Chronicles: Spring Fever


Spring is a great time of the year for hip-hop. It’s that time of the year when rappers start pumping out tracks to fuel your parties and act as your means of celebration. Summer albums are being revved up, singles are dropped like it’s nothing, and the internet waits to see which songs gain momentum to receive the coveted title of “summer jam”. As summer approaches, it’s time to take a look at some spring favourites that stood out this year. 


Stream: YG – My Nigga (feat. Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rich Homie Quan, Meek Mill)

YG was the spark of spring with his album My Krazy Life. It’s the ratchet version of Kendrick’s Good Kid, Maad City. With nearly just as much storytelling ability and skits as Kendrick, YG was poised to strike gold with hits like the anthematic “My Nigga” and “Who Do You Love” featuring Drake. YG’s been around for years and already capitalized on the mainstream with “Toot it and Boot it“; a hit with currently-rising Taylor Gang singer Ty Dolla Sign from 2010. Since then, YG has been making a name under the ratchet sound along with DJ Mustard (who’s the key to the summer, just Wikipedia his discography) with a few notable releases. While My Krazy Life is a convenient encapsulation of YG’s sound, it’s encouraged you download his mixtapes leading up to that release for the sake of all the gems dropped along the way to YG’s journey to stardom.


Stream: Sicko Mobb – Fiesta

The bop movement needs to be addressed. It’s been around since last year and was highlighted in a Pitchfork feature in August 2013. Bop is dance-centric music based in Chicago that’s (as described by P4k) ” a physical representation of Chicago music in 2013: the warped yet indelible imprint of house, mutating under hip-hop’s influence into juke, growing more combative and experimental and shifting the focus from ass to feet via footwork, with rap ultimately reigning supreme”. It’s pretty much the opposite of the drill scene that became so popular in 2012 courtesy of Chief Keef and crew; much more bubbly and happy, not as much gang-banging. Since then,  it’s popularity has surged to become one of the most exciting sources of music in the past 6 months; starting with Sicko Mobb’s Super Saiyan Volume 1 mixtape. There are plenty of bop artists, Breezy Montana and Lil Chris are certainly other favorites of the scene. But Sicko have found something special in their near-incomprehensible lyrics, melodic production, and uninhibited enthusiasm. Their catchiness is undeniable, as heard with their breakout hit “Fiesta” (released on Youtube May 2013), a simple viral hit with over 2 million views as of May 2014. The entire Super Saiyan mixtape is filled with hits and a perfect feature from fellow Chicagoan/Glory Boy Lil Durk on “In My Maserati“.


StreamJohn Walt – KemoWalk

Bop is also responsible for an interesting offshoot of its movement that’s drifting towards something that sounds like a bouncier take on Chief Keef’s classic “Citgo” as heard here with the song “Kemo Walk“. Chicago’s DJ Moondawg put out a compilation of bop music that’s worth checking out and this mix off Soundcloud is also a good introduction to this viral movement. Bop has lingering effects, especially considering Super Saiyan came out in December (Breezy Montana’s Rise to Fame, which is also a great bop release, came out in October 2013) and is still getting heavy circulation in the US. Chicago is one of the most exciting sources of music over the past 2 years, now being responsible for two major (viral) movements of contradictory sounds. Continue Reading →

Words by Kyle Brayton, 27 May 2014. Tags: | Leave a comment

Interview: Mike Gip

gip-truants-michael

One of the more exciting things New Jersey has for itself right now is its multi-linear, infectious, and a lot of the time horny brand of club music. For a scene that now extends over a decade, only recently has the once-local phenomenon and its immediately identifiable sound infiltrated the conception of club music on an international level. While the influence of an East Coast tradition on contemporary, say, European club production is palpable, for certain brows of electronic music fandom the origins of the scene that only continues to grow in Jersey; and the makers who comprise it, might still remain unrecognised or hidden behind newer interpolations. After a busy week of playing out, Mike Gip (one of the more under sung yet prolific torchbearers of Jersey club) was able to lend us his ear for some quick questioning. Gip, Jersey’s proclaimed “handsome DJ” and part of DJ Sliink’s Cartel Music collective, resides in Long Branch, a hub of club music located on the central coast of the state.

Stream: Hardrive – Deep Inside (Mike Gip Remix)

TT: Hey Mike, what’s good? “What’s up, how’s it going?” Good. I wanted to talk about your recent slew of shows. It seems like you’ve been pretty busy, even just last week between the RBMA night and the House Party at Webster Hall. How’d those gigs come about and what were the crowds like? “It’s been crazy. The House Party at Webster, I was actually there the week before and that’s when Sliink asked me to play at the next show to represent Cartel Music—I was definitely interested. So that’s how the Webster gig happened. For the Red Bull one, Star Eyes just hit my email, gave me the details and said it was gonna be crazy with various genres and styles being played. I guess the RBMA night was an underground sort of crowd, which was good, there were people still turning up. Webster was a crazy turn up, you see people of all ages and nationalities just having fun.”

What was the biggest club/crowd you’ve played for thus far? The biggest I’ve played so far was an event at the Brooklyn Bizarre, there must have been over a thousand people there.

Also on the bill at Bounce Ballroom were [Jersey producer] Fiinesse and other dancers. How did that work, did they just come out with routines while you were playing? Also, do you find that dancing is an integral part of Jersey club culture in general? “Pretty much. Whenever we have club parties it’s always people on the floor doing dances. The dances at Bounce Ballroom were not exactly choreographed, but there are of course Jersey-specific dance moves, where people take turns in circles and things like that. Dancing is absolutely an important part, at least in Jersey, I can see why it might be hard to catch on elsewhere, but it’s still an important part here.” It just seems like some of those moves are perfect bodily representations of what the music sounds like. “Some of the moves have specific names and are inspired by certain things, like ‘paddy cake.’ You know the guy from Grease? ‘Rock your hips’ is kind of Jamaican inspired.” “Sexy walk?” (Laughs) “Yeah.”

What pulled you into club music initially? Did you start playing music out and then get into producing, and then further with Cartel? “It’s actually the other way around. I was always a fan of Baltimore club, like Blaqstarr and other early producers. I would listen to them and one day decided I wanted to try making it, I was at least 11 years old. From then I let it sit to the side until I matured as a person and was able to interpret music-related things better. In 2008, I started hearing the Jayhoods, the Sliinks, the Tim Dollas and realized it was different from the Baltimore stuff that I was introduced to when I was younger, it was something Jersey had for itself. I’ve been calling Sliink my big bro since a year into me being a producer, and I still don’t know exactly how or when I officially became a Cartel. He produced a track with my vocals called “Booty Bounce Anthem” and we’ve been kicking it off since. He’s been almost like a mentor, guiding me and stuff. One day I went to Irvington and hung out with the guys over there and they asked if I wanted to be a Cartel. I was like ‘yeah, that’s fine with me.’ Cartel is a brotherhood type of thing, really tight.”

Stream: DJ Sliink – Booty Bounce Anthem

Your also a new resident of Thread, how is that series going? “I love it, it’s crazy. Ezrakh, DJ Reck, DJ Rell, Nadus…those nights are the definition of Jersey club music, and underground music in general. We play so many types of music.”

Can you describe your hometown of Long Branch in your own words? “It’s different, and depends what part of Long Branch your’re talking about. The part I’m from is kind of the urban part—I see it as a baby Newark. The more resort-ish side I guess you can say, the part where tourists go for the beach is the west end of Long Branch and is what I think a lot of people think of when they think of the town as a whole, that’s where a few clubs are too.”

I assume most of your sets consist of club and hip-hop. Are you ever seen playing outside of this combination? “Absolutely. Right now I’m getting into the Nola bounce thing and actually have some of that stuff ready to be released. It’s also a crowd-reading thing, like if people wanna hear Moombahton I’ll play it.” It seems that Jersey producers, by nature, need to be on a rap tip. I say this because a lot of remixes are of rap songs. Who have you been fucking with as of late? “It seems weird, but right now I would have to say Juicy J. He’s about what I’m about, you know? I’m always going back to his original stuff, not just the recent Wiz Khalifa-featuring stuff. I saw him not too long ago in Sayerville, he’s crazy.”

It seems that every publication is doing their Jersey feature now, where they trace the evolution of Jersey’s interpolation from Baltimore and talk about faceless appropriation by artists who are enjoying more success then those who’ve been in the game for a while. What are your thoughts on this relationship? “Everyone hates it when I voice my opinion on this. Personally I don’t respect much of it, but it is what it is. I’m glad that they’re furthering the genre sort of and introducing it to more people, but I do believe in giving credit where it’s due. They should somehow show people where they got the music from, because it is a new sound for a lot of people, but we’ve been doing it. That’s just me.” You can tell when a track was made by someone from Jersey as opposed to someone from out of state/country, whether that’s because of the sounds used or general technique heard in the track. “It’s dirtier, grimier. Those guys’ stuff is smooth.”

You must be familiar with European labels like Night Slugs and Pelican Fly and what club music is becoming over there. “Absolutely. I’m actually really cool with DJ Slow. I do notice a Jersey influence on the music coming from there and I like it a lot. But like I said, in the grand scheme of things, it would be cool to see more room and credit given to us in some way or another.”

Do you see yourself reaching out to labels to put music out? “I’ve reached out to Mad Decent in the past, but they’re focusing on touring events and shows as opposed to releasing EPs and what not, which is fine. It would be dope to release music exclusively through a label as opposed to just handing out music by yourself on SoundCloud.”

Besides Newark, the seeming and generally agreed-upon birthplace of the genre, where else has Jersey club been taking root? “I mean I’m really the only club producer in Long Branch, but a lot of music is coming out of central Jersey generally speaking—there’s guys in Neptune, Lakewood, Toms River. There’s Plainfield too.” What are your plans for the summer? “I’m planning on touring actually. When it comes to label affiliation, I’m still unsigned but I do have a few people looking at me. In two weeks I’m going to Los Angeles. I’m gonna link up with [promoter] Adam Weiss there. I got a booking out in Berlin too.”

Your favorite drink and the last time you danced? “Henny. Last night I danced too.”

Words by Michael Scala, 21 May 2014. Leave a comment

Seven Plays III

Truant Seven Plays

For Seven Plays, each week one of our contributors will keep a personal music diary for seven days, then hands 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. Our third installment comes from TT heavyweight Tobias Shine; everything from lethal Jersey, South African dance music, Prince, and much, much more. 


Saturday: Marcus Mixx – The Spell (Ron Hardy Club Mix)

“Hey yo, I’m Tobias and I’ll be carrying you through my week of listening pleasure! My brain is mush right now thanks to Kowton and Tessela laying rest to the club last night and I’m also kinda deaf in my left ear so what I write about this may be a little off. It’s amazing that this slice of pure bliss was only properly released to the world in 2006, despite its creation circa ’88. This one is just vibes on vibes on vibes and completely nails the scat melancholia brief. The flip (‘Without Make Up’) is beautiful as well. Just going to smoke about five ounces of weed and bathe in those claps.”

Sunday: DJ Lag – Ghosts on the Loos

“The dance music of South Africa has a history as long and dense as Chicago’s and I’ve only just started journeying down that path, but DJ Lag’s brutalist style feels so current. I could have picked any of the raw af trax on his kasimp3 page (which is a great resource for SA stuff) but this one sums it all up pretty well – dread atmospherics and that relentless, punishing drum sound. The way the tracks slowly build creates such high-pressure tension but never releases, the sounds just slowly suffocate the atmosphere around them. Kwaito is so dope because on the other side of super minimal stuff like Lag, DJ Lusiman and DJ Snaxxzo you have the more euphoric sounds of people like Big Nuz and DJ Spoko (who will put out an EP with Lit City Trax soon). Also highly recommend the interviews and mixes (here and here) Okzharp did for Blackdown’s blog after a trip to SA, whole lot of amazing music and information in there!”

Monday: Dexter Duckett – Pure Massacre

“Since Soraya shouted Air Max in her Seven Plays, I gotta show love to another Australian producer doing it big at the moment. Dexter is a kid from Adelaide with fire in his belly and a whole lot of cool ideas in his head. This one had me and my girlfriend ballroom dancing together, which is weird because this is track is super sinister and those twinkling bells makes the whole thing really chaotic and paranoid. Anyway, really feeling all the stuff Dexter is doing – stay tuned to TT to find out more about him.”

Tuesday: Beyonce – End of Time (DJ Big O + DJ Sliink Rmx)

“It’s no secret that Jersey is the best but it doesn’t get much better than Sliink and Big O going in on a Bey banger, those vocals fluttering so beautifully around the stereo field. Jersey has such incredible impact and momentum and is obviously lethal in the club. This is an oldie but there are so many people making sick trax at the moment: Irresistible, Problem, Kay Drizz, Yung Kidd, Albyy, Uniique, Tricks, K Deucez, King Tiger Z… the list goes on.”

Wednesday: Prince – Erotic City

“Ugh, I feel like this is such a missed opportunity. Like, yay, Prince – TIP! But whatever, I can’t deny that I’m obsessed with this today so it would be against the rules to leave it out. :~( On repeat, one after the other after the other. AFTER THE OTHER. Haven’t rinsed a track this hard since I rediscovered “Crush on You” the other day.”

Thursday: DJ Karfox – Fodencia Massacre

“The music coming out of Portugal at the moment is just so, so good. You would have heard of kuduro, the most visible producers being Marfox and Nigga Fox, but there is a whole school of kids working underneath them, taking up the fox name and heading to soundcloud who are making incredible stuff. There also seems to be more happening than just kuduro. Fodencia (translating, fittingly, to ‘fuckery’) is a super raw and stripped back style of tarraxo or tarraxinha, which people sometimes describe as a slowed down kuduro. (Tarraxo usually runs at around 90-100 bpm, kuduro at 130-140). I know, the genres can be confusing, their multiplicity compounded by a long history and development as well the music’s intercultural nature (being a mixing pot of, from my understanding, Angolan, Portuguese and French traditions). Fodencia is based around staggering triplet structures which make the whole thing sound really broken and wonky but also make it really, really fun to dance to. I also love the way these guys work with vocals, this one is a perfect example but how about this Nervoso and Onorato trak that uses a screaming girl as its hook!? SO sick. If you’d like to learn more about fodencia/tarraxo this article and this compilation, compiled by Marfox himself, are a great start.”

Friday: Iron Soul – Chinese Water

“Been rinsing Iron Soul, which is Kromestar’s earlier grime moniker, heavily recently. I haven’t heard many other producers in grime who work with soul samples and chipmunk vocals, except maybe Blackjack, but it just works so well. You can hear Mssingno’s happier days in there somewhere. Iron Soul was also capable of super cold, industrial stuff (see: Vulcan and Whistler off the South Side EP) and brings the Eastern vibe on this beauty. It’s just that classic starry-eyed melody that makes you feel all special and sad at the same time, like all the best ones. I actually wanted to choose ‘Art of Music’, which really tugs at the heart strings, but I couldn’t find proper audio anywhere. :(

That’s all from me, I hope you enjoyed my picks! Handing the feature over to my boy Matt for next time.”

Read our previous instalments of Seven Plays here and make sure to catch Matt Gibney on his Seven Plays flex next week.

Words by Tobias Shine, 20 May 2014. Tags: | Leave a comment

Truancy Volume 96: Rook Milo

Rook Milo Truants

It’s time for the 96th installment of our Truancy Volume series and we’re ecstatic to have secured the services of 22 year old Canadian Rook Milo for the task. A celebrated maestro in the more emotional circles of Soundcloud, Rook first came to our attention when he was earmarked by previous TV-contributor Ryan Hemsworth as one to keep an ear out for in an article for Interview Magazine. It would probably be fair to say that Ryan indirectly puts us on to a whole heap of great underground artists, but this guy in particular struck a chord. Back at the release of “Cobalt Polo”, the particular track that was flagged up, young Rook’s signature was a dazzling hip-hop, placing somewhere between the Glaswegian LuckyMe giants and L.A. Brainfeeder beat gurus. Since then his sound has very much matured. The most notable examples, his remixes of Drake’s “The Language” and Travi$ Scott’s “Upper Echelon” are more spatially aware, almost desolate with only the occasional underlying supernova; certainly not of this world.

The mix itself encompasses all of the above in just short of an hour. The first half is somewhat indulgent in its own beauty, packed full of unreleased material from your boy Rook and a few of his influential friends, leading in to a power half hour of sorts, featuring big hitters such as Lil Durk, Waka Flocka and Ty Dolla $ign. We also managed to catch a few words, tackling his ASL Singles Club affiliation, the Vancouver music scene and the struggle of finding a suitable moniker in this day and age that hasn’t been taken by somebody making “punchy EDM shit”.

Hey man! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! How are things? “No sweat, things have been really good for me this past year – pretty much since last may everything’s fallen into place.” I wanted to start off with some background stuff. I guess this is one of your first interviews, if not the very first! Would you give us a few words of introduction? “Yeah man, feeling pretty blessed for that to be with Truants. I guess the basics are that I’m 22, living in Vancouver, B.C (s/o Canada) and I’ve been making tracks since 2012-ish.”

You’re at university, right? What are you studying? “This is true. Right now I’m attending Emily Carr (ECUAD) rolling into a design program, hopefully eventually learning this and that about print design once things get going next September. I’m working as somewhat of a graphic intern for a shoe company right now and learning from school at the same (damn) time.” So are you set on doing that in the long run and having music as a fun thing to do on the side, or vice versa? “Right now I could see myself making a living off graphic design and enjoying it, but I really don’t know this early on. Honestly, I can’t really see myself making solo music more than a hobby – financially I’m dreaming that one day I can just produce for vocalists and rappers, seems like there’s room for that nowadays without losing yourself behind the artists. S/O Rich Homie Quan.”

Your Tumblr‘s really impressive!  It’s all your own work, right? I’d imagine the audio/visual combination is something that’s particularly important to you. “Thank you :^) !! Mostly, I’d say it’s all either me or something that includes me by my friends. I’ve always had a thing for producers that pair great music with an equally appealing image, definitely something I want to progress with through video work because at the moment I’m just making cover art.”

Would you talk a little about what inspired you to start producing and what those first few steps were like? “Well, I grew up in a city called Kelowna that’s about four and a half hours away from Vancouver in-land, and outside of being known as a dubstep hotbed there wasn’t much inspiration for me there. I really started making music as most do, listening to a bunch of good music that my friends and I all bounced off each other and thinking “Hey maybe I could make this shit.” Beat scene stuff from L.A. in like 2008 got everybody I knew real excited, and it was probably around then that I started collecting gear and messing around, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I started actively working on things and trying to get better.”

Stream: Drake – The Language (Rook Milo Remix)

As I understand it, you put some of your earlier music out under the name of Mosey. Any particular reason for the change? “I was using a bunch of funny names before I settled on Rook Milo – Gully Mane, Coombs, and Softgram just to name a few. Mosey was the product of so much trial and error that I felt relieved to finally have something I enjoyed to call my own, but right as I was getting ready to commit to it I found a popular French guy who had been using the name for some punchy EDM shit or something. Either way I was bummed and spent about two weeks thinking about something to replace it. I switched to Rook Milo right when things started happening, and it seemed like people liked it and I’m always reminded of Baby Milo by Bape which is a nice touch.”

We just noticed that your remix of Drake has nearly 200,000 listens on Soundcloud, which is incredible! That must be pretty encouraging for you as a relative newcomer? “As much as that’s been exciting and motivating I get a bit nervous for the pressure to follow up – mostly just siked about it though. Praise to all the people out there supporting your boy, real tho.”As well as that, you’re getting a lot of support from other artists! Ryan Hemsworth, DJ Slow and Ta-Ku have all put your stuff in their mixes. These are all people I’d imagine you look up to? “I get really excited whenever I see an artist I listen to follow up on what I’m doing – always making sure to get that screenshot for the collection haha. S/O Ryan Hemsworth though, he’s been the biggest push for me for sure. I’m hoping that one day I’ll get a chance to help somebody out like he’s helped me.”

Following on from that, I’d be really interested to hear about your influences. There’s obviously a strong hip-hop element, but some of your stuff, like the ASL release, suggests different, electronic genres come into play too. What sort of stuff would you say you’re inspired by? “Things changed since my first EP called 2ko which had four songs, and of that only “Cobalt Polo” and “Luxury Sedan” are out now. I was on that glistening, heartfelt dance-trap whatever tip just trying to fit in on Soundcloud. Back then I was all about something that basically just sounded light and fun, but now I’ve grown into darker industrial stuff for some reason. The biggest thing that’s changed for me is tempo – where I was mostly working and listening to stuff from 120 – 140 it’s moved to 110-130.”

One thing I’ve picked up is that your music tends to be pretty emotionally charged. Outland and Cobalt Polo in particular have this really strong sense of longing in them. Is that something you’re conscious of when writing? “Cobalt Polo was my first lil hit so I’ve gotta respect it, but I’m really over that sound (it’s off my Soundcloud, sorry people). I wouldn’t say that with that song I was trying to make something emotional, but I’m definitely trying to push some feels with both Outland and my new stuff. Sad boy music just seems easier to convey than some happy-go-lucky stuff.”

Another thing that comes to mind is that you have this ability to take samples that are already fairly well known and flip them so that they sound really fresh. The same goes for your remixes too. How do you go about choosing the source material for these? Is it pretty intuitive? “Sampling for me sits somewhere between recording some kitchen sink type sounds and just messing around with fairly recognizable percussion – a nice blend of unique and familiar. That’s just the kind of stuff I enjoyed from artists when I was getting into production, so it’s something I value to carry on in my own way. I think things like pieces from rap acapellas or vocal stabs keep people interested when they hear your song the second time around, something to anticipate I guess.”

Stream: Travi$ Scott – Upper Echelon (Rook Milo Remix)

Canada’s a big hotbed for breaking a lot of great new artists right now. What’s the music scene in Vancouver like? Is there anybody in particular we should be on the look out for? “It’s fairly diverse, and definitely not oversaturated so there’s lots of room for new artists. I’m loving it because I grew up in a town with basically no electronic scene at all, and yeah bruh, the fam’s out here – both audio and visual need to get mentioned. On the music side there’s Project Pablo and Heartbeat(s) both doing their part making that good house music, Oshea Adams and Evy Jane with serious vocals, Sangnoir doing big things on the come up, the homie Darko Boy making that raw shit and like a ton more. On the visual side I gotta s/o my boy Antosh.ca who’s making all the footage from my shows so far, my dude Chef aka DJ Boogie Man on his graphic game, and the man Shun Kinoshita pushing his brand MMVIII.”

You’re pretty heavily involved with those guys from the ASL Singles Club, right? How did that all come about? “I’ve been rolling with them playing shows in Vancouver ever since I met Project Pablo (then 8prn) on Soundcloud half a year before I move here. I kicked around their studio space quite a bit and we’d always link up to catch whatever show was going on at the weekends. The dudes running it are Project Pablo, Heartbeat(s) and Chef – doin big things pushing for diversity in their label. For the most part I’ve always just kicked alongside them as part of the fam but on the label side I’m not very involved, outside of playing ASL shows together and my release back in November.”

Let’s talk a little about the mix you’ve done for us! What can you tell us about it? “As far as content it’s got a bunch of unreleased shit, a couple from friends and lots from me. The intro is a lil improvised beat I made right in the set because I was trying to mix in a remix I made as the second song but couldn’t find anything that would work. Other than that it’s basically split in two, with some smoother stuff in the first half and some heavier things in the second.” How do you find doing mixes, both like this and in a DJ set, in comparison with producing? “Making this mix was hella fun because I was trying different ways of blending stuff, more comparable to producing because I had access to my usual toolkit. At the moment I try to keep my sets fairly straight forward – mixing without much improvisation. DJing is still kinda new for me, so I keep it to the basics so as not to mess up, haha.”

What do you have planned for the upcoming months? More shows, releases? We also noticed you did some work with Yung Braised a while back. Is there some more work with rappers/vocalists on the cards? “So much new shit it’s exciting. I’m sitting on so much stuff I need to put things out before I get sick of all of it! Some remixes for sure, but more importantly is an EP with my friend Shun Kinoshita and his brand that I mentioned earlier – we’re doing my first release party and I’m so siked for it. I’ve also got a wonderful song with my dude Oshea Adams on the vocals and some other things that are under wraps for now!”

Finally, some old favourites of ours. What’s your favourite drink and when was the last time you danced? “I’d have to say Jameson and ginger ale w/ lime, that one’s the Kelowna homie house special, and I danced like 10 minutes ago with my girl to “Macaroni Time“.”

Stream: Truancy Volume 96: Rook Milo by TRUANTS Continue Reading →

Words by Matt Coombs, 16 May 2014. Leave a comment

Three-Peat Vol. XXIII: Astro:Dynamics

astro-dynamics-truants

Three-Peat is our feature spanning genres and labels to bring you three select releases from the past – whether the past month or the past year – that still deserve your attention. This edition we’ve selected three 2014 releases from British (off)beats label Astro:Dynamics. This isn’t a potted history of Ast:Dyn, however – for that see Scott Wilson’s lengthy primer and interview with label owndeOwen at Juno Plus.  Instead we’re going to look at three of this year’s releases: from Alis (formerly Subeena), Nenado and Lord Skywave.

1. Alis – Things Next Door EP

Since adopting her Alis alias, Sabina Plamenova has been experimenting with sound on a variety of labels: from chuggy house and techno on Don’t Be Afraid to the even more dancefloor-focused Apache on Fifth Wall, she’s demonstrated an ability to assume different styles in different homes. The Things Next Door EP came about after she bought a loop pedal and brought it on a trip to Sofia. Alone in a foreign city, she sat down and got to grips with this new kit, playing around with her own vocals and fashioning music largely unlike anything she’d released before. The opening thud of “11” thumps as if Alis was recording through a stethoscope, not a loop pedal, and her repeated vocal utterances lend a paranoid urgency to the track’s droning patterns. “020” opens with a lighter touch, her gentle hummings swimming around each other before drowning in swathes of layers upon layers. “Leslape”, closer to Plamenova’s other releases, thudders and chugs along with staid determination. Ethereal whispers swirl about, however, lending a mystical air to what could otherwise be a pedestrian number. The title track, which closes the EP, is the most other-worldly track on display, a serenely open blast of ambient drone. While experimental affairs often lose sight of coherence or narrative, this release displays talent, innovation and ideas, never sacrificing heart in favour of technique.

2. Nenado – Your Sketch

Another artist taking to recording under a new name, Rasul Gafarov was the man behind the delightful Your Sketch tape as Nenado. Written over a period of years, it reflects its title in its scattered approach, adopting a breadth of modes while retaining a single vision. The opening track sets out this vision, with looped piano chords anchoring clicks and whirs that sit aside crunchy field recordings and deeply uttered vocal tics. There’s a moment towards the end of  “Like Attracts Like” where the protagonist, recording or sitting, steps outside the moment and lights up a cigarette, a single percussive line maintained before dropping out all together. The beat kicks in again and then the track is over. While this moment is an isolated flash of distanciation, it is emblematic of Nenado’s tongue-in-cheek method of production. “We Turn Into Planets” sees a twisted reversed guitar line mourn over ominous clicks and Boards of Canada-esque childish moans, while similarly infantile groans are found on “Hari Hari”. This comparison is fleeting, however. The major reference point in recent years for this work would be Nicolas Jaar’s Space Is Only Noise, with similarly guttural vocals and openly expansive soundscapes. That’s not to say that Your Sketch is in any way derivative – the sounds Nenado crafts here fit perfectly within their own dusky milieu, a space at once welcoming and disturbing.

3. Lord Skywave – Cardamon Copy

You might know him as the who sang with Fake Blood in the Black Ghosts, you might know him from his collaborations with Nautiluss. For better or worse, you most definitely know him as the voice behind “We Are Your Friends”. Utilised as they are, Lord Skywave’s vocals are just one of many elements at play on Cardamon Copy, released this week. Like Alis, Simon Lord was dabbling around with machinery, in this case an old Tascam four-track recorder. Tapes are in vogue, and Ast:Dyn is certainly at the heart of that, but the sound that this recorder gave his tracks were what pushed Lord in the direction of this release. “Eggshells”, the second track, is a study in quiet, a track so low in the mix that you’ve got to crank it up to take in what’s on display. Reminiscent of Noah Lennox’s work as Panda Bear, Lord’s aquatic, multi-channelled vocals sit beneath synth lines that simultaneously shake with apprehension and sear with intent. “Severndroog” sees similarly buried vocals float through a time-signature-free rhythm build around distorted blobs of synth and bass. Right in the middle of Cardamon Copy, it’s juddering and jerky, and delightfully affecting. “Newt” follows with a more straightforward rhythmic pattern and a defiantly cheery riff that’s almost anthemic in its joyousness. Trying to contain and condense the truly diverse sounds presented across this track’s nine releases would be as futile as trying to define the Astro:Dynamics sound. Familiar yet unsettling, morose yet filled with hope; it’s not a label, it’s a mantra.

Stream: Lord Skywave – Newt (Astro:Dynamics)

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 14 May 2014. Leave a comment

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