“Hang with chefs, and buy records.”
Glasgow’s Craigie Knoews label has a real knack for sourcing ethereal, misty-eyed dance music that is nostalgic while keeping its eye trained on the present tense. They just released a solid charming six-tracker of starry-eyed, breaks-driven electro via No Moon’s velvety Where Do We Go From Here EP. But the real stunner was dropped back in April with Eluize’s wildly well-produced, confident, and accomplished Confide LP. Talk about a producer with something to say. Big TIP!….DJ’ing is all about the joy of discovery and few people embody this ethos in a more sincere and inspiring way than DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess , one of those artists whose knowledge is so immense and so humbling as to be a constant source of inspiration. Anyway, you’re probably well-aware she recently released the fantastic One Place For The First Time on her Jahmoni Music imprint. Her off-the-cuff, freewheeling energy is as real as it gets. Too good…..Malian producer Luka Productions’ 2017 LP Fasokan is one of my favorite records of the decade, though his latest for the always-essential Sahel Sounds is considerably less immediately mind-blowing on first listen. That said, Luka Guindo is just one of those upsettingly talented motherfuckers who makes it so you suspect the problem is probably more with you, the listener, than it is with him. Falaw is out now, check it!….Seemingly everything released by London’s experimentally ethnographic Discrepant elicits a genuine “Wait, what?” from my dome and I am so fucking grateful to them for that. Plus, that Rizan Said album from a few years back is a genuine modern classic, trust. Anyhoo, with an outstanding 2019 release schedule that has featured gems that include Félix Blume’s bizarrely charming Fog Horns and the dazzling Ekeko Mix :: Sonido Transporta Sueños (so good!!!), the label has pulled another ace from its cap in the form of The Sacred Entertainment: Réak, Ceremonial Horse Trance Music from Priangan, a stupefying set of Javanese percussive psychedelia. Too cool for school….Here’s two gems for you percussion-loving cassette buyers out there. LA’s Jungle Gym Records is a wildly prolific and omnivorous ambient-leaning label and their latest is an especially intriguing offering of" “kratom-infused psychedelia” from Arizona’s Ryan Wick on the ever-moving Indo. Featuring an A-side drenched in restless percussive undulations and a fluid, Heraclitean B-side. Meanwhile, Brooklyn producer Boonlorm revives his Wilde Calm Records imprint with an hourlong mix entitled Boomlorm’s Percussion Discussion that was recorded in anticipation of an upcoming album and which weaves together a disparate array of percussion tracks….Since 2016, the dance music-adjacent Czaszka label has blazed a cautiously inspired lane for itself with releases that felt of an ilk with label cofounder Karolina Pietrzyk’s minimalist illustrations. The label has jumpstarted their year with a disparate triptych of tapes from the likes of Mark Lyken, Carrageenan, and Moon Ra. Check em….Following on from recent platters courtesy of Dolenz and Skeptical, Exit Records have issued their third LP from the one-and-only dBridge and, holy shit dudes, Lineage is a goddamn tour de force that sounds like Cabaret Voltaire and Craig Leon doing the half-time rumba. It also sounds like nothing else out there—to my ears at least—and it’s an absolute treasure. Hugely recommended….
Bearing the catalog number HJRCD3 and originally released back in early 2003 on Honest Jon’s, Watch How The People Dancing—Unity Sounds From The London Dancehall, 1986–1989 is an insanely essential compilation that details London reggae’s transition into digital dancehall and has thankfully been repressed. Focused on the late-80s catalog of Unity Sounds, the twenty-one tracks on hand were made by a crew of non-musicians using a Casio keyboard and four-track, the results being positively brain-scrambling. Just the coolest stuff, really….Melodies International has done everyone a favor by reissuing Mood II Swing’s mischievously euphoric mixes of Crustation’s “Flame,” which means if you’re unfamiliar with this pair of barnburners, please investigate immediately, K?…Since emerging in 2017, France’s Transversales ® | Disks has staked out a curious and inspired remit at the intersection of 20th century avant-garde composition, musique concréte, and classic film scores. In addition to that sterling vinyl pressing of Gianni Marchetti’s score for Il Magnifico Tony Carrera—goddamn, that shit makes me melt—the label dropped a stunner back in March via Igor Wakhevitch’s previously unreleased Kshatrya (The Eye Of The Bird), a soupy, spacey album that stitches together the composer’s various interests in electronic music, psych rock, and a whole constellation of other stylish 20th century interests. Too top-shelf, fantastic….Joe Muggs did a fantastic job reviewing the first two parts of Above Board Distribution’s four-volume compilation series chronicling the music played by Fabio & Grooverider at their legendary Rage parties, so I’m just going to point out that this is one of the more essential “dance music 101” comps to come out in a minute and implore you to check it out. Enjoy!….As we are entering a peak period in early nuum reissues and due to the fact I slept on this when it came out last year, please do check out Music Preservation Society’s 4xLP reissue of Force Mass Motion’s 1992 album The Stone Of The 5th Sun—listen here. And if you’re unfamiliar with the label, they’ve been killing it this year with reissues of UK hardcore bombers from RonWellsJS, Electronic Experienced, Spectral, and The Criminal Minds….On a similar tip, the Existence Is Resistance label has spent most of this decade unearthing the “Lost Dats” of UK producer Persian and they’ve been on a total tear in 2019, issuing such gems as Persian and Mixmaster Max ‘s Don't Deal Wid Violence, Persian’s 1999 Mixing Potions Vol 2 EP and the wonderful Playing With My Art EP, Matrix / Lost Words with Nicola Duncan, DJ Dlux & Persian Prince’s Lost Dats 91 - 95 Vol 6, and Dlux’s Lost Dats 91 - 95 Vol 7 The Frontage E.P. If you’re an original junglist or just love this type of music (hi!), the whole catalog is a must-listen….
When the Swiss reissue label formerly known as We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want—now WRWTFWW, which is not really much of an improvement;)—first appeared on the scene five years ago, they ruffled quite a few feathers due to their obnoxious name and apparent eagerness to jump on every single possible reissue bandwagon out there. However, as the dust settled, the label’s desire to not be pinned down to any single style or period alongside their freewheeling, gluttonous choice of records has arguably put them in the top tier of contemporary reissue-focused operations. At this point, I get genuinely annoyed whenever I receive a Bandcamp email from them because everything they’ve been putting out, especially in 2019, is either a personal holy grail release or an unfamiliar album that wrecks my dome (love them domewreckers!). One record that falls loosely into the later category is Japanese glitch artist Sora’s 2003 manglepop album Re.sort, a sun-dappled collage of breezy bossa nova and jazz that is just all kinds of charming. The record is out on the new sublabel Mitsuko & Svetlanda Records, which already looks wildly promising as their second release will be Piero Milesi 1986 weirdo opus The Nuclear Observatory Of Mr. Nanof. A big one….Hot on the heels of their well-received Mark and Christoph De Babalon platters, A Colourful Storm turns to a little-known cassette in Dutch experimental musican Freek Kinkelaar’s Brunnen alias. The Garden Of Perpetual Dreams originally appeared in 1991 and it’s a patiently fast-moving trek through early isolationist ambient, post-pop miniatures, and found sound impressionism. A real gem….Bitter Lakes Recordings is a newish Brooklyn-based label specializing in “reissues of the Japanese underground” and their latest is a 2xLP set of wacked-out electronic meltdowns from K. Yoshimatsu’s Juma. One for the freaks…..A longtime member of the Tresor label roster, TV Victor is a longtime experimental electronic music journeyman who’s been the recent subject of some long overdue interest. Now, Tresor has reissued his 1989 Moondance album, a relentlessly charming fusion of sci-fi lounge aesthetics and homespun bedroom production. And while you’re at it, consider giving a listen to the newly-released sequel Back To The Moon on Lullabies For Insomniacs. But make sure you start at the beginning, please….If you’re like me and haven’t had your rib cage rattled in a minute, give this a go and check out Ghent label Mania Dub’s recent vinyl reissues of Alpha & Omega’s Dub Plate Selection Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Hot, hot fire….
A few other recent reissues I’m too tired to write about, but which I’ve been loving…never not a sucker for Italian weirdness.
David Rosenboom - Brainwave Music (A.R.C. Records/Black Truffle 1975/2019)
And check out Unseen Worlds’ edition of Rosenboom’s 1977 album My New Music with J. Jasmine from last year while you’re at it.
Togashi, Steve Lacy, Don Cherry & Dave Holland, Masahiko - Live at Yubin Chokin Kaikan Hall, Tokyo on May 14, 1986 (Victory 2019)
DJ Haus’ charmingly retromanic Unknown To The Unknown label releases rave-y house music at a dizzying clip and their latest is a particularly strong effort from Elisa Bee. Though its Discogs page says it was released in 2017, Mind Game’s six tracks only recently appeared on Bandcamp and it’s an impressive set of thundering 909 toms and strobe lit stabs. And, this is so annoying to say, but as the DJ feedback suggests, the tracks “Nebula” and “Pulsar” are the highlights. It’s kind of a bummer that music criticism sort of seems dead these days, no? “Cheers,” sigh.….Have you ever had a friend who’s become increasingly ‘problematic,’ but just as you go to cut them off, they demonstrate a crucial degree of self-growth and you feel compelled to give them another chance? Having been into Zomby since before wonky was even a thing, it’s a cycle I’ve gone through probably a half-dozen times and after his most recent underwhelming run on XL Recordings and Big Dada Recordings—not to mention that, er, not great Burial collab—I was definitely ready to throw in the towel on the whole thing. However, upon learning that he was set to release a new record on the wonderfully on-their-own-shit Bedouin Records, it was clear that it wasn’t going to be a quick-and-easy divorce. And sure enough, the five tracks on Vanta show a producer returning to his roots, so to speak, and demonstrating a seemingly newfound sense of purpose and inspiration that pays considerable homage to the dance music faithful. A round of applause from this guy to that guy….And while we’re on the topic of Bedouin Records, their sublabel Bastakiya Tapes has just put out a digital album of their four insane ten-inches, each one of which is just wildly on-point, the comp featuring faves like Eomac, Laksa, and Sully alongside Giuseppe Iealasi’s Rain Text project. The most recommended….The Hyperdub virus continues to mutate in magnificent fashion, the label dropping an atom bomb on all us with MC Lady Lykez’s stunning Muhammad Ali EP. Honestly I’ve barely been able to make it past the opening remix of the title track—produced by Scatchaclart, natch—which brilliantly fuses dancehall, gqom, and grime and bangs too hard, but the whole thing is wildly impressive and enjoyable. Beyond excited to see where she goes next….
One of Ilian Tape’s hallmark artists, Stenny’s muscular yet supple breakbeat techno has always had a grime-y underbelly to it. On his latest Stress Test EP for the label, the producer deploys a “Pulse X”-channeling low end to boost up the title track’s skipping UKG rhythm and the grime-bruk dynamics of “ElasTCT” before moving to trancier pastures with the rapturous rave-up of “Adequate Force.” Hot shit as always….We were just talking about Ryan James Ford’s delightful brand of chin-stroking peaktime production and he’s already back with six more tracks of bigroom braindance via Clone Basement Series. The joyous thump of “Amethyst (Tri Dub)” and the heavenly “5 M21 JUNCTION 20W” are two big ol’ highlights. Scope the samples….With releases on such legendary experimental labels as Entr'acte, The Tapeworm, Where To Now?, and Halcyon Veil alongside his own Vanity Publishing imprint, Dale Cornish has established himself as one of the more beguiling and inscrutable artists to emerge this decade. His latest is a split with Sim Hutchins, who provides a broken dub cut on the B. But for me, it’s Cornish’s “California” that’s the real ear-catcher, applying a sunset noir narrative to a devilish drill-dub dynamic that is all kinds of intoxicating. Mad cool….I was just thinking about what a bad bitch Bio Rhythm boss Paul du Lac is and what’d’ya’know? Turn out Bio Rhythm’s sole 2019 release so far is a single-sided pressing of a total floor wrecker sourced from Unit Moebius’ early 90s output for Blue Attack Records. “T-Warp” is that most maniacally tripped-out of warehouse whompers and I can’t recommend it enough….Since kicking off in 2017 with Cottam’s deliriously on-point I Can't Carry On, FatCat Records’ dance-focused sublabel FCR has been blazing an inspired path through the floor. Their latest is the debut EP from seasoned producer Matthew Hodson’s new MATTHS. Velocet is two tracks of modular-made, big room-primed, fistpumping tech-house built around muscular progressions and textured synthesis. Check it….
I was just singing the praises of Berlin’s Instruments of Discipline label and as often happens when you find a label that is actually for real with this, they’ve already gone and released another burner through Ireen Amnes’ rainbow-gray industrial-channeling productions. Bearing a title that feels like a not-so veiled allusion to Fashion Nova’s fast fashion empire, Faus Nova covers an admirable amount of ground over its five tracks, from the blown-out radio play opener of “Protest Against A War” to the submerged kicks and quixotic high-end of “S.O.S.” and the burn-down-the-rave vibes of “Insurgent.” One to watch, for sure….Producer and DJ Bengoa has inaugurated his new B2 Recordings imprint in a major way, tapping house music legend Larry Heard for two blindingly on-the-money remixes of “Eye Talk,” the “Spaceacid Mix” being my pick. On the flip, Spanish deep house maestro Dubbyman drops a sultry remix of “The Touch”….Bristol’s Happy Skull label gets in on the EBM goldrush with October & Borai’s Fatal Rumba EP. The title track is a techno Tetsuo body hammer, Bash & T’s remix of “Swipe Left” is a starry-eyed, samba-jacking dub techno cut with a ferocious b-line, and the whole thing culminates in another round of slinking body music genre science with the original version of “Swipe Left.” Great job!….The one-and-only Deadboy is back at it again with a new twelve on his nascent Trule imprint under the Al Wootton alias. Having seemingly put aside his New Age obsessions to the side for the time being, the three tracks on Natural Forward continue to mine the intersection between jungle and UKG with extremely listenable results. Pure head-down vibes….Lastly, Amish Boy’s Laika Test Project EP for the wonderful Power Vacuum imprint was a lowkey highlight when it came out last fall, effortlessly fusing machinic electro, body bass, and a couple other kitchen sinks’ worth of ideas. He’s now returned with the sequel entitled Nice Try Donnie! and it’s another inventive mish-mash fusing together found sound halfstep, acidic ambushes, and machines that just won’t behave. Very nice….
If you are a student at the University of Vermont, here’s something you are hopefully aware of: The details are pretty scant right now, but the university will be holding a class next semester entitled “Drugs, Demons and Dancing” that looks at the intersection of psychedelics, dancing, and mystical experiences. Sign me up!…David Turner’s Penny Fractions newsletter is always a highlight of the week for me and it’s been a real pleasure to watch his newsletter evolve so impressively. In addition to providing must-read analysis of the state of music streaming, he also always includes some great links. If you’re an artist, chances are you’ve suspected an employer of exploiting your passionate labor and guess what? That probably did happen and now there is research to back that up! Also, this Cherie Hu piece on B2B streaming is all kinds of informative. Thanks, David!….I first encountered Kate Simko whilst she played an opening set at Studio B back in 2007 and although I was still enough of a dance music neophyte for what she was doing to go over my head, it was impossible not to see how real she was about this music. So when I saw she was the subject of a recent XLR8R artists’ tips feature, I couldn’t click on it fast enough. It’s full of hard-earned insights Here’s one of her many sage insights: “I was on a panel listening to young female producers’ music. We were all blown away by the talent, but what was equally striking was just how shy and low on confidence these producers were. Like it did with me, I think this is holding a lot of people back. We all need to support each other—women, men, whatever—and not look at each other as competition.“ Read it here….The late economist Alan Krueger has an essay entitled “The Economics of Rihanna’s Superstardom,” which was excerpted from his new book Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us About Economics and Life andfeatured in the NYTimes over the weekend . It’s a concise and illuminating account of how the bulk of wealth and attention given to musicians in the age of streaming goes to a tiny number of superstar performers. Insanely essential reading….A Sound Effect’s deep dives into film, television, and video game sound design are some of my favorite things to read these days and this multi-pronged look at Chernobyl has got me hitting my folks up for their HBO Go password;) The interview with composer Hildur Guðnadóttir was a particular highlight as it gets into the centrality of listening within her practice. And Chris Watson did the field recordings! “It’s such an experience to listen with him.” Too cool….This made me chuckle.
RHR - Nocturnal Fear EP (Omnidisc 2019)
Well, this is a special one. Although I found lo-fi house to be one of the most annoying musical trends, like, ever, once producers got over the novelty of hearing synthetic tape hiss, the whole thing did manage to put a renewed focus on texture, an element that is missing from so many uber-pristine productions. I have no idea if Brazilian producer RHR (née Roniere Santos) has any affinity with the lo-fi scene or the blown-out dark techno sound that is maddeningly ubiquitous these days, but his debut EP Nocturnal Fear for Danny Daze’s Omnidisc label has the type of immaculately manicured audio stubble that feels uniquely suited to this post-lo-fi moment (not to mention a world where MBV is touring again). Attuned to the idea that one’s sound and one’s attitude are essentially the same things, Nocturnal Fear is simply oozing with style, elevating even its most conventional ideas to an inspired plane because it all just sounds so damn good. Opener “Colapso” centers around a descending shepard tone drop, granular distortion acting like ornamental filigree as a whispered, softly menacing vocoder paces atop the track’s middle register. Retaining a live jam looseness, the devil is in the details here as kick drum flim-flams and other sonic quirks imbue the whole thing with a ridiculous amount of personality. Talk about classy gun finger techno! Pivoting towards more organic tech-house territory, “2303” quickly establishes that Santos’ sound is no mere fluke, gently growling subs augmenting the wide-eyed, deep Detroit synth hook as A.O.S.-esque vocoder trails criss-cross the heavens. A bed of signal noise introduces the understated turn-up track “Fluxo,” a 2-step electro rhythm and a not-quite-intelligible vocoder phrase temporally variegating against the backdrop of a continuously-building feedback storm. Closing track “Valquiria”—Portuguese for “Valkyrie,” FYI—is introduced by the sound of brushed metal bleeding into snap-crackle-and-pop static before swooping into a massive bass hook and a rhythmic stab that coalesce into a sweetly seething hot mass. If you’re the type of dance music elder who thinks that kicks shouldn’t be distorted and analog texturing is a gimmick, well, there’s probably nothing I can say for you to give Nocturnal Fear an honest listen. Like, yeah, sure, this has been done befoe. But if you simply adore sound and crave thoughtful, singular production voices, then get on this cuz it is pure, undiluted filth.
Footwork’s enduring genius lies in its rewiring of the dance music rhythmic grid from sixteenth notes to sixteenth note triplets, a deceptively simple maneuver that continues to strike staggeringly high ROI. That might be a fairly blithe statement, but it was a fact I found myself considering anew upon taking in the catalog of Poland’s outlines. The label has situated itself on the footwork fringes, attracting an impressively eclectic roster in the process that includes AGF (!), Argentinian producer Aylu, and Japanese producers Loopdrive and D.J.Fulltono in addition to a cadre of accomplished Polish voices for its currently nine-part Groove cassette series, each volume consisting of two nine-minute productions. For a genre whose origins prioritized the brevity of tracks, there’s been something deeply invigorating hearing footwork done at mnml techno-esque lengths, allowing the listener to zone in and out of the music’s ebbs and flows. A label that is admirably conceptual , grids 1 is positioned as initiating a new chapter for outlines and it introduces a group of largely new faces with label vet CRZKNY making an appearance at the record’s end. Things kick off with Booty Tune cofounder D.J.G.O. appearing under his SAUCEMAN for the wiggling 8-bit synths and pointillist arrangement of “鳥77." While I dig the dramatically careening melodies of Avtomat’s “A Mess,” it feels a bit at odds with the deeply focused and hypnotic energy of the comp, a vibe that dj girl taps back into on the noisy, maniacal ghettotech rhythms on “Spirytus” that calls to mind the chaos magick techno of Via App. Ostrowski gets real weird with it on the jutting forms of “Bl Lac” while Constellation artist Automatisme shoots up the joint with the machine gun kicks of “Entrepôt 3,” a thorny track whose brief run time helps to sell its concept. As already mentioned, groove 2 author CRZNKY closes the record out by running away with the whole goddamn show on the twenty-two-minute revelation that is “C.I.A. Vs. W.W.F.” Hyped up by the label as being “for footwork what Vladislav Delay’s Huone was for dub techno,” turns out that assessment isn’t really that off the mark as the tracks displays a frightening level of confidence and artistic vision. Loping about at a slippery half-time lurch, the track carefully makes its way through a succession of movements while retaining a gaseous sense of optimism, the vibe progressing from curious to downright quixotic in its swirling second half. Although grids 1 marks the start of the label’s next phase, the longue durée of “C.I.A.” feels like a culmination of the groove series’ ethos of meaningful and engaged duration and cements outlines role as a visionary label staying true to its individual aesthetic.
Daniel Ruane - Dawn Of The Failed Units Pt. 1 (Failed Units 2019)
Daniel Ruane - Tengu EP (Meine Nacht 2019)
As much as we might wish to believe otherwise, the world is not user-friendly. While this is a fact easily brought to light by talking to people unlike yourself, platformed reality has enabled the junk food-ification of our social lives where we’re all gorging on sweets all the time, oblivious to the fast-onsetting diabetes. We’re told not to rock the boat, but what do you do when the boat is on fucking fire? The status quo has a fascistic logic all of its own, one that excoriates you for playing tracks that “people can’t dance to” without acknowledging that people won’t learn how to dance to them if you never give them the chance. It’s against such a backdrop that a new generation of producers have emerged who are committed to expanding notions of form and function, to creating music that is unabashedly “intelligent” and “challenging” in the name of actually pushing dance music towards the future it seems to fear so much. With past releases on vanguard labels like oqko and Infinite Machine, producer Daniel Ruane steps up to the plate to inaugurate two new imprints, Breakwave’s Meine Nacht and his own Failed Units run alongside Carne. His is an anxious, impatient music designed to contort every one of your limbs into a endless sequence of impossible shapes. Tengu opens with a distant, hopeful yawn that segues into an impossibly stumbling “fucked-step” beatdown, the strobing 3D rhythms taking shape in mid-air before diving back into the structured anarchy taking place below. It’s dance music that is wonderfully difficult to describe—Delphic, even. Things get no less thorny on B-side cut “IV (CF_BD)” as rapid-fire kicks meet up with snarling rhythmic dilations to cheer on the corpocratic order. Moving onto Dawn of the Failed Units Pt. 1, opener “Slip” commences with a familiar mangled half-step that gets a welcome baroque-esque reprieve in its middle section before concluding with yet another dizzying succession of rhythmic backflips. Incidental, haphazard rhythms seem to be a recurring theme in Ruane’s productions, the bongo hits on “Fea” sounding downright demented before coalescing into a merciless gauntlet of inflated triplets. Pt. 1 hits an especially ripe patch in its second half, the half-time dnb pressure of “Nest” settling into a somewhat steady rhythm as vocal snatches dart about, injecting some much-needed character. As strong as Ruane’s contributions are, the incomparable LOFT pops up at the record’s end to steal the whole goddamn show, as is her wont. The “Hibernation Loop” versioning of “Nest” is a shuffled half-step banger of the highest caliber that showcases the producer’s singular command of rhythm, always shifting, contracting, and expanding. Sure, Ruane and LOFT represent a new school of producers whose music can be downright exhausting at times, but it beats getting bored, no?
K-Lone - Sine Language (Wisdom Teeth 2019)
K-Lone is a real one. Where so many of his production peers are hellbent on subverting and complicating dance music tropes, K-Lone (née Josiah Gladwell) focuses on crafting expertly tailored dance trax for the DJ’s, the type that might not steal the show but which keep the level of quality way up top. A voracious student of club music, he’s put out records on such influential labels as Parris’ Soundman Chronicles and Idle Hands—on which he dropped the super solid Dance Of The Vampires two-tracker earlier this year—in addition to releasing on his own Wych imprint Wisdom Teeth, which he runs with Facta. He now returns to the latter for the first time since 2015 and Sine Language is arguably his most effective, fully-realized, and enjoyable releases to date, sporting a vibe that is equal parts chin-stroking and booty-shaking. The opening title track gets the party started real quick, buoyantly bouncing atop a low-slung, pristine electro rhythm and an infectious sample—which I like to think is transcribed as “And I’m gone off that GOOP”—as a piercing high-end drone syncs up with a classic BMore break for optimal flexing. Always a deft hand with drum programming, the Brazilian percussion sampling “Batucada” doubles down on the dance for a loose-but-sturdy groover that blurs the often-unnecessary line separating “DJ tools” from “dance tracks” (words are meaningless; long live words). “Missed Calls” is heads-down, eyes-shut Bristolian tech-house of the highest caliber with all the pitch-bent bells and backwards whistles. Pushing things down to the deepest remit, closer “Bells” (heh) slows the tempo down to a sexy-ass crawl, the titular instrument dancing lightly on their tippy toes. Sine Language is dance music for dummies made by the not-dummies who love them.
Tibia - Polypola (Man Band rec. 2019)
Since setting up shop in 2017, Toma Kami’s Paris-based Man Band rec. has carved out a post-Livity (hehe) sound that streamlines Tom Ford’s pretzeled, broken techno alongside channeling analog fidelity and a brainy yet floor-focused aesthetic to become one of the more exciting dance music labels out there. Alongside serving as a home for much of Kani’s output—who, fittingly, has a second Livity twelve coming out this month—the label’s A&R efforts have concentrated on shining a light on lesser-known and newer artists such as Boysnoize Records (!) vet Strip Steve, Elise, Twoman, the recently-reviewed DJ Rubio, and Emma DJ (who put out a fantastic album entitled Support Your Local Enemies on the Lavibe label back in March). Joining the label’s ranks now is the producer Tibia who just dropped the probing five-tracker Polypola, which serves as both a deeply rewarding introduction to the producer and cements the label’s idiosyncratic and gently blown-out aesthetic. “Celes” gets right down to business with a circular, sixteenth-note-led rhythm and slowly unfolding pads hellbent on triggering “spiritual awakening” in the listener, the overdriven subs providing a healthy dose of low-end hypnosis. The syncopated kicks of the title track call to mind tracks like Ploy’s “Unruly,” but with a more introverted energy and looser, jammier arrangement that is smartly sequenced into the brisk downtempo vibes of the aptly-named “Balm.” Picking up the pace once again, the Detroit-via-Bristol vibes of “Elusive” pairs crispy hi-hats and rides with ethereal pads that cut through the mix, setting the stage for echoing dub techno chords that hit like a cold shower after a proper night out. Just all kinds of lovely. Closing track “Watermusic” is centered around a blunted slo-house kick pattern and yet more bucolic chords that serve to once again center the listener, keeping the mindfully corporeal vibes alive to the last gasp. Man Band keeps serving up the hot freshness!
Some of the lead guys in this scene I've heard just play outright techno in sets. I hear some of them say "oh no, but we do it in a UK way," which is a heuristic for "bassy", but the tracks mostly don't have any rudeness to them, in fact I think these guys are aiming quite away from that rude, drop mentality, towards much more 'sophisticated' percussive styles.
I feel that ‘drop’ element of dubstep is something I unconsciously try to achieve in my music….Personally, i’m not really trying to chase or develop an aesthetic. One thing I do always try and achieve is a good balance between home listening and club functionality. I would never really like to make a track that is so focused on the dancefloor that it loses qualities I look for when listening to music at home/traveling etc. I also think that gives a track a better chance of longevity and therefore something you can go back to.
Agrippa is a name I’ve seen floating around the outer-post-dubstep microcosm for a hot second now, having made appearances on labels like Brotherhood Sound System and Version. He currently runs the Par Avion label with Henry Greenleaf and Meta on which he supplies their third catalog number with the explosively restrained Dead Wait. Lately, I’ve been having a recurring conversation about why I just can’t get down with memes and the line I keep finding myself going back to is: “I love dance music, which is memetic by nature. So memes always strike me as mad rudimentary.*” And really, what else is a drop but a meme? I mean, it’s more complicated than that, but also not? Both are punches to the gut, an extra-verbal communication that communicates the full absurdity of life in a matter of seconds. All of which is to say, Dead Wait gets me thinking on some shit . The earworms come flying fast and furious on opener “Squid Girls,” a hooky metallic rhythm-melody weaving its way into the mix ever-so casually before taking a bit ol’ shit on your face. Big room techno in all but name. And those vibes keep going strong across the EP’s four tracks, the title track galloping ever-so-confidently on a snarling Surgeon tip by way of some Millsian astral logic. “Spice Raiders” goes hard with a mutant EDM drop that grows more unsettling on each repeat listen. It might not be “rude” in the ‘traditional’ sense, but it’s still rude af. Taking a step away from the muscular 4x4 of the preceding three cuts, “Scabs” is pure liquid heat with bowel-evacuating subs to boot. Bass music absorbs everything. Hugely recommended.
*And don’t get me wrong, I realize that assessment on my part is mad rudimentary. But I haven’t made that connection myself yet. No disrespect.
Glances - Stay There EP (Scuffed Recordings 2019)
This was released back in February, but it’s new to and oh so up my alley and impossible not to share. Bristol duo Glances have a sound that is very much of an ilk with their production peers in the city—nimble drum programming, dubwise low-end engineering, and extra crispy sound design—while retaining a personal sensibility that is unmistakable. Released by London label Scuffed Recordings, the three tracks on the Stay There EP mine the post-post-dubstep terrain with a laser-like focus and subtle emotionality. Opener “Bulwark” is built around a bouncing beat, a percussively rapid-fire bass, and a stuttering vocal hook that is all kinds of exhilarating, the cumulative effect being that every nerve in your body is relentlessly jerked hither and thither. Moving at a more relaxed and house-y pace, the wonderfully-titled “We Need Something Innocuous” moves from strength to strength before dropping a softly monstrous drop in its final third that is all kinds of banging. Clearly possessing a knack for crafting intricate and entrancing dance trax, closer “Stay There” deploys a potent shaker loop and a deftly liquid beat that beat the path for yet another jaw-dropping vocal stutter that will get your head swimming in no time. And the dental drill that wafts through the track’s final moment shouldn’t work, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t. Striking a fine line between being clever and earnest, Stay There EP is a welcome addition to an ever-growing canon of Bristol artists quietly raising the bar with a knowing smirk.