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The best new singles this week

Our reviews team recommends their favourites from this week’s single releases

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Various Artists – BLE-EP (Yellow Machines)

Amidst the glut of rave revivalism, it takes something special to pique our interest. Yellow Machines has more than ably demonstrated a keen instinct for the inspiring end of the spectrum – label boss ScanOne is a die-hard exponent of rugged rave tackle with ample smarts whether via his earlier electro and bass-toting cuts on Combat or more recently tangled up in rollicking breakbeats.

On this new drop for Yellow Machines, we’re gifted a salvo of new and old gear that warrants a shout out. The clue’s in the name – this record wears its love of bleep on its sleeve, but it’s not simply a Forgemasters knock-off cashing in on resurgent interest in the foundational UK techno sound. That’s made clear by the inclusion of the lead track, Sound Science’s frankly astounding ‘Energy’. A one-shot alias of Jack Smooth, Sound Science originally slipped ‘Energy’ out as a B2 cut in 1991. You can hear the era in the tempo the brittle breakbeat rattles along at, but oh lordy those synths. Rich, fat globules of Detroit-influenced finery that reach beyond the ruff n’ ready tendency of most early hardcore to become something very sophisticated indeed.

Moving right up to the present day, Mike Ash throws down a mean and lean bleeps n’ breaks thumper, while Jerome Hill darts out into leftfield with a densely packed, low tempo slugger which sports a subtle grime demeanour in its edgy percussive barbs. ScanOne ups the drum funk and splatters a generous dose of electro over the proceedings, and then certified legends Meat Beat Manifesto lay waste to proceedings with a dizzying, dub weighted killer twisting up toasting MCs in a brilliantly unhinged fashion. That leaves it to Hooverian Blur to toss the mop to one side and pour more grease on the floor for the resoundingly rowdy ‘What I Am’. Crucially, throughout this whole EP the common bleep ingredient manifests in unique and refreshing ways, making this utterly essential for anyone who values personality and invention in their old-skool rave wreckers.

DJ Sports – Data Implant (No Hands)
Milán Zaks has acquired a pronounced identity on the contemporary club music circuit. It certainly helps landing a debut album on Firecracker, but equally the Danish producer who mainly records as DJ Sports has created a reliable bedrock of fresh ideas on his own Help label (run with Natal). Like all captivating underground enterprises, one imprint is never enough and so with fellow cohorts such as Central, Manmade Deejay and C.K., he’s also minted the No Hands imprint as an outlet for further adventures around the tempo range.

Data Implant marks Zaks’ first outing on this label despite it running since 2016, but he’s held back something special. In these jungle-rich times, we’re not short of artists channeling some of that early Bukem magic. Rough drums and sweet pads are just such a compelling combination, but at this stage we need something more if we’re going to sit up and pay attention. What Zaks demonstrates on Data Implant is an instinct for drum programming which steps up to the mind-boggling craft of Photek, Paradox et al. This is jungle informed by an obsessive attention to detail and an appreciation of delicacy.

You won’t hear messy amen bashing here – in fact it almost sounds like every instance of a break has been stripped for parts and re-arranged with surgical precision. Every successive passage pivots the beats into different deft formations, shivering on the snares and tickling the hats, all underpinned by fulsome, rounded 808 subs. What makes the whole EP glue together so beautifully is the atmospheric direction Zaks opted to take the drum funk in, favouring spacious arrangements with subtle melodic impressions and a pervading noirish mood. Sometimes you want your breaks to be tearout, of course, but when you crave hi-tech displays of craft to delight the mind in every consecutive bar, subtlety is key. That’s precisely what Zaks has mastered in this record, creating something to enchant all lovers of beautifully crafted jungle.

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Yusuke Hirado – Early Bird (At Home Sound)
Taken from the 2019 album Tower of Touch, maestro Hirado teams with another master producer known for outstanding remixes, Ryuhei The Man, to give fans two brilliant tracks an upbeat funky vibe for them to enjoy once again. Although it’s more present in one than the other, each track sets a new bar within the nu-jazz genre to follow. And even yet, a new bar for future and fellow Japanese musicians to measure up to. Those not familiar with the Japanese jazz and funk scene will be pleasantly swayed to notice that they are easily the new contenders for best modern jazz compared with their American counterparts.

Starting with Early Bird, he keeps the original track as it is and carefully transforms it into a dance classic designed to get people to groove in a way they never thought before. With sweeping beats that glide and drive smoothly together, this smooth jazz joint finds itself knitting seamlessly with expressive drums to keep the rhythm going. These two artists working together may be a pairing that may have to engineer again and again for future records to come. On the other side is the cosmic charged ‘Sonar’ with its shimmering xylophone melodies, frenzied melodic drum playing and heart warming synth chords. Meshing together to make an almost ambient like sound, it keeps inline with its original jazz predecessor and finds itself less of a dance floor churner and more of a jazz cafe vibe. Even with the tinkling of piano backing it in places, the track still exudes a relaxing vibe that many will enjoy. It’s not hard to hear the influences coming from across the waters, but Hirado and Ryuhei alike, manage to navigate themselves easily, separately and combined, to create magic with these tracks that’s bound to enter the jazz clubs when they open and personal playlists.

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Piry Reis – Piry Reis (New Dawn Holland)
Piry Reis, a solo artist active throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, was ahead of his time; so much so that his music has experienced a kind of blissful time dilation, as fitting for a 7” release today as it was 30-odd years ago.

With cosmic synth and axis-tilting sunniness, the gravitational potential energy of these four new MBP tracks – chosen from various releases from the earlier sprouts of Reis’ career, not to mention the unheard rarities – is so great that it forms a kind of ultralight galaxy filament, lovingly consuming all ears which come into its orbit.

A omnibenevolent, faith-restoring sound is the immediate effect, as heard on the proggy, flute-and-synth-trembling opener, and rare ‘80s cut, ‘Ceu De Managua’. The hit single, ‘Cisplatina’, follows: this one is more jazzy and romantic, and hears the acoustic-er, rawer sound from Reis’ younger days, lifted from the hotly-coveted 7” original wax on the Som Livre label.

The unheard ‘Reza Brava’ brings up the B, a piece in ¾ time which siphons images of a Rio bazaar or seafront. The classic A-side from the Som Livre 7”, ‘Heroi Moderno’, concludes; it’s the sweetest slice on the record, and with this reissue version blessed by Reis himself, it’s definitely worth its weight in the gold bullions we’ve already coughed up for it.

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Slacker – Twisted Heads (Cyberdome)

The label name ‘1Ø PILLS MATE’ really does recall an all-too-familiar image; that of a leery, bucket-hatted ket-spoon touter who might be your good mate, but let’s digress. The music we hear here is just as lively as that kinda lad.

1ØPM’s releases have a total yield of no less than 110% certi-ness, a hotly curated banger-bazaar of techno and electro by the likes of Shedbug, 90 Process, Julian Muller, Trudge and DJ Plant Texture. Now their new sublabel Cyberdome hears a transition from banger-bazaar to stonker-souk. This week they welcome acid and electro producer Slacker for a 4-track slapper, ‘Twisted Heads’.

With the fundamentals of his sound in jungle and drum & bass, the title track cuts jagged electro from piping hot metal-sound. The follow-up, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, immediately table-cloth-tricks us into cosmic EBM-erry, proving Slacker is no one-trick dog. Now, minimal club music with lots of silences and tape-emulatory illusions is clearly not out of fashion either. ‘Mezcal’ is a slippery, almost skweee-ey Chicago juke bit, and is probably the most challenging to mix into and out from. But let’s not lose ourselves here: the vinyl closer ‘Prototype’ is a much weighter and more classic affair, returning to a banging, acidic electro-clash. Finally, the digi-only ‘Sacrifice Of The Self’ is a just reward for any dedicated head not squeamish about shutting up about their bloody record collection for a hot sec. It’s anxious, acid trance via electro, and the perfect closer to an utterly club-uprooting whirlwind of an EP.

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Me & E – Rap (Mixed Signals)
Among the smallest yet most effective actions Mixed Signals can take to combat ageism is to shine a light on the work of two 18-year-olds from late ‘80s Chicago.

Me & E – producer ELV and lyricist Chuk Chu – was conceived in Avalon Park, South Chicago. In their late teens, Eric and Chuck would hop the fence into the park from Eric’s back garden and freestyle to music and beers. A spell of practising with veteran drummers through Eric’s dad – ex-Awakenings member Arlington Davis Jr. – led to them form their own hybrid electronic group.

The reissued ‘Rap’ EP is the tape-noised, grainily-restored version of the pair’s only original release, and scoops out the new wavey, funky moods heard in pop music at the time. With Chuck channeling his taste for MC Lyte, Public Enemy and Big Daddy Kane, the first three tracks ‘Whatcha Need’, ‘The Wrath’ and ‘Swing On’ operate in a confident downtime mood. “Yo, we’re making money, OK, so what? / But my name’s not money, my name is Chuck” – there is an unmatched feel of self-affirmation and a-ubiquity.

But for today’s diggers, arguably the most appealing track will be ‘Silent Is The E’, a shining example of early electro and proto-broken beat, and the perfect gem of for any set of rarities. Prepare your vibe processors for Chuck, and “the talented bugger who’s provided me with this vicious beat”. Talent, pour it by the gallon.

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Gratien Midonet – A Cosmic Poet Revisited (Time Capsule)
London’s Time Capsule Records recently reissued an inspired selection of works from poet, composer and activist, Gratien Midonet, and here they present an exquisite trio of reworks from an immaculate cast of production maestros. Midonet’s words and music helped elevate him to near mythical status in his Martinique homeland – where sections of his spiritually infused and intellectually grounded body of work became resistance anthems for the country’s struggle for independence during the 1970s. On ‘A Cosmic Poet Revisited’ each carefully chosen remixer delivers a fittingly refined interpretation, all maintaining dutiful respect to the intention of the originals while enlivening the songs with their respective acoustic signatures.

First up, Sapporo’s singular sonic master Kuniyuki reworks ‘Osana’ into an epic meditative voyage that meanders over 10 compelling minutes, with the blissful score and soaring vocals gently embellished by a delicately glossy veneer. Label owner Kay Suzuki’s extraterrestrial revision of ‘Roulo’ travels far out into deep space, with heavy dub washes and near-infinite reverb tails providing endless distance for the tripped-out rhythms, captivating guitar licks, and hypnotic vocals to weave their trance-inducing spell. Finally, Romanian duo Khidja carefully construct layer upon layer of dextrous synth lines over a determined and gracefully evolving hook, while deep bass and spacious drums discretely galvanise the introspective groove.

Nautilus – Tom’s Diner (Palette Sound’s)
Japanese progressive band Nautilus covers the classic 1982 track by Suzanne Vega. With a collaboration with fellow Japanese artist Mizuki Kamala. They take this iconic song and transform it into an avant-garde jazz ensemble complete with crashing drums and cymbals surrounding captivating keyboard notes. Complemented by Mizuki’s sultry voice, it’s not hard to imagine yourself feeling relatively laid back and enjoying this number at home.

Right over on the B-side they cover another iconic track, this time from the library of Gil Scott-Heron, in the form of Lady Day and John Coltrane. Once again accompanied by another sultry Japanese musician Kei Owada. Building upon the original track, Nautilus makes these tracks a more of an upbeat dance affair, and adds rhythmic broken drum beats to both classic tracks. Released as a limited number 7 inch records, it won’t be hard to see this particular record flying off shelves and immediately into a revered collection.