Max Gardner – “Stories from a Past Life” (Resource Records) [September 17, 2021]

Max Gardner debuts on Chris Jackson’s label Resource Records to release a series of highly polished, unique, and funky cuts which help to solidify his foothold in a burgeoning West Coast techno scene.

Coming out of what seems like unknown territory on the techno world, Max Gardner seeks to add his name to the many new fresh faces coming out of what is arguably a new West Coast techno movement. A long time native of the San Francisco Bay Area and champion of the Direct to Earth crew, and also co-founder of the mysterious techno label Peer along side Cory Simpson and Sean Raya, Max has done way more of his share of fighting to keep the techno pure, underground and the true school vibe strong in the community. It comes as little surprise that Chris Jackson of Resource Records, a long term member of the San Jose and Los Angeles techno scene should pick this up on his label. Chris’ ear confirms what’s been apparent for many years, and that is, Max Gardner is a world class talent hiding in our own back yard.

The concept for this release, according to Max, is that these tracks were a long term “labor of love that never saw the light of day until now. These are old songs I sat on forever and honestly I wasn’t sure if they would ever get released. Chris liked them so that inspired me to get them to completion.”

For those familiar with the process of writing tracks consistently, you know those tracks that always seem to be good but always are on the back burner. Misjah’s “Wicked Snails” seems to hint at this process where it’s always the slow and hard-to-finish tracks that seem to turn out best and stand the test of time.

First on the release is “Love the High” where Gardner takes on a sculpted and tasteful filtered approach to pressurized and assertive drone based hypnotic techno. The disembodied tones matched with purposely subdued hues of buzzing synths seek to take down the level of the set and push the beat straight into your heart and shoulders. -A really inescapable feeling of being pressed into this world he has created. All the subtle nuance feels worked as well, and the details obsessed over. A great track for settling into the post peak part of the night.

“Gossip Boss,” the second track on this release, plays with a lot of delirious modulation, the use of which is somewhat unique within techno, since some artists are afraid of modulating pitch. But with a subtle tough and careful consideration, Max Gardner really pushes it to a funky and intense place. A place where it might be too much to take, but just when you might find it too intense, he purposefully saves you, assuring his control over the track and the music which is breathtaking and persuasive.

Last track, “Knew Wave,” is a solid and funky track that has a real drunken modulation to the FM synths. Something that is completely alien and different from most techno styles you have heard before. It has minimal stylings but imagine an out-of-this-world experimental vibe to the synthesis. If you wanted to look for unique, trippy, and completely funky techno beyond compare…this is it.

Max’s skills behind the decks and his ear for techno are really top notch in the SF techno scene right now. So it makes sense that, with a little prodding he should be heard more often and more people should take note that there’s something brewing out here in the west. And it’s not just from the likes of Developer, Silent Servant, Drumcell, and Truncate; it’s from a new guard, and Max Gardner is very much apart of it.

-Sean Ocean

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