One of the UK's leading techno journeymen, Ben Long has finally released his debut album. After a dedicated and prolific 23 years of singles, EPs and remixes (not to mention touring, either alone or as one half of Space DJz), Standing Alone is exactly what you'd expect: A distillation of a career's worth of influences and experience on the front lines of techno. It's a confident and deeply rooted (if not exactly innovative) piece of work that finds Long navigating the style without losing sight of its traditional coordinates.
In Long's favour is his ability to switch deftly from sweaty techno jams to sinister, mid-tempo electronica. The first third of the album is made up of slow-burning tracks like these, reminding us that Long came up against the backdrop of early British IDM. It would have been interesting to hear these two styles blended more seamlessly in a single track from time to time instead of kept separate, but Long's allegiance is clearly to the club; this is a dance record first and foremost.
While all of these straight-up techno cuts display an admirable level of workmanlike proficiency though, none really move the style forward in any way. Some are, in fact, forgettable — the underwhelming double-punch of "Fading" and "Fire in the Hole," for instance, ride the techno rails in ways that are very familiar at this point, even if Long's sure hand can be felt throughout.
Certainly, anyone looking for an update on the state of techno in 2017 would be well served by Standing Alone, and its early-Warp-influenced content sets it apart, but overall it's an album that exemplifies more than it innovates. (EPM)