The past half-decade of dance music has been marked by a joyfully freeform miscegenation of styles and genres with a wave of young producers sneaking their regional slang into the universal language of Jack. Sometime in 2010, previously incompatible tempos began to level out and suddenly interesting intersections were being found in the admixture of jungle, dubstep, house, grime, and techno. This willful crossbreeding not only effectively reinforced the uselessness of lazy critical categorization, but has crucially birthed and rebirthed a handful of maverick record labels committed to obliterating the increasingly rigid boundaries surrounding darker, streetwise scenes and lighter, club-friendly fare.

For the past two years, Halocyan Records, a boutique dance label run out of Los Angeles by the mercurial experimentalist Dimitri Fergadis, has been one of the central concerns — along with 50 Weapons, Aus, Apple Pips, Houndstooth, Punch Drunk, and Hotflush (and countless others) — in the push toward artistic inclusion within the hyper-fragmented landscape of house, techno, and bass music. Universal Quantifier, available October 14, is a retrospective of sorts: a deluxe, boxed CD collection of A-sides and remixes spanning the label’s short life, brightening record store walls with their 12” pthalo-blue house sleeves. In collecting representative work from each of the label’s geographically and artistically diverse producers, these two discs effortlessly stitch together a body of work that distinguishes Halocyan as a truly remarkable purveyor of forward dance styles.

Halocyan Records Universal Quantifier

Newcomers, underdogs, and consummate pros all make appearances on the 24-track compilation. Stabber‘s “Huh!” appears twice, first getting roughed up in a dark London alleyway by Numbers and Hemlock alum Randomer. A raw arpeggio goes head to head with hostile, haywire hardware hooliganism, its in-harmonic distortion like asphalt abrasions on bare knees. The remix will have the Italian producer picking bits of rocks out of his wounds for weeks but like a thorough Tyler Durden beatdown — boxed ears purring pure epinephrine and candied blood on bared teeth — the pain is addictive and irresistible.

Sound Pellegrino’s resident genius Matthias Zimmermann, however, seems to find endless nuance in his version of the same track. Stripping out a hardcore break to rebuild a complex rhythm from scratch and piecing together oblique edits of alternating mood, it’s like watching a prodigy work-out a Rubik’s cube in a short four minutes: we don’t know how he did it, but the flashing colors sure were pretty.

Kangding Ray’s even darker take on ASC’s cavernous “Sonic Assault” shows us exactly how revelatory sub-heavy techno can be; Clek Clek Boom’s French Fries demonstrates how to flatter an already animated anthem — xxxy’s “Bash,” — with a quick key bump of Peruvian flake in the hallway adjacent to the dancefloor; and Minilogue’s rework of Brooklyn producer Sumsun’s “New Piano” is an exercise in how far you can fly your kite and still see the shimmering nylon without looking directly at the sun.

Despite Halocyan’s far-reaching vision, at the end of the day it’s still very much a techno-centric label and tunes geared for a big night out at Berghain can be a strain in casual listening environments, in between more accessible tracks from the likes of Dntel, Chrissy Murderbot, or Arkist. An insistence on egalitarianism can be liberating for a small label, but can also project an uneven picture to the public. Rewriting and revising one’s modus operandi in real time is proving to be a resilient business plan for many artist-run labels so it’s yet to be seen whether Halocyan will become a time capsule for an unprecedented era of electronic music, or will continue to adapt as trends shift and mutate.

Either way, Universal Quantifier is a succinct a statement as any, as we transition into the next decade. Pre-order it on iTunes.


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