It’s a typically wet East London evening in late June, and I am draped in oversized stolen surgical scrubs, making my music video debut as the disinterested lab assistant to a Glaswegian teashop proprietor and budding medical torturer who has drugged and is subsequently planning to inject a nasty-looking potion into the man lying on a table in front of me.
Pictures Music open proceedings on a new year with the announcement of a new signing in the shape of Bobby Champs, whose forthcoming EP further demonstrates the Peckham based imprint’s desire to expand into techno territory - as hinted at on previous Pictures output from Berlin transplant Seams.
With Mike Paradinas currently based in the outskirts of Chicago on a scouting mission for the latest juke producers, fledgling London label Pictures Music have sidled in and sweet talked the label’s production virtuouso Rudi Zygadlo into releasing a one-off 12″ with them.
EntitledAchtung, the four track EP was released yesterday and sees the exotically named Zygadlo draw further on the unique brand of electronic music first evidenced on his debut LP – last year’s Great Western Laymen. Scattergun rhythmic directions, intricate instrumentation, neon tinged synth lines and multi-layered vocal harmonies are all present and correct. Furthermore, Achtung draws a nice line between Zygadlo’s quieter sonic leanings which fill out the A Side and a more beat-driven side on the flip, with the excellent shuddering 4/4 flex of the title track and the expansive bass shimmers of “The Deaf School”.
All this is in advance of Rudi’s second album for the Planet Mu imprint, which is currently in something akin to a rich vein of form thanks to some excellent LPs this year from Machinedrum, Chrissy Murderbot, Rashad, Boxcutter and Falty DL – which will soon be joined by the equally good Kuedo and Tropics long players! Hence we thought it would be interesting to see which tracks from the label’s lengthy back catalogue resonated most with one if its most promising talents.
London based Pictures Music began life in 2010 with a dubstep and garage infused EP from fast rising trio Dark Sky. This was closely followed by the Tourist EP from Seams, filled with colourful and minimal electronic tones in the vein of Four Tet or Gold Panda, and the debut release from Chairman Kato, a more claustrophobic EP of expansive bass-filled techno. These three releases couldn’t have been any more disparate, and quickly set out the label’s position as one that was not going to settle releasing one style of music. The release of Koreless’ 4D/MTI single, championed by Gilles Peterson and Jamie xx, saw the label propelled into the consciousness of a much wider audience.
The acclaim and adulation afforded to Gold Panda for last year’s excellent debut album Lucky Shiner might not have secured him a Mercury Award nomination but seems indicative of a shift towards acceptance for that most derided of practising musician – the bedroom producer turned laptop performer. The somewhat reclusive yet highly prodigious producer is at the forefront of a swathe of new talent who can be mischievously labelled The Second Coming Of IDM. Indeed it was at a sold out Gold Panda gig at London’s Corsica Studios where amidst scenes of girls screaming almost lecherously at the onstage Derwin Panda – essentially some hooded skinny white dude with a Macbook and an array of machinery – that a friend who has experienced the crash and burn of many a 90s IDM producer elicited his amazement at such scenes.
The reasons for this change in perception could be debated long and hard, what is clear however, is that this generation is more open to a broad range of sounds and whereas the 90s Gold Panda et al would have been sidelined by nerdish connotations, now they are willing recipients of wider praise. One such label that is excelling in these times is Pictures Music, whose output to date has been critically lauded thanks to contributions from rising artists such as Koreless, Dark Sky, Chairman Kato and Seams.
The latter Pokémon obsessed producer has close ties to Gold Panda, having remixed his breakthrough track “You” and whose smart debut for the Pictures imprint, the Tourist EP released digitally in the winter of last year, was formed from a series of field recordings gathered whilst living in Berlin. This much awaited new release from Seams is another bookmark in the continual ascent and sonic maturity of both artist and label. Having seen Seams perform around the time of each Pictures release, there was a burgeoning confidence demonstrated in his most recent live set which totally translates to the two tracks on Focus Energy.
This releases sees Seams indulge in something altogether more sweat inducing than the four tracks on his debut, the two new productions borne out of a desire to get gig attendees to dance as opposed to merely nod heads, and both achieve that with aplomb! “Focus Energy” and “Motive Order” are formed from the same ingredients but veer in thrillingly disparate directions, with the former a stripped down array of vocal stabs and deft percussion which is given plenty of upward momentum by the insistent melodic builds. In contrast “Motive Order” delights with chaotic urgency, exploding into the sort of rich, colourful textures you’d expect on Border Community. Little wonder James Holden is a fan then.
A cool, calm and deeply contemplative release from the London based production trio, Dark Sky. Following on from their previous release, Something To Lose, the EP marks another notable landmark on the constantly morphing and elusive post-dubstep landscape.
Music made to the move the mind, body and soul, “Drowned City” opens with warm, future garage-esque synths and instrumental sounds, eventually falling into a deftly placed beat, with lashings of James Blake (circa his remix of Mount Kimbie’s “Maybes” minus the vocal) in there. The track moves along like a gently wafting breeze, never too troubled, or hindered in its path. “Fly”, up next, continues in a similar vein with soft breathy vocals, rather like a D Bridge & Instra:mental track, minimal, deep and deadly effective, the soundscape a mixture of punctures, bleeps, stabs and twitches, led by the female vocal sample, twisting and changing course, perhaps even a little Scuba-esqe at times. Moving forwards with “Night Light”, its gentle glimmering atmospherics for the first forty seconds lead into a surprisingly heavy, tumultuous drop, with booming subs and a jingling, bell-shaking riff adding to the upbeat, energetic lilting rhythm. Concluding with “Reflex”, Dark Sky take it back down to earth, with an intro dominated by scraping comb-like sounds and a menacing metallic thump, rather like June Miller’s “Brussel North”, in fact.
Murging sounds, rhythms, tempos and textures from across the sonic spectrum, this is an interesting and enticing EP from the tripartite collective. How it will fair against the likes of Mount Kimbie, James Blake, George Fitzgerald et al, remains to be seen. Our advice? Watch this space.
Review: Belinda Rowse
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