As its name suggests, the New Jack Techno compilation represents a re-boot for Tiga's Montreal-based Turbo Recordings. The label, in operation since the early part of last decade, had been getting by with an unfocused platter of party-ready dance music that included Chromeo's breakthrough, Fancy Footwork, in 2007. The label has focused itself, though, as New Jack Techno showcases a roster of up-and-coming techno talent taking its cues from the ossified toughness of early-'90s Belgian techno and its hissy offspring that have taken up in Berlin in the time since.
"New Jack" is still a ballsy label to slap on anything and it begs the question: is any of this really new? Maybe, actually, inasmuch as the artists here represent a wave of producers whose philosophies on technology are still gestating. The first wave of Detroit producers represented a repressed population taking control of technology—instead of slaving behind it in factories—but today's artists have a decidedly different relationship with machines. Technology—specifically computers—are what they use to communicate, to explore, and to recess. And, of course, to make music. The media is an extension of the self rather than something to be wrestled with. And while the Berghain sound took its cues from hazy industrial scapes still very much influenced by those early recordings, these new producers are exploring just how precise and well mapped their world can be.
This is a fancy way of saying there's whole lot of clacking going on. The artists on New Jack Techno are interested in making hardscrabble, dry-ice techno sound crisp and refreshing instead of grimy and dubbed to dust. It's a generous helping: standout tracks by Locked Groove and Gingy & Bordello appear (or will appear) on standalone artist EPs, but the remaining 10 cuts are exclusive. The consistency is appealing; nowhere on the compilation will you find bass-music retreads or anyone attempting to shoehorn a Chicago house revival into the party. This is actual techno, something familiar but fresh.
It could be the branding, but there's a pugnacious sensibility throughout New Jack Techno, and the fuller, more aggressive tracks stand out. J Tijn's "The Anti Mixdown" sounds like a dusty warehouse space being powerwashed. Nautiluss' "Troubleman" is a nightmarish conveyor buoyed by Detroit-friendly, pinging arpeggios. Setting aside its too-easy pun, Duke Dumont's "Underground Persistance" offers a nasty, relentless bass figure that swells as it absorbs sharp snare shots. The tensely compressed drums of Cloud's "Gang 49" are smooth pebbles being eroded by a distorted riff.
Forgive all the industrial imagery; it comes with the territory. Since this represents a fresh direction for the Turbo label, it's worth remembering that "new jack" has another connotation: it's basically old-school slang for "noob." New Jack Techno does come off as wide eyed and acned at times. Highfalutin' theorizing aside, the new generation represented here offers only a subtle tweak, a slight angling of techno proper. Its successes are not hard won so much as well curated, but the comp nonetheless represents a focused group of young talent potent enough to dream a little.