Hyperspecific: Dance Music For March Reviewed By Jaša Bužinel

In his second installment of Hyperspecific for 2021, Jaša Bužinel discusses the recent club safety measures suggested by the UK government from a wider European perspective, and reviews exciting new music from ZULI, Speaker Music, VTSS and object blue

It might seem odd to read about European and UK politics in an electronic music column but then club culture’s always been about politics on a microscale. There’s an alarming current of misogynist sentiment spreading through Europe which needs to be addressed and this is a subject which affects our subculture as much as anyone’s. As the chief executive at the domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid Farah Nazeer told Vice recently: "Violence against women and girls is a crisis of global proportions."

Turkey recently withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, a human rights treaty drawn up by the Council of Europe targeting violence against women and domestic abuse signed by the European Union and 45 other countries. And apparently, Poland is up next. The situation for Polish women has drastically deteriorated during the term of the current right-wing conservative government, even more so after January’s near total ban on abortion that resulted in mass protests. To make things worse – backed by the Catholic Church – the illiberal government has been actively promoting hate towards the LGBGTQ+ community.

Last year, "LGBT ideology free zones" were established by local authorities and dozens of peaceful protestors were arrested, including members of the Polish electronic music scene. Polish authorities describe LGBTQ+ rights as an "invasive ideology," and evidently the same can be said for gender equality. Similarly regressive views have contaminated the Hungarian and Slovene mainstream public discourse.

The situation in the UK as a superficially liberal society doesn’t appear to be as critical on the surface but it’s self-evident that we should be very wary of any post-war patriarchy that has carte blanche over women’s safety, be that at home, on the streets or in nightclubs. In liberal and traditional terms, the ends to these measures are exactly the same — they’re patriarchal tools used to reinforce control over women’s bodies.

The recent package of measures proposed by the UK government with the Marvel-esque title Project Vigilant, suggesting that undercover police could patrol clubs and bars in England and Wales to make women feel safer, reads like an absurdist scene from Chappelle’s Show, not intelligent government policy. Even more so, as it was introduced as a response to the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer. Considering another proposed solution to the problem was more money for better CCTV and street lighting, we must ask ourselves how much more perverse this situation can really get.

The proposed measures go hand in hand with the government’s war on drugs, clubs and nightlife in general. As history has taught us, more intrusive law enforcement like this always produces more serious repercussions for minority-oriented clubs and communities. In the words of Boris Johnson, their aim is to "identify predatory and suspicious offenders," a vague policy that will likely result in more racially biased manhandling. The simple idea that undercover cops around and in the club could and would come across as predatory, invasive and unwanted has never crossed their minds.

We could zoom in on the club scene only and discuss the ongoing attempts to take control over nightlife, most famously in the case of fabric back in 2016. But these are just microcosms of a larger system of surveillance that’s been gradually taking over all social relations. We simply can’t tolerate this overreach of authority, especially not in this transitional era when the undying post-9/11 argument that more control means more safety is misused on a daily basis. In the words of Bristol-based producer Om Unit: "Undercover cops in clubs = narcs. They won’t be policing creeps… They will be strong-arming students on drugs into meat wagons to get the numbers up. And everyone will be eyeballing each other… Shit buzz."

Instead of asking the people directly involved and affected, the government is once again suggesting the implementation of poorly-researched and rushed top-down policy. Non-profit organisations and safety campaigners such as Good Night Out Campaign and Sisters Uncut, as well as many promoters, have been tackling these issues for many years now and various positive practices were implemented long before lockdown. Some of the best initiatives involve the training of bar staff and club-managed host teams, whose members can be easily visually identified by club-goers and who watch out for harassment, assist clubbers when appropriate and call for security if the situation escalates. But it’s also important to encourage clubbers to actively contribute to a welcoming atmosphere where everyone can feel at ease.

Of course, clubs are just one among many public spaces where abuse takes place. Simultaneously, they continue to represent an outernational ideal for the sexually, racially and socially marginalised. As a bastion of heterogeneity in public life, club culture must continue its struggle against these attempts to subdue the liberating forces which move society forward. This is why, on a more personal level, there still exists an idealised utopian dream driven by the myth of David Mancuso’s The Loft — the club as an escapist oasis in which everyday anxieties and fears are suspended, and where racial, social, sexual and other forms of discrimination vanish into thin air for at least a few precious hours. Adding, oftentimes, sexist and racist undercover officers to the mix will definitely not help us get there any sooner. After all, there’s a reason why one of Peverelist’s classics is called ‘Dance Til The Police Come’.

ZULI – All Caps


I can’t recall the last time a track shredded so hard I had to rewind it just a few seconds in. Frankly, that’s the case with all of the sonic projectiles from Egyptian producer ZULI’s club-ready comeback EP, the first release on Lee Gamble’s UIQ label since 2019. Following ZULI’s debut album Terminal (2018), an aesthetically warped and atmospherically turbulent ode to his home city of Cairo, his studio set-up was stolen along with a ready-for-release 12" and a vast sound library. What followed was an inspiring artistic reinvention. His musical sensibility, informed by Egyptian genres like mahraganat, the hardcore continuum, Chicago Footwork, global ghettotech strains, and MTV-era pop, can hardly be compared to anyone else’s.

Simultaneously coarse and polished, the EP’s transfixing palette makes for a tour de force in what Simon Reynolds describes as texturology. ZULI’s rhythmically convulsive tracks may be tailored for forward-thinking dancefloors but they’re also a commentary on the perpetuating orientalisms that plague the music industry, encapsulated in the self-referential skits on closer ‘Bro! (Love It)’. An amalgam of both global and regional electronic subgenres, All Caps has everything one can expect from a contemporary vanguard producer: a signature style, ultramodern sound design, inventive recombinations of past forms, and socio-political references to the here and now.

Bambounou – Cascade


Since March 2020, I’ve been feeding my clubbing urges with the vivid stroboscopic images from Elevate Festival in Graz, which I attended just days prior to lockdown. Deep in the darkness of the Tunnel, an archetypal underground venue with a mystical vibe below the Castle Hill, it was the French DJ and producer Bambounou that delivered the most memorable performance of the weekend. Entranced by his relentless hypnotic pulses, I spent the whole DJ set in the front row with my colleagues, exchanging molly-eyed grins with sweaty punters on every new mix. In the next few months, he presented an exquisite mix of birdsongs and contributed to the Junction 2 mix series.

Now, he’s launching his own imprint, Bambe, with an EP soon to be followed by new music from Bruce and GiGi FM. Cascade offers four recognisably Bambounou-esque tracks — minimalist, micro-modulated techno cuts with syncopated rhythms running along one another. At times, his labyrinthine grooves will remind you of the virtuoso percussionist Mohammad Reza Mortazavi. Still, it’s all about synthetic percussive euphoria. The mellow late night melancholy of ‘Up A While’, with guest vocalists Manuel Hildebrand particularly stands out, coming off like a nod to Actress’ hypnagogic sonic vignettes.

upsammy – Bend


Describing her creative practice to SHAPE recently, Dutch artist upsammy said that she perceives sound in sculptural, rather than functional, terms. This idea is reflected in her hard-to-pigeonhole aesthetic found on releases for various labels such as Die Orakel and Nous’klaer Audio, as well as on last year’s debut LP, Zoom, for Dekmantel. The producer operates at the intersection between latter-day braindance, fictional fourth world music and mutant club currents. Often charming and soothing, other times weird and eerie, her floating compositions produce a tickling sensation in the brain.

Based on the cover, an image of a resilient flower growing out of a crack in the pavement, I get the impression the EP’s main theme is the bending of materials. If we listen attentively to her sonic palette, there’s a tangible material dimension to them – we can almost see the metal, wood, glass and other elements that go into composing her tracks. The result is a faux electroacoustic patina, though one that sounds remarkably natural. With its pointillistic metallic chimes, a single piano note and an abnormal bass line, the vertiginous ‘Spat’ sounds like a carillon from the future. Contrarily, the pensive ‘Flutter’ evokes an image of a glacial lake in the evening sun while the tense slow burner ‘Worm’ would make for a great warm-up tool in a DJ set. But it’s the idyllic closer ‘Metallic’, which reminds me of K-Lone’s 2020 debut album Cape Cira, that really hits the nail on the head for me. Digital naturalism at its finest.

object blue – Grotto


Just months after the release of her intriguing 2018 debut EP Do You Plan To End A Siege?, I had the privilege of experiencing a live set from object blue when she performed in Ljubljana at Monokel as a guest of the Ustanova collective. Since then, the London-based producer’s developed into one of the most singular voices operating at the fringes of the post-techno continuum and avant garde club scene. Her state of the art sound design approach was last year heard on the collaborative EP Hyperaesthesia with Italian producer TSVI, most notably on the mind-bending track ‘Thought Experiment’.

On her latest EP for TT, an ambitious audiovisual project co-developed with her wife and creative partner Natalia Podgórska, she once again defies all expectations. ‘Exorcism Of A Self-Help Book’, the only pseudo-functional track included, is a case in point of her singular arranging techniques — an unlikely combo of syncopated bass-kick lines and ominous percussive overtones juxtaposed with metal screeching sounds and piercing laser synths. It’s the deviant intensity of her synthscapes that makes Grotto stand out. Be it via the ecstatic sentimental grandeur of ‘Opened Close’, the interwoven pulses of kicks, digital strings and Barbieri-like arpeggios on ‘Fugitive’s Flourish’, the Lorenzo Senni-inspired trance deconstructions of ‘Procession Of Healers’, or the cyborgian saudade of ‘Closed Open’, the melodic bravados and irregular drum patterns interspersed through her productions make for a rewarding listening experience. File under: Dramatic bangers for futurist VR dancefloors!

Sunareht – Amorama

(Paradoxe Club)

Sunareht’s chakra-opening track ‘Super Suna Odyssey’, from 2018, will have introduced many to the French producer’s work. As a splendid specimen of beatless techno, popularised in recent years by the likes of Baker and Objekt, it’s power lies in the intricate filter workouts that have come to define his releases. Back in 2016, the young Parisian producer co-launched the Paradoxe Club label with his fellow trailblazers Birol, Le Dom and De Grandi, with the momentous VA compilation Boss Rush. As a prominent name from the French progressive electronic scene, operating on the fringes of French house, neo-trance and experimental club music, he’s become known for his inventive filtering techniques and refined use of the noise gate effect.

Playing with the loose concept of a fictitious amusement park called Amorama, his debut album is designed as a sophisticated tool for self-induced dopamine and serotonin rushes. It’s haunted by the spectres of Tiësto, Daft Punk and Eurodance, but there’s a sense of cartoonish exaggeration to his music. Repetitive 4-to-the-floor kicks have been swapped with spiralling kick-snare syncopations and the traditionally monochrome arpeggios that have come to define the superclubs of the early 2000s have been transformed into choppy and snappy, trance-inducing synth pieces that may just as well unlock new neural pathways.

Speaker Music – Soul Making Theodicy

(Planet Mu)

The Afro-American theorist, journalist and producer Deforrest Brown Jr., AKA Speaker Music, is one of the foremost representatives of present-day Afrofuturist techno thought. His musical process is best described by Kodwo Eshun’s concept of "rhythm synthesisers programming new intensities from white noise," from the seminal book More Brilliant Than The Sun. Last June, he released the epochal debut LP Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry, a successor to the long heritage of techno sonic warfare that translates the alienating Afro-American experience into sound, to great acclaim. Conceptualised as a crossroads between his childhood influences (marching bands, Miami bass, trap) and the Afrofuturist sonic continuum, his new EP, Soul Making Theodicy, is a brilliant successor to UR’s tradition of hi-tech jazz.

As new means of production become available, offering yet unexplored possibilities for hands-on haptic drum programming, advanced wind and brass instrument modulation and non-quantised arrangements, old ideas are given new forms. Inspired by percussion wizards like Max Roach and Rashied Ali, his binaural compositions are informed by a sense of human agency and improvised immediacy that are usually absent from the artificially immaculate architectures of 21st century techno. Make sure you give particular attention to mesmerising opener ‘Ex-American Blues’. With its granular drones, saxophone ornaments and spiralling polyrhythms, it masterfully connects the dots between various African-American musical traditions. All in all, there’s simply no one making music like this right now.

VTSS – Borderline Tenderness


Since the release of her EBM-infused debut Self Will in 2018, the young Polish DJ and producer Martyna Maja, AKA VTSS, has experienced a steady rise to prominence. Her powerful selections and vigorous performances for Boiler Room and HÖR Berlin have caught the ears of a new generation of fast-tempo-loving ravers. After two collaborative EPs with Bjarki and Emma DJ in 2020, she is back with her strongest effort to date, on Italian label VEYL. Borderline Tenderness brings forth six diverse dancefloor-ready tracks with the hyperactive dancer in mind.

As on her previous releases, the more straightforward productions, like ‘C.E.T. Unlimited’, ‘To Whom All Lovers’ and ‘Sytuacja Jest Beznadziejna’ borrow from the EBM and industrial traditions. The earworm ‘MDM508’ comes across like a 3.0 version of the Nitzer Ebb classic ‘Let Your Body Learn’. There are two tracks, though, that mark a departure from high-octane abrasiveness towards booty-shaking science. Judging by its captivating erotic undercurrent, the collaborative track ‘Going Nuts’, featuring club provocateur LSDXOXO on vocals, will certainly make the rounds at future raves. The master stroke of this EP, though, is the psytrance meets jungle paranoia of ‘Woah’, built around syncopated bleeps and bloops, wavering "woahs" and blistering 168 BPM breaks. If this is the shape of things to come from VTSS, then there’s plenty to look forward to.

Biga Yut – Vampirina

(Hakuna Kulala)

From day one, the Nyege Nyege offshoot Hakuna Kulala has been on a quest to deliver the most innovative club weapons from the East African, Congolese and more recently – as in the case of Russian producer WULFFLUW XCIV – global electronic scenes. One of their most significant releases to date is Ecko Bazz’s grimy hardcore stepper ‘Tuli Banyo’, which also featured the young Kampala-born MC and label affiliate Biga Yut. His knockout debut EP, Walah, that followed was a harbinger of grime-inspired industro-dancehall innovations.

Now, the young Ugandan rapper is back with his second EP, including the collaborative track ‘Cash Boss’, with the Nyege Nyege-affiliate Jonathan Uliel Saldanh operating as DJ Lithium. Vampirina is a case study of modern mutant ghettotech aesthetics as described in Steve Goodman’s work Sonic Warfare. True to the label’s Afrofuturist vision, the four tracks encompass a wide range of influences, merging the hypnotic elements of gqom, street urgency of grime, grittiness of UK hardcore, and sub-intensity of Atlanta trap. Yet, there’s no tangible aesthetic frame, his vocals constantly altering between emotional immediacy, collective hype and humanoid detachment. Closer ‘Motor Version’ is a surrealist cut formed of revving motorcycle engines, strange rhythmic throbs and man-machine vocal abstractions. Tense arrangements, rich textures and powerful emceeing abound, on an EP bursting with fresh ideas.

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