Hyperspecific: Electronic Music for June Reviewed by Jaša Bužinel

Your latest electronic music roundup brings an eclectic list of top-shelf singles, albums and EPs, from innovative UK techno and eco-charged electronica to deep crate reissues, maximalist new age vibes, and club acrobatics from Miami. 

Nuno Beats, photo by Marta Pina

When UK pop artist PinkPantheress drops clickbait bombs saying that songs needn’t be longer than two minutes and 30 seconds, though at first I can’t help myself from reacting like a prog rocker getting mad at the Ramones, on further reflection I agree with her completely. Some songs really don’t have to be longer than 17 seconds. Sometimes even four seconds will do. Musicians have understood this for a long time. But something tells me there’s something deeper going on behind the surface of her statement. Billie Eilish’s suggestion to her fans that they should listen to her latest album as a unified whole, from the first to the last song, also seems to hint at changing consumer habits.    

It is an old idea that in our dopamine-driven age our attention spans are being shortened by big tech (although some scientists are telling us it’s more nuanced). What I’m more interested in, however, is how the notion has influenced contemporary cultural forms. It’s not that this issue, if we may call it one, is only applicable to the youth. It is obviously an intergenerational affair. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with short video forms, short songs and short books (interestingly, the movie industry is still pushing lengthy sagas), it does invite us to question whether these trends will have a long-term impact on how we are equipped to tackle longer forms as a culture. Are albums dying? Are War And Peace and In Search Of Lost Time bound to be discarded? Will there ever be another Sátántangó

We needn’t be all that melodramatic, but focusing on the contemporary dance music scene, I reckon that the demand for constant peak-time energy, familiar vocal hooks and a “bangers only” policy could be regarded as symptoms of the same trends. Are club tracks that exceed the 3 or 4-minute mark unnecessary? Are lengthy disco-via-techno blends on rotary mixers now doomed to be a thing of the past? Is the idea of storytelling in DJ culture just a 90s gimmick? Thinking about such dispiriting takes, I’m reminded of Jeff Mills’ early mixes, notably the legendary Liquid Room Tokyo, and how he would mix records with just 30-second intervals, one after the other.

Was Mills catering to the short attention span of 90s ravers, or was it more about forging new aesthetics? That set is basically all-out, full-frontal assault techno, and that is exactly what makes it a classic. So what’s the difference between this and younger DJs mixing club pop edit after club pop edit in their own strange ways? Is there a difference between what PinkPantheress is saying and what the Ramones were doing? Isn’t this debate ultimately about tapping the unlocked potential of shorter formats? The respective approaches of the artists mentioned above vary immensely, but from a purely aesthetic point of view, isn’t it ultimately about a collective need for immediacy, directness and immediate impact?

Nuno BeatsSai Do CoraçãoPríncipe

I still fail to comprehend how no major label has yet discovered Príncipe’s inventive beat-making strategies. They have been consistently putting out original music since 2011, and it seems counter-intuitive that no “big act” has yet offered them a crossover pop collab. Still, it may be exactly due to their niche position in the wider scene that they have maintained their vision intact, uncompromised by trend cycles. Aside from dancefloor-oriented output, the Lisbon label’s catalogue also boasts “armchair releases” with a strong pop sensibility such as last year’s Ansiedade by DJ Danifox. Young producer Nuno Beats, member of the production collective RS Produções, takes a similar path on his newest outing. His sensual, slowed-down, beat-based tunes range from the sorrowful and melancholic (‘Sai Do Coração’, ‘With Wine’, ‘Me Cuna’, ‘Muito Sono’) to more tense polyrhythmic constructions (‘Confusão No Ghetto’, ‘N_Dengue’), but the most refreshing surprises on this mini album are the moments where warmer hues and romantically-charged vibes come to the front. It is impossible not to fantasise about ghostly pop vocals hovering over the grooves while getting lost in the bittersweet melodies of ‘7 Apaixonados’ and ‘Na Morau’. 


Isn’t it insane how the environmental crisis has been completely sidetracked since the pandemic? We are facing catastrophe, our bodies (and balls) are filled with microplastics, but hey, at least eco-anxiety has prompted some great albums! Two of my recent favourites are Daniel Bachman’s Almanac Behind and Iglooghost’s Tidal Memory Exo. On his debut album, French producer Basile3, affiliate of labels like Paradoxe Club and InFiné, dives deep into similar topics, though employs completely different aesthetics. Revolving around complex songs glued together via the theme of climate change, 43°C is a stylistically daring effort at storytelling through electronic music. He sets the vibe with suggestive titles and lyrics engineered to foster climate dread, yet he juxtaposes them with uplifting melodics, propulsive rhythm and impressive sound design. His productions, akin to the likes of BFTT and aya, are energising, dreamy, and sometimes all-out saccharine, my favourite being the SOPHIE-indebted ‘Love Machine’ featuring Daisy Ray. The album’s eclectic sequencing, with each song different from the one before, might be off-puting at first, but Basile3 manages to pull it off, compressing dozens of genre elements (bubblegum bass, R&B sensuality, Syro-inspired synthworks, digital folk guitars and more) into a distinct eco electronica. 

Yetsubyb_bAll My Thoughts

I’ve known the Seoul-based artist Yetsuby as a member of the acclaimed duo Salamanda whom I have covered in my column twice already, but I was not aware of her solo projects. She in fact already has six LPs under her belt, and her last album MY STAR MY PLANET MY EARTH won the electronic album of the year award at the Korean Music Awards. In retrospect, it feels like it paved the way for her newest effort which comes across as more focused and well-rounded than its eclectic predecessor. Generally speaking, it is a lush and crowd-pleasing record that radiates sublime ambient vibes akin to Salamanda’s output. But if Salamanda relies on restrained minimalism, Yetsuby approaches things rather differently on her own, delivering a fine example of maximalist, new agey electronica that nods to city pop, maximalist club music and the synth-heavy creations of Oneohtrix Point Never. Her productions are marked by an intricate sound, with a vast array of sonics smoothly moving alongside one another, arena-size arpeggios, shimmering pads, silky-soft polyrhythms, inventively processed field recordings, dreamy pentatonic melodies, occasional vocal flourishes and fluctuating tempos. Interestingly, the stylistic references are quite clear-cut, yet it is almost impossible to draw direct comparisons between her and any other.

Al WoottonLifted From The EarthBerceuse Heroique

Also known as one third of the Holy Tongue trio, Al Wootton is a unique character in the wider UK scene, a contemporary dub innovator who prefers to keep a low profile, staying under the hype radar and catering to the in-crowd. His ethos, reflected in his curatorial philosophy at the TRULE label, belongs to the underground of the 2010s, favouring obscurity and esotericism, the opposite of what’s been trending in recent years. Lifted From The Earth, his instalment for BH’s tape series, provides some of the most transportive electronic music of the year so far. His aesthetic is indebted to the UK bass continuum (Smith & Mighty, Adrian Sherwood, African Head Charge and other On-U Sound protegees), and his mastery of dub techniques is jaw-dropping, with infinite snare delays, heavily reverberated synth bleeps, vaporous percussion, and echoey siren-like voices that immerse the listener in a hypnagogic state. His echoey  free-form compositions plunge you into the darkest corners of your inner self but occasionally they also show you the light, as on ‘First Words After Sunrise’. There is a mystical dimension, a revelatory potential hidden in his sound, evoking a sense of appreciation for being just an infinitesimal particle of this vast universe.

BatuZeal / SundayA Long Strange Dream

The Timedance head honcho, one of the most essential artists in the wider contemporary techno scene who continues to push the envelope with each new release, is not yet ready to break his hot streak. Following his intergalactic, turbo-charged drum & bass venture, one could have hardly guessed what was coming next. His latest outing for his side imprint brings forth two mid-paced floor-fillers. ‘Zeal’, a proggy tech house roller revolving around a huge, electro-inspired synth earworm that drills into your brain, already caught my ear in his latest BBC mix. It is a sinister tune that grabs your attention with Batu’s signature spatially conceived sound image and detached ad-libs that add a layer of mystique. On the bouncy ‘Sunday’, he employs UK funky syncopations à la Roska and complements them with a similarly alluring synth motif, simultaneously ominous and sexy, enhanced with layers of background frequencies. It is not just the technical prowess and auteurial approach that keeps Batu fascinating, but also the extreme diversity of his output, consistently top-shelf, no matter the BPM.

Various ArtistsENOUGH!Dreaming Live

In an effort to help the people of Gaza, the Amman-based label Dreaming Live has put together music from 63 artists from around the world, including both internationally acclaimed names as well as lesser known acts (club producers, bands, sound artists, composers and experimentalists). The compilation, which bears the title of a desperate cry of a Palestinian mother, one among thousands whose children have been murdered by the Israeli army, includes a wide palette of contemporary expressions from the worlds of experimental, modern classical, electroacoustic, ambient, sound art, field recording, drone, noise and instrumental music. Despite its length, the compositions are neatly curated and the pacing is well thought-out. Atmospherically, the music mostly gravitates towards more pensive and sorrowful atmospheres with occasional moments of sublime beauty and hope. It’s easy to feel powerless beyond sharing information and pushing your local decision-makers, but compilations such as this do make an impact, even if very small. All proceeds are going to Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah’s Children’s Fund which aims to treat injured children, rebuild destroyed medical infrastructure, and establish a sponsorship program for 20,000+ orphans.

Yoshio OjimaClubWRWTFWW

Reissues rarely make it into my column, but I really need to shed some light on this recent, physical-only find. Club is a deep crate gem by Tokyo-based musician, composer and producer Yoshio Ojima,who in the 80s started to pursue his vision of “environmental music” by taking part in the development of public sound systems and produced records for artists like Hiroshi Yoshimura and Motohiko Hamase, among others. A visionary artist, he explored the untapped potential lying at the intersection of Japanese ambient, avant-garde electronica and city pop. In many ways, you could argue he was there at the dawn of ambient IDM. You can think of Club like a predecessor to labels like RVNG Intl. and Music From Memory. Some of the compositions found on here, particularly ‘Club-A’ and ‘Schooling’, could work on the dancefloor if presented to the right crowd, yet the album exists worlds apart from 1980s dance music. It represents an inspiring exploration of various synth timbres, playful loops, enchanting vocal samples and chops (Russian speech, sped-up Holywood dialogues), downtempo grooves and ambience with a softly psychedelic bent. Listening to it, you can really sense the will of an artist driven by childish curiosity to find beauty in the mechanical sounds of early electronic music-making tools. 

T5UMUT5UMU玄 GenSneaker Social Club

Laser-sharp bass pressure from the Tokyo underground! Hakuna Kulala-affiliate T5UMUT5UMU, a master of thunderous low frequencies and crushing percussion, finds the perfect ally in the Bristolian bass institution Sneaker Social Club. 玄 Gen is a no nonsense five-tracker, functional in its essence and DJ-ready, but far from simplistic. Following the pandemic bass music has been gaining momentum, particularly among a younger crowd. Consequently, there has been a rise in formula-driven, generic tracks in that space. Nevertheless, I firmly believe the intersection of bass, techno and global dance genres is still one of the last frontiers where innovation is taking place, if only gradually and sporadically. This EP encompasses almost all the various trajectories that have appeared in bass music in the post-dubstep era. It takes reference from a broad range of sources such as South African gqom, UK dubstep and grime, US trap, innovative percussion-driven club music from the Middle East and beyond, with Japanese vocal chops adding local flavour. The productions are repetitious, reduced to their essence and surgically clean, but each element is there for a reason. Standout track ‘戦 Ikusa’ reflects this perfectly. 

Suzi AnalogueONEZDisciples

Miami hero Suzi Analogue, an artist whose charisma could move mountains, brings so many goodies on her latest mixtape that I don’t even know where to start. She boasts a considerable reputation as purveyor of hot club music with shiver-inducing vocal flips drawn from hip-hop and R&B, boosted by sun-soaked melodies and earth-shattering frequencies. What I really cherish about her music is the gleeful nature of her productions. It reminds me of the happy hardcore era with its cartoon-inspired aesthetic. Not that Analogue’s music is anything like that, but I sense that same creative ethos of joyful exploration. Importantly, her musical vocabulary has always been rooted in American culture to an extent that sets her apart from European peers. ONEZ is made up of mostly fresh material, plus some remixes and collabs from earlier eras. Stylistically, it is a bit all over the place, which is unsurprising since it has been compiled from various sources. But it is exactly this unpredictability that makes it thrilling. The happy-hardcore-meets-souful-R&B of ‘CHANGEDDD’ is followed by the rhythmic acrobatics of ‘NICE 2 MEET U’ featuring footwork maestro Jlin. After the acidic techno soul of ‘Can We! [Acid Techno Uziflip]’, she takes a u-turn with the Rashad-esque roller ‘WORK XPERIENCE’. A radically eclectic mixtape, ONEZ brilliantly captures the wild elasticity and sparkling creativity of Suzi Analogue, who remains a singular voice contemporary in US dance music. 


We conclude this month’s column with a new face debuting on the fast-growing re:lax label run by re:ni and Laksa. The release sees UK-born Berlin-based producer Harba settle for the 140-150 BPM territory, which is just a bit slower than most recent re:lax releases, yet still sufficiently pacey. Considering his early productions for CloudCore from 2022 (‘TDITD’ and ‘Hard Times’), which felt a bit tentative, even insecure, he has really made a huge leap when it comes to top-notch production and propulsive arrangements that can move large crowds. The Despair EP is his first proper release, and what a debut it is. Names like Batu, Verraco, Luca Duran and, of course, the re:lax gang, immediately spring to mind. But the EP still has a distinct aura. It’s the choppy vocal vortexes that do it for me, dementedly beating your eardrums like the drummers from Mad Max: Fury Road. I always appreciate it when producers land in the sweet spot between psychedelic undertones and skull-crushing sound design. Harba does exactly this, delivering four UK techno-via-UK-funky heavy-hitters that are sure to wreak havoc. 

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