Highpoint Lowlife is one of those little-known labels that puts out music of such furiously consistent quality that it’s a wonder more people aren’t aware of its existence. It’s a shame – quite aside from anything else, Thorsten Sideboard’s label is leading the pack right now in terms of digital distribution. Every new release is available to buy though the HL website for an almost shockingly small amount, as well as through larger digital distributors such as Boomkat for a little more. When coupled with the label’s impressive output – in the last few months they’ve released, amongst others, glitch-ridden electronica from 10-20 and a wonderful ambient EP by Pausal – it instills a real sense of loyalty and a ‘buy-before-you-try’ mentality that’s increasingly important at a time when it’s becoming ever less financially viable to release music independently.
Ruaridh Law, the artist more commonly known by pseudonym The Village Orchestra, has a long history with the label. As a producer he’s quite impressively prolific, during this year alone already releasing an hour-long ambient improvisation under the title I Can Hear The Sirens Singing Again and a more dancefloor-directed 12” on Stuff, The Dark Is Rising. His latest as TVO, The Starry Wisdom caps off a good year then, and on a particular high – it may well be the best thing he’s done yet.
Ostensibly a techno record, The Starry Wisdom’s core tracks twist and shift like some kind of cosmic Rubik’s cube, themes interlocking and forming oddly tessellated shapes for short periods at a time before disengaging again and floating off into the ether. Opener ‘Aklo Cut With Saffron’ is driven by a rippling 4/4 stomp worthy of Berghain in its relentless forward momentum, yet on headphones it’s as powerful an experience as it would be on a massive club system, underpinned by an almost intangible melodic drift that remains long after the beat dissipates. The diffuse percussive webs of ‘Arkham, Mass.’ are even worthier of Berlin status and a little reminiscent of T++, their mechanical stylings progressing through several distinct patterns across the track’s seven minutes.
Best of all though is the EP’s least immediately club-driven moment. The twilight electronics of ‘The King In Yellow’ are stained a deep nocturnal purple, lit by sudden flashes of light that elongate like car headlights trapped in a long exposure. If the recent reissue of Kraftwerk’s classic albums has managed to collectively remind a generation of their immense impact on modern dance music, ‘The King In Yellow’ epitomises just how far their influence extends in 2009 – still traveling at a consistent pace down the midnight autobahn, still moving relentlessly forward to the insistent pound of an engine that continues to extend as far as the eye can see. Right now, it looks as though Law will continue the journey to its logical conclusion.
And the entire thing only costs three pounds. That’s less than a pint if you live pretty much anywhere near London, and you don’t even have to leave your seat.
Postscript: Close compadres Sonic Router are giving away 'The King In Yellow' for free, courtesy of HL. Grab it here.