Tom Clark's Highgrade imprint has been quietly joining the dots between techno, house, minimal and everything in between since it was conceived in Berlin in 2000. Inspired by the ethos which drove the city's eminent clubs E-Werk and Tresor (Clark held residencies at both), its inception was equally a reaction to the commercialisation of the Berlin electronic music scene which saw the Love Parade selling out to big business and major labels muscling in on the solid groundwork put in by the independents.
Aiming to unleash one vinyl release and one digital each month, and add at least two new artists to its roster each year, Highgrade has made itself one of the most prolific purveyors of fine underground house music (and among the most respected) in a city replete with such concerns. No mean feat, given the considerable competition. The likes of Sebo K, James Flavour, Daniel Dreier, Format:B and Guido Schneider are among the label's vanguard, and as such its catalogue is littered with shimmering electronic jewels, while it has eagerly aligned itself with the likes of Dan Ghenacia and David Duriez's Paris label Freak n' Chic and Vancouver's Wagon Repair, both very much kindred spirits.
Pressure Points is Clark's third album, coming four years after Service Station, and though he claims it is not a club album, it is still laden with four-four beats and hypnotising loops forged on the dancefloors of Europe's clubbing capital. Opener Passion is clipped and groove-heavy, building and dropping layers of percussion over found sounds of crowds, before bringing warm organs to straddle its rolling bassline. The Rock is more abrasive, moody and grinding with vocals from Florian Schirmacher. The title-track is punctuated with spooky electric pianos, while Hitch a Ride is simplicity itself, as all good house music should be, just a few unsettling synths, a wobbling bass and skippy drums.
Elsewhere, All I Can See is a nod to the down-tempo, but it's tracks like the hypnotic Snake Charmer and Secrets In My Pocket (featuring what sounds suspiciously like a spoken-word sample from poet Ursula Rucker), where Pressure Points comes into its own, both fabulously disorientating warehouse party anthems.