(Insert rant about state of music reviews in 2018 here;)
D Double E is the motherfucking truth. Fifteen-odd years on from his world-conquering “Birds In The Sky,” man has finally released his debut album and it’s a proper corker. Blukum assessed.
The Nyege Nyege Tapes label has continued on since its attention-grabbing run in 2017 at a brisk pace, releasing three fantastic albums this summer alone. Electro Maloya Jako Maron’s debut tape analyzed.
Considering that the lowkey bizarro Tomi Kama two-tracker has gotten a surprising amount of attention compared to the other two Livity releases this year (both fucking amazing as well), it felt only right to pair it with another new name in UK body music: Truska. Let’s dive in!
OG Chicago house head, DJ, and producer Specter’s (Andres Ordonez) sickening new album on Theo Parrish’s legendary Sound Signature label. IIf you still fuck with Marcellus Pittman, Rick Wilhite, Omar-S, Kyle Hall, Theo, and all the other midwestern weirdos who are in this shit for life, do not sleep on this album. Or, if you’re like 99% of house fans, do!
Not quite an album review as much as a critical preview, I write up two of the tracks that represent the album’s two structuring thematic impulses, while musing over the influence of the raster-noton imprint, so let’s get it.
One of my absolute top-ranked labels in the game right now, K-Lone and Facta’s Wisdom Teeth imprint, pairs up with Benoit B as he expands on the melodic ideas introduced on his Japonaiserie release from last year that saw him looking to the recent boom in Japanese ambient and New Age records for inspiration.
Been trying to do more streamlined reviews up in here as I realize reading 10,000-word write-ups of a few records can be a bit trying if you don’t know me personally. Today is all about Bristol label UVB-76 whose post-dnb, noise-drenched technoid excursions stand out from so much other contemporary neo-industrial music. Let’s get dark.
Rapid Round-Up With Shawty Pimp, La Cercle Rouge OST, Holuzum and Soave Records, and Manos Tsangaris' Return via Burnt Friedman's Nonplace Records
This post was intended to simply draw your attention to a recent reissue via Burnt Friedman’s Nonplace label of German percussionist Manos Tsangaris’ super-ahead-of-its-time 1990 Elephant's Easy Moonwalk Through The Night two-tracker, augmented with an equally exciting new B-side cut. Mid-90s Memphis rap touchstone, a lowkey classic early 70s French neo-noir soundtrack, and a trio of recent reissues from Portuguese and Italian labels Holuzam and Soave also surveyed.
Having not gone out to really any dances not thrown by or featuring friends this summer as there just hasn’t been anything I’ve wanted to see, getting to see two shows in three days featuring four of my absolute favorite producers in the game right now was an absolute treat. Throw in the type of weird-ass venue that used to be a staple of NYC raving, a curious and charming mixture of scenesters, models, and music nerds, and one of the better sound systems I’ve heard in a minute and you had a party that actually made me forget that it was lame-ass 2018 outside.
Derrick May’s Transmat label took a sizable deuce in the second half of July with new twelves from Detroit legends Scan 7 alongside newcomers Drummer B and South Africa’s Mbuelo whose abstract UKG stylings make for one of the most exciting new records to emerge this summer.
It’s been a long summer but at least August is going to feature a number of parties and shows I will be compelled to review. Timedance boss Batu played Brooklyn‘a H0L0 last night and while it wasn’t nearly as packed as I would have hoped, that may have been for the best as Batu turned in two hours of absolutely blistering beats to an audience of those who know.
A fairly confused write-up of Lukid’s latest outing, the ragga jungle throwback EP How Bout U? on new label Refreshers. The fatigue from writing about hardcore for the past four months is real, people.
Aesthetic Belatedness and Historical Lag: Reviewing Unseen World's Carl Stone - Electronic Music from the Eighties and Nineties
A review of the second in Unseen Worlds’ ongoing and very essential vinyl compiling of living legend Carl Stone’s earlier works, compilations that double as both a history of electronic music and a free ride on the plane of immanence.
Hot Hot Heaters from Rian Treanor, Tribe of Colin, E-Sagglia, Jay Glass Dubs, Trunk Records, Susumu Yakota & More!
OK, apologies for the WIP but took a minute to really take stock of the records new and old that are hitting shops right now that are worth your and my time. This is largely an exercise in imaginary wish fulfillment as I’ll likely not be able to get many of these records before they sell out. But fear not, I got you covered with a selection of Japanese tribal ambient, British library music, Toronto noise techno, stripped-back spiritualist beats, and much more!
Odds & Ends Round-Up w/ PHORK, D'Arcangelo, Raime, Apollo Records, Flaty, Stanislav Tolkachev & More
As June has felt more like an oppressive August (at least in my mind) and we’re now in the midst of the slow season for record releases, that doesn’t mean there’s been any shortage of good new music. Following up from last week’s grouping of the recent missives coming out of the UK, we widen our purview to include Russia, Indonesia, Berlin, and many others who are providing us with the mad notes.
New Twelves from Batu, Duckett, Facta, Laksa, Ploy, Steevio & Via Maris Push the Map Further Past the Edge
Holy shit, was this post a long time coming. Since last month, the nexus of labels and producers in the UK I’ve been so taken with have been releasing a shit ton of music and mixes for the general public to consume. And while I meant to review the Batu record when it came out, that meant that I’d then have to review that Facta on Livity as well, and the Via Maris on Mistry Muzik for that matter. Still, I was holding solid on procrastinating until hearing the new Laksa record on Ilian the other night and just totally losing it. This week also sees the release of Duckett’s new six-tracker on Berceuse Heroique so it’s time to stop putzing about and get into seven of the hottest twelves to drop in the past six weeks.
Another record I wasn’t planning to review, but whose quality made it impossible to not enthuse about. Following on from that prickly and inspiring P. Adrix release just a few months back, the Príncipe pendulum appears to have swung back into more inviting sonic terrain yet retains a raw emotionality lacking from so much dance music made on the continent. It’s another win for Príncipe, but one that also continues their flaunting of convention in favor of a uniquely sincere expression of artistry in a medium often wanting for personality.
Realized I've been bad about sharing some of the writing I do over at Gathering of the Tribes, which perhaps had something to do with being utterly uninspired by the 300 pieces of art Ai Weiwei created for his citywide installation last fall. I was, however, deeply inspired by the artist Hank Willis Thomas’s show “What We Ask Is Simple,” which typically means I’m going to overdo the review.
I almost didn’t do it. The idea of reviewing the new Timedance comp seemed like an invitation to lose myself in a larger project I’m working on. But it also presented a chance to at least try and hear this singular comp with different ears. Of course, that’s wishful thinking so please join me somewhere in the middle from where I will be reviewing this album today;)
Reviews of Eomac’s Reconnect LP and newcomer Joe Coghill’s Transit Valley EP that break down these rhythmic rubik’s cubes…or they try to and fail spectacularly.
Having slept on a few crucial remixes so far this year, I travel back through the last eight months to pick out some choice remixes that may have evaded your radar as well. Plus, I travel back twenty years to unearth Porter Ricks’ otherworldly remix of a very early cut from slo-core titans Low.
One of the primary reasons that this site has continued to exist is that is the perceived absence of any substantive music sites. So many music writers got into the profession from obsessively reading magazines and sites and thinking that they could do better. But with the myriad realities that music-writing-as-a-profession brings with it, I’m often shocked by how quickly the flavors of the week drop off the face of the earth (in terms of press coverage) and journos scramble to sink their fangs into the next flava. Following up from my LNS review yesterday, here’s another outstanding record from a much-hyped producer whose decision to focus on honing his own sound has resulted in the best music of his career (while being virtually ignored by ‘critics.’)
Remember the 1080p label? Suddenly vanishing from the dance music landscape due to abusive behavior by label founder Richard MacFarlane, his shrewd command of the music PR game and A&R' acumen helped lay the groundwork for that most irritating of ‘new’ genres: lo-fi house. Furthermore, he helped launch the careers of a bevy of artists both staggeringly unremarkable (Project Pablo, Mall Grab, Umfang) and promisingly individualistic (James K, Via App, J. Albert) who are all amongst the biggest names in dance music today. And while I never really cared for the label or its releases when it was around, one artist did captivate me on the strength of her 2016 1080p cassette Maligne Range. Vancouver native Laura Sparrow aka electro wizard LNS. After releasing her debut twelve-inch Helical Rising via the Jayda G-helmed Freakout Cult imprint in August 2016, she spent all of last year releasing five twelves in collaboration with DJ Sotofett. But the real fruits of her partnership with the producer have revealed themselves across the six stylistically varied tracks that make up her first solo release in almost two years, the wildly confident and compelling Recons One.
Believe it or not, I’ve been meaning to move away from these lengthy-ass catalog reviews, but here’s the thing: when dealing with an actually compelling artist, it’s only by taking in the breadth of their whole catalog that things really start to make sense. Moscow’s Buttechno (née Pavel Milyakov) is the perfect example of the type of dialed-in, post-gene artist whose far more interested in forging his own sound than blindly emulating what’s come before. That said, he’s also representative of the way many of our young artists are engaged with the past in a non-vampiric way that actually fosters the new. Onwards!
As I've talked about before, I firmly believe that being a music fan is a great way to learn how to appreciate being wrong. I can't count the number of times I've dismissed an artist for less than substantial reasons only to find myself asking a DJ or friend for a track ID and discovering that (insert artist here) is actually pretty damn good. We're all victims of hype these days and the music news cycle is brutal as it shoves new artists with unrealistic expectations attached to them down our throats so that our only obvious means of recourse is to either bye the hype or dismiss it as such, potentially ignoring music that's worth your time in the process. I know I wouldn't have bothered even listening to this new Huerco record if I didn't have a store I trusted to go to and consistently find new music to get excited about. All of which is to say, if you're reliant almost solely on the internet for discovering new music, then I hope you have a wide purview as it seems easier and easier to get stuck in one's own cul de sac of taste.
Last week I was rendered gobsmacked by the news that my beloved Newworldaquarium/154 (producer Jochem Peteri) would be returning with his first newly-recorded set of material following the birth of his second child. Marked by a celebratory spirit, it's also a release fueled by the joys of creative discovery as it marks the first material Peteri has recorded using his trusted and long-fruitful analog set-up, which has this time been enhanced by a digital tool set that has seemingly given him the means to craft an utterly breathtaking twenty-two minute environmental piece of ambience that is in equal turns entrancing and intoxicating. And while I've always been hard-pressed to find a work of Petri's I don't love, I still had to at least attempt to listen to this new Boomkat-released single with quasi-objective ears and report on what they found. Bolstered by the concept of family, the release sees Petri moving into exciting new terrain while employed decades-old sonic strategies that continue to bear new fruit. It's a family affair, indeed.
Heady, dense, and full of feels, the No Pain EP from has become one of my favorite dance twelves of the year so far. A record that works as well as a home listening jawn as it does in the mix, it manages to elude many of the pitfalls into which so many Brooklyn-based hardware-using dance producers seem to fall with three elegant yet down-to-earth tracks that seem to aim for the stars but end up making peace with the beauties of the banal.
As I've been keeping up a pretty regular schedule with the For A Song daily feature, I've been experiencing a backlog of albums and singles I've been itching to write about as a means to better understand the truly alien music contained within many of the records currently on my tables. Atop of that list for two months has been the positively baffling debut by 19-year-old Lisbon native P. Adrix who moved to the steel city of Manchester at the age of 15 and who creates the type of music that synthesized the unhinged nature of the Lisbon scene with the more reserved, yet rave-ready weekend culture of his new home. Though the Príncipe label recently lost one of its star players in DJ N Fox's migration to Warp, pardon me for hardly noticing as the imprint releases its third must-buy LP since last summer.
My fixation on all things UK in the dance music realm continues well into the new year via the recent return of long-time overachiever Lukid on his own Glum Records imprint with the Twisted Blood EP and the ascension of the Wisdom Teeth label into upper echelon of agenda-setting label via rising Manchester producer LOFT's latest EP, Three Settlements Four Ways. Onwards!
A record I've long desired, I was more than a bit happy to finally hear a vinyl pressing of Zazou/Bikaye/Cy 1's astounding fusion of heady electronics and spirited African melodies and rhythms as featured on their 1983 one-off album for Beligum's famed Crammed Discs, Noir et Blanc. But why is this record just now on the receiving end of a renewed interest following years of steadily-rising Discogs prices?
An album that I'm starting to suspect might be topping a few best-end list...and with good reason. I've never bothered to listen to the SUED label before, but that's certainly about to change.
With Patience, Bliss: Beesmunt Soundsystem & Dominque Lawalrée Live Reviews
Been a busy weekend at zurkonic HQ, having gone out two of the past three nights. Not usual to say the least. But it's been damn fun, dancing myself clean to Amsterdam's Beesmunt Soundsystem at a delightfully classy mezcal bar on Thursday and wading in the oceanic piano of Dominique Lawalrée at the San Damiano Mission on Saturday evening. And while the two might seem diametrically opposed, live they both crafted a sublime and patient musical space in which to get forever lost. It was a fun time. Onwards!
I have been working heavily on a piece assessing the state of music criticism in 2017 and knowing I wasn't going to get it done this week, I felt it at least fitting to engage in some music criticism of my own and probe some of the questions I've been struggling with in real time. Selecting four albums I haven't seen much coverage of, including the most recent Shed album that was released to the kind of deafening silence you'd expect of a secret press embargo ie. the Ducktails controversy. But we'll get to all of that soon...for now, some werid af albums that I can't recommend enough. Onward!
The four artists included in this round-up are each at different stages of their respective careers, with the oldest and youngest releasing two of the most refreshing and focused albums in their genres in the form of Nídia's slippery debut album out on Príncipe and Jay-Z's recharged and renewed 4:44--bootlegged from Tidal, but of course. Meanwhile, Bill Converse and Karen Gwyer, having released their second and third full-lengths respectively, are established techno producers whose global profiles have both been on the rise during the past couple of years. In contrast to Nídia and 4:44, both albums are considerably safe affairs that some may charge as being prime examples of dance music lacking the funkiness of the Detroit and Chicago sounds they are so faithfully channeling. However formalist either record is, both channel a certain raw emotionality that's not just funky, it's downright moving. Let's get to it...
So I've been kinda losing my mind and money over a loosely-assembled coterie of producers in the UK circling around the Timedance, Mistry, and Wisdom Teeth labels in addition to hijacking the current release schedules of the venerable and always on-it Hessle and Hemlock labels. Unfortunately, as far as the stateside press has run, there's been a scarily deafening silence over what I consider to be the best moment in UK dance music since 06/07 (dawn of dubstep’s mainstream popularity). To try and correct this, I'm going to be featuring more of these records in my singles round-ups alongside something a bit more substantial in the coming weeks and months. But for now, let's take a look at releases from Hodge, Parris, Laksa, and a long-lost recording from Drexciyan overlord James Stinson himself.
We head into the past to make sense of the Tresor label's recent renaissance before taking a deep dive into the discography of Porter Ricks and try to make heads or tails of Terrence Dixon's baffling new EP for the label as well! Oh, and since we're taking a long overdue look at the label after it celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday, it only makes sense to take qa quick overview of their curious and engaging Dreamy Harbor. Onward!
And now for something a little bit different. We don't listen to music in a vacuum, as much as we'd like to pretend we do, and following a soul-shaking panic attack, I found myself approaching this review from a much different standpoint. I chart my personal history with anxiety while also taking in some of the crap on the internet that needlessly feeds into my various neuroses that shape how I engage with music. Oh, and there's an in-depth dive into a trio of ambient and quasi-New Age reissues in the form of Astral Industries' Chi and The Heavenly Music Corporation platters alongside Love All Day's vinyl release of the long-lost recording of Planetary Peace's synthesizer spiritualist folk-pop. So strap on your oxygen tank and join me for a swim through the informational and psychological ether...OF YOUR MIND.
Similar to last post’s discovery of the marvelous Sikora, I found myself encountering another new voice from the 90s in the form of Delsin's reissue of Norken's Southern Soul platter from 1997. Delsin's other king, Newworldaquarium, makes a more-than-welcome return to the new bin with his first release of new material since 2008 (compilation cameos not withstanding). Moving to the new school, we give a listen to Glaswegian Gordon McKinnon's Strange Culture alias from his release for the Invisible Inc. label. And wrapping things up are two remixes from Convextion and Japan Blues that were released last year and reveal a connection to the shadowy and shady Berceuse Heroique Label who gets a much closer look. Onwards!
While I don't get my mind blown at shows nearly as often as I used to, I'm still struggling to pull myself off the proverbial floor that live computer music performer Carl Stone knocked me onto last night at the Brooklyn Music School. Organizers Blank Forms with Lawrence Kumpf and Tommy McCutchon gave Stone the proper reintroduction to a larger audience he so deserved by bringing his music (almost) to life through an utterly immersive four-channel speaker system. Read on to find out how Stone is leaving seemingly everyone in the dust, except the Japanese singer and musician Akaihirume with whom he performed the show's most monumental piece. This was a show of a lifetime and hopefully just the start of Stone's ascension to the electronic music vanguard.
Hot Singles Pt. 2: Burial Continues to Play the Long Game with the Vexing "Young Death" b/w "Nightmarket" Release on Hyperdub
Continuing on from our review of Lorenzo Senni's Persona, we go from new guard to old guard in the rave revivalist trope as we take a deep look at Burial's rather slight holiday offering in the form of the surprise single "Young Death" b/w "Nightmarket." Taking this as an opportunity to assess Burial's singular evolution as a producer and composer over the past five years, we travel all the way from "Street Halo" to this most recent release to take stock of where we just might be in terms of getting to that mythical third album.
As I start to get back in the rhythm here again, in looking for some recent singles to review, I couldn't help but turn to two I've recently bought that have both had a large deal of hype around them. Last month saw the release of "pointillist trance" practitioner and all around "rave voyeur" Lorenzo Senni's Persona EP on Warp, placing him in the company of such synth maximalists as OPN and Rustie and he responds in kind, extrapolating on his austere trance reductions to create miniaturized and weightless dance music symphonies. On the other hand, one of the most influential and enigmatic electronic producers of the past decade, Burial, has gone and it again in surprise releasing his third holiday-timed EP. Unlike his past two efforts, this one is likely to leave people disappointed because while it sees the producer continuing to push his sound and compositional style forward, it also sees him failing to take into account the inspired sequencing that helped add a serious heft to his previous two- and three-track releases.
But more importantly, ten years on from Burial's first self-titled album and with the ten-year anniversary of his rave requiem Untrue due up next year, it strikes this writer as more than a little strange that we're having more or less the same discussion about music and memory that we were ten years ago. Thus, rather than do my typical crammed two-reviews-in-one approach, I'm going to post two separate pieces looking at the death and revivification of rave and just what exactly its contribution to contemporary dance music has been.
Standing on the Moon With Nothing Else to Do: Jesse Jarnow's Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America Reviewed
After a bit of a hiatus caused by events large and small, I get back to things with a rather lengthy review of Jesse Jarnow's Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America. While I am a little hard on Mr. Jarnow's approach, it's only because he has contributed the first book of merit on psychedelics in America and I am grateful to him for that. But despite his phenomenal research techniques and investigative-historical bent, he loses the scent somewhere along that long winding road and becomes preoccupied more by the rise of the contemporary jamband scene than the current increase in psychedelics and ethneogens of all types. That said, it's absolutely worth a read in spite of my critique of the book.
This week I decided to try and keep things simple and focus on one single, a record I had no intention of listening to let alone buying. While I have been a fan of hyper melodic grime producer Dark0 since his 2014 Fate EP on Mr. Mitch's Gobstopper Records, his growing use of top 40 melodies in his mixes, trap-derived beats, and prioritizing of androgynous vocals leading me to worry that his more sensitive production qualities would be expunged in favor of some pop-trap monstrosity. So when I saw this record in the used bin at my local store on Monday, unwrapped and just two days after it had been officially released, I took it as a sign that I was to review this release, no matter what the outcome.