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kowton-utility 3lp (livity sound)

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kowton: utility

Utility is the stunning full-length debut of Livity Sound cofounder Kowton, the first album release for both the artist and the label. Combining the powerful reductionism of classic Detroit techno with the inventiveness and originality of the Bristol sound, Kowton has produced an album that will no doubt be looked back on as a landmark work of UK techno. While his trademark hypnotic rhythms, dramatic transitions, and chest-rattling bass are all present and correct throughout, Utility is more than just a collection of club tracks. Here Kowton has distilled both his influences and experience to create an immersive journey that twists and turns, encompassing not only weapons-grade 4/4 techno but also geometric minimalism, deep abstract dance, and skeletal, grime-influenced ambience. Kowton moves straight into the fray from the opening bars of "Comments Off"; the booming bass and intricate staccato rhythms coax the listener into a tunnel of repetition only ruptured by bursts of sub-bass. This sets the tone; each track on Utility is composed of very few elements, but it's what Kowton does with them that makes it such an engaging listen. Take the Sähkö-indebted bleeps of "Balance," for example, as Kowton layers them into a cerebral ping pong before unleashing the track's brazen percussive chassis. Following the immersive "Scido" and pummeling "Sleep Chamber," the tempo drops for mid-album centerpiece "Some Cats," which writhes on a slippery arpeggio providing brief respite. Things kick back up a gear with the disarmingly stark and simple minimalism of "Loops 1," segueing perfectly into the frenetic polyrhythms of "Bubbling Under." The spaciousness of "A Bluish Shadow" is the final calm before the storm of album closer "Shots Fired," on which hints of bittersweet melody meld with staccato sub-bass and disorientating arpeggios. Kowton formed Livity Sound around 2011, when he and Bristol luminary Peverelist began sharing ideas and collaborating in the studio, and the pair eventually linked with Asusu. The label's critically lauded opening salvo of releases culminated in Resident Advisor's selection of Livity Sound as its label of the year -- and of the label's eponymous compilation as the number-two compilation of the year -- for 2013. There's been many facets to Kowton's musical evolution, but the constant feature throughout has been a focus on effective, stripped-back, raw tracks that reduce dance music to its essence and in doing so give the form new life and energy. Simple utility done well. Includes download code.

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