Traditional and futuristic strains of South African music meld on John Wizards, a new signing to Planet Mu.
Having spent the past few years promoting the sounds of contemporary Chicago with a raft of albums from footwork artists such as Traxman, Young Smoke and most recently RP Boo, Planet Mu are embarking on a continental shift with the addition of John Wizards. The Cape Town-based seven piece act are led by producer John Withers, and their forthcoming Planet Mu debut Lusaka By Night makes for a curious addition to the label’s roster.
Evoking similar feelings to the Shangaan Electro compilation, John Wizards take an approach that is respectful of African music tradition, yet wraps it in electronic elements such as warping bass, echoing delay and the heavily pitch shifted vocals of Rwandan singer Emmanuel Nzaramba. Due out in June, the Lusaka By Night 12″ sees two original productions from John Wizard complemented by remixes from Ital Tek and Hyperdub act LV, and precedes the release of a full John Wizard album on Planet Mu later this year.
Planet Mu will release the Lusaka By Night 12″ by John Wizards on June 17.
1. Lusaka By Night
2. I Is
3. Tet Lek Schrempf (Ital Tek Remix)
4. Lusaka By Night (LV Remix)
In a rose-tinted cross-pollination of vintage psychedelia and bold production, Solar Bears follow up their debut LP She Was Coloured In with a decisive leap forwards. The duo of John Kowalski and Rian Trench represent the less considered side of Planet Mu Records, remaining faithful to the imprint since their inception and reflecting label boss Mike Paradinas’ love of indie synth pop – something that came to the fore with his recent Heterotic project.
It’s a real treat to find an electronic album perfectly suited to home listening that doesn’t challenge or jar in some way. In truth, a lot of “relaxing” electronica tends to be rather too vapid and comatose, and there’s no denying the allure of music that possesses the power to shock and awe your cerebellum. Some of the finest braindance though has been in that strange hinterland betwixt the two, as in the lush momentum of Astrobotnia or Cylob.
Depending on your predilection, the name Venetian Snares will either induce terror or delight. Aaron Funk’s music has largely erred towards the aggressive and intense, but those fortunate enough to stumble upon his Last Step project have been privy to a broader tapestry of moods that eschew manic breakcore in favour of low-slung acidic grooves.
With those bubbling toms and relentlessly ragged samples firmly fixed in the pantheon of modern dance music, juke and footwork are well and truly here to stay, thanks in no small part to Planet Mu Records and its tireless quest to showcase the authentic Chicago sound to a wider audience. With plenty of compilations, singles and artist albums getting notched up from the key protagonists in the scene, it’s now the turn of Traxman to step up to the plate with his album. Compared to some of his younger compadres, Traxman has been at it for a long time, with roots in Dance Mania 12”s in the nineties among other harder to trace offerings.
Aaron Funk, the Winnipeg based producer best known for his prolific and at times rhythmically challenging work under the Venetian Snares banner has returned to his rarely used Last Step alias for a new album set for release on Planet Mu in May.
Judging the best record labels in any given year is not an easy task. The necessary combination of established labels reaching their peak and fresh imprints flourishing in their infancy is not an easy one to reach; inevitable comprises in the age old quantity vs quality debate are liable to be discussed ad nauseum. This year’s list came together slowly but surely, and we believe it provides a neat snapshot of all that is good about electronic music right now.
The aforementioned upstarts are visible in force (Hivern, Long Island Electrical Systems) as are their more established counterparts (Clone, Planet Mu, Honest Jon’s). Their combined reach is truly global, with our selected labels based in cities as diverse as Barcelona, New York, London, Glasgow, L.A. and Bristol – their respective rosters have an even broader reach and they collectively touch on too many genres to mention.
Anyone with a finger on or someone near the pulse of electronic music right now won’t need us to tell you the importance of record labels these days. They serve as what Andrew Weatherall describes as a “cultural filter”; the best labels wade through oceans of sameness to illuminate the interesting corners of music, earning our trust and admiration in the process. There are, of course, many, many more labels worthy of end-of-year coverage, but here is the Juno Plus selection of the labels that impressed us most in 2011.
The swelling number of albums slated for release next year just got a bit more interesting with the news that Daniel Martin-McCormick will release his debut album as Ital on the Planet Mu imprint next February.