John Graham — most know him as the certified hitmaker, Quivver. He’s behind several dance anthems that have been permanently sealed into the music’s history, and a prime influencer of house and techno. But what is the true essence behind this prolific artist, who’s operated at juggernaut levels for nearly three decades? With a long overdue ReKonstrukt arriving at our doorstep via his experimental Controlled Substance imprint on October 5, Graham is finally ready to express who he is in cohesive, sonic form.
ReKonstrukt is the culmination of the “Quivver sound” so carefully built over the years: driving, techy in the right places, and moreover, progressive — not just in the sense of the genre, but in terms of the word itself, and how its definition applies to what John Graham has put forth. He’s done something akin to Sasha’s Involver series in that much of it is comprised of drastically re-molded pieces by others he admires, but ultimately advances this format to a whole new frontier. Four fresh originals are woven carefully into the mix, as well a special collaboration.
Graham begins his autobiographical aural narrative with an introduction that gently stirs the mind awake with eerie synths and cymbal clags before rolling into a hypnotic soundscape with minimal, yet well-placed notes and diverse instrumentation. Another strong and thoroughly-proven gift of this veteran DJ soon makes itself known: his ability to tell a story, and with seamless transitions at that. The second track seems to come out of nowhere, building upon the mystery of the introduction and adding a new, ethereal element in Lily Pita’s vocals. Titled “Summer,” it kicks the LP into full gear with strengthened percussion and more complex layering.
Technical, gritty, and focused — these hallmark motifs of Quivver’s aesthetic are prominent throughout ReKonstrukt, and can be heard loud and clear in its second re-edit target, “Something’s Not Right” by Dan Sieg. Quivver paints the original in aquatic arpeggios and full padding, making way for stabs of synth to add edge to the finished product. Other remixes like his glittering, yet futuristic and raw take on Beatamines’ “Omega,” his treatment of Khainz’ “Space Invader” and of course, his twisting of “Jack Mountain” by Mattia Saviolo into an utter stomper, also remind listeners of Quivver’s long hours spent in the studio honing his craft.
At this point, Graham is at work sneakily increasing the speed and drive to make way “Reaction,” by DNYO, which has been flipped entirely on its head. Monstrous as ever, roaring synthesizers and tense string edits ebb and flow throughout the track’s duration, whilst retro synth notes cut through the noise to add a bit of nostalgia. The tension continues as the LP’s official collaboration, “Aside” folds itself in, wielding darkness with hollow, running notes and spooky progressions. Such an awe-inducing, impactful display of sound is what one would expect to hear in a three-way between Quivver and his partners — in this case, the venerable Rick Pier O’Neil and D-Formation.
ReKonstrukt closes in perhaps the most appropriate way it could for someone as tenured as John Graham: with two brilliantly-crafted originals that pay homage to his roots while simultaneously manifesting the cliché, that, like a fine wine, he gets better with age. We see him traversing a stormy path through muddy synthesis and crisp drums in “Wait A Minute,” creating an intriguing, tech-based juxtaposition that only someone as skilled as him can pull off. We’re likely to hear plenty of as he moves into the future. Finally, at album’s end, “Eight Bit Eclipse” transports subjects to a Detroit warehouse with piano stabs and thundering percussion, wrapping his story up in a refined, timeless manner.
This is Quivver in his finest, most innovative form, and he’s certainly got a lot left to give.