In fact, the music publishing industry grew out of the bookmaking industry, itself the result of the existence of a market for books. Even the law protecting books had not been easily elaborated, since it ran counter to the interests of the copyists, who had controlled the production of copy-representations of writing until the discovery of printing. The copyists, who had a monopoly over the reproduction of all manuscripts regardless of type (text or score), were for a time successful in opposing printing, which created the foundation for repetition and the death of representation in writing. They obtained, by decision of the Parlement of Paris, authorization to destroy the presses. Their success was fleeting. Louis XI, who had need of a press to assure a wide audience for Arras' treatise, annulled the decision, and bookmakers were granted privileges for literary publishing for the first time.
Firstly, a quick synopsis of some recent twelves that have caught my attention. I wrote about James Duncan’s newish Innermoods label in my 2018 tracks round-up and the label has been wasting little time in getting their 2019 underway. Following on from the smokey tech house of OG Daniel Lui’s Big Smoke Nights Vol. 2, the label returns to Brooklyn producer Roberta for a second helping after last year’s ace “Your Woman.” Love Me Sometimes’ title track pairs a familiar chord progression with a smattering of vocal fragments that is as laid back as it is effusive while “Still Love You” centers on the titular vocal hook undergirded by sturdy, lowkey strings. Scope out the samples here….Is it just me or has there been a lot more music floating around baring the “braindance” tag? Also, does braindance just mean “really dense electro” these days? Anyways, Rephlex and Wèmé Records vet Jodey Kendrick has a new double-pack entitled Electric Dance Music Vol. 1 and it contains a proper belter on it in the form of “Deep Mum,” which pairs an party-starting electro beat with pop vocal cut-ups that calls to mind the deconstructed club playbook but feels actually designed to move dancers….Having released on imprints like Delsin and Prologue, Dutch duo Artefakt launch their new De Stijl imprint with the Far and Wide EP, featuring four tracks of mesmerizing techno. Stand-out track “Crystal Confessions” takes an electro-friendly beat and bejewels it with shimmering, sparkling pads and synths to the nth degree….Lastly, I totally slept on this when it came out last December, but Amsterdam’s Kalahari Oyster Cult snuck out a delectable Erell Ranson remix EP that contains some genuine gold if you’re able to look past the pale breakbeat house of DJ Normal on the A side. Like many, I was bowled over by Pariah’s ambient turn and he turns in a lovely and gaseous remix. But it’s SW. with a nearly ten-minute reworking that is Homeric house at its finest, sounding like the missing link between Hiroshi Yoshimura and Mr. Fingers.
I find myself often pondering the significance of this decade’s electro’s resurgence, a genre whose traditions tend to feel considerably more entrenched than house and techno. It’s hard not to connect electro’s enduring popularity with the retromania that has fueled many producers to sink thousands (if not tens of thousands) in home studio set-ups centered around vintage drum machines and synths believed to possess quasi-magickal properties. Of course, there are many other producers content to rely on digital emulators, but what I’m particularly interested by is how electro has fostered a particularly retrofuturist aesthetic, one that is rooted in nineties accelerationism and that decade’s temporal and spiritual proximity to the eighties. Electro went through a fairly rapid evolution in the eighties and nineties, emerging out of hip-hop’s machine funk-rooted arm with a distinctively Kraftwerk-indebted sensibility, an aesthetic that Drexciya transposed onto the ocean and later the sky as Aphex Twin and Rephlex initiated a cerebral, Cartesian turn. Since then, the sound has arguably stagnated and hardened, its conservative impulses masked by a reverence for austerity, forward movement now happening on a granular level. As tempting as it is to indict the genre as a particularly flagrant example of dance music conservativism, there’s considerably more interesting things going on underneath the hood.
On his debut Mimic EP for the UK null+void Recordings imprint, the producer T-Flex turns in five slices of surgically augmented grooves that stick to the grid while offering up a few twists on formula, the distortion-generated melody hovering just above the machinic rhythms on opener “Broken.” The record’s strongest moments occur when the producer turns away from traditional electro melodies found on tracks like “A14” towards collider-generated melodic shrapnel that flies past the listener on the breakneck title track, barely congealing before being dispersed by the velocity of movement. EP highlight “Punga” pivots atop a familiar, house-y two-chord shuffle and an elastic bass line, a fragmented melody echoing quietly in the background. Closing with the restlessly urgent “Incandescent Rush,” the record is a promising transmission that sticks to the genre script while providing some subtle and much-welcome updates to a tested formula.
Techno producer Claudia Anderson is a master of the form:function ratio and her latest EP, Synthesis for Tesor, is five floor-primed tracks that boast an immaculate ear for detail. Having released just two other records for fellow Tresor alum Marcelus’ Singular Records, I’ve been particularly taken by the airy, textured ecstasy of “Neutral State” off of her 2015 Liquid Forms EP. A pair of effusively speckled chords welcomes the listener with open arms as the producer makes ample use of dub techno-informed hiss and crackle, letting the melodic elements sunbake as she brings the whole affair to a roiling simmer. And scope the sludgey robomotorik title track off the Synthesis EP here.
Upon seeing that I had placed both of Anderson’s previous records in my wantlist over a year ago, I spent some time digging through the Singular catalog as the label trades in a brand of percussive techno that is very much in my wheelhouse, falling for EPs from Ersatz Olfoks and Jiman (whose track “TTT+” hints at an unmistakable influence). While I was unfamiliar with Mary Velo’s production work, her track “Empire Of Dreams” off of the Singular Various 1 compilation is very much my cup of tea, stretching a skipping kick over an industrial-tinged loopscape and a snarling low-end.
Moving on to a pair of archival compilations from last year that passed me by when they came out, the career of Australian electronic music producer (and lecturing psychologist) Andy Rantzen has been on a steady uptick over the past couple years following a pair of stand-out inclusions on the Efficient Spaces label’sOz Waves and 3AM Spares, not to mention the fabulous 1/66 EP. And while I was in the process of rebuilding my own world following its utter destruction at the hands of “Leather Lover”—the lyrics of which will surely make their way onto my grave stone—everything has gone to shit since coming across the Hogwarts dub of “Magic Lantern” off the Blue Hour Vol. II collection released by Ken Oath Records last fall. Seriously, at this point in my life, it seems that once a year I come across a track that feels like it could have custom-built in my unconscious mind and hearing glockenspiel-generated arpeggiations draped over a hip-hop/dubwise beat is about as good as it gets, in my opinion.
King Ende Shneafliet was an “alter ego” of the Dutch minimal wave group Ende Shneafliet, active through 1988 and releasing mainly through the Trumpett label. Fellow Dutch hardware enthusiast Interstellar Funk’s Artificial Dance is responsible for collecting twelve of the group’s tracks from between 1982 and 1988 on last year’s Dimension Mix 01 compilation. With a healthy respect for dub—the “King” in their name is in homage to King Tubby—the tracks on Dimension Mix 01 feel considerably more omnivorous and rich-sounding than a lot of the paper-thin minimal wave that’s out there and “Révolution Moléculaire” is a proper synth rave-up with an anthemic hook sounding like it could be right at home on a primetime Italo track from the era. Banger.