Digging The Past: The Month's Electronic Music
, October 10th, 2016 10:25
For the latest edition of Hyperspecific, Christian Eede casts an eye over some of the month's best reissues while reviewing new releases from Bruce (pictured), Call Super, Marie Davidson, Anthony Child and more. Photo courtesy of G.K. Stephens
With so much excellent, boundary-pushing new music finding its way out in the interim period between each edition of this column, it’s often easy to overlook the tons of noteworthy records being given new leases of life via reissues, with so many well-curated labels dedicated to introducing older music to new audiences and putting out-of-print and expensive records back into circulation having popped up particularly over the last couple of years. For that reason, I wanted to dedicate the introductory gambit of this month’s column to focusing on just some of those labels and some of the best reissues of recent months.
One of those labels at the forefront of the ever-expanding reissue culture that permeates electronic music today is Amsterdam’s Music From Memory, founded in 2013 by Abel Nagengast, Jamie Tiller and Tako Reyenga, all of whom are behind the day-to-day running of the city’s revered Redlight Records shop and stand as some of the finest selectors currently based in Amsterdam. Following on from what has already been a busy year for the label, their latest release, Tower Of Silence, collects a raft of material from Italian composer Roberto Musci, some of which dating back to the mid-1970s. The music was produced at a time that Musci was “travelling extensively across Asia and Africa” where the multi-instrumentalist collected a number of instruments that he would go on to combine with the synths that would form much of his work. This can be heard across Music From Memory’s retrospective - wind chimes combine with horns and tranquil percussion on ‘Nexus On The Beach’ and field recordings also presumably collected during Music’s travels are put to stunning use. Tower Of Silence serves as a tantalising introduction to Musci’s work much like past reissues of music by Gigi Masin, Suso Sáiz on MFM have done also.
Another label at the forefront for some years now of putting long out-of-press records back into the hands of music lovers today, and keeping the Discogs sharks at bay somewhat, is Toronto’s Invisible City Editions, run by the duo of Brandon Hocura and Gary Abugan, both of whom also DJ together simply under the guise of Invisible City where they showcase their immense abilities as diggers, mixing house, disco and soul, sourced from around the world. Their latest release is a reissue of a highly sought after South African record dating back to 1990, V.O.’s ‘Mashisa’. With original copies having fetched something into the hundreds of pounds, the record, comprising four of the six tracks which appeared on the 1990 pressing, is exemplary of just why reissue culture in record buying continues to gather so much steam, with Invisible City putting excellent, mostly undiscovered older music into the hands of today’s record buyers.
The lead track, which appears here alongside an additional ‘Dub Mix’ stripping back some of the elements of the original, is a slice of boundless joy bursting with pure energy in its grin-inducing synths and sprightly vocals. It’s not often that you discover tracks with the sheer ability that ‘Mashisa’ has to make one smile. Another highlight comes in the form of ‘Malunde’ with its kwaito melodies, taking in balearic elements and slamming drums for an exercise in the frenetic, limber dancing styles that swept through South African townships at the time of its production. Invisible City Editions already boasts an impressive collection of reissues in less than ten releases owing to its ability to either unearth or simply put back into production music that is wholly remarkable, and in Mashisa it has completed its best project yet.
On a slightly more modern tip, in relative terms, is the recent reissue of Gemini’s 1997 album Imagine A Nation. A raft of reissues of Spencer Kincy’s material over the years has resulted in much discussion and hand-wringing over their legitimacy, with some labels allegedly having not ensured that Kincy get the requisite payments from the releases as pointed out in this 5 Magazine post dating back to 2012. As one of the forerunners of the Chicago house music scene around the mid-1990s - his Deep In The Flowers mix recorded in Dallas in July 1996 is regarded by many, including yours truly, as one of the finest DJ sets captured ever - with releases on labels such as Peacefrog, Relief and Planet E, it is believed that Kincy left Chicago in the later part of that decade and suffered a breakdown of some sort which left him penniless and moving between homeless shelters, though Anotherday, who are behind this latest reissue, say some of the rumours around his history have been exaggerated. They add that “Spencer is alive and well, and wants his music to be heard,” confirming that the album has been licensed directly from him with money made from it also going to him, only making this release even more welcome.
Tracks such as ‘How Can I Chill?’ and ‘Falling Leaves’ are laced with his distinctive, peculiar monologues and the kind of skipping beats that bore a heavy influence on some of the finest minimal techno of the last decade, Kincy’s material often finding its way into the sets of that scene’s prime selectors such as Ricardo Villalobos, Zip and Nicolas Lutz. ‘It’s The Inside That Counts’ exquisitely captures the kind of grooves that really made dance floors tick at the time of this album’s release, spotlighting that unrivalled swing of the beats so symptomatic of Kincy’s work. Elsewhere, there are filtered disco flavours on tracks such as ‘Don’t Look Back’, ‘Stand Up’ and ‘What You’re Gonna Do’, while low-key acid house experimentations colour ‘Future Beat I’. Snap this up on sight and bag a true snapshot of the very best of 90s Chicago house music.
With only space to cover just a few recent releases, the above by no means aims to give a complete overview of the latest reissues across the far-reaching corners of electronic music, but rather to shine a light on just some of the many that are worth your attention each month, and with that it’s onto some of the best brand new releases of the last month or so.
Bruce - I’m Alright Mate (Timedance)
Well over two minutes into ‘I’m Alright Mate’, the opening cut from Bruce’s latest 12” release on Batu’s all-conquering Timedance label, you’d be forgiven for thinking the producer famed for his bizarro club workouts had finally made a straightforward techno track, but then that would be far too out of character. Soon the thumping kicks and alarm-like beeps give way to a wall of feedback and to the omnipresent silences that pervade much of his output - always somehow staving off that feeling of this production tool being something off a gimmick with the inventive way he applies it in so many of his productions. It’s fairly straightforward that to be fully appreciated, ‘I’m Alright Mate’ needs to be heard in peak-time club sets, a point I can most certainly vouch for following a set from Pearson Sound at London’s Corsica Studios earlier this year in which this instantly became the hit of the night on the dance floor.
B side ‘Post Rave Wrestle’, on the other hand, slows down proceedings, seeing the producer explore an eye for club music of the more chugging variety, still driven by feedback as the beats and assorted whirrs of various sounds cough and splutter. Just under the two-minute mark, it gives way to a sleazy rhythmic pattern underpinned by rafts of low-end bass. Once again, Bruce is finding new ways to surprise dance floors, honing in effortlessly on a sound that many will now associate as only his, and turning out two devastating club tracks for different parts of the night in the process.
Georgia - Import Fruit (F T D)
Having already established a reputation for animated oddities via a smattering of material released via the Belgian label Meakusma, NYC duo Georgia arrive at F T D, the label of Charles Drakeford, for its sixth release with Import Fruit. Their debut long-player, the Meakusma-released Like Comment, saw them take in dayglo melodies amongst the abstraction and experimentation, and this latest EP soon sees them setting out a similar, though somewhat more accessible, path on opener ‘Planned Dialogue’, harp-like synthetic melodies shifting across its four minutes, almost placing it forward as a lush soundtrack to the most peaceful of Japanese gardens. ‘Actual Behaviour’ strips the components down even further, pads bringing to mind some of the most gorgeous of Oneohtrix Point Never’s work - think the finer moments of R Plus Seven.
‘Pey Woman’ manipulates and chops up female vocals, acting almost as rhythmic patterns, as each loop develops running rings around the other samples shifting around the mix, forming one of the EP’s most peculiar and satisfying moments. Meanwhile, ‘Longry’ opens up the record’s B side and sees the duo exploring more traditional rhythms, calling to mind the most stripped back elements of afrobeat with its keen focus for percussion, all, however, to typically warped effect, with the country twang of a distant guitar offering the slightest hint of melody. ‘Baila Decisions’ again taps into the more percussive side of the duo’s work, built also around simplistic xylophone patterns and spring-y samples that call to mind the sounds so beloved of Jan Schulte in his work as Wolf Müller. Closer ‘Planned Earth’ is another atmospheric cut that sees the pair draw on new age influences zoning out proceedings in the EP’s final minutes. Import Fruit is a succinct presentation of the best elements of Georgia’s work taking in a variety of sounds - at times offbeat and idiosyncratic, then infectious and highly danceable, then hypnotising and calming.
Maayan Nidam - Deep Under Sobriety Regime (Perlon)
The label much-lauded for its contributions to the world of minimal techno over the years, Perlon seems to have been on a particularly strong run of form in 2016 with lengthy releases from Fumiya Tanaka and Spacetravel, as well as an excellent two-tracker from Margaret Dygas, having been issued earlier in the year. Their latest 12” marks Maayan Nidam’s third release on the label having debuted with Perlon in 2009. What’s so stark about the record’s opener and title track is just how UK-driven some of its elements come across, much like the aforementioned two-track record earlier this year from Dygas. ‘Deep Under Sobriety Regime’ is built on rib-rattling bass, the kind usually reserved for some of the finest bass music coming out of the UK in the last decade, and it’s unapologetically deep, repetitive and transfixing for that very reason.
‘Looking Through A Glassy Mind’ shifts focus towards the more tech-house end of Perlon’s back catalogue, still wholly loop-driven, yet slightly more melodic - a faint, curiously piercing refrain that doesn’t quite sit obviously anywhere on a spectrum of what we might see as evoking moods light or dark. The biggest critics of Perlon, and of the minimal and tech-house sounds that it has pushed as a label through much of its output, is that the music can too often be simply too repetitive, too dreary. While this has always been an outrightly too simplistic take on a sound that requires the listener to fully lock in with its groove, in the hands of such producers as Nidam, and Dygas on Perlon before her, it’s never been more plaintively obvious that this music can be a real trip - one to close your eyes and simply get lost in.
Call Super - New Life Tones (Houndstooth)
Last month’s column touched in detail on the closure of fabric following the taking away of the club’s license and this has also seen some doubts cast on the fate of its in-house label, Houndstooth, as a result. As well as releasing material from the likes of Special Request and Aïsha Devi, one of the label’s biggest success stories over the years has come via the works of Call Super, most notably presented via his 2014 album, Suzi Ecto. This was an LP which saw Joseph Richmond Seaton, the man behind the music, channel balearic and techno influences, formed from years spent at institutions like now-closed London club The End, alongside an eye for the more abstract end of electronic music. It’s one of the finest electronic music LPs in recent memory and since its release, the producer has gone on to share a clutch of more dance floor-oriented material via Houndstooth.
His latest, New Life Tones, is made up of two tracks which distill all the distinctive qualities that make up so much of his work as Call Super and Ondo Fudd, producing two blissed out, airy trips in the process, built for more discerning, reflective dance floors. A side ‘Puppet Scene’ glides on occasional thumping, yet considered kick drums, and the sun-kissed flute samples so beloved of the producer, while ‘New Life Repercussions’ really shines, plaintive and floating, opening on a straight-up 4x4 pattern before subsiding somewhat - there’s seemingly unease at play in the melodies. It’s an unease that's difficult to place though, nor does it cast an overtly gloomy air, rather pensive and calming instead. When the decision to strip fabric of its license came through, Call Super wrote eloquently in a Facebook post that “Houndstooth provided me with a completely neutral platform from which to develop and present my ideas.” Hopefully it can continue to do that as a label as the club fights for its future - we are certainly reaping the rewards of the label’s determination via its output.
Jack Murphy - Knowing Something 1 (Knowing Something)
Knowing Something 1, the inaugural release on San Francisco producer Jack Murphy’s Knowing Something label and his first 12” since 2014, takes in sounds ranging across electro, techno and minimal house, as Murphy flexes his influences impressively. From the outset, it’s clear that Murphy’s best work can be found on this record as opener ‘Haze’ cuts a subdued figure, all shifting and rolling hi-hats evoking the loopy, hypnotic nature of an array of minimal techno, while ‘Wolfie Home (PPP Mix)’ dials the pace down amongst starry, sci-fi-evoking samples, drawing strong lines with the more subtle elements of techno as well as distinctly UK club sounds in its low-end bass.
On the flipside, ‘Third Character’ goes straight for the jugular, at least in relative terms. The beats are driven and stark, accompanied by warped, disembodied vocal samples - techno in the realm of some of the finest cult 90s labels such as Plink Plonk and Ifach. The fourth cut ‘XLXM 3’ is the most straightforwardly electro of the tracks on offer here, its drum pattern calling to mind the sleaze of works like those from Erik Travis and other electro luminaries, losing all the slapstick of the vocal samples on display across so much of that sound and instead keeping proceedings dialled down somewhat - moody and evocative. Knowing Something 1 is a clear progression of the US producer’s sound and lays bare his influences while maintaining a pallet of sounds that is not too disparate so as to appear erratic, instead tying together a number of foundational sub-genres of club music in a way that feels wholly natural. You should also keep an eye on his just-launched mix series, via the Knowing Something SoundCloud page, which will see him share sets from a number of peers, starting with a collection of ambient and experimental curiosities from Oakland selector Wonja.
Marie Davidson - Adieux Au Dancefloor (Cititrax)
My first exposure to the work of Marie Davidson was via the electropop of last year’s Excès De Vitesse, a cut on her HoloDeck-released second album, and a concise snapshot of her influences. The news then that Davidson is already following up that album with another extended release, this time via Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave subsidiary, Cititrax, is very welcome. Adieux Au Dancefloor balances Davidson’s dry vocal delivery with instrumental cuts, taking in electro, new wave, EBM, industrial and various other forms of electronic synth-heavy music. ‘Denial’ is laced with shimmering synths and Davidson’s hushed, treated vocals, claps forming a half-step drum workout for perhaps one of the album’s least pop moments.
Listening through the album, while the pop sheen of Davidson’s past work is still present, it’s clear to see why Adieux Au Dancefloor, despite its title, has been trailed by Cititrax as her most dance floor-focused offering yet. Opener ‘I Dedicate My Life’ picks up the pace, reminiscent of the high-paced synth experimentations of Helena Hauff’s ‘Tryst’ from her debut Werkdiscs-released album. ‘Interfaces’ following it is steely and entirely instrumental - the most overtly techno of tracks Davidson has put her name to. LP highlight ‘Naive To The Bone’ chugs along on a 4x4 rhythm with Davidson’s almost accusatory tone positing various questions in the most deadpan of ways taking on the male gaze and sexist thinking in her wake. In Adieux Au Dancefloor finds an elegant balance between building music aimed at the scuzziest of dance floors and writing within, but not exclusively according to, certain pop structures, delivering one of the year’s finest electronic music albums of the year.
Anthony Child - You Have Already Surrendered Your Total Will (Frequency Domain)
Ali Wade - Geomorphology (Frequency Domain)
Moving away from the dancefloor and into more tranquil climes, the Frequency Domain label, established last year, has set about building up a discography mostly comprising sprawling, ambient pieces, save for the debut release from Dogout. The label’s latest two releases take in material from two names that may already be familiar to many. While Anthony Child can usually be found pushing the boundaries of techno to its very edges and creating some of the finest, most intense music of the genre over the last two decades or so as Surgeon, it is under his own name that he can often be found experimenting with drone and ambient music, best captured on his 2015 Editions Mego-released Electronic Recordings From Maui Jungle Vol 1 and in recordings captured at Freerotation Festival - last year’s notably saw him putting to use the Buchla Easel synth.
On You Have Already Surrendered Your Total Will, Child’s work seems to be in the throes of improvisation as the 20-minute title track weaves repetitious, cosmic synth patterns, the changes taking place ever so subtly. There’s a sense of the confrontational sounds that he can be seen striking up in his techno work to the leading synth refrain, and yet something overwhelmingly relaxing permeates in everything that takes place around it - proof that Child’s ability to fuck with heads doesn’t relinquish away from his primary alias. The other two tracks featured here are somewhat less piercing, gleaming synths rising up and down, extending out across the seven minutes of closer ‘Caught Dreaming In A Perfect Past’. Ali Wade’s Geomorphology sees the producer turn in ten cuts of gorgeously minimal, beatless work for his debut solo release. Once again, the changes are subtle, with Wade focusing in on just a few ideas per track and expanding them to masterfully pull off an exercise in restraint - pure healing music.