returning with renewed force after henning baer’s unbreakable debut lp, manhigh’s sixth release comes from a name already well-known in techno circles. sciahri is the italian producer whose luminous 2014 debut on the celebrated ilian tape’s itx experimental series immediately announced his presence, followed by another on the label and two eps for the highly-rated black opal offshoot of opal tapes by 2016. he was simultaneously occupied with his ambient-leaning unknot duo with emanuele porcinai, better known as wsr on samuel kerridge’s contort label. 2017 saw the launch of his sublunar imprint and a tripartite release from him featuring a more streamlined sound than the craggy broken-beat style familiar from ilian tape. sciahri’s manhigh ep opens with ‘demur’, showcasing his most dour, industrial sounds, scraping metallic highs against the unrelenting impacts of reverberating kicks and subbass drone. ‘forbidden’ holds its forces more in reserve, the cycling, mechanical soundscape maintaining a spacious, ambient aspect, worked against a broken rhythm more implied than explicitly stated. returning to full intensity for ‘reliance’, he tightly coils the core elements around deftly-deployed percussion and a militaristic, pounding rhythm in the bass and kicks. henning baer’s reinterpretation of ‘demur’ saves little from the original apart from its overriding tension, instead adding a layer of nearly-tonal pads and an unremitting acidic bass throb pushing forwards inexorably.
as the head of grounded theory and manhigh, henning baer has since 2009 presented his downcast, experimental interpretation of modern electronic music to wide critical acclaim, establishing his forceful presence on berlin’s scene with immaculate curatorial skills and equally imposing dj abilities. his discography so far, concentrated on adam x’s legendary sonic groove imprint and his own k209 and manhigh imprints, amongst others, keeps step with his formidable reputation and wide-ranging tastes, moving across the spectrum of hard-edged, aggressively modern techno. with ‘shatterproof’, his long-germinating debut album for manhigh, he offers for the first time his unified vision in extended format, a varied exploration into the outer limits of the genre. at its centre a work of dark minimalism, he sets and maintains the pensive tone on ambient pieces like ‘angel dust’, ‘all over’, and ‘mil-std 461’, which foreground the exploratory electronics that maintain their presence throughout. the corroded textures of the sounds, enveloped in decaying reverb, bring life to pieces like ‘never ending’ or ‘bliss’, which sit between rhythmic interludes and the stricter dancefloor material found on the remainder of the album. once he shifts into techno, he does it unremittingly, from the uptempo fury of ‘code buster’ and ‘burning chrome’, whose starkness only heighten the tension, to denser pieces like ‘drama sky’ or closer ‘vermillion red’, where the cavernous impacts of drum hits punch holes through beds of seesawing synthesizers. shatterproof like its title suggests, henning baer’s first album unifies and strengthens the work of an artist whose legacy is already assured.
following on a trio of successes with established talent, for our fourth release manhigh takes an excursion to lesser-known regions with experimentalist desroi. previously known from eps on his eponymous imprint and total black the german newcomer quickly caught our attention. beginning with the opener, ‘indifferent’, we are introduced to his heavily sculpted, hypnotic sound world, where a rolling, repeating rhythmic framework is echoed in the higher registers with heavily-filtered delay loops, and a melodic lead line taken deeply into dub provides both a centerpiece and the basis for many other elements. another relatively new talent currently rising quickly to wider notice, phase fatale’s relaunch of ‘indifferent’ stays resolutely in his own world, a grinding, banging amalgamation of distortion, punishing in its resolve and propelled by mutated elements of the desroi’s original piece. his idea of ‘apathy’ invokes entirely more aggressive emotions than the word’s conventional usage, tightly winding bleeps around a rigid sequence kept in motion by constant effects and sporadic drum hits, which then transforms at is halfway point with the entrance of harder kicks driven by an open hat. ‘sopor’ induces trance states more than it does sleep, sophisticated applications of delay effects and patient acid combine for a deep, inward-looking hypnotic state with momentary shifts in rhythm and color evoking the ephemeral nature of dreams.
again shooting for the altitudes reached on manhigh’s first journey, henning baer’s second operation returns to the endeavour with a newly diversified mission. ‘operator’ finds us already at the furthest edge of the atmosphere, pulsating waves of distorted electronics and distant, disembodied voices floating in the void. ‘pittsburgh left’ is the fall back to earth, the unrelenting metallic rhythm slowly gaining momentum, momentary shifts in perspective and detail flashing by as the decent accelerates inexorably. the contemplation before leaving the ground, ‘aiim’ slowly anticipates the ascent and examines the cosmos before lift-off. surely the launch phase ‘canadian suit’ is both reflective and onrushing, trapped between tense, contrasting moments before being flung into the unknown. displaying both henning baer’s typically acute feeling for talent and kangding ray’s restless ear, the remix of ‘aiim’ is a complete reinterpretation, setting grinding triplet rhythms in an industrial soundscape that suggests travels more fearful than those that surround it.
with the third release on manhigh, new altitudes are achieved by recruiting one of techno’s rising stars. best known for his work on dekmantel and ghostly international, since 2012 charles duff has attracted increasing attention for his personal and unique take on techno. originally from san francisco but now based in berlin, following his shift in locale his sound has moved on towards a more european sensibility, a mode in full display on his deep mind ep for manhigh.
over seven years of grounded theory and a clutch of celebrated releases to his name, henning baer has already proven himself one of the finest berlin has to offer. with the launch of his manhigh imprint, he takes the jump to full control of his own output, freed of the constraints of collaborators and outside artistic direction.