Since their formation, Artefakt’s Robin Koek and Nick Lapien took a patient approach when it came to releasing their luscious, hypnotic techno. In the three years since releasing their first track, they have more than made up for lost time, releasing three excellent EPs along with split singles and various online mixes. They’re part of a small interior movement within techno which makes the most of empty space, dolloping spare melodic lines with reverb while keeping the drums tight and propulsive. It’s a style shared with neat variations by Abdulla Rashim’s Northern Electronics label, Japan’s IORI and acts on Semantica, Stroboscopic Artefacts and Mental Disorder to name a few. The style received arguably its most high-profile recognition on Daniel Avery’s DJ-KiCKs mix album (on which Artefakt’s ‘The Fifth Planet’ had pride of place) last year, but for those who have been struggling to see what the fuss is about, Artefakt’s debut album Kinship is well worth a listen.
Koek is a prolific sound designer for various art installations held throughout the world, and the intersection between banging techno and the more arcane fields of drone and ambient inform the album’s structure. The opening title track loops a serene Tangerine Dream-esque soundscape, lightly flecked with a tense pulsating riff and field recordings of people talking while performing some everyday task (my best guess based on the various clicking noises is preparing dinner or doing the washing up, but I’m prepared to be wrong). ‘Tapestry’ veers into more psychedelic territory, with a shuffling drum loop and squelches resembling a possible soundtrack for an expedition into an underground cave to battle supervillainous molemen.
It’s a common (and usually groan-worthy) claim for artists to suggest that an album is structured like a night out, though Kinship makes a better case than most. It’s three tracks in before a truly club friendly track appears, and ‘Entering The City’ is an effective mood-setter, with silky pads offering a pleasant contrast to a feedback-like riff buried underneath the rhythm. At 12 minutes, it’s a solid example of Artefakt’s patience, but the decision to keep the album at a lean 50 minutes shows restraint and an awareness that album-style techno such as this can get tiring without much variety.
The uniformity of sound can understandably be a turnoff – ‘Somatic Dreams’ is the kind of mid-set tackle that disappears from memory from the moment of arrival – but the turn to darker sounds builds back the momentum. ‘Fernweh’ takes the classic 303 bass lines of acid house and prescribes it mescaline, making a track that’s as easy to get lost in as vibe to. ‘Return to Reason’ isn’t quite as effective, but its menacing air and placement near the end of the tracklist is a neat representation of when a trip enters its long hour of the soul.
Ending with another ambient piece in ‘Tapeloop 1’ (imagine a film score dragged along a knife), Artefakt have made an impressive opening gambit with one of the strongest pure techno albums in recent memory. If this brand of spacey psychedelia is to become one of the defining sounds of modern techno, Kinship is likely to be one of the lynchpin moments in its success.