Growing up in Queens in the pre-Internet ’90s, cross-pollination between sub-cultures was unavoidable, according to Billy Werner; he cites how punks, skaters, ravers, and hip hop heads all seemed to end up dancing at the pioneering NYC techno night NASA, the gathering famously depicted in the cult classic Kids. It’s with that same wide variety of influences that Werner has donned many musical hats over the years: singing for hardcore band Hot Cross, releasing disco-house records as Billy W on labels such as Nordic Trax and Marcos Cabral’s Hamilton Dance Records—and recently, making gritty techno under the alias M/R. Werner debuted the M/R moniker last year with an excellent 12” on Philly-based label Great Circles, eventually catching the ears of longtime friend and L.I.E.S. boss Ron Morelli, who included it in his best of 2014 list.
Prior to any techno debauchery, Morelli and Werner shared numerous bills in New York’s punk-hardcore scene, later sharing the DJ booth on Avenue A in the East Village to play disco and boogie sounds. “I’d been sending Ron stuff over the years, and my M/R stuff may have been a little unexpected for him, but I think the Great Circles release really clicked with him,” Werner remarked. After giving Morelli first crack at new material early in 2015, this 12-inch the result, with three of the new tracks and one older getting signed to the release.
The record’s first cut, “Let That Shit Breathe”, is a dark slice of brooding techno with a menacing kick drum pumping; soon. haunting synths saunter in and add some wavy spook. “Just Say No” follows and slows the pace, shifting away from straight 4-4 in favor of a broken-beat laced with rolling swatches of cut-up drums, psychedelic samples and left-field atmospherics to create a heady arresting vibe.
On the flip is the head-nodding “Slinky Kids,” with a scratchy, modulating synth riff in the fore and slow-beat drums providing the backbone for the groove to wander in and out amid bright sonic flourishes. “Coconut Jar” closes out the release similarly to how it started: Dark, nasty four-to-the-floor techno and booming drums give way to a devious synth line laid on top.
All of Werner’s influences come through on this EP, with its four tracks bringing different styles and sonic qualities to the table. Werner’s affinity for kick drums and distorted, over-driven synths harkens back to his punk DIY days with Morelli, but those influences turn out to be a mere vehicle for a true songwriter’s acumen, one that creates grooves that won’t leave your head. Already tipped as one to watch, definitely stay on the lookout for more M/R material in the near future.