To mark the release of its predictably brilliant ten year anniversary compilation, Piers Barber takes on the tough task of picking just ten of the best tracks from Ilian Tape, the Munich-based techno label run by brothers Marco and Dario Zenker.
Relentlessly interesting and reliably consistent, Ilian Tape have spent the last ten years mastering music perfectly suited to both cavernous venues and introspective headphone listening – plus anywhere in between. The label commands undisputed respect – see this affectionate list of tributes from other artists for proof of the clout they carry among their peers.
Their music comprises the happiest of marriages between crisp and urgent German techno and chopped UK 90s breakbeats, infused perfectly with elements of ambient, house and dub. Most importantly, their releases are soaked in an intense sense of soul and melody sometimes rare in a genre obsessed by the inhuman industrial.
Here are some of the label’s finest releases so far.
Zenker Brothers – ‘Inti’
As well as their role as label head honchos, the two Zenkers are influential producers in their own right (and, if their recent RA Exchange is anything to go by, thoroughly lovely fellas to boot). ‘Inti’ is a marvellous example of an Ilian Tape staple: rolling, addictive grooves, given space to breathe and hypnotise over six compelling minutes.
Andrea – ’22:22′
Label staple Andrea has been key to shaping the Ilian Tape sound alongside fellow Italian producer Stenny, with whom he has released several joint EPs. ’22:22′, which features an addictive breakbeat on a bed of tasteful, euphoric strings, is a prime example of their exquisite productions.
Djrum – ‘Untitled 9’
This is a captivating 10 minute exploration of broken techno, immaculately produced, cunningly chopped together and framed throughout by some beguiling synth work. Struction’s ‘Don’t Blame’ – on the flipside of this release – is another label highlight.
Stenny – ‘Outime Artefacts’
Propelled by a driving breakbeat with epic strings lurking tantalisingly low in the mix, this otherworldly roller is a dreamy, almost filmic production that epitomises the label’s dedication to melody. Its only fault is that it could easily be twice as long.
Peverelist & Kowton – ‘End Point (Stenny & Andrea Remix)’
Livity Sound and Ilian Tape are a perfect match: here Stenny and Andrea hook up Peverelist and Kowton‘s already excellent ‘End Point’ with a muscular backbone and shuffling breakbeat. Peverelist’s appearance on the Ilian Tape podcast suggests healthy links between the two labels – here’s hoping for further similar hook-ups in the future.
Marco Zenker – ‘Remain Silence’
The Zenkers’ admiration of the likes of Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound is clear throughout their label’s discography. Take ‘Remain Silence’, on which hazey dub echoes reverberate beautifully behind a garage-y shuffle.
Skee Mask – ‘Panorama’
‘Panorama’ is taken from Shred, Ilian Tape’s highest profile LP which made it into the top five of our albums of the year list for 2016. It’s a beguiling mix of complex broken beat and beautifully dreamy drum pads and constitutes just one of the many rich soundscapes found on this perfectly paced album. Elsewhere a deft mix of frantic breakbeat and nuanced techno combines to from an expertly sequenced whole.
Andres Zacco & Rupcy – ‘Thaw (Rupcy Remix)’
Ilian Tape has certainly released more than its fair share of straight-up hectic, clattering techno into the wild. This is a great example: rollicking bass accompanied by skipping drum patterns, all perfectly curated to hit the spot at peak time.
Struction – ‘Seel’
The Zenkers gave their artists free reign over their contributions to their ten year anniversary compilation. The result is a string of highlights, including Shed’s star turn under the name Seelow, Andrea’s ‘Blue’ and Skee Mask’s twinkling opener ‘Excess Signal’. Struction’s ‘Seel’, meanwhile, is a bubbling warm bass masterclass.
Skee Mask – ‘Kordman Return (Swing Mix)’
Skee Mask turns out to be so prolific that he’s left his label no choice but to set up a new off-shoot just to provide an adequate outlet for it all. This is the opening track from 2012, the first ‘Skee Series’ EP. It’s typically tasteful and expertly produced, all skipping rhythms, squelching synths and razor sharp drum patterns.
Listen to a playlist of these songs, and others, on this Spotify playlist.