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    Motor - Hexen album cover

    MotorHexen – 017
    CD, Album
    Style:Techno, Abstract



    Companies, etc.


    • Design [Uncredited]Meeuw

    postbus 19049
    3001 ba rotterdam
    the netherlands
    [email protected]

    distribution by kompakt
    brabanterstraße 42
    50672 köln

    Barcode and Other Identifiers

    • Matrix / Runout: A0100395309-0101 11 A1 Sony DADC
    • Mastering SID Code: IFPI L551
    • Mould SID Code: IFPI 94K6

    Other Versions (1)View All

    Title (Format)LabelCat#CountryYear
    New Submission
    Hexen (CD, Album)Not On Label (Motor Self-released)noneRussia2000


    Madang's avatar
    Edited one year ago
    ==UPD== As the original text was written well over 3yrs ago, I revised and improved it, setting the record straight on the backstory.

    "Hexen" was the first CD released by [Invalid Label] after a series of critically-acclaimed 12" records, and the Dutch label chose the same artist who kickstarted its' hugely successful catalog back in 1998—Motor, a project of Moscow-based experimental musician and producer Vadim Ugryumov. Back in Russia, he has been writing electronic music since the early '90s. Ugryumov co-founded Techno Dance Club duo and had a few solo tracks, released under Leonardo D.K and other monikers, featured on the prominent Tancevalnij Raj (meaning Dance Paradise) compilation series. Vadim also worked as a mastering and studio engineer on many commercial pop albums, often making club/dance remixes as well, typically under Navigator alias. A few of these remixes rotated heavily on local radio (particularly, Station 106.8 FM, the earliest Russian broadcaster solely focused on electronica), bringing him recognition and a certain degree of popularity across the ex-USSR.

    Motor and Audio.NL's Origins
    'Motor' was one of Vadim's latest monikers, created as he focused on more in-depth, subtler, experimental creations—in contrast to Hi-NRG/Happycore aesthetics of his earlier "club anthems" and pop remixes. Selection of Motor's tracks began circulating among his friends, one of whom ran a mailorder distribution. By total chance, a few demo tapes (with nothing but Vadim's fax number attached to it) made it to Europe; one landed in Frans de Waard's hands, who at the time was planning to launch a new vinyl-only label with Goem bandmates, Roel Meelkop and Peter Duimelinks.

    As per Audio.NL's account on their long-defunct website, De Waard and his buddies got so impressed by Vadim's music they decided to launch Audio.NL with this new, mysterious Muscovite. In 1998, the label's debut audio.nl⁰⁰¹ 12", mastered straight from the original compact cassette, hit European indie record stores' shelves. The risky bet paid off, as Audio.NL soon gained a cult following among minimal techno nerds worldwide. Kompakt took over the label's distribution (one of its' bosses, Michael Mayer, described "Hexen" as 'maybe the most wicked and euphoric record on earth,' no less). In the following 3yrs, Audio.NL released fifteen more 12" records, including two by Motor, audio.nl⁰⁰⁸ and audio.nl⁰¹¹, all highly sought-after and in-demand by the most progressive and trendy techno DJs.

    As far as the clear "Hexen" CD in a blank jewel case that Motor self-published before the 'official' Audio.NL's release—even Vadim couldn't recall all circumstances when I talked about it with him years later. Their communication was always sparse and laconic, faxes-only. By the time Audio.NL made it through a first 'batch' of tracks, relishing and savoring each 45 RPM single, carefully remastered and cut on thick, heavy vinyl—Motor was eager to drop the full-length "Hexen" already, as it served more as a retrospective for him (now exploring far more experimental terrains than 'four-to-the-floor' techno beats: field recordings and phonography, lowercase ambient, barely-perceivable music, granular synthesis, found sound collages, etc.)

    Rather than waiting for leisurely Audio.NL crew, Vadim pressed about 1000 copies pretty soon after the label's launch (blank CD with a sticker, no credits or liner notes): sold in Moscow and Petersburg's indie record stores, distributed via Ptюch Magazine, and, through the help of Audio.NL and Kompakt, abroad. As "Hexen" CD immediately became a hard-to-get rarity in Europe, the label decided to repress it with Meeuw's trademark, ultra-minimalistic artwork.

    To my taste, "Hexen" remains one the most profound and intricate albums of the minimal techno's golden era. It sounds just as delightful and groovy almost 20 years later; worth revisiting/discovering no less than any of the universally praised '90s/mid-2000s techno classics. Of course, the album's core theme is irresistibly groovy, punchy, Colognesque minimal techno—eight tracks already covered on Audio.NL's 12-inches. The blatant, provocative simplicity of these bassline melodies—exploitative, ear-worming, instantly catchy—makes it almost physically impossible not to tap your foot or nod your head to hyper-exalted "Hexen" dancefloor bangers. What impresses me most is virtuosic, almost surgical precision in FX processing and sound manipulation. Intricate aural details fill "Hexen" dancefloor tracks, submerging the listener in a sparse, booming, 'echo chamber' ambiance. Every granular hi-hat, every click & cut, all lean synth arpeggios serve their purpose in a slowly-simmering, suspenseful, barely emphasized tracks' development. To hell with "devil in detail," a single bar here fits the entire Dante's Inferno and Mount Purgatory!

    Right amidst the musical journey, at Track 5's ending, "Hexen" overall mood starts to descend from hyped-up party vibes towards the melancholic, laid-back after-hours session. Out of nowhere, a massive wave of hazy, glitchy ambient awash everything, clearing the listener's aural 'palate,' in a way, before Track 7—surrealistic, musique concrète cut-up that chops, screws, and melts down samples from an early '90s cult MS-DOS game, Hexen: Beyond Heretic. There are, of course, still plenty of uptempo, euphoria-inducing tracks left on "Hexen." But they are more extensively overlapped and crossfaded with abstract soundscapes and short, trippy interludes, akin to Basic Channel and Monolake productions. Among my personal favorites are Track 10 and, most importantly, Track 14—monumental, dark, groovy post-Detroit techno, reminiscent of early Kenny Larkin, a few side-projects of Drexciya-mastermind James Stinson, or Juan Atkins+Moritz von Oswald collabs. After a bit more paranoid, suspenseful 'Hexen' game samplecore shenanigans on Track 15, the album goes to an elegant, cheerful finale: Track 16 has a distant, brief loop from 'Track 2' drowned in sounds of nature, tropical birds chirping over a slow forest creek. Epic!

    The way Audio.NL's website summarized the story wasn't wholly accurate—"Vadim still uses the name Motor but has entirely stopped doing techno music, and now composes sound collages of found radio sounds." Indeed, for the next few years, Ugryumov focused on his new label,, and navigated pretty far away from conventional techno. In the early '00s, Motor sought inspiration in much more radical sound art, like The Hafler Trio, Francisco López, People Like Us, Toy Bizarre, Tmrx, Quiet American's headphone tourism—rather than European minimal techno luminaries.

    He never "entirely" gave up techno, though (and other 'club/dance/EDM'-related genres). Vadim Ugryumov continued working as Navigator (3) and released a very peculiar album, Look 2 The Future CD, just a couple years later. (In a certain way, it almost mirrors "Hexen" in structure, down to a similar 'underwater' ambient interlude in the middle. I regret not purchasing it back around 2009-11 when copies were cheap. These days, the 'first wave of Russian rave electronica' became a collectible niche, apparently; four copies on sale here at Discogs from $31.48, jeez...).

    Five years later, Motor made somewhat of a comeback on the Russian minimal/deep-techno scene, releasing his fifth full-length album, Mammoth, on a trendy net-label Fragment. This album had a few tracks with more-or-less straight rhythms, particularly 'Asidfake' and 'Eyeland (Janet)'—reminiscent of Terre Thaemlitz's "ambient techno." One of the tracks, 'Gok2,' directly referred to Motor's early Audio.NL release, Gok 12" (audio.nl⁰¹⁴). (The sequel album, Mammoth (Part 2), with remixes and alternative takes, was even more dancefloor-friendly).

    But as far as pure 'minimal techno,' subgenre and a scene with strict, almost dogmatic genre definitions—indeed, Motor disappeared abruptly, at the peak of everyone's interest in hypnotizing, stupendously wicked "Russian techno." Leaving it to Anton Kubikov (and his prolific duo SCSI-9), Yura Moorush, Lazyfish, and other post-Soviet electronic wizards to fulfill the international demand, pretty much single-handedly generated in '98 by Vadim Ugryumov, a.k.a. Motor.