We first covered Mr Beatnick upon the digital release of his Synthetes EP in the summer of 2011. A late pass, indeed, but we’ve been watching him and Don’t Be Afraid, the label he calls home, very closely ever since. He was even kind enough to give us our 42nd Truancy Volume. Over the past few years DBA has expanded from a label that just put out records by Semtek and Beatnick to being a multi-disciplinary force keen on blooding new artists and expanding repertoires, as well as putting out limited 10″s, 12″s, and now, in a bold move, its first CD. In a world where physical sales are too anomalous to call and vinyl and cassette are bread and limited butter*, DBA has opted to garner together the key points of The Synthetes Trilogy on compact disc. That’s DBA though – always taking the unexpected route.
Stream: Mr Beatnick – The Synthetes Trilogy – Bonus Beats (Don’t Be Afraid)
Rather than opting for a chronological approach, bar opening with the titular track, the CD groups tracks sonically, thematically. This approach highlights the subtle grooves and orchestral similarities between tracks, recorded as they were across a period of years. The jagged strings of ‘Synthetes’ give way to the sultry motions of ‘Symbiosis’, from this year’s Savannah EP. It’s not long before we’re introduced to ‘Waning Moon’, the first (and arguably the finest) of the new tracks. A slow-burning late-evening jam, all skittering percussion and bass-led joyousness, it’s a study in yearning, appropriate for cocktail parties and basement discos alike. It’s also been reworked by Opal Tapes affiliate and recent Truants interviewee Best Available Technology – a remix that flips the original’s melodiousness for a suitably gloomy affair. Listen over at Nutriot. The gorgeous dripping funk of ‘Casio Romance’ and the effortless groove of ‘Shifting Sands’ (featured in our Room Full of Truants) make way for ‘Yacht on The Nile’, which pits harsh, pulsing drums against a heartfelt whine and glistening bells. ‘Nuit Blanche’, meanwhile, is a hands-in-the-air jam with DjRUM-like flourishes, pizzicato pinches and a lead sample that lands just on the right side of cheesy, manipulated casually yet deliberately as it is. The pace kicks up with ‘Savannah’ and ‘Parallax Scroll’, Beatnick’s ode to rave, and then it comes to a close with ‘Never Dies’. What never dies? Hardcore. This one is a riot of 142bpm Think breaks and frantic organs, a surprising end in some ways. But Beatnick is a voracious listener, so we shouldn’t be surprised by his eclectic yet coherent output. If you’ve listened to the three releases as often as we have, it’s wonderful to hear them recontextualised like this, reordered and repackaged with a broader purpose in mind. Of course it would be remiss of us not to mention the exquisite artwork, lovingly designed by Emily Evans. What next for Mr Beatnick? An ambient, beatless work perhaps, if idle chat is to be believed. Whatever comes, we’ll be listening.
Mr Beatnick – The Synthetes Trilogy is out now on Don’t Be Afraid. Buy here.
*Since the time of writing, Don’t Be Afraid has announced the impending release of a limited cassette.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 04 November 2013. Leave a comment
Tomb Full Of Truants is the third instalment in our Truants crew mix series. Following the same concept as Club Full Of Truants and Room Full Of Truants, the crew were asked to imagine themselves in the most harrowing environment they could think of and pick one or two songs that would soundtrack that experience. As with the first two mixes of the crew series, they were left to run wild with their track choices as long as those tracks left them with a general feeling of unease. The result is this hour long mix drawing from the eeriest of each individual Truants’ taste mixed together brilliantly by OG Truant, Teflon Don Soraya Brouwer.
It is not true
that Dr. Guillotine,
who they named the thing after
died under it.
Words by Truants, 01 November 2013. Leave a comment
The London-centric producers Finn Casey and Thomas L have been making music and throwing parties together for half a decade, and emerged as Silk 86 at the start of the year. With the intent of exploring a housier direction under their new alias, they proved their adeptness at making dancefloor primed and melody infused grooves with their debut EP Clear Waters that was released on Manucci’s Mistress in January. Their second endeavour, The Pleasure Venture, came out on Sneaky Music at the start of this month and, as the producers explain, is their “best attempt at being sleazy via music without being drunk, or too sleazy.” And that is exactly what the release succeeds in doing – it is indisputably darker than their first record, but yet another diverting take on deep house with evocative undertones.
Having had Silk 86’s mixtape for Eastern Electrics on repeat since its launch, we’re overjoyed with their contribution to our mix series. Although it seemed logical, from an arithmomaniac point of view, to wait three weeks before sharing Silk 86’s Truancy Volume, we decided to break away from our fixation with numbers and share the mix straight away. Showcasing the tracks they have been feeling over the summer, their instalment rounds off the season by going from Moodymann’s ABCD via their own productions to the likes of MM and Marco Benardi. Stream the mix and read our interview with Finn and Tom below.
Stream: Silk 86 – The Pleasure Venture EP (Sneaky Music) (buy the vinyl here, digital TBA)
Hello! Thanks for your Truancy Volume, and for speaking to us! How are you doing and what have you been up to recently? “Yeah, all good. We’ve been enjoying some transitional periods recently. One of us has recently moved house and the other has given up smoking, so between us we’ve had some dicey days this autumn but we have surprised ourselves and actually been pretty productive in the studio amidst all winds of change.”
How did you first meet, and what was the common ground between you two that made you decide you wanted to make music together? “We first met through a mutual friend and promoter, which we both worked on separate projects with. This led to us playing some of the same parties and that’s how we got to know each other, but we didn’t get round to collaborating until some time after that.” How did the idea of Silk 86 come about? Did you work on other projects together before CSY & Stripes, and will you ever revive that project? “Clear Waters was the start of it all really. We made that track as CSY & Stripes, but realised that it sounded a lot cooler than anything we’d done before and that we had the opportunity to move forward with a new direction under a new alias, if we wanted to. The EP was already signed, so we played the name game and ended up with Silk 86. CSY & Stripes was the first project we did, and as for its future, who knows! For the moment though we’re having a lot of fun doing what we’re doing.”
You live in London, have you always lived there? Have your surroundings been an influence on your output?
Tom: “I was actually born in Nottingham. It’s got a strong music scene and going to clubs like Stealth and The Social definitely shaped what I started listening to. I moved to London when I was 18 and haven’t looked back, but the Nottingham connection is still there and with guys like Citizen and Firas (Waze & Odyssey) both moving here from Nottingham, the small but quality scene it had clearly had some influence!”
Finn: “I was born in West London, but spent my school years down in Sussex, before moving back to London when I was old enough. The music scene was non-existent in Sussex, but being only an hour way from London let me stay in tune with what I was into.”
You’ve said that you were brought up on hip-hop, what kind of records were formative to your musical upbringing and how did your interests shift to electronic music?
Tom: “I remember getting pretty deep into a lot of the Prefuse 73 releases, in terms of more straight hip-hop ‘Reflections Eternal’ was something I hammered out a lot. Madvillainy was also huge for me, as was most the Stones Throw output! I also liked a lot of rock growing up, bands like Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Aage led to me playing drums which I think has served me pretty well. In terms of dance records, I vividly remember The Chemical Brothers with “Surrender” being an eye opener. I’ve still got that CD somewhere and I must have picked it up when I was about 12, so it’s stood the test of time!
Finn: “As a kid, I was a massive fan of Michael Jackson like a lot of people at that time. His music was predominantly electronic, so the connection there was already apparent I guess. After MJ, I listened to the rock and blues that my parents were into, before settling into hip-hop in my early teens. Around that time, I came across Daft Punk’s Homework and it blew my mind. That album was definitely an eye opener for me, but I was too young for dance music and hip hop was cooler, so I spent my early DJ career on Hip Hop. It wasn’t until I started going to festivals that I saw how much fun electronic music could be.”
Your first release as Silk 86, “Clear Waters”, came out on Sccucci Manucci’s sublabel Manucci’s Mistress earlier in the year. How did this release come about and are you planning on going back to the label anytime soon? “We got intro’d to James (Vorres, who runs the labels), sent him some tracks and it all came together relatively quickly! There was the usual delay with producing vinyl etcetera, but we were really happy with how it came out. We haven’t confirmed anything but it’s definitely something we’d look at as the labels really gone from strength to strength. James is a good friend and a pleasure to work with, so yeah, it’s something we’d look at for sure!” Could you tell us a little bit about your upcoming 1Trax and Newington releases, and is there anything else we can expect from you in the near future in terms of releases or gigs? “Well, the 1Trax release is pretty much all wrapped up, we’re just waiting on remixes so we’re not sure when it’ll be out but we’re excited because it’s a great label! Newington we think will be in the new year, it’s still early days for the label but it’s another exciting project. We’re finishing off a few different EP’s for some really cool labels at the moment (nothing we can confirm with you guys yet unfortunately!). On top of that we’ve got a few tracks we’re waiting on vocals for which should be interesting, we’re also looking for decent female vocalists at the moment so if anyone thinks they’re up for it get in touch via our Facebook! :)”
How do you guys go about making tracks together, is there a certain method to it? Do you find there is a particular mindset you find yourself in to create what you consider your best work? “In music, the word vibe is over used for a reason. Being in a good mood is essential for producing fun stuff. Granted, it’s an incredibly fun thing to do, but people that smile 24/7 aren’t human so it helps when we’re both on blazing form. Banter is key too. You got to be able to make and take jokes about the various things you try out in the studio. Our creative methods vary, which keeps it interesting week in week out and hopefully contributes to the evolution of our sound.”
How do your DJ sets together come about, do you have a clear style of selecting your tracks or is it different each time? “We both tend to do a bit of digging in the days before our sets, so we’ll have some stuff we know we’re going to play before hand but the rest of it is pretty much off the cuff. We also have a few go-to bombs which we don’t play out often, but we know to always deliver the goods when necessary!” Which other DJs do you each enjoy seeing, and what makes for a good set? “In terms of DJ’s we’ve seen recently who’ve smashed it, Motor City Drum Ensemble at Secret Sundaze was pretty epic. Onur Özer, Cassy, Prosumer, Giles Smith.. all those guys kill it, which is why they are where they are right now. They seem to find that perfect balance between reading a crowd and imprinting their style on a night which is important. Groove is key, funk is a must, throw in some inventive song selections and you’ve got us hooked!”
Please tell us a little bit about this mixtape you did for us! How did it take shape and what was the inspiration behind your track selection? “This mix was our way of rounding off the summer. It showcases what we’ve been into this year and what we’re into right now, heading into winter and moving forward into 2014.” If at all, how does this mix differ from your usual approach to DJing? “Mixes are always a bit of strange one, because when you’re playing out you have the crowd and the vibe to feed off. Mixes like this are a bit more measured, there’s certainly more planning involved which gives us a bit of time to dig up some odd / strange tracks, but also means energy wise you’ve just got to go for it and hope it connects!” What is the ideal environment to listen to this mix? “When you’re tired, have an hour-long journey to make and know you need to be bright faced by the time you arrive at your destination. If the last track doesn’t pick you up, not much will!”
When’s the last time you danced? “This morning. Funk/Soul/Disco & Coffee.”
What’s London’s best kept secret? “The Unicorn Park.” And finally, where was the best lunch you’ve had recently and where can we get it? “There’s a really good Vietnamese place called Keu in Shoreditch, they do awesome Banh Mi baguettes which we regularly hit up! Also Burger Bear Burger Truck is THE place for burgers! If you’re in London find out where he’s setting up shop and go!”
L.B. Dub Corp – Nearly Africa
Headless Ghost – 11
Moodymann – Nuttin But Magic
Silk 86 – Felicity
The Bridge – Everybody’s Pumping (Every Beats)
Secret Society – Searching
Sugardaddy – Stripped To The Bone
Luna City Express – Mr Jack
Little Fritter – Fifteenth Avenue Funk
Claptone – No Eyes Feat Jaw (Mickey Remix)
The Jaydes – Step On Light
Tom Trago & Steffi – Two Together
Mr G – Lights – (G’s Out Dub)
Marco Bernardi – I Know Her
Citizen & Ashworth – Situation (feat. Shona Carmen)
Silk 86 – Tropicalia
Tom Demac & Will Samson – It Grows Again
Jin Choi – Confusion
MM – Wonderland (Edit)
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 29 October 2013. 1 comment
Although it began as a club orientated label in 2010, the evolution of Night Slugs had taken it to more abstract territories of late. Last year, to ensure that at least one of the label’s feet was firmly on the dance floor, the founders Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 inaugurated the Club Constructions series with a strong focus on club functionality. They encouraged this focus by providing the series with a manifesto of sorts that contains a loose set of aesthetic rules. As Bok Bok stated in his recent RBMA interview, some of these rules are “no unnecessary vocals”, “no unnecessary reverb and effects” and an encouragement to use tape saturation. However, even with this manifesto it wasn’t until this year’s three releases, Vol. 4-6, that the series could be said to have a “trademark sound”. This sound being beat-heavy, minimal, nostalgia-free, functional and, importantly, with a refreshing openness which isn’t afraid to draw inspiration from contemporary styles such as Jersey Club and Ballroom.
Similar to all of the labels’ releases, the visual aesthetic is a very important part of the Club Constructions series. Inspired by this video and taking a literal queue from the series’ name, the cover art consists of drum-machines and analogue equipment re-imagined as architecture which nicely embodies the minimal functionality of the tracks they represent. Like Jam City’s lauded Classical Curves, there is a strong unity between “architectural” sounds and the images which enclose them. Taking both together adds much to the works rather than being reductive as is often the case.
There has been much talk this year of nostalgia-laden “outsider house”, but for us these EPs are where the interesting things are really happening. These records continue the legacy of greats like Ron Hardy not by simple imitation and flattery but by carrying his ethos and approach to work on the sounds of today. In the same way that Hardy put the disco/new-wave/industrial sounds of the ’80s through a blender, the Night Slugs family is doing the same to bmore, techno, jersey club and grime. Perhaps it was always the case but club music fans in 2013 don’t want to have to chose between over or underground, i.e. many people are fans of both lesser-known AND mainstream forms of dance music, and it is very refreshing to have a sound available that reflects that. All three releases are streamable below and they can be purchased in physical and digital from Boomkat.
Stream: Helix – Club Constructions Vol.4 (Night Slugs)
Helix’s Club Constructions installment is a beautiful amalgamation of Ron Hardy drum tracks, Baltimore club and grime. Check out his recent RA interview to learn more about the man behind it.
Stream: Hysterics – Club Constructions Vol. 5 (Night Slugs)
Better known under his main Girl Unit alias, Hysterics has provided what is probably one of the most versatile track of the year in the form of “Code Switch”. For example, click here to see how perfectly it fits with some Ballroom ha’s and vocals.
Stream: Jam City – Club Constructions Vol. 6 (Night Slugs)
Jam City’s entrance into the club construction realm provided a set of skeletal Jersey bombs sparkling with that magic JC touch. Picking up where the athletic ‘The Courts’ and ‘How We Relate’ left off, Volume 6 manages to be both elegantly and powerfully mechanical.
Additional words by Tobias Shine.
Words by Warren O'Neill, 29 October 2013. Leave a comment
From the swamps of South Florida comes rapper Robb Bank$ with his second solo mixtape Tha City. Over a year after the Tumblr-fever of his debut Calendars has died down, Bank$ returns with a dark mixtape firing shots at all posers, exes, and cliches. With a library of references that cover Breaking Bad to Norman Bates to Naruto, Tha City is a unique mixtape in hip-hop of 2013.
An oddity about Robb that’s been revealed since Calendars release is the fact that he is the son of Shaggy. Yes, you read right, he is the kin of the man who brought us such classics as “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel”. Robb is 19 now, and while he may be Shaggy’s son, there’s nothing pop about Robb Bank$. His bloodline was a topic previously avoided by Bank$ but on Tha City, we hear him speak on the matters that have been subject to some controversy for the young rapper. Previously, the connection to his father was taboo in the rap game where up-and-coming rappers are always subject to credibility checks. As pictures circulated the web of him has a kid with Shaggy after the release of Calendars, he decided to address the “elephant in the room” and does so defiantly here on opening track “Flex”: “Speaking of the elephant that’s in the room, me and my daddy been talking about shit/Actual conversations about my sisters and my kids, sometimes I just think we keep the peace just for them“
Bank$ has been cultivating a web presence since 2011 when he was in high school rapping in the now-defunct group Tuesday Thru Sunday. TTS was an interesting project that saw Robb trading bars with his friend-at-the-time Matt Meyer Lansky. They’d take beats by Nosaj Thing and other airy producers to compile their 9-track mixtape released in 2011. One of the best introductions to Robb Bank$ and his style can be heard on Tuesday Thru Sunday’s song “We (Friday)” with lines relating to relationships like “She said she wanted something more than just us/ And moaning that loud ain’t doing me no justice”over Nosaj’s song “Voices”. A year later, Tuesday Thru Sunday disbanded and Robb released his first solo mixtape, Calendars. On this release, he took the same formula of TTS (rapping over established beats) while making it his own courtesy of his deep tone and absurd allusions. While riding a little too close to A$AP Rocky’s aesthetic at the time, Robb managed to provide a great introductory piece courtesy of Calendars viral hit “Counting”, in which he raps over Clams Casino’s “Gorilla” beat. In the video for the song, he wears a gold grill as he smokes cigarettes and mixes a dirty Sprite while playing with Pokemon cards. A motif throughout Calendars is the sample from TV show Skins of one of its characters stating “I think I might be happy“; reflecting Robb’s state of mind after a recent break-up when recording the mixtape.
Stream: Robb Bank$ – I’m That Nigga (Ruff Mix)
Robb admitted in a recent interview he can’t listen to Calendars anymore because “it sounds too juvenile”. This may explain the gunshots following the intro on “Counted” off Tha City, which starts off with the recognizable roar of “Counting” when gunshots fire off, cutting the sound of his hit song off and signaling the end of the old Robb Bank$ and an introduction to a new beast in the process. In the time between Calendars’s release and 2013, he dropped a slew of singles– including the impressive feature on Denzel Curry’s “Threatz” which saw airplay from MTV–that piled anticipation for his next proper release. In May 2012, he released the song “Look Like Basquiat” which was produced by 4AD’s SpaceGhostPurrp. A fellow South Floridian, SGP is a perfect collaborator for Robb’s 90’s nostalgia and dark aesthetic. The partnership with Purrp continued to flourish throughout 2012, leading up to this 2013 release.
Rappers should be jealous of Bank$’s crop of beats on Tha City. He’s always had an ear for production, but it’s hard for me to think of another tape with such consistently bold and great production as this. The atmosphere and tone is remarkably polished. The self-admitted 40 to Robb’s Drake, Nuri really shines on Tha City and SpaceGhostPurrp’s influence is noted. Overall, there’s a real sense of menace in the beats as Robb’s Southern drawl creeps across the eerie synths and reverb-heavy drum patterns. Opening track “Flex” starts out with a synth that sounds like it was ripped straight from a horror movie composed by The Haxan Cloak or Forest Swords as a sample of “Flexin” (a recently-released song left off of The City featuring Nevabitch, SpaceghostPurrp and fellow Truants-featured Yung Lean) develops. Some songs are grandly gothic, like lead single “On Me”. Then there’s a couple oriental, cloud-rap influenced songs like “All the Way Live” that sound like they easily could’ve ended up on a Main Attrakionz tape. And you can’t sleep on the Zaytoven-produced “That Sound” because, well, it’s Zaytoven.
Robb has always been an exciting lyricist. His stories are often drug-influenced and finely detailed; whether he’s rapping about the intricacies of a love interest’s body or the obscurity of a Naruto reference. There’s something for everybody here as he throws punchlines so casually. Sometimes his rhymes are contradictory but regardless of sensibility, these songs stay cohesive with the bravado of Bank$. And while it’s unclear who started the “lil bitch” ad lib, Bank$’s sounds more effective and authentic than Big Sean ever has. The South Florida rapper spits with the same tenacity of the alligators stalking his state’s lands. At times, his delivery is low and patient but when the snares arrives he’s attacking and tearing the beat to shreds with an intense and declarative prowess.
Stream: Robb Bank$ – On Me
In comparison to the “I think I might be happy” motif of Calendars, a new motif arises out of Tha City from the 2012 horror film V/H/S in which Bank$ threads the sample of a female creature repeating the phrase “I like you”. In the film, she is a deceptively violent girl who’s beautiful yet shy at first. As the story goes, she turns into something monstrously volatile with fangs and wings as she tears through the men of the narrative. Perhaps this is a representation of Robb’s new fame from Calendars as more fans clamor around his output…as he is easy to “like”. Nevertheless, it’s clear Robb Bank$ is doing something right and a rapper to look out for.