Ryan James Ford flashed into the public eye with his opening track on Marcel Dettmann's fabric77 [reviewed here]. A few featured sets for MDR label nights around Europe, a bunch of super-subtle mixes for various podcasts, a new label of his own (SHUT), a release for Dettmann (MDR17) and this new EP on Answer Code Request's label, and it seems that Ford's star is truly on the rise. This native of Calgary makes playing the Berlin techno scene look easy, but it's clearly intense dedication blended with a natural ear that produced an EP of great originality. Like his champion, Dettmann, Ford produces emotionally-charged techno that moves delicately through a whole spectrum of moods, although steering away from the happier tones - this is a Berlin record, after all. It's a beautiful EP that spans ambient sensitivity and four-to-the-floor techno.
As we heard on Dettmann's fabric album, Ford is a master of sensitive beginnings. The dreamy ambient start of "G5olk 4rfete" summons listeners to drift along the synth-pop sounds with jagged electric guitar attacks that morph into a sparse metallic beat. This is the sound of new nostalgia. The layered complexity is almost overwhelming, but Ford holds us together like any solid DJ, giving just enough to push us along to the percussive "Sketl trkt", which indulges with complex snare patterns evolving seamlessly into drifting, droning sounds: the result is a sublime beauty. The dramaturgy of these tracks will make them so useful in the sets of DJs who play with a beautiful flow.
Ford's real talent is his ability to sustain an emotional engagement heavy with atmosphere. "Astrid Oelzant" has a harder techno beat, with a strong opening and a wash of sound before the pace picks up and we are transported to a softer place with humming chords that are layered before a processed electric piano softly caresses the dancer languidly drifting through their hazy movements.
Not all of the tracks are so wistful. "Kuhlp korkhu" is a bouncy, banging club track that would be the energetic middle of a set, and the final track "Kuana colbk" scatters subconscious sounds by smothering them with a droning pitch out of which a beat starts to gather and swell.
The strange track titles of Ford's EP appear to be from some future language. The words look as if they are familiar, but to pronounce them is to express a new sound. Ford's techno displays the same characteristic: his sound is both familiar and new, comfortable and expansive; it recalls other artists while being fantastically original. He takes us into new territory with this EP that occasionally borders on the sublime.