The year is nearly at a close, but before we arrive at the finish line there’s still the matter of one more round up of the previous month’s best music. November was a truly great month for releases across every format, with major players dropping statement LP’s, new artists making sizzling starts and labels unearthing gold from the past. Read on to find out about heart stopping ambient Grime, dusty Cosmic Disco and tongue in cheek Techno…
Clark – ‘The Grit In The Pearl’ (Warp Records)
‘The Grit in the Pearl’ is a highlight off Clark’s new album. It achieves the perfect equilibrium of the solemn and the ecstatic; deeply rooted in the earth, yet headed to the stars. Its earthy textures and celestial sounds form a synthesised version of the world’s natural creations – echoing water droplets, vast panoramas of rolling mountaintops, high-velocity winds and crackling fire. The four elements are exploited for our gain, as we get lost in the musical landscape of Clark’s imagination.
Samuel – ‘A Million Things’ (Beats In Space Records)
In these seven minutes of heaven, the smooth blend of Spanish guitar rounds and dampened drum snaps alleviate newbie producer Samuel to a status that rivals his contemporaries who are already established in the same field. This musical delight was a recent discovery, for which we have the Beats in Space 15th Anniversary compilation to thank. If it’s good enough for principal tastemaker Tim Sweeney, then it’s good enough for us. Already a master in his craft, hopefully this is the beginning of exciting things to come Samuel.
Commodo – ‘Shift’ (featuring JME) (Deep Medi)
This pairing came as a surprise, yet is absolutely killer. With a highly addictive instrumental that suitably reflects Deep Medi, Commodo’s track would have stood out alone despite the vocals, however; with the addition of prolific and unfailing JME, there is no doubt that it was destined to become a club favourite. Deconstructing and skilfully putting back together all the best elements from Dubstep and Grime, gives the compelling sense of delving into new territory without forfeiting the classic feel. The phrasing of the verse opens with a bright chord before descending into grimy stabs, frantic claps and big tribal drums. A faultless club track, it seems the only downside is that a lot of the 12” copies are rumoured to be warped.
Drippin – ‘Silver Cloak’ (Lit City Trax)
As the headline track from Norwegian Drippin’s debut EP, this is beautifully-crafted and displays the scope and diversity of Grime, both sonically and geographically. It appears to share elements of recently coined, weightless Grime – an ambient, instrumental route that combines other genres to form what could be described as a sub-genre. ‘Silver Cloak’ begs to be listened to in the city on a deep sub, late at night, with its eerie, sinister synths and gun-like claps, it drops into a rhythm-driving 808 kick accompanied with a tension-building melody. This track is cold.
Unnayanaa – ‘Dhool’ (Mike Huckaby Bassline Edit’) (Something In The Water)
There are far more interesting labels popping up on a near weekly basis than this writer can keep track of. One that didn’t slip through the net, however, is Mancunian imprint Something in the Water. Just two releases in they’ve enlisted the help of Detroit A-lister Mike Huckaby who delivers a scintillating bassline edit of Unnayanaa’s track ‘Dhool’. The bassline in question arguably didn’t need much editing in the first place – it’s a dark sinuous animal that could no doubt inflict serious damage on a dance floor. Instead of tweaking too much Huckaby strips the track to its core elements, toning down the original’s oriental sound palette and amping up the lower frequencies. It’s a stomping juggernaut of a track whose brutal simplicity commands attention.
Jean Nipon ‘Daydream Nation’ (ClekClekBoom)
This was among many highlights of a Christopher Rau set I saw at Corsica Studios recently, and sounded quite simply astounding on a big system. It is a mass of sub hits and tribal rhythms set against reverie inducing melodies. It constantly morphs into something more interesting every time you think you have it sussed. Is it House, Techno, Noise or even Bass music? I don’t know, but to label it just one of these would be reductive. It is one of the few records I have heard this year that sounds like almost nothing I can recall.
The track is so packed it’s almost as if Nipon has tried to squeeze as many ideas as he can into the shortest space of time possible. This is futuristic and complex music: equally fit for beard stroking analysis as for losing your shit to in a dark room.
DJ Spider & Marshallito – ‘Nuclear Winter’ (The Trilogy Tapes)
In contrast to their ominous debut for the label, DJ Spider & Marshallito’s upcoming contribution to The Trilogy Tapes is a little more welcoming. What begins as a monotonous 4/4 chug gradually grows into an immersive, melancholic groover, that while probably not suited to the dance floor, will definitely find a place in my record bag. A masterful arrangement of African-inspired percussion and spliced samples of seductive piano and hypnotic chanting, this is the New York duo’s finest work to date.
Reel Houze – ‘The Chance’ (DJ D’s Dubplate Mix) (Optimo Music)
Having enjoyed a productive 2014, it seems like Optimo have saved the best for last. Quite partial to the occasional reissue, Twitch and Wilkes have jumped back in the time machine and returned with a sweltering cut of dub disco pressure from 1996. London-based duo Reel Houze (Dominic Dawson and Rob Mello) are the guys responsible and while both sides are great, I’ve had Dawson’s edit of ‘The Chance’ on repeat. Nearly two decades on, and the track brought to life by Mello’s frenzied Moog solo and some of DJ Harvey’s world-renowned “toilet seat percussion” is sounding like it could’ve been recorded yesterday.
Uio Loi – ‘Avocado Shake’ (Sabacan Records)
While there is undoubtedly something special about the warm clean tones of 8 bit music the majority of my favourite video game music is actually from the 16 bit era (SNES/Mega-Drive/Neo Geo (if you were a super-rich kid!)). Electronic music, in all its forms has embraced faux-NES sounds whole heartedly but it’s rare to hear a 16bit love letter at all, especially not one as good as this. Lush breakbeats, ultra-processed slap bass and my god those pan pipes. If you’ve ever held a controller without an analogue stick this comes with the highest recommendation.
Blacknecks – ‘Clubbing’ (Blacknecks)
As much as I love wanky opinion pieces about the metaphysical underpinnings of angst in post-Thatcherite electronic music, Techno has a tendency to take itself too fucking seriously. With artwork from Fat-Pie’s own Jerry Jackson it’s hard to mistake Truss and Bleaching Agent’s intentions here. ‘Clubbing’ is the standout of the most recent release with phone messages from angry Glaswegians made complete by responses from sarcastic speak and spell. Behind these possibly gimmicky aspects to the record there’s some perfectly distorted minimal Hard Techno drums.
Inkke – ‘Love Song’ (Different Circles)
Inkke’s contribution to Mumdance & Logos’ new ‘Weightless’ 12” that I’ve found myself playing non-stop at work, much to the bemusement of everyone else. Inescapably catchy, sickly-sweet bubblegum melodies on loop – doesn’t get much better for me. Proves Inkke’s versatility within his grime production remit too.
Yamaneko – ’Seabrook Rise’ (Local Action)
Favourite cut from Yamaneko’s game-changing ‘Pixel Wave Embrace’ LP but in theory, I could have picked the whole thing. Although pixelated is the right word to describe the aesthetic Yamaneko manages to channel right across the album, there’s so much depth to his music. ‘Seabrook Rise’ is a proper transporter – the bleepy melody, brief, trippy vocal sampling and weird, futuristic sound palette – it all works together to take your mind somewhere else. Instant respite.
Loscil – ‘Sturgeon Bank’ (Kranky)
Scott Morgan has made it his mission to encapsulate the boroughs of Vancounver through sound. His latest record chronicles Sea Island, a spectral industrial wasteland, ensnared between a cluster of national reserves. In these haunting and poignant soundscapes, Morgan carefully threads the line between Ambient, Drone and Dub Techno on ‘Sturgeon Bank’. Infinitely ornate, this transcends time and locality to translate for any sombre occasion…
Floating Points – ‘Nuits Sonores’ (Eglo Records)
Trust FloPo to allow something of this calibre to come surging to the surface right before the end of year lists come flushing in like the torrents of hell. It’s all about progression on this one as an acid-line builds and builds to momentous heights in the concluding minutes. Patiently awaiting the flavours of ‘Nectarines’ on the flip and you just know he’s been sitting on this for over a year. Lyon is on the cards for 2015…
Andy Stott – ‘Damage’ (Modern Love)
Stott returned this month with the follow up to his 2012 master piece ‘Luxury Problems’. After living with ‘Faith In Strangers’ for a month or so it’s safe to say this is his most cohesive album to date – expertly straddling the line between darkness and light, all the time beating and seducing the listener in tandem. Even at it’s most dark and disjointed it’s wholly captivating. Faced with the impossible task of pulling out a singular track it makes sense to go with one of the more immediate tracks on the album. ‘Damage’ does exactly that – like Terror Danjah at his most menacing fused with Stott’s aggy overdrive.
Mehmet Aslan – ‘Mechanical Turk’ (Huntley & Palmers)
Turkish DJ/Producer (and the man behind the Family Affairs night in Basel) Mehmet Aslan lands on the ever reliable Huntley & Palmers party-cum-label, with 3 slabs of traditional Turkish leaning House and Techno. ‘Mechanical Turk’ is the choice cut here as he reworks the Romanian band Karpov Not Kasparov’s track, dissecting the core elements and uniting them with a woozy 4×4 throb. Deployed at the right time, in the right hands, this can cause a fuss on the dancefloor. Fans of Acid Arab and Omar Souleyman will approve.
New Jackson – ‘Having A Coke With You’ (Permanent Vacation)
A ten-and-a-half-minute Balearic bliss-out complete with a straight-up sample of Frank O’Hara reading the entire poem from which it takes its name. At its twilit start part Sade, part Smog, by the end the track’s swoon has a cinematic feel more akin to if Mark Leckey had directed John Wayne.
This is less a #SummerJam than a deep winter’s distant, hopeful memory of warmth, a junior partner to something like NDF’s transcendent ‘Since We Last Met’, and elbows Don Draper and Thurston Moore out of the way as pop’s finest O’Hara moment.
Sure, it can be read as corny as hell, but as O’Hara says, ‘the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism’, and damn does this thing move beautifully.
Mumdance, Logos and Rabit – ‘Inside the Catacomb’ (Different Circles)
Dubstep’s bass maximalism succeeded, paradoxically, on a minimalist approach, and ‘Inside the Catacomb’ echoes Joy Orbison’s seminal ‘Hyph Mngo’ in curiously balancing restraint with an utter lack thereof. The best current comparison though might be Tessela’s progression from ‘Hackney Parrot’ to dancefloor deconstruction: following the wild fun of the Boxed nights, the best that can be said for this is that it has unrealised potential.
The Weightless masterminds, with their defined aesthetic and incendiary production approach, probably have more in common with controversy’s own PC Music than they’d care to admit. Unlike AG Cook’s label’s worst excesses, however, ‘Catacomb’ never feels vain, the right ratio of wide eyes to steely determination suggesting there really is something here. At the moment though, something’s weighing it down.
Dizzee Rascal – ‘Pagans’ (Dirtee Stank)
After his ‘Couple Of Stacks’ Halloween special (which appeared and then subsequently vanished over the weekend), Dizzee is back with another bang. I’m not sure which I prefer between the actual track or the video, but both are great. Yes, Footsie’s beat is ‘trappy’ – but ‘old skl’ heads should remind themselves how no-one was complaining when he was riding at 160BPM during ‘Boy In Da Corner’…
Truncate – ‘Another One’ (Audio Injection)
Audio Injection’s Truncate returns with the Techno rawness we’ve come to expect from him. ‘Another One’, the EP’s title track, is cold and stripped back. Harder synths pull the rhythms around before punchy snares march things into place. The background echoes give things a subdued dub background, but make no mistake – this is a real stomper.
Robert Hood – ‘Dancer (Remix)’ (M-Plant)
Robert Hood’s ’20 Years of M-Plant’ compilation showcases the evolution of minimal techno’s most seminal label and builds on it with a number of unreleased remixes and originals. The real winner has to be his edit of classic ‘Minus’, but this version of ‘Dancer’ is pretty killer too.
Pedestrian & Jasperdrum – Origins (2nd Drop)
Both Pedestrian and 2nd Drop are reliable when it comes to staying original and doing something different with each release. The low-end and percussion in this tune is particularly dynamic, and I haven’t even heard it in club yet.
Falty DL – ‘Greater Antilles VIP’ (Ninja Tune)
Any attempt to verbally communicate the name of Drew Lustman’s ‘///I\II\\\\’ EP will certainly be futile, so you’d be best advised dedicating your time to basking in the sinister pleasures of ‘Greater Antilles VIP’. A conjugation and an extension of parts 1 and 2 which featured on this year’s excellent and frequently challenging ‘In The Wild’, the track is a wide screen delight of ephemeral sonic beauty. Split into several suites, its synthesized sonic tundra alludes to Boards of Canada, but there is something infinitely more sinister – and dareisay interesting, going on here.
Arca – ‘Xen’ (Mute)
As one of the most en vogue producers of the day Alejandro Ghersi shares with fetéd beat makers such as Rick Rubin, Dangermouse and Paul Epworth, an ability to remain sonically recognisable yet never predictable. This has never been more apparent than on ‘Xen’, an album literally framed by a conceptual exploration of personal transformation and shifting identity. Ghersi is perenially loathe to make his music sound as expected, as you can hear from the album’s title track above.
There are consistencies from his sound pallete present – the seismic bass collapses and lazer cutting synth arpeggios amongst them, but mostly this is a work of thrilling unpredictability. A robotic melodrama, ‘Xen’ careers between pummeling our eardrums with jarring pitches and unsettling metallic FX, to breaking down at random for coolingly melodic interludes. If you struggle to fully make sense of it, then rest assured that you’re certainly not the only one.