Ryus
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CHAIN REACTION vol. 1

Chain Reaction was an electronic music label founded by two german dudes in 1995. one of those german dudes happened to be the great-great-grandson of german chancellor otto von bismarck. much like his ancestor, Moritz Von Oswald was a unifier; he and Mark Ernestus–a duo you might know as Basic Channel–brought together some of the best minds in dance music. the label lasted until 2003. that was all the time it needed. for 8 glorious years, the label stood tall amongst its peers, maintaining an incredibly consistency for its few dozen releases, while taking techno to strange and beautiful new places.
1Scion
Emerge


CR-01: 3.5 – the first release. Scion is two men, Substance and Vainqueur. you'll hear their names later as well. this is probably one of their more straightforward releases–dance-floor ready to be certain. dub techno influences slink in and out of the mix, titillating the listener and giving them a taste of where this nascent label will take its sound. The A-side, "Emerge0", is the star here. scratchy synths cut through the mix like a hot knife, but not so much as to detract from the dreamy atmosphere. B-1 is more traditional, and B-2 is more of an afterthought if anything else–far too slight to make a real impression on the listener. still, there's enough meat here to appreciate what makes the label so special.
2Various Artists (GER)
1-7


CR-02: 3.2 – sneaky fuck that he is, Mr. Torsten Pröfrock released this 7-track EP under the name "Various Artists." a trend you'll see throughout this label's history–and in much of techno music, really–is how much more impactful the longer cuts are. techno is all about subtle changes in a groove over a period of time. if a track is short (and short for techno can mean anything under 6 minutes), then it doesn't have the appropriate time to breathe. it either changes too rapidly, which isn't very gratifying, or it doesn't change enough, which is rather boring. this release is all about that. for example, if we excised most the second half of the brilliant sixth track and let it end too soon, we would be left with something shapeless and inert. sure, Pröfrock likes to let his synths move and breathe, and we get an excellent build-up; it's not like the track would be completely barren of a sense of progression. yet, like many techno tracks, the beauty is in the comedown, as all of...
3Various Artists (GER)
1-7


...that tension evaporates into the ether.

not my favorite release, but an important didactic tool nonetheless. main takeaway: techno needs every minute it can get.
4Porter Ricks
Port Of Transition / Port Of Call


***CR-03***: 4.2 – this is a big one. Thomas Köner and Andy Mellwig, aka Porter Ricks, are titans of techno. their music is filled to the brim with everything good and wonderful about dub techno. the A-side is funky, dark, even industrial–not quite their usual brand of techno, but an excellent excursion for them (much like the B-side). there's something dirty and ominous about it, especially as the dubby bassline melts away into the noise as the track concludes.

the B-side, later to be found on the LP Biokinetics, is an excellent match for the A-side. It's tempo is slightly slower, but it's similarly grimy. the dub techno leanings that would make them one of the most significant names on the Chain Reaction label are not fully developed yet, but their prowess as producers is still readily apparent. just listen to that marvelously filthy maelstrom of sounds halfway through the B-side. it's a beautiful thing.
5Monolake
Cyan


***CR-04***: 4.3 – the rain samples that open the A-side are as seductive as a siren. how could you not want to be ensconced in the atmosphere of Cyan after that? this is probably the most unique releases in the label's catalog. Monolake treats us to birdsong, frenetic bass, a subtle beat, and synth pads so lush that they nearly steal the show. the only reason they don't steal the show is because there's just so much going on here.

it's a bit of a shame that the B-side doesn't have the same incredibly powerful atmosphere. it's not completely disposable, but if you never flipped your record over from the A-side, i don't think you would be too upset. it's a bit of a rehash of the A-side, but a little gloomier. i don't blame them for not being able to capture the magic of the A-side for a second time. still, Monolake struck gold here, furthering the label's sound and establishing themselves an an important figure in the genre. out of all the artists on the label, they've had one of...
6Monolake
Cyan


...the biggest post-CR careers, and deservedly so.
7Substance
Relish


CR-05: 2.7 – one half of Scion comes back for an alright solo release. for Relish (Original) my heuristic of "longer is better" (no jokes please im effortposting) doesn't quite fit here. length doesn't mean much if you don't know what to do with it (shut up). yeah, those hi-hats gain some heft as the track progresses, and yeah, the synths grow slightly more prominent, but really, there's not enough for seven and a half minutes here. Relish (bonus), meanwhile, is squelchy enough to hold my attention for its brief 4 minute runtime. it's the real star here, as the dub edits rounding out the EP are pretty unremarkable. i wouldn't call it a total miss, but this might be the first release in the catalog that I don't have much interest in coming back to.
8Vainqueur
Reduce 2 / Reduce 1


CR-06: 3.4 – and there's the other half of Scion. Reduce 2 (for some reason, the A-side) is a two-note jaunt that's muscular enough to have some utility as a dancefloor cut, but the dubbier B-side Reduce 1 is where the real fun happens. the bass is reminiscent of the doppler effect as it quickly rushes by, increasing in pitch. call me easily impressed, but i'm a sucker for those moments in techno when the drums fade away, often leaving synths and bass at the helm. the anticipation on the dance floor is palpable–your sweaty limbs get a moment to recuperate and wait for that glorious moment when that kick drum is firing on all cylinders again. while Reduce 1 might not be the most thrilling example of this technique, it's another ingredient that makes the tune a solid one.
9Vainqueur
Elevation


***CR-07***: 3.9 – this is another release that broke new ground for the label. it's the most ambient of anything they put out up to this point. i love how springy that synth is. really interesting sounds overall. call me crazy, but the melody almost feels like a precursor to UK garage in its darkness and its rhythm. put a 2-step beat on that and it could have come straight out of the 2000s. i love the emotional quality to this release. it lets Vainqueuer shows how versatile he is as a producer, while also pushing Chain Reaction's sound in interesting new directions.
10Monolake
Magenta


CR-08: 3.2 – Monolake is back, and this is a curious one. the A-side feels like it wants to break loose, but it never really does. unfortunately, it never really capitalizes on its own momentum. as a result, it feels a bit bare. in general, i like how cohesive CR's releases are; most A- and B-sides are variations on the same theme, much like Basic Channel's. unfortunately, that also means that if the A-side is a miss, there's an increased chance of the B-side's being a miss as well. this is the case here. still, I do like the acidic synths that crop up all over this EP–it's somewhat of a new sound for the label at this point, yet not something they're particularly renowned for.
11Porter Ricks
Port of Nuba / Nautical Nuba


***CR-09***: 4.3 – this was another big release for Porter Ricks and for Chain Reaction. it may be the first release here that sounds like something completely new, something unmistakably CR. Porter RIcks is my favorite artist on the label, and they make a good case why with CR-09 (although this is certainily not their peak–more on that later). this is deep, deep stuff, dub techno with some serious weight. the galloping rhythm of Port of Nuba is a glorious thing. those little choices of a producer can absolutely make or break a track. with a straight rhythm, i think it's safe to say Port of Nuba would be a solid tune, but just another in the sea of solid tunes on Chain Reaction. instead, that small idiosyncrasy gives us a track with character and feeling.

no use in abandoning the tools that let you strike gold–Nautical Nuba picks up right where the A-side left off. overall, this release is an outstanding precursor to their future work that would make them a special artist. there's...
12Porter Ricks
Port of Nuba / Nautical Nuba


...so much growth just between this and their last release, and they don't stop growing from here.
13Pelon
No Stunts


***CR-10***: 4.4 – no stunts indeed. it's one of the best things about this brand of techno, in fact. with such few ingredients, there aren't really any tricks to hide behind. either it's a ripper or it isn't. at the same time, though, this makes it relatively easy to release a bunch of decent-but-not-great techno tracks that do nothing to stand out from the pack. luckily, Pelon knows how to stand out.

what a shame that this was his only release. apparently he's an "acclaimed mastering engineer" according to Boomkat, so good for him. there's a real sense of urgency to No Stunts. it's not particularly fast nor dark, yet its engine is so powerful it hums along at a thousand horsepower. No Stunts is wonderfully floaty, almost light, but at the same time its grounded and substantive. idk man, most of the time (at least, for idiots like me with poor communication skills), there's just a je ne sais quoi that makes a techno track special and No Stunts absolutely has it.
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