This week’s to-die-for 45s
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Beloved Chicago selector Jamie 326 arrives on Nu Groove Records with a release that beautifully connects house music’s glorious past and optimistic present, serving a pair of fully authentic cuts on the ‘Live My Life’ EP. With such a formidable pedigree, one would be forgiven for thinking Jamie ‘326’ Watson had been turning out wax since the dawn of house music. In fact, his production debut arrived on Partehardy back in 2008, with a continual stream of high-grade releases following ever since. He’s made appearances on labels including BBE, Local Talk, GAMM, and his own 326 imprints, but it’s arguably for his irrepressible crowd rocking DJ sets that he’s best known. His selections routinely transcend temporal dimensions, utilising, as he does, sounds forged throughout the house and disco epoch and beyond. With this in mind, his Nu Groove debut feels like a rather wonderful fit, since the label itself is steeped in vintage allure while newly invigorated with a contemporary thrust.
The quasi-mythical New York imprint has enjoyed a fluctuating existence since being launched by Frank and Karen Mendez back in 1988. Throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, the label released a flurry of far-reaching house jams from the likes of The Burrell Brothers, Aphrodisiac, Bas Noir, Kenny Dope and Frankie Bones, quickly becoming a mainstay for lovers of the blossoming house sound. After an extended period of slumber, Nu Groove reappeared around a decade ago with a series of compilations and reissues, before, in 2017, UK club colossus Defected Records swooped in to acquire the label. ‘Live My Life’ sounds almost as if it’s been plucked from a hidden Chicago house archive, with its tough four/four groove powering an infectious vocal hook over a stripped arrangement, as organs swirl and ascending strings soar into the ether. B side track ‘Feelin’ It’ adds a few measures of disco energy, with lively percussion, funk guitars, and phasing chords caressing the soul-searing vocal chops as they echo across the heaving dancefloor.
Underground Resistance continue their recent kind-hearted approach to reissuing their immense catalogue, this time presenting a remastered edition of Perception & Mad Mike’s seminal ‘Windchime’ EP. The enigmatic Detroit collective hold an untouchable place in the hearts and minds of the world’s machine soul disciples. Since bursting out of Motor City techno’s second wave in 1990, the label and its associated artists have become synonymous with an uncompromising sound that encapsulates the soul-rich zenith of raw, profound, and entirely authentic subterranean dance music. Launched by Mad Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, and Robert Hood with a distinct militant brand image, over time the collective morphed and evolved to include (and, in some cases, exclude) the likes of Rolando, Gerald Mitchell, and James Pennington among many others. Ground-breaking releases arrived from Suburban Knight, Aztec Mystic, Davina, UR and more, and it’s appropriate to say the label long ago achieved legendary status.
Following a string of gratefully received reissues in recent months and years, this time attention is turned to UR co-founder Mike Banks’ 2004 collaboration with Chuck ‘Perception’ Gibson. Though original copies of the title aren’t especially rare, the remastered and freshly pressed version is unquestionably worth owning for any Detroit enthusiasts who don’t yet own a copy. The music, today as then, sounds entirely stunning. Stripped and blissfully soulful, the title track sees celestial melodies intertwine, with its evocative string stab solo darting through hypnotic marimbas while the held down rhythm maintains the course. The arrangement breaks down for a life-affirming eruption, as sustained bass notes and simmering strings make way for the infectious lead melodies to dance back into life. On the reverse, Gibson goes it alone with the dream-inducing ‘Abandoned Building In Mono’. Here, emotive harmonies hover over a simple drum track, gently undulating as shimmering keys delicately canter over the meditative groove. Both tracks are nothing short of exquisite, with each representing a magnificent example of the introspective reaches of the supremely thick UR canon.
Berlin-based Toy Tonics take a nostalgic trip into discos past, paying homage to past lives with the four-track ‘Lost Gomma Mixes’ EP. A younger incarnation of Toy Tonics operated as a sub-label to now dormant German indie goliath, Gomma Records – a label once renowned for its forward-facing dance inventory. Now fully formed and having long ago flown the proverbial nest, the Tonics team revisit some former glories by digging up a selection of long lost tracks that originally surfaced during the heady Gomma years. The record features an ensemble cast of disco luminaries, some we’ve not heard from for a while, and others who are still very much part of the movement’s fertile landscape. Kicking things off, we find Pete Herbert & Tristan da Cunha’s scintillating remix of The Glimmers’ ‘U Rocked My World’. Aimed squarely at the disco jugular, the track unfolds over a deliciously percussive house groove, with growling bass undulating under Latin piano chords and searing vocal sweeps that steadily build to a fist-pumping crescendo. Next, In Flagranti take on Golden Bug’s ‘LookLookLook’, where bubbling synth lines interplay with driving chords, infectious bass slaps and maniacal vocal slices for an intoxicating main room explosion.
On the reverse, a name we don’t see too often (save the occasional mega pop remix appearance) pops up to enliven Leroy Hanghofer’s ‘Pin’. Stuart ‘Jacques Lu Cont’ Price burst onto and out of the dance underground in and around the naughties, exemplifying the fun and frenetic electro house sound with work recorded under various guises. Now best known for his work behind the controls for the likes of Dua Lipa and Madonna, here we find him flexing in club mode under his much loved Lu Cont moniker, alongside Sloop John Barillo. A touch more subtle than his most unadulterated work, here we find throbbing bass propelling deviant vocal chops and space-age synth sweeps over a crisp disco funk rhythm. Finally, legendary NYC DJ and former Studio 54 resident Nicky Siano steps in to work his magic on ‘Never Stop Believing’ from The KDMS. Laying the seductive vocal over a brooding bassline, Siano adds layers of effervescent percussion, freeform overdubs and atmospheric horns over a sparsely populated cut. Harking back to simpler times while retaining enduring freshness, the music slots immaculately into today’s dancefloors.
A blissful slice of balearica from Bobby Wratten’s LIATH project. ‘The Circling Of The Seasons’ comes as a teaser to his second solo album under the moniker. It’s an exemplary slice of Wratten’s style: droning soundscapes, gemstoney refractions, sloshing blips and trickles, crisp 909s, pure intonation, minimal riffs…
Despite relating to the upcoming project, the two songs tease but do not feature on the album. Rather, Wratten asks that we take them in on their own merits and only link them to the album thematically, which helps amp up the mystery. Charting a more experimental and ambient fusion sound than former pop-folk songs (‘Everyone Talks About The Weather’ springing to mind), these trancelike dirges touch just as closely on the repeating trills of Terry Riley as they do the stripped-down folk of Christy Moore.
The eponymous A-side opens with nymphish vocals, and launches into a humming, drum-machined, pastoral indie jam. Produced with Wratten’s longtime friend Ian Catt – and with vocals from fellow former Field Mice members Anne Mari Davies and Beth Arzy – its guitar strums away like curious thoughts on the wintry passage of time: “the circling of the seasons / the wind of the leaf / their branches to blossom / all of life is here.”
‘Neuchatel’ is unequivocally more ambient, holding fast on drums, and instead offering up a more hidden grotto of undulating, tundric ambience. Natural pops, guitar whirs, and rhythmic bass – courtesy of Field Mice bassist Michael Hiscock – occupies this dynamic but breathable mix. A short and ‘broken’ vocal line peppers up, sonically blurring the lines between vocal and guitar. The sudden dynamic shift between pop and minimalism has the promise for a myriad album, and we’re extremely excited for the LP yet to come.
Dutch duo Fouk make their Shall Not Fade debut here, crafting five energy-rich club tracks on the ‘Paradise’ EP. Daniel Leseman and Hans ‘Junktion’ Peeman have been recording together as Fouk since around 2014, showing up on respected labels including Heist, Razor N Tape, Kolour Limited, and House Of Disco. Looking back at their uniformly high-grade inventory, it’s perhaps surprising that they’ve only tended to average a release or two per year, but the quality of their productions ensures their work maintains a formidable presence across deep house-inclined floors. Exhibiting their warm and funk-flecked aesthetic through the EP, each track on ‘Paradise’ is a safe bet for conjuring club-ready vibrations. The title track sees forceful piano chords and delicate gamelan chimes canter over effervescent percussion as strings gently simmer in the distance, while the emotion-heavy chords of ‘Next Summer’ caress psychedelic synth solos over a steady house tempo.
‘Tough Love’ ups the energy levels a touch, with freaky loops filtering over energetic drums as aberrant synths and far away vocals rally over the horizon. Maintaining the floor-focus, the delightfully upbeat ‘Late Night Snack’ sees irreverent synths dancing over looped chords and vital percussion, before closing track ‘Drugged Out’ sees the EP home with rolling rhythms, sturdy disco bass and hypnotic vocal licks.
Gigi FM’s ‘Magnetite’ EP is one directly born from – and not just catering to – the dance. Aside from her work as a DJ and producer, Gigi is also a dancer, ritualist, astrologer and everything in between. With all said practises feeding into each other in one neat creative whirlwind, Gigi’s music is specially imbued with the context of the body.
This strange, whirly techno project marks her debut release for fellow parisian Bambounou and his new label Bambe. Taken on its own, it has undeniable charm as a smoky belter of crossrhythmic and blossoming proportions, with stabs, bells and arps filtering out from each strange stew. It’s enjoyable enough. But the influence of Gigi’s extra-musical pursuits add a real spice to the mix; cementing her transcendent aspirations related to dance, lead track ‘Senstronaut (MYO)’ was arranged entirely using an MYO motion sensor – an electronic arm band that connects to MIDI via motion, allowing Gigi to build layers on layers of sound purely from arm gestures.
It’s an unusually full-circle feat. With Gigi drawing on Kinesiology (the study of human movement), an additional subtext rears its head, as she connects the dots between ancient dance rituals, modern secular raves, and the cosmic. According to Gigi, the mineral magnetite – an iron ore found in sand deposits, and the most magnetic of all naturally occuring substances on Earth – is central to humans’ core urge to dance. Of course, it was the first substance to lead humans to discover the fundamental property of magnetism.
That in mind, our take on the EP is imbued with a tense north-south dynamism, as fundamental axis shifts occur in our geo-cognitive strata. ‘Manas Pst’ is earthy and cavernous, with deposits of pure bass pulse cropping up in underground spits of djembe, tweet and kick. ‘Ketu’s Dance’ is the fastest and most movable techno bit, hitting on great cosmic wooshes and a reesey melody – both integral parts of Gigi’s firedance, a call to the stars. ‘Tear Drops’, finally, lowers the tone to an ionic tempo, reducing the dancefloor to a hot ferrite isotope. For those who don’t naturally experience the joy of electrosensitivity, this EP is your way in.
Glaswegian producer, DJ and Musician Austin Ato returns to Phonica White for his latest escapade in sample-laced dancefloor delirium, offering up four tracks on the ‘When Love Is Tender’ EP. Ato is steadily carving out a fine reputation as a purveyor of sophisticated and funk-coated club material, having released superlative work on go-to labels Futureboogie, Delusions Of Grandeur, and Classic, among a handful of others. Generally operating on the sunny side of the dance spectrum, his music is often endowed with a delightfully feel-good quality – something each and every one of us can greatly benefit from during these most trying of times. His latest release fits the happy-making mould rather wonderfully, with each track ostensibly designed with a mind to invigorate hedonistic dancers. ‘When Love Is Tender’ occupies the hazy territory between disco edit and sample-based house jam, with contagious guitar licks, silky vocal chops and rousing horn motifs gloriously bubbling over full-bodied house drums. ‘All Night Long’ follows a similar trajectory while being a few shades deeper, with atmospheric string loops and rolling bass propping up twinkling keys over a dusty rhythm. The title track also appears in an alternative ‘Sweet Mix’, subtly re-framing the key parts with similarly propulsive results. Finally, ‘When Love Is Drums’ jettisons the instrumentation to allow the rhythm to do the talking, with flanging drums adding a space-age feel to the percussive groove.
This week’s reviewers – Patrizio Cavaliere, Jude Iago James
The no bull guide to the week’s superlative singles
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Matt Berry is a treasure – a man endowed with the innate ability to inspire mirth with the mere utterance of any given line in his comedic tenor tone. Almost certainly best known for his exploits in TV comedy than for his musical career, his one size fits all approach to the characters he’s drafted to play never fails to tickle. From the kung fu fighting Dr Lucian Sanchez to buccaneering bastard Dixon Bainbridge, corporate sex pest Douglas Reynholm to the world’s least-loved actor Steven Toast, all of the characters he brings to life are at once bizarrely loveable and brilliantly flawed. Although his songwriting inclinations revealed themselves in his Channel 4 show, Toast Of London, it may come as a surprise to some that Berry has a fairly substantial release catalogue under his belt. Performing solo, as well as alongside his band, The Maypoles, Berry has released 12 albums and a hatful of singles – with most arriving via the altogether serious Acid Jazz label. His latest release on said label sees none other than Sean Lennon invited to remix a pair of tracks from 2021 album, ‘The Blue Elephant’.
After a relatively quiet spell in the last few years, Lennon steps up to serve a somewhat surprising interpretation of ‘Summer Sun’, re-imagining it as a prog-rock/disco house hybrid. With its squealing synth arps, bouncy bass and four/four rhythm interspersed by psychedelic lead guitar and stadium-ready drum fills, the energetic track races out of the blocks as Berry’s fuzzed-up vocals swirl over the instrumentation. Occupying a more conventional/ expected territory, Lennon’s version of ‘Like Stone’ is a pop-tinged take on stoned indie, with gravelly guitars, gently distorted drums and Berry’s earnest vocals presented in a condensed prog arrangement. I’m very probably doing Berry a disservice to say that, for me, his finest musical moment to date arrived in the form of bitesize (Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) interlude ‘One Track Lover’, but that serves as more of a testament to his comedic genius than a detraction of his serious music credentials. Nevertheless, this is creditable and impeccably produced work, with the ‘Summer Sun’ mix proving particularly intriguing.
James Blake’s ‘CMYK’ stands just as tall as it did 10 years ago. Besides being one of the more esoteric early works in the now soul-pop crooner’s discography – influencing Mount Kimbie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, XXYYXX, and Glows to name a few – it is perhaps the defining post-dubstep EP, nailing the hallmarks of a sound that were still burgeoning at the time.
For a singer, keyboardist and producer so deeply into releasing R&B, neo-soul, pop and even trap nowadays, it might come as a surprise to many that James Blake’s roots lie in bassy techno, Hemlock Recordings, and Dubstepforum. ‘CMYK’ is one such example of an EP influenced by those corners of online music sharing at the time, which might be what makes him one of the cooler pop artists out there today. Producing music in his bedroom in 2010, his sound trod the path of ‘hi-fi’ future garage, opting for textural snaps and minimal transients, rather than the low-end plod and whoosh of the then recent second Burial LP.
What’s more is that ‘CMYK’ drew not only on various third party vocal samples – from Kelis to Aaliyah – but also Blake’s own voice, setting the now recognisable icon apart from his fellow heads-down, hoods-into-laptop dubstep producers. The title track is one that still reels in the minds of most new artists active today. Willy-nilly, the refrain “Look I found her / (damn) / red coat” contains both Blake’s effortless melisma and an on-the-nose vocal sample within a single bar; it repeats both against the kind of detuned square line that would become so popular in future bass later down the line.
Blake’s voice is so low-key, meanwhile, we’d barely know it was him singing. ‘Foot Notes’ gets buried underneath a vocoder, while ‘I’ll Stay’ has it peek through a clacking, roomy broken beat. ‘Postpone’, finally, is the most beautiful yet sensitive track of the lot, building to a detuned, sawn-off rapture. Unlike his various copycats, it’s clear that for this sound, Mr. Blake was the genuine article.
In the coagulated mass of the minimal scene, whatever that is these days, it can take time to sift through and find the special material. It’s that elusive music which uses a sound or style as a springboard to transcend genre restrictions, yielding something which lasts beyond the undulating trends music will always be prone to. There probably aren’t many minimal records from 2014 I can call to mind and remember intimately, but the first Düve record on Blank Slate stood out for many reasons. A great deal of that is thanks to Ali Çakir’s captivating instrumentation, but equally producer Soren Jahan, better known as Rene Audiard, has always displayed an affinity for otherness which situates his work outside of the conventional slipstream.
The Düve project has deep roots for the long-time friends, but it continues to manifest as an open and exploratory partnership which has also landed on Pluie/Noire and Horru before making a welcome return with this first of two releases on Mesma. Çakir plays an oud on the record while Jahan mans the machines, and from a session that largely took place of 48 hours they yield a more varied palette of music than ever before. Opening track ‘Bağlama’ takes time to reveal itself through an angular electro-acoustic treatment, but it soon emerges as a sprightly and unusual sculpture of tweaked and looped oud propelled by an understated beat. There’s a raw, in the room feel to the track which lends it honesty – a genuine creative conversation.
‘Djinn Tonic’ meanwhile has a more explicit electronic make-up, dealing in a gossamer light electro configuration complete with swirling pads and stuttering beats through which snatches of piano emerge. ‘Avvad’ is the first time we touch on the house-oriented grooves we’ve heard on past Düve records and once again it sports the kind of alchemy which would cut through and stripped-back set to create a spine-tingling tension. Çakir’s playing is low and brooding through the piece, but wholly locked into the heads-down pulse of Jahan’s rhythm section. ‘Santur’ keeps the B side for itself, stretching out over 14 minutes to indulge more overtly minimal tendencies. Düve has always hinted at a love of the Villalobos strain of reduced surrealism, but here they once again elicit a unique edge by folding poetry (presumably voiced by Çakir) into the meandering structure. It’s hypnotic and a little disorientating, and a purist might wrinkle their nose at its dancefloor effectiveness, but it still kicks when it wants to, and only on its own terms, not those of any scene. Therein lies the magic.
Following on from last year’s widely admired ‘The Kempe Stone Portal’ album from The Vendetta Suite, Hell Yeah! Recordings present something of a familial affair on the new remix package. Producer Gary Irwin was effectively raised on the diverse musical formula concocted by David Holmes and Iain McCready, earning his dancing chops at the pair’s seminal Belfast rave showcases held regularly at the city’s Art College. After studying music technology and performing arts, Irwin would pass cassette tapes of his demos to Holmes at the events, proving to be the catalyst for a long-standing working relationship between the two. Irwin has spent decades working as in-house engineer at Holmes’ Exploding Plastic Inevitable Studio, collaborating on countless releases and forming a durable friendship along the way. It’s especially pleasing, then, to see Holmes ride in to reform one of the LP’s highlights, ‘Purple Haze, Yellow Sunrise’. Morphing the acidic original into a far-reaching cinematic exploration, the remix rises over throbbing drums before an ocean of atmospheric textures billow and dissipate.
Stirring as it rolls through waves of poignancy and euphoric optimism, vividly encapsulating the emotions and adventures of a decades-long friendship. Also ushered in to provide his take is another firm friend, Timmy Stewart. Another seasoned DJ and Belfast luminary, Stewart first met Irwin at Exploding Plastic, locked in the lab while creating his first attempts at sonic alchemy alongside Glenn McCartney in the mid-’90s. Again demonstrating an affinity with the source material while hinting at the pair’s shared simpatico, Stewart’s ‘Six Minutes To Sunrise’ take on ‘Warehouse Rock’ is rich with emotion. Hitting home like a long lost Balearic classic, emotive strings glide over hypnotic bass, with crisp drumming cementing the groove as delicately woven sound bites drift across the panorama. Featured alongside a beatless ‘Sunrise Reprise’, and as the name indicates, this is a near-immaculate soundtrack to ushering in the new dawn.
re:ni has become such a fixture in the UK techno-not-techno-bassy-future-broken whatever-you-call-it landscape, it’s quite the shock to realise she’s only just dropping her first record. Since coming up through the NTS WIP scheme for artist development she very quickly established a creative identity as a selector with razor sharp taste – a pure expression which snaps your head round at the wild tracks she blends. Her re:lax show with Laksa is a hotbed of upfront mind-melters, and she’s comfortable re-moulding dancefloors with her own take on this ill-defined amalgam of 140ish club music.
Given the context, making her first production outing on Zenker Brothers’ Ilian Tape seems logical, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact it’s still a massive step. The top line in that regard is this sounds like one of the freshest things on a label which has grown into an incredibly versatile, interesting label. More than just breakbeat techno shellers, the Zenkers have been fostering low tempo beat downs and experimental gear from the likes of Katatonic Silentio, Jake Muir and plentiful emergent names. re:ni steps into this space with a sound as assured as her DJing, and the results are frankly astounding. In this case, assured also means daring and weird.
As an opening statement, ‘Don’t Go Dark’ feels pointed in its refusal to play it straight, pivoting around a fractured arrangement that achieves physicality without a heavy reliance on drums. Instead, the emphasis is on big slabs of low end – nearly everything else is the result of intense dub processing until everything feels like it’s swimming. It’s patient, and exquisitely noirish, but also totally nasty too.
Patience is a consistent facet of this release, and while the sounds tend to be textured, tactile things with plenty of character, the overall mix feels uncluttered and spacious. ‘Reverse Rave’ has a more pronounced forwards momentum, but it still staggers rather than sprints. ‘Spirits’ is where a more manic side comes out, but every time you think you have a handle the track pulls a switch-up. What’s telling is the choice of dusty sample material – cracked chord breaks teasing before a mean drop. They speak to re:ni’s musical knowledge and a respectful affinity for the true roots of UK soundsystem music which communicates through every creative decision springing out of this frankly astounding debut.
Burial’s first release since last summer’s ‘Chemz’ arrives to assuage the longing of those of us impatiently waiting for long-playing material from the dark ambient master. We gave ‘Anti Dawn’ an extended preview last month, but, such is the gravity of the work, it certainly warrants a revisit in our round-up of the week’s finest releases. As the title suggests, much of the uncompromising music contained within this extended EP is every bit as brooding and opaque as the darkest corners of Burial’s profound audio inventory.
Opening with a gentle cough – the sound of which takes on new meaning in these socially distanced and paranoid times – the disconcerting organs and sombre vocal of ‘Strange Neighbourhood’ permeate the glitchy sonic canvas that characterises the collection. Unsettling and strangely beautiful, the distorted scene is well and truly set for the dimly lit city streets Burial walks us through throughout the release. The heartwrenching vocals of the title track cut through an unnerving fog, the damp air saturated with glitches and distortion as the half-light exploration weaves and unravels. ‘Shadow Paradise’ sees haunting leads vocals explode through forlorn pads and indeterminate textures, before the unfathomable beauty of ‘New Love’ offers a muted glimmer of hope through the dimness. Completing a bewildering, complex and ultimately triumphant collection, the exhilarating swells and frail vocals of ‘Upstairs Flat’ captivate as they undulate, closing off a deeply affecting EP that’s destined to leave an indelible mark on its listeners.
When he first emerged, Datasette was most readily associated with cult electronica label Ai Records. There’s a certain gravitas around that label for the kind of beat fiends who lived by the early days of Boomkat recommendations, although bar Claro Intelecto the majority of the roster has remained somewhat aloof whether by design or fortune. Datasette’s self-titled album was a gleaming mineral of skewed braindance, and subsequent drops for the likes of Shipwrec, Future Massive, CPU and more have all celebrated experimental pathways through machine music.
This trajectory reaches dizzying heights on this standout EP for Lapsus, not least on ‘Gong Zahlensender’. Coming midway through the EP, the track’s billowing clouds of microtonal texture almost imply a hauntological mood you might expect from Pye Corner Audio, but instead Datasette swerves for dexterous, light-footed acid glitch patterns instead. It’s the consummate braindance track, at once unexpected and genius in its hi-tech execution. Each piece has its own charms though – opening track ‘Sentinel’ scurries through cavernous dub techno ink blots and
Covert Detroit production outfit Scan 7 have been delivering compelling subaquatic grooves for decades, and here they arrive on UK label Third Ear with five suitably spellbinding cuts. With a distinctive sound that blends dream-inducing melodies and blissed-out harmonics with hard-hitting machine drums, Trackmaster Lou’s secretive troupe have released exceptional music on labels including Underground Resistance, Tresor, and F Communications. The ‘Orchestrated Reality EP’ finds Scan 7 in devastating form, magnificently demonstrating an unparalleled ability to stir mind, body and soul via music that’s deep and uncompromising, but – thanks to its compositional gravity – accessible to all seekers. Launching with a discernable US garage flex, the hypnotic house organ of ‘Who Stole The Soul’ makes an instant impression, with completive vocals echoing over crisp drums and sub-focused bass.
The glitchy rhythms of ‘Love Laugh Live’ join floating pads and freeform keyboard solos as they carve out a mysterious furrow, seeing out the A-side with a nocturnal electro swagger. On the flip, the feel-good chords and infectious energy of ‘Groovin’ allow for an optimistic escape, before the emotive melodies of the title track provide one of the EP’s highlights – levitating over thick drums for a spaced-out dancefloor meditation. Finally, the low-slung bump of ‘Chillin’ captivates as it unfolds, with unrelenting synth stabs joined by sprightly organ licks and mood-enhancing strings.
Here’s something fresh beaming in from the ever-fertile Dutch undergrowth. Nous’klaer Audio is always a trusted stable when it comes to presenting new names offering something distinctive within the hybridised modern club scene. There’s been no attempt to frame Mata Disk as anything other than a vessel for hi-tech sonics, and so we’re left ruminating on the pure impact of their sound, whoever they might be. We’re never short of electro or techno releases dropping week by week, but this one especially leapt out.
As the lead track, ‘Surrounder’ sets the tone for an EP the label describes as “breaky modular electro cuts”. While that’s not totally wide of the mark, on paper the description is perhaps a little less inventive than the music itself sounds. Rather, this is bristling, densely layered and jagged dancefloor electronica. There are nods to techno and electro but the record doesn’t really adhere to either genre tag in any meaningful way. For one thing it doesn’t just rely on 808 drums and analogue synths, but rather an expansive palette of percussive and melodic sounds which instantly move the EP away from simple retro-fetishism.
In terms of the high-end production, you might well listen to ‘Rez’ and think of Silicon Scally, or on ‘Down The Slope’ even recall the incredible, skewed strain of techno S-Max and Fym pushed on their Boogizm label. That reference point might be a little niche for anyone not up on their mid-00s minimal, but the sense of playfulness and wonky abstraction should appeal to all braindancers, whichever era you freak to.
This week’s reviewers: Patrizio Caviliere, Oli Warwick, Jude Iago James.
New year – new singles
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Such is the stature of Minimal Wave, they’re at the point where their represses of reissues are noteworthy moments. In truth, Veronica Vasicka’s label spearheaded the exploration of furtive lo-fi electronics long before it was trendy, and the jewels that have been unearthed in that time are precious in a way they never could have been without her diligent work. If you needed a record which sums up the seedy, seductive allure of the label, Deux’s Golden Dreams is Minimal Wave at its best.
Deux were French duo Gérard Pelletier and Cati Tête, who met in Lyon in the early 80s and started recording stripped back synth pop with the electric frisson that comes from a mixed gender duet. Of course the influence of The Human League, Depeche Mode et al lurks in the background of their songs, but through the fact of their rudimentary means, the music lands with its own peculiarities and the charm of the songwriting shines through.
There’s a pronounced club edge to Deux, too. ‘Everybody’s Night’ is a true highlight of this record which flips between a fragile verse and discordant, death disco chorus. It’s worth considering this was recorded in 1985, and it sounds like it belongs in the sweaty, wild-eyed depths of a Ron Hardy marathon at Music Box. However, those freaky chorus-not-choruses drop with a ramshackle flair which inadvertently shows how much Pelletier and Tête were winging it whilst prefiguring motifs that sound like fully realised house and techno. It’s dreamy and deranged in an elegant way, but above all else Deux are full of guts and heart, and that’s why you should be paying attention now this particular curio has come back within reach.
Kitty Grant’s effervescent cover of Chaz Jankel’s ‘Glad To Know You’ receives a welcome reissue, courtesy of immaculately curated Italian label, Discoring. Probably best-known as guitarist and keyboard player for Ian Dury & The Blockheads (who continue to perform as The Blockheads following Dury’s death in 2020), Jankel enjoyed a creditable solo career outside of the band. His 1981 track ‘Glad To Know You’ has long been revered as a favourite among Balearic-minded diggers, with 2012’s cover from Los Amigos Invisibles & Dimitri From Paris propelling the track into new millennium main rooms – thanks in no small part to Ray Mang’s epically extended remix.
Kitty’s 1983 cover version arrived as part of her Japan-only released second (and final) LP, ‘! D.a.s.h’, with three of the six tracks on the album produced by Jankel himself. Her previous album ‘Woman In Between’ spawned a pair of sugar-coated and city pop-themed singles, but ‘Glad To Know You’ is undoubtedly the song for which her short music career is best remembered. Unsurprisingly considering Jankel produced it, Kitty’s version sounds rather similar to the original – with stirring chord stabs bouncing over a rolling bass as organ solos glide across the splashing disco drums – perhaps the most notable difference being the bittersweet fragility Kitty’s vocal performance brings to the whimsical lyrics. There’s no mistaking the club credentials of the track, and the extended version included here sounds every bit as fresh and effective as it ever did. Also included on the 12” is the single’s original b-side, ‘Stop Wasting You Time’, a pulsing invitation for a suitor to stop beating around the bush, as it were. Here, Jankel’s post-punk-meets-pop swagger provides the bed for Kitty’s assertive vocal, as funk bass, free-wheeling sax, and glistening synths powerfully support her playful call to action.
Since we last reviewed one of their compilation albums, Brudenell Groove’s label offshoot Reel Long Overdub have come even further in quest to champion new music, slowly but confidently making it rain with new releases from local Leeds affiliates SAH, Kerouac and DJ Ojo.
For their first ever vinyl EP, the normally Wharf Chambers-bound party has crossed the pond to New Delhi and Naples, bringing two new talents, Monophonik and Diastema, together for a shared record. That cosmopolitan approach to sourcing bangers has paid off – this is a a five-track fusion of techno styles ranging from wonky to blissy, wringing even more newness from the well-wrought space between hardcore and breaks.
Mind-splurge vocal samples egg on a farting acid line on the opening analogic force ‘Tabalchi’. While nowehere near the EP’s standout track, it happily nestles itself amongst some of the best breakbeat 2022 has had to offer so far. However, we’re most enthralled by Monophonik’s second track, ‘Source Code’, which is happily indecisive in its straddling of gabber and drum n’ bass. Past the two-minute mark, the tune brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘timestretched’, with a ‘whoa’ vox spanning a happy 10-second buildup to breaks n’ reese catharsis.
Diastema’s offerings seamlessly carry the torch, standardizing the EP’s focus on robotic bleeps and whirrs. While older bleep n’ bass tended to sound crude – as though the tunes came from a pale, imitative retrofuture – the robotic writhings of ‘Dubquake’ have a real accelerationist sheen to them, releasing the style from its primitive form. Watch out for the hidden digital bonus ‘Voyager’, too; though still retaining the bassweight of the prior tracks, it’s a hidden melodic gem, settling the anxieties the first four tracks. If you’ve been pining for a kickstart to 2022 vis-a-vis breakbeat, this is it.
Detroit maestro Kyle Hall rounds off an excellent 2021 with his final release of the year, presenting five typically engaging cuts spread neatly across ‘The Phi EP’. Hall has firmly established himself among the brightest motor city producers operating today. His most recent output – all of which has been presented by his Forget The Clock imprint – has offered an awful lot to admire, effortlessly combining cutting edge deep house refinement with a looseness of feel and an off-kilter funk that appears to arrive so naturally for the pinnacle of his home-town creators. Here, opening track ‘Step Up’ swoops in with archetypal deep house shuffle, as atmospheric chords swirl and undulate around twinkling piano keys, retro vocal chops, and hypnotic bass notes.
Next, the dubbed-out grooves of ‘One 2 One Deep’ intoxicate as they repeat, with crisp beats and deeply-rooted bass permeating through the synth-heavy fog to add focus to the dance-heavy rhythm. The mystical harmonies of ‘Pico’ swell over trance-inducing percussion, before we arrive in the startling rhythms of ‘Carasee’. Here, seductive chords power the groove over jagged drums before mutant synths intertwine and unwind to send the cut into a machine-funk fervour. Finally, the unrestrained flex of ‘Quake’ end proceedings on an intergalactic high, as rolling bass and purposeful drums drive the groove through endless waves of delicately eccentric synth refrains before a mighty p-funk propels the music into an adjacent solar system.
London-based label Gouranga Music have been busily forging a fine reputation as high-quality purveyors of the various shades of contemporary disco since launching back in 2019. They’ve presented alluring titles from the likes of Ichisan, James Rod, and Dombrance via the various digital file formats, gaining plenty of admirers along the way. Here, they make their first exciting leap into the glorious vinyl realm with a set of remixes of ‘Brother Sister/Candle Lights’ by New York-based multi-piece band, Cho & Random Impetus. To mark their debut manifestation into the physical form, the label called upon the ever-so safe set of hands of Ray Mang to provide the reworks.
As usual, he goes above and beyond, coming correct with a selection of versions that are sure to tick the boxes of the most demanding of disco-leaning jocks and collectors. Released in 2019 on one-off label SHSF Records, the original versions elegantly fused contemporary-tinged soul, funk, and disco threads woven into an enjoyable – and now thoroughly collectable – 7” package. Staying true to the essence of the source material, disco maverick Ray Mang utilises his untouchable production prowess to embellish the tracks with a few measures of added boogie bite. Kicking things off, his vocal remix of ‘Brother Sister’ spaces out the arrangement, extracting the sing-along power of the vocals while beefing up the drums and adding a mightily growling synth bass to transform the cut into a main room powerhouse. Quite possibly even better, his trademark dub version almost entirely dispenses with the vocals to allow room for bass solos, gigantic timpani rolls, and tripped-out delays to soar across the dancefloors, morphing the track into a deviant space-disco masterpiece. On the flip, his extended version of ‘Candlelight’ gently rounds the loose-limbed soul flex of the original, while his instrumental version lets the carefully orchestrated instrumentation breathe, as soothing chords, plucked guitars, and rousing horns cascade over the silky smooth arrangement.
Underground Resistance’s Gerald Mitchell has always been active, but the same can’t be said for his side alias, The Deacon. Despite its relative lack of profile, though, this little side stint is responsible for some of the most killer tunes the OG techno collective ever had to offer. Under the name, Mitchell joined Mad Mike on the ‘Attack Of The Sonic Samurai’ EP in 2006, and made ‘Fuji’, a track that brought techno to new experimental, cinematic heights, charting beautiful far-eastern buildups and wuxia-frilled chord sweeps.
Later contributions to the fore included the funk-soaked single ‘Soulsaver’ and the nigh-illegal madhouse womper ‘Multi-Dimensional Drama’ – tunes which, according to lore, rendered Mitchell an ‘interstellar fugitive’ in the judging eyes of wider capitalism, banishing him and a host of other names to dormancy. Now, with the announcement of Mitchell’s newest EP under the name – ‘Funky Revolutions’ – it’s been revealed that Mitchell has survived exile, having remained in his meditative state at the top of Mt. Fuji for a good decade and a half. Apparently, among his crimes were “faith and sonic soul saving” and “using the Holy Ghost as the weapon of choice”.
‘Funky Revolutions’ itself hears the wonderful aftermath of Mitchell’s criminal past, sounding rather like the sonic equivalent of subdued radioactive detritus, resting on the barren ground after having survived the zap of The Deacon’s megablaster. The four cuts are dry, minimal and rough, proving an unmatched production aptitude that Mitchell, clearly, has still got. ‘Essence Of Bass’ is one sch example, using Drexciyan bass womps to convey a looming mood rivalling the sound of deep-sea sonar. The title track is so bassy that it distorts our puny headphones while still remaining enjoyable, while the speed-garage swing of ‘In Traffic’ nails a patient feel between rash chord stabs and gated claps. ‘Funky Revolutions’ is the return of a musical superhero we thought might never appear again – Mitchell might just be the prophesied ‘chosen one’ to save Detroit from pestilence.
Quite what Dominic Cramp is up to is hard to discern. His work as Lord Tang has a slippery quality which evades clear comprehension. It’s not obtusely avant garde, but rather slops and slides with a downhome disarray which makes it easy to like even as it confounds you. Cramp has been skulking around the Bay Area doing leftfield dealings since the mid 90s, and you might well imagine his music jamming in the same vibrational hum as Afrikan Sciences, Carlos Niño and Sun Araw, without actually sounding like any of those mad cats. His previous album for Meakusma, Butterflies, was heavy on the palate, but brimming with invention and joyous expression. It had the structural integrity of a shanty town teetering on collapse but daubed in the most brilliant paint.
Where a full album of Tang felt like a delightfully discombobulating affair, it’s easier to get a handle on three tracks pressed in isolation. Cramp’s dubwise tendencies come through on ‘Clip Clop’, which sports the same lo-fi dub-not-dub vibe you might expect from Tapes. There’s plenty of dissonant melodic wrangling going on to keep things from getting too predictable, and there’s still a stubborn refusal to follow a particular structure, but the system created on the track feels fully rendered and discernible, striking an ideal balance between weird and accessible. Elsewhere, things become more obfuscated as ‘Stamps’ fumbles its cloudy fingers through stop-start beatdowns and hiccups of vocal without losing that sun-baked West Coast charm.
Maintaining that oddball dub sentiment on the B-side, German maverick Zonedog (better known as disrupt) pops up to offer a version of ‘Mountains and Streams’ which traverses a fluid but more roundly rendered river of sound. It’s caked in tape muck, and certainly not conventional by any stretch, but it stays on course and maintains an inherent warmth and playful spirit. Experimental outlier Weird Dust – previously spotted on labels like Crevette and Kerm – digs into the percussive qualities of ‘Clip Clop’ and shuffles them through a mound of ash, ensuring your aural receptors are feeling comfortably woolly as the needle slides into the runout groove.
You have to take your hats off to the Rush Hour crew, with the Amsterdam-based label continuing to keep subterranean dancers on their toes with an imaginative blend of inventive deep house and techno and internationally-focused rhythms. Their fingers are, as ever, well and truly on the pulse of the dance zeitgeist, and all of their output is – at the very least – worthy of taking the time to digest. Arriving here for the first time on the label is super-talented producer and Needs Music co-founder, Lars Bartkuhn.
With an expansive and musically-rich sound that’s exquisitely hard to predict or pin down, Bartkuhn has released universally dazzling music as a solo artist on labels including Neroli and Sonar Kollektiv, as well as alongside his brother Marek and Yannick Elverfeld under the Needs banner. Title-track ‘Transcend’ incorporates many of the characteristics we’ve come to admire from the Frankfurt-based artist, with a glorious meta-house aesthetic that’s simultaneously organic and precise. Captivating chords power over cascading rhythms as free-spirited parts interplay, joyously galloping across the panorama before the track builds to an acoustic-guitar led and mystically-charmed crescendo. On the reverse, the gentle rhythms of ‘Every Morning I Meditate’ dance across layers of soul-soothing harmonic waves, blissfully combining to evoke the healing power of a midsummer Mediterranean sunrise.
Medici Daughter is an anonymous solo project from Falmouth’s Eel label, and can best be described as ‘deconstructed emo breakcore’. Working in a style made largely by US, Belgian and Swedish artists (Sewerslvt springs to mind), we can be sure it’ll be well-received in the UK, having not yet received full representation by English artists.
Not much is known about Medici Daughter, but we can be sure whoever’s behind the project has a killer taste for art direction, with each new single accompanied by a rich palette of edgy weeaboo characters and jagged designs against loud backgrounds. ‘PVL Toxin’ itself is abrasive and hurt, and might well be describable as one of the first real fusions of breakcore and digicore emo. Filled to the brim with bitcrushed surround-sound design and machine-fire amens – automatively reeling off at different speeds – first listens might not reveal this to be anything more than an IDM bit from back in the day. However, we’re soon taken aback at the sudden breakdown into distant emo vocals at the 1-minute mark, which are in turn backed up by arpeggiated droplet synths, like a much needed shower from the prior minute’s muddy crunch. The track’s climax towards the end goes full-on e-Squarepusher; for anyone after a cathartic neural scramble hydraulic-pressed into the space of three minutes, Medici has you sorted.
This week’s reviewers: Jude Iago James. Oli Warwick, Patrizio Cavaliere.