Boomkat Product Review:
Keplar continue their Arovane reissue program with this long overdue edition of Uwe Zahn's iconic EP collection 'Icol Diston' that features some of his finest productions, all releases by cult legendary label Din (the Hardwax one, not Ian Boddy's label). From the shockingly contemporary rework of Torsten T++ Pröfrock's 'Außen vor' to the itchy industrial grind of 'icol vern', it holds up.
After Zahn changed track completely with 'Tides' in 2000, Pröfrock's DIN label assembled the then Berlin-based producer's early 12"s - "i.o.", "icol diston" and "AMX" - into "Icol Diston", closing the book on the first iteration of his sound. Zahn had written the music during a time of unprecedented musical freedom in Berlin, and felt the city's energy seep into ideas he was exploring in his rapidly growing studio. "There was an overwhelming dynamic of liberation reverberating through the city—through the clubs, the arts, the people," he says. During long tram rides, he would dream out the rhythmic sequences he'd reassemble later using a handful of synths, sequences and samplers, recording live in stereo straight to DAT. So invariably, this is some of the most intricate beat oriented material Zahn has ever produced, drawing on the blueprint of Autechre's seminal "Tri Repetae" and fashioned in the shadow of Hardwax and the mighty Dubplates & Mastering, welding dub bass and tekno stabs to skittering IDM repeaters and cycling hats. With the benefit of hindsight, it all makes complete sense.
His first release, "i.o." was an attempt for Zahn to map out a process he'd explore further on the following year's "Atol Scrap". These are still some of the producer's most iconic recordings, and show how well developed his sound was even at the very beginning. Gravelly beats immediately push to the front of the title track, steadily overwhelmed by winding, melancholy synth patterns that would become an Arovane staple in the coming years. 'parf' and 'torn' follow largely the same path (the latter being a particular highlight), but it's when Zahn switches things up on 'andar' that the depth of his sound begins to show. Using a rumbling kick and barely-present glitches to provide an almost hip-hop jolt, he concentrates his focus on undulating, dubby atmospherics that allow his signature melodies to poke only half-way through the fog. The EP's follow-up "icol diston" meanwhile is some of the most upfront music Zahn has produced to date, immediately showing his rhythmic advances on the glassy 'yua:e', a self-assured collision of pulsing, stepped kicks, polyrhythmic crunches and euphoric analog washes.
Zahn even responds to the rave echoes that surrounded him in Berlin with 'nacrath', contorting 'ardkore stabs into chirpy, hopeful lead sequences that dance through sine pulses, harp-like synth plucks and halfstep bumps. But hands-down our favorite moments come from Zahn's final DIN 12", where he remixed two tracks from Pröfrock himself: Dynamo's 'außen vor' and Various Artists' 'no.8'. The former is legendary around these parts, showing Zahn's skill working in plushest technoid mode as he skips around a squashed deep house template, letting pads slowly affect the flow with distant longing, and the latter is a remodel of Pröfrock's most crushing recording. Zahn takes his friend's smoked-out synth squelches and adds a low, slow beat that comes across like a weightless answer to Timbaland's Missy/Tweet run, dominating the soundsystem with subdued, syncopated force. Both tracks still sound like little else out there, and they haven't aged a day. Massive recommendation, obviously.