The best new singles this week
Memories of the late Paul Johnson, plus plenty more…
Chicago house pioneer Paul Johnson tragically passed away last month having contracted Covid-19. The prolific producer had been afflicted with more than his fair share of health-related problems throughout his life, but the adversity he faced only served to intensify his quest to make the world bounce to his hyper-infectious beat. Though he started his musical journey as a breakdancer – inspired by the early Chicago house greats – his attention turned to the 4/4, and he began making records in 1992, racking up six albums and countless singles releases. In 2003, Johnson’s leg was amputated following a gunshot wound sustained five years earlier, and in 2010, he lost his other leg following a car accident. Despite these horrendous injuries, he maintained a laser-sharp focus on crafting floor-shaking music. “The crappy life I’ve had health wise, that’s been nothing, man,” he said in an interview for S&S Records in 2014. “That’s just been a shadow to what I’ve been doing, I don’t even see it, nobody sees it. It’s all about the music.”
His biggest hit was 1999’s contagious cross-over club cut, ‘Get Down’, but within the house community, his legacy runs way deeper – with scores of Chi-town bump and disco-sampling house badness released on labels including Dance Mania, Dust Traxx, Peacefrog, Yellow Productions, and many more. His acid-flecked remix of Jerome O’s ‘I Remember’ arrives via Glenn Underground’s Strictly Jazz Unit, proving to be a profound reminder of just how intrinsically connected to the groove the great man was. Presenting a delicately refined reshape of the original mix, undulating 303 sleaze combines with jacking rhythms and earth-shaking bass as his version effortlessly meanders with heads-down intent. Paul Johnson’s commitment to the raw, house sound and undeniable ear for a compelling groove ensure that he will remain eternally etched in the dance annals, and his music will undoubtedly ring out from speaker stacks for years to come.
Australian producer Dreems appears with his first vinyl release since dropping his exceptionally good ‘Diamond Bay’ album in 2019. The psychedelic moniker of Angus Gruzman, Dreems has been busy carefully constructing cutting edge sounds for the likes of Multi Kulti, Futureboogie, and Kompakt since emerging in around 2013. He’s released three albums alongside a growing number of singles, and here he returns to Vidmantas Čepkauskas’ Le Temps Perdu label with typically left of centre offering, the ‘Blue Water’ EP. The A-side tracks first appeared in the digital realm back in 2019 as part of the ‘Shark Water’ EP, but such is their quality, their arrival on wax is sure to stir happy feelings among refined vinyl collectors. First up is a remix from Die Orangen – a suitably fearless and sonically adventurous project from Kris Baha, Angelo Cruzman and Dreems himself.
The wigged-out music toils and broods as it unfolds, ambling its way into a lengthy, smoke-filled breakdown before lurching back into its shadowy stride, accompanied by unnerving effects and dramatic percussive hits. Next, Inigo Vontier’s Mushroom House version of ‘The Dolphin Communion’ is no-less trippy, with spoken word vocals floating through an intricate medley of otherworldly sounds and textures. Turning to the B-side, the V Mix of ‘Something Else For Spring’ adds another level of dance-floor dynamic to the abstract-leaning collection, with leviathan snare hits pounding over hypnotically melodious mallet rhythms, giving weight to the darkly celestial soundscape. If its predecessor is arguably the most immediate of the free-spirited crop, the Break mix of ‘Blue Hole’ is perhaps the most freaky, with liquid acid permeating through emotive pads while slaloming between jagged drum patterns. As the nights grow longer and the days colder, this cultured material is equally suitable for at-home introspection or surreal backroom journeying.
On the face of it a few people might be a little surprised by the big hitter here. From the three tracks, ‘Vol-shebno Stretched’ is the one that has been doing the rounds in previews and on streaming platforms, a tune that opens with power synths plucked straight from Vangelis and keeps that expansive atmosphere tight for several minutes, before the first cymbals trickle into earshot. Cue classic UK jungle drums taking flight, and then we’re locked in rolling goodness until the not-so-bitter end.
Kristensen’s second appearance on the coveted Houndstooth — originally an offshoot of fabric that has risen to veritable institution status in its own right — pretty much sums up both the imprint and her approach to what’s loosely (and often frivolously) labelled ‘techno’. An affiliate of Copenhagen’s exceptional Culture Box venue, anyone who has seen her in action in any club will attest to her love for rejecting the formulaic and prescribed in favour of things that are, well, Just Good Rave Music. Finding a home for herself on a la-bel that has been all about defying expectations and delivering the unexpected since inception, Volshebno EP shows what an ideal meeting of minds this really is.
‘Str8 Crooked’ is the latest in a string of new releases by Italian-born Matteo Ruzzon aka. Madteo. ‘Teo’s style of scrawly, lo-fi techno – which could be argued to have developed about as early as 2006, when he was working as a technical hand for Spectre’s illbient powerhouse, WordSound – has enough going on in it to inspire even the most air-headed of IDM listeners to get into dubbier side of things. It’s also lent him the affectionate title of “techno’s answer to Basquiat” by one keen reviewer.
This new EP is Madteo at his best, blending his jam-packed, teenaged hip-hop, Latin and dub disco influences – alluding all the way back to his DJ residencies in New York in 1995 – with his newer, scuffed brand of analogue techno. A three-tracker of jumpy, paranoid, and difficult proportions, there’s rarely a moment of let-up on it. The self-titled opener is a familiar kind of track; much like Japa Habilidiso’s cacophonous funk-techno single ‘Funk Do Sindicalismo’ released on Future Times last year – or, to mention a more obvious example, Karizma’s ‘Work It Out’ – it’s the kind of house tune that wants to immerse its listener into its own sonic environment, pulling in party chatter soundscapes and funky, live-sounding basses into the mix. It almost sounds like we’re stumbling around drunk at a bustling, dingy party in an NYC alley.
‘Build Back Better Sweatshops’ is what we like to call a house ‘breather’, with each of its offbeat snares slapping in yet another wash of white noise, like the track is inhaling and exhaling. But it also sounds strangled at the same time, with each series of beats muffling a stifled vocal line that is desperately trying to repeat itself. It’s like a sewer rat trying to escape through a pothole that keeps getting driven over by oncoming traffic. However, it’s the 16-minute ‘Episcopi Vagantes’ that really takes the cake. A vocoded, filtrated chord – which gives this track a sunnier, clearer mood than the others – marches on through a nonetheless wet, discordant techno soundscape, which pays just as much tribute to Maurice Fulton as it does to Pan Sonic.
Portuguese-Venezualan musician Alex Figueira continues to enjoy his relatively fresh solo career with the fourth release on his very own Music With Soul! Records. The talented percussionist previously enjoyed success with his Fumaça Preta band, releasing albums and EPs on Soundway, Stolen Body, as well as Music With Soul. His expansive music is fantastically slippery when it comes to pinning it down to specific genres, taking in elements of stoner rock, psychedelia, global grooves, dub and more. Last year’s ‘Moerarie Morei Atjara’ collaboration with Surinamese Hindustan artist Bechan garnered plenty of fans with its Cumbian hybrid flavours, and ‘Maracas’ shows up with a surprising sonic blend all of its own. The title track is deliciously off-kilter, with devilish percussion and live drumming propelling the filthiest of basslines through spaced-out effects and distant vocal screams.
The only disappointing thing is the track duration, clocking in at all too short two-and-a-half minutes. On the flip, we find the sweet vocals of Maddie Ruthless on ‘Grasping & Wishing’. On first listen it may seem a little saccharine compared to the A-side, but upon closer listening, the wonky essence of its creators steadily reveals itself. Subtle dissonance combines with the yearning of the lyrics for a very slightly sinister bedtime lullaby.
Romanian duo Valeriu Borcos and Eduard Gabia once again unite under their Karpov Not Kasparov moniker for their third vinyl release to date, this time landing on the always interesting Disco Halal. The pair have already made a mark in the off-piste disco world, and have been remixed by revered producers Khidja, Pletnev, and Mehmet Aslan among others. Moscoman continues to do exemplary work when curating his respected imprint, and true to form, the ‘Memory’ EP scores top marks when it comes to supplying future-facing, unearthly sounds. Title track ‘Memory’ was released digitally with a Damian Lazarus remix, but it’s the original presented here. Haunting vocals and exotic bass notes combine with mid-tempo Latin-ish rhythms and gipsy-inspired synth melodies to form a uniquely interesting hybrid jam.
The playful melodies of ‘Les Pions Sont l’Âme du Jeu’ skirt the line of whimsical and wonky, dancing over a steady drum pattern as bizarre vocal effects occasionally deign to present themselves. ‘Except For Bears’ has a vaguely Norse disco feel, as its wacky synths, jolly tempo and tongue-in-cheek vocals (“what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, except for bears”) bring abundant fun to the most pop-leaning cut on the EP. There’s a useful extended instrumental of ‘Memory’ before the pair go all-out future gipsy with closing track ‘Fool’s Mate’. Jaunty leads, hyperactive drums and quick-fire bass are joined by a sprinkling of punk, for an enjoyable if slightly bewildering close to an altogether entertaining collection.
Hamburg-based DJs, celebrated live act, and production power pairing Arne Schaffhausen and Wayan Raabe are back in Extrawelt action with their new effort on Dreaming Awake. The talented duo have been turning out tunes for the best part of two decades, finding a welcome home in all manner of labels, including Sven Väth’s Cocoon, and James Holden’s Border Community among many others. Extrawelt delight in delivering esoteric electronic experimentations, and the instantly alluring ‘Gazelle Flip’ is sure to help add to their already lengthy list of admirers. The track comes in four versions, opening with the rather lovely original.
The determined synth bass hook growls and modulates under a loose-feeling groove, subtle effect and spaced-out hits add a sense of tension before eminently pleasing chords glide in to complete the floor-focused picture. The 720 Degrees version utilises the fundamentals of the original, expanding the chord progression while adding beef to the broken drum pattern. Sebastian ‘Minilogue’ Mullaert reduces the ingredients to a stripped nocturnal groove, with powerful drums and evolving pads creating a powerful sense of poise as the parts morph and intertwine. Finally, the Wa Wu We Prayer version is the most introspective of the pack, virtually beat-less as it boils and broods before disappearing into the infinite silence.
Move over, Delroy Edwards. Enter every Juno Daily reader’s new favourite electronic-industrial no-wave crossover act, Low Standard Deviation.
But why act like LSD (an alias of Brazilian-Portuguese “pseudo-composer” Ricardo de Miranda Azevedo), is a newcomer? Despite his unjustifiably lesser-known standing, he’s been around for a hot minute, contributing to occasional “partnerships” like Netherlands deathrock group Lifeless Past, and Brazilian industrial metal outfit Maldita. It’s fascinating to hear of an artist’s well-flown influences like this. The most extreme metalheads enjoy the many stylings of punk and synthpop; with LSD, that trajectory plays out in reverse!
‘Bunker 4018’ is LSD’s contribution to the Hague’s post-punk powerhouse Bunker Records, and as far as we can tell, it’s his first solo EP on wax. LSD being a self-described Brazilian ‘cariocza’ and ‘lost boy’, a sense of unique isolation emanates from this long, misty EP. Every track, from the up-and-down opener ‘Transformation’ to the technostatic ‘Ja Se Passo…’, is reverberative yet somehow deadened by distortion and compression, as we should expect from a no-wave fusion project.
But LSD’s production is more nuanced than your average all-at-the-wall minimal producer, with its more techno and electropunk moments (‘Le Declaration De Helsinki’) containing unusual twinkles, arps and more developed structures, all of which are eventually perceivable through the shoddily-mixed fog. Other moments, like ‘Em Algum Passado’, are more on the euphoric side, sounding like mini-apocalypses narrated by a drunken tannoy announcer. With the occasional samba line peeking in too, this is a distinctly Brazilian-European industrial project, as reminiscent of Joy Division as it is of Esplendor Geometrico.