May is generally a period of transition – with summer just around the corner and the weather already halfway there, we were treated to two bank holidays that saw an overwhelming amount of rooftop fiestas, boat parties and all day clubs as well as some of 2015’s first festivals. Some things remained the same however, as the disheartening result of the general election heralded an extension of the austerity of the past five years. The musical output was as varied as ever, with a mixture of escapist and more politically charged pieces and as usual, our writers were on hand to serve up some of their favourites. Read on for the best in ASMR laced Electronica, booming Croatian Dub, Acid Techno and sensual Dancehall-Pop in May.
Surprisingly accessible, highly danceable and best played loud, the latest solo endeavour from Benjamin John Power, one half of Fuck Buttons is one of the most interesting offerings from the first half of this year. Dumb Flesh is described as divine commentary ruminating on the flaws of the human form and its inevitable nature of organic decay. Expansive, visceral and meticulous in detail “Dead Format” is the first single taken from the release. Rife with booming noise waves and asexual vocoded vocals this is the sermon for a full-tilt apocalyptic stadium rave.
The prolific tuff city kid is back with a genre-spanning selection from across the spectrum. Cinematic opening scenes pave a neon path to a theme park filled with kitsch memorabilia and nods to retro culture at every twist and turn. Attractions include a jaunty 303 rapid ride – ‘Hump Acid’, a Depeche Mode pastiche with some Germanic embellishing from singer Jasnau ‘ESC’, and a rollercoaster that soars to euphoric heights – ‘Telefon’.
Nick Edwards recently dropped his third album in two years for Planet Mu under his Ekoplekz moniker and shows no sign of creative fatigue with his latest effort. It’s a stunning collection of woozy, disjointed cuts that reference the 90s electronica of Warp and Planet Mu, yet through a resolutely contemporary lens.
Highlight is opener ‘A Caustic Romance’, one of Ekoplekz’s most Pop-leaning pieces or about as Pop as he’s willing to go. It’s an enthralling combination of his aggressive Dub and Breakbeat influences and his brighter, more melodic tendencies. Underpinning the whirring mechanical drums – all mutated and dirty– is a synth progression so familiar, almost nostalgic, that it gives the track an uplifting warmth but still avoids sounding mawkish. It’s as though rhythm and harmony are the meeting of machine and man; Edwards has found the perfect balance.
It’s great to see the Dancehall behemoth of Mixpak taking on smaller UK artists. Whilst we’ve got much to look forward to from Murlo’s recent studio sessions out in New York, Benjy Keating – better known as producer/singer Palmistry – has just revealed this sultry gem.
Only his third single for the label in the past two years, it continues much of the gorgeously crafted giddy minimalism of ‘Catch’ and ‘Protector SE5’. As on most of his love songs, Keating’s voice sounds like it’s constantly on the verge of breaking up, giving it an air of intimate vulnerability that collides well with the more assertive Dancehall drums and ritzy Synth-Pop melodies. His knack for mangling the brazen elements of party-friendly Kartel and Popcaan numbers into something more withdrawn is refreshing – equal parts steamy club and dark bedroom. ‘Memory Taffeta’ might be his catchiest work yet.
Kaytranada – A Loser’s Celebration (self-released)
Although one of many previously unheard gems dropped during his recent BBC Radio 1 Residency, A Loser’s Celebration is one of Kaytranada’s most talked-about releases. And rightly so – the track grabbed headlines shortly after finding its way onto Kaytranada’s Tumblr, partly due to the reasons behind its lack of release, but mostly because it’s a stone-cold banger. This is Friday-night fare of the highest order – from the get go, the track is at once grounding and unnerving, its opening drum slaps and spliced vocal cuts simmering dangerously before the first drop of a thumping bassline decorated with icy string samples. The pacifying outro, based on a Led Zeppelin sample, meant the track couldn’t be part of his upcoming release on XL. Whilst it demonstrates Kaytranada’s eclectic musical influences, it’s an appendage the track could forgo if it meant that it would see its way onto the EP.
A track that demands a befitting soundsystem, Dub Heritage comes courtesy of Croatia’s EGOLESS. Taking snippets from the 2008 ‘Dub Echoes’ documentary, the A-side of his latest 12” on Lion Charge records is a declaration of his love for all things dubwise. Whilst some producers implement vocal samples simply for the heck of it, the opening words spoken by Bunny Lee and Mad Professor regarding King Tubby are integral to the track, Mad Professor’s“boom-chi-ka-PAH” merging seamlessly with EGOLESS’s ensuing bass weight rumbling beneath summery saxophone melodies. Although most of his releases haven’t made it to vinyl, his Soundcloud is brimming with dubby delights.
New stuff from the WM camp often gets us excited and this latest release from new-comer Morgan Louis is no different. It’s a typically spaced-out and ethereal affair, but with an earthy, organic rhythm providing the basis of this 4-tracker. 3Sex is a personal favourite – driving, understated and slightly aggressive, but the entire release comes out in a timely fashion; each track has potential to compliment the tone and mood of various settings, producing a record that is versatile enough to be played at different points of the day/night – perfect for a festival-bound bag.
I don’t agree with the way some records are marketed and sold, this however is a resurrected record that deserves the hype. In the same vein of the pressing of Loefah’s Midnight/Woman on Berceuse Heroique earlier this year, Demdike Stare have brought this 10 year old Shackleton dubplate to life. Much in the same way that nostalgia was rekindled by the Loefah release, this pressing serves as a poignant reminder of how truly pioneering and special Shackleton’s techniques were in the early days of Dubstep. ‘Shackleton is a king!’ – Rodhad 19.08.2014
Considering the abstraction behind pretty much all (and especially electronic) instrumental-led music it’s rare to find artists willing or capable of saying something. It’s such a pleasure then to consume ‘Platform’, whose message is so apt. Technological paranoia 2.0 can be found in much of Vaporwave but Holly manages to steer clear of many of the pretensions of the genre. The cacophony of Raster Norton-esque bleeps bled into more conventional synthesis and Holly’s stand out voice “I know that you know me better than I know me” also makes it more listenable. A concept album that doesn’t sound good isn’t much use to anyone. With the Patriot Act reforms dividing opinion stateside and wearable technology becoming ever more intimate, I’m glad there’s a great soundtrack to ring dystopia in with.
Elegant Acid Techno from Gunnar Haslam. Its simple but infectious Acid line affords few words but heaps of praise.