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Dance Like It's OK: New Music From Netherlands, Belgium & Germany
Theo Ploeg , July 4th, 2013 08:06

Named after the Märtini Brös’ dancefloor filler, this is The Dutch Master Theo Ploeg’s search for the best new electronic music in The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium

Deon Custom - Ametrine

The most interesting discovery at the Urban Explorers festival in Dordrecht last month was Deon Custom aka Deon van Ooijen. He has just released his first full length album on the Amsterdam based record label Basserk, known for it’s adventures into pistol pop and bass music. Well, Deon Custom is bass music for sure. Ametrine ranges from early 90s ambient techno to over-the-edge-raw dubstep power. Rather than merely copying the Trap aesthetics or trying to sound like Skrillex, Deon Custom does what Dutch bass music producers (Martyn, 2562) are good at: being unique. The two opening tracks of Ametrine are overwhelming. First there is ambient meets prog rock madness including a guitar solo, then there is ‘Luxury’, a stunning jazz-breaks track that reminds of ‘Squarepusher Theme’ from Feed Me Weird Things with slower BPMs.

However the quality isn't uniform. The more basic stuff, that seems to be influenced heavily by producers like Rustie and Rusko, is also quite good, especially when Van Ooijen is playing with different rhythms. Although it is sometimes too sugary sweet and plastic, Ametrine has a surprisingly open sound. Since his EP Mirrored Patterns (2011) he has improved his ability to combine opposites: melodic and mellow versus fierce and loud. Yet he still occasionally the playful 8-bit racket, the glitch, the optimistic synth-patterns and probing bass lines that collide... and not always in a good way. ‘Aurora’ and ‘Icy Wind’ are both examples of too many musical components being press-ganged into one single song. Luckily Van Ooijen stays focused on the rest of his debut album, making a good start in becoming the most promising future beats producers in The Netherlands.

Roel Funcken - Metheus

 (Funcken Industries)

(Eat Concrete)

Last year’s Retrograde, Roel Funcken’s second long player, was a masterpiece. In a recent interview Plaid’s Andy Turner mentioned the Dutch producer as one of his recent discoveries: “Well produced work with musicality and flow." The sound of Retrograde reminds me of Flying Lotus in his most ferocious. Funcken is deeper and rougher though while also attaining the coldness of King Midas Sound at points. He started his career in the 90s as Funckarma, together with his brother Don, who were responsible for some beautiful IDM while studying sound art in Hilversum. (Funckarma still exists and releases everything from IDM to distorted dubstep.)

Actually the solo-work of Roel Funcken isn’t that different, although it is perhaps slightly more direct, rougher and emotional. Earlier this year Funcken released his Metheus EP with five relatively short (around four minutes) excursions into dub. No subtleties here. In ‘Hillis Sent’, the best track on the EP, hits his stride with aplomb deploying probing bass, industrial noise while still laying down heavy, strident funk. This is beyond dubstep for sure. More recently the just released Dreampty EP is much more spacious. Funcken skips the dominant bass lines and emphasizes the broken rhythms and moody synth patterns. The blend of house, early techno, IDM and dub is exiting and a real departure. For Funcken genres obviously don’t exist any more. The bonus track (only available as part of the digital release) ‘Spone’ shows why Funcken is sometimes called the Dutch Photek. It's a pity this one isn’t available on vinyl.

Mineral Beings - Frames

It is a shame that Mineral Beings are relatively unknown, even in The Netherlands. Their debut album and last year's EP Bliss are filled with dreamy and catchy pop tunes. ‘Homemade’ was one of my favorite tracks of 2013. Now there is Frames, which features his best material to date and features pop songs with dreamy aesthetics and a nostalgic love for Italo disco. While being influenced by synth pop and cold wave they are unmistakably a modern act.

Their label, Zoology, is one of the most interesting in The Netherlands. Their first compilation (2012), out on cassette (check out the track ‘I Could Stay’ by Delawaere) has already become a collector's item.

‘Nightdriver’, with its beautiful video, is the perfect blend between dream wave pop and Italo house. Imperfect, compelling, sweet but also distant and edgy. Band leader and singer Merinde Verbeek sounds like a bit like an astral projection of Elisabeth Fraser on Garlands. Or, to give a more recent example, Claire Boucher. Although the beautifully slow ‘Strobe’ could have been on the OST to Drive, it has less of a retro 80s vibe. Mineral Beings are what they are: a contemporary musical answer to the current fear in society and our longing for times without problems and also a future to believe in. On the last track ‘Kapitein’ Merinde leads the way to the ghostly landscape she and her two fellow musicians (Aleksei Meier and André Luyten) have constructed.

Jorg - Esc.rec.36

"Music isn’t safe", states a voice at the beginning of ‘Unsafe’, blurring into a 90s rock and trance monster track laced with laid back hip hop beats. It’s almost as if the American producer BT has gone back to his roots. He hasn’t however. This is Lomechanik boss Jorg de Man from Nijmegen making a record for experimental music label Esc.rec. And although ‘Unsafe’ certainly lives up to his reputation as a beat maker most tracks on this album are without dance drum programming, using beats in an abstract manner. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t rhythm on this album however. Jorg started out as a radio maker and that’s still discernible in his music. His tracks are mostly layered out of samples from movies, radio shows and found sound. You could compare the result with a lo-fi version of the early work by Flying Lotus: unclean, hectic and always searching for the right end result.

But that end result - a good, clean, melodic track for instance - isn’t what Jorg is about. His music is never finished, with good reason so it seems: this is music that alters the listeners perception about what a track is and, more important, is more about sound than structure. Doesn’t mean that Jorg doesn’t use beats. ‘Name Of’ for instance, is exciting lo-fi future garage, slow and rhythmic. The same goes with ‘You’ where beats mixed to the background seem to drive a hypnotic, glitchy synth-loop of an nearly unrecognizable voice sample. In ‘Tell Ya’ Jorg is using Michael Jackson’s voice. Playing with voice samples, pitching them up or down, stretching them and altering their meaning, is what he does best, making this 36th release of the always interesting Esc.rec label a very good one.

Popnoname - Change

Since Jens-Uwe Beyer co-founded the Magazine record label and became part of Cologne Tape (together with Barnt, Crato, Jan Philipp Janzen, Michaela Dippel, Axel Willner, Jörg Burger and John Stainer) his pop project Popnoname went to the background. Single ‘Happy Gorgeous’ (2010) on Kompakt was his last musical effort. A pity. The albums White Album (2007) and Surrounded By Weather (2008) - both on Italic - are excellent representatives of the pop sound of Cologne: slick, housey and sweet. After a brilliant and experimental record Red Book under his own name on the Magazine label end of last year, he is back as Popnoname with single ‘Change’, a nice pop tune that makes me long for a new album. The remix by Matt Karmil is magic because of it’s trancy feel. Let’s hope Jens-Uwe Beyer stays in his pop feel a bit longer.