It is often said that some of the best things in music come about through mistakes.
John Tejada is certainly aware of that notion, for when approaching his tenth studio album he decided to take advantage of the opportunity offered to him by equipment that was beginning to malfunction, with his delays and patches on the verge of being broken. This lent an essentially analogue function to his digital set-up, introducing what on the face of it becomes a vulnerable, human element.
Not that Tejada’s music has ever been wanting in expressive means, for in his last two albums as a Kompakt artist, Parabolas and The Predicting Machine, he has plotted a natural path between analogue and digital by way of some beautifully structured music and a willingness to shake things up a bit and vary the tempo. Signs Under Test finds him up to the same tricks, an album that ebbs and flows between big beats and small, breaks and more conventional four to the floor techno.
From the outset it is clear we are on solid ground, the firm foundations of Two 0 One supporting a slightly more distorted burst of riffing that tells us immediately of Tejada’s assurance in the studio. This feeling is reinforced by the lovely, squelchy bass sound on Beacht, supporting a track that leaves a nice fuzzy feeling, while the waves of sound and consonant harmonies behind Cryptochrome and Rubric also leave the listener feeling well supported.
Less certain are the unusual and slightly ominous tendencies to Vaalbara, which on the face of it starts with a reassuring warmth to its beat. Gradually Tejada introduces a feeling of uncertainty through the failure of his melodic material to completely resolve, moving each time to an odd resolution. Despite the reassurance of the smooth beat the track nags away at the conscience. Penumbra and Endorphins, on the other hand, find Tejada sharpening the studio tools and sounds with aplomb, using more acidic riffs to great effect.
There is a consistently high standard of work throughout Signs Under Test. The structures are perfectly aligned but never predictable, the beats run between blessed-out and energetic, and while the warm sounds offer a clue to his Californian hideaway, the crisp delivery of the riffs offer directions to a more European heritage.
Still a relatively unsung talent, John Tejada has every right to be given an entry to the techno hall of fame, should it exist. He makes intricate and beautifully crafted music, and in Signs Under Test it is like looking at the perfect imperfections of a stained glass window. You don’t see the whole way through it, you get a glimpse of shadows on the other side, but in the end it is the colours and the craftsmanship that keep you looking, or in this case listening.