The best new singles this week
A juicy big stack of new 45s for you
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
German producer Pole is back in action on Mute Records following last year’s release of his first original solo album since 2015, this time delivering two mesmerising tracks on the ‘Tanzboden’ EP. Stefan ‘Pole’ Betke is an artist whose meticulous attention to sonic detail goes a long way to characterising his extensive back catalogue. When one considers that he also works as a mastering engineer at his Berlin-based Scape studio, his mastery of the stereo field becomes a little easier to comprehend. He’s been steadily releasing complex and cerebral music since the late ’90s, with work appearing on Mute, Leaf, and PIAS, as well as on his ~scape and Pole imprints, among others. Last year saw Pole return to the Mute Records fold after a lengthy 17-year absence since his eponymous 2003 album arrived under the label’s banner in 2003. Mute re-invigorated their association with the artist by re-issuing his first three albums – on coloured vinyl, no less – before going on to release his powerfully affecting meditation on his mother’s descent into the confusion of Alzheimer’s, ‘Fading’. The ‘Tanzboden’ EP was born out of a collection of loops that had been created while recording that very album, and it’s easy to discern a common theme between the long-player and the new material.
Title track ‘Tanzboden’ evolves with disorienting intent, with stripped sonics modulating and evolving through sometimes dissonant waves, dramatic stabs, and a determinedly ever-present hiss. The well-formed piece is both hypnotic and discreetly jarring, expertly skirting the line between soothing dream and menacing nightmare. On the reverse, ‘Rost’ adds a touch more in the way of overt rhythmic emphasis, with percussive hits and compelling bass notes providing body to the ethereal synthetic layers. The arrangement unfolds transcendentally, as fascinating harmonics pervade the intoxicating soundscape, creating an overwhelmingly potent and meditative aural haze.
Jerome Hill is a busy lad. When he’s not running kick ass techno and acid labels like Don’t and Super Rhythm Trax, he’s dabbling in the ruffest beats and breaks on Hornsey Hardcore and Fat Hop. Last year he made his first appearance on Matthew Herbert’s Accidental Jnr label with The Pob Routine, and now he’s back for a second EP with a unique back-story. As it turns out, Herbert gave Hill something of a creative brief for this second EP, which is not exactly surprising given the concept-driven focus of Herbert’s career. Hill was due to spend some time on a German vegetable farm, and having been asked to make a tune using field recordings from ‘the wild’, the jump-off point for Potatoland was established.
It’s just the title track which sticks doggedly to Herbert’s challenge, and it’s hard to not be reminded of Herbert’s own off-kilter approach to house and techno as Hill whips up an uneasy thumper shaped out of roughly textured found sounds. Hill chooses not to get too far down the processing rabbit hole with most of his ingredients, and as such you’re easily drawn into the agricultural world the sounds came from, but that shouldn’t diminish the potential for this track to work as a weirdo banger for adventurous dancefloors.
‘Quibble’ has its own share of Herbert-isms too, albeit with a more purely electronic sound palette. It speaks to the wonkier end of Hill’s output, resulting in the kind of club music reserved for adventurous DJs. There’s plenty of heft where it counts with this and the other tracks on the record though. ‘Chicken’ makes no attempt to hide its rowdy Dance Mania influence – if you drop that one at the right time it’ll get the crowd freaking. ‘Bleeper’ might well be the most balanced track on the release though, throwing crunchy samples in alongside errant machinations and bedding everything down with a hefty low end rumble that speaks to the soundsystem attitude Hill has always carried through in his many musical endeavours.
Omar S increasingly appears to be flexing way beyond the confines of rigidly defined dance music as time rolls on, and he continues to proudly carve his genre-defying path in this sublime collaborative effort. Following his striking dalliance into post-punk/hardcore on production duty for Decliner’s explosive ‘Detroit Rock’ EP – the last instalment from FXHE – Alex Smith now teams with a pair of genuine motor city heroes who are each steeped in funk pedigree. Pretty much everything Amp Fiddler puts his hyper-dexterous hands on turns to audio gold, so his inclusion on the record automatically raises hopes concerning the likelihood of the music’s ability to bump. When you complete the triad with the addition of Parliament-Funkadelic alumnus Andre Foxxe, expectation levels are, naturally, catapulted somewhere high in the p-funk stratosphere. It almost goes without saying that the music contained on this neat little 7” is every bit as marvellous as we anticipated it to be.
Both guest artists have appeared on Omar S productions before now, with Amp providing freeform vocals on 2016’s ‘Ah’ Revolution’, and Foxxe featuring on 2019’s deeply brooding ‘Secrets’. Here, both pick up where they left off by providing a memorably organic counterpoint to Smith’s raw production aesthetic. Title track ‘The First One Hundred’ arrives as a freakish Detroit house/funk hybrid, with loose-limbed horns, hidden vocal textures and infectious rhythm guitar riffs set against a raw, distorted drum track. On the flip-side, Amp Fiddler joins the party on the unabashed feel-good flavour of ‘Dance Your Blues Away’, with the trio adding a sprinkling of blues to the heavy funk concoction. Here, sing-along vocal leads, scorching guitar solos and bubbling synth bass are enlivened by distinctive rhythm guitar licks and snappy machine drums. Thanks to each of the contributing artists – as well as the label on which they’re housed – this one effectively amounts to a ‘buy on sight’ release. After close inspection, the tag certainly stands up.
After all the eyerolling hype around nuschool dark garage, we’re finding ourselves much preferring its cousin vocal garage, which has always swayed even the most earnest of audiophilic savants towards lighter listening sessions.
Attracting many a tongue-in-cheek name from DJ Crisps to Bumpi Biznizz, Ell Murphy’s Jucey Tunes label is at the forefront of this new movement. Bringing her own starlike vocal chops to an array of guest productions – from Bristolian selector-producer Daffy, and now forming Nitework with her dream collaborator Medlar – there’s clearly not many other singers at the moment who can ride a garage beat in real time, and we’re here for it.
This is the second EP from Nitework, delivering another 4 summery garage bits in both 4 and 2-step kick phrasings. Speediness leads the charge, with ‘Believe’ showing off the swell of emotion gleanable from 4×4. Instrumentally, it’s more of a Todd Edwards than a Tuff Jam. On this track, Ell implores us not to doubt her love – we don’t know about that, Ell, but we at least don’t doubt your love for UKG!
The follower ‘Alive’ recalls Disclosure in its surroundy synco-synths and ensembled vocals. To borrow a term from drum n’ bass circles, this track is somewhat of a garage ‘roller’, maintaining the same headspace throughout. It only requires another vocal line and a thick, stuttering sub to hold our attention. And on the remaining two tracks, the prior comparisons drawn between Nitework’s production and ‘90s RNB aren’t surprising. Much like the duo’s titanic ‘90s predecessors, we can hear the same minimality and choppy one-off synthwork on ‘Take It Slow’ as is heard from Timbaland’s inimitable production style, which few heads know thoroughly influenced grime and garage back in the day. But the closer ‘No Hesitation’, abandons this vibe completely, rounding off the project well by hitting on more of a proto-Burial neo soul tip, while many a tasteful wasplike synths flourish and sway in its closing moments.
Kimochi have a habit of sending artists your way you might not have picked up on previously. Shyam Anand, aka Snad, has plenty of achievements in the minimal scene under his belt, having worked with Jakob Seidensticker and Boronas on a run of 12”s for respected labels like Minibar, Pleasure Zone and Vid’s An|dromeda. In the past year he’s also stepped out with Jackson Lee for Deep Club and Max Jacobson on Æternum Music, but this release for Kimochi marks his first solo outing in some time. Given the outlier orientation of Area’s label, it provides a chance to mull over Snad’s artistic imprint and how he sets himself apart from the wider minimal scene.
The sound on Vasadhi isn’t minimal per se, but rather a starry-eyed, broadminded strain of tech house that favours swooning melodic haze and playful wriggles. If anything, it’s quite maximal in its composition, but it certainly rolls with that gentle, cheeky demeanour that marks out the friendlier corners of the minimal scene. There’s space afforded for breakbeats and fulsome bass, and the crooked opening strains of ‘The Underlying Granular Structure Of Spacetime’ shake free from tech house monoculture, but these elements tend to be chiselled neatly to slot in alongside straight-up, crowd-moving 4/4 passages. It’s actually the plush synthesis which makes Snad’s music so appealing.
His grasp of harmonic interplay and a balanced but varied spread of melodic voices makes the tracks crackle with an infectious, uplifting energy. It’s deep in its demeanour, but certainly not moody. By Kimochi standards, it’s quite forthright and floor-minded, but there’s a mellow tint and maverick electronica sensibility which makes sense in the context. Proving that groove and experimentation can meld quite comfortably in the right hands, Vasadhi carries a clutch of tracks certain to land well amongst a broad spectrum of scenarios, from the backroom bean bag reverie to the early morning stamina session, teasing warm ups and easy afternoons on a terrace. Err, if you’re lucky enough to have one of those options available to you, that is. Failing that, a trip in your headphones will be just as appropriate.
Sometimes the best music exists in the form of bite-sized one offs, which tend to spur musicians into exploring creative angles they might not have done otherwise. And, on a related note, next up in Brandon Evans’ musical saga is a new collaboration under a new name, despite his Stereomonster fame and two prior albums.
Revival Season consists of Evans, along with Mattiel bandmate, guitarist and producer Jonah Swilley, a keen on-the-fly collaborator and solo act. With both artists explosively meeting earlier this year and brazenly winding up in the studio, they’ve churned out ‘Iron Warrior’, which, frankly, sounds like its own title. In keeping with Heavenly’s punk-tinged mixability, this is a staunch hip hop track reminiscent of the megaphoning vocal tones of A Tribe Called Quest, but it’s undercut by Swilley’s emotional indie rock twang, as well as the trademark washed out production he’s made his name for. Far from calling too much attention to Swilley’s guitar, every drum hit slaps, with the aforementioned twanging only occurring in a floaty space perhaps several metres away.
The main focus is BEZ’ vocals, which lend a brash tone to the superficially coffee-shop-friendly instrumental (“bout to fuck your whole town up”, is the first line). Incongruously, the vocal hook likes to stutter and glitch, as though Evans’ address is blaring through a faulty, dystopian telescreen. Which, given the context around his music, makes a lot of sense. Some of his former tracks, a standout example being his brash, earsplitting 2017 bit ‘Legalize Murder’, deal with racial inequality and police brutality in a manner that is unapologetic, yet drowned in noise and grit. As is the case with the instrumental bed on ‘Iron Warrior’; it’s as though BEZ’s message is both being stifled by, and breaking through, the dystopia around it.
But this track, while still political, concerns the more positive theme of ambition, while BEZ’s alter-ego adopts tropes of stereotyped black criminality for tongue-in-cheek effect. “Patches on my jacket, smoking reefer like it’s friday / if you try and stop me imma try and raise the crime rate,” he jeers. Guess we won’t stop him, then!
Alongside material on Downwards or Zhark in the noughties, Ancient Methods’ martial exploits in industrial techno were some of the most austere expressions in the genre. Now the one man project of Michael Wollenhaupt, he has taken on various other aliases that have appeared on his Persephonic Sirens imprint such as Harkon Rüttmer, The Loud Age and his latest called Inventory With Hamilton. Teaming up alongside Wahiba Khadri, who previously collaborated as a guest vocalist on The Jericho Records release back in 2018, their debut EP Parting Galaxies On A Forlorn Leaderboard continues the label’s theme of brooding electronics across four diverse tracks created between 2017 – 2019.
‘You Feel By Mistake’ is a trouncing and ominous behemoth that will certainly appeal to AM fans with its complex tapestry of sound design. Shimmering Italo style arpeggios and ethereal soundscapes play centre stage, underpinned by a Berghain ready four-to-the-floor beat. Similarly, the pitch black EBM crossover of ‘Angstblute’ – a tribute to poet and GDR Minister Of Culture Johannes R. Becher – led by its snaky bass with muscular rhythm is equally effective in its simplicity, and perhaps more streamlined for DJ use. The most surprising offering comes in the form of the short outro ‘Lethe’, a retro sounding number led by its awfully familiar melody (‘Age Of Love’ anybody?) accompanied by gentle vocals and contrasted by rigid drums that altogether calls to mind early Kraftwerk.
Following up equally impressive releases by the likes of Second Tension and Sharplines, Persephonic Sirens sees Wollenhaupt continue to support new and like minded artists in their pursuit of devilishly dark electronics.
Glenn Underground’s shortlived Jellybean alias was responsible for two releases on Relief Records in 1995. That instantly places this project at the dead centre of Chicago’s mid-90s house scene, appearing on one of the era’s seminal labels in the early days for one its proudest sons. Underground’s career has since powered through a monumental body of work in and around deep house, but this Jellybean bomb steps with a raw, rough-cut quality which marks it out as something special. Italian label Dark Grooves have made the move to reissue this classic – something which feels inevitable given the prices circulating for original copies of both Jellybean 12”s.
‘What The Fuk’ is the smoothest joint on the record, but it’s still driven by a meaty, hard-swinging 909 and a truckload of low-end weight. It’s ‘Toot Toot’ that has a real magic to it though, itself a re-rub of Mach’s ‘On & On’, a staggeringly prescient club edit record from 1980 which many reasonably argue is a contender for that mythical title of ‘first ever house track’. What it is really is a re-rub of Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls’, Lipps Inc’s ‘Funky Town’ and some other classics from the dancefloors of Chicago, boiled down into a relentless, deadly robo-disco throb. Underground simply slips a tougher kick into the mix and lets the edit do the rest.
That’s not the only bit of fun to be had on the record though – also look out for the ‘Twilight Dome’ gem, which takes an iconic TV theme tune hook and rides it out over a kick ass beat, making it shockingly funky in the process. There’s so much heat on this record, it’s a wonder it doesn’t spontaneously combust as soon as it’s pressed.
Glenn Astro was previously known for a dusty, sample-heavy strain of house music that found him sparring with the likes of Max Graef and IMYRMiND. While that association yielded plenty of heat and appearances on labels like Ninja Tune, in more recent times the German producer has been exploring synthesis in greater detail and reaching beyond the dancefloor. Last year’s excellent Homespun album on Tartelet was of course a natural response to a dearth of partying, giving Astro space to work closely with vocalist Ajnascent and explore ambient and soul constructions amidst his more familiar house style.
On the Purple EP, Astro claims he has made a more conscious return to the dancefloor, albeit with some new processes in mind. Things certainly sound different, not least on ‘Purple’ which wears its Prince influence on its sleeve. The Linn Drum beats hit hard, and the sharply cut-up samples have a funky demeanour that nods to the original ‘Purple one’ in no uncertain times. It’s also a stream of inspiration Astro makes the most of, building a fresh and expressive approach to house out of these ingredients and pouring plenty of his own emotional content into the mix. There’s still that knack for a jagged chop or two as though he was capturing his synths in the sampler and getting trigger-happy on the pads. As a fundamental part of Astro’s artistic identity, it’s good to hear that approach prevail as he guides himself towards interesting new sound sources.
Some hip hop chugs away in sinister darkness, its rappers grappling with the beat, letting their aggression shine through forceful and monotone delivery. Combine those juniper forces with the tonic lo-fi hip hop – which has seen increasing popularity in the London and New York scenes over the past two decades – and we’re blessed with ‘Saxred Gin’, the new collab EP from rapper and producer duo Obijuan and Philanthrope.
Obijuan – a bubbling name part of a loose posse of collaborators including Lord Apex, Dylantheinfamous, GRiMM DOZA and Drae Da Skimask – is the main low, gritty voice on this album. Fans of Earl Sweatshirt, Jadasea and Pan Amsterdam will be pleased; his jilted flow recalls their offbeat lingerings, cryptics, and free association. Obijuan likes to show off, tapering off from subtle political mumblings into comical non-sequiturs and whimsical one-liners (on the intro ‘Poison Ivy’: “fuck Trump / she begging me to sign her baby bump”). But it’s not senseless. The follow-up ‘Red Ring’ contains a ghostly instrumental, with Philanthrope’s production mixed and balanced to evoke a kind of ghost town mood. This shockingly cold track leaves us with the same “red ring around the iris” concluded on by Obijuan himself.
Philanthrope, part of the Chill Hop collective in the Netherlands, handles the project’s production. All sounds buried and undusted, with many of the tracks’ lo-fi writhings sounding restless, muddied and untameable (‘Red Ring’ and ‘Crooked Visor’ are the best examples). But when languid ‘lo-hop’ rapper and beatmaker Looms appears for the one-off ‘Watch Tower’, there’s an uplifting break from this dustball. The UK rapper’s choked, clucking flow is anxious, contrasting to Obidjuan’s relaxed goblin vibe. It’s an impressive feat to achieve this contrast, given that every track here is no less than two and a half minutes long. After the misty urban soundscape of ‘Hendricks’, we’re thrust into our new favourite: the aforementioned ‘Crooked Visor’, which talks freely of criminal urban scenes and daring fashion choices.
London’s Gated Recordings continue their so-far relatively short but admirably prolific quest to deliver nuanced shades of underground dance music into the world with their latest release from mystery man, Guavid. Since launching in 2019, the label have kept up a fairly furious release schedule, presenting often (but not exclusively) electro-tinted sounds from Mazzo, Datawave, Sound Synthesis, Simial, and Perseus Traxx among many others. It’s probably fair to say that the Gated team aren’t afraid to favour instinct over artist popularity or scope, as they frequently offer a home to creators who fly a few degrees under most people’s radar, and new signing Guavid goes some way to prove the value of this ethos.
Other than a rather splendid release on Analogical Force back in 2017, the well-trodden research channels don’t offer up much in the way of background information on the being behind the music, and by all accounts, the label themselves found it challenging tracking him down to discuss the potential for an encore. Opener ‘Rising Sun’ is dominated by an energetic synth bass growling beneath blissful pads and mischievous lead. The memorable melody of ‘Triangle’ billows over crisp drums and sub-rooted bass, while the hyperactive acid deviance of ‘Gyral’ bursts from the speakers with delirious freak-funk intent. Finally, ‘Mille Plateau’ sees space-age synths float above Detroit flavoured pads, slick electro drums and an outrageously infectious bassline.
This week’s reviewers: Patrizio Cavaliere, Jude Iago James. Oli Warwick. Mike Sheehy.