Nico // The Driving Rain
(Midnight Shift)

Nicolas Guerrero’s earlier work as White Visitation already marked him out as a producer transcending the trappings of conventional dancefloor material. Crucial drops on Blank Slate, L.I.E.S. and Styles Upon Styles were rooted in techno to some extent, but already displayed rhythmic and textural tendencies pointing to more adventurous terrain. Scattered compilation appearances for Timedance and Mother’s Finest suggested his switch to recording as Nico was heading more pointedly into a grey area where soundsystem dynamics and fluid tempos reign supreme. That direction now fully manifests with this EP for Midnight Shift, cementing his position as a producer with a vital, unique handle on drum programming and a keen instinct for tension and release.

It’s noticeable that the first kick drum doesn’t land until the second track on The Driving Rain. The title track is brimming with nervous energy as loping percussion interlocks around a stuttering central figure, with subtle peaks and troughs marked out by patient FX swells. In the blooming field of kick-less techno, this is a perfect example of how to raise nape hairs without resorting to that most obvious of anchors. When Guerrero does decide to let fly with a low-end pulse on ‘Wolfram’, it’s powerful and yet the track still feels as light as a feather, pursuing an idea about club music as a restorative elixir rather than an instrument of brutality.

‘Elements’ takes things deeper, allowing a few more tonal shapes to create a mutant dub veneer through which Guerrero’s fractured time signatures cut with astounding clarity. It’s certainly more dynamic than the two preceding tracks thanks to some dramatic surges and stops, but never at the expense of the pervading air of mystery. ‘Wolfram (Dub)’ weaves a few more melodic elements into the mix, creating a mood that would sit comfortably alongside Burnt Friedman. Finding his own angle on the balance between intricacy and spaciousness, The Driving Rain is an assured opening gambit from Guerrero’s new(er) alias, and one which lovers of drum science will find themselves instinctively drawn towards.