My friend and long-time techno mentor is a classic skeptic and somewhat of a modern-day Lester Bangs. Excited at the thought of finally discovering a producer of worth from my motherland Sri Lanka, curiosity took hold of me and I rushed to him for his thoughts (read: validation). True to form, he offered me several backhanded compliments on the material: Most of the songs were stuck in a vortex, the sound was only a modern-day variation of classic microhouse, and the fleshed-out sound design was sometimes wasted on not-so-fleshed-out songs. “This is no British Murder Boys” (perhaps his purist techno equivalent of Iggy and the Stooges), he said, with a rare wink and soft pat on my back, “but you haven’t completely wasted my time either.”
Then couple of years ago, I started buying records from Hardwax, the mythical shop hidden somewhere in a back alley of Berlin. Late last December, I was browsing through its new arrivals, doing my best to look away and/or play down the subtle advances of records whose purchase would otherwise give you that uncomfortable yet helpless feeling in your stomach of “a big order coming”, and there it was, nestled in between a silk-screened limited-edition Mojuba reissue and Thomas Melchior’s new 12”: At the risk of sounding a little too melodramatic, Waran Dub 12”, his Soundcamp Southasia collaboration with Jackmate, was perhaps the definitive sign that Asvajit had landed: Not so much a meteoric landing, but a thoughtful progression through hustling hard in the local circuit whilst making best use of soundcamping and touring, the young producer was now on fabled shelves brushing shoulders with legends.
Michel Baumann’s Phil e has always been a label that pushed the more dub and organic aspect of his sound, and somewhere probably the veteran producer feels at home. “Waran Dub”, the maiden result of a 2012 sound-camp of German and South Asian musicians, is true to this form. Yet the track here that most accurately captures (or mirrors) the texture of Sri Lanka is the sleeper on its flipside: “Teahouse Jam” is both rollicking and immaculately produced. As its move through time, its rhythm sways as much sideways as forward (if you have traveled in the island, you would know that this is also how ‘time’ feels in Sri Lanka). The unforced manner in which both the strings and live drums are weaved into wax recalls Mark Ernestus’ scintillating Ndagga series (whose latest offering was the otherworldly “Xale”, which we wrote about here). One might also hope that Baumann’s influence would find the young producer exploring the dub aspect of his sound more and more in the future.
Yet the A-side, predictably, is the prime suspect here: “Waran Dub” is a heavy, helicopter slice of suspended dub techno (as Clone Records puts it), with that signature bass wave that anchors the track locking in to a beastly groove halfway in, to echo the sound of an uninhibited monster walking through the park, the bass weight and suspended gravity in full effect (a method-acting Godzilla who got a little too high inside his trailer, if you must). A seasoned listener would also recall its ties to “Malawi Dub”, and feel like both these records are cut from somewhat similar cloth. “Waran” doesn’t quite reach the hypnotic frenzy of Jackmate’s drums-on-drums classic “Malawi”. But it gets within striking distance, fighting with the hypnotizing sway of its footwork than a knockout blow. If he listened to techno, Lester Bangs, the original heavyweight champion himself, would have a rightful smirk on his lips.