For over a decade, siblings Vidal and Vangelis Vargas have been forging the future of techno music in the US and beyond. Operating first under the moniker of Acid Circus in the early 2000s, then evolving to Raiz Acid and now simply Raiz, they are best known for co-founding the legendary Los Angeles-based techno label and promotional crew Droid along with Moe Espinosa (aka Drumcell). The latest Droid release (which was reviewed by Altstadt Echo here on Dub Monitor) featured an excellent reinterpretation of DJ Hyperactive’s “25 Hours” by the duo.
Having spent the better part of the past few years focusing on producing the prolific Interface parties across the world, the brothers along with fellow Droid artist Subversive are preparing to unleash their latest project upon the techno world in the form of a new imprint, VRV. The new label will focus on conceptual projects over dancefloor tools, a noble endeavor which is becoming increasingly rare in today’s underground scene. The inaugural release of the label, “Cored” features 4 tracks from Raiz which attempt to focus on and refine the very essence of their sound, resulting in a record which alternates between brutality and beauty. The result is arguably their strongest work to date and an exciting portent of things to come.
The opening track assaults us with a heavy percussive groove and driving shakers, further propelled by classic 909 hi-hats and an aggressive bass stab. This rough and tumble start gives way to a lush pad that weaves throughout the track, giving a sense of elation to the punishing rhythms below. The next composition opens with a stripped down bleeps-and-bass arrangement that gives way to a harder-edged industrial feel with a sense of urgency sure to please the big rooms.
The third piece here treads somewhat familiar ground, with jack-happy shuffled rhythms, a distorted warehouse kick and playful chords which immediately recall the works of Droid label mate Truncate. However, just as quickly as the saturated shakers begin to drive the track forward, the constant edits and change-ups quickly remind us that this is Raiz’s territory we’re venturing through here. Following the old adage of saving the best for last, the fourth track here is an absolutely stunning piece of peak-time techno which opens with an undulating arpeggiated bassline, syncopated noise elements and a building tension which gives way to some seriously epic strings before slamming back to reality with the groove.
The underlying question remains to be answered. Have the brothers Vargas succeeded in their aim to pull techno out of its track-based mindset to present a cohesive statement? With four distinct works that share a slightly similar sonic palette, with constant surprises lying in wait between the grooves and unhindered by the jarring context shift of any remixes, one would have to argue that Raiz has most definitely hit their mark here. One point that you cannot deny is it makes for one hell of a ride.