Various Artists – Structures And Solutions: 1996-2016
Immense Birmingham Techno centered showcase compiled for the label’s 20th anniversary
Sealed Copies but please note, the sleeve is a bit bashed on the corners
James Ruskin and Blueprint are two names synonymous with British techno. Ruskin has never really put into words what makes a Blueprint record, but the label has one the most distinctive catalogues of its era. Aside from the music’s excellent production quality and propensity for detailed sound design, a defining characteristic might be the creeping tension in many of its releases, or the visceral head trip they guarantee.
Blueprint has maintained its identity through a few phases. There were the ’96-’99 years, when Ruskin and Richard Polson were releasing as Outline and Oliver Ho’s funky tribal sound was emerging, and then the ’00s, when Polson left Ruskin’s deep and driving style to crystallise. Polson’s sudden departure in ’06 caused both Blueprint and its owner to take a break, but since 2009 they’ve returned with a clear sense of purpose. The label’s most recent chapter has abandoned its exclusivity in order to widen its purview, bringing on board artists like Lakker, Sigha andSamuel Kerridge. Blueprint has also become a place for old friends like Surgeon and Oliver Ho, and a platform for Ruskin’s collaborations with Regis (as O/V/R) and Mark Broom to bloom.
Cue Structures & Solutions: 1996-2016. Not only does this compilation see the current roster (Lakker, Makaton, The Fear Ratio, Rommek, Rumah & Progression) hitting their strides, but it also includes a track from Steve Bicknell—whose Lost nights, says Ruskin, were highly influential to Blueprint—and a relentless solo production from Regis. Some of the non-affiliated artists make an effort to colour within the lines, albeit without compromising their own sound. Take Tessela’s funky tribal “Rub”: it’s still a bit ravey, but with a dose of early Oliver Ho about it. Blawan’s “Passer By” is submerged, dreamy and mesmerising in its own way. Randomer’s “Sheen” and Truss’s “Wonastow” formStructures & Solutions destructive side.
For a chilly groove check Ruskin & DVS1’s “Page 1”; for classic Blueprint with a twist, Luke Slater’s “Pull” does a great job. Bicknell’s “Disguise of Beings” could kill or save a dance floor, and is one of the best inclusions for it. Play Ruskin’s “6teenth” for nostalgia and Oliver Ho’s “The Serpent Devours Itself” for a Broken English Club-style view of the future. 20 years on and Blueprint are as significant as ever, and this compilation is proof that they’re not going anywhere.