A First For Maltese Techno
Thursday 10 December 1998 (Michael Bugeja - The Malta Independent)
Tinnitus is defined as the ringing in the ears that is experienced after prolonged exposure to high volumes. It is also the title of Malta's first ever original techno music album, released on new local label Sonic Mecca. Containing eight selected works (plus one brief interlude) from 22 year-old Owen Jay, one of Malta's foremost DJs, this album is to be seen more as a compilation of the artist's favourite compositions so far, and not as a complete album as such.
Since he started DJing some five years ago, Owen Jay has played at every major rave party on the island in the last five years, and has also performed several times in Germany. His best gigs, in his opinion, were Exit's Le Panic, Unity's Sonic Mecca and of course his stint at the 1997 Love Parade in Berlin. His favourite DJ's are The Surgeon and Christian Vogel, while his favourite artists include, amongst many others, Massive Attack, Aphex Twin, Joey Beltram, Beck, Mixmaster Morris, Scanner and Neil Landstrumm.
Initially dabbling in house and progressive, he eventually switched to techno. Nowadays, his live sets have mutated into a mixture of techno music with the odd experimental ambient sidestep thrown in, but only if, he insists, he feels that the crowd are psyched up enough for it. This penchant for weird and experimental cuts actually takes up most of Owen's time, since this kind of electronica is his favourite. This is also evident in some of his tracks on Tinnitus, such as the first cut, Bugs from afar, wherein he assembles a pounding rhythm with sounds aplenty, and also managing to infuse some borrowed voices courtesy of a Japanese cartoon flick. This track reverberates elements of Owen's live approach, although it remains distant from the full-on beat attack that dominates his popular DJ sets. Another such track is Tokyo Underground, which takes off with a minimal loop that evolves into a mellow slice of techno, focusing more on the ensemble of sounds rather than the kick-power that is usually the main driving force of most techno.
But Tinnitus is no home-listening record, especially when it comes to the dancefloor friendly slammers, which are sure to find their way into the playlists of several local deck-devils. Of these, my least favourite is Appropriate Scale, but the rest, Mental Corrosion, Hydraulic Blast and Soyuz 1.01, the latter of which does remind me of Sven Vath for some reason, are sure to have clubbers going mad for it on the dancefloors! The album closer, Natural Hiss, is presented here as a Too Black edit, suggesting there must be a bountiful archive of music chez Owen waiting to see the light of day. Tinnitus also features collaborations with local DJ Brian James and dance acts Duo Blank and Bound By Sound, which further consolidate the possibility of a wider spectrum of dance music to be expected of Owen Jay. Moreover, some of the tracks on this record should be getting the remix treatment by established foreign DJ's, in particular Claude Young, which can only be interpreted as further endorsement of the standard of Owen's original material. As a result, Tinnitus should not only be regarded as a remarkable debut for the young DJ, but as a milestone in paving the way for similar ventures by other Maltese dance-mongers. Incidentally, Owen Jay's next step, besides working on a new album, will be to go out completely live. The first appointment is scheduled for early '99, alongside live PA's by Duo Blank and Bound by Sound. Meanwhile, grab your fill with Tinnitus, Malta's first techno album....and a good start at that!