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Hyperspecific: Dance Music For Summer Reviewed By Jaša Bužinel
Jaša Bužinel , June 1st, 2021 07:47

In this month's electronic music column, Jaša Bužinel discusses Skee Mask's brilliant third album and the ongoing streaming debate, and also reviews new releases by LSDXOXO, India Jordan, BABii and Scotch Rolex

As most of you probably know by now, a most lovely thing happened early May — the third album by Skee Mask was released on Munich label Ilian Tape, and was soon followed by a banging Essential Mix by the producer. Skee Mask is one of the key producers of my generation; he literally dragged me into contemporary electronic music with his debut EPs and album Shred (2016).

Like so many other millennial electronic music aficionados, I've developed a special attachment to his musical output. I can easily relate to his immersive 'Alpine techno' aesthetic, encapsulated on his past album covers, as I come from the other side of this mountain range. Time and again, tracks like 'HAL Conv.' prompted a gratifying feeling of melancholic joy in my guts, and the same can be said for his sophomore album Compro, no doubt one of my favourite records of the last decade. His gig at club K4 in Ljubljana back in 2018 still remains my fondest clubbing experience ever, and this is also true of his performance at Dimensions Festival in 2019. So yeah, I couldn't be more biased when writing about him; still I wanted to address some interesting aspects of his creative approach that continues to inspire me and others.

Considering the hundreds of press releases that end up in my mailbox daily, most of them blatantly hyping the next big thing, in the case of Pool it was really refreshing to just get a totally unexpected new record. The absence of a press release, an industry standard that has unfortunately come to define how most people write about music, opened up a possibility for everyone to develop their own intimate relationship with the record. (I must add this has been the case with most Ilian Tape releases.) It's interesting that artists seem to be more and more attentive regarding the narratives that develop around their releases, and most often these are defined by their press firms, leaving little space for journalists (and perhaps even fans) to consider them from other points of view.

As Simon Reynolds wrote in his much-discussed article on conceptronica, many artists in the experimental electronic music sphere have been relying on complex overarching concepts and theoretical narratives regarding their releases, and in recent years we've observed a similar trend even in functional club music. This wouldn't be problematic if it weren't for the fact that these narratives, regarding politics, identity, history or other serious topics, often feel forced, even exaggerated, functioning as a guarantee of more serious consideration from critics and the public. For this reason, it's just nice to just get eighteen fresh tracks, simply defined as "a continuation of my music" and "my favourites from the past four or five years," for our enjoyment.

The other thing is that Skee Mask has been a vocal critic of streaming platforms and their exploitation of people's artistry. For his third album, with the support of his label, he finally decided to offer it firstly as a Bandcamp digital exclusive and LP, announcing he'll be making it available in record shops and on platforms like YouTube and iTunes at a later date. As expected, all 700 physical copies of the record sold out right away, and a repress is on its way. He discussed this topic in detail in a recent interview for Shawn Reynaldo's newsletter First Floor. "Even if only one artist is inspired to do the same thing I did, I would be happy," he confessed, and hopefully he actually managed to ingrain this idea in the minds of young artists who are still paving their way.

To paraphrase Žižek (and/or Jameson), it's become easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to greedy streaming platforms. "I'd like to see them treat artists with more respect," he added, repeating what most artists probably want for themselves as well, but so few actually dare try. "Until I see a real change, I'm keeping the album off streaming services," he added, prompting the idea of what would actually happen if a collective body of artists suddenly decided to pull their music off these platforms — we can think of it in terms of an actual old school strike, labour unions' most powerful weapon that kind of became obsolete in the past 30 years of unscrupulous neoliberalism, or so they made us believe. The late David Graeber's famous quote comes to mind here: "The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently" — as one of the most visible independent electronic music artists going against the grain, Skee Mask is definitely a living proof of it.

Be sure to take 100 minutes off for this one — it's a beast of a record. You'll know what I mean when you hear the '80s hair metal solo in the track 'Harrison Ford'.

India Jordan - Watch Out!
(Ninja Tune)

About a week ago, India Jordan posted a few very special videos of themselves playing to a frenzied sitting crowd at Colour Factory in London and dropping old school bombs along with their fresh productions. It felt quite pristine to watch people shuffling and raving behind a picnic table, and it's exactly this kind of radiant energy, one we associate with the 1990-1992 period, that's come to define Jordan's recent output, firstly with last year's breakthrough EP For You, and now with the follow-up for Ninja Tune on which they deliver five uncompromising festival bangers.

Compared to other contemporaries retracing the hardcore continuum, Jordan could be described as a traditionalist, taking the best from the existing forms and slightly readapting them for a modern crowd — propulsive breaks, fervent diva vocals, energising synth stabs, recognisable piano rolls, wailing sirens... they've got it all covered. But tracks like 'Only Said Enough' and 'Watch Out!' don't succumb to plain pastiche; it's more like a continuation from where producers dropped off in the early '90s. With its simple but inventive sampling method, the springy track 'You Can't Expect The Cars To Stop If You Haven't Pressed The Button', which features field recordings of traffic lights from Dublin, brings to mind the legendary club track 'Percolator'.

The high speed house gem 'Feierabend', a German word for the end of the working day, captures the feeling of jumping on your bike on a Friday afternoon and speeding home where your friends await you with a pre-party for a night out. The star of the EP, though, is the mellow vocal house track 'And Groove', which embraces you like the first rays of light after a night of open air raving. The EP possesses an uplifting and reassuring vibe à la producer Dance System, making you feel that despite the catastrophic situation on the club scene and festival circuit everything's gonna be OK. With summer just around the corner, Watch Out! is exactly what we needed. Heavy festival rotation guaranteed!


Following last month's outstanding second album by Iglooghost, the Gloo collective delivers a colourful and luminescent hybrid pop release from BABii (real name Daisy Emily Warne), one of the label's co-founders, who is known for her warped electronic pop touch. Conceptualised as a kind of pop gesamtkunstwerk, MiiRROR consists of an album, a fantasy book, an alternate reality game, specially designed costumes, and a live A/V show coming to your town this winter.

Beside the label's recent output, the album brings to mind the introspective Scandinavian hyperpop-adjacent trap of the Swedish label YEAR001, especially artists like Ecco2k and Bladee, but with a different kind of melancholy poetics. The intimacy of the record is inspired by the artist's recent reunification with her mother, dissecting her childhood memories and reflecting on maternal figures. We could easily imagine it as a soul-crushing indie songwriter record, but BABii manages to translate the same sincerity into hyper-modern pop songs with the sort of material quality pioneered by Sophie, Jimmy Edgar, AG Cook and the like. In a sense, it feels like an expansion of the niche world-building process of her companions, absorbing influences from all corners of the internet and instinctively switching between digital R&B, UKG grooves, hyperpop tropes, dramatic trance arpeggios and other inspired mutations.

BABii's second solo album is a tight-knit collection of structurally vibrant songs and is defined by a weird ambience of fairytale futurity, existing at an intersection between Dungeons & Dragons and Final Fantasy. It exists in a glowing Gloo universe made up of anime characters, inner demons, guardian angels and other imaginary entities. MiiRROR is a wistful and cathartic experimental electronic pop record from an artist destined to enchant the world with her fantastical artistic vision.

Scotch Rolex - Tewari
(Hakuna Kulala)

Some will remember the outlandish Berlin-based producer Shigeru Ishihara for his amusing, at times manic Boiler Room live set as DJ Scotch Egg — a thrilling performance that included Gameboys, a flowery apron, frying pans, pancakes and LED sunglasses. In the past few years, the Japanese veteran, known for his signature hardcore chiptune approach, has worked with Kiki Hitomi as the duo WaqWaq Kingdom and played bass for Warp Records-affiliates Seefeel. He now returns with a new moniker and a furious collaborative album for Nyege Nyege Tapes and Hakuna Kalala, which features some of the most exciting MCs from the collective.

As in the case of Rian Treanor and other temporary residents, the LP is a result of his residency in Kampala where he got involved with the local artists and started to expand his sound palette accordingly. The influence these residencies have had on the global scene is simply astonishing. We're witnessing a viral transmission of stylistic influences – think of Steve Goodman's concept of global ghettotech as a meta-movement – born out of the experimental East African scene throughout the global electronic underground, which wouldn't be possible without the passion of regional enthusiasts. As a case study of cultural cross-pollination, connecting the dots between various continents, Tewari offers eleven powerful tracks featuring MC Yallah, Swordman Kitala, Chrisman, Don Zilla and Duma's Lord Spikeheart.

Opting for a fully authentic sound, the Japanese producer fuses his 8-bit aesthetic with filthy trap and metallic dancehall beats, African polyrhythms, abrasive grindcore sonics and horrorcore atmospherics. It may be club music, but this definitely isn't cocktail party music, more like an augmented, radical electronic version of Napalm Death-inspired extreme metal, calling for ruthless headbanging, stage-diving and circle pits. I think both ravers and metalheads could agree on this.


Another up-and-comer, whose musical output has been directly influenced by his visit at the Nyege Nyege Festival in 2019, is the enigmatic Moscovian producer WULFFLUW XCIV. After raising hell with collaborative debut We Are All From The Earth (2018), which featured ten musicians from around the world, and his innovative solo debut Ngoma Injection on Hakuna Kulala, one of the most gutsy electronic records of 2020, he continues his quest for future club sounds, pushing the boundaries of global ghettotech styles into uncharted territory.

It's interesting that the EP bets on a similarly rough and distorted sound palette as found on Scotch Rolex's latest release, which was informed by the flourishing scene in Kampala and other non-European scenes. As in the case of the mutant expression defined as "rough kuduro" by Nazar and as Maximal Dance Music by Maoupa Mazzocchetti, Hyperemia is a shining example of relentless club futurism that boldly plays the future shock card. It's a monstrous amalgam of urban genres originating from the "Planet Of Slums," such as reggaeton, bailefunk, dancehall, gqom, the most abrasive permutations of the hardcore continuum (gabber, breakcore, D&B), noisy experimental sonics and menacing vocal manipulations. Equal parts deconstructed and functional, this is grotesquely massive club music.

The shocking intro 'Forrest Shatters' immediately sets the pace, functioning as a transition from an idyllic forest into the grimy depths of the underground club in which we're assaulted with bursts of contemporary sonic warfare with an ear-bleeding impact (see tracks like 'Fuzza', 'Evil Gang' with Elvin Brandhi, and 'Hyperemia' for reference). Keep your eyes peeled on WULFFLUW XCIV,who is one of the most intrepid club music trailblazers of the moment.

Breaka - Breaka 3

After the summer-hit-to-be 'The Dolphins Are Back In Venice', co-produced by Breaka and Guava and out, made the rounds on various radio shows, Breaka delivered the third instalment of his self-released EP series in mid-May. The Londoner's made a name on the UK bass/techno circuit with his exciting releases for labels such as Holding Hands, Beat Machine and Off Beat, showcasing a smooth, detailed and bass-heavy new generation club aesthetic inspired both by the UK heritage and contemporary vanguard labels like Timedance, Livity Sound and Wisdom Teeth.

Breaka 3 brings forth four straightforwardly fun club cuts, each with a distinct allusion to a certain strain of the UK sound. On the record's first side, 'The Loudest Woiioii Ever' and 'Phone Ringing', two high-octane stompers co-produced by Frazer Ray, remind me of the Version label gang as well as recent releases on Martyn's 3024. They take cues from Loefah's wobbly sub frequencies and Roska's rhythmic syncopations, readapting them to the requirements of a new decade. But the beauty of Breaka's productions lies in his personal touch, like the euphoric chipmunk vocals and sun-soaked piano stabs.

On the flip side, he presents the first two tracks he co-produced with his brother Bakey. With its sensual junglist vocals and cartoonish violin samples, 'Club Dynamics' is the bastard son of the futurist tendencies of jungle and street immediacy of juke. Ending on a more pensive but still 100% groovy note, the minimalist UKG closer 'Pro Perc' once again proves that Breaka is no doubt one of the foremost representatives of the continually mutating UK sound.

Vivian Koch - Beyond Contact

As the founder of the interdisciplinary arts collective Olympe Fatale, who's been DJing since she was 16, Vivian Koch has left a mark on the Berlin scene as a genre-defying resident DJ at now-closed Berlin club Griessmuehle where she's been refining her style and skills. In 2019, Koch released the mini album The Owleon on A.R.T.less and an EP of atmospheric electro cuts on Danny Daze's OMNIDISC, both possessing the intergalactic electro warmth of cult figures like James Stinson and Gerard Hanson.

On her debut for Nic Tasker's forward-looking outlet AD93, home of some of the most exploratory electronic music in recent years, she takes her subtle melodicism to a whole new level. Beyond Contact leaves behind the immediate functionality of her previous releases for a more poetic and trance-inducing experience. As suggested by the accompanying poem – "Once you enter the field of unity, you will feel the infinite source" – it's all about total immersion. Koch conjures floating synth-scapes ('I Know You're Here'); pensive electro meditations ('Closer', 'Enter'); and airy IDM dreamscapes ('Lil Birdy Starts To Fly Again', 'Who'), which all bear her production mark of all-encompassing pads with a breezy aura. The image her music evokes is that of a glimmering glacial terrain covered in a dusk orange light, as reflected by the cover art.

Big Ever - Otto EP

Debuting as Cop Envy in 2016, Aussie producer Thomas McAlister's been steadily delivering club heaters for labels like Black Opal, Templar Sound, DECISIONS and Hypercolour in the years since. After working with his partner Logic1000 on her excellent EP You've Got The Whole Night To Go, he's back with a startling debut release under a new moniker for the respected New York label Incienso, run by Anthony Naples and Jenny Slattery and known for its releases by DJ Python, Call Super and Sleep D.

Big Ever delivers four sonically dense bangers in the hard drum strain that vary in style, but are all tailored for peak time mayhem. 'Rolled Into' is a breaksy electro track with dramatic hovering synths and a slapping snare drum. The beautiful 'Burst Dial', one of the tracks I really long to hear in a club ASAP, may be described as a tribute to that awesome late '90s UK tech house sound, popularised by Bushwacka! and labels like Wiggle. The pensive closer 'Otto' is designed in a similarly trippy tone, functioning as a superb tool for lachrymose daybreak moments on the dance floor. McAlister also presents his take on contemporary mutant dancehall, as found on labels like Nervous Horizon and Control Freak, encapsulated in the hip-shaking 'Apti'.

LSDXOXO - Dedicated 2 Disrespect

2021 is undoubtedly the year of LSDXOXO! He recently appeared in a video for VTSS' banger 'Going Nuts', which features his vocals, while VTSS' on-spot vocal mashup of his track 'Sick Bitch' from a mix for HÖR Berlin has accumulated an astounding 550k views in only half a year. The New York via Berlin artist, famous for his bombastic persona, has never shied away from fame, but it's only now that he's starting to fully break through.

As expected from an agent provocateur of his stature, LSDXOXO's music pertains to the lineage of cult African-American producers, such as DJ Assault, DJ Deeon and the whole Dance Mania crew. The highly awaited stomper 'Sick Bitch', a contemporary twist on the sexually explicit ghettotech of the '90s, features on Dedicated 2 Disrespect, his debut EP for XL. "The devil fuck me good," he teases on the EP's bouncy opener 'Devil'. This kind of erotic undercurrent runs through all of the record's tracks. The pounding techno-tinged 'Baby' revolves around the sample of a moaning woman and a repetitive refrain – "Baby, burn, fame." But it's his most personal and straightforward track, the Masters At Work-inspired house hit 'Mutant Exotic' that really hits the nail for me, with its killer refrain: "I'm mutant exotic, homo erotic, feel my motherfuckin' bass in your body, I could be the devil or maybe I'm a goddess, clap your hands for Miss Mutant Exotic." Dedicated 2 Disrespect is all out naughty house music that will spank you like your favourite lover.