We’ve come into 2014 following the few years where ‘analogue’ seems to be one of the most ubiquitous words in underground electronic music. Opal Tapes has been one of the most visible proponents of analogue music in recent times and following a prolific year in which they released no less than 20 tapes, usually released in batches of 4 or 5 simultaneously, you’d be forgiven for having missed out on a few of their stronger releases. Michigan native and London-based Karen Gwyer undoubtedly created one such release, her album Kiki The Wormhole, which followed on a few months after her debut album on No Pain In Pop, Needs Continuum. The latter Gwyer recorded in the months building up to the birth of her son and resulted in a warm, woozy and understandably personal record. The former, as the name would suggest, is a sound distinctly steeped in the space imagery that so prominently influenced the Detroit masters Gwyer is indebted to.
For her latest EP New Roof, Gwyer returns to No Pain In Pop with the lengthier compositions as seen on display on her Opal Tapes release. “Lay Claim To My Grub” sees the slow-burning affection of Needs Continuum left behind for a more immediate and urgent approach. Clocking in at over 15 minutes the track ushers in a more overt techno influence but still retains much of the woozy psychedelic qualities as displayed in her earlier works. The restlessness of “Lay Claim…” is it’s most endearing feature, with head-space filling synth backed with the forceful beat reminiscent of early 90s British techno which eventually subsides leaving the melody to ease the track out. “Nail Bars of The Apocalypse” is an appropriately named (relatively) short interlude which is a downcast beatless organ affair and serves as a suitable break before the imposing 17 minute “Missisissipippi”, the moodiest of trio. Drawing more influence from drone and ambient techno than the first track, “Missisissipippi” trawls with the atmospheric murk reminiscent of Voices from the Lake and moving into vague psychedelic dubbiness which recalls fellow No Pain In Pop-er Forest Swords. The synth line which permeates the entirety of the track ultimately provides a constant and intimidating reference point as other sections come and go through the length of the track providing an interesting contrast with the intimate Needs Continuum by developing a significantly more isolating sound.
Whilst techno has undoubtedly influenced Gwyer’s past works her association with No Pain In Pop indicates a more home-based intention behind them. New Roof with “Lay Claim…” on the contrary provides us with Gwyer’s most overt attempt at creating something with more of an eye to the club. Recent live shows which seen her play with Opal Tapes labelmates in Berlin’s Panorama Bar show, along with New Roof, a willingness on Gwyer’s part to engage further with dance scene. The darker aspects of her sound as explored in the second and third tracks show the breadth of Gwyer’s influence and may hint towards what further directions she can take her music. There may be far from a dearth of artists who are currently techno influenced analogue music but New Roof shows that Gwyer has a greater level of depth and consideration in her music than many of her contemporaries.
Words by Antoin Lindsay
Words by Truants, 03 March 2014. Leave a comment
You can’t throw a rock in a club these days without hitting a Kerri Chandler track, or one that sounds strikingly similar. While it’s no revelation that producers are strip mining the sounds of the 1990s, his brand of buoyant New Jersey House is in high demand. While his imitators are legion, there’s only one Kerri Chandler. For those who need an introduction, Kerri “Kaoz” Chandler cut his teeth working at recording studios and DJing at the legendary Club Zanzibar in Newark, New Jersey. Producing for other artists led to putting out tracks under his own name, and releases like Atmosphere have become a blueprint for anyone looking to recreate the magic of the early 90s tri-state house scene. Not one to be confined to a particular time, place, or genre Kerri recently launched the sublabel MadTech as a platform for young guns who put their own twist on the 4×4 template. Ahead of the release of his new mix album Watergate 15 and the re-issue of Trionisphere, one of his most sought after records, we had a quick digital sit down with the man himself.
Stream: Kerri Chandler – Keep Me Inside
Hey Kerri! We’re big fans here at Truants! For those who might not be familiar, mind telling us a bit about your background? How did you get into music, and what do you imagine you’d be doing without it? “I come from a musical background. My family has always been full of musicians, singers, DJ’s – I’ve been around music my entire life. But if I wasn’t doing music I’d probably be in a lab somewhere – science is my other love. I’ve always had a thoughtful approach to anything, I try to figure stuff out from physics to mechanics which of course also includes sound. The fact that my dad was a DJ gave me a great playground as a kid.”
You seem to spend a lot of time in London, are you based there or do you still call New Jersey home? “London’s always been kind to me. I played my first international show at MOS in 1991 and haven’t looked back since. I have a lot of wonderful friends here so its always great to be here. Truth be told, I live on airplanes it seems – I spend more time there than anywhere else.”
A lot of people venerate, and even try to re-create, the club scene in the New York area during the late 80s and early 90s. What do you think is so timeless about the music produced then? Also, is there anything that the revival is missing? More Zima maybe? “I suppose that if you weren’t there, hearing the stories about the Loft, Paradise Garage, Warehouse, etc its all very nostalgic. We had a great time then but I love everything that is going on now as far as a revival- its great. But it’s missing the vocals. There should be more vocal tracks, more singers and more live performances in my opinion. I really love that people are being creative and using so many different avenues to create but I feel that a lot of newcomers are missing out on an opportunity to really take it to the next level by learning how work with singers and work with vocals.”
We had no idea until recently that you’ve done vocals on many of your own tracks. Your voice is great! Have any tips for a producer who wants to take their vocals into their own hands? “Thank you. I never considered myself a singer, I feel I’m more of a vocalist. I write my life’s story and let it out through the music. Every song I’ve put my voice to has a real story behind it. The big thing is if producers can express what they are trying to achieve to singers it can go a long way.”
Stream: Kerri Chandler – Rain
We trust you were at Zanzibar quite often. We’ve gotta ask, what was the craziest night there? “The opening night. I was there a lot over the years but nothing topped that.” [Editors note: Kerri didn’t go into much detail but this article does and we’re inclined to agree that nothing could top live tigers.]
Through MadTech you’ve released records from a number of up and coming artists. Is there anything you’ve learned from the newest crop of producers? “I’ve learned to do what I’ve always done and trust my instincts and that’s what’s working for now. We have some really exciting new material coming up and I’m glad these guys are being given the same opportunities I was fortunate enough to enjoy. As for what I’ve learned- I learn so much from so many people that its hard to name any one thing.” On that note, who are some new talents we should keep our eye on? “As for new, Voyeur, Citizen, Krystal Klear, No Artificial Colors, Disclosure, Steve Mills, Detroit Swindle, Huxley and pretty much all my family at Circo Loco. There’s just far too many people whose music I love to name them all.”
Are there any things haven’t changed since you began DJing and Producing? Are there constants? “Obviously we’re enjoying more options as DJ’s in the booth – the technology has become more portable and more powerful. I work very closely with Native Instruments and recently released a production pack for their iMaschine App. Its something I was using a lot in airport lounges, planes, trains and…automobiles. I can then transfer it over to my computer once I get back to the studio. In terms of musical style, I simply play the way I always have – I play what I feel, whatever my mood dictates at the time and hope that the crowd enjoys what I do.”
We recently saw a dance floor lose their minds to your remix of The System, ourselves included, what’s one of your earlier tunes that never leaves your crate? “Track 1!”
Stream: Kerri Chandler – Track 1
Spending as much time in clubs as you do must be exhausting. Any tips for younger DJs on how to avoid a burnout? “I don’t party when I’m not working. If I’m not DJing then I’m rarely in the club, but when I am, I give it everything! I always give my personal professional best and remember that people have spent their hard earned cash on a ticket to see me… I don’t want to let them down! Otherwise I’m more than likely in the studio or having some quiet time at the beach before going into the studio. The only real advice I can give is to pace themselves – not overdo it and to take some quiet time out for themselves once in a while.”
Finally, we’ve heard you have a season pass to Six Flags. What ride should we make sure hit next time we go? “Kingda Ka! Its the tallest coaster in the U.S. And the Superman coaster – you’re strapped in standing and coming down you end up laying belly down and you’re flying like you’re Superman.”
Watergate 15 and Trionosphere are out now on Watergate Records and King Street Sounds.
Words by Stephanie Neptune, 28 February 2014. Leave a comment
Born of LA but rapidly expanding their reach outwards, the Futures Collective come exactly as advertised. Armed with a heightened sense of emotional awareness, their production software of choice, a healthy dose of talent and, of course, a strong wi-fi signal, the youthful roster of Futures artists is growing, both in numbers and exposure. The crew was originally formed by Eaves, Zack Sekoff and, one half of duo Party Time, Rick Farin with the purpose of throwing parties (as is often the case in these situations), but the next logical step was to start putting out records under the Collectives name. Since the first showcase tape dropped we’ve been treated to increasingly accomplished EP’s from Eaves, Female and Beshken. The newest release, Futures Vol. 2, is made up of 11 tracks worth of emotionally saturated, electronic genre-spanning fare featuring a few previous Truants favourites and a few sure-fire future ones too.
The task of setting the tone is given to Eaves and before you even press play, the signals are there. A heavy hissing is draped over the entirety of “Lonely” while the contemplative melodies pulse in and out , reminiscent of a lo-fi “Colour and Movement” by Ryan Hemsworth. Not too long ago we recommended Karman‘s Forever EP to you and pronounced “Karman is sadboys-does-dance”. That most certainly holds up here. “Engraved” is an assault on the senses, panning percussion left to right at breakneck speeds. It’s not all rough and tumble though, and there are some much-needed moments of contemplation where the drums rescind and an ever chopped and changed vocal is allowed to shine through.
Also previously featured here at Truants is Munno (whose excellent Truancy Volume you should check out here). “Thanks” is a continuation of his prior work in the sincere and heartfelt, embodying the thoughtful use and manipulation of samples that comes across throughout the compilation. Next up is Zack Sekoff, who already has a few impressive credits to his name, including providing the foundations for Thundercat’s “Lotus and the Jondy“. Built upon a strictly synthetic, borderline techno drum machine loop, “Electric Nights” is perfect cruising music. A big S/O should also go to Zack for his use of the “kick out the jams” sample from MC5’s track of the same name, which is certainly one of the highlights of the tape.
Stream: Zack Sekoff – Electric Nights (Futures Collective)
It’s fair to say that ASL Singles Club share a similar aesthetic with that of the Futures Collective and so it would make sense that a little bit of artist borrowing should take place here. 8prn (working in cohorts with Heartbeat(s)) was responsible for the debut release on that label and here presents “69 Guns”, a paranoiac, bass heavy, sci-fi leaning jam. Rook Milo‘s offering is almost certainly the jewel in the crown of this compilation. While the majority of tracks here present their emotional value through an unfocused, fuzzy lens (please note: not a bad thing), “Cobalt Polo” is crystal clear and glistening in it’s outpouring. The yearning is heartbreakingly palpable. If you can find it within yourself to listen to one more track featuring that sample from “The Boy Is Mine”, we’d urge you to make it this one. It’ll be worth it. We promise.
Stream: Rook Milo – Cobalt Polo (Futures Collective)
The second half of this tape is equally as impressive as the first. Beshken’s “Sutro’s Tower” is an ode to the beat scene that LA is stereotypically known for. It riffs on an exotic thumb piano and invites you to ascend the eponymous San Fran landmark and gaze out across the landscape. Falls‘ remix of “Read U” by Patchley, originally released as part of Purr Tapes’ summer 2013 compilation, leaves the vocal relatively untouched, transforming the rigid euphoria of the original into a much more melancholic, shuffling housey number. “Fountain”, Pharaoh‘s offering to the tape, is somewhat jarring to begin with, laying down a broken beat while pulsing synths prepare you for the scattering footwork drop to come. However, once you pick up the trace of the piano and the exquisite chord progression on show, the fit becomes clear. Svengali, also responsible for the compilation artwork, proves himself to be talented on both fronts, using pitched-down vocals to create the atmosphere in his slow jam, “Icgyl”. Last but not least, “Windows” by Kurt makes no apologies for displaying its video game influences for all to see, using a bassline straight from your favourite 8-bit platformer. It’s a stunning end to the compilation and one that brings us back full circle to a satisfying end.
Stream: Pharaoh – Fountain (Futures Collective)
While each young producer showcases a high level of talent on their own track, this is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s notably impressive how each track can tug on the heart strings in a different way, despite traversing numerous, vastly different genres. The emotional synergy carries through from beginning to end and makes this a particularly affecting 40 minutes of music. Comparisons with another LA-based collective, We Did It, aren’t particularly appropriate to make sonically, but there’s nothing to suggest that we couldn’t see similar levels of success for the members of the Futures Collective.
Futures Vol. 2 is available now, both digitally and (somewhat ironically) on cassette. Cop here.
Words by Matt Coombs, 27 February 2014. Leave a comment
The label at hand, ASL Singles Club, seemed to be onto something from the start with its first single in the final quarter of last year, and has since justified any sense of nascency we’ve felt the label displayed from it. Trailing well-documented singles from Nick Wisdom, Autem, Rook Milo and Heartbeat(s) and 8prn—the latter couple who helm the Vancouver label alongside Devin Cheffers— it’s Brooklyn producer/dj and Broke City resident Sleepyhead who most recently signed his ‘Untitled’ EP to ASL, getting the 2014 ball rolling for both himself and the host party. Billed by ASL as “quintessential house tunes,” ‘Untitled’ is just that: a collection of frill- less, straight-ahead grooves. The EP as a whole typifies an ethos (that sometimes extends to even clothing) the label has amassed, and also that of New York’s underground circuit—it being generally frill-less but at the same time managing to conjure good musical conviction and dexterity with stuff that’s always worked.
Sleepyhead starts ‘Untitled’ with the most UK-informed number on the project with “SayU <3 Me”, which, if it’s any reason for it, features production aid from CZ. The soulfulR&B chops and playful lead line foretell of a catchy, mobilizing release, which the EPdefinitely is. But the producer’s formula changes for other tracks, if only marginally, toconvey different emotions that call for different circumstances. The foremost examplewould probably be “What’s Inside”, in which Sleepyhead sounds less distanced fromhis days on Embassy or Symbols, beckoning the late night or early morning with anaffirming diva refrain, gravitating pads and low-slung bass. Combinations like these areobviously nothing we haven’t heard before, but they form Sleepyhead’s calling card andit’s awesome when he comes through.
Stream: Sleepyhead – Untitiled (ASL Singles Club)
Words by Michael Scala
Cop ‘Untitled’ for $4.99 on Bandcamp.
Words by Truants, 26 February 2014. Leave a comment
One of the best things to come out of Miami since DJ Khaled is rising rapper Nell. Atlanta is awash with young rappers jostling for our attention, but just a stone’s throw away, somewhere low-key in Florida (Zone 4 Carol City to be exact), you can find him steadily building a name for himself. Metro Zu and the Raider Klan (along with all affiliates and past members) are two young crews that have been putting their state on the map, so if you think that Pitbull and Flo-Rida are its only exports, think again. Granted – it is the home of heavyweights Ricky Rozay & (lightweight) Gunplay, but the Maybach Music Group has long since flown the nest. Automatic associations of Vice City will invoke images of white suits, pastel shirts & calfskin loafers but fear not, Nell has not traded in the lo fi, monochromatic aesthetic that we have become accustomed to for palm trees and a Ferrari Daytona just yet. That might be real life for the likes of William Leonard Roberts II & co but Purrp and his cabal – who have firmly established themselves as keepers of the Memphis and Houston sound – are yet to cash in unlike their $ worn enemies in NYC.
Stream: Nell – 94′ documentary PT.1
Releasing the impressive The Revolution ‘94 mixtape in August of last year, his latest offering, Vice City, serves as a testament of his work rate, consistency and hunger as a young MC. The combination of a distinctive flow and an ear for quality new age Phonk productions has set him out as one of the most promising members of the Klan. He has proved many times that he is just as capable of producing stoner anthems like the newly visualised “R.I.P Pimp C Freestyle” or “Hvzy Tripz” from his #305-Grind as he is murky, thugged out junts that could both soundtrack and incite any number of illicit night-time activities – the menacing “Who Want It” instantly comes to mind.
Stream: Nell – Who Want It
This tape, however, opens with the contemplative and melancholic “Everlasting Thought” where he questions the ills of modern day life, stating : ‘Pharaoh economy / what about the minority? / common denominator the dominant target / why must we suffer ‘cus some of my people starvin?’ The track poignantly ends with his echoed voice repeating ‘It’s a youth world order, Black Power… the new world’s in the making.’ A clear reiteration of views expressed on tracks like “Ridaz” for those who may doubted his commitment to the ‘cause’. “The Block” and “Craps (Interlude)” pair him with eerie minimalist productions that sound like they were recorded directly from a secret chamber in the Vatican. He makes it clear that the Florida that he inhabits and the one that Mickey and Friends call home are worlds apart. At times you could be forgiven for thinking that the sun even shone there. On the patriotic “From The South” he raps, “dungeons raised us” alluding to both the influence of ATL’s Dungeon Family and the Klan’s aptly named Blackland; and if you didn’t get the picture the ominous strikes of thunder and strung out bassline line should make it clear.
The darkness that overshadowed the first few tracks is dispelled by uplifting productions courtesy of Showoffbeats on both “Mackin and Hangin” featuring Spaceghostpurrp and the self explanatory “OG Ganja Smoke”. Showoff has previously produced for Curren$y, who Nell cites as a “modern influence” and well, we all know how much Spitta loves weed, so it’s no surprise how well the pair of songs play out. A verse from him wouldn’t have hurt either.
Guest verses are kept strictly between Klan members (where was Simmie?) and family with the likes of SGP, Amber London, Rell Hoe, Carol City Marc, Cash Money signee T.Rone, ex Klan member Denzel Curry and a few other internet shy contributors. The production credits are shared Between Purrp, El Camino Black, Showoffbeats, the supposedly retired DJ Smokey and a few unknowns. Vrsy Jnes’ ‘Stick Em Up’ gets pick of the bunch just for sampling Sade’s “Kiss of Life”.
It’s not quite up to par with The Revolution ‘94 so he must be saving the best for his debut album The Declaration of Independence. That said, it is another solid tape under his belt. Well-balanced between light and dark, pensive and aggressive, retro and current . Hopefully we’ll get some visuals to keep the anticipation high.
Vice City was released 14th January 2014. Stream/Download via Livemixtapes.