As the clocks went forward and the temperatures rose, the quality kept coming from all angles in March. Whether it was from highly anticipated long players or anonymous singles, there was excellence everywhere you looked. Here to guide you through the best of it are our trusty team of writers…
East London’s Trax Couture put together a strictly-limited couple of hundred 12″ presses collecting the finest joints from their recent World Series. Headed up by label head and House of Trax resident Rushmore, alongside Dreams, Imaabs and Sylvere, ‘LP1’ covers all bases when it comes to stripped yet weighty dancefloor NRG – from the bruising ‘Industrial Roving’ to Rushmore’s own organ-riddled ‘It’s Me’. Not to mention the accompanying fanzine, where you’ll find everything from tips on the finest club footwear, to interviews with TC favourites such as Tyree.
Ameriie – Out Loud (Def Jam Records)
Arguably it was when Ameriie strayed from the creative input of Rich Harrison that her career stalled, with the Washington producer responsible for the majority of her first two long players, not to mention worldwide smash ‘1 Thing’. Now reunited and signed to the Def Jam empire, the pair can continue on their quest to create incendiary R&B of the like you can’t ignore. With fellow artists such as Twigs, Lyrica Anderson and Dawn Richard twisting the genre into interesting new shapes, the time is ripe for Ameriie’s distinctive vocals to be re-booted, and the percussive stomp of ‘Out Loud’ is no bad starting point.
Instantly provoking endless think pieces upon its surprise (read: possibly accidental) release a few weeks ago, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ sounds even more brilliant now we’ve had a few weeks to savour it. A heady potpourri of Black music from across the modern era mixed with disarmingly naked emotion and social commentary, the record deserves a fuller appraisal than any sane editor would give me space to perform within this feature. That being said, ‘u’ is particularly deserving of plaudits for being comfortably the most astounding display of self loathing witnessed in Hip-Hop since Christopher Wallace shared his ‘Suicidal Thoughts’ with us all those years ago.
The inverse of Lamar’s ever-so-slightly-saccharine Grammy winning affirmation of self-love, ‘i’, this track serves as an integral cog in ‘To Pimp A Butterfly”s loose almost narrative, as we find K.Dot at his lowest ebb, swigging whisky alone in a hotel room while he looks into the mirror. Not happy with what he sees at all, he chides himself as a ‘fucking failure’ for not living up to the responsibility his status as ‘Hip-Hop’ messiah demands. Things get more personal still in the song’s second half, as an inebriated Lamar lays bare his failings over a sublimely forlorn sax part from FlyLo collaborator Kamasi Washington. Almost uncomfortably honest, ‘u’ is perhaps the highlight of an album that has already earned its place in the pantheon of Hip-Hop classics.
FKA Twigs – ‘Glass+Patron’
Ignore the predictable avalanche of bewildered YouTube comments provoked by the genuinely unsettling video, ‘Glass+Patron’ is possibly Twigs’ finest work yet. A taster of her forthcoming ‘EP3’, here she’s on decidedly floor friendly form, with Beyoncé producer BOOTS evoking the spirit of ballroom for a beat that provides an appropriate musical accompaniment to the videos crumping and vogueing antics. An intoxicating cocktail of virtuosity, sex appeal and confidence, ‘Glass+Patron’ makes it clear we’ve only scratched the surface of Twigs’ talents.
The latest issue on Lowtec & Even Tuell’s perennially supreme Workshop series pays tribute to their diverse talent as curators. That the all UK bill also features the premiere femme appearance on the imprint via Manchester’s Willow feels triumphant. Also included is Tapes of London, who has been making waves lately, with his “Somebodies Baby”, a gentle piece of vocal Pop and a certified slow jam. My personal favourite is the revival of a striking 1996 classic from fleeting bright spark, The Horn.
Jose Padilla is the original purveyor of Café Del Mar, having helped popularise the chill-out sound of the Second Summer of Love. His 2015 unification with modern Balearic imprint International Feel for his first studio album in 15 years makes parfait sense. ‘Day One’ is the first single taken from there featuring a thumping Club Dub from rising Scandinavian producer Telephones. It’s topaz melody effervesces like a deep gulp from a cocktail made with the darkest of Rums…
Angolan born producer DJ Nigga Fox returns to Lisbon label Príncipe for a second EP of screw loose club constructions. Following up from 2013s ‘O Meu Estilo’ EP – ‘Noite e Dia’ he uses a similar formula to great effect. Fusing African sounds such Kuduro, Kizomba and Batida with upfront House and Techno, the record is a batshit crazy, yet fully irresistible, melange of off-kilter bass, beats and blips. If you like what you hear and want to find out more, this brilliant RA article on “The Ghetto Sound of Lisbon” is a solid starting point.
‘Noite e Dia’ is available digitally and on individually hand-painted, hand-stamped vinyl, with artwork by Márcio Matos.
Inspired by David Lindsay’s 1920 book of the same name, Vakula’s latest LP ‘Voyage To Arcturus’ is less an album and more of an imaginary film soundtrack. With 16 songs named after each chapter of the book, this is a lysergic prog-House journey informed by a vast range of musical influences and ideas. The Ukranian producers vivid imagination at it’s most cosmic throughout, this is a body of work you’re unlikely to see from many of his ‘Deep House’ contemporaries. Although giving you lots to digest, this record remains cohesive throughout, and as a true long player should, reveal something new with every listen. Easily his best work yet.
If happiness were a song, this would probably be pretty high up in the running. Yacouba Sissiko has successfully blended his Malian roots with a more Western, electronic sound, supplied by producer and Queens native, Atropolis. This results in an encapsulation of what the Dutty Artz label describes as the unmistakeable vibe of, ‘sweet lilting West African Kora being busked on a New York subway platform’. With a gorgeous breakdown in the middle to prick up all ears, it was impossible to let ‘Auto Rail’ go amiss. Released late last month, this was certainly one of March’s finer discoveries.
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard an Acid-esque synth like this which actually doesn’t sound contrived. Bring to mind nerdier Krafterwerk-style sounds which initially came out of Detroit in the early 1980s – think Cybotron, Juan Atkins before he was seen as really cool – and then mix them with a beat that would categorically “go off” if heard in a club, and it actually makes this track work. On the release’s A-side is ‘Oazis’ which equally works to blend machine-driven algorithmic melodies with big bass lines and drum kicks to create a more modern, dancefloor-centric sound.
Footwork with restraint and swagger put out on the ever fruitful Planet Mu label. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the album yet but if this single is anything to go by it’ll be a keeper.
Bizarre Acid Techno that’s compelling as it is experimental. Those who are fan’s of a slightly more downtempo take on the 303 should check out the also superb double LP.
All Caps dipping into the endlessly deep Vancouver talent pool with this crucial track from Mood Hut affiliate Florist. ‘Final Bounce’ has been drifting around dance music circles for some time now, and for good reason. Those vocal chops hit all the right chords, backed by some succulent pads and a perfectly soft kick. This record will be sure to whip audiences into a frenzy.
Not much to besaid about Parisian label Uniile at this point, but their debut release goes in in all the right ways. It’s impossible not to feel good about life while ‘A Jazz Thing’ is playing. Here a playful sax line dances above an almost comically laid back groove, which could go on forever and no one would care. Go out and get this record before it’s gone. All four tracks bring something new to the table.
From its metaphorical (and probably referential) album cover to the concept behind its title, Nick Höppner’s debut full-length would seem to be a boon for people writing about music. Really though, there’s not a great deal that can be said other than that it’s a record of admirable taste and restraint – no mean feat when you’re interweaving this many different sounds. When Höppner experiments with his own voice, as on ‘Come Closer’, must sound comically Germanic to anyone who doesn’t regularly listen to House and Techno, but even when it occasionally approaches excess Folk retains clear focus.
It’s easy to be wary whenever phrases like ‘World Music’ are bandied around and when white British and American producers present African sounds so prominently in their own music. Certainly, one might be forgiven if those concerns were amplified in the context of the sort of big room parties Krywald & Farrer DJ at. On another level though, there is a smile-inducing innocence to ‘The People’s Asafo’, a long, sunny House track that borrows, steals and mines from half a dozen great places and practically radiates bonhomie. It’s the sort of obvious fun that urges you to leave the cynicism aside.