It’s President’s Day Weekend here in the states, which means students have a four-day weekend while their parents still work off the VDay hangover. Of course, it’s really just business as usual around these parts as I work to keep up with what was a very big release week with a host of dance music oddities and reissues making their way into stores and Bandcamp accounts around the world. For the conservative dance music fan, Powder’s Beats In Space mix has been getting quite a bit attention from various establishment music publications (RA and P4K, looking in your direction). Of course, for those who enjoy the sound of machines falling apart rather than running as designed, there’s plenty to seek out. This selection ties together a number of recent twelves and dance music reissues and represses. Let’s get to it.
First up, I was stoked when a Bandcamp message hit my email from Osaka’s Mind Records late last week announcing that the label’s latest eight-inch record would come courtesy from the Low Jack alias B-Ball Joints following a wall-smashing 2017 LP for Belgian renegade sound mavens PRR! PRR! With recent releases arriving on the exciting and far-reaching Brothers From Different Mothers and the producer’s own Editions Gravats (run alongside Jean Carval) that join the dots between weirdo industrial and dancehall, Phillipe Hallais’ latest missive is the perfect soundtrack for scoring a late 80s road rash, the muscular arpeggiations feeling deliciously askew and homespun on the multi-car pile-up of “GLASS” before the record speeds out of sight, mournful screams trailing behind like so much exhaust.
It was right around this time last year that I first checked out the “hard drum” label Nervous Horizon, run by Tsvi, Wallwork and Lokane. Committed to excavating the various genres that have shaped “bass music” as we currently understand it, the label is committed to reflecting everything from grime and techno to breakbeat and industrial through the prism of live percussion. If you felt the whole deconstructed club music thing was lacking in the actual “bangers” department—cuz really, who wouldn’t rather listen to navelgazing club edits than dance?—then you might find the NH catalog more to your liking. Following an album and EP from Tsvi last year, NH taps Melbourne producer DJ Plead following his exceptional and digital-only Get In Circle five-tracker from last year, a record that showcased the producer’s stylistic dexterity. “Salt and Pepper” is taken from the Plead Pleats EP out next month and was featured on Chal Ravens’ “Top Flight” Red Bull radio show. Built around neck-snapping hand drum rolls and percussive shrapnel flying off in every direction with concussive force, the entirety of the track six-minute runtime feels like one nonstop death drop. This is the New Beatdown.
Responsible for running the top-notch Wisdom Teeth label alongside Oscar Henson (Facta), the music that Josiah Gladwell makes as K-LONE occupies a unique place within the contemporary UK dance music landscape. As comfortable cherrypicking from the hardcore continuum’s stylistic templates as he is engaging in Reichian environmental soundtracks, one hallmark of Gladwell’s work that has come into focus in the rearview is his considerable comfort working at lower-velocity tempos, his work possessing a sort of humble swagger to it. That easy-going confidence is on full display on the A-side cut for his debut twelve for the always-essential Idle Hands label. Situated at the under-excavated intersection of UKG and dub, “Dance of the Vampires” trades in an excess of familiar elements—disembodied soundsystem chatter, sunbaked and echoing chords, delayed dub sirens—and quietly sets about stitching them together into an unhurried, dubwise assemblage that is equal parts hypnotizing and sensual.
I was unfamiliar with the smoked-out house styles of Glenn Astro and the painfully-named Money $ex Records the producer runs with Max Graef and Delfonic and, admittedly, they seem a bit conventional for my liking. However, the producer is now working in the far more abstract realm of Delta Rain Dance, the eleven tracks of Trancemission/Transmission offering up a selection of beatless “melodic cuts, DJ tools and drum tracks.” It’s an odd state of affairs in contemporary dance music when producers are crapping out countless DJ-ready tools and tracks that require whatever the opposite of imagination is, the respect for the idea that DJ’s even have a craft dissipating at an alarming speed. So I must admit that I lit up when I read that Trancemission/Transmission “is an open invitation to get creative with the provided material. Use it as a DJ tool, sampling material, or build own tracks by combining the individual elements.” With so many tracks out there that seem to want to think for the listener and be deployed in a very specific manner and even more DJ’s apparently happy to be walking-talking “smart” playlists, it feels downright novel for to give DJ’s a modicum of agency and self-determination via a set of warm, hazy chords and twitching, lively beats with which to chart their own destiny. Also, when was the last time you listened to a record that proudly advertised its non-dependency on samples? Yeah, the bar is set pretty damn low these days, folks but nonetheless, Delta Rain Dance’s sketchbook doodles have an elastic soulfulness to them that is equal parts familiar and refreshing.
You know, while I might instinctively roll my eyes at every mention of a “fast techno revival,” considering how boring so much house and techno has been this century, at least there’s a sense of danger and romance that comes with higher BPM’s. With his only other production credit being a twelve for the zeitgeist-y E-MISSIONS label, the Australian-born, Berlin-based producer Tred already has something of a signature sound that marries electro rhythms and laser-blasted smoothness with a house-y warmth to craft stories of wide-eyed naiveté set to a million sunrises. On the Hughes house tearjerker “To(night),”the producer wastes no time in bringing out the big notes for the type of track that I’ve definitely heard a hundred times before, but am still eager to hear it a hundred more times. There’s ample emotional hyperbole on hand here as the soap opera dramatics are hammy without going over into the maudlin.
As much as I’d rather not admit it, I’ve been quite enjoying watching how lo-fi house shakes out as labels like E-Beamz—ugh, the whole hyphenated first letter thing is a bit much—chart a course past the DJ Borings and DJ Window XP’s of their first dozen releases and issue records from the likes of Jensen Interceptor, Hugo Massien, and Minimal Afrika. At the very least, it makes for a bit more engaging dance music while remaining an overly referential one. Described on their Discogs page as a “Belgian noise rock trio,” newcomers Vort have their first EP out on E-Beamz next month and it sees the label drawing out affinities with that most whiteboi of dance musics: braindance. And don’t get me wrong, I fucking love braindance. On the track “Rainfall” taken from the Silverlight E.P., the group sets their sights on proto-ambient jungle, laying a sample of a young British woman cataloging the enunciative nuances of her accent across an all-too familiar chopped-up “Think” break, hovering keyboard tremors, and choral yawns. It’s a formula alright, but one I haven’t completely tired of hearing yet.
Moving onto the reissue realm, despite being a big fan of Sensations' Fix and the album Cold Nose, I was unaware that Italian producer Franco Falsini was responsbile for some mighty fine house music in the early nineties created both by himself and alonside his brother Ricardo. Together, they ran the ahead-of-the-game Interactive Test label, putting out nearly forty records between 1991 and 1993 that command sizable Discogs prices. Falsini’s Simulation Lab EP from 1991 currently fetches prices in the range between low twenties and thirties and the four tracks deftly weave together hip-shaking breaks, playful riffs, and production sophistication such a way that it is hard to believe the tracks are nearly three decades old. If you’re eager to get your hands on the ecstatic arps of EP standout “Ray Tracing Sauna,” now available as a twelve-inch addendum to Safe Trip’s Welcome To Paradise compilation series and backed with the early ambient house flex of Marika Lenny’s “Beat Summer (Ambient).” Also, if you slept on Dazion’s Dragon Wave on Safe Trip when it was released last summer, I highly suggest checking it out as it’s an attractive melding of staggered beats and dreamy chords (broken ambient, anyone?) Lastly, it was a busy week in the Falsini reissue department as the brother’s six-track EP from 1991 released under the Open Spaces name was given a fresh pressing by La Bella Di Notte.
Despite operating during house music’s explosion between the years of 1988 and 1991, New York’s Bigshot Records is arguably better known in the UK, which provided an eager marketplace for American house music at a time when the music was experiencing little traction outside of Chicago and NYC. Recently reactivated after a long hibernation, the label recently put out two compilations EPs composed of eight tracks taken from the label’s archives. Not having been familiar with the early deep house magic of Amy Jackson’s entrancing “Let It Loose,” I’ve been all about its piano house sass and sultry dramatics. Nuff said.
Lastly, if you like your techno stomping and snarling, then you’d be wise to snatch up the recent repress of dance music madman Madteo’s 2017 Scientrysts. Featuring DJ Sotofett’s percussion programming, the aptly named “Stomp Mix” of the title track takes a snatch of acoustic guitar and a piano-like tone and squeezes out every last drop of funk until nothing remains except the brittle husk of a main groove.