A tribute to Tony Allen, by Emma-Jean Thackray
The one they call Semtek is a busy, busy man!
A multi-talented soul, Semtek is probably best known for running some of most tasteful yet prolific record labels to come from the British Isles in recent history – such as Don't Be Afraid / Special Editions / DBA Dubs & Spargel Trax – which hold releases from artists like DJ Bone, MGUN, Neville Watson and Mr. Beatnik. He's also a producer and most recently dropped a killer 12" on Niche & Bump earlier this year. On top of that, he's also an in demand DJ with impeccable taste and talent.
We managed to catch up with the Bristol based all-rounder just before The Alternative Xmas Party his label is throwing along side the Cold Tonic crew. To warm up, here are a selection of the ten best 12"s in Semtek's record bag this year from the man himself.
01. Hama Torodi (Sahel Sounds)
[Video not on YouTube – go find it in the real world]
Semtek: "Sahel is a region of Africa situated between the Sahara Desert and the Sudanian Savanna, and Sahel Sounds the label specializes in music from that region. Most of the music circulates via the cellphone network and id3 tags are crucial to identifying the artists behind the tracks. Hama the artist is based in Niamey, the capital of Niger, and he makes his music on a Yamaha keyboard. Torodi is a masterpiece of electronic African music and one of the few examples of an artist in 2015 pushing their equipment to its very limits through the sheer necessity of expression."
02. Shanti Celeste 'SSS' (Apron)
Semtek: "Shanti stole the limelight in 2015 and deservedly so – she is technically one of the most solid producers making music in the UK at the moment and her tracks boast a rare musicality which has been missing from techno of late. The lead track is reminiscent of the golden era electro of Underground Resistance and Metroplex, and Shanti’s take on it is that of a purist. On the flip Funkineven goes one step further into the ether with the type of freeform composition that only he is capable of."
03. Mutamassik 'Symbols Follow' (Discrepant)
Semtek: "Mutamassik is the uber-talented Giulia Loli who is from Pittsburgh but has operated in Cairo and Brooklyn as a DJ, and also Tuscany and Amsterdam as a producer. Symbols Follow is an exploration of north African instruments and rhythms in a western framework, broadly speaking. To listen to, Symbols Follow has a satisfying complexity about it but it never becomes obscure or academic. There is a certain Moorish determination to the sound which those who have travelled in that part of the world will recognize."
04. Rhythmic Theory 'Future Tense' (Idle Hands)
Semtek: "Rhythmic Theory was much ignored by the press in 2015 for reasons which continue to elude all of us who back his music. Since debuting on BRSTL a few years back, Rhythmic Theory has proven again and again that he has a highly accomplished grasp of technology and science fiction, and that he’s capable of powerful, emotive compositions. Future Tense was one of various Rhythmic Theory releases which turned heads this year and it was backed with a great October remix, of whom more below."
05. Brassfoot 'Apron' EP (Apron)
Semtek: "What better place is there to test a track’s effectiveness than in a public toilet doubling as a ball pit below Bristol’s central district during Brisfest? I had the rare opportunity to play for the Rough Draft crew in exactly this setting alongside Shanti Celeste (above) and Chris Farrell of Idle Hands. The A1 of Brassfoot’s 'Apron' EP was the jam which had the most people throwing inflatable guitars at each other and attempting to drown themselves in the sea of plastic balls. In general Apron was the label of 2015 and this was one of their defining releases."
06. Pev & Steevio 'Edges / Seren' (Schmorgasbord)
Semtek: "When BMO who heads the Schmorgasbord camp announced that he was pairing Steevio and Pev on an EP it had all of us on the edge of our seats waiting in anticipation to see what the pair would come up with. Needless to say the results were mesmerizing. All four tracks sport the kind of technical expertise you would expect from two of the UK’s foremost techno producers but what really stood out on this release was Pev’s adoption of the 4/4 form in exchange for Steevio’s borrowing a broken template. It really is impossible to choose a single track but I found myself playing Steevio’s rendition of Pev’s Edges to death."
07. October 'Black Body Radiation' (Skudge Records)
Semtek: "There was plenty of industrial music pastiche kicking around in 2015, with Diagonal representing its crossover end whilst labels like Minimal Wave and their sister, Cititrax donned a more canny, experimental sound. Amongst a fairly backward-looking selection, however, October was the artist in this genre to really bring the industrial sound to a modern dancefloor, dragging industrial kicking and screaming out of the 1980’s into a more interesting contemporary context. Having witnessed the creation of this LP there was a point at which I wondered if it would ever see the light of day but all great LPs are forged from struggle and Black Body Radiation is no exception."
08. Dimitris Petsetakis 'Endless' (Into The Light)
Semtek: "Following Into The Light’s exceptional compilation of early Greek electronic music back in 2013, I have continued to look out for releases from the label, with 2014’s George Theodorakis (son of the great Mikis Theodorakis – check the Z soundtrack) compilation also impressing. Like M. Theodorakis he borrows from traditional Greek music, which is difficult to place both musically and rhythmically but which nevertheless distinguishes itself from the western cannon. You can also hear the influence of modern classical composers like Ligeti, Stockhausen and Xenakis. The result is something quite otherworldly."
09. E. Myers 'Home'
Semtek: "None of us are quite sure who E. Myers “is”, however vague the notion of identity may be in 2015. Speculation abounds, although currently nobody has been able to positively identify the artist behind the monikier. Nevertheless Home was one of the year’s most underrated white labels, and one of the most earnest club tracks to emerge in recent years. The offer of uplifting strings and classic Chicago drums won’t sell this record on their own but when they are done this well and with this much sincerity its difficult not to find this record appearing in the bag at every set."
10. Creta Kano 'Skyway Motel' (Happy Skull)
Semtek: "There are many things to like about Creta Kano, not least the fact that at one point he is rumoured to have been hawking branded e-cigs from his base outside the London Orbital. Most of all, though, he succeeded in turning heads with a release for one of the UK’s most hotly-tipped labels, Happy Skull. Like all good italo / electro leaning classics, Skyway Motel sounded familiar even if you hadn’t heard it before. This 12” abandons all pretence and instead demonstrates a true love of music and electronics. Also look out for the remix package which accompanies the 12”, featuring Bruce, Lurka and Idle Hands regulars O$MV$M."
Semtek plays Cold Tonic & Don't Be Afraid present The Alternative Office Xmas Party on December 10th (info).