The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Hyperspecific

The Month's Electronic Music: Taking Stock
Christian Eede , July 5th, 2017 10:49

In this month's edition of our electronic music column Hyperspecific, Christian Eede looks back at some of the best mixes the year so far has had to offer, while also reviewing new releases from LAPS (pictured), D. Tiffany and Klaus amongst others

Add your comment »

With the year now having passed the halfway mark, naturally you will be seeing some rounding up of the year so far around the web, looking back at what music has impressed most over the last six months. We here at tQ don’t shy away from that of course having earlier this week published our pick of the 100 best albums released so far this year, to which I have contributed myself. While compiling my choices for that list however, it was as clear as ever clear that my listening habits were best represented by the countless mixes, as well as the abundant excellent reissues and compilations, always seeing release. I don’t write about mixes as much as I should in this column, so it seemed only right that this month’s introductory gambit round up just a small selection of my personal favourites from this year so far.

Call Super - fabric 92

Frequent back-to-back DJ buddies Call Super and Objekt are known for their unpredictable, precision-mixed ability and technical skill to zip across a large range of tempos, as comfortable throwing out hard-edged techno and electro as they are pulling together ‘90s jungle and more recent half-time drum and bass material from labels such as Exit Records. It makes sense then too that both will have delivered standout mixes already this year. Call Super’s fabric 92, a natural result of the producer’s longstanding connection with the London club’s in-house Houndstooth label, sees him work handily with the licensing restrictions that a mix CD naturally places on selections. Writing previously about the mix in this column, I noted his own admission that his original ideas for the mix had been thwarted by such a restriction, but his caveat that working in this way allows you “to suddenly work within certain parameters, and then try and build something that is a very honest reflection of what you do”, accurately portrays where the strengths in this mix lie. These restrictions provide focus and work into a mix that ebbs and flows as many DJ sets and mixes should to give the listener occasional pauses for reflection. Across the mix, Call Super moves from the industrially deranged techno of Objekt’s ‘The Stitch-Up’ through to the kind of gorgeous music so constant through Carl Craig's back catalogue, and finally on to the climatic moments as proceedings blissfully drift away in the acapella blues of Walter Brown and crooning pop of Yves Tumor.

Objekt - Dekmantel Podcast 116

On Objekt’s contribution to the Dekmantel podcast series, he demonstrates in full the technical prowess he’s been mastering for some years as well as his propensity for shifting beyond the house and techno that those less clued-up to his current club sets might expect. While that indeed remains the focus of much of the mix’s first half (including an outing for the outrageously catchy, singalong melody of his own ‘Theme From Q’), the DJ stretches out a little beyond that after, cutting the tempo drastically, though in such a way that you’d barely notice. Polyrhythms are played with to achieve the change of pace leaving me to wonder just how he pulls it off, as he folds in the doom-laden trip-hop drums of Mick Harris’ Scorn project, throaty digi-based ragga from Pampidoo, juke-indebted material by Sinistarr and all-out drum and bass assaults from producers such as Homemade Weapons and Overlook, both on the forefront of pushing the genre into darker, more experimental territory of late. He even finds time to revert back to his initial train of thought before clocking out, with some old Shackleton and Detroit-indebted UK techno by Stasis rounding off proceedings. I’m certainly not the first person to geek out about how astonishing an Objekt set can be to experience, so this mix goes some way to capturing that in tandem with this excellent Resident Advisor piece from last year going deep on his process.

Anastasia Kristensen - Impact Mix (for Mixmag)

A newer name in techno is Russia-born Anastasia Kristensen, who has been producing and DJing out of Copenhagen for some years now, with the last year in particular seeing her finally begin to gather the full attention she deserves beyond her locale. A resident at Copenhagen club Culture Box, Kristensen’s sound leans towards the more hard-edged, speedier reaches of techno as demonstrated in her Impact mix for Mixmag. Clocking in at around 50 minutes, the mix offers sharp shocks throughout, despite what the lighter, ambient opener might initially suggest. Kristensen’s selections and style, in bringing together the music she plays, share some similarities with the kind of high-energy, characterful mixing popularised by warehouse DJs in the US midwest through the ‘90s, as she rolls from one thumping track to another, occasionally filtering out the lows to offer some brief respite before the assault comes back around again. Classic Warp music from RAC, her own unreleased material and old works from the late Mika Vainio all find their way into the mix.

Silvia Kastel - KS Podcast 03

Ultramarine Records-affiliated producer and DJ Silvia Kastel offers something somewhat different to all of the above on her contribution to the Knowing Something mix series if you’re looking to give your ears a little rest. Still proving just how important sequencing and progression is to putting together a mix, Kastel gathers up a wide array of records across various genres and time periods, offering an insight into the tastes of a DJ clearly invested in digging as hard as she can. A sizeable chunk of the material on this mix is unidentifiable to my ears, though some tracks do immediately jump out. Autechre’s stunning ‘Piezo’ rolls out in full mostly uninterrupted, Kastel layering the soaring majesty of its closing moments with a tense, moody Tangerine Dream piece dating back to 1973. Elsewhere, tracks from Visible Cloaks, FIS and Plastikman all feature amongst others, the mix making space for new age ambience, harsh Usher-sampling electronics, sugary jungle and sparse techno (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg), and pulling it off with grace. The ‘selector’ tag is frequently thrown around meaninglessly to refer to DJs who favour selection over mixing technique, but on her Knowing Something mix, Silvia Kastel fully embraces the DJ’s role to, above all, surprise the listener and perhaps even introduce them to something new.

Finn - FACT Mix 608

On a more recent tip, Manchester-based Finn’s contribution to FACT’s weekly mix series recalls a distinctly UK style of mixing that I so love. It’s an approach to mixing that sees DJs step outside of sub-genre constraints, instead favouring the change of pace and element of surprise offered by curveballs and transitions that just shouldn’t work but do and then some. Finn's FACT mix moves from glorious '80s funk from The Cool Notes through to upbeat house and disco material spanning across the last few decades, before upping the stakes with 'uncool' Cheryl Lynn-sampling dancefloor cuts and '90s breakbeat. The melodies throughout offer an unashamed sugar rush, brashly moving through bassline, instrumental grime, trap beats, hardcore and ghettotech in its closing 20 minutes. If that's not enough, there are also exclusive ad-libs and vocal additions from Riko Dan and Jammz in there too. It shouldn't all work but the DJ's fearlessness in pulling it all together and little care for the barriers put up by genres delivers one of the most entertaining mixes you'll hear all year.

Moving away from looking back over 2017 and moving into the present, below is a round-up of some of the best recent individual releases.

LAPS - Who Me? EP
(MIC)

Ladies As Pimps - or LAPS for short - is the side project of Golden Teacher’s Lady Two Collars and Sue Zuki from Organs Of Love. Their previous outfits have exported some of the finest, most leftfield and unruly music from Glasgow’s underground scene beyond their locale, with both operating out of The Green Door Studio in the city, meshing electronic music with lashings of dub and post-punk influences. That spirit continues with their progression into LAPS, and with their latest proper following a clutch of material shared in 2014. Where that material carried a hardened, unpolished edge, perhaps simply owing to the absence of post-production mastering, their latest release, the Who Me? EP, sounds fuller, and importantly maintains the edge of that early SoundCloud EP.

Expertly programmed dub sound FX and baselines carry each track’s sparse arrangement, the duo delivering their deadpan, brassy spoken word vocals over lead track ‘Who Me?’ A natural bedfellow to the EP’s title track is ‘Edges’, carrying over the duo’s flippant vocal delivery and penchant for drum machines, before the track climaxes in a wall of sampled dog barks and hi hats. On ‘Lady Bug’ and ‘Ode To Daughter’ they flex out over sluggish dub beats showing a more soulful side to their oeuvre, the former alternating between Lady Two Collar’s airily sung vocals and intermittent, brazen raps. Above all, LAPS sound bold and exciting on this record, arriving with a jolt of unabashed, blasé energy, something which is certainly much-needed with Golden Teacher seemingly on hiatus for the foreseeable future.

D. Tiffany - Blue Dream
(Pacific Rhythm)

Blue Dream marks D. Tiffany’s, sometimes known as DJ Zozi, debut full release with the Pacific Rhythm label having previously delivered one of the strongest contributions to the label’s 2015 various artists package, Rhythms Of The Pacific Volume 2. Like Pacific Rhythm, D. Tiffany is based in Vancouver and a frontrunner of the sunshine-hued house that has been emerging from the coastal city’s increasingly thriving scene in recent years, also heard in output from the artists affiliated with Mood Hut, and duo You’re Me. While hallmarks of what many have come to associate with these collectives of producers and DJs based in Vancouver can certainly be found on D. Tiffany’s latest record though - take the faintly lo-fi haze of the record’s title track and the playful, throwback conversational vocals of ‘R U Plush’ (“I’m trying to dance”) for example - the producer also pushes significantly beyond those trademarks to deliver a record that certainly stands out amongst the waves of music currently emerging from her base.

‘Blue Dream’ is peppered with almost psychedelic synth blips, lifted up by a grin-inducing bassline, calling to mind some of the funkiest of Moodymann material. ’Get Back To You Soon’, meanwhile, drops the tempo just slightly, ruminating on a cut-and-paste drum sequence that sits somewhere between the breakbeats emerging from Baltimore in the 1990s and the instrumental hip hop of producers like Madlib, MF Doom and Pete Rock - think trip-hop as reimagined by the current crop of Vancouver’s best. ‘Something About You’ gathers around a low-slung bassline and an array of percussion (cowbells aplenty), with birdsong and hushed pads finding their way into the mix at around the halfway mark. Blue Dream marks D. Tiffany’s most focused work to date, still bearing hangovers of her earlier, more lo-fi date but sounding far more unique than most other producers currently in the same field.

Various - Cong Burn 01
(Cong Burn)

Initially established as an outlet for tape releases capturing mostly improvised, live analogue recordings by a collective of producers based around the north of the UK, Cong Burn Waves have now branched out into releasing original standalone productions from their associates with sub-label Cong Burn. Founded by John Howes, who features on one of the four tracks on the label’s first release, in 2015, the collective has strong ties to the Meandyou nights also based in Manchester and to local venue Soup Kitchen, at which they have been performing and experimenting for a number of years, and fans of Meandyou will find a lot to like in this release.

Haddon’s ‘Not Coming To The Club Tonight’ is a peculiar, sludgy stepper, lit up by starry synths and chopped-up vocal samples, with one foot in the club even if its protagonist doesn’t. Howes’ untitled contribution centres around a slowed-down electro rhythm and quaint pads. Over on the B side, L. Pearson’s ‘PSR1170’ sounds like a natural bedfellow for Haddon’s A side contribution with its contorted vocal samples and earworm arpeggios. Finally, Perfume Advert closes proceedings in considerably more reserved fashion, with a combination of bass and drums that sounds like ‘90s garage house as heard from a distant warehouse. The record’s four tracks are all tied together by a distinctly similar approach to programming soothing melodies, the collective so clearly working together on the same wavelength that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a solo record.

Jana Rush - Pariah
(Objects Ltd)

Chicago native Jana Rush first made her name as a DJ and producer of ghetto house and techno in the late ‘90s, releasing her debut record on Dance Mania in 1996 and following it up with one further release. Following 13 years of silence from 2000, she re-emerged in 2013 with a new impetus. Inspired by the footwork scene that had been gathering steam in the city for many years before - she had befriended DJ Rashad, Gant-Man and others in the scene pre-hiatus - and was at that point going global with the dominance of Teklife, and support of labels such as Hyperdub and Planet Mu, her return eventually gave rise to last year’s MPC 7635 EP, Rush’s debut for the Objects Ltd label.

That EP ran the full gamut of the footwork sound, from steely, hard-hitting drums and darkly industrial synths and horns to more playful vocal samples. On Pariah, Rush uses the album format to fully stretch out her talents. Ever-present are the addictive toms and thunderous sub-bass, but there’s restraint too. ‘Beat Maze’ doesn’t take its title from nowhere, the drums frequently skirting around an easily danceable four-by-four rhythm, almost coming off as a challenge to the dancers so vital to the footwork scene to hold the rhythm. ‘Divine’ moves away significantly from the darker edges of Rush’s previous outing on the label, with a display of footwork minimalism. Spread across the album are various influences of Rush’s, from jazz and soul through to acid house and rapid-fire jungle (‘Frenetic Snare’ is an astonishing closer), folded in through expert sample use and a keenness to switch-up the rhythmic structures she's working with.

Cybe - Tropisch Verlangen
(STROOM 〰)

On his monthly NTS show, Ziggy Devriendt, otherwise known as Nosedrip, skilfully pulls together a variety of forgotten and reissued oddities spanning back decades and genres, be it new age or new wave, frequently introducing myself, and no doubt many others, to a wealth of excellent, off-the-beaten-track music. That careful, curatorial eye has carried over into the record label he runs also, even as, much like his radio shows, it pulls together differing sounds loosely connected by their origins in the 1980s. The label’s first release, a vinyl reissue of Alain Pierre’s soundtrack for Belgian animated film Jan Zonder Vrees is one such example of his digging prowess while the 11000 Dreams compilation released earlier this year acts as a neat summarisation of some of the best under-the-radar synth experimentations emerging from Belgium in the 1980s.

Tropisch Verlangen has been pulled together from three cassette releases by new age and ambient adventurer Cybe, all put out between 1981 and 1985. The record’s 10 tracks emerged from travels across India, Thailand, Indonesia, Bali and Java that the producer had taken some years before. The influence of those travels is patent across the record - take the introductory gamelan of ‘Om Swastiastu’, taking its name from a special greeting in Balinese, or the sprawling, sitar-like sounds of ‘India’, which unfolds across fifteen breathtaking minutes. Field recordings weave in and out of various tracks transporting you into a world wholly inspired and realised by one man’s travels and quest to truly connect first-hand with the music by which he was so fascinated. Those who remember the Jan Schulte-curated Tropical Drums Of Deutschland compilation featured in this column earlier this year will no doubt want to pay close attention to this record.

Klaus - Cry Tuff / Gus / Bela
(Tanum)

Across three previous releases on his own Tanum imprint, Klaus has been keenly exploring the intersections between ambient and soundsystem music. Producing subtle, sumptuous pieces that long to be heard through weighty bassbins, his music has continuously, though not overwhelmingly, carried hangovers of the dubstep of the mid-2000s, chiefly thanks to the preoccupation with sub-bass that permeates his work. With each release on Tanum, the producer has seemed to fold in on his sound further, and his latest record offers his sparsest trip to date.

Opener ‘Cry Tuff’, delivering all its might when rattling the windows of a Leeds warehouse played through the Iration system by the Hessle Audio trio a couple of months ago, revolves around disembodied, barely there vocal samples and dubby atmospherics. The radio interference comparison to music of this kind has almost become cliché in recent years with the propensity for those distinctions to be made in the music of producers like Burial. This record successfully sits somewhere within that field though, while wholly elevating above the many copycats of that sound, carving out his own space for misty, bass-driven ambience. ‘Gus’ operates within similar territory, chopped-up vocal samples ricocheting off intermittent, minimally applied percussion. A press release accompanying the record jokes about its short runtime. Clocking in at 11 minutes across its three tracks and following on from a two-and-a-half-year break in releases, the write-up quips: “that's an average of less than a second of music per day, which is frankly ridiculous.” Across the record though, Klaus thankfully makes every last second count.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.