Recommended: Various Artists – The Health of the Oceans

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When you think about electronic music in Glasgow, you think of Hudson Mohawke or Sub Club – titans in their respective fields who have gone on to become ambassadors for the city’s music scene. The industry’s gaze has rested squarely on Glasgow since the rise of the LuckyMe and Numbers collectives, a gaze which seeks (and struggles) to identify the common thread between the city’s biggest musical exports.

But an undercurrent of talent in Glasgow remains untapped by this gaze, perhaps operating on too small a scale to command international attention (or a Yeezy co-sign). Sometimes the people putting in the most work receive little to no recognition, and are rendered obsolete in the grand scheme of things. The city would not be such a creatively fruitful place were it not for the good-natured ‘come to this afterparty’ or ‘we should make a track together’ exchanges that continue to bring so many brilliant minds together. Lauren Martin recently did a great job celebrating this tradition and the individuals doing things, as she put it, ‘in the name of a damn good time’, for Dummy’s Glasgow Spotlight series. Certain venues and communities nurture fresh talent and provide breeding grounds for DIY collaborative efforts: Subcity Radio, Cry Parrot, Analogue Anonymous. Even a visit to Rubadub can become more than just an ordinary record-shopping trip thanks to the approachable and knowledgeable staff.

The Health of the Oceans” compilation tape is the product of one such collaboration, originally offered as a memento to guests of Gris Gala, a one-off night of live music held in Stereo‘s basement. The tape is a physical embodiment of all that makes Glasgow’s underground such a humbling environment – spontaneity, attention to detail and a willingness to put audience experience first. The tape is the baby of Wavy Graves (Josh Hill’s Subcity Radio venture), One Mile High (Aaron McLaughlin’s publishing outlet) and Leaving Records. Leaving Records is, of course, the prolific Californian label which has released music from singer-songwriter Julia Holter and Ras G,  a luminary of the LA beat scene.

Stream: Various Artists – Health of the Oceans

Leaving Records is co-owned by Matthewdavid, whose “gapandbeat_rough1” is first up on side A. It’s a densely textured track; layers of low-end bass vie for centre stage with the bubbling synth lick. In his first-ever interview Matthewdavid said his biggest influences were “plants, wind, water and the sun”. This certainly rings true of “gapandbeat_rough1″; although it shudders and grinds with mechanical precision, there’s an overarching organic quality to it.  He sees his juxtaposition of the natural and the not-so-natural right through to the end, when the song fades out in a commotion of pneumatic whirs and cricket chirrups. Matthewdavid’s cut might not deviate from his usual formula but Best Available Technology‘s “Vulture“, which follows, indulges a subtler and more restrained side of the Portland producer’s artistry. The track bears few similarities to the warped techno sludge of “Sony HiFi Side B City Jitters“, available for free on Opal Tapes‘ recent ”Cold Holiday” compilation. No, with its muffled pads and feedback that whines forlornly, “Vulture” has more in common with the softer sketches found on his “Excavated Tapes 1992-1999, Vol. 1“.

The first Glaswegian contribution comes from Dam Mantle, who teams up with Baker for “Dig the Fourth“.  On it, a free-wheeling brass section flutters triumphantly over a whimsical female vocal, South American percussion and plodding double bass. The track is a departure from Dam Mantle’s previous work, being less dancefloor-oriented than his 2012 LP “Brothers Fowl” and more indicative of his new jazz inclinations. Further in, contributions from Tomutonttu and DIVA ramp up the intensity. The Finnish Tomutonttu, who runs the Vauva label, abandons any concept of melody for his “Nahinahin Ranta“. It’s a cluttered collage of sound, arrhythmic to the point that the tumult becomes measured, and artfully so. DIVA’s “Star Cabin” closes side A with a string of psychedelic arpeggios. Its sluggishness is suffocating: the drums thud like they’re buried under six feet of dirt. DIVA is a performance artist and you can visualise the disconcerting effect this murky track would have in a live setting. LEVERT_PCOLA‘s “rend2quik” opens side B and acts as a gentle palette cleanser following side A’s psychotic climax. We struggled to find out much about the artist but the track is a soothing 80-second screwed-up boogie affair.

The tape’s finest moment comes from the three-track run on side B of local musicians: Golden Teacher, Dick 50 and Bactarian. Golden Teacher is a supergroup of sorts composed of members from Ultimate Thrush, Silk Cut and Lovers’ Rights – see what we meant about Glasgow’s keen collaborative spirit? Their contribution is taken from their first-ever recording session at Green Door Studios, when they were known as Golden T-shirt. “‘why did you enter the…’“‘s slimy take on funk is positively Drexciyan, and there’s some foreshadowing of the sound that would emerge on the group’s later EPs for Optimo Music. The unruly synth line of Dick 50′s “God’s First Salon” fizzes with menace, abandoning the good-natured swing of the Golden Teacher track. It sounds like a swarm of angry bees congregating over a relentless kick. The onslaught soon paves way for a cacophony of instrumental solos, each as unpredictable as the last – bongos, a triangle, a steel pan – before submerging under a wall of frantic guitar screech. Bactarian’s “Classics” is a pure nosebleed techno death march. Its synth whistles like a space shuttle beam while the tempo pogos from fast to slow like a factory line gone awry.

The last half of side B distances itself from Glasgow, closing with offerings from LA (Lucky Dragon‘s “ooga booga bongo music“), Denmark (Jakob, Mads & Mathias‘ “Woodface“), Belgium and London. Dynooo‘s “CR X” is the most cinematic track on the tape, its graceful build disrupted by a cathartic crash. The cycle becomes captivating, but just when you get comfy it transitions into Felicita‘s “I’m Trying To Find You“. Felicita’s use of suspense and space is devastating: “I’m Trying To Find You” hovers precariously, constantly threatening to descend into utter chaos. A guitar is strummed tautly amidst rapid machine-gun fire and ghostly vocals – it’s a skeletal reconstruction of grime set in a joyless dystopia.

It may only be forty-five minutes long, but “The Health of the Oceans” compilation packs in a hell of a lot of ideas in such a short space of time. It’s not an easy listen – it’s jarring, abrasive, and downright alienating at times – but it’s rewarding. With so many different pockets of experimental electronic music showcased, you’d have to be really fussy not to hear something you liked. But it’s those who can appreciate the tape as a whole that will really benefit, from the moments of sun-kissed ambience to the groggy impressions of techno. For the tape is proof against unfounded claims that Glasgow’s scene has gone stale – if you think what the city has to offer peaked with Rustie’s “Glass Swords” (and the series of watered-down copycats that followed), you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Start with this tape.

“The Health of the Oceans” tape is available for free download from the One Mile High store.

Words by Sophie Kindreich, 02 July 2013. Leave a comment

Recommended: Fuewa – Birth Palace

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Fuewa is the new project from Dorset native Chris Sallows, who’s previously released for Svetlana Industries as Microburst. His work under that name was fuzzy yet structured dancefloor music, combining crisp percussion and basslines with hazy atmospherics and found sounds. The “Birth Palace” EP, the fifth release on Sonic Router Records, sees him eschew any rigidity for more ambiguous tones, leaning towards the world of ‘outsider house’. Following in the footsteps of label mates Hav Lyf and Torus, this EP is another foray into the nether world of dark and murky textures and sounds.

Stream: Fuewa – Birth Palace Preview (Sonic Router Records)

Blhok” opens with a portentous gurgling, crashing cymbals meeting chugging percussion. It’s structured around a simple, lovely four-bar riff that’s shrouded in scuzzy percussion and effects, countering its sweetness with a rough whirlwind of bleeps and clangs. Never straying from a strict 4/4, it is nonetheless a stirring opener, one that would easily terrify an unsuspecting dancefloor. “Outa Banks” is a deeper affair, using a stark two-chord refrain that wouldn’t feel out of place in a horror film to drive through the gloomy undergrowth. Rattling drums meet with painful moans, adding to a chilling sense of dread. “Undress Invert” continues with this ominous theme, as pitched-down spoken word meets a sorrowful riff that cascades over echoes and roughly hewn percussion. “La Void” is well titled, opening with the unsettling sense of a world collapsing, before it kicks into a plodding beat and a simple drone, with unspecified vocals buried deep in the mix. A series of squeaks that almost sound scratched in lighten the darkness briefly, yet the thumping beats and clanks survive longer than all else, drifting off into oblivion.

Time Paint” is a particularly impressive piece of work, starting with the sound of a dark windstorm, a sea of arpeggiated bleeps at no fixed tempo swirling around in the current, wafting back and forth across the skies. The distant sound of percussion steadies this aimlessness, as dark moans terrorise the background. Strained synths clash with a humanoid grunting, building on the thematic structure laid in place by that wandering line of bleeps, which sees fit to return to close out proceedings. If hav lyf’s album finished with the sound of a dying dial-up modem, this release concludes at the site of a long-abandoned factory, its machinery come to life to cry out for love and repair. “Black Illusion Fall Out“, which rivals Actress in the amazing title stakes, offers no release, no catharsis. Instead we’re left lonely and mournful, with a feeling akin to that after the experience of Tomorrow’s Harvest, a similarly apocalyptic effort. Cranking machinery, Popol Vuh-esque droning, the fizz of a scorched earth – this is not a cheery record. That said, it’s a bold statement, a dark world view clouding a brave talent. If Fuewa marks Sallows’ move away from the dancefloor, it’s a considered success. Another great release by Sonic Router, whose reputation is bolstered at every step.

Fuewa – Birth Palace is out on Sonic Router records on July 1. Pre-order here.

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 01 July 2013. Leave a comment

Recommended: Leon Vynehall – Brother / Sister

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Will Saul’s Aus Music label continues to focus on experimental yet danceable interpretations of house, techno, electro and dub. Such an approach makes Aus a logical home for a talent such as Leon Vynehall, so it comes as no surprise to see the Brighton producer’s latest release come courtesy of the illustrious imprint. Vynehall is a busy man of late. “Laszlo Dancehall” – his collaboration with A1 Bassline – has been winning rave reviews, with “Gave Up” acting as a notable highlight of George FitzGerald’s Essential Mix from earlier this year. His individual efforts haven’t wavered from these high standards and – alongside his regular touring schedule – have helped to cement Vynehall’s status as one of the brightest emerging talents coming out of the UK right now.

Stream: Leon Vynehall – Brother (Aus Music)

His Aus induction is very much a tale of two tunes. “Brother” is probably nothing new to the ears of regular club-goers; its ability to get a dancefloor moving already rendering it a favourite for many DJs prior to release. Snappy cymbal strikes and rapid chopped vocal cuts dominate the track’s intro. An unexpected hit of piano chords on the first drop soon provides perfect respite to the preceding tension. It may not be breaking new ground but “Brother” certainly amounts to more than the sum of its parts, such is the strength of Vynehall’s execution of his signature multi-textured approach.

Stream: Leon Vynehall – Sister (Aus Music)

While its predecessor may be more likely to soundtrack your night out, “Sister” could well be the offering you keep coming back to. Certain strands – such as the skittering percussion – linger from “Brother” but “Sister” is on an altogether much deeper vibe. Vynehall’s preference for vocals is present once more, here complimented by quickly gliding arpeggiated synth notes and striking bass kicks. It’s a gloriously grooving number; one perfect for those summertime barbecues. The richness of Aus’ back catalogue dictates that each release on the label carries with it a particularly high level of expectation. With arguably his finest release to date, Vynehall has lived up to this billing and then some.

Leon Vynehall’s “Brother / Sister” is out now and is available here.

Words by Matt Gibney, 27 June 2013. 1 comment

Truancy Volume 72: Contakt

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New Yorkers in the know know TURRBOTAX®, the monthly party that specializes in merging emerging artists with established for a night of frantic movement and musical exploration. Sounds like a great time right? A bulk of that fun is the result of the night’s residents, which includes co-founder Contakt. Besides holding DJ responsibilities along with the party’s four other residents he’s released a handful of records on label such as Local Action, Dutty Artz, and most recently Icee Hot. Where his first two releases displayed distinct UK influences, the latter – “Nobody Else” – has its roots firmly planted in American soil and considering his upbringing just outside of Detroit this comes as little surprise. Having spent his formative years around the golden era sounds of hip hop, booty, and techno it undoubtedly had an effect on his taste as well as sound palette. With years of behind the scenes work at revered record shops and labels under his belt he is now beginning to break into the spotlight due to his solo work. For our 72nd Truancy Volume we invited Contakt to show us what he’s capable of and he delivered just under an hour of house and techno stalwarts.

Hi, what have you been up to the last couple months? “It’s been a busy year! I celebrated New Year’s in Australia and played a handful of great gigs there which was amazing, and then have been back in NYC playing gigs and recording. I just DJed the opening of the Red Bull Music Academy which was a huge honor and really fun because I finally got to meet folks I have been trading music music with over the internet for years. On the production side of things, I have knocked out a few remixes, readied this Icee Hot record for release, and done a handful of tracks for myself for my next project.”

Let’s talk about the party you run, TURRBOTAX®. Can you give us a rundown on the party and some of the milestones it’s crossed? “We started the party about 4 years ago because no one was playing the music we wanted to hear. We were really excited about the new sounds we were hearing out of London from folks like Cooly G and Ikonika, and we also wanted to hear classic NY garage, Detroit, and Chicago sounds we grew up on. We ended up bringing a bunch of folks in from London for their first NYC or USA appearances; DJs like Julio Bashmore, and Mosca and we combined these DJs with the innovators who inspired us like Robert Hood, Kenny Dope, and Todd Edwards as well as more experimental artists like OneOhTrix Point Never, Blondes and Laurel Halo. In these 4 years, we have booked like 70+ DJs and honestly, it feels like we have booked almost everyone we have ever wanted to see which is a pretty amazing feeling. We have been overwhelmed by the response and the support of NYC and all the DJs around the world.”

TURRBOTAX® is going on four years old now. What were some of the difficulties of keeping a party like it running in New York? “It’s funny, you would think the longer you do something that it would get easier and easier, but in this situation, doing parties in NYC is just as difficult as it was when we started. A lot of this is because of the lack of venues, and from there, the lack of venues with proper soundsystems and equipment. Typically, to do an event in NYC, you end up having to rent a soundsystem or at least sound reinforcement, and frequently specific DJ mixers or CDJ-2000s, etc because many of the venues have garbage equipment. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but logistically it’s a hassle, no one has cars, it’s a pain to haul speakers, etc and then haul them back hungover the next day. In addition though, it adds an extra cost to doing events which affects the event’s budget and how much you can spend on booking.”

With the opening of Output in Brooklyn do you feel this threatens smaller parties and venues at all or just push everyone to provide the best possible experience? “I think Output opening is a great thing for Brooklyn and New York City. To be honest, the venue situation in NYC is pretty dire, there are very few places that book good music / promoters, and until Output, there was no joke, 3 places with decent to good soundsystems and they all cater to pretty terrible bridge & tunnel, iBanker, bottle service crowds on weekends. Output is great, the best soundsystem on the East Coast and a great booking policy – those two things typically don’t go together in America. I had the opportunity to play there with DJ Rolando a few weeks ago and the entire experience was a pleasure, I’m really looking forward to playing there more.”

In previous interviews you’ve been asked about your role as an opening DJ, but you’re now a few records deep and we’re sure you’re playing different times (and bigger shows), so has your playing style changed at all? “In a sense no, my playing style has been fairly consistent. I think I, like the other DJs at TURRBOTAX® really know how to read a crowd, and know how and what to play for any slot – I think that’s a real component in the party’s success. For me, I tend to close out TURRBOTAX® and it’s fairly similar to my headlining sets – bold, dark, melodic house and techno. It’s funny, I feel really thankful that my regular gig is to close out TURRBOTAX®, every month I get to play whatever I want to a receptive crowd and it’s always amazing gig.”

In terms of your own music, what’s your approach to writing and releasing records? “I am a big believer in less is more. I work a few days a week and finish a fair amount of stuff, but I only really send out the best bits and the ones that I feel represent what I am trying to say. I definitely understand the ‘make a ton of stuff, throw it out there and see what sticks’ method, but it’s just not me. I have a few folks who hear most of what I make, but I tend to only send a few records out.”

Often artists have mentors who showed them the ropes in the studio or on the decks, was there anyone that played that role in your career? “I have definitely had mentors throughout my career and there are two that immediately come to mind. My first real mentor was DJ Ruckus in Michigan, who’s still active in Lansing and Detroit. He really put me on to records, and taught me how to DJ and gave me so many amazing opportunities when I was a teen. Incredible DJ, up there with Terrence Parker, Ben UFO, and Jackmaster with his selections and skills. His brother, C-Sick, is also one of my partner’s in TURRBOTAX® – he’s no slouch either. My production mentor was J-Zone, a hip-hop producer and rapper in the golden era of backpack hip-hop who worked on Rawkus, Fat Beats, and a handful of other great labels. J-Zone really taught me how to master the MPC, and taught me all sorts of little tricks I still employ today. One of the most talented hip-hop producers ever, and way ahead of his time.”

The party is known for bringing in a lot of young artists, many of whom only have one or two records their names. Who are some the artists you’re currently excited about? “At the moment, I am really excited about Sage & Cromie, two Los Angeles based producers who have a 12” coming out in a few weeks on Peach. We have exchanged demos for years, so I am really excited for their single. My friend and labelmate Ghosts on Tape had an amazing year last year and I think this year is going to be even bigger for him. Bandshell is another name to watch. He released records on Hessle and Liberation Technologies last year, and his new material is amazing.”

For your Truancy Volume what are you trying to convey to the listeners? “Honestly? Nothing. Good, timeless music. This mix is a lot like when I play live – a combination of new, unreleased and decade old records. I would guess, or hope that most people wouldn’t be able to tell the older bits from the new ones. I try to not get caught up in new, or exclusive, and instead just focus on good.”

What’s next for you and the party? “Literally today I am about to wire up my new studio. It’s all fun and games to brag about a massive record collection and having tons of analog synths but moving them, and re-cabling a studio – not so much. Once that’s sorted I have a few remixes to finish up and then it’s back to work on my own material.

For TURRBOTAX® we have a lot of exciting stuff lined up. We are starting to plan for our anniversary later this summer which is always a blow out, and we have some new events planned – both bigger and smaller that we are really excited to announce but the contracts aren’t done yet.”

And standard last question, what’s your drink of choice? “I am a whiskey and bourbon man. Day to day it’s Jameson, Bushmills, Bulleit, or Burnheim, but I am a massive fan of Islay Scotch Whiskies. Pour me an Ardbeg or a Lagavulin and I’m a happy man.”

TRUANCY VOLUME 72: CONTAKT

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Truancy Volume 72: Contakt by TRUANTS

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Words by Jonathon Alcindor, 26 June 2013. Leave a comment

Download: Spooky – Party Package Vol. 1 and 2

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What gets us coming back to grime every time is its sense of melody. When rhythm or timbre are the pursuit of much dance music, melody can be swamped, or indeed purposefully neglected in favour of different, more functional elements of music. Grime functions differently in this way, it’s one of the few dance genres that is made with an MC in mind; it wasn’t made to move bodies the weekend long in Berghain. The aching, melancholic melodies of Ruff Sqwad’s “Anna” and “Functions on the Low“, Rebound X’s “Rhythm ‘n’ Gash” or Kamikaze’s “Ghetto Kyote” bleed into the mind, dwelling in its coldest corners. As Ruff Sqwad’s Dirty Danger says, “no one else knew how to put melodies in such dark music.” Spooky invades the melody receptors in a similar manner, his method, however, is attrition warfare rather than seductive gloominess. His tracks are assaults on the body, templated meditations on rhythm and melody, on the pure and simple power of repetition and a restrained sonic palette.

Spooky’s 2006 “Party Package” is full of beats that are abrasively radiant, infectiously melodic and bursting apart with raw energy. Amongst the 35 tracks, what really stand out are the brutally vibrant refixes, in which RnB (Missy Elliott, Rihanna and Alicia Keys), hip-hop (50 Cent, Ludacris and Young Jeezy) and classic grime (Wiley, Young Dot and Jammer) mutate into a barrage of bittersweet intensity. Spooky’s melodies, looped in militant structure, create merciless, punishing tracks that cut between head-nod halftime and a crushing double-time skip. This all coalesces under the umbrella of one ultra-saturated, fluorescent sound facilitated in part, on the refixes especially, by the incorporation of non-synthetic samples. Flutes, horns, entire orchestras fill out a relatively barren sonic landscape. I think, for Spooky, the phrase ‘magnum joy’ sums things up pretty well – simultaneously violent and blissful and, like all great hardcore, sitting on the fence between sorrow and ecstasy.

Spooky – Party Package Volume 1 by TRUANTS

Highlights of the bunch include “Lovin That You Want Refix”, a jangley summer jam driven by huge, crunchy snares that flips between a dubby halftime and doubletime that’ll get you strutting down your street in pure bliss. Plastic Gype Riddim Refix’s whirlwind flutes are married with a delirious shoot-out between pistol cracks and shotgun blowouts. “Styles and Jada Refix” is a complete torture track, the strings are laceratingly sweet and sugary, the crash cymbal exhausting, the stutter unnerving yet surprisingly groovy. Night Slugs have picked up this vibe particularly well, Bok Bok recently talked about “MJT” in the ‘torture track’ context (and also originally tipped us off about the party packages), but tracks like “New York” and “Her” maintain a similar burning brightness. There’s plenty of pressure outside of the refixes as well, “Magnum Joy” relishes in a wash of reverb, the warm remnants of valve-amp hum, and hits just as hard, while “Pulse Eskimo” works a darker, eski flex (NB: Zomby nicely paired this track with M.I.A.’s “Bird Flu”). If you’re into grime, this collection may be nothing new, but if you’re not, be prepared for some raw as hell beats backed up by a lush ear for melody. A fetish for gun shots might help as well.

Spooky – Party Package Volume 2 by TRUANTS

You can download volume one here and volume two here.

Words by Tobias Shine, 24 June 2013. 1 comment

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