As is often the case with when I go to post here, when I started, I was wondering if I would even have enough to merit an actual post. Surely enough, within an hour, I was fretting I had too much. That’s probably the case, but oh well, you know what to expect.
Some quick synopses for ya.…Deadboy ‘s Trule label kicked off last year with a charming EP from the dude himself and on the label’s second outing released under the Al Wootton alias, the producer looks back to the early days of post-dubstep for a trio of stepping trippers that will please those who wish the agenda-setting Apple Pips label was still around. Retaining a metronomic 4beat pulse and a robust dub sensibility, “Selah” is a fairly paint-by-numbers proposition, albeit one I wish was in far greater currency these days…..Considering how much contemporary dance music production tries to sound like a archived DAT tape from the late 90s, actually being in possession of such an archive tends to be a no-brainer for many a label these days. I’ve been properly obsessed with Solvent and Lowfish’s Great Lakes braindance imprint Suction Records since their dueling D'Arcangelo pressings and the label’s next release shines a similar light on another late 90s bedroom electro act RX-101 (Erik Jong), of whom the label has released four EPs and two archival comps since 2016. If you’re a sucker for bucolic, Aphex/Rephlex-friendly hardware jams and haven’t already come across Jong’s music via IDM obsessive forums, then make it a point to scope the three wistful tracks currently up for grabs on the record’s Bandcamp page and get yourself a digital copy when Dopamine drops in March (as physical copies are already sold out, of course)….Dutch label Kalahari Oyster Cult first showed up one my radar last year with their popping Elsewhere MMDLXXVI comp and they’re back there this week with a timely reissue of the sought-after 1983 tribal disco classic “Let There Be Drums” by La Batterie backed with remixes from Max Abysmal and Benedikt Frey….Lastly, staying on the afro-disco tip, the Best Record Italy imprint has established itself as a label to watch for those interested in learning more about Italian dance music from the 70s and 80s and their latest release, Mediterranean Africa is a much-need survey of famed DJ Fabrizio Fattori’s productions from 1985, one that’s helped widen my own understanding of African-inspired Balearic music and the seven tracks contained within unfold patiently and purposefully, chugging onward into the dying light.
Kicking things off this week is a masterful artifact of early 90s experimental ambient from the Ukrainian-born, Spanish-raised composer Iury Lech. I was unfamiliar with the artist when CockTail d'Amore Music reissued the lush and immersive 1990 LP Musica Para El Fin De Los Cantos back in September 2017 and we have the newly-formed Utopia Records to thank for pressing the artist’s debut cassette, Otra Rumorosa Superficie to wax for the first time. Both Musica and Otra are unhurried affairs that make ample use of digital synthesizers and effects pedals, but whereas the former record’s four extended track feels very much like a proper album and features a wide array of keyboard sounds, the latter puts the piano at the foreground, occasionally reinforced with lower-end tremors and disembodied sirens. There’s a strong hint of melancholia coursing throughout Otra, buoyed by an unmistakable optimism and hopefulness that can be heard across his later discography. Also, it’s worth noting that all four of Lech’s early records were issued by the experimental Hyades Arts label, which was home to a number of notable electronic composers Luis Paniagua and Suso Sáiz and which you can learn more about here (the article is in Spanish, FYI). And if you’re looking to dig deeper into the Hyades back catalog, let me point you in the direction of the vaporous, ambient melodramas of El Sueño De Hyparco’s 1990 LP Ambientes Normales, which got a repress in 2017 from the Urpa i musell label.
While it’s tempting to kick off an update on Kiran Sande’s Blackest Ever Black with an observation of how the label has been “absolutely killing it as of late,” in all actuality, they’re just continuing what they always do and that’s to be persistently relevant. BEB is one of a number of largely British labels that have either emerged or come to prominence in the past decade whose output, when viewed from a macro standpoint, constitutes something of a genre in and of itself. I’m thinking of Trilogy, DBA, Timedance, Hyperdub, and Berceuse Heroique amongst many, many others. It’s almost like a bunch of the (pretty much all male) folk who started these label each had the childhood dream of “When I grow up, I want to run my own 4AD.” And really, once dance music subgenres hit the atomic level as music went from a physical to digital product, it makes sense that the next generation of genres would take root at the personal level. At a time where the hyper-personalized curation of mediums like design and film has led to a creative stunting of sorts, resulting in an infinite selection of premium mediocre entertainment that feels more like a cautionary tale about art’s democratization rather than a celebration of it. But it starts to make a bit more sense when one considers how tastemaking has traditionally thrived most within must, making it seem almost inevitable that genre and personal taste would meet, the established genre taxonomy having hit a self-parodic tipping point. When something as on-the-nose (and uninspired) as ‘chillwave’ burns out before making past an initial media assessment, it’s time to deterritorialize. Distribution wasn’t the only paradigm that shifted as genre’s grouping function went from metaphysical to corporeal, the unaware thought leaders of independent labels quietly connecting the dots across releases—just like one would a record collection—rather than relying on press releases and articles to set agenda, the Magic Eye of music history coming into view from the back instead of upfront.
Anyway, these tangents have really gotten out of control as of late, huh? BEB’s annual dark agenda has once again gotten off the a ferociously early start and two records in particular have grabbed my ears by their britches in the past week. I mentioned the distorted dubs of Ossia via his “Dub Hell"/”Devil’s Dance” last October and now both cuts sit at the center of his debut album Dub Hell, which is eight tracks of destructive delay and crunchy bite. I gotta say, the record moves. Considering that the percussion is purely echoic until the title track‘s' lethargic menace hits after a solid ten minutes of stuttering meditation, the whole album has a suitably liquid flow to it, the producer commanding an intentional momentum on the twenty-three minute closer “Vertigo,” a masterclass in slow, sunbaked exultation. Think of it as what happens after spiritual jazz gets broken. For as razor-toothed as the record’s sonics are, there’s a gentle sensuality to it that really is something to bathe in.
I tend to find Black Rain’s cyber-industrial soundtracks more attractive on paper than on record, but on their fourth collection for BEB, the Computer Soul EP, the duo of Stuart Argabright and Shinichi Shimokawa hit upon a number of hypnotic grooves that I just can’t shake. There’s considerable variance going on as the record’s four tracks of blackened ambience move from stilted and sampled funk to beatless devotionals. But much like Dub Hell, each piece moves at a patient and steady clip, repetition in both cases being used as an instrument rather than as a crutch. Techno as state of mind.
I’ve waxed poetic plenty of times about UK ambient powerhouse Astral Industries in this space, but after finally giving the label’s fifth Chi (now going as The Chi Factory) release since reissuing their sole original record in 2016 a listen last night, the reformed Dutch fourth world-facing collective has made it nearly impossible to let their latest missive go unheralded. This decade has been much kinder to the group than the 80s likely ever were, with former member Michael Banabila’s compositions having been the subject of a number of recent reissues and de facto leader Hanyo van Oosterom having gotten the remaining gang back together for two records back in 2017. Their latest is a whale in both quality and quantity, comprised of four twenty-one minute assemblages that stitch together the group’s molten jams with faceless chants and field recordings into pieces that evoke the passage of time, the record being dedicated to obscure (to me, at least) American poet Robert Lax whose home on the Aegean island of Patmos, Greece. If you’re familiar with Chi, than you have a good idea of what to expect here—patient, post-Hassell hivemind jams—and if you’re not, then this is as good of an introduction as any.
Having been around for over fifteen years, I can certainly can attest to being guilty of taking Rotterdam’s Frustrated Funk and their consistently outer-electro-charting jams for granted. One typically knows what to expect when picking up one of their twelves—engaging hardware jams that are equal parts ornery and weird—and their back catalog is a formidable one in how consistently on-point it all is. I 100% slept on 214’s super solid Submanouvers EP back when it was released in 2012, and the label has kindly pressed it back into existence. It’s a suitably diverse record, moving deftly from the, er, frustrated funk of “Bluetooth Clone” to the snarling diablerie of the title track. Also, while we’re on the west coast, I highly suggest scoping the archival collection of Spesimen’s Infocalypse Era, which features four tracks of thoughtful grooves culled from the Ann Arbor producer’s late 90s electro imprint Infocalypse Recordings. Hot stuff, coming through.
Australian experimental imprint Black Truffle turns ten this year and their back catalog is a mightily impressive one as they’ve arguably been instrumental in the resurgent interest in late 20th century Italian minimalist composition. Their latest release takes as its focus the largely overlooked avant-pop compositions of Nick DeMarinis, a composer whose collaborations include the likes of David Tudor, David Behrman, and Robert Ashley and whose limited discography reads like a who’s who of collector-coveted experimental labels from the late 80s and early 90s (Cramps Records, Lovely Music, Ltd., Apollo Records). Made up of compositions either previously released via compilations or being physically released for their first time, Songs Without Throats’s remit spans from 1978 through to DeMarinis’ experiments with digital sampling and home production in the nineties, the selections tied together by a focus on the composer’s work with “synthesized voice and the digital analysis and manipulation of speech sounds.” And if you’re looking for a solid entry point into his oeuvre, then I’d recommend nine-minute journey “The Power of Suggestion,” which resembles what an early-90s AI duet might sound like, the just-inhuman-enough voice guiding the listener through mindfulness meditation in a charmingly disturbing manner.
There aren’t many things that bring me much more joy than finding banging dollar records on Discogs and such a pursuit yesterday was rewarded with the discovery of the singer Karen Ramirez and the summery filter house styles of her 2000-issued single “Looking For Love.” A silken sweet melody and disco-informed production intertwine in a track that is far less disposable than it likely appeared when it was first released. Solid gold.