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The best new singles this week

Our writers recommend their favourites from this week’s singles sack

SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Quantic – I Won’t Fade Away (Selva)

Now this is an interesting concept if ever there was one. Celebrated composer, producer, bandleader and beat lord Will ‘Quantic’ Holland samples one of his own oft-borrowed tracks, flipping the script to serve up a jaunty slice of propulsive UK garage. Lifting Alice Russell’s sublime lead performance from Quantic Soul Orchestra’s 2005 masterpiece ‘Pushin’ On’, Holland reframes her iconic vocal from an entirely new perspective.

Famously used and abused, the vocal hook found its way into the commercial clubs and airwaves via Oliver $ & Jimi Jules 2015 crossover house track ‘Pushing On’ (note the absence of abbreviation for this incarnation). Apparently compelled to revisit the song himself, Quantic hit the studio to re-imagine his previous work, this time layering nuanced slices of the vocals over a delightful two-step shuffle. Arriving on the Selva label that shares a name with his Brooklyn-based studio, ‘I Won’t Fade Away’ sounds suspiciously like an anthem from the very first play. Helped no end by Russell’s raspingly soulful timbre, the track begins in unassuming fashion with haunting pads floating over gently broken drums.

Vocal chops echo in the distance before the lead powers into the foreground, and before you know it, skippy snares, searing hats and a retro house organ melody combine to thrust the track sharply into focus. Sub-bass adds weight to the spirited broken groove, momentarily morphing into four-to-the-floor for an explosion of kinetic dance-focused ferocity. On the reverse, the track appears in instrumental form, working almost as triumphantly as the A-side, though obviously losing a few percentage points of gravity with the absence of its cornerstone vox. Fine and very slightly unexpected work from this musical polyglot, this UK-tinted dancefloor dalliance serves as yet more proof of his far-reaching production mastery.

PC

Gameboy – I Was Never Here EP (Sakskobing)

The word on the street is this Gameboy EP will be the last time Ibrahim Alfa Jr uses the alias. It’s a surprise to see it crop up to be honest – the deep cover UK techno veteran hasn’t dropped a record under that name since 2014, and even then it was fairly intermittent. Alfa Jr swerves a lot of the dominant narratives around techno in the UK, but his legacy is mightily impressive across seminal labels like Mosquito, Force Inc. as well as on his own Automatic and Oyabun Audio. A mini-album on Workshop in 2016 helped draw a little more attention to a true underground operator versed in the language of machine music with a highly developed vocabulary to match the finest techno innovators.

It’s not always immediately apparent where the difference lies between Gameboy and Alfa Jr’s work under his own name, but the opening track on I Was Never Here – ‘Waking The Others’ – is a crafty, uneasy electro number with a buzzing synth lead which teeters on the edge of chiptune as if baiting the alias title. By contrast, the title track has a moody technoid demeanour which aligns with more of Alfa Jr’s catalogue. What’s critical here though is the use of noise and texture, which is applied in rough strokes with the same importance given to any of the more conventional elements. Overtones, tails and other such imperfections have their own role to play in Alfa Jr’s world, but you don’t get the impression it’s a conceited bid for trendy distortion. This is noise as an intrinsic part of the language, in the same way Shake or Landstrumm do it. Even on mellower, off-key house joint ‘In Dreams’, the wonkiness is understated and natural, while ‘Visions And Memories’ rides a jaunty swing to give DJs nightmares without ever sounding forced. Alfa Jr’s artistic otherness is simply how he’s always expressed himself in the studio, and it yields thrillingly unpredictable results every time.

OW

Will Buck/ Tilman – State Of Mind EP (Pleasant Systems)

Will Buck and Tilman once again join forces to supply a slab of floor-focused wonder, this time serving four sumptuous tracks on the ‘State Of Mind’ EP. The duo have collaborated to splendid effect on numerous occasions, furnishing the world with together-made tunes under the banners of Honey Butter, Karussell, and Feuilleton. This, of course, is by no means the extent of their output, with both artists regularly appearing on solo and compilation EPs. American artist Buck has graced the roster for the likes of Whiskey Disco and its Lovedancing offshoot, while German dynamo Tilman frequently appears on Shall Not Fade as well as the Fine imprint he runs alongside Johannes Albert.

Their latest alliance sees them return to German label Pleasant Systems for its second release – following Tilman’s ‘Adventures’ EP that landed earlier in the year along with a Will Buck cameo. ‘State Of Mind’ opens with the throbbing bass hook of ‘Closer’, with its driving chords, tripped-out vocals, and no-nonsense club sensibilities. Harmonic layers build and recede over the unrelenting signature motif as the stripped rhythms ebbs and flows for a happy-making deep house workout. Next, hard-working Italian producer Nicola ‘Nico Lahs’ Loporchio shows up to rework the track, toning down the energy levels while abundantly adding to the smoke-filled atmosphere on his trademark loop-driven revision. There’s a wonderfully held-down quality to much of the Bari native’s output, and his efforts here will surely help win over dub-minded house heads for whom the original may prove a little too jolly. Over on the B-side, ‘Summed Up Taken Away’ resumes the amped-up dance floor direction, with infectious bass notes combining with vintage chords and irresistible sax solos over swung house drums. Finally, ‘A Taste Of Honey’ sees us deep into the small hours. Once again, the bass powers the track over a full-bodied drum track, with hands-in-the-air chords and delayed vocals lifting the track into a feel-good fervour.

PC

Takuma Watanabe – Delay vs. Takuma (Constructive)

Two artists who share similar visions but wildly different career trajectories, Vladislav Delay (Sasu Ripatti) and Takuma Watanabe come head to head here, the former reinterpreting two tracks from the latter’s album ‘Last Afternoon’. What a wild surprise this one is: while Watanabe’s album was long and droning, this two-tracker is short and stark, with Ripatti delivering a new ambient urgency to four original tracks fused into two. 

Alluding to the stylistic footwork and cloud rap influences on his last albums ‘Rakka II’ and ‘Fun Is Not A Straight Line’, it’s as though a portal from Ripatti’s world has opened into Watanabe’s, creating dissonance and new energy. Watanabe’s style as a melancholic and string-centric film composer is seemingly upended, as the audio-snowstorm that is ‘Clouds Fall x Tactile’ hears the two originals hurled together, wrangling at each other as though they were barrier-breaking particles in an accelerator. Ragga voices faintly cut through the track’s electric mist, as though caught between writhing cables. Alarming textures resound all the while. Glancing ears might struggle to find any initial similarity to Watanabe’s originals, beyond sharing the same key.

‘Text x Bruges’ is less ambient and more jukey, lending a regular kick to an agitated sequence of synth bursts. The two minute mark recalls Andy Stott’s production, as the startling panic of the first section is overhauled by a dubbed-out femme vocal (recorded by collaborating singer Joan La Barbara, from Watanabe’s original ‘Text’). As the track comes to an end, it calms itself, as though put to sleep by the sonic dubwork storms Ripatti has conjured. Again, the resemblance to Watanabe’s original tracks are nearly unnoticeable, since Ripatti’s sound world is too stark, too dangerous, too sleet-hued to achieve an obvious comparison. 

Little information comes with this acid techno release, which is exactly how we like it. As the new Belgian imprint LANK emerges, so does the artist Uit De Hoogte. While their name translates to the English phrase ‘high and mighty’, their music certainly isn’t, remaining as grounded as Earthy acid can be. 

This EP contains four ambient jams, recorded to digital tape last winter, and pressed to just 100 vinyl copies. Lo-fi heads will feel refreshed, getting their fix from the sound of crunching 909s and 303 emulations, as the self-referentially titled ‘909_jam’ scrapes away at relentless offbeat hi-hats and a ruminating synth pad, while ‘80_casiovibraphone’ matches this energy with burgeoning CZ synths and crystalline chords.

The first two tracks are less ‘demo-ey’, and commit themselves to more infectious grooves. Octopus sounds fittingly squelchy and tentacular, with clippy claps and acid sponge-wringings serving as the perfect calming muzak for the act of eating live, raw octopus on a stick. ‘Golden Flamingo’ equally conjures fantastical, exotic fauna imagery, being the only track to feature a Modjo-esque disco loop, which gets filtrated, soft-clipped and screwed into an abrasive house beat. Hands down, these four jams are worthy of any no-strings dance party.

JIJ

Anz – All Hours (Ninja Tune)

Anz is here to incite joy, and that’s been apparent for some time. One of the glittering lights of Manchester’s restlessly vibrant electronic music community, Anz is quite rightly having a moment right now. She’s more than earned the right, doing things her own way with her much celebrated Spring / Summer Dubs tape series before hitting a wider audience with the breakout Loos In Twos (NRG) 12” on Hessle Audio. The reason for her sharp ascendancy is that canny blend of maximalist pop positivity with a deeply bedded sensitivity for what gives proper rave music that all important clout. She can make it bang and make it accessible in the same bar, and now this EP looks set to shoot her into the stratosphere.

George Riley’s vocal turn on ‘You Could Be’ look squarely to the charts and drive time radio, albeit with a blindingly sunny disposition that could have done with arriving in May rather than November. But underneath the vocals, the production is smart as hell, letting the melodies fly in artful shapes that speak to Anz’s prowess as a producer. It’s not just a case of well-produced club music either – there’s an instinct for sound design in every track which communicates her individual personality. She may be doffing her cap generously to UKG on ‘Real Enough To Feel Good’, but it doesn’t land like the majority of El B and Noodles knock-offs doing the rounds these days.

The concept of All Hours charts the 24-hour cycle of a clubber, from day break to the after party dawn, and the energy is tangible as you cruise into the killer electro beatdown of ‘Inna Circle’. When everyone is busy making Drexciya knock offs, Anz is channelling the spirit of Street Sounds comps and giving them a shot of serotonin, some cheeky Think breaks and a bunch of other cheeky motifs to make her own definition of a B-folk anthem. There’s nothing especially subtle at work as the EP reaches its zenith – the rave iconography comes thick and fast, but Anz is versed in this approach, and she tackles it with authority, passion and flair.

If ever there was a launchpad EP for an artist on her way to domination, this would be it. Her fans will come piling in on the strength of these tracks, and if there’s an album in the works and the expected bout of touring to follow, by next summer you won’t be able to miss her. When the music’s this joyful and buoyant, that can only be a good thing for humanity as a whole. Go on, Anz.

OW

Bardainne Jaumett – Bardainne Jaumett EP (Heavenly Sweetness)

French label Heavenly Sweetness continue their noble manifesto of spreading soul-inspiring across the universe, this time presenting a dazzling collection of work from collaborative project, Bardainne Jaumet. In something of a powerhouse pairing, saxophonist and composer Laurent Bardainne pools resources with fellow saxophonist, keyboard wizard and Versatile Records regular, Etienne Jaumet. Both supremely accomplished artists in their own respective rights, the duo unite over a combined love of electronic music and jazz to deliver a remarkable contemporary take on mambo, cha-cha, and Latin Jazz.

Utilising analogue keyboards to magnificently dreamy effect, Bardainne Jaumet come up with four original tracks that – given their pedigree – are unsurprisingly well-formed and genuinely rather spellbinding. Opener ‘Le Vaisseau Oublie’ effortlessly floats over a head-nodding tempo as grainy chords and twinkling solos luxuriantly intertwine, before the pace subtly shifts for ‘Blurry Neon’. Here, gated pads bubble over a hypnotic bassline before a mysterious and powerfully alluring topline soars majestically across the panorama. On the flip, we find high drama and an unnerving sense of foreboding in the throes of cinematic brooder, ‘Le Sacre De La Lumiere’, where the pair make full use of their musical prowess as they zigzag through dissonance and harmony. Finally, the jazz inspiration makes itself heard on closing track ‘Vapeur De Mercure’, with its freeform sax solo gyrating over waves of analogue wonder.

PC

Lukas Wigflex & Son Of Philip – Me & Meds (Trouble Maker)

Nottingham is the order of the day on Me & Meds, a rowdy new 12” from Lukas Wigflex and Son Of Philip. The Wigflex stamp alone carries a certain code within the fabric of the UK scene, running as a byword for wayward, forward-leaning electronic club music that pivots between techno, electro, dubstep and more besides. Son Of Philip is an established part of this party-label-collective entity thanks to his Play Monotonous single from earlier this year, but Lukas Wigflex’s own legacy goes way back through long-standing parties. Adam Curtain might be based in London now, but his Trouble Maker label makes clear its affiliation to Notts, and that gets cemented further with this link up.

The sound pushed on Me & Meds seems to perfectly capture the energy Wigflex stands for, managing the tricky balance between playful, colourful sonic trysts and a headsy, underground clout. When the lurid square wave basslines come contorting out of lead track ‘Curtains Nine Tails’, they sound wholly on-point and ready to slay even the moodiest of dancers. ‘Faffhammer’ has its own fun, slowly stretching out over a longform intro with a throb borrowed from that brashest of genres, Italo. Every synth is beautifully rendered and subtly kinked – a little pitch bend here, a filter modulation there – and the energy is teased with an expert touch. Given the boisterous A-side, ‘Faffhammer’ shows the pair know how to exercise patience too. Word on the street is it’s already set more than a few parties alight, and it’s no surprise.

‘Godstruth’ presents something a little different to close the record out, as Des Hagenasty bowls into earshot with a deadpan kitchen sink steez. His almost-snarling Midlands tone sits over a gnarled bed of electronics geared towards a darker, basement throb – a grubby slice of British rave realism in the 21st century.

OW

Raspadura – Grupo Pernil (Names You Can trust)

Far-reaching Brooklyn-based label Names You Can Trust return with the second in their ‘Split Single’ series with a tantalising combo 7”. The imaginative team behind the global-facing imprint are never shy of shining their searchlights into music’s extremities, and here they present debuts to newcomers Raspadura and Grupo Pernil with spectacular results. For 15 years the label has successfully joined erratic musical dots from their bountiful hometown, as well as further afield in Peru, Columbia, Argentina, among many other territories.

First up on the latest offering, we find real-life partners Josue Granados and Dayan Silva arriving under the Raspadura moniker. Here, the pair present a contagious journey into Latin punk with outstanding fusion cut, ‘Pa Que Gocen’. Regular fixtures on the NYC DJ circuit, Raspadura’s inaugural studio offering betrays years of deeply-rooted musical awareness. The gorgeously innocent, slap-back delayed vocal skips over a Cubano-ska backing track that stays true to its groove throughout the track’s short duration. Youthful and ever-so-slightly sinister, the music certainly bodes well for the pair’s future recording endeavours. Sharing the wax, Grupo Pernil go heavy on the improvisation with glittering groove, ‘Danza De La Cabra’. Formed of a single-take jam session, the band’s virtuoso players deliver an exotically-charged taste of heavily embellished gipsy Rumba, as psychedelic waves cascade over enlivening percussion to magnificently ignite free-thinking dance ardour.

PC

Uit De Hoogte – LANK 001 (Lank Belgium)

Little information comes with this acid techno release, which is exactly how we like it. As the new Belgian imprint LANK emerges, so does the artist Uit De Hoogte. While their name translates to the English phrase ‘high and mighty’, their music certainly isn’t, remaining as grounded as Earthy acid can be. 

This EP contains four ambient jams, recorded to digital tape last winter, and pressed to just 100 vinyl copies. Lo-fi heads will feel refreshed, getting their fix from the sound of crunching 909s and 303 emulations, as the self-referentially titled ‘909_jam’ scrapes away at relentless offbeat hi-hats and a ruminating synth pad, while ‘80_casiovibraphone’ matches this energy with burgeoning CZ synths and crystalline chords.

The first two tracks are less ‘demo-ey’, and commit themselves to more infectious grooves. Octopus sounds fittingly squelchy and tentacular, with clippy claps and acid sponge-wringings serving as the perfect calming muzak for the act of eating live, raw octopus on a stick. ‘Golden Flamingo’ equally conjures fantastical, exotic fauna imagery, being the only track to feature a Modjo-esque disco loop, which gets filtrated, soft-clipped and screwed into an abrasive house beat. Hands down, these four jams are worthy of any no-strings dance party.

JIJ

This week’s reviewers: Jude Iago James, Oli Warwick, Patrizio Cavaliere