Saturday, August 13, 2016

Juno Reactor - Transmissions

NovaMute/Metropolis: 1993/2008

An album often hailed as birthing goa trance, though ask ardent techno collectors and you wouldn’t know it. Wait, techno? Yeah, guy, Juno Reactor first appearing on techno print NovaMute. In fact, the Juno debut single, Laughing Gas, was released smack between the first two Plastikman records, Krakpot and Spastik! The early promo material even had Juno’s sound billed as ‘progressive techno’, a term immediately and rightfully tossed to the dustbin of Stupid Genre Names. ‘Progressive’ already had a claim to house, thank you, and we don’t need it attaching itself to more genres. Huh, trance? What is this? Don’t you mean ‘space techno’ from Berlin?

Truth is Transmissions does lean heavily into the domain of acid techno of the early ‘90s, but with enough floating synths, trippy acid, and hypnotic builds such that it does what trance done did in that era too. For sure it’s a unique blend of the stuff, music that owes some inspiration from tribal rhythms and cosmic harmonies being exported from the shores of Goa. You can’t blame the psy scene for taking the Juno Reactor style and flooding the market with an uncountable pile of knock-offs and retreads. Okay, you could, but seeing how some hardcore techno heads have continued to claim Transmission as one of their own, don’t you think it’s about time to let it go? There’s no shame in owning a proto goa trance album in your collection, o’ ye’ Disciples Of NovaMute. Hell, even Juno Reactor themselves fully embraced the demarcation after this, signing with clear-cut goa label Blue Room Released for their follow-up albums Beyond The Infinite and Bible Of Dreams. Or wait, were they left homeless by NovaMute for leaning too trance in the first place? Clarify the controversy!

As a debut, Transmissions is a darn solid album, though quite simplistic by Juno Reactor standards. The boys behind the project at the time – Ben Watkins, Stephane Holweck, and Mike Maguire – were no slouches in the music scene, having worked the London circuit in various bands for much of the ‘80s. Holweck in particular was a long-time partner of Watkins, including as part of the proto-Juno group Electrotete, plus finding time to make music as another early goa act in Total Eclipse. They knew their way around gear, is what I say, with enough background in other music to throw their distinctive spin on acid techno.

High Energy Protons features that gnarly acid bassline that’s been a Juno staple since literally forever (because it’s here, on the debut!). We also get a few vintage sci-fi samples, plus one of their more ‘rockin’ tunes in Man 2 Ray, which led them to becoming such favorites in industrial circles. Also, a requisite ambient closer with Landing, which sounds like the sort of meditative noodly stuff you’d find in Megadog chill tents. And folks still try planting the techno flag on this album? For the standard acid techno, sure, but with mystical stuff like this included, I don’t think so.


ACE TRACKS:
High Energy Protons
Contact
Man 2 Ray

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