Down Low Deconstructs the State Divide Part 2

Texas techno with Bill Converse

I’m slouched in a corner of Leper River Studio with Austin’s Bill Converse. The formidable electronic artist came of age via Michigan’s legendary techno community. As a DJ, he cut his teeth in East Lancing and Detroit, performing alongside the genre’s defining acts, including Claude Young, who at the time called Converse “the world’s youngest DJ.”

Every Sunday, yours truly and Bill, who records for my Obsolete Future cassette label, gather in our dingy riverside studio for Timelife Methrave, a radio show transmitting from the Haag’s Intergalactic FM: Radio Free Robotron. He’s focused a mix entirely of Down Low Music vinyl, which will be released later this year.

Today, rather than piecing together my own set, he’s cuing up his favorite tracks from the Dallas imprint. When it comes to Down Low’s essence, Bill’s the authority, having DJ’d these records since the Nineties. As usual, bins of 12-inchers cover the carpet.

Insect songs curdle omnipresent and I’m pretty sure our audience – in addition to a random group of dedicated listeners in Cleburne and Eastern Europe – are a colony of termites feasting on the floor boards beneath us. Techno aids digestion.

Bill commences with Convextion’s “Stiletto Caress (For Yvette)” from the 2002 Untitled 12-inch. Its airy pads waft like military jet fuel; the sepia tone fumes differ from commercial airliners’ burnt television chem-trails. The track’s weightlessness gathers mass with a widening bassline and mineral rich drum firing.

Atmospheric techno often invokes dilapidated industrial landscapes; a post-rusted Rust Belt or Northern English and Eastern German cities bombed to unfamiliarity. Convextion channels a similar milieu of nature commingled to industry, but he evokes a wasteland tracing the Gulf Coast to the Panhandle.

“Siletto Caress” floats effortlessly into the subsequent selection, Dfd’s “Pg,” from the Satellite Cities EP. The track introduced my guest to Down Low in the first place. Supposedly, a member of the duo resides in Austin, with the second in Dallas.

Speculative whereabouts remain a common trend within the state’s electronic community. “Pg’s” 4am-north-of-Waco mood mushrooms like the luminosity of DFW across the flat plain, man-less cranes erected onto the skyway as the I-35 artery undulates below.

Following that, Arne Weinburg’s opulent electro cut “Way Back to the North” creeps between utopia and dystopia like a flag on the mast. It caresses playfully, before sloping into a sardonic hair-raiser.

Dutch trendsetters Legowelt and Orgue Electronique filter in next as Macho Cat Garage, with dripping disco number “Pussycat.” Prior to Timelife Methrave, I wasn’t privy to the Dutch/Texas techno connection. Thank you Down Low for setting the stage.

Continuing in the discotheque vein, $tinkworx’s “Whut/Yinmao” pummels with repetitive splices, spitting “that’s what you got” and “move it.” In last week’s Down Low installment of All-Notes-Off, I noted “Whut/Yinmao” as a 12-inch, but the turntable can attest it’s a 7-inch – a rare but welcome format for the style.

Bill Converse’s Down Low set confirms the dinky size of Texas’ electronic community, utterly unconcerned with numbers, focused only on the prodigious scope of the music. Down Low doesn’t push a Texas sound, whatever that may be. Instead, the label trickles out quality underground tracks with an intriguing sonic range.

Down Low hasn’t released a record since 2008, but their dormancy now lifts like pumice vapors from a crater.

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More Down Low Music
Down Low Deconstructs State Divide
Down Low Deconstructs State Divide
Texas techno out of Dallas and dormancy - part I

Conor Walker, Sept. 3, 2014

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Down Low Music, Bill Converse, Obsolete Future, Timelife Methrave, Haag’s Intergalactic FM: Radio Free Robotron, Convextion, Dfd, Arne Weinburg, Legowelt, Orgue Electronique, Macho Cat Garage, $tinkworx

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