career began to pick up around the late 90s, with the years 2000-2002 proving to be a crucial period. During this time the Spaniard launched his own imprint Warm Up Recordings and put out no less than nine EPs, while simultaneously holding down a busy schedule as a growing international DJ. Releases such as the spacey new-age roller ‘CV Is Dead’ (2002) and drum & bass inspired number ‘Beyond Pit Lane’ (2002) exude the era-defining styles of his contemporaries at the time – from the deep, progressive ruminations of people like Jeff Mills to the fresh, innovative sounds of early Metalheadz.
Mulero’s trajectory continued with releases on labels such as Tresor, Coda, and Theory; however, setting up his own label (and soon after sub-label Pole Recordings) not only helped Mulero publish his own music, but also provided a platform for local artists to gain exposure. This established his sound regionally across Spain as well as further afield. Now reaching into its fourteenth year the label is as strong as ever, boasting releases from Jonas Kopp, Developer and Svreca within the past year.
Last week Warm Up Recordings released the first EP in their Pattern Series. The series will consist of four vinyl-only releases that will comprise of “abstract pieces of modern techno”, aiming to express creatively the accompanying artwork. Grounded more conceptually (as opposed to musically), the series is about texture.
As we enter through the room, ‘Gravity’ reaches our field of perception with its unanimous whirling, a repetitive gesture that seems to imply so much more than the simple sonic vibrations they embody. While the brimming acid hook encapsulates us, a light bed of percussion floats effervescently ahead. Hats and cabasa eventually lock into ensemble with the steady kick drum, the looped acid hook now submerging us in waves of pulsating consciousness. (You can listen to low quality previews of the tracks in the player above)
The beauty of this sort of techno is evoked through the progressive sections that are united seamlessly throughout; the structure is always methodically, almost mathematically, developed, lending the music to an inherently organic process. The drop is light but emphatic, self-assured. Added frequencies in the high end and manipulated tones in the percussion are but subtle embellishments that really animate the music – without these details the repetition in this music can quickly get tedious.
Mulero crafts this meditative groove that is at once both stimulating and hypnotic. His management of sounds is clearly founded upon his maturity and experience. Nothing is out of place, every sound is essential. This is music for the mind.
‘Epley Manoeveure’ opens more weightily with its compound rhythm kick and the muddy bass-line that accompanies it. Comparatively drier than the B-side, ‘Epley Manoeveure’ is more vigorous, with its use of more conservative melodic material and harder sound palette. Without the sumptuous reverb and delay of the ‘Gravity’ to wrap ourselves with we are instead left here with something more abrasive and immediate – this is accentuated with the on-beat clap, open hats and largely dominant syncopation rhythms. Again using a fairly minimal framework, the track slots into groove with the iteration of the synth bleeps and orderly percussion, throttled with a punchy yet relatively contained low-end. (Listen to ‘Gravity’ in full here)
The final track of the EP, entitled ‘Particle Repositioning’ offers yet again another shade. We return to something similar to the first track, albeit the leading motifs here seemingly pull the pace down with its almost laboured toll and more fitful rhythm section. The slightly delayed pedal note adds space for where the off-beat should precisely fall, creating this lilting feel. Like B1 the texture is less crowded, giving it room to move. As Mulero himself states, tracks such as this one serve as effective DJ tools and will no doubt be used to thread together important transitions. (Listen to a preview of ‘Particle Repositioning’ here)
The whole EP has a pointedness to it, here the sonic journey is powerful and cohesive, rather than abrasive and overwhelming. The tracks are varied yet collectively articulated, coming together to make a highly enjoyable EP. Though not his best work, still Mulero shows his ability and maturity as a producer. As the first contribution to the Pattern Series, the EP complements the concept very well; the tracks are finely constructed – progressive and formulaic, yet not too minimal that interest fades along the way…