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Hyperspecific: January And February's Electronic Music
Christian Eede , February 14th, 2019 12:43

Our electronic music column Hyperspecific returns for 2019 featuring new releases from Anastasia Kristensen (pictured) on Warp sub-label Arcola, Substance on Ostgut Ton and Ossia on Blackest Ever Black, amongst others

The first edition of Hyperspecific for 2019 brings you a number of interpretations of breaks, an ever-present and ever-popular sound in electronic music. Ilana Bryne’s debut record, featured below, sees her, as a resident of the US midwest, offer her interpretation of classic UK and US rave music, folding in a love of ‘90s hardcore, jungle and D&B. Substance, AKA DJ Pete, a veteran of the scene, swaps his hushed dub techno experimentations under the alias that dates back to the late ‘90s for a roaring, fractured take on the breakbeat sound. Anastasia Kristensen, like Bryne, channels the energy and rude basslines of UK hardcore into an impressive full EP debut. Featured amongst them is doom-laden soundsystem music from Ossia, hypnotic polyrhythms from Bambounou and vital percussive club music from Melbourne’s DJ Plead. All of them demonstrate that the year in electronic music is already in fine form.

Anastasia Kristensen - Ascetic

Following on from some compilation and remix appearances, as well as a number of killer online mixes, in recent years, Anastasia Kristensen steps out on Warp sub-label Arcola for her standalone debut EP. While Kristensen’s sound as a DJ is very much grounded in driving, rough-edged techno, Ascetic offers a number of takes on this idea, further stretching out into influences of jungle and '90s hardcore. The title track is a patient, rolling techno cut, centred around dusky synths that come off like ominous church bells.

Over on the record’s flipside those synths find their way onto ‘Ascetic (In Breaks)’, an alternate take on the title track which brings to the fore Kristensen’s love of rave and hardcore as is often displayed in her DJ sets. Expertly programmed breaks and a menacing bassline show she’s just as at home making speedy, broken club music as she is loop-driven techno. ‘LXR Jam’, as the title suggests, is a scuzzy, stripped-back machine-driven cut, complete with spluttering synths and punchy kicks, while 'Donni', closing the record, rekindles the industrial edge of ‘LXR Jam’ with wheezing drums, A creeping, crystalline melody on the track’s breakdown breaks things up before drifting away as the track rolls back into life. If Ascetic is a window into what we can expect from Kristensen as a producer in the future, it’s clear that she’s eager to play around with techno’s functionalities.

Ascetic is out on March 1.

Ilana Bryne - Low Earth Orbit EP

Low Earth Orbit is the debut release from Wisconsin’s Ilana Bryne, and sees Lisbon-based DJ and producer Violet’s naive label continue an affiliation with the US midwest electronic music scene established last year with the release of Eris Drew and Octo Octa’s split 12” Devotion. naive since its first release from Violet in 2017 (seek out the excellent ‘Togetherness’ from that record if you haven’t already) has developed a deep-set appreciation of the breakbeats and rave sounds of ’90s UK dance music. That’s a fondness that continues on Low Earth Orbit, as Bryne pairs her love of UK sounds with the smoother edges of house music from the US midwest, particularly Chicago.

Opening track ‘Dub Box Medicine’ introduces the breakbeats from the get-go, the drums peppered with synth flourishes that sit somewhere between the hedonism of ‘90s rave music and smudged chords of early German dub techno. Its driving, syncopated breaks, sugary breakdown and MC-style vocal samples are primed for dancefloors. ‘Feelin’ Myself’ occupies the rest of the A-side and finds Bryne drawing more on US house music, its beats coming off like a fuller, less laidback take on the Mood Hut sound of Vancouver. B-side cut ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm’ pairs a silky vocal sample of the titular phrase with swung 2-step UKG drums and the kind of smooth chords that run through the record, while Toronto scene leader Ciel rounds out proceedings with a remix of that same track. She carries over the airy synths of the original, giving them space to breathe over subtle bursts of bass and more breaks. Breakbeat is an increasingly popular reference point for a lot of current club music, but on Low Earth Orbit, Bryne proves her love of the sound stretches back way further than simply tapping into the zeitgeist.

Low Earth Orbit is out on February 22.

Substance - Rise & Shine
(Ostgut Ton)

Before the release last month of Rise & Shine, DJ Pete’s Substance alias had been quiet for over 20 years. His late ‘90s releases under the moniker on the legendary Chain Reaction are essential releases in that label’s back catalogue and to the development of dub techno as a sound. In the years since, while balancing his interest in techno as a producer and regular guest at Berghain, the Wax Treatment parties he co-founded in Berlin in 2009 have given that city a much-needed home for bass and soundsystem music. While frequently leaning towards the techno that would sound at home at Berghain, his keen interest in bass frequencies does come through on Rise & Shine.

The title track, which veers away from driving techno kick drums, lurches forwards with a hefty kick at the start of each four-bar loop. Its delicate synths and restrained rhythms might make it the perfect opening track to a techno-focused DJ set. ‘Countdown’ follows with a combination of broken drums and sorrowful pads that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Ilian Tape record by Skee Mask or Andrea. The drone-led beatless experimentation of ‘Bird Cave’ follows guiding the record into darker climes before the curio buzzsaw synths of another shorter cut - titled ‘Distance’ - offer the most obvious look back to the weightless dub techno of ‘90s-era Substance. Closer ‘Cruising’ is the most functional of the lot and certainly sounds like it was made with techno dancefloors such as Berghain’s in mind. A rougher sound than the Substance of the ‘90s is certainly at play across Rise & Shine - it remains to be seen whether this is the first step in a new direction for the moniker.

Rise & Shine is out now.

DJ Plead - Pleats Plead
(Nervous Horizon)

London’s Nervous Horizon label has become a go-to source of head-spinning drum tracks in recent years, particularly thanks to the productions of label heads TSVI and Wallwork. Their previous release, a debut album from TSVI which arrived late last year, saw the producer pair banging percussion tools with influences from his own Hindu upbringing and the traditions of Sufi Islam introduced to him by his partner. For the label’s first release of 2019, Melbourne native DJ Plead meshes drum workouts with cues from his Lebanese heritage such as the country’s pop music and traditional wedding music.

Opener ‘Baharat’ centres around twisted samples of Lebanese flutes and the hard drum sound that labels like Her Records have been eagerly pushing in recent years. Across the record, the producer largely opts to keep things stripped back, combining tough kicks and hand percussion with the occasional melodic flourish. A compressed Mijwiz sample runs through ‘Liquify’ while ‘Shoulder Pop’ lurches forward with a halftime swagger. The rhythms on ‘Crash and Burn’, meanwhile, call to mind the peaks of UK funky, shot through with earworm melodies courtesy of the Lebanese instruments that run through much of the record. Pleats Plead is a decidedly dancefloor-focused EP that has a lot to offer to those, like me, that are a sucker for a drum track.

Pleats Plead is out on March 1.

Bambounou - Whities 021

Bambounou’s first record for Whities has its root in a set the French DJ and producer played at Wales’ Freerotation festival in 2017. He produced a number of tracks especially for that set, and now three of them find their way out into the world on Whities 021. Based around polyrhythms and entrancing chime-like melodies, the influence of producers like Don’t DJ - whose DISK label Bambounou incidentally put out an excellent three-tracker called Parametr Perkusja with last year - is evident on this latest record.

The stumbling rhythms of the first half of ‘Temple’ recall the restraint of some of the best Margaret Dygas records - see her Even 11 record released on Perlon in 2016. Hypnotic bells and faintly choral pads dance around the rolling drums, the Parisian finding a sweet spot between the broken beats of current UK techno and the deep, spacey techno of producers like Peter Van Hoesen and Mike Parker. ‘Tour’ strips things back further, built around bleep-y, looping synths and shifting, offbeat kicks. ‘Seize-Sept’ is this record’s closest step to the loop-driven, hypnotic techno you might expect from labels like Van Hoesen’s Time To Express or Donato Dozzy and Neel’s Spazio Disponibile. The rhythms still refuse to play by the four-on-the-floor techno rulebook, but present are the kind of droning, entrancing synths and curio, off-key melodies that would sound at home in a DJ set by Dozzy or Van Hoesen, amongst others. Whities 021 is a further step in an increasingly fruitful direction for Bambounou as he continues to put his own spin on loop-based techno.

Whities 021 is out on February 22.

Ossia - Devil’s Dance
(Blackest Ever Black)

As the head of the labels No Corner, Hotline, Fuckpunk, Lava Lava and Peng Sound, Dan Davies - better known as Ossia - has become a central figure for soundsystem music in Bristol. His own releases, and those of his labels, sit at the intersection of dub, noise, post-punk and the UK techno that has become a cornerstone of Bristol’s dance music scene thanks to labels like Timedance, Livity Sound and Wisdom Teeth. Davies’ debut album as Ossia is a foggy amalgamation of all of the sounds he and his labels have explored over the years.

Opener ‘Concrete’ lulls into action on a bed of hissing noise and sub-bass, soon to be joined by a loop of solemn chords and strings. It’s an immediate introduction to the dusky sound world that Davies pushes across Devil’s Dance. Some tracks - ‘Radiation’ and the 23-minute ‘Vertigo’ namely - fold in wistful sax lines which occasionally break through the dense, smoggy electronics underneath. ‘Dub Hell’, a cut which first saw release on a limited 12” last year again through Blackest Ever Black, and accompanying track ‘Hell Version’ employ chugging drums and dub-inflected bursts of noise that move Devil’s Dance closest to straightforward 4x4 material. The album’s closing tracks - ‘Inertia’ and ‘Vertigo’ - push the LP back into the unknown. The shadowy vocals of the latter suggest a step away from the gloom that runs through much of the album’s first half, but the extended runtime of the record’s closer creates a kind of auditory purgatory, fluctuating between moments of redemption and retribution. A deep and engrossing listen, Devil’s Dance is unapologetically murky.

Devil’s Dance is out now.