Considering the last out-and-out 'good' year I had was 2003, I'm always loathe to characterize a year as 'good' or 'bad' as usually those words just tend to indicate something is different. Well, given the feeling of the world slowly collapsing that's been on a steady boil for a while--though this past week was a real test of one's hope or optimism--I've found in my own life that this year has been unquestionably intense. One second, I feel firmly set on a path with a purpose, the next I'm scrambling just to hold on (speaking of which, if you're looking for a writer with ten years of experience in digital marketing and SEO to create content, HOLLER). And with other close friends, I've heard much the same.
One of the better developments in my Generalized Anxiety Disorder over the past couple years is that much of my anxiety is now rooted in making things (or not). Thus, when I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed and not in the fetal position, I find myself doing just this more and more. Not only am I able to suspend the crushing feeling of dread descending on me, but it actually feels like I'm maybe accomplishing something (maybe).
Then again, this site has always had a selfish motive behind it and that's to simply write about what I'm into and hope that others find it useful. In moments such as this, it's good to break the circuit of catastrophizing by doing what comes the most natural. And so in that vein, as I work at trying to keep my forthcoming essay on the hardcore continuum under fifty pages (it was at fifty-three last time I checked, smdh), nothing sounds more relaxing than simply rounding up many of the (mostly) recent records I didn't cover last week. Due to the fact that I've unfortunately found a reason to start buying new twelves again, I've been kinda slagging on the reissue and experimental circuit, but there is also a site or two that can better (and more thoroughly scratch that itch). These aren't so much reviews as recent highlights that I still need to dig into much deeper. So, with that in mind, please enjoy this insanely scattershot round-up of records released recently that I wish I could actually buy!
JiFlure - Extraits (Edition Gravats 2018)
A heady percussive odyssey documenting the sonic sculpture created by Jean-Francois Plomb. As described: "From bits and bobs, three compressed cardboard suitcases containing 4 mechanical sanzas, built with circular saw blades, brochette spikes, and windscreen wiper motors. And also a homemade percussive vibrator, some little mechanical percussions, a metronome, a radio, a harmonica..." Yeah, that's pretty much what it sounds like! Of all the records included here, this is one whose rhythms feel truly organic than constructed or arranged, the percussive patterns on "Extrait 2" recalling a drummer's walkabout while the happenstance sequence gradually obtains a certain AI-powered sentience. Ultimately, Plomb's sanzas--which is another term for a mbira, dontchaknow--capture the diurnal beats of life, reminding the listener of the plurality of pulses that surround them everywhere they go as "Extrait 4" devolves from a purely rhythmic piece into a lurching symphony of dissonant rhythm-melodies.
Having played in a gamelan ensemble in college and with my father growing up in Bangkok, I have always had a singular fixation on the music and culture of Thailand. Of course, I would much rather visit there than create some sonic facsimile--seriously, has cultural exoticism been more in vogue since imperialism? That said, it only took a thirty-second preview to clue me in that Sound Voyage is not interested in emulating another culture's sound as much as synthesizing it with the musical backgrounds of two veteran German artists, Niko Schabel and Tom Wieland. Operating in the tradition of proto-fourth world musician Joachim Ernst Berendt, esteemed German jazz music writer, who wrote, amongst others, the books The World Is Sound: Nada Brahma and The Third Ear: On Listening to the World (scope this 1991 Bomb Magazine interview to learn more about this astonishing soul). Taking his idea of world music born from direct encounters with other countries as their starting point, Schabel and Wieland start their project to take their "Post Kraut Exotica bass music" around the world with an extended negotiation with Thai instruments and modalities, while often keeping a western rhythmic framework, the kick drum at times serving as the only reminder that this is music made by two Germans. While this type of sonic voyeurism rarely seems to yield the types of results I would hope for, my initial listen to En Route to Thailand suggest a record that far exceeds the elements that comprise it.
Giant Swan - High Waisted EP (Mannequin 2018)
After that killer Timedance debut, the industrial bassheads move to a more likely label for four-tracks of post-punk-infused industrial techno (if it had come from dubstep). These two are killing it! There isn't a game-changing track along the lines of "Celebrate The Last 30 Years Of Human Ego" but for someone who finds the industrial techno thing a bit tired, these gents add a whole bunch of texture and grit into the mix. And as the slimy, sludgy closer "Palm" illustrates, always down to get weird.
Bambounou - Parametr Perkusja Ep (Disk 2018)
As you might start to notice, there are a few running themes in the curated selection of new releases that lies before you. Firstly, as I was inspired to write about the Animisme and JiFlure releases following a conversation on Twitter about some of the more exciting rhythmic-focused releases out currently, it would seem intricate and global rhythms are a prominent feature amongst many of the records here. And going off the word 'global,' my interest in drum beats of all sorts can only keep me on the western side of things for so long before I go off seeking more explosive and intricate polyrhythms--speaking of which, found out last week I'm seeing Mark Ernestus' Nyege Nyege Rhythm Force in April so what what! Thirdly, as often seems to be the case when interfacing with another culture's musical traditions, there's a faint whiff of spiritual longing in some of these records.
Like the album below, this latest release from long-time French percussive explorer Bambounou (veteran of Modeselektor's 50 Weapons imprint amongst others) was released on Don't DJ's interesting Disk label and marries the producer's tribal touch with a sense of instability and spiritual longing. Where the A-side features the busy and melodic "Kosovo Hardcore" alondside "Dernier Metro," the B is taken up by the nine-minute slow-moving behemoth that is "VVVVV."
So until this week, I was totally unaware of the contemporary electronic dance music scene in Indonesia. Though I had clocked this release a week or two back, I clearly didn't listen closely enough to hear the distinctly Indonesian instrumentation over more globalized bass music patterns. Reading the bandcTribal as it may be, in this case, that doesn't mean 4x4 percussive free-for-alls but rather four composed pieces that take in gamelan, flutes, and other indigenous sounds over such slinking beats as Marsesura's pensive "Asmoro" or the phantom downbeat of Uwalmassa's "Untitled 10." A collaborative release between the Jakarta-based DIVISI62 label and Berlin's DISK, the tracks were recorded in Jakarta, drawing influence from the colorful folk music of Dangdut and the Indonesian martial arts practice of Pencak Silat. The intricate choreography of martial arts films comes to mind during the slow-fast rhythms of "Untitled 06," a playful post-dubstep romp that could soundtrack a gravity-defying showdown in its patient insistence. Closing the record is Wahono, an artist we'll discuss right below, and his composition "Pakar Gula Gendig." The specter of hip-hop and other funk-derived beats hangs heavy over this collection, but in an abstract sense as the thoroughly Indonesian instrumentation displaces any assumptions the western listener might be quick to make. And really, is there much else you can ask from a record?
Not too long ago a friend teasingly referred to me as a 'dubstep apologist.' After all, outside of a few pockets, dubstep became something much different from what it started out as when it hit these shores. It's been a tad depressing in talking to the dubstep-inspired producers I've been profiling as in talking to them, I get more of a shared musical background than I do with most people in the states. Having started a part-time job as a sound tech recently, it was just my luck that for both shifts this week, I was paired with the first person I've ever met in my eleven years here that I could bump Skreamizm Vol. 4 with while driving around the city setting up speakers. Feels apt, no?
Native New Yorker Mike Bloom is four years younger than me, making him old enough to have had some of his formative musical experiences at Dub Wars, the city's pre-eminent dubstep night that ran for the second half of the decade and featured residents like Dave Q and Joe Nice. I had been a handful of times as it was my only chance to actually experience the physicality of the music and it was awesome. So having that shared background, I didn't really doubt him when he said he had some music I might like (and usually when someone says that, well....)
In addition to getting to hear some very promising tracks from his mate Milo McBride and another producer whose name I'm spacing on, Mike also played me the first release from his Maddjazz label by the unknown-to-me Indonesian producer Wahono, Abandoned Hi-Hats EP (and yes, that's same Wahono as on that Atavisme comp...turns out I did known his music!) Specializing in the type of polystep broken bass that I go gaga for, it's a record I'm certainly hoping I can still grab a physical copy of.
The use of jazz in electronic music is a tricky proposition. I often feel that many of the artists I feature on this site are making a form of jazz, one free of the ride cymbal swing and Fender Rhodes. So when I hear a 'jazzy' record all too happy to try and sound 'jazzy,' my side eye dials past 'squint.' And perhaps it was the late afternoon sun, but from the second the sepia sounds of Henry Keen came on, I found my prejudices receding. It's not groundbreaking music, but it's truly fun to listen to while retaining an ear for detail that also makes it engaging. I'm hoping to have an interview with Mike in the near future, but in case that doesn't happen, it felt only natural to share this newborn label's promising start. Check their Bandcamp to grab a copy of the Keen as sadly the Wahono is sold out:(
So how's this for daft? While I've long known that early Belgian rave label R&S gave brith to the ambient sublabel Apollo in 1992, it wasn't until recently rereading Simon Reynolds' Energy Flash that I realized the Greek reference of the name (and for as much as I read about the Dionysian energy of raves as a philosophy undergrad, you'd think I'd pick up on that). Anyway, ever since R&S reassembled at the end of the last decade, Apollo has been carving out a curious path with signings both wise and aloof. In particular, I've never gotten the label's interest in dubstep refugee Synkro, but when I saw he was doing an EP with 90s IDM bossman Arovane, well, it was too good to pass up. And to be fair, if you've heard the former's music before, it sounds like an updated version, which is not a bad thing! Its airy, heady, and groovy in all the right ways without overstaying its welcome like some of both producers' albums.
Meanwhile, the label's courtship of SUED Records' bosses SW and SVN continues with a magnificent six-track double-pack that contains some of my favorite material of theirs to date.
Speaking of jazz....
I added this to my Discogs Wantlist seven months ago. GAME TIME.
The pimpdaddy of pointillism takes command of an army of little drum bots and creates head-spinning rhythmic magic. Haven't spent the time I'd like to with this yet, but that's because there's not much point doing that not on vinyl. Believe it or not, but haven't really invested in digital music, like at all, outside of my Soundcloud account.
D'Arcangelo - II (Suction 2018)
Awwwww yeah, back at it again, y'all! It's hard to believe it was a year ago that I first heard of D'Arcangelo thanks to Lowfish and Solvent's vinyl pressing of their 1996 breakthrough, a record I've talked about in this space more than once. Though they never released a proper follow-up, Suction once again comes to the rescue to collect four previously unreleased tracks with two others to create the EP that always existed but was never created. Absolute bizarro electro fire.
P.H.O.R.K. - No Afterlife (Opal Tapes 2018)
To be totally honest, I know very little about PHORK (or P.H.O.R.K. in some cases). However you spell it, the LA producer's name stands for 'People’s Higher Order of Royal Kinship.' Though I was familiar with the name, it wasn't until a month or two ago that I came across their name in the tracklist for Beatrice Dillon's Truants Mix and thought to myself, hey, I should probably give them a chance. And then, like the universe is prone to do, a friend unexpectedly sent me an email not long after informing me of their latest four-track effort for weirdo dance overlords Opal Tapes.
Kicking off with an all-too-familiar filter house template, the producer quickly establishes his interest in the more off-kilter end of the sound as after a moment or two of smooth sailing, he starts chopping up the vocal hook in the most disorienting of ways. As the label's description bears out, No Afterlife sees the producer trying on a variety of genre hats and gently subverting each one through its most recognizable tropes, disproportionately enlarging certain elements to keep the listener permanently on guard, like the literal car crash that happens ninety seconds into the jacking percussive intro. From that point on, a tranquil sonic bed imitating the tidal flows slowly but surely moves to the front of the mix and transforming the track from a nail-biter to something more spiritual and warmer. The humorously-named "Get That One Note Jam" rides a steady sixteenth-note synth tone over a broken set of drums, shifting to a higher octave in the track's second part before a resonant echo of that tone over-grows the lead rhythm-melody for a moment before finding room to co-exist in the ample space opened up by the busy yet minimal drum programming (making it the track I'd be most eager to play). A similarly-textural two-note snippet is chopped and oscillated within an inch of its life over a banging, plastic UK Funky rhythm on "Love Recirculated," droning without end, a tonal rhythm-melody
Raime - Am I Using Content Or Is Content Using Me? (Different Circles 2018)
Logos and Mumdance's weightless grime stronghold Different Circles has been making a strong case for their continued relevance in 2018, several years after the Grime 2.0 bubble seemed to bust. Following Chevel's promising full-length--which I still owe a more-involved listen--the label taps another well-known and well-respected fixture of UK electronic music, Raime.
Now, talk about a duo I think is SO overrated. The first act to release on Kiren Sande's Blackest Ever Black label, they were met with absolute praise from day one (or so it seemed in my little corner of the world). By the time I picked up their first album Quarter Turns Over A Living Line in 2012, I remember being utterly flummoxed why this dull post-rock interpolation of the HCC was so interesting to so many. Over the years, I've warmed up to them a bit as 2016's Tooth had its moments and their outings as Yally. I just managed to delete my whole review of this EP so for the time being, just check it out. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Stanislav Tolkachev - It Will Be Too Late By Then (Krill Music 2018)
Having already released five EPs this year (two of which were mini-albums), my favorite Ukrainian techno misfit continues to scramble the program. His six-track affairs for Rösten and Raw Waxes are slowly becoming some of my favorite weirdo DJ tools as each record starts off as rhythmic analog soup before a 4x4 pulse emerges about half-way through, the intensity increasing far past any sort of sensibility. It Will Be Too Late, by comparison, is a more focused work that sees the producer laying waste to any distinction between functional and experimental.
АЭМ Ритм-Каскад - Gost011 (Gost Zvuk 2018)
Wrong Water - Dozen (Muscut 2018)
After a very busy 2017, Russian powerhouse Gost Zvuk finally returns for 2018 with an album by one of their flagship artists, Flaty, a producer also responsible for one of the label's earliest releases under his alter-ego Aem Rhythm Cascade, a slinky three-track affair rife with slow house jams augmented by found-sound percussion and that Theo Parrish-indebted shuffle. Compared to that release's creaky wood exterior, the sixth double LP released by Gost Zvuk shows a much smoother side of the producer's house music productions while at the same time stretching the very notions of what we consider house music. Yet even more essential material from Russia.
Having released his first LP New Suggestions back in 2016 and an LP in 2017 as Dada Ques, not only has the past two months see him putting out a full-length on Gost Zvuk, but he also released the album under his Wrong Water alias for the Muscut label in May. Where New Suggestions and 1 were manifold affairs, leaping in numerous directions, often at the same time, Dozen is his warped take on downbeat. A lysergic, lazy album where the sun dapples move around constantly while staying in the same place and well-worth checking out.
Velocette: Afterimage / Belle Du Jour (Styrax 2018)
Oh man, do I love O$VMV$M. And no, I would never have expected to be covering two ambient grime releases in the same week (with the Raime record scratching a similar itch). As this record has been touted as their third and last, they continue on in the vein of their last fantastic album, creating smudged collage-like ambient music that never fades into the background. While I'm still digesting the album, it's a worth closer to the project and early stand-outs include the heartbreaking "4mor."
Transllusion - A Moment of Insanity (Clone Aqualung Series 2018)
Boy, did I have my doubts about this one. While I did eventually come around on that Jack People posthumous release last year, the Clone Aqualung Series continue to excavate James Stinson's sacred DAT tapes, a project I'm admittedly conflicted about. Yes, we get new music from one of the most important (imo) artists of the past twenty-five years in the form of the A Moment Of Insanity. But knowing how much of a perfectionist he was (and how unfinished the Jack Peoples record sounded, even if that worked to its benefit), it's hard to know how to receive these releases. Plus, my favorite Stinson project is his Transllusion alias that saw the release of two phenomenal records and EPs so I was more than a bit skeptical.
And while I don't feel right reviewing this until I get my own copy, listening to the digital version definitely assuaged some of my fears as Moment of Insanity features four electro odysseys that each go in a million directions while remaining totally still. Considering how distinct The Opening of the Cerebral Gate and L.I.F.E. as albums are, the material on this new four-tracker hews more to the former while also bridging the two albums into a swampy electro mess (in the best sense).