This week’s best new singles
The crème de le crème of this week’s selections of 45
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Analogical Force – Unseen Series I (Analogical Force)
Madrid’s Analogical Force is not an institution to be messed with. They’ve put out some of the most illustrious breakcore and monstrous IDM to ever grace this side of the millennium, charting groundbreaking releases from the likes of Kettel, Brainwaltzera and RTR. I liken their output to musical napalm. In an utterly unfashionable – bordering on unreasonable – move, I once played the mind-bending ‘Dédaism’ by Ruby My Dear while DJing at a family-friendly day festival. It turned every head in a 300-yard radius.
Now, the label kickstarts 2021 with a new limited edition ‘Unseen Series’ by the ever-enigmatic ‘Unknown Artist’. Unknown Artist is probably one of the most prolific acts to ever grace both digital and physical realms, having charted over 128,000 releases on Discogs alone…
In all seriousness, though, we don’t know anything about who made this four-tracker, and we like it that way. With the series billed as “something pretty special, unsigned, just for pleasure”, and released on vinyl and digital, we’re happy to say that this pure approach to releasing music has paid off.
True to the jumpy, playful acid style popularised by AFX’s Analord series, the tracks manifest as charming hardware jams. Opener ‘óspakr’ blends squelching basslines, boxy drums and electroclash vocoder-play; a golden alchemical formula. A2, ‘Axiom12’, likewise features a squelch-bass, this time charmingly out of time and step-sequenced like a malfunctioning R2 droid.
We are caught off guard, though. The B1, ‘Herald’, rampantly ups the pace to detuned saw synths with clattering neck-breaks. It sounds like the messed-up theme tune for a videogame superhero; after being bitten by a radioactive hardware synth, Squelch Girl’s power is to shoot analog 303 lines from her underarms. Settling down afterwards, we return to a subdued atmosphere on ‘Hr¢lfr’, recalling Rephlex-era Wisp with its icy synth calls, hoover-like drones and hat brush shuffles. Whoever you are, we hope to hear more of these musical outtakes. They may be “just for pleasure”, but we are no less pleased than you.
Various Artists – Innate 04 (Innate)
The Innate label has quietly set out its stall as a go-to destination for upfront deep techno that carries the torch from the earliest strains of the UK scene in the early to mid 90s. That scene was itself acutely plugged into the spirit of the Detroit forerunners, less concerned with brute force functionality and more interested in the expressive potential within the technology, as spoken through illustrious pads and intricate drum programming. Gathering together four lesser-known artists for each release, Innate’s strength is in its consistency, pursuing a classic sound spanning techno and electro with melancholy as standard.
On this latest round, one of the most prominent names to grace the label so far, Aroy Dee, kicks off proceedings with a resolutely downcast track that finds the Dutch artist applying his trademark synth bath to a slow but punchy, broken 909 beat. Innate mainstay Gilbert follows up with a more sprightly strain of melodic, acid-lashed electro that maximises on Innate’s penchant for wistful moods. Jonski, who also moonlights as Zobol on labels like Goldmin, turns in a plush strain of uptempo 4/4 licked with the kind of rich synth work you’d expect of Titonton Duvante, and then Welsh wizard DJ Guy rounds the record off with one of his typically wild hyper-soul infusions, steeped in the ragged sonics of 90s DIY and brimming with emotion.
Julia-Sophie – I Wish (Slow Dance)
As is the annual tradition, indie DIY label and musico-art collective Slow Dance are putting out a staggered musical countdown which will soon culminate in their year-end compilation ‘Slow Dance 2020’. They’ve kept up this tradition for four years; day by day in January, a new track is revealed from behind a digital advent calendar flap. As has been revealed, they’ve already seen the likes of labelmates Halina, Platonica Erotica, Lui and Comfort contribute, spanning everything from post-punk to IDM-gaze in the space of a week.
For the 14th, Julia-Sophie takes centre stage. Having been signed to Motown along with her former band Little Fish, and as a part of dream pop collective Candy Says, her recent solo output is put into dazzling context, returning with night-vision focus.
In subtle contrast to last year’s ‘y’, which took on a more sunburnt dream-dance approach, the new single ‘I Wish’ reveals a yet-unheard, soporific style. A night-time techno-ballad, it pits a vintage drum machine pattern against her wistfully verb-drenched vocals, functioning as a singular 5-minute climax. “I wish I felt better” is its lyrical mantra, a craving which, for the listener as well as the artist, comes true. The track is about breaking free from social constraint: the artist muses over the past year, solemnly admitting, on top of 2020’s unprecedented challenges, that she’s “had to fight and break hearts… to live my own truth.”
Fitting for this bittersweet mood, the track elevates to a plane of unabashed savagery at around the 4-minute mark. On the come-up, a new pedal-distorted tone enters the mix, expanding its sonic scope to reality-warping proportions. But it does so subtly, like a sonic hitman arriving to ‘deal with’ our oppressors quietly. The track’s power comes from its slow-burning quality: building, rather than suddenly dropping into, its most assertive elements. It’s like letting down someone you love, softly but firmly.
Night Beats made a name for themselves performing adrenalising psychedelic rock with telekinetic live band led by the enigmatic singer and guitarist Danny Lee Blackwell. Having left the label which put their name on their map in the UK – Heavenly Recordings – they are now signed to Fuzz Club and the latest release for said label comes in the form of a 7” single titled ‘That’s All You Got’, featuring none other than Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been. Blackwell grew up listening to Been’s music and the pair first collaborated on music together for Night Beats’ LP, Who Killed My Generation? Been produced said album in his analog studio – that was released back in 2016. Night Beats’ sound has changed quite dramatically since then. It’s less frenetic, embracing a more soulful, psychedelic R&B side side that we first heard becoming an intentful direction on the band’s fourth LP, Myth Of A Man.
This single appears to take the sound down the soul road even more prominently than Myth Of A Man did. The strong old time-y recording captures the heartfelt emotion of the players – Blackwell’s incredible vocals are up there with some of the greats of the ’50’s and ’60’s, which is something we wouldn’t have known on Night Beats’ early albums due to the louder backing and layers of reverb. With Blackwell more exposed, Night Beats are better off for it.
Lcp – Tones (re:st)
Over the past 10 years Swiss artist Lcp has been lurking around the fringes of the leftfield techno scene with a particular approach to crooked rhythms and dubby sonics that he’s primarily carried on his own re:st label. On this latest drop, which first surfaced late last year and finally hits wax in limited numbers, he refines his sound with a nocturnal excursion into crisp drums and shimmering chords.
The spacious expanse of dub techno informs the Lcp sound, manifesting in quintessential melodic phrases that favour subtlety and patience over bombast, leaving ample room for delay tails and reverb decays to mark out the size and shape of the mix. Despite this degree of formula, there’s a healthy amount of variation across all four tracks. ‘Even Alteration’s meditative mood gives way to the cascading modulation of EP highlight ‘Residual Light’, while ‘Sense Of Resolution’ skulks in a particularly downcast refrain accentuated by animated sub lines.
Rather than using soundsystem dynamics to elicit a heavy, physical response, Lcp wields bassweight dread as an expressive tool, spelling out a reflective mood that comfortably resides to the left of traditional dancefloor demands. In that sense, it’s steeped in the tradition of dub-oriented music, drawing the listener inwards and downwards, albeit in a pristinely rendered haze of contemplative contemporary techno.
Dominik Marz & Yannick Labbé – Dune (Feines Tier)
Cologne-based label and party Feines Tier deals in a kaleidoscopic spectrum of techno that draws on the palette of minimal wave and kosmische music to explore colourful terrain. This first team up with Dominik Marz and Yannick Labbé captures the spirit of the label neatly across four original tracks and one remix, offering up a diverse selection of cuts that celebrate curiosity and a certain scuffed charm that sits easy on the ears.
On the lead track, ‘Dune’, there’s a tangible reach for warm, vintage sounds which offsets the linearity of the arrangement to make for an effective and distinctive floor track. The emphasis is on the low end, where the interplay between the nagging bass and rippling toms creates a locomotion of groove for imagined bodies to latch onto. But crucially, it’s not just pure rhythm, and there’s enough charm and character rubbed into the pads to elicit a sense of mystery, which could see the track sitting comfortably alongside some of the clubbier output on Comeme.
The same spirit applies to the remix, where River Rapid alumni DC Salas reworks ‘Meaning’ with a strain of body music that uses full fat lead lines and bold percussion to extrapolate the original’s mystical energy into a peak time burner for those who like a little spice in their sauce.
Nu Zau – Dancing Mountains EP (Underplay)
Romanian minimal is a sound that continues apace regardless of trends and currents in the broader electronic music scene. It’s a dualistic movement in many ways, beholden to tradition and the rigidity of the 4/4 tech house mantra, but also revelling in the space minimal affords to experimental textures and expressions between those shuffling beats. Stefan Gabriel, aka Nu Zau, undoubtedly follows in the footsteps of the [a:rpia:r] lot and the other European titans of the sound, but he’s also an artist who knows how to edge enough personality into the music to make his productions worthy of specific attention.
Dancing Mountains comes out on Underplay, a sublabel of Playedby, and follows a fertile run for all kinds of labels. From Windmühle and More Than Music to a self-released album on Bandcamp, Gabriel has been as prolific as anyone in the stripped-down tech house firmament, but the key feature on this particular EP is his sound design work, which goes further than most rote minimal. On the title track, there’s a particular emphasis on a pinging textural line, which sounds like it could have been captured from a modular, and a warm, undulating sustained tone with a certain analogue fuzziness. It’s the embrace of such harmonically rich tones which pushes the track out in front.
The sense of sonic playfulness is even more palpable on ‘Hello Jasper’ thanks to the interplay between the rounded, nimble bass and a nervy arp bugging out underneath a carefully managed filter. There are plenty of other brushstrokes of errant wriggles and wobbles, as you would expect for a minimal track, except that there’s a certain gritty charm to these pinprick sounds and some hand-wrought FX bringing the tapestry to life in a way many similar tracks fail to.
This is, of course, still clubby minimal through and through, and the beats will be no great shock to anyone familiar with the sound, but even on the more typical ‘Ne Vedem Maine’ there’s a certain kink in the palette that draws the ear in. In a genre defined by a specific approach, it’s these subtle differences that count the most.
‘Christine’ has a special place in The House of Love history books. Camberwell’s finest purveyors of shoegaze and dream pop – well, apart from possibly My Bloody Valentine – were at a turning point when it was released in May 1988 because founding member, co-singer and rhythm guitarist Andrea Heukamp was in the process of leaving the band.
She leant her vocals and guitar to ‘Christine’ – and this alone – to the songs that would end up on the band’s hugely successful debut album. But talk about going out on a high: the magic of this single is something they share in common with many of their label mates on Creation Records at the time – the immense guitar tone. On what otherwise would be snappy, dream-y indie-pop song, we hear dissonant walls of noise that are a stunning contrast to the tunefulness and reverie in lead singer and band leader Guy Chadwick’s voice. No wonder they became one of Britain’s biggest indie sensations and one of the crown jewels in Creation’s lauded roster that includes Oasis (of course), My Bloody Valentine, and The Pastels.
To commemorate this great, classic track, the reissue – out on Optic Nerve Sevens – is getting a reissue on 7” clear vinyl with a poster and postcard. B-sides ‘The Hill’ and ‘Loneliness Is a Gun’ from the original 12” are also kept. A highly collectable memoir from a stellar time for British guitar music.
Ashaye – Dreaming (V4 Visions)
In a surprise retroactive move, South London label V4 Visions has released the digital masters for Julian Ashaye’s ‘Dreaming’, previously only on 12” vinyl. A jack-of-all trades, V4 operated at a cross-section of street-soul, jungle, and house. It’s clear the brightest lights burn the fastest: the label was mainly active from 1992-1994, but released the majority of Ashaye’s gem-ridden catalogue.
As a key part of his career, Julian Ashaye was an in-house label crooner. Having clocked in at number 15 on the UK singles chart in 1983 with the Michael Jackson medley ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’, he re-entered the scene in 1991, putting out five EPs on V4. He also released ‘Fantasy’ on Strictly Rhythm, alongside labelmate Alex Palmer.
The combination of Ashaye’s penchant for lovers rock and funk, with Palmer’s then-worship of Larry Heard’s ‘Fingers Inc.’ project – on which singers Robert Owens and Ron Wilson were featured – made for a fruitful collaborative effort. Working with Palmer, the evening R&B swooner ‘Dreaming’ was Ashaye’s last contribution to V4. Originally conceived as an instrumental track, it was a detour from Palmer’s usual house output, and was an expression of sorrow after a close friend suffered a miscarriage. Dissociating the instrumental from its originally mournful outlook, Ashaye’s lyrical contribution gave it a reconciliatory and loving spin, singing of “treasuring the moments we had together”.
However, the bulk of our interest in the track comes from the pair’s jungle remix on the B-side, on which – besides the obligatory addition of a breakbeat – the lyrics are partially changed to match the ravier change in mood. Retaining the original mix’s bittersweet positivity, new junglist phrases – like “big up all the champagne crew!” – are peppered throughout, achieving the difficult fusion of darkcore aggression with Ashaye’s originally sultry edge. A glistening return and much-welcomed reissue, conjuring memories of better days.
This week’s elite vinyl athletes – Oli Warwick, Jude Iago James, Cai Trefor, Ben Willmott.