TMPLT - The Verge
If Chris Liebing, Paul Ritch and Distale arranged a Zoom chat, what topic would they discuss? In the absence of their live DJ events, mid-pandemic, I imagine the conversation would centre on career paths—as big-room Techno boys, they've played to large crowds and knocked out more than a few floor decimators between them. Principally though, they've all taken unexpected turns in their musical output in recent years, each spreading their creative wings to reveal a form of composition less blootering and more considered.
Having not released anything for eight years Liebing's 2018 effort Burn Slow was perhaps the biggest switch, surprising us all with those moody collaborations and dark vibes. Paul Ritch reinvented himself as Kaczmarek in 2017 and has since released two Jungle-tinged, Ambient-bothering albums. Michael Knop, aka Distale, may still be releasing new music under that name now (check out the recent Disdancing EP) but in 2019 he made the personal decision to focus less on four-to-the-floor and expand his horizons with a new sound, name and label: TMPLT. And like his Zoom chum's efforts, it's a brand of electronic music better suited to headphones rather than dancefloors.
As TMPLT Knop makes dense, agile music, inspired by the bass-heavy work of The Prodigy, Martyn and Finger Lickin’ artists like Plump DJs. With elements of Drum 'n' Bass and Breakbeat rubbing shoulders with processed Dub the result is definitely not Techno; you could still hear it in clubs but if you added some rousing Keith Flint vocals to any of the twelve tracks on The Verge, you could just as easily hear it backed by a screaming stadium crowd. As instrumentals though the listening experience is incisive; lean tracks with no wastage, composed of fluid rhythms, shifting shape round effective basslines; basically it's tight, groovy Techno. MARCH55 is a good example of Knop building a track around a wormy bassline, fleshed-out with drums and percussion. On 4FLOR humility shines through as a descending bass straddles a drum pattern that doesn't quite understand Techno. Elsewhere, treated horns embellish the choking Dubstep vibe on EMPTYMESS, while the vocal snippets that surface on some tracks make me think of Anthony Rother or Delta Funktionen.
With Techno's cold exterior, the music threatens to burst out in a radio-friendly despatch but retains a balance that teeters tantalisingly from start to finish. The intro and outro tracks, helpfully titled In and Out, provide comfortable boarding and disembarking points but Knop largely avoids cliches in the sequencing of the tracks, with a considered, undulating pace throughout. The space between recent Distale tracks like Hooka or Elec Dance isn't massive—the obvious difference being the rhythms he's chosen to work with. So like Liebing and Ritch, he's taken a leap of faith and so far it's working: the new name is snappy and memorable, the clean-cut Distale press photos have been replaced with moody, monochrome snapshots but most importantly, the music is good... very good.
- Rating: 9/10
- Listens: 21
- Highlight: KARTA
- Label: TMPLT Records
- Release Date: 30th June 2020