The newest release from Atlanta label DKA is a visceral and intense introduction to the state of underground electronica in 2016. Drawing inspiration from Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records tape series and other compilations like From Brussels with Love and Pillows and Prayers, there’s a seriousness to Tape Programme Vol. 1 which builds on the history of industrial music and displays a special dedication to artists from Atlanta. The compilation is as enlightening as it is abrasive, evidence of the care the DKA team took in curating and organizing the album. DKA’s Chris Daresta (Pyramid Club, Anticipation) wishes the label could have released a record for every artist that played a DKA/CGI party in the past year, but Tape Programme Vol. 1 was the more reasonable result.
Given the label’s impressive track record, it’s no shock to find nary a weak spot on these 18 tracks. The real surprise lies in the seamless flow between harsh noise, busy techno, and ambient synthwave. Like a circuitous maze, this compilation seals the listener in a world devoid of any reality beyond grating synth and muscular bass.
Although some tracks, such as Drippy Inputs’ “Shattered Deadbolt,” are fixed within the robotic realm stereotypical to techno, many of the songs here resound with alien life. Like H.R. Giger’s unsettling sketches, Tape Programme Vol. 1 weaves skeletal beats with macabre sexuality, draping tracks in suffocating static and mechanical excess. This all-encompassing darkness runs the risk of becoming ponderous or even frivolous, but each artist on the compilation wields their power with a self-awareness often lacking in electronica. “We prefer to work with artists that are a little weird and do things their own way,” Daresta explains. “The artists we work with use actual gear and are influenced by post-punk, goth, industrial, acid/house, and EBM. The equipment and style used are an important part of our aesthetic.” DKA artists might delve into vintage gear nerdery, but this infatuation with individual sounds is a worthwhile obsession. Rather than simple vehicles for melody and rhythm, these tracks become tools for exploring the emotional qualities of tone. Mannequin Lover’s “Cramp My Style,” for example, is emboldened by viscous synths which encase the listener and endure after the track fades.
Beyond the complexity and quality of each individual track, Tape Programme Vol. 1 serves as a guide to industrial and techno in a world where genre is increasingly meaningless and yet all the more necessary when slogging through an endless line of SoundCloud producers and DJs. In this sense, DKA is as much a cultural resource as a record label. After releasing some of the South’s strongest techno records and forging relationships with a wide swath of musicians and producers via their curated house parties and DJ nights, the label is perfectly equipped to inform the public of the best of the best in industrial and techno. These might be underground hits, but the compilation is still a good introduction for listeners new to the imprint.
Considering the workaholic nature of the DKA team, it’s unsurprising that Tape Programme Vol. 2 is already in the plans, but Daresta admits the label has a slew of releases ready to drop before they can think about the sequel. Currently, DKA is planning a follow-up compilation to Strategies Against the Body for early next year. After that the future is wide open. According to Daresta, “We are hoping to flood the market with DKA releases in 2017.”
DKA Tape Programme Vol. 1 is available now on limited-edition cassette and digital via Bandcamp.