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Hyperspecific

The Month's Electronic Music: Something In The Water
Christian Eede , October 21st, 2015 11:28

Christian Eede continues at the reins for the latest round-up of the month's best electronic music, taking a look at a variety of recent releases from Bristol as well as new records from Kamixlo (pictured), Call Super, DJ Richard, Pearson Sound, Laurel Halo and more

With almost two months passed since the last edition of this column, whittling down the selections for this month's Hyperspecific, the last for the year, was a tough one. One common strand, however, that quickly began to emerge was in the sheer volume of excellent releases emerging recently from Bristol. The scene has of course been a hotbed for emerging talent in electronic music for many years now but a number of its key figures have recently hit a particularly strong run of form.

One of those is Livity Sound, the label set up by Peverelist in 2011 alongside cohorts Kowton and Asusu. Last month's On Repeat from Kowton, his first solo release on the label in three years, was a concise showcase of the sounds that the Livity crew have been pushing and fine-tuning since the label's conception, all metallic bass hits and flanger sound effects on the title track. Next up, Livity will release the first solo EP from Peverelist on the label since 2012 following a run of collaborative releases alongside the likes of Kowton, Hodge, Asusu and Steevio. A widely respected producer and selector, 'Undulate' sees Pev hit on meditative melodies almost reminiscent of the headier aspects of Shackleton's productions - reflective but ultimately built with sound system and club in mind. The EP's other side, 'Grit', is a wall of hi-hats, starry synths and hardy sound effects holding back until the pay-off in the track's last two minutes. Pev's recent collaborative EP alongside Steevio on the Schmorgasbord label is another instance in which holding back, as much of Livity's output does, is most effective. The sound is distinct, rollers, void of 4/4 beats or builds, that climax gradually as can be heard on 'Edges'.

There's a lot to be said for the new guard too. Livity's sister label, Dnous Ytivil, recently issued a split remix 12” between locals Hodge and Bruce. Remixing Bruce's 'Tilikum', Hodge turns the former's track into a punchy techno number rendering the original track almost unrecognisable, while Peverelist's remix of Hodge's 'Amor Fati', save for the original's stuttered vocal, again uses minimal elements of its source material tapping into those same rousing tones found on the aforementioned 'Undulate'.

With his first two releases issued by Dnous Ytivil and Hessle Audio, Bruce has already begun assembling an impressive discography. His productions, often comprising elements of dub techno and bare-bones production, including a rather intriguing embrace of space and silence in his music, as heard on past releases such as 'Not Stochastic' and 'Tilikum', have marked him out as a particularly noteworthy emerging producer. In an interview with Glenn Raymond earlier this year on this very site, Bruce, aka Larry McCarthy, tersely summaries his approach as a process of “latching onto a single piece of sound and fucking with it and just manipulating it in different ways”. With a mix for Fabric earlier this year featuring a number of promising untitled productions in their demo stage as well as various other select unreleased tracks making it into the sets of a number of close associates, such as the gravelly, percussive strains of 'Steals' which is currently gathering momentum via an assortment of radio rips posted on YouTube, Bruce's next movements are well worth keeping a close eye on

While it's often easy, specifically for those writing about music, to seize onto and exaggerate trends, it seems clear that where Bristol's scene is currently thriving in the bass-heavy, techno-driven sound of a number of the producers mentioned above is in a kind of positive insularity involving its key figures. For example, by maintaining such a narrow scope of producers, Livity has been successful in fostering a sound that is distinctly its own while promoting the talent of producers such as Hodge and Bruce with their sister label having issued some of the two's first releases. The scene also notably converges around go-to record shop and label Idle Hands, both of which are run by Chris Farrell, with the BRSTL label that he co-founded alongside widely respected local DJ and producer Shanti Celeste issuing releases by producers from the area only, including rising talent like Jay L and Rhythmic Theory - the latter's 'Future Tense' makes up the latest release on the Idle Hands label.

Looking slightly further afield from these more immediate points of convergence, the first release from the newly launched, Berlin-based SPE:C label comes from Bristol newcomer Decka. His streamlined, moody techno cuts, such as the stumbling drums and chirpy sound effects of EP standout 'Escalation' and '002''s bulky beats and stark ornamentation, blend elements similar to a number of Livity's main players while forging a tougher take on the local sound - elements of both the producer and label's backgrounds can be heard here and there turning out three particularly serviceable club tools - not a shabby start for either Decka or SPE:C. With so much ground already covered in the south west though, it's time to take a look at what else electronic music had to offer in September and October, with a (albeit unintentional) particular focus this edition on bass-driven music heavily suited to club environments and strong sound systems.

Call Super - Migrant
(Houndstooth)

The primary concern of Berlin-based producer and DJ JR Seaton (he also operates as Ondo Fudd and has released in the past under his own name), the name Call Super has come to be synonymous somewhat with reliably well-crafted and often dancefloor-focused techno over the course of the last five years or so, despite a rather limited run of releases over that time. The most significant of these releases came late last year however in the form of his debut LP, Suzi Ecto, issued through now established home Houndstooth. Speaking to Rory Gibb in a rather revealing interview about the album last year on these pages, Seaton traced the origins of the record back to the basis of early rave music and acid house, that basis primarily being one of “bliss” and “about people coming together”. Following on from that, the album had a distinct oeuvre, or at least recurring audible motif, of the 'Balearic' about it - the blare of oboes and clarinets on 'Sulu Sekou' and the soothing pads of tracks such as 'Raindance' and 'Hoax Eye', both of which offset by bursts of propulsive bass.

These are patterns retraced on Seaton's latest release for the Houndstooth label which sees him return to the in-house Fabric imprint following on from a 12” with Greek label Nous earlier this year. Where Suzi Ecto allowed the producer to mostly explore settings away from the club though, this new two-track release finds Seaton retracing the hypnotic, meditative qualities that have made a number of his past productions so effective on dancefloors, and most importantly so singular. Lead track 'Migrant' builds and glides gracefully before giving way to a suitably classy crescendo of undulating bass and a marimba sequence - simple, yet so individual. The other side, 'Meltintu', meanwhile, offers up something slightly less light than the accompanying track, underpinned by a faintly gloomy bassline alongside lush, arpeggiating melodies. At times it's soothing, at others it's seemingly wistful. With Migrant, Seaton continues to be a dependable source of the kind of introspective electronic and club music that has the ability to give dancers pause for reflection, capturing just how warming and healing time spent lost for hours on the dancefloor can be.

DJ Richard - Grind
(Dial)

With only two previous releases to his name having been shared through the White Material label he co-founded in 2012 in the form of the austere, club weapon-ready tracks that made up the Leech2 and Nailed To The Floor EPs, the Dial label perhaps wasn't the most obvious of homes for the debut album from Rhode Island producer DJ Richard. Yet, listening through Grind and taking in Richard's claim that the album is inspired by his native state as well as “the border between civilisation and the ocean”, it quickly becomes evident that this is more of an contemplative project for the producer and an opportunity to dig deeper.

Alternating between faintly menacing, beatless drones such as on opener 'No Balance', 'Ejected' and 'Waiting For The Green Flash', and bursts of light in the form of the synth shimmer of 'Savage Coast' and the almost big-room epic of 'Bane' with its effervescent arpeggios, it's transparent that Grind is an album on which Richard explores that which he finds both comforting and unsettling about his home state. The album comes off as a rumination of sorts on his personal homesickness having been largely written and produced over the course of two years spent living in Berlin, away from the coasts that surround his native area. Mostly though, Grind is an exercise in Richard refining his take on the house and techno that has made up his previous output, paring it all back to simple, yet vivid and oh so expressive synth lines that, even in their repetition, thankfully fail to intimate the album's title, and backed by drums that seem patently unprocessed, patterns occasionally tripping over themselves but never quite becoming overcomplicated or unnecessarily complex. On tracks such as 'Vampire Dub' and the aforementioned 'Bane' and 'Savage Coast', Richard succeeds in keeping one foot in the club, as seemed to be the primary concern with his previous output, producing music that is functional in those spaces while also offering up something that can be considered far more lasting than might commonly be associated with particularly utilitarian club music, a neat trick to pull off on your debut album.

Kamixlo - Demonico
(PAN)

Speaking to Seb Wheeler earlier this year in his primer on South London's vital, roving Endless parties, Brixton-based Kamixlo said that he finds it “so dusty when a party is set to a particular type of music - it's so boring.” The party is essential to Kami's music, and for that matter the rest of the Endless crew, its devastating bass and rhythms, heavily indebted to cumbia and reggaeton, primed for maximum effect, alongside a chorus of chanted vocals, particularly on 'Paleta', by now a staple of the producer's striking club sets standing out over the last few months in appearances at FWD>>, Tropical Waste, PAN x Janus and Jam City's Earthly party.

Demonico, the second release on Codes, a PAN offshoot set up by Visionist and Bill Kouligas, distills into one EP the energy that has seen Kami and co. garnering such feverish praise in recent months. 'Lariat' is as forceful as the takedown wrestling move it's named after. 'Splxcity' combines manipulated air raid sirens with pummelling beats - the same motifs repeated over and over but each time with greater energy as it proceeds. At Endless, you may be more likely to see a greater mishmash of genres and sounds as each crew member puts forward their various reference points, but Demonico brings to the fore the “Chilean blood” that Kami has referenced to in the past. I'm hard-pressed to find a time I was last quite so excited by a collective of DJs and producers as I am by Endless, so with that in mind, take note that the next party from the group takes place at Peckham's Rye Wax next month. No bores though!

Pearson Sound - Thaw Cycle
(Self-released)

The release of his self-titled debut album earlier this year, via Hessle Audio, saw David Kennedy use the LP format to scout rather unchartered territory for himself as a producer, as he counteracted icy DJ tools such as 'Rubber Tree' and 'Glass Eye' with eerie, heads down excursions like 'Gristle', 'Headless' and 'Six Congas'. Through much of the formative years that saw me arrive at the electronic music I follow today, Kennedy's name was one that always remained particularly consistent as he developed from his early Ramadanman productions, in classics of the Hessle sound such as 'Don't Change For Me' and 'Work Them' (admittedly an early release through the Swamp 81 label), into the producer now exclusively associated with the Pearson Sound name.

This new self-released 12”, seemingly giving Kennedy a chance to release into the world two productions that didn't quite fit in with the murky sounds of his debut album, is a classic play-off between light and dark. The title track, which has been popping up in mixes from a number of associated DJs and producers for the last year or so, ebbs and flows effortlessly through drives of sub-bass and repeating, radiant melodies - where his album was a vehicle for further experimentation, 'Thaw Cycle' is more utilitarian in its approach to club environments. The other side, 'Freeze Cycle', recalls some of the more austere aspects of his album, sombre bleeps raining down through much of its seven minutes, but primarily maintains the functional drum pattern of its forerunner delicately swelling, though without a rudimentary 'drop' in sight, but still enough verve in its drums to mark it out from similarly gloomy cuts, as evidenced during a seven-hour back-to-back trade-off between Ben UFO and Joy Orbison at London's The Hydra last Saturday. Once again Kennedy crafts a 12” of peculiar, entrancing club music with a limited palette of tools.

Reckonwrong - Whities005
(Whities)

With only one previous release to his name from earlier this year, Reckonwrong may be a producer unfamiliar to many as he steps up for the fifth release on Young Turks-offshoot Whities. Following on from past fidgety techno cuts from Berlin-based Minor Science and subtle club workouts from Kowton, the fifth release from the label sees Reckonwrong exploring some distinctly UK sounds, most obviously bearing hallmarks of UK funky.

Pairing these sensibilities, system-rattling bass and all, with some particularly impressive sound design, all galloping chords tripping into one another on opener 'Luscious Lips' and majestic brass on 'Radio Magic Tracks', makes for one of the most interesting listens you're likely to find in recent years referencing the UK funky axis. 'Magical Journey' ratchets up the energy to a 140 BPM pace, gliding along with licks of post-punk guitars and sighs, almost knowingly pastiche of its influences and yet simultaneously inventive in its surroundings, while, drawing proceedings to a close, 'Tucked Away' retains much of that pomp and brass of 'Radio Magic Tracks', carried along by faintly cinematic waves of bass before it's all quite literally washed away, retreating into a chorus of seagulls and crashing waves. These seemingly British qualities, that of UK funky influences, '80s post-punk, regal trumpets, the seaside, make for an overall particularly curious listen, its four tracks wrapped up in a multitude of ideas well worth unpacking with repeat plays.

A Made Up Sound - Stumbler / Havoc
(A Made Up Sound)

In the last edition of this column, I put aside time to give mention to Dave Huismans' current impressive work rate having turned out a 12” release with Clone earlier in the year, a selection of remixes, a collaborative EP with Dynamo Dreesen and SVN and these two new EPs which see the producer returning to his own A Made Up Sound imprint. Offering up two distinctive takes on Huismans' sound, one of outlandish, beatless trips and the other of gnarly, heads-down sludgy techno, the two EPs see the Dutchman adding to what is already an impressive arsenal of releases across both his A Made Up Sound and 2562 monikers.

'Half Hour Jam On A Borrowed Synth', the choice cut of the four, has been turning heads through the summer having been given outings namely by the Hessle trio and Objekt (at Freerotation and Dekmantel respectively), owing to its madcap improv of bizarre synths, growing ever erratic over its five-minute runtime - the closest a Huismans production will get perhaps to conjuring up thoughts of the end of the world. The other, containing 'Stumbler' and 'Syrinx', is a far more formidable prospect, punctuated by punchy drums and stabs of acidic synth. 'Syrinx' is laden with dread, primed for eyes-closed, 4am moments in the club, bearing hallmarks of past AMUS productions such as 'Demons' and 'Sweetback', though taking them into considerably dubbier territory. Huismans' unbeatable form continues.

Shackleton - Deliverance Series No. 3
(Woe To The Septic Heart)

With the distinctive qualities of such producers as Pearson Sound and A Made Up Sound already name-checked in this column, it bears mentioning that producers don't come more discernible than Shackleton. What has always been most remarkable about the man though is that despite these gradually established signifiers of his work - the rippling basslines and typically gloomy textures - he continues to find ways to surprise. The third volume in his ongoing Deliverance Series, released as ever with no prior warning, proffers two new rousing, markedly minimal trips.

'Headcleaner' instills the quirks of much of Shackleton's work from the get-go: pernicious bass and eerie synths? Check. Bringing in a monotone, faint chorus of vocals reminiscent of that on last year's 'Beat His Command', it very slowly builds, different elements joining the concoction here and there, until, at around the five-minute mark, a rather shimmering piano line chimes in soon followed by a burst of dour brass - it's strikingly more buoyant and less oppressive than much of the producer's past work. On the other side, the shorter 'In Norwegen Ganz Verwegen' is bouncy; choral vocal samples and what almost sounds like a banjo are heavily manipulated to form something of a melody. Shackleton's music has always been so fascinating due to his ability to produce somewhat alien music that just about embodies the right tools to make people move and while the two tracks on offer here might not quite sit so obviously alongside classics such as 'Deadman' and 'New Dawn' with their system-pushing sub-bass, they're still imbued with the same kind of gestures that earn the producer's live sets such obsessive dedication from lovers of his music.

Laurel Halo - In Situ
(Honest Jon's)

Finding itself nestled in that peculiar space between EP and album, this latest release from Laurel Halo, her first away from Hyperdub in three years, is one laden with subtle detail, employing irregular drum patterns akin to those of Actress, fits of bass and abstract bursts of noise to craft something ever so deftly effective. Opening with the piercing tones of 'Situation' with its distant jungle calls and variable beat and flowing into 'Leaves', what becomes immediately apparent is that In Situ is a record primed for the current changing of the seasons as surroundings turn ever greyer.

'Nebenwirkungen''s spidery melodies push proceedings further down the rabbit hole while the entire release is permeated by an underlying air of murk. 'Drift' embraces a kind of half-timed Baltimore club stance, while closer 'Focus 1' ruminates on jazzy motifs and a skittish drum pattern for much of its eight minutes, closing out the release on decidedly airier climes.In Situ is a far more recondite listen than Halo's last release, Chance Of Rain, drawing, at times, on elements of dub techno. 'Focus 1' aside, it could be quite easily be described as too clinical in its harshness of melody and sampling, but repeat listens reveal it to be something befitting of context: a wintry listen full of warming ideas buried here and there, finding itself very much at home on Honest Jon's' in-house label.

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