“Take Pictures”, one of the highlights of Ikonika’s recently released I Make Lists EP, now has its own surreal video to go with it.
Despite its many charms, Minehead’s Butlins resort in mid March is patently not Barcelona.Yet it’s here, out of season by the Bristol channel, that a musical movement is brewing to rival that of Sónar as one of the world’s premiere events catering for discerning electronic music.
Bloc, now in its fifth year, has grown exponentially since its launch and the line-up assembled for the 2011 showcase was, on paper, its strongest yet. In many ways it’s a canny move to book the event so early in the year, as it allows organisers to operate unencumbered by the goings on of the UK/European summer festivals that duke it out from June to August. It also offers actual beds to revellers, and those of us of a certain vintage welcome the chance to rest our weary heads somewhere comfy, rather than climb into a freezing tent and sleep for exactly five minutes before waking up to scorching sunshine/pissing rain (delete where applicable) and a parched mouth.
The more musically broad minded amongst us might recognise Brenmar as the glowstick wielding drummer from arch Brooklyn noise trio These Are Powers. A mainstay of the band over the course of their two albums and numerous EPs, this year however has seen Brenmar break free with his own productions. Early bootleg productions of Cassie and DJ Deeon cut an impressive swathe with taste maker DJs such as Ikonika and Bok Bok flipping them repeatedly, whilst media attention from The Fader and Dazed has added a sense of inevitable momentum.
Recent remixes for Teengirl Fantasy and Gatekeeper have set the tone for Brenmar’s debut EP, delivered courtesy of Swedish blog cum digi label Discobelle. At It Again draws influence from Brenmar’s hometown of Chicago but melds it to the rhythmic thrust currently coursing through the UK underground; taking a full helping of house and layering it with the percussive styles of UK Funky and a liberal dose of R&B vocal sampling.
The title track sets the tone, with some herky jerky synth work and extraordinary percussion the backdrop for a female vocal sample that announces Brenmar’s “At It Again”. Key Juke producers DJ Rashad, DJ Earl and DJ BMT collaborate on a remix of “At It Again”, injecting the track with some BPM fuel, embellishing the percussion with a frenzy of frantic claps and pitched toms. The sampled vocal is pulsed repetitively against the techno synths with a sense of ingenuity that reveals why there is so much attention on this niche Chi town genre.
From this heart racing moment, Brenmar introduces “Taking It Down”, notable for one of this year’s most infectious synth lines that in tandem with the sultry male vocal ride the rasping beat and throwback UKG bass with aplomb; this is likely to be a crowd pleaser. In contrast, “Like It Like That” revels in the dark menace that seeps out of the Dutch house synth work wrapped in jerked Dirty South rap vocal sampling.
“You Make Me Say” sits somewhere between the dark menace and sultry bounce of the previous two tracks, and is characterised by the infectious vocal. Ikonika and her Hum & Buzz label partner Optimum flip the track into a Dance Mania referencing future bass anthem. If Brenmar’s subsequent output retains a tenth of the quality that this release is soaked in, he’ll be a star.
Mutek: Montreal, Canada. June 2-6, 2010
For the last 11 years, something electronically special has been brewing in Montreal. Throughout five adventurous days and nights, Mutek emphatically made a case for being quite possibly the world’s premier showcase for forward-thinking, cutting edge electronic music and digital creativity. Accompanied by its unmatchable array of stunning visual spectacles, this year brought a host of exciting North American artist premieres including King Midas Sound, Ikonika, Brandt Brauer Frick among many others As over 150 artists and acts converged to dazzle and challenge us, it was impossible to take in everything. The following is what intrepid Juno Plus techno warrior Steve Phillips extracted from all the blissful madness.
Having kept fans hooked since her first Hyperdub single Please/Simulacrum, Ikonika graduates with flying colours into the the big league with this stunning debut. “Ikonklast (Insert Coin)” starts things off in a measured but confident way, with half-step beats and bent Eastern scales vying for your attention. The rollicking funky meets glitchcore of “Idiot” is a revelation though. A perfectly tempered mix of stacked snares, sub bass and a complex melody picked out of a slew of bleeps and test tones, it’s both satisfyingly familiar whilst also sounding totally unique and fresh.
While her early singles were leapt on by dubstep fans everywhere, Ikonika takes the wise decision not to go down any cliched or well-trodden routes on Contact Love Want Have. There’s no gratuitous wobble for example on tunes like “Millie” or “Sahara Michael”, the basslines are tight and full of bounce rather than showy and over the top. There are also so many influences at work here (all expertly realised through her sharp production) that every listen solicits a different response from the listener. “Continue?” for example gives off a slow-jam R&B vibe with the beats but quickly picks up the pace and transforms into something else entirely. Heston gives off some serious kwaito vibes too, coming over like a sequel to “Township Funk” (Mujava’s classic which Ikonika remixed for Warp last year) and “Psoriasis” will be the one that DJ’s will go crazy for – a seriously banging fusion of funky and swirling melodies. Fans of Zomby, Kode9 and the extended Hyperdub and Planet Mu family will instantly rate this straight away, but there’s every chance it’s unique edge and all round quality will see it reach a wider audience pretty soon.
Review: Oliver Keens