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Hyperspecific

Hyperspecific: April And May's Electronic Music
Christian Eede , May 16th, 2018 12:27

April and May's round-up of the best electronic music looks at the slew of exceptional drum & bass emerging of late from labels like Samurai Music and UVB-76 Music, while also reviewing new releases from Roza Terenzi, Gábor Lázár, Steevio, Beta Librae, object blue and more

There’s a niggling part of me that is always cautious to devote this column’s introductory words to one specific sound or sub-genre, lest it come across that I’m trying to needlessly identify trends or suggest that ‘X is coming back’. You’ll just have to take my word for it then that I know that the drum & bass scene has long been in good health and that it never went away.

With that said, recent months have seen a mass of superb releases emerge, particularly from those exploring the more dread-filled, halftime reaches of the genre. Leading the charge is Samurai Music Group with its ever-consistent, ever-busy release schedule spread across main label Samurai Music and the more techno-oriented Horo sub-label. Having celebrated its first decade with a compilation of some of the best names from the various sub-imprints rounding off 2017, the former’s first release of the year arrived earlier this month in the form of a four-track full label debut from Manchester’s Artilect, previously known as deeperheightz. Title track ‘Blurring The Line’ builds on the tension of its opening moments with some seriously heavyweight breaks that move away from the halftime strains of previous releases of his for labels like Repertoire and UVB-76 Music. This crushing formula, sitting somewhere between D&B and brasher classic jungle, continues through the record with winning results.

Next up for Samurai Music is Mutations, the debut LP from Brussels duo The Untouchables. Across 12 cuts that mostly occupy the 170 BPM territory, the duo fold in flashes of rave, hardcore and dark jungle on tracks like opener ‘Genetic Manipulation’, ‘Steppah’ and ‘This Generation’ which is punctuated by what sounds like a sample of child reggae group Musical Youth. Elsewhere, a collaboration with Homemade Weapons, another very reliable name for this school of brooding halftime D&B, sees the two acts combine with bruising intensity. Listening through this record, it’s easy to see why this music has become such a favourite for Donato Dozzy over the last year or so, making an appearance in select DJ sets of his like this recent one for Resident Advisor’s Alternate Cuts event series. There’s an unbeatable air of hypnosis running throughout this material, and other various records on Samurai Music, that runs parallel to the kind of psychedelic techno that makes up the bulk of his sets.

Another label making a significant stake in this sound is the previous mentioned UVB-76 Music from Bristol, having released excellent 12”s from Overlook and a new shadowy, collaborative outfit known as 4 6 2 5. The former’s All Of Them Witches takes in dread-filled ambience on opener ‘Spirits Moving Through The Walls’, moving through the techstep-oriented ‘Magick’ onto the more industrial, driving sounds of ‘Ritual’ and the record’s title track. The producer’s Never Understand EP also released last month on the Osiris Music label, is also worth looking out for with its blend of D&B and boomy techno. 4 6 2 5’s debut release, on the newly minted 4625 sub-label of UVB-76, is the result of a coming together of the label’s core members, though none of those involved in the record’s making are specifically named. Opener ‘Non-Citizen’ is a particularly banging affair with its pounding drum fills while ‘Proles’ and ‘The Barrens’ look to the more industrial-tinged corners of modern D&B. ‘Cassette_A’ closes out the record with a wave of distorted, ghostly feedback and MC chat making for a faintly sinister, somewhat incongruous listen.

London’s Rupture label has been exploring more junglist elements of drum & bass since its inception in 2012, and six years later they have just released their first LP in the form of the various artists Fifth Column compilation. Some of those previously mentioned halftime elements can be found on this record thanks to tracks from The Untouchables and Ahmad & Akinsa, but for the most part Fifth Column proves that there is life in jungle yet. Excellent ‘90s-referencing tracks from producers like Dead Man’s Chest & Skinjob, Sully, Forest Drive West and Outer Heaven look to twisted breaks, classic rave samples and commanding basslines to make their mark helping to pull together a compilation that shows there’s plenty of life in the decades-old sound yet.

Mark, fresh from a pair of releases with Australian label A Colourful Storm, recently debuted on Ostgut Ton’s Unterton offshoot with The Least Likely Event Will Occur In The Long Run. The three-tracker combines elements of jungle and neurofunk on ‘Know No Out Only In’ while ‘See In Symbols’ comes off as a kind of industrial D&B take on dubstep, its opening wails of brass and wind chime samples eventually giving way to fractured, swaggering drums. Finally, a pair of recent releases from the aforementioned Sully, on his own new label Uncertain Hour (Vacancy) as well as the recently launched Foxy Jangle imprint (Soundboy Don’t Push Your Luck), further outline that the ongoing revivalism of ‘90s jungle is anything but a gimmick.

Continue reading below for a further round-up of some of the best recent and upcoming electronic music releases from across April and May, taking in breakbeats from down under, glitchy grime, whacked-out modular synth experiments and more.

Melatonin Man - Cruise Control Love
(Nous’klaer Audio)

Following up quickly on the rousing Another Place 12” from Upsammy, which was featured in the last edition of this column, Dutch label Nous’klaer Audio strikes gold yet again via this full debut from rising producer Melatonin Man, who has also released a series of 909-indebted white label jams in recent years as The Invariants. Cruise Control Love retains the ecstatic melodies of ‘Garrol’, his contribution to the label’s Paerels compilation from last year, as well as some hangovers from his work as The Invariants, combining these elements with rolling breakbeats.

The title track on the A-side finds the producer turning to the kind of acid loops you can hear in those white labels as The Invariants, though he puts a decidedly more euphoric bent on that material here. A squelchy 909 bassline sits snugly alongside blissful pads and soaring arpeggios that tug at your heartstrings, giving way to the kind of breakdown in the latter minutes that will surely work its magic in big rooms and on large festival stages this summer. B-side track ‘To Allocate’ centres around sharp, downtempo breaks while carrying over the trance-y melodies that are so effective on the record’s title track. ‘My Head Is A Tornado’ rounds out the record with yet more breakbeats and melancholic arpeggios, further complimenting a 12” which suggests a bright future ahead for the producer behind it.

Roza Terenzi - Weakest Link
(Voyage)

We’ve been spoilt for choice recently when it comes to new music from Melbourne-based Roza Terenzi with three records having arrived over the last month alone. First came the Mwah 12” for Amsterdam label Kalahari Oyster Cult with its ‘90s bleep-era basslines and tranquil pads, while Planet Euphorique, launching D. Tiffany’s new label of the same name, saw her come together with the Vancouver producer, the latter operating under her DJ Zozi alias. Those two records are tied together by Roza Terenzi’s affinity for breakbeats and airy melodies.

Weakest Link, the last of her recent trio of releases, arrives via Melbourne label Voyage. With beats that sit somewhere between breakbeat and electro, ‘Weakest Link’ and ‘Lilli’s Lounge’ roll along, punctuated by unfussy, aqueous synths which unfold across swaggering drum patterns. ‘Seminyak Dream’ lowers the tempo just slightly bringing with it a slightly moodier atmosphere and mostly doing away with the floaty melodies of the other two tracks. The record also comes complete with a remix from D. Tiffany who takes on the title track. She adds a soundsystem-shaking bassline that will no doubt do the damage on peak-time dancefloors.

Watching Airplanes - Psyop
(Banlieue / Peur Bleue)

The debut album from London duo Watching Airplanes sees French labels Banlieue (now based in Berlin) and Peur Bleue (now based in London) join forces for the first time to share release duties, and fans of speedy electro will find a lot to enjoy in this LP. The pair channel prime DJ Stingray into their sound, particularly in tracks such as ‘All Seeing I’ and ‘Inside Job’, while opener ‘Saboter La Machine’ makes for an immediate highlight with its obscured eerie synth line and low-slung drums.

Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Fight Or Flight’ and ‘Spaceship To Kalunga’ bear distinct parallels to the rowdy ghettotech of producers like DJ Godfather and DJ Funk, while ‘Ekranoplan’ and ‘Oopsy’ would sit perfectly mixed alongside the slew of excellent halftime D&B that labels like the previously mentioned Samurai Music and UVB-76, amongst others, are pushing so well at the moment. On Psyop, the duo take the framework of electro, and its associated strands, to craft a remarkably diverse listen.

Gábor Lázár - Unfold
(The Death Of Rave)

Conor Thomas’ The Death Of Rave label is a consistently reliable source of mind-bending electronics with releases already this year having come from Mumdance, Logos and Shapednoise’s The Sprawl project and producer Cam Deas, whose warped, dread-filled Time Exercises LP is well worth seeking out. The label’s next record sees Gábor Lázár return to the fold off the back of a split LP with Mark Fell as well as a solo EP released back in 2014. Unfold is his most complete work to date pushing his glitch-ridden experimentations into considerably more 4x4 territory than before.

Hallmarks of his sound heard on those previous The Death Of Rave releases, as well as last year’s Shelter Press-released Crisis Of Reputation, still remain, though meshed ever so satisfyingly with beats that sit somewhere between 2-step UK garage and early grime. ‘Squeeze’ melds a screwface-inducing bassline with a beat that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a classic Ruff Sqwad mixtape, while closer ‘Overall’ comes across like a skewed take on the UK techno of labels like Livity Sound and Timedance with its starry synths and swung drums. While the two bare stark differences, perhaps the most natural point of comparison to make is with Errorsmith’s 2017 highlight Superlative Fatigue, mostly in how both producers look beyond dancefloor conventions, instead twisting that framework to suit their respective distinctive sound palettes.

Steevio - WSDM008
(Wisdom Teeth)

Bristol’s Wisdom Teeth label is a firm fixture of this column owing to a steady stream of killer, out-there records that sit somewhere within the UK techno orbit. The latest 12” from them sees Freerotation organiser Steevio turn in two cuts of deeply hypnotic modular techno alongside a more sedate remix from Timedance label boss Batu. That remix of ‘Hiraeth’ sees the producer pair the sound that Timedance has mastered so well in recent years with Steevio’s modular experiments, delivering a chugging, bass-driven club cut that bears minimal resemblance to the source material.

On the record’s A-side, ‘Syzygy’ and ‘Hiraeth’ are as good as Steevio gets, weaving creeping, trippy synths through syncopated drums and shifting hi-hats with intense results. There are some parallels to be heard between this and another previous release of Wisdom Teeth from fellow Freerotation resident Duckett on last year’s Gannets For Guano EP, particularly the earworm modular workout of that record’s ‘Black Sheep’. Steevio consistently turns out this kind of heads-down dancefloor material for his own Mindtours label and has been doing so for over a decade, but his connection with Wisdom Teeth on this record is a natural fit as the label continues to establish itself as one of the most reliable sources of leftfield UK club music around.

object blue - Do you plan to end a siege?
(Tobago Tracks)

object blue’s debut EP, arriving via London’s Tobago Tracks label, comes good on the promise already glimpsed in a series of recent hardware-based live sets as well as a handful of captivating Soundcloud-released cuts. Across three tracks, the producer bridges the gap between techno and more experimental corners of club music with exhilarating results. Opener ‘Even In You’ is a fairly minimal affair, loosely based around a simple kick drum loop, malfunctioning electronics, fits of sub-bass and sampled gasps.

‘Act Like It Then’ does more immediate devastation thanks to its thwacking beats, expert employment of a Cardi B sample and an array of giddy, off-kilter synths. ‘Cerco de Deus’ is considerably more restrained with its click-clack drum pattern and a return of the gasps which punctuated the EP’s opening track. The London-based producer’s debut comes across as a kind of organised chaos. You never know what might greet you with every turn, a characteristic that more current techno-aligned club music could do with possessing.

Le Officine Di Efesto - The Elements
(Spazio Disponibile)

Spazio Disponibile, the label founded and run by Italian pair Donato Dozzy and Neel otherwise known collectively as Voices From The Lake, continues its upward ascent on this collaboration between Dozzy and duo Retina.it. If you enjoyed the recording of the former’s closing set at last year’s Terraforma festival, in which he explored the slower recesses of his record collection, The Elements has a lot to offer. Opener ‘Sulphur 16’ is a compelling listen with its chugging, muffled drums and sublimely repetitive modular synths.

‘Amnios’ strips away the beats while retaining much of the psychedelic qualities of its predecessor and ‘Plasma Hymn’ is filled by an intense, stomping drum beat. ‘Ode To Carbon’, the record’s penultimate track, is a cluster of menacing analogue synths that burrow their way into your head with every unrelenting loop, while closer ‘Searching For H20’ calls back to the sludgy, lethargic drums of the record’s opening track. Donato Dozzy is a master of this kind of deep, intense after-hours techno and working in collaboration here with Retina.it, he demonstrates just why.

Cabasa - Uncle Sigmund’s EP
(Eclipse Tribez)

Inaugurating Dutch label Eclipse Tribez is this new four-tracker from another relative newcomer, London-based Cabasa. With one previous physical release to his name, in the gritty, industrial electro of the Aquaris Monopole EP released a few months ago, this latest record leans on slower tempos borrowing somewhat from the percussive inclinations of the previously mentioned UK techno emerging chiefly from numerous Bristol-hailing producers.

‘Uso Sketch’ is a lowkey opener with its subtle drums and sub-bass underpinned by the slightest hint of a breakbeat. ‘À L’école’ packs a more obvious punch with its boomy bassline and warped samples of children singing. ‘Defective’ is a continuation of this winning formula throwing in further vocal samples including a snippet of Zeta 3’s self-titled 1991 trance classic released on R & S. The record closes on a burst of slowed-down breaks that one could imagine working played at both 33 and 45 rpm on a record player in ‘Uncle Sigmund Lost In Qattara’. With records this solid from start to finish, it’s a certainty that Cabasa’s name is one worth keeping an eye out for in the near future.

Beta Librae - Sanguine Bond
(Incienso)

Through releases for labels like 1080p and Allergy Season, Brooklyn-based Beta Librae has built a reputation for stripped-back techno, most of which built from hardware jam sessions. Sanguine Bond, her latest record, and her first album to receive a full physical release - the previous two have been issued on cassette - offers a continuation of the producer’s past work with some notable developments.

Opener ‘Shy’ offers a reserved, ambient introduction to the LP, its woozy, looping synths recalling the tranquil recent material of producers like Cloudface and Khotin. ‘Just Drift’ is a hypnotic house cut which leaps into action from the off, presumably having been cut from an extended jam session. ‘Pink Arcade’ bears similarities to the fourth world experimentalism of producers like RAMZi with its recurring flute pattern and dubby kicks while ‘New Feelings’, closing the record, is an album highlight thank to a gorgeous, placid synth pattern and the addition at the mid-way mark of jungle-esque breaks. Across Sanguine Bond, Beta Librae works with the limitations of her mostly hardware set-up, drumming up compelling loops, with excellent results.

Significant Other - Triptan
(SPE:C)

The sixth record from the Berlin-based SPE:C label builds on the bass-heavy techno of previous releases albeit with a more IDM bent as emerging producer Significant Other turns in three streamlined, austere cuts. The record’s A-side track ‘Delphic’ is a propulsive, breaks-y trip that sits somewhere between drum & bass, fast-paced electro and the more relaxed bassweight of dubstep - it’s a combination that wouldn’t sound out of place on some of the best Ilian Tape records.

B-side track ‘Break The Web’ centres around bright, barely-there melodies and metallic drums that mix well with the slick UK techno of labels like Timedance and Livity Sound. It’s apt perhaps that the record’s floating, beatless closer ‘Triptan’ takes its name from the drug used to treat migraines. Across five minutes, sparse, other-worldly synths swell and fade away over and over, conjuring up a sound world befitting a sci-fi score. Throughout the record, the producer exhibits a deft hand for restraint, crafting a head-spinning sound without relying on overt club music formulas.

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