Hot off the press this week, Pearls is Swimful’s second release on Shanghai-based record label SVBKVLT (third including a remix EP). Following on from previous records by the likes of Prettybwoy, Howie Lee and Damacha, this EP is a continuation of output from artists based in East Asia producing a vast array of club-friendly music. Swimful’s wistful takes on grime will be familiar to a variety of listeners, from fans of the Boxed show on Rinse FM all the way through to Lil B aficionados. It is remarkable that four tracks (which just happen to be some of the best that Swimful has made over the past year) sound so cohesive as a storytelling unit when brought together. Even the remixes, coming from Coyote Records’ Letta and Shanghai’s Downstate, add to this tale. Letta goes sensory-overload with the syrupy sweet “Pearls”, interspersing chopped pop vocals with thunderous bass shells, while Downstate unleashes a self-contained serpentine odyssey in and of itself. On our personal highlight “Call Cards”, traditional instruments hold court with each sequential layer added, building up the tension on heart strings until there’s room for no more. Keep an eye out for more from Swimful.
Preferring to keep a small roster of close friends, Anthony Naples’ Proibito label has been steadily building a discography of evocative takes on house and techno since its inception in 2013. As a result, followers of the label have been able to see these artists grow over the years as they explore new ideas. On Us Mix, we hear Naples’ signature driving kicks and glistening synths, but with a new level of added confidence and focus. “Sky Flowers” opens up with bright and airy percussion, evoking the carefree energy of nature in bloom. A chorus of birds approach overhead, their voices melting melodiously into the air. Windows down, a car zips through tree-filtered sunlight. Serene and soothing, it’s all the sounds of summer in the form of a magnetic house track. Led by glowing keys and a quick-shifting rhythm, “Seeloo” falls into an irresistible groove. Its lively drums and catchy synth lines evoke an inviting atmosphere in which smiling dancers lose themselves to the music. While beautifully layered, the track is highlighted by tranquil moments that give it a sense of spaciousness. Diverging from the more blissful energy of the A-side, “At Ease” is darker and more contemplative. Despite the track’s title, there’s a presiding feeling of unease brought on by the hollow drums and nervous piano. Finally, “Us Mix” arrives reminiscent of a Mario Kart or CTR beach level with shimmering water and expanses of yellow sand. Disco-groovy and engrossingly saccharine, its synthesizer sheen washes over a bubbling beat. Midway through, a whip cuts through the air followed by a steady wave of high hats, together taking the track into funkier territory. Classically inspired but imaginatively executed, it’s a wonderful display of Naples’ crystal-clear vision of modern house.
Half Nelson is a new project from William Yates, who has previously released as memotone for labels like Black Acre and Bastakiya Tapes. While those were ambient explorations and folk-tinged excursions, his debut Half Nelson release, First Step, is a gnarled take on broken house music. Fans of The Cyclist should appreciate this work, which takes the hazy, worn-out sounds of stretched tape and applies them over heady 4/4 beats. Opener “Temptation” feels like Boards of Canada making lo-fi house before throwing down a vicious bass that leads the way through a barrage of confusing, seemingly unrelated samples. It’s thrilling in its apparent randomness. “Day One and Two” appears as if it was built from the bones of ‘90s classics, big garage bass and rave synths combining under a beautiful chord structure straight from New York house – all at a stately 115bpm. Lastly, “Fluorescent” starts off with a scorched explosion of sound, a booming bass drum deep in the mix. There’s a beautifully muffled theme that’s deeply affected by shrill sonic artefacts, paving the way for unresolved chords and dainty melodies that seem at odds with the overarching throb. The whole release is riven with these contradictions – discordant shrieks and sweet riffs, urgency and irreverence all coalescing to bring about the unexpected. Let’s hope Yates has more like this in store.
The most foolish thing you could do right now is sleep on Playboi Carti’s self-titled. The ATL upstart has had a palpable buzz around him for well over a year, linking with the A$AP Mob, Awful Records crew and collaborating with Ramriddlz too. His style is perfect for the party and definitely something for fans of close affiliate Lil Uzi Vert, who he’s both toured and traded bars with. 2017’s one-two punch of Lil Uzi’s inescapably brilliant “XO TOUR Llif3” and a tape of fresh new Carti is the kind of attack combo that shuts the whole summer down. Playboi Carti takes off with the slowly blazing “Location” to set the scene, though it’s on “Magnolia” where things really get started. Incessant synths and fat bass introduce Carti’s iconic hook: “In New York I Milly Rock, hide it in my sock,” later joined by a flute loop (of course). Also produced by PierreBourne, “Dothatshit!” inverses the beat’s blueprint; Flute takes the lead whilst there’s much more bounce to the bass. Carti comes in with the ambidextrous flow that can do both and beyond, hopping between melodic autotuned singing, raw spitting and full adlib mode with the freneticism of four-player Rayman Origins. Songs are so well-seasoned with adlibs that they become physical flourishes, as if you can hear him dancing along to his music. Without taking away from his lyrical ability, ear for beats or guests (Lil Uzi Vert, A$AP Rocky and Leven Kali), it becomes very clear very quickly that Playboi Carti is all about its star’s character and presence. Carti’s charisma has its own center of gravity and with such magnetism imbued in his first official mixtape, it would prove to be very difficult not to get with the winning team.
Words by Matt Coombs, Taylor Trostle, Aidan Hanratty and Tayyab Amin.