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Hyperspecific: February And March's Electronic Music
Christian Eede , March 20th, 2018 12:36

For the first edition of Hyperspecific this year, Christian Eede looks at new releases from upsammy, Leif, Midland's recently launched Intergraded label and more.

Nous'klaer Audio-signed DJ and producer upsammy

The first edition of Hyperspecific for 2018 arrives with the usual round-up of releases from across the electronic music spectrum to tip my hat to, but this first column for the year also comes with the news that I will soon be translating this round-up into a (hopefully) digestible audio format via a monthly radio show shared here on tQ’s pages.

Pulling together this column every other month can be a challenge, not so much in that it’s a struggle to dig for the good stuff to share, but rather in that in the age we find ourselves, in which word limits are required to ensure that readers stay until the end of an article, it can be hard to cap the selection. Lots of great music made by people who deserve attention thus falls through the cracks. The monthly show will therefore give me some chance to cast the net further with the releases and variants of electronic music that this column covers.

Hyperspecific will still continue in written form on a bi-monthly basis, but the inaugural edition of the Hyperspecific radio show will go online later this month and run monthly from hereon, with full tracklists. Keep an eye out for the first show coming to the site soon and continue below for some highlights from the year so far covering gritty, industrial flavours from Job Sifre, acid-tinged minimal from Etienne and more.

upsammy - Another Place
(Nous’klaer Audio)

Since its first release in 2013, Dutch label Nous’klaer Audio has leaned towards club music that is emotionally charged, punctuated by uplifting arpeggios and moments of dancefloor euphoria. These Torsing, aka upsammy, first appeared on the label last year, via a various artists entitled Paerels. The two tracks featured marked the first ever release of material from the DJ and producer who can regularly be found playing at Amsterdam club De School. ‘A Picture Of U’ on that compilation stayed in line with the label’s affinity for shimmering, synth-laden dance music but contorted around a drum loop more in line with ‘90s IDM, while ‘Wish I Could Still…’ slowed the place stripping back the percussion for a more understated, yet captivating, affair that shared parallels with the hypnotic kosmiche sounds of early German experimentalists.

For her first full solo EP, Another Place, Torsing continues to play around with the hallmarks of what makes a Nous’klaer record. Opener ‘Zona’ aptly offers a chance to zone out as zaps of percussion and a rattling sample dance around eerie synth play that once again harks back to the more wistful moments of IDM during the late 20th century. It’s an early highlight proving Torsing is just as comfortable creating music for moments away from the dancefloor as she is the club itself. ’09-06’ following it centres around a faintly acidic loop and shifting drums, its constituent elements sitting at a cross-section between lighter and moodier club moments. On the flipside, ‘Another Place’ comes off like an unfussy but effective electro jam, once again bringing to the forefront Thorsing’s eye for gorgeous synth loops, while closer ‘A Window’ sees the record go full circle with a sparse rhythmic framework and graceful pads. There’s not a moment of filler on Torsing’s debut full EP and with such a promising start to her catalogue, she undoubtedly has a very bright future ahead.

Leif - Bluebird / Number 13
(Tio Series)

Following on from the inaugural release in 2016 on his own Tio Series label, which sees Welsh producer and Freerotation resident Leif issue his own tracks via a series of 10”s, he returns a little over a year on with two more offerings in the form of ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Number 13’. The second release in the series follows a similar pattern to that of the first with the producer once again building earworm melodies from gorgeous bell sounds. On the A side, ‘Bluebird’ hovers just below the 140 BPM mark building from a click-clack drum pattern and blossoming with gorgeous strings and synths, occasionally drenched in reverb, that recall the dizzying, sugary thrill of old video game soundtracks.

Over on the flipside, ‘Number 13’ slows the pace with polyrhythms and the kind of hypnotic modular synthesis that wouldn’t sound out of place amongst the headier moments of producers like Donato Dozzy’s output before a grin-inducing, almost childlike bell loop enters the mix recurring in different strains with every 16-bar round. The components of this latest record from Leif are strikingly simple but, as with so much of his past output, effective in teetering on the precipice between music primed for dancefloor functionality and home listening - music to get lost in no matter the setting.

Ex-Terrestrial - Urth Born
(Pacific Rhythm)

Ex-Terrestrial is the pseudonym of Montreal producer Adam Feingold, whose release credentials under the latter name include outings on labels such as 1080p and Funkineven’s Apron. That output was coloured by lo-fi, gritty and hard-edged techno and electro, albeit frequently coloured by woozy pads. Feingold’s first turn to the Ex-Terrestrial alias in 2016 though, once again released via 1080p, saw him zone in on his ear for dreamy melodies and his overall oeuvre growing notably lighter in comparison to previous work via downtempo breakbeats and moments of beatless ambience. Returning once again to the alias at the start of this year, the four-track Portal Vision harked back to the bleep era of early ‘90s Warp and further refined the sounds explored on his debut release under the alias.

Two months on and Feingold’s next release as Ex-Terrestrial sees him join up with Vancouver-based label Pacific Rhythm known for its stoner-indebted, laid-back dance jams that frequently see the label associated with fellow Vancouver mainstay Mood Hut. Made up of four tracks, Feingold doesn’t switch up the formula for Urth Born, but it’s no less for it. Opener ‘Urth Man’ ruminates around warped plucks of guitar, breakbeats and cooed vocal loops offset by lingering squelches of acid. Following it, ‘Everybody Dreams’ is a highlight, as the hazy pads of the spaced-out intro, complete with the sample of a dog barking, reveals a driving, almost motorik drum loop and balearic pianos that sit firmly on the right side of tasteful. ‘Water Walk’ sees Feingold return to the breakbeats, serving up an additional slice of downtempo glory before Montreal producer Priori brings it home with a reworking of ‘Water Walk’ which strips away the breakbeats for mesmeric drops of 303 acid which contort across the track’s seven minutes. Following on from a strong release in summer last year by D. Tiffany, Ex-Terrestrial’s Urth Born sees Pacific Rhythm continue their strike rate for characterful dance music that oozes warmth.

Job Sifre - Het Bestaan

Now 13 releases in, Amsterdam label Knekelhuis has established itself as a reliable outlet for grittier, more industrial-edged electronic music in the years that have followed their first record back in 2014. Knekelhuis’ first release for 2018 sees relative newcomer Job Sifre step up to the label for the first time coming off the back of a debut record for Dutch label Artificial Dance late last year which explored the intersection between new wave and sludgy techno. On Het Bestaan, the producer serves up another five cuts of killer EBM-indebted club music. Opener ‘Bestaan’ glides along at a chugging pace around an electro drum pattern and Sifre’s commanding dutch vocal while ‘Zodiak’ serves as a collision of drum machines and lo-fi synths, with the record retaining an unpolished edge across its five tracks.

Over on the B side, ‘Mars Express’ might leave some of those listening to their vinyl copies scratching their heads. Cruising at just below 100 BPM, it’s certainly prime for some wrong speed experimentations from the more curious of DJs and home listeners with its warped, paranoid vocal loop buried heavily within the clash of drums and analogue synths. ‘At Least We Try’, closing out the record, is where Sifre really shines here. Sitting somewhere between ‘80s new wave and ‘70s glam, the producer stretches out across nine minutes with psychedelia in abundance. It’s no wonder that it’s been a regular feature of Lena Willikens’ hypnotic club sets of late.

Various - Introduction EP / Hi & Saberhägen - Light On Leaves EP

The second sub-label of Midland’s Graded imprint (following on from the 2015 launch of its sample-based disco arm Regraded), Intergraded sees DJ and producer Harry Agius, better known as Midland, provide a platform for new and emerging producers. “The idea for the label came about after being sent unreleased music and ideas by a number of artists over the last year,” Agius said when launching the label at the start of the year. Intergraded’s first release, the simply titled Introduction EP, is a various artists affair, comprised of four tracks from as many different producers. Two of those, SIREN member Jay and NTS Radio regular Peach, make their production debut with the label. The former’s ‘Balsam Drum’ opens out on dubby, bass-driven percussion not too far removed from the most interesting strands of UK techno emerging of late, with Jay pushing bare-bones, conga-aligned drum work alongside a stripped back, gnarly synth line that doesn’t fully enter proceedings until the halfway mark.

Peach’s contribution to the record, ‘Silky’, meanwhile takes an airier approach with gorgeous pads, a driving baseline and crooning vocals that give the track a timeless finish. Off the back of a series of self-released records, Body In The Thames’ ‘Silver Thread Crystal Beads’ builds around a UK funky-reminiscent drum pattern and shimmering melodies while Webstarr’s ‘The Muse’ offers a more measured take on the forward-thinking brooding synths.

Following up quickly on the label’s first release, Intergraded’s second record presents four tracks from Scottish duo Hi & Saberhägen who are residents at Edinburgh club Sneaky Pete’s, where they first met Midland having booked him to play at the venue. Having passed on some tracks following that, now arrives the Light On Leaves EP. Opener ‘Loveless’ circles around cinematic chords, crackly sound effects and a captivating lead vocal. ‘Parachute’ brings the tempo down slightly with its sleazy drums, while the flipside offers more in the way of introspection via the twinkling melodies of closer ‘Alright’ and the title track’s chirpy pads and chugging percussion. Following on from a strong breakout release in 2016 via the Yumé label, the Light On Leaves EP proves that Hi & Saberhägen have much more to offer in the vein of downtempo club jams.

Etienne - V3 EP

SEQUALOG is the label of French producers Etienne and TC80, founded last year as a means of giving the pair an outlet to release their own music on their own terms. The label’s third release sees Etienne stepping up for his first standalone record on the imprint with four tracks of classy minimal techno and swung drums. On the A side, ‘V3’ centres around a simple acid loop and dissonant synths anchored to thumping kick drums, while ‘Hpno’ retains the 303 bassline of its predecessor, only this time with more wigged out, hypnotic results.

The drums on ‘Halcyon’ are harder still with Etienne stripping back the elements further with a rather low-key acid hook and shifting hi-hats. The closer ‘Azur’ is where Etienne really shines on V3 though, with the producer turning his hand to more overt melodies. The throbbing kicks remain, but roll along underneath soothing pads that sit somewhere between vocal and synth manipulation. Recent years have seen producers and DJs within the minimal techno scene increasingly drawing from the sound palette of acid house and electro, be it in their productions or DJ sets, and Etienne’s V3 is a prime example of the magic that can happen when it’s done right.