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by Justin Farrar

June 29, 2014

From the Depths: Blackest Ever Black

by Justin Farrar  |  June 29, 2014

Welcome to From the Depths, a recurring feature that spotlights deep underground sounds lurking within the Rhapsody catalog.

Established in 2010 by FACT magazine co-editor, DJ and record collector Kiran Sande, Blackest Ever Black first made its bones as a leading purveyor in the new dark techno movement that in recent years has captivated fans of innovative electronic music. Early catalog offerings from Raime, Young Hunting/Dalhous, Cut Hands and Tropic of Cancer all proved Sande's sharp ear for producers and musicians grafting hard, heavy and/or abstract beatwork to gray-matter dissonance and drone inspired by classic goth, industrial music and power electronics. In this sense, the London-based imprint started life on the same continuum as Karl O'Connor's Downwards label, which, beginning in the '90s, pioneered a very similar aesthetic. Consequently, it's a connection made explicit by Blackest Ever Black having released a pair of records from O'Connor's own Regis project.

But while his initial clutch of releases has earned the label a fairly specific reputation, Sande's programming has ultimately proven to be far too wide-ranging for simple "dark techno" pigeonholing. He wasted no time in expanding Blackest Ever Black's scope. In addition to the more techno-oriented output, he has unleashed forays into blackened garage-punk (Raspberry Bulbs' Deformed Worship), bedroom fidelity drift 'n' song (Secret Boyfriend's This Is Always Where You've Lived) and post-rock space mantras (Bremen's Second Launch). Additionally, Sande has moved Blackest Ever Black into post-punk's archival market with titles from Mick Hobbs' Officer! project, Young Marble Giants spin-off Weekend and quasi-synth-punk heavies Ike Yard.

Sande's taste certainly is eclectic, even unpredictable at times. Yet if listeners can root past the surface-level differences, they will notice that nearly every title in the Blackest Ever Black discography, regardless of genre, possesses a near-identical interface: modern cutting-edge music meets '80s underground sound. Sometimes, this interface is in your face and obvious, as on Ike Yard's Regis / Monoton Versions 12-inch: Regis' version of the band's "Loss" (first released on Factory America in 1982) erases the 30-plus years separating remixee from remixer while simultaneously forging a unique sound that's equal parts vintage post-punk and modern techno. Other times, the interface is noticeably more subtle and in the background. The reissue of Weekend's The '81 Demos, a collection of minimal art-pop recorded at the very height of the DIY movement, benefits from the same full-bodied mastering treatment that all Blackest Ever Black titles boast. While the EP manages to retain the intimacy of the original release, a track like "Nostalgia," all ambient and moody, now sounds like it could've been recorded just yesterday. To delve even deeper into the world of Blackest Ever Black, check out my introductory playlist.

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