Dublin-based Italian producer Lerosa follows Leonid, Aroy Dee, Perseus Traxx and Automatic Tasty in contributing to the fledgling Photic Fields label based out of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. While Leo Rosa is known primarily as a house artist, this narrow description does his work a disservice and overlooks his early release for D1, 2011’s pop-friendly Amanatto album and the electro-tinged sound of his No Mad Rush release for Apartment last year.
By anyone’s standards, Neville Watson has enjoyed a terrific year with his debut album, Songs to Elevate Pure Hearts on Créme Organisation, a crowning achievement. While long-established and highly regarded prior to the release of this superb debut album, his position as one of the UK’s premier makers of next-level machine music was confirmed with the full length’s woozy blend of analogue jack, synth fetishism, dreamy deepness and otherwordly melodies. This year has also seen a reissue of his brilliant, World Unknown-released “One Four Green”, and the small matter of an impressively hypnotic and atmospheric remix of Dan Beaumont’s “Reality Checkpoint” on Disco Bloodbath.
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It might be considered sacrilege to some Sandwell District fans, but listening to recent mixes from Juan Mendez has left this writer with the feeling he would have been much more well equipped to provide Fabric with a truly memorable mix CD than the resultant effort from Karl O’Connor and Dave Sumner. Both the SD Radio Mix 2 from a few years ago and the more recent live recording of Mendez DJing at Honey Soundsystem have remained constant listening companions, whereas Fabric 69 has become a musical memory of 2013. Furthermore, Mendez’s own productions resonate most with this writer when he pours his undeniable love and knowledge of jagged industrial sounds and primitive electronics into the music.
If you’re losing track of how to categorize Mister Saturday Night releases these days, glance at the moon-face that adorns their sleeves for a reminder: it’s night-time music. Getting any more specific about Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter’s New York outlet for all modes of dance music is tricky though. The duo revealed in a recent interview that there’s some joy in secrecy regarding release schedules, and their last several projects have volleyed unpredictably across the dance spectrum, making them a tough label to pigeonhole with a certain catchphrase as we music journalists so love to do. There’s the remarkably pensive house tones of Dark Sky’s In Brackets EP, the nihilistic drum-machine rigour of Hank Jackson’s Deposit release, and Lumigraph’s Yacht Cruiser EP, which eschewed the luxurious aesthetic that its title suggested with rhythms evoking broken glass, hot asphalt and sunburned necks.
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Insider marks NYC-based deconstructionist Madteo’s return to Morphine, following 2008’s Memoria and last year’s Hieroglyphic Being rework of “Freak Inspector”. Insider is also Madteo’s most abstracted work to date, but the signposts for this EP can be seen all over his previous releases. The now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t kick that flickers through Insider can be heard on so much of 2012’s Noi No; the fuggy exhalations that form the atmospheric bed of the record were one of the signal qualities of Hinge Finger’s “Bugler Gold Pt 1”. Even in “Bangin On The Ceiling”, one of a number of collaborations with Sensational, the same sense of urban derealisation can be instantly pinpointed. Perhaps the clearest comparison, though, is with Madteo’s contribution to Workshop 11, which twists 4/4 to shattering point, subsuming the kick in bandages of quivering synths that seem stimulated only by their own internal logic.
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Luke Wyatt is a storyteller. Though you’re probably most familiar with his Torn Hawk alias, Brooklyn-based Wyatt is also an obsessive video artist, whose painstakingly detailed music videos are pulled from a “shuffling droney archive of digitized video clips on hard drives as well as way too many tapes lying around”, as he reported to Juno Plus earlier this year for this site’s 65th podcast. He’s also somewhat of a writer, as the tracklisting for that mix eschewed tradition, providing a beautiful, rambling monologue that only vaguely referenced song names. It reads like a short story where Tom Waits and Joan Didion reminisce about their younger days while swigging drinks in the bar from Twin Peaks, and though you may not take anything particularly clear away from it, one thing that’s clear is that Wyatt embraces the idea of narratives.
The second split release on the Tokyo-based 10 Label features an insert with an unidentified woman looking out at a cloudy horizon. It looks like a typically Utopian 50s image, and is in stark contrast to the music that the accompanying record contains. With just one exception, Replay is home to a mix of tracks that skirt sideways around modern conventions and popular tropes. The sole contribution that feels like it belongs to another time is Steven Porter’s “Fundamental Belief”. It is realised with a typically contemporary noisy undercurrent, but the slow motion hip hop beats, bugged out vocal sample and sluggish sensibility that the arrangement exudes reminds this writer of trip hop from the late 90s
Bob Bhamra’s West Norwood Cassette Library venture exists in a confluence amidst the current whirlpool of electronic music. Upon first emerging his style seemed to fall in line with the splintering evolution of bass music, not least on singles such as “What It Is” and “Mrs Fingers” with their limber 140bpm broken beats and spacious arrangements. However since then his roughshod house sensibilities have shone through, both in his releases and his feisty DJ sets.
Spawned out of Timothy J Fairplay and Scott Fraser’s well-regarded, irregular Glasgow party - a self-proclaimed excuse to play faster, harder and weirder house and techno sounds than perhaps they’re known for – the Crimes of the Future label promises to be one of the more interesting new labels going forth. Their respective production output in recent times coupled with the unflinching support of friend and collaborator Andrew Weatherall - a man who knows a thing or two about fuzzy techno, curious house and leftfield electronic music – at least suggests as much.
On recent releases for The Trilogy Tapes, Don’t Be Afraid and Berceuse Heroique, Manuel ‘MGUN’ Gonzales has worn the influences of his hometown Detroit clearly, moving through techno, house, electro and ghetto. However for this debut on the Third Ear label there is little trace evidence of the Motor City’s legacy. If there is one lingering characteristic however, it’s the raw, lo-fi approach to production that Gonzales now shares with artists like Omar S and sometime label mate Kyle Hall.
Even in the age of rampant globalization, the Japanese music market remains largely insular – it’s rare to hear lyrics sung in English, or any other language, and while the rest of Asia expands its sights on carving out as much territory as possible (to the point where some pop groups will release versions of the same single in three different languages simultaneously), Japan seems nonplussed. But while keeping their language intact, Japan’s never been afraid to interpret other genres from around the world with versatility: Consider Osaka’s huge dancehall scene, with songs sung in a mix of Japanese and Patois, synthetic marijuana replacing the heavily prosecuted “real stuff” as the drug of choice. Consider the rise of Japanese militant nationalist right-wing hip hop, a movement some J-rappers compare to their own Black Panther uprising.
The third instalment of Delsin’s 100DSR/VAR anniversary celebration sees the revered label return to its roots – but in so doing, is it refusing to move on? It’s a valid question. The retro-mania culture that has been a prominent feature of electronic music over the past half-decade has yielded some fascinating results, with artists like Kyle Hall and MGUN, as well as labels like L.I.E.S providing unique interpretations of what had come before them. But it has also led to a glut of mediocre, backward-looking releases and the sneaking suspicion that for some artists and labels, middle-age is defined in the truest sense of the term, an excuse to put out the musical equivalent of a glass of dry sherry and a comfortable jumper.
“Yeah man, this is like some old Dan Bell tackle, pulling one off the shelf now…” was the emailed response from a colleague when asked for his initial thoughts on Murph Tone Jack Session II, the new record from Hakim Murphy on the Synapsis Records label he runs with Inbum Cho. For those readers no too familiar with the music of Dan Bell, the colleague in question was probably referring to the minimal nature that defines half of Murph Tone Jack Session II. The remaining productions are, however, more in line with the prevailing tastes of 2013; raw analogue house music.
It’s been over two years since the last release in the Objekt white label series came out, but TJ Hertz hasn’t become any easier to pin down since then. You may have heard the warehouse-techno twitch of “CLK Recovery”, with its sporadic descending arpeggio patterns and tightly woven interplay between near-silence and chaos, and thought that Hertz had finally hit upon a definitive sound – but the Oxford-raised, Berlin-based producer’s next release on Hessle Audio was a sharp departure in style. Some months later in an interview, he revealed that the prickly, rippling wobbles of “Cactus” was originally conceptualized as a comedy song, an “ode to Rusko” of sorts.
Vancouver collective Mood Hut first appeared on our radar this year thanks to that excellent Aquarian Foundation EP for Going Good. Further investigation revealed Mood Hut had been issuing cassette-only releases from previously unknown names such as Jack Jutson and Dream Carpets (quite possibly our favourite artist name of all time) as far back as a year. These decidedly curious cassettes explored an analogue-heavy sound that dreamily drifted between hazy new age revivalism, tropical soundscapes and mind-melting, multi-coloured ambience. This year has seen Mood Hut’s label operation expand into vinyl releases, with the two 12”s issued thus far from Cloudface and Aquarian Foundation steeped in the same sound as their cassette tapes.
It’s been a rapid rise for Wes Gray as his music career finds its feet. That’s not to say the man is on a stadium-busting level just yet, but after his self-released debut got a wider push from Peoples Potential Unlimited he has been scoring recognition left right and centre. Perhaps what makes this relative drop in the musical ocean seem so seismic is that there is an inescapable boutique feeling to the music Gray creates. In the intimate, warbling tones of his synths and the roughshod fall of his beats a thousand forgotten gems are remembered, so rich is the nostalgia that is woven into his music. That’s far from an aspersion on the worth that Gray’s output has brought to the table thus far, as his skill is in creating those emotional responses while carving his own identity with plentiful panache. As such, to hear so many people championing his music seems at odds with the up close and personal tone he often transmits.
Swedish producer Rivet follows a long line of anonymous producers into the contemporary techno arena, but as his second record for the the Skudge Presents label shows, there’s a lot more going on underneath the (now discarded) mask than faceless linear tracks. The Rivet material that has most in common with Driftwood is his reshape of Tyler Friedman’s “A Night in the Woods” on Kontra Musik last year. In that instance, he turned the original track into a seemingly never-ending stream of consciousness expression, adding, subtracting and re-introducing a myriad of musical elements, some easy to identify others murkier and less pronounced.
It’s easy to underestimate just how much Tadd Mullinix has put out over the years, both as hip hop tinged beatsmith Dabrye and as James T. Cotton. The latter has consistently smashed the possibilities of acid wide open, yielding sometimes challenging, sometimes hooky, but always vital 12”s and LPs. Spectral Sound (and its parent label Ghostly International) was the starting point for this tirade against clean production and tidy arrangements, long before the gritty analogue approach was so en vogue. After some time away producing for a whole range of different labels, JTC is bringing it back home with another slice of utterly unquestionable dancefloor dynamite.
Ruf Dug is very much a producer on the rise. Like a fine wine, the eccentric Mancunian DJ/producer seems to be getting better with age. He’s hardly a newcomer, having dropped his first 12” on Popular People’s Front back in 2009, a delightfully fuzzy and off-kilter chunk of warm analogue house that defied easy categorization. Yet it’s taken him some four years, and a stop-start schedule of in-demand edits and oddities (the excellent Ruf Kutz series), bizarre mixtapes based on charity shop finds, and amusing social media rants, to really fulfill his potential.
Someone somewhere is having a laugh. When the first Blacknecks release appeared – on anonymous vinyl, natch – the people behind it put out the entirely fictitious story that it was the work of a former garage duo from the 90s. Nothing could be further from the truth, but what still holds true is the fact that the Blacknecks project has become a platform for making and releasing music that under normal circumstances would be wrong on all kinds of aesthetic and creative levels.