Review: Mutate – Circle 1 EP

Blank Code

Blank Code “Circle 1” is the first release by the new Detroit-based label Blank Code. Responsible for some incredible events around the city (including the mind-blowing Interface 36 DEMF afterparty featuring DVS1, Audio Injection, and Drumcell), Blank Code’s first cuts arrive with a high amount of anticipation. Currently found only on vinyl in fine record stores such as Hard Wax, it is soon to arrive in a digital format on Beatport (and other online retailers shortly after).

This release is built around the track “Circle 1” by Mutate. One of the old D-records crew, he’s a former colleague of Richie Hawtin, Tom Newman, and Rex Sepulveda. Unhappy with the trends in techno that were taking place, Mutate went into hibernation throughout the late 90’s and 2000’s, only recently resurfacing. MutateThis release is our first look into his re-awakening as a techno producer, packaged together with remixes by some of today’s finest techno artists.

Mutate’s original mix is the most minimalistic of the versions. With a percussive foundation built upon short-decay samples, it leaves plenty of room for grainy dub chords to enter and quickly dissipate, replaced by glimmering high-frequency metallic tones. In a word, I would describe the original mix as “tidy.” There are no gimmicks here – just well designed, minimalistic dub techno with a nod to an older era of Detroit’s history. As soon as you hear the kick drum, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Audio Injection remix comes in deeper. Submerged in layers of grey dust, the percussion of this track rises out of the void, fading in from all directions. Employing the haunting metallic tone from the original mix to send chills up the listener’s spine, Audio Injection builds a dense atmosphere for the dub chords to traverse. But here we find palpable restraint; the chords are never quite set free. This adds a subtle tension to the track, preventing it from becoming a run-of-the-mill deep techno work.

Drumcell reframes the track with a broken beat and a thick percussive drive. With a passion for cymbals and heavy hits, this track tastefully combines the dubbed out atmospheres of the other mixes with a more peak-hour energy level. Imagine the love child of Echospace and Xhin, and you’d have a pretty good idea of how Drumcell re-envisioned Circle 1.

Bas Mooy constructs a more organic sound than the other mixes. Tastefully employing smoky atmospheres and incredibly tasteful “drops” to keep the track moving forward, this mix takes on many forms, perpetually evolving. Strange details pop in and out of the background, giving this mix an essential weirdness that makes it stand out in a great way.

Included in the digital release is a second mix by Mutate, Dub Edit 2. Classic, relaxed, and notably glassy dub chords float around a light reverberated percussive metronome. An ideal track for loading up on Vicodin and exploring a diamond mine. What strikes me most about this mix is how fundamentally different the timbre choices are from other dubbed out tracks. Mutate makes no attempt to imitate the artists most known for this style, such as Echospace or Fluxion. The glassy, metallic nature of the sounds he has constructed re-freshen the genre itself.

You can read more about the new label (or purchase this release) on the Blank Code website. And for Detroit locals (or even Chicago folk), make sure to pick up pre-sale tickets for their upcoming Scene 05 event at the Works, featuring Truncate and Justin James.