Welcome to our new feature, Seven Plays. Each week one of our contributors will keep a personal music diary for seven days, handing the feature over to another Truant at the end of the week. The idea is to keep sharing great music with our readers, but with a more individual touch than our more objective posts and reviews. The first Seven Plays instalment comes from OG Truant Tabitha Bang, with a week of West African dance and psychotic clown anthems, taking a True Detective detour and finishing off with A Slice Of English Toast.
Friday: Magic System – 1er Gaou (Next Music)
“I heard this one in the NTS office on Friday. A commenter going by the name of Taf99x60 claims that “[y]ou can’t be African and not know this track”. I’d be inclined to agree with this wild generalization because hearing it took me straight back to being an awkward kid at family parties, even though I’m Sierra Leonean and Magic System are from Abidjan, the former capital of Ivory Coast. It shouldn’t have been quite such a shock to hear it getting played in an office in Dalston seeing as the track was a huge crossover hit in France in the early 2000s, a few years after its original 1999 release. African dance music has been on my mind recently, partly because I recently found a long lost hard drive with a bunch of incredible Sierra Leonean party tracks on it, but also because of the rise and rise of Principe, the Lisbon-based label releasing music by Portuguese producers whose Angolan heritage forms the basis of their genre-crossing aesthetic. Like the Principe DJs (most notably Marfox and Niggafox, although a younger generation are following in their footsteps), Magic System came from suburban ghettos to international prominence with a polyrhythmic ‘fusion’ sound. I started thinking about the fact that the Principe showcase at Unsound was noted for the brilliant party atmosphere that the DJs created, but nonetheless the label’s output, and the performances of the DJs it champions, has been subject to deeply considered critical analysis. But for me “1er Gaou” and other West African dance music that I would consider ‘party music’ has remained just that, music I hear at parties and don’t really investigate much further. My personal association of the music of my pan-African heritage with parties has led to a shameful complacency when it comes to really understanding the history of the sound, which is particularly frustrating when I consider how quickly my enjoyment of American and European dance music developed from a visceral pleasure into a more academic interest. So it would probably be more accurate to say that the politically complex implications behind my ignorance of African dance music has been on my mind recently…”
Saturday: Popcaan – Ravin (Tad’s Record)
“This came on shuffle en route to a Jandek concert (which turned out to be completely uninteresting, sadly). The weather in London, always a fascinating topic of conversation, has been on everyone’s mind even more so than usual because it’s been so insistently shit. This track is really intended for summer days, or at least for mild spring days when the promise of summer is in the air, but hearing it on an icy February night is a bit like the universe accidentally-on-purpose stepping on your foot.”
Sunday: Reload – Peschi (Original Mix) (Evolution)
“An extremely lazy end to a pretty lazy weekend. Started checking out some stuff I was only vaguely familiar with but ended up skipping back through my youtube history instead. This one recommended by the great Hurfyd, who was completely right in thinking it’d be up my street – I’ve got endless time for anything that’s club-ready but dreamily melodic. Techno laced with trance by Drs. Pritchard and Middleton.” Continue Reading →
Happy fourth birthday, Truants! Officially, I missed the date by a couple of days but I wanted to take this opportunity to write you all a little thank you note. Shouts out to you all for building such an inspiring platform over the last years and for continuously pushing great content and music, and with me there are many others who think the same. Every day I am both amazed about and thankful for the great words and records I stumble across on here, and I’m even more thankful to be working with such a lovely crew of people. Thank you Truants, stay schemin’ forever. Truants hundred times ten, keep it one hundred forever. Bon anniversaire, here’s to our next year!
A big thank you to our current and past contributors: Sin Shyam, Riccardo Villella, Jess Melia, Donny Marks, Eliot Brammer, Koyejo Oloko, Matt Coombs, Gabriel Herrera, Warren O’Neill, Kyle Brayton, Matt Gibney, Sophie Kindreich, Antoin Lindsay, Aidan Hanratty, Georgette Bibber, Afi Baaqi, Joe Linden, Tobias Shine, Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura, Cayley MacArthur, Erin Mathias, Eradj Yakubov, Stephanie Neptune, Oli Grant, Joe Jackson, Jon Alcindor, Michael Scala, Michelle Myers, Simon Docherty, Tim Willis, Tayyab Amin, Matt Lutz, Ian Maxwell, Thos Henley, Tom Brown, Ross J. Platt, Maya Kalev, Peter Meeuwsen, Jack Murphy, Gabe Meier, Oscar Thompson, Mike Deegan Jr, Sven Swift, Sam Billetdeaux, Sarah Maria Elvira, Louis Helliker-Hales, Luke Dubuis and Sel Bulut.
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 07 March 2014. Leave a comment
Moodymann; now there’s a name that needs no introduction, but just in case let’s talk for a minute about the respect and influence a name like that holds. Known for his own brand of Detroit chauvinism and confrontational stance in a typically non-confrontational electronic environment, Kenny Dixon Junior ain’t no one to fuck with. As label head of self-named KDJ and Mahogani Music, his Detroit Strong roster knows a thing or two about house and techno and knows when to spot talent when they hear it. All of which brings us to Dan Shake, otherwise known as Daniel Rose-Weir, and his lucky (yet very well deserved) big break. The London-based artist has done what literally no other has done before him and landed his debut release on Moodymann’s prestigious label with no Detroit heritage and no Detroit residency: quite a feat for a man that went to see 3 Chairs at Dimensions Festival, handed Kenny Dixon Jr. himself a CD, and came out of it with a new fan. We spoke to Dan about the pressures of such a signing, his influences, and when Shreddies used to give out good shit in their cereal boxes.
Stream: Dan Shake – 3AM Jazz Club (Mahogani Music)
Hey Daniel, how are you? What have you been up to lately? “Hey Jess, I’m not too bad, thanks. I’ve just had the previews put online of my debut release so everything’s been based around that recently, the response has been pretty dope. How are you?” Great, thanks! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? “Erm, I’ve never been good at this question. I just do what any other 21-year-old Londoner does nowadays.”
You went to University in Leeds and have now moved back to London, is that right? Why the move back? “Yeah, sort of, I dropped out. University was fun and all but I’m not a studier. I didn’t want to waste a ridiculous amount of money on something I wasn’t really going to benefit from. I bought a load of records instead.” Yeah, I seem to feel like I wasted three good years at university more and more each day. Did you go out into the world of work? “I worked in events for a while, and now I work in music management. I help look after Submotion Orchestra and a couple of others, it’s pretty fun.”
There is a kind of joke in Leeds that “everyone in Leeds is a DJ” (not a particularly clever joke, but not altogether untrue). How did you start making music? “Haha, it’s definitely not untrue. The ratio must be one to three. I actually only started DJing a month or two ago when Mahogani got in touch, but I’ve been making music since [the age of] around 13. I played drums for a while, which didn’t really work out, and then one day got a free music making program called Ejay Extreme in a box of Shreddies. One of those ones where you arrange a basic selection of ready-made loops and call it a tune. I guess it sprouted from there. Maybe without Shreddies I would have never been signed to Mahogani?” I remember those! What a beautiful idea, maybe there’s a PR stunt in there too. How’re you finding DJing, do you have any favourites that would never leave your crate? “Ha, maybe. DJing’s a lot of fun, can’t wait to start playing out properly. U – I isn’t leaving my crate any time soon”.
Stream: U – I (ManMakeMusic)
Your debut is released on Moodymann’s label: Mahogani Music, I hear the story of how that came about is pretty interesting? “Yeah I guess it’s a pretty old-school way of getting signed. I was watching 3 Chairs backstage at Dimensions Festival and briefly got chatting to Kenny, handed him my CD, and three weeks later I received an email asking if he could have them (… I said yes).” Was this the first time you had openly pushed your tracks and do you have any tips for how aspiring producers can get their music noticed? “Yeah, I’ve never really pushed my music to anyone, it was a spur of the moment thing. My girlfriend made me burn a couple of CDs while we were out there in Croatia. So my tips probably won’t help… get lucky?” Maybe a persuasive and supportive partner too! I think that takes a serious amount of guts though, kudos! You must have been confident in your music? “The partner thing helps yeah, I was quite happy with the tracks though, at the end of the day I had nothing to lose.”
Mahogani Music is a pretty prolific label to have your debut release on, congrats! Kenny Dixon Jr. is a Detroit House Don and operates a roster of some Motor City talent, do you feel anxious about how it will be received? “Thank you, and definitely! It still blows my mind to be on a label along side such inspiring producers, Dilla for one. There’s an extremely high standard of music on Mahogani, but there’s been a great response from DJs we’ve sent it to. I hope people are feelin’ it.”
For sure! Everyone has quite an individual process for producing, what’s yours? “My process changes from time to time, I’ve made a lot of weird shit, which I create in a completely different process to the way I make my house, if you want to call it that. I guess there isn’t a set process, I find my best work is when I have no clue of what I’m about to make, I just go with it until it makes sense.” You’ve wavered before at calling it ‘House’, are you keen not to be pigeonholed? “I think when you tell someone you make house, they tend to think of music that’s nothing like mine. My music is such a blended collection of genres anyway.”
Stream: Dan Shake – Thinkin’ (Mahogani Music)
Who and what are your musical influences? And are there any artists you want to shout out or tell us to look out for? “There’s way too many, my biggest is probably Dilla, he changed the way I think about music. Floating Points always inspires me with his releases, and I get a lot of drum and percussion influence from African music like Tony Allen and Fella Kuti. But a good friend of mine, Mali Michael, is definitely one to look out for, a very different sound to me but has an amazing voice.” Apart from Mahogani Music, obviously, are there any other labels you’re feeling right now? “Ermm, Wild Oats just put out a massive release from Jay Daniel. Eglo are always putting out amazing music. Melbourne Deepcast… the list goes on.”
Yes! Also the Jay Daniel ‘Scorpio Rising’ EP was great. What is your dream collaboration? “Oh, that’s tough. Of course I’d love to collab with Kenny or MCDE, but probably an amazing musician who’s completely different to me like George Duke, I think we’d get more creative that way.” And finally, a Truants fave, what is your favourite drink and when was the last time you danced? “I’m all about the rum & ginger, that’s my drink. Last time I danced was watching Sticky at my mates night Brotherhood Soundsystem in Leeds, you should go some time!”
You can pre-order the limited 12″ of A1. 3 AM Jazz Club b1. Thinkin’ here.
Words by Jess Melia, 07 March 2014. 1 comment
Solens Arc arrives at an enthralling time for the techno album; the most widely-discussed LPs seem to have had at least a vague direction, from Actress’ inner city transliterations to Perc’s lamentative narration of politics and addiction to power. Spit approached the dark corners of ‘civilisation’, and the album was doubly en vogue due to the shabby analogue sound Ron Morelli himself has shepherded as the scene’s spotlight illuminated his label. On the other hand, Holden’s The Inheritors was more of the mad-scientist analogue variety rather than gritty-gumshoe, with looser bearings of an archaeological fashion as opposed to directly achieving a defined objective. Kangding Ray, the alias of David Letellier, came from a background of post-rock to contribute to Rastar-Noton’s minimal, experimental pop aesthetic though his mechanic creations are somewhat rusted this time round – Solens Arc is Letellier taking a step to the outside. True to Raster-Noton’s philosophy in a release as a holistic entity, Solens Arc is a wondrously literal affair for an album with minimal and unintelligible vocals. The press release introduces it as “a stone thrown, just to watch it fly” and indeed the sleeve depicts several parabolae adorning an overcast landscape. The tracklist itself is quartered into different arcs, each a chapter to the album’s overarching series, matching to the four sides of the double-LP (very thoughtful). Each arc differs in structure and composition, though all slot into Letellier’s concept of firing frequencies into the air and following wherever they’d take him, letting his tools take point.
With four threads of autonomous existence, just listening to the arcs in their order on the tracklist is reductive. Instead, each piece tackles independent themes of the overall voyage with an internal fluidity only. The first thread of the yarn mostly considers movement. It begins with rattling pulses grinding against a drowsy kick like gears set in motion after an age of slumber. The snoring doesn’t seem to halt despite the waking of “Serendipity March”, with a sparse vocal sample that literally breathes life into the beat. By the end of the arc such sluggishness is long absent from memory thanks to the first encounter of something remotely dancefloor. Even “The River”, the catalyst that bridges “Serendipity March” and “Evento”, is kept short, a mercurial glint of crystallised, sharp-synth sunshine with instant impact. Whilst the track is used to utmost efficiency in the first arc, its reprieve peels open the second arc with patience. Less focused on progressing and more preoccupied with immediate surroundings, “Blank Empire” takes the time to explore what “Evento” might have been. Shuffles of percussion that would sound right at home on Sunklo skip over a blaring, droning buzz, wrapped in oscillating skidmarks that veer in and out of focus before the atmosphere is escaped and all turbulence dissipates. This zenith, “L’envol” (The Flight), shimmers with arpeggiations, a moment to stop and stare and be overwhelmed and feel fulfilled. It’s followed up by the third arc which possesses the most sinister start so do feel free to hesitate swapping plates – there’s no turning back now.
Stream: Kangding Ray – Black Empire (Raster-Noton)
The final arcs share yin-yang symbioticism contemplating the unknown and then the known at a molecular level, just as the first two arcs are counterparts in racing through life and stopping to smell the flowers. “Apogee” is the piece which arc three revolves around, astronomically referring to the stage where an entity in orbit is furthest away from that which anchors it. The track is all synths, whirring and hissing and emanating solemn, ambient significance. It’s flanked by a straight-faced, abrasive club expedition with kicks of reduced surface impact and a faintly twinkling dial loop, as well as “History of Obscurity”, a cautious plunge into the dark side of the moon with chimes gradually refracting through it into nothingness. The three pieces that form the final sequence scrutinise the mechanical aspect of tracing trajectories. “Transitional Ballistics” refers to studying the window where a bullet leaves the muzzle of the gun and its propelling forces of gas disperse into the environment – as a track it really delves into the bowels of machinations, motoring between percussive textures as a menacing rattle looms overhead. Even the sound of water dripping onto cold steel enters after a point, a precursor to the delicate chords that begin to flourish towards the end. “Crystal” is so near it seems distant, a sparkling loop reminiscent of Tim Hecker’s Virgins albeit in a space opera context.
Stream: Kangding Ray – History of Obscurity (Raster-Noton)
Solens Arc draws to a close under ambiguous circumstances, spurred by the most organic drum inflections present on the album. Concluding section “Son” is dressed in a mutated sci-fi melody that could have been lifted from the 90s, and its by no means the first instance as the entire release implicitly hints at past musings, more future-retroism than retro-futurism. Gazing at the trail Solens Arc leaves in the sky is undoubtedly enjoyable, however the ripples eventually fade and we’re left to wonder where things actually went; Letellier’s targetless endeavours result in no ultimate closure, though this certainly proposes we question our approach not just to creating music but to listening too. Besides, each individual arc had their own closing and there’s no implication they account for the entire path of the stone thrown. Regardless of the inexplicit ending, there’s no sense of unfulfillment due to Letellier’s hybrid compromise between retaining structure and resigning to whim. A common pitfall for instinct-led albums is a lack of cohesiveness to glue together an abundance of ideas, but by approaching this style from a place of discipline, Letellier’s album is that much more effective, poignant and graceful. Solens Arc. Just watch it fly.
Kangding Ray’s Solens Arc LP is out now on Raster-Noton. Buy the double LP here.
Words by Tayyab Amin.
Words by Truants, 05 March 2014. Leave a comment
“The ‘Net is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it.” William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer, follows the life of protagonist, Case, who is rescued from drug addiction by street samurai, Molly. Gibson, who actually coined the term cyberpunk, when talking about his artistic vision, said that “modern Japan simply was cyberpunk.” In ’80s Tokyo, video game arcades speckled streets, anime coloured television screens and imaginations. Activism was rife, student-led, socialist and anti-authoritarian. The arts scene was similarly excited. Artists reassessed what art should be doing. The skyline was a knife, a bubble, a curve, dumpy, lived in, rockety, and repeated over. This was a city in flux. Landscapes – social, technological, artistic, architectural – were shifting temporally: far into the future. This era gave rise to Tokyo natives, Yellow Magic Orchestra, a band that quickly became considered one of electronic music’s key innovators. Its three principal members are considered pioneers of digital music making and are credited with influencing almost everything, from ambient music to hip-hop to game scores. While their technological innovation and international impact must be praised, we cannot ignore the way they represented their own unique society through their music.
Harumi Hosono, Ryuchi Sakamoto and Yukikiro Takahashi spent the ‘70s dipping their toes into each other’s pools and finally united in ’78. Representative of their surroundings, their first album, Yellow Magic Orchestra, released that same year, is one of painfully playful Gameboy flips of classic riffs. The black-note oriental scale is hammered into a new context. For their sound, all clacks and beeps and vending machine rhythms, made with then cutting-edge equipment – samplers, sequencers and drum machines – the band remain heralded as a group who mapped out music’s cartography. The way noises are layered, stacked up and thrown together in their tracks is an imitation of their architectural surroundings: the carefully constructed but clumsy-looking chaos of Tokyo’s skyline. But it’s all held up by a clear dedication to groove – a heartbeat, maybe – and within five years of formation, Yellow Magic Orchestra had released seven studio albums, only one of which dipped outside the Top 5 in Japan. The band split in 1984. Even though they later admitted that hating each other was the reason for it, at the time they used the Japanese phrase, 散開 (pron. sankai), meaning spreading out, instead of splitting up.
When the band reunited in 1993, they released another album, Technodon. Dedicated to mature house grooves and techno mechanisms, it evidences a more international awareness of and abidance by the rules of contemporary dance music, more stable and across-the-board pleasing. The album cover evidences their playful attitude towards technology. By 1993, technology was no longer only a device for music-making – it was an aesthetic device, too. Flipping a boring ownership issue on its head, Technodon was released under a new moniker: NOT YMO or
YMO. This focus on typography is a metafictional computer joke wherein the band draws attention to its form; it is a cluster of three humans overwritten, or struck over, by technology.
Our favourite track, “Floating Away”, features entirely drum-machine-created jazzy, tribal rhythms that relax at the back of the track while obnoxious spy-movie synths and video game blips propel you forward. Lyrically, it is descriptive of ’80s Japanese culture – or, at least, a vision of it. And who narrates the track? Aforementioned author, William Gibson. His twang, smooth, soothing and lackadaisical, narrates your scene: “Broken shackle / You could look down / See the water between your toes / Bare concrete, empty bottles (wrapped in plastic) / A moped against a vending machine / Startlingly organic.” The conditional, “could“, expresses that technological uncertainty and excitement. It is a positive vision of an unfixed world shattering beneath your feet, of switching landscapes, of technology upon technology upon technology. It is cyberpunk.
And thus, this collaboration between Japanese supergroup and American-Canadian author is is a sweet combination of cultures celebrating their common agenda: to use, represent and influence future with art. Ironically, by 1993, the near-future that cyberpunk’s literature and YMO’s music sought to represent in the eighties was here. The genre’s heyday had been, gone and arrived. “Floating Away” is, thus, a nostalgic track. It is nostalgic for a past that looked to the future; a past that viewed the years to come with enthusiasm.