DIY Toronto DJ/promoter collective Forth has championed the city's late-night scene since its inception. From 2015 on, they've been expressive and incisive about the embarrassment of riches the city's got on hand, just as likely to rally crowds around the local talent as they are to bring in names like Marie Davidson, Denis Sulta and Zenker Brothers. Now, they've augmented their rave series with a record label, beginning with a self-titled 12-inch promised as the first of a series of scene-documenting compilations.
The first instalment of this latest gesture to put Toronto on the global underground dance music map assembles six new tracks from some of the city's finest; it's a techno-heavy platter charged with new tracks from Ciel, Joel Eel, Gingy, Hadi, Kontravoid and fresh new Andre Edwards-Roderique (previously of Toronto duo Èbony) project 'R.'
Forth's own Joel Eel sets things in motion with "This Invisible Phantom," the first new material we've heard from him since last year's Very Good Person. It's a mobilizing, EBM-inflected piece throbbing and scraping with sandpaper bristle and shoot-out kick detonations. From there, Very Good Person collaborator Gingy takes it into more experimental territory with "Mike Monkey," which challengingly positions what sounds like the writhing contortions of some amorphous techno-blob moulting in the sizzling heat of an afterhours sweatbox.
Everything's distant and out of focus on "Weight," where 'R' slips from one dreamlike zone to the next in a brilliant fog, booming, reverberant bass propelling you through slippery clusters of fragmented, ephemeral stimuli, haunted by memories of the club and the dusky, longing sax sounds you expect to call out from the dock of a shipyard alike.
Side B kicks off with Ciel's "Erhu Jam," which sounds like anything but an erhu jam. All meticulous, dizzying electro arpeggios and breakbeats that swing and slap with pendulous, industrial kicks, it's less reminiscent of the two-stringed bowed instrument than it is of the dreamy, eclectic percussion landscapes of the three-track Peach004 EP Ciel — otherwise known as Cindy Li — put together last year for Shanti Celeste's Peach Discs imprint. Besides having a fire year that saw her Boiler Room debut, Li's has been a vital voice in advancing the scene, and she's garnered well-earned praise for her work organizing womxn-first party series Work In Progress and the hand she had in developing safer space policies alongside Gingy with the It's Not U It's Me collective. Though this comp regrettably fails to achieve the same gender parity Li has fought for with her lineups and activism, perhaps her inclusion here is indicative of more progress yet to come.
Forth organizer Hadi Mousattat (or just Hadi if you like) chases it with an ominous, adrenaline-inducing piece of rhythmic hypnotism on "Master," and then when Cameron Findlay's masked mutation Kontravoid comes in to shut it all down, it feels like the after-party for the after party, the acidic, EBM-charged techno of "Disclousure" and its sinuous synth lines built to blast into the sunrise, surrounded by hands waving aloft. (Forth)