Hyperspecific: Dance Music For October Reviewed By Jaša Bužinel

In this month’s dance music column, Jaša Bužinel calls your attention to the 10th anniversary of Rustie's prophetic album 'Glass Swords', and reviews new music by Buttechno, Eris Drew, Warhorse, Salamanda and more


As Shawn Reynaldo discussed in his recent First Floor newsletter, in 2021 we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of techno music, a genre torn between futurism and nostalgia. But it is also a transglobal cultural phenomenon larger than life, which is slowly succumbing to the self-mythologisation process that we have witnessed in popular culture so many times before, most notably in rock.

With the release of the gargantuan intergenerational compilation Tresor 30, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the legendary German club and label with an exquisite selection of 52 tracks from legends and rising artists of all generations, for the major part of October, it was techno – its past and future – that occupied dance music stans and writers. Since you are going to read about it elsewhere for sure, I decided to grab your attention with a different jubilee. There is also another, at least from my point of view, important anniversary to be celebrated this month, one perhaps even more relevant to the contemporary state of affairs in forward-looking dance music.

Working on a presentation on the topic of futurist dance music earlier this year, in the fantastic book The Music Of The Future (Repeater Books, 2017) by fellow tQ writer Robert Barry, I discovered the record Glass Swords by Scottish producer Rustie, released on October 10, 2011, by Warp Records to great acclaim. Produced between 2008 and 2010, Rustie’s debut LP baffled music critics with its uniquely artificial patina and elusive transgenreness in the realm of post-dubstep electronica. It also made it to the AOTY lists of The Wire, Mixmag and The Guardian, which is unsurprising considering how unanimously perplexed and excited most music critics were by it (go check its Wikipedia entry to get an idea). At a loss for words, writers would simply classify it as electronic music, but there were some specific aesthetic qualities to it, both sound and structure-wise, which would later fully form and finally blossom through the music of other young artists.

What took me by surprise on first listen in 2021 was how prophetic it actually was. Looking back on the past decade in electronic music, to me, Glass Swords actually symbolises the dawn of hyperpop. Yeah, yeah, I know it is music writers’ favourite pastime to make up genre genealogies (just two months ago the aforementioned Reynaldo suggested that it was Basement Jaxx’s album Rooty (2001) that presciently announced the shape of pop to come), but I would really like for people to revisit this gem with new ears, and experience it through the lens of all the cultural baggage accumulated around it since its release.

"Pop-goes-clubbing," "the sound of uninhibited, unironic hands-in-the-air joy," "the sound of someone changing dance music by utterly disregarding dance music," "rave-inspired dance maximalism"… These are just some interesting quotes from that period pointing to a lack of an appropriate genre signifier among writers. You could argue that they are somewhat similar to the descriptions that would later be applied to the music of SOPHIE, who debuted in 2012, as well as PC Music, founded in 2013, and all the contemporary millennial and Gen Z artists that pushed the envelope of pop music from that period onwards. Transgressive, pompous, cartoonish, over-the-top, hyperdigital, maximalist, all these tags make up the vocabulary with which we would later try to dissect these so-called post-internet hyperpop aesthetics.

Take Rustie’s track ‘Ultra Thizz’, for example, and play SOPHIE’s ‘Immaterial’ immediately afterwards. There is a span of seven years between them, but the essence – hyper-digital laser synths, pitch-bent and helium-fuelled vocals, hyperactive beat programming, a completely artificial sonic aura and overabundance of ideas – is already there in 2011. So yeah, folks, happy 10th anniversary to hyperpop, and on that note, you will find a nice fresh compilation with the music of rising hyperpop-related artists waiting for you just below.

Varuiys Artists – Iskra Delta: Onboarding Soundscapes

(Nimaš Izbire)

This intriguing compilation was released as part of the 34th Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts in collaboration with the collective Nimaš Izbire. To cut a long story short, the main concept of this year’s edition was the "resurrection" of Iskra Delta, a Slovenian computer company and leading Yugoslav manufacturer with a bright future, suddenly cancelled after the breakup of Yugoslavia. It functions as "a virtual entity" for what "could have been," and part of the project, which involved artists, musicians, designers, writers and other "agents," was also the development of a special sonic environment with which to accompany this speculative world-building process.

Onboarding Soundscapes could be described as a late, highly sophisticated response to Brian Eno and Robert Fripp’s Windows startup sounds by a new generation of artists defining the sonics of cyberspace. It is a hyperstitional soundtrack adorning the buildings and hallways of a virtual Iskra Delta headquarters overseeing the bio-digital city. The soundscapes that surround us after the login are unsurprisingly covered in fluorescent holographic hues of hyper-polished digital timbres, taking from hyperpop and post-internet/deconstructed club idioms. They are tools for the age of Techno Feudalism (as put by Janis Varufakis), used to rewire our neural pathways via a cluster of poptimistic sonics, and depressurise our brains’ CPUs to optimise our productivity. The 17 presented pieces, ranging from jingles to complex compositions, were provided by a colourful bunch of producers from around the world, among them Galen Tipton and Umru (USA), Petal Supply (Canada), Astrosuka (Argentina), Toyota Vangelis (Czech Republic), DIGITONICA (Russia), Princess Ketamine (Germany) Toiret Status (Japan) and Slovenian talents like Ascyth, Warrego Valles and Kristjan Kaluza. A genuinely enjoyable fuck off to electronic music nostalgia from a group of ambitious and audacious colonisers of the future(s).

Buttechno – Inorganic Demons

(Psy X)

Be it scores for Gosha Rubchinskiy’s fashion shows, metallic and abrasive sonic abstractions for Berceuse Heroique and The Trilogy Tapes, or the post-Soviet sci-fi techno produced as Buttechno, the music of Russian luminary and Psy X founder Pavel Milyakov occupies a specific zone in contemporary electronic expressivity. Based on his Instagram page, he is inspired by the mystique of vast coniferous forests; Soviet urbanism and derelict brutalist architecture; glitchy aesthetics; fluorescent humanoid silhouettes straight outta The X-Files; psychedelic sunsets; and cloudy starlit skies. It would be too easy to compare his esoteric sonic poetics of "the weird and the eerie" to auteurs like Tarkovsky, but it is also true that the otherworldly vibe of his latest EP, Inorganic Demons, is much closer to Solaris than Alien, most prominently in the shadowy electro of ‘Goatic Cut’ featuring the spectral voice of Yana Pavlova.

What boggles me is how he can pull it off so that tracks like the rushing psy-techno rollers ‘Dark Pearl’ and ‘The Great Acids’ simultaneously sound retro – as if taken from a Lovecraftian sci-fi B movie like From Beyond – and distinctively high-res. It was the same case with his recent experimental D&B outing Losiniy Ostrov and the retrofuturist synthscapes of Inland Expire, both released under his birth name. I thoroughly enjoy getting lost in his deviant techno experiments haloed in translucent mist – a sense of the supernatural pervades all of them. You can hardly get a Buttechno record without some acid, and the intertwining of menacing 303 squelches, extraterrestrial grunts and wailings and pounding kicks on ‘Big D Acid’ and ‘Inorganic Demon V’ sets the tone for spine-chilling visions of non-human faces as found in the bad trip descriptions of DMT users. There is also space for romanticism, though – the self-explanatory ambient piece ‘Underwater’ would make for a great score in the ethereal pool sequence from Stalker.

Eris Drew – Quivering In Time


The energy that has come to define the b2b sets of Eris Drew and Octo Octa is more contagious than any delta or lambda variant. Such a harmony can only derive from pure affection, and it is a sense of self-acceptance, as well as love for yourself and your loved ones, that characterises Drew’s debut album. Recorded in the remote forest environment of her New Hampshire home, Quivering In Time is an album informed by Drew’s mixing techniques, turntablism and momentum-building tricks, which she has acquired as an experienced raver and seasoned DJ.

Always playing with expectations, her debut brings forth nine (hip) house tunes and some deeper cuts – sonic counterparts to the joie de vivre, built from scraps of traditionally euphoric vocal hooks, uplifting keys/organ chords and bouncy breakbeats. It is a party record calling for repeated spins. Opening with an infectious bassline and bossa nova scats that hover over playful breaks, the track ‘Pick ‘Em Up’ takes a sudden turn midway through, becoming almost a new song altogether. Despite its relatively old school patina, which harks back to her youth spent raving across the States, Quivering In Time is worlds apart from soulless modern house pastiches. A crucial ingredient is her pronounced spirituality and genuine belief in the power of PLUR, originating from the music of house innovators but lost in translation in the intervening years. Drew’s advocacy of psilocybin and the medicinal aspects of psychedelics, as explored on ‘Ride Free’ also adds another dimension to her invigorating, celebratory sound.

Warhorse – Atlatl


Following the success of superstar DJs Umek and Valentino Kanzyani in the ’00s, a major part of the Slovenian techno scene retreated to the underground. Operating on the fringes, new producers like Alleged Witches, Warrego Valles and Gašper Torkar set fresh templates for the local techno sound. Also among these figures are two veteran multi-instrumentalists-gone-producers, known for their earlier contributions to the Slovenian alternative scene (Moveknowledgement, Ontervjabbit), who explore the extremities of aggressive, industrial-tinged techno. Hailing from the Zasavje region where in 1980 the legendary Laibach were formed, Lifecutter (Domen Učakar) has left a mark on the local scene with his "power electronics meet blackened techno" approach, while modular enthusiast Shekuza (Miha Šajina) has secured his position as a techno daddy with two strong releases for the Ljubljana netlabel Kamizdat, one of the foremost Slovenian electronic music institutions.

The two have teamed up on a new project, aptly called Warhorse, coming together after a successful impromptu recording session in 2019. The first result of their shared love for tissue-mutilating sonics is the Atlatl, an ode to punchy dance music that will please fans of producers like Perc, Scalameriya, Surgeon and Blawan. Including roaring beasts like ‘Iron Crow’ and ‘Bereginya’, as well the slow-burn stomper ‘Pear Of Anguish’ and dark ambient closer ‘Dromon’, this all-killer-no-filler bonanza of galloping distorted kicks, sinewy sandpaper synths and transfixing modular bangs feels like a nod to blackened death metal. It’s a punishing, macabre techno record, which I can more easily envision being performed in a club filled with headbanging metalheads wearing tees with barely readable fonts than fist-pumping ravers with neon bracelets and pacifiers.



In only three years, Prague-based collective, label and radio show Unizone has become a bastion of hybrid club explorations. With an envy-inducing intercontinental roster, including cult names like Teya Logos, DJ Loser, Xiao Quan and T5UMUT5UMU, Unizone’s releases come across as daring responses to hackneyed club conformism, advocating dancefloor transgressiveness and bold sonic innovations. The latest addition to their catalogue is the EP CONFINED SPACE by Italian producer-composer-programmer, field recording specialist and Radio Raheem resident Luca Favaro, also known as T.U., under his new moniker CAPIUZ.

This is a project dedicated to progressive dance music and obsessed with intricate rhythmic interplays. It may not be evident to the listener on the first play, but instead of sampling records or synthesising sounds from scratch, Favaro sources his audio material from random YouTube videos. He then repurposes them in a DAW environment as unique sonic fragments ready to be (re)used, playing with atypical timbres via his self-developed time manipulation device ‘CICADA’ for Ableton’s platform Max for Live. As refined examples of club syncretism and ASMR inclinations (there is actually a track called ‘ASMR’), his productions range from hard drum-adjacent percussive workouts (‘HELP ME’) and tribal footwork emulations (‘BAIT TRAP’) to ruff broken beats (’80FT WITH A GO PRO’) and hypnotising low-tempo techno (‘FROZEN LAKE’).

TÉNÈBRE – Hybrids


Those already familiar with the French producer and professional sound designer TÉNÈBRE will remember him for his hard-hitting EPs for the London imprint WNCL Recordings. With the exception of a recent collaboration with DJ Saint Pierre for Illegal Alien, which resulted in two fairly traditional techno cuts, he has been quietly working on his sound since 2019, looking for a balance between dancefloor accessibility and academic sound analysis. There are more and more dance music producers operating at the crossroads between sophisticated sound design and functional club music these days, so it is becoming harder to stand out in terms of production. It is not just about technical dexterity and nitpicking synthesis, but also inspired artistic expression in a sea of fairly familiar mutant aesthetics, but Hybrids delivers on its promise.

Out on the forward-thinking Czech label YUKU, home of producers like woulg, BALATRON and Subp Yao, his latest outing marks a departure from the bassy broken techno of Polystructures (2019) and pensive garage of the single ‘Nightshift’ (2020), towards high-velocity hybrid techno. Running at 140 BPM, ‘SubMethod’ could make a perfect set opener, with the teasing of its monstrous syncopated kick drums that never really succumb to the temptation of a four-to-the-floor stampede. The more straightforward roller ‘Hybrids’ pushes the tempo up to 168, giving the impression of a neurofunk jam squeezed through a techno mould. With its spasmodic wobbles, ‘Wum’ turns dubstep tropes on their head, while ‘Abstraction’ provides a pleasant ambient closer. It is the magnificent ‘Prototype’, a hulking 150 BPM+ hard techno beast, which will make the most rounds in upcoming DJ sets, one might expect.



Even though there is basically no information on the Bandcamp page, save for the mention of Southport, UK, I suspect that the man behind the mischievous STRIPE N CO project, which has been churning out various bombastically cheeky edits hidden behind Gremlins avatars of late, is none other than Minor Science. There is a specific drum sample on STRIPE N CO’s latest single, which I am almost 100 percent sure I have already heard on his 2020 debut album Second Language, and besides, he’s been the one using his social media pages to draw attention to each new release.

The tracks themselves revel in the carefree nature of genres such as UK hardcore, Eurodance and nightcore, and have seen the producer behind them turn outwards the insides of beloved pop classics by Wham!, Vengaboys and All Saints in the tracks ‘FAST CHRISTMAS’, ‘ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM’ and ‘TAKE ME 2 MY (B​)​E​(​ACH)’ with hilarious effects. The latest addition to the collection, ‘INTOXIC8ED’ comes as a tribute to the long-awaited liberation of Britney Spears. With such powerful source material as ‘Toxic’, which can still blow off any club roof with its violin stabs, the injection of steroid-fuelled electronic sounds to the mix makes for a most powerful, saccharine-infused club tool. I am sure that when played unexpectedly in a hard dance, hard techno or maybe even jungle mix it will leave audiences as gobsmacked as I was on first listen. More of this, please.

Salamanda – Sphere

(Small Méasures / Métron)

As usual with this column, I feel the need to conclude with a release that exists outside the restrictive enclosures of dance music. This month I have been diving into the rhythmelodic changes of the quasi-classical, new age-adjacent compositions found on the debut full length Sphere by the South Korean ambient duo Salamanda. Composed of longtime buddies, DJs and producers Uman Therma (Sala) and Yetsuby (Manda), the project explores the tradition of minimalists like Steve Reich, while taking in the work of Japanese ambient pioneers, such as Hiroshi Yoshimura, Takashi Kokubo and Midori Takada. Playing with timbre like gamelan orchestras via a sound palette of tingling percussion, subaqueous kalimbas, marimbas, xylophones and vibraphones, various chimes, arpeggiated strings and synth licks, Salamanda’s repetitive arrangements conjure up subtle aural hallucinations, and the pleasantly psychedelic ambience of Sphere is light and uplifting.

As tributes to the celestial quality of music, their compositions evoke the feeling of the sun’s rays tenderly kissing your weary-eyed face on a cold winter morning after a long night of clubbing. Interestingly, there is actually an English word used to describe this exact phenomenon, so I would like to christen their music as "apricity ambient." The duo manage to make happy music without falling prey to the neoliberal ideology of ‘positive vibes’. Intricate but unobtrusive, tranquil yet not humdrum, Sphere is tailored to cushion your post-clubbing sessions and accompany your early morning routines.

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