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Hyperspecific

The Month's Electronic Music: Looking Forward
Christian Eede , February 2nd, 2017 11:58

In the first edition of his Hyperspecific column for 2017, Christian Eede takes a look at what he hopes might be in store for the 12 months ahead, as well as reviewing releases from Shanti Celeste (pictured), Burnt Friedman, Leif, RAMZi and more. Photo courtesy of Nic Kane

As we roll into 2017’s opening months, it seems about right to look ahead at what I hope might be in store for this year. What will actually happen is anyone’s guess of course, in a political climate that continues to lurch towards the frightening unknown. In this current territory in which we find ourselves, it seems remarkable perhaps to suggest that music, and dance music in particular, isn’t inherently political, and yet this is a view that I still see trotted out online by too many today. We all know the ways in which dance music was built on a foundation of politicised reaction, and the multitude of ways in which musicians are influenced by their surroundings, by their social, economic, sexual, racial background, as well as in which the people who populate the clubs or buy records are coloured by the same factors. That is why of course to continue to try to play down the role of politics in the dance music we enjoy is so crass and downright ridiculous.

We are living in an age where it feels more producers and collectives than ever are built on a certain set of values informed by their background, and where those people are unashamed about making those values the core of what they do. Discwoman, for example, are making huge, active steps towards righting the wrong of overtly male, and particularly white, lineups, their roster continuing to make inroads as producers and DJs, and with their aim, and reason for existing, unwaveringly sitting at the heart of all that they do. Parties from collectives such as NON and Venus X’s GHE20G0TH1K are pushing forth with a clear focus for highlighting the art of those underrepresented by the established old guard of the dance music scene - all of these collectives prove that to thrust politics to the centre of what you do is not a hinderance to producing parties and output that are tremendous fun. Put simply, to anyone still trotting out the tired triteness of that infamous phrase ‘it’s not that deep’ in response to getting into the nitty gritty of how our dancefloors in 2017 are political, we really cannot afford your complacency. This is particularly pertinent as a number of soulless club institutions continue to push us further away from the values that should continue to be so central to the scene at large and the culture that surrounds it - see Elrow’s flagrantly offensive Bollywood poster and themed party for a recent prime example of this.

Looking elsewhere in 2017, it would be very heartening to see a success story play out for Hamburg’s Golden Pudel club, destroyed by a fire in February of last year. The dispute which saw its future placed in doubt before the fire has since been resolved and now all that stands in front of its reopening is the mammoth task of financing its rebuilding and getting underway with the project. If you are in London or Manchester next weekend, you can help with that by attending the fundraiser events hosted by the club at London’s The Yard and Manchester’s Soup Kitchen - details for those events can be found here. Golden Pudel is a club with a strong identity in its resident DJs and, once again, a vision that is just as motivated by the political aspects of our dancefloors as it is creating those special moments in which dancers can lose themselves in the sounds heard within. It would be a great shame to lose that.

As for specific music projects I look forward to hearing in 2017, I will continue to look upon Timedance and UIQ in the hope that their 2016 run of form will continue into these 12 months - their first releases of the year from Batu and N1L respectively certainly don't disappoint. I'm also excited for whatever Manchester’s Swing Ting, Vladimir Ivkovic’s Offen Music and Demdike Stare’s eponymous label will bring us in 2017, having forged out distinctive identities in their respective fields and given me some excellent finds in the last year or two. As for DJs I hope to check out for the first time, Golden Pudel’s Nina Trifft, Dr Rubinstein, Inga Mauer, Vladimir Ivkovic and Willow all jump out immediately, while Call Super's upcoming fabric mix compilation will certainly take some beating in those stakes having been obsessive listening for me in recent weeks. Onwards then for the first round of recommendations for 2017…

Shanti Celeste - Untitled
(Peach Discs)

Across numerous releases over the last four years, Shanti Celeste has dabbled in a number of different electronic-rooted sounds, playing with electro patterns on the Future Times-released ‘Strung Up’ and classy, bass-driven house on the Idle Hands-released ‘Days Like This’. Having released across numerous labels such as Apron, Secretsundaze and the two aforementioned imprints, Untitled sees the producer launch her own label, Peach Discs, billed as the focus of her future output, as well as a base for likeminded friends. The label’s first release sees Celeste drawing on past explorations as well as making new ones - her chameleonic approach to producing club music has always been one of her biggest strengths, fitting in right at home amongst her party-ready sets that jump from smooth house to forgotten classics via ‘90s jacking house and techno.

A side ‘Loop One’ takes in breakbeat patterns and soothing pads, as well as a grooving bassline that perhaps wouldn’t sound out of place on some of the finest Paradise Garage-era ‘80s disco. While I loathe to call anything a revival, it seems a strong contingent of producers are dabbling in breaks more than ever in current underground music circles, but in Shanti’s hands, any essence of rave-revisionism is nowhere to be seen, subtly putting to use a decades-old drum pattern in a way that sounds entirely fresh. ‘Selector’ on the flip-side packs a punch with thumping beats and claps, and low-end bass. Shanti’s employment of arpeggios has always given her work an inimitable kind of sound, one that you will hear and frequently be able to associate only with her, and across both tracks that continues, dazzling synths darting across their grin-inducing backdrop.

Various - Absolutely Wino
(Wah Wah Wino)

Following on from a trio of records released last year kicking off the Wah Wah Wino label, run out of Ireland by producers Morgan Buckley and Olmo Devin alongside a number of friends, Absolutely Wino sees them flex on a compilation that rarely reveals who exactly is behind each track, the producers involved mostly operating under names presumably created just for this release. As you might expect from a project involving Buckley and Devin, what is contained within is a fine selection of oddball, often danceable, material, ranging from the chuggy pacing of opener ‘7,000 Years’ from Gombeen & Doygen, coming off like a Wah Wah Wino take on Alabama 3, to the propulsive post-punk stomp of Morgan & Davy’s ‘Craudrock’.

‘Paco’s Ode’ from Wino Wagon is built around warped, manipulated samples and off-kilter synths while Plop’s ‘Sligo B’ takes up electro as imagined by the Wah Wah Wino clan, swapping intergalactic melodies for smooth, slight pads. If you were a fan of the first three Wah Wah Wino records, this compilation certainly maintains the bizarro qualities that might have made you initially tick. For those not yet accustomed, Absolutely Wino is a ride through some of the downright silliest, yet simultaneous serious, ‘dance’ music you’ll hear this year.

Burnt Friedman - The Pestle
(Latency)

Marking the 10th release on the Paris-based Latency label, on The Pestle, Burnt Friedman offers up six cuts, spanning productions made between 1993 and 2011. Billed as an album, you might therefore expect this release to lack somewhat in fluidity covering such a broad period of time in the producer’s development. The Pestle demonstrates though that Friedman’s vision has always maintained some sense of lineage even as his processes may have changed, the tracks at times weaving the kinds of complex polyrhythms so perfected by the producer over the span of numerous recent releases.

‘Sorcier’, originally recorded in 1994, is enchanting, relaying a simple melodic pattern again and again until it falls away at the halfway mark, leaving behind it, Friedman’s sparse percussive framework. ‘Nerfs D’acier’ takes up a half-electro, half-motorik pattern, propulsive and glitchy, underpinned by a barely-there, yet malevolent bassline. ‘Intrication’ pushes Friedman’s exploration of polyrhythms further, a go-to for any fans of percussion workouts, while opener ‘The Monkhide’, the album’s most recently recorded offering, slathers on the eerie electronics, alongside the background interjections of saxophonist Hayden Chisholm - stark but simultaneously comforting. So much of the music featured across The Pestle sounds truly timeless, the sounds cooked up by Friedman seemingly free of the period in which they were made, save for the reminder of their origin featured within each track’s title.

Dan HabarNam - 4 AM Rattle
(Selectie)

Some may associate Dan HabarNam’s name with a brand of distinctly dark drum and bass, owing to releases via labels such as Exit and Cylon over the last five years or so, but via his Selectie imprint, the producer is exploring different ground, maintaining the energy of past work but looking to bass-heavy, club-ready techno instead. His second release on the imprint, 4 AM Rattle offers up four cuts, each devastating in their own way. The title track does its damage with pummelling bass and a rhythmic structure recalling ‘90s rave breaks, given a makeover for techno dancefloors in 2017, and a soaring breakdown primed for the payoff of the decidedly, and thankfully, understated ‘drop’ that follows.

Across the four track, it seems that HabarNam is unmistakably carving out a sound of his own, certain signifiers bearing their head more than once across the record’s four tracks. On ‘The F.P. Beat’, the serene, almost choir-like melodies found on ‘4 AM Rattle’ appear again underpinning some expertly crafted bass weight, while ‘Juno Birdcall’ subtly puts to use those same breaks references found also on the title track. It’s remarkable given this that each tracks bears its own identity even still, all of them deserving of their place, and cementing a sound that HabarNam will hopefully continue to explore with exciting results on further Selectie releases.

Leif - July V / Shoulders Back
(Tio Series)

‘Shoulders Back’, which most succinctly could be described as a bell jam, formed a distinct highlight in Welsh producer Leif’s excellent set at Freerotation last summer, at that point appearing as a freshly recorded, untitled cut. Fast forward six months and it forms one of two new tracks from the producer inaugurating his new 10” series. The producer has always had a knack for teasing out dancefloor-friendly moments from what could perhaps be described as an understated sound palette. 2015 LP Taraxacum was warming, soaked in gorgeous melodies throughout, exploring elements of the Bristol bass music lineage as well as the kinds of tech-and-minimal-driven house often found in the producer’s own DJ sets. It was without doubt one of 2015’s finest albums.

Following that, as well as a 2016 EP for the Galdoors label, Leif’s latest record explores again some of the best devices put to use on his debut album. Where the Galdoors EP opted to let wonky grooves and percussion take the lead, this latest EP returns us somewhat to the kind of territory explored so effectively on Taraxacum. ‘July V’ sounds like a less frenzied take on the Timedance sound currently explored by producers such as Batu and Ploy, sprinkled with Leif’s eye for twinkling synths and a beat pattern that recalls the lethargic dubstep drawl of Peverelist’s Punch Drunk classic ‘Gather’. ‘Shoulders Back’, undoubtedly this record’s highlight, contorts around a repeating bell-driven melody to form what could just be one of the most understated club tools in recent years, populated by plaintive guitar chords before it all crumbles away into a burst of feedback and we’re thrusted back into a wall of bells and jittery drums. Leif’s always had a knack for being so effective with the use of so few elements, and that continues on his first Tio Series offering.

RAMZi - Phobiza ‘Noite’ Vol. 2
(Mood Hut)

The second in RAMZi’s Phobiza series arrives via Mood Hut, and returns to a number of the sonic motifs found in the previous volume, tracing through lush rainforest samples to form sound collages around each track’s alluring percussive basis. The producer has regularly employed tropical field recordings as the backbone for her peculiar, beguiling works, and wildlife samples heard on the previous volume’s ‘Jazzi Houti’ return on opener ‘For Vanda’ and ‘Fuma’, setting this latest release up as a continuation of the previous edition in name and sound. Sweet horns and indistinguishable vocal samples weave through the drums on both, almost giving the sense that the producer is offering us multiple remixes of the same idea, exploring the possibilities of a single sound palette.

Where the percussion slouches on the A side’s two track, the pace picks up somewhat on the B side’s ‘Messiah’, leaving behind kicks for a recurring tabla pattern. Her own vocals appear throughout the EP, though heavily treated so as to render her words unrecognisable. Closer ‘Male heya’ returns to the gentle climes of the EP’s two opening tracks, all soaring, pitched up vocals and a half-step, toe-tapper of a beat. On Phobiza ‘Noite’ Vol. 2 , RAMZi somehow creates something that is unashamedly weird yet so inviting and uplifting. Leave this record untapped at your own peril.

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