What a time to be a Truant. Autumn’s release schedule is like a cheesecake, real late at night: sensational. But we couldn’t proceed without giving the summer its due, so we’ve got a bumper edition of our Sunday’s Best column to top it all off. We’ve kept ourselves busy with various mixes and features popping up and popping off, but we’ve gotta share the things that keep us moving on the day-to-day too. Nayvadius’ Dirty Sprite 2 tied as the most popular record Truants had on rotation according to an exceptionally formal and stringent internal survey, but Future and his Hive are already doing a brilliant job of making themselves heard. Shouts to Vince Staples, who drew with Future – his Summertime ‘06 is fantastic, yet still feels underrated. You’ll find many of the things we dug below, and we’ll hold one up for the blurbs that never made it out – from Kehlani and Travi$ Scott to DJ Richard and Jack J.
There must be something in the iced tea over on the West coast at the moment because all the best albums have come out of there: Kendrick and Jay Rock to Earl and The Internet – and now Vince. He gave us a taste at the end of last year with the outstanding Hell Can Wait EP and this time he delivers a double album of more of the same – but better. On the one hand, the video for the Future-sampling “Senorita” (hands down one of the best videos of the year) depicts White America passively watching whilst everyone else self-destructs, but Vince knows too well that in order to keep it real he has to tell both sides of the story: “Within hip-hop music, we want to be the biggest shit ever, but we don’t want to take responsibility for the things that we say. We want the pop sales and the pop marketing and the pop advertisements. But you refuse to not say certain things. You refuse to not over-glorify drug culture.” Summertime ’06 is a huge statement, not just because it’s his Def Jam debut but more importantly it showcases his ability to be consistently great, across twenty tracks and in less than an hour’s time. It’s a whirlwind, access all areas tour through both his mind and his neighbourhood. He’s truly in a league of his own.
As far as years can go, Hunee has had a pretty astonishing one. He’s kept a low profile over the last few years, but in 2015 he’s curated the excellent compilation of Soichi Terada’s work in Sounds From The Far East, released an LP on Rush Hour, and has had a seemingly relentless tour schedule. It’s all paid off for him, as he’s steadily solidified himself as one of the most recognisable names in the currently crowded world of house music. For people who love house, it can feel rigid at times, and the joy it’s supposed to bring bleeds away. Hunch Music works as an antidote to that. It abandons any kind of essentialism and in turn offers up Hunee’s playful and fresh outlook of what club music can be. Whilst explorative by nature, Hunch Music is undeniably nods to the past too. “Crossroads” and “Rare Happiness” are rejuvenated, quirkier versions of house records that have been kicking around for the best part of two decades and in “Hiding the Moon” it feels like he’s doing his best Levon Vincent impression (it’s a pretty good impression to be fair). But it’s the little, slower bits like “Burning Flower”, “Bruises”, and the Sun Ra-sampling “The World” that make it feel like a holistic work, adding that bit of spark to a lush, welcoming and exciting album.
Although initially released in 1991, “Low Tension” by Manabu Nagayama & Soichi Terada entered the summer jam canon this year thanks to a reissue from Utopia Records. Lighter than air, “Low Tension” comes together delicately. Intricate percussion and a frothing bassline anchor an ocean of synthetic waves. Did we mention there’s also a killer flute workout? In addition to issuing a number of Japanese house classics in the early 1990s, Soichi Terada’s label Far East Recording served as a conduit between Tokyo and NYC, linking up with King Street Sounds, Pal Joey, and even the legendary Larry Levan. Once the purview of Discogs speculators, his catalog is slowly making its way back into affordable territories via Rush Hour, Creme Organization, and Hhatri.
Just about everybody’s favourite ‘summer record’ from this year, we couldn’t do a round-up of the sunny season without dJJ‘s “just a lil”. Released by Crazylegs in time for the end of festival season, there’s zero pretense with this house hit. It’s simple, armed with a wildfire infectious bassline, possessing those intangibles which have you throwing your worries into the recycling bin whilst on the floor. Since summer has inevitably turned to autumn, the Bristol-based label has followed up with a club mixes EP, comprised of a double length extended mix and three all-new remixes from the extended family. Suda’s on a soca flex, Gage goes berserk with the original palette and Finn comes knock-knocking melancholic with his inimitable RnG stylings. All essential. Last year, Crazylegs brought us Tommy Rawson’s “In All My Days” for the summer house anthem stakes – if we get something as good as these two next year we’ll be very lucky indeed.
Logging onto DatPiff these days, there’s the normal boxes to tick when browsing. Boomin? Check. Ty Dolla $ign feature? Cheque. Like crossing off IKEA flatpack furniture items before spilling out the contents, the names alone can dictate the experience itself, sometimes giving a false illusion of plenty. Spitta AKA Curren$y is an artist whose consistency is tried and trusted, leaving a few months between each mixtape, usually less than ten tracks long; His recent solo endeavours aren’t filled with the more familiar faces found on his studio albums. The bouncy instrumentals on summer release Cathedral come solely from Chase N. Cashe, more Harry Fraud than the Cardo sleepy keys he usually coasts over. It’s difficult to pick a standout over its twenty-five minutes or so, but we’ve definitely fallen for that vocal loop in bonus track “TY”. No filler.
Dave Huismans AKA A Made Up Sound returns to the Clone Basement Series with Archive III, a set of tracks that further establishes his gritty yet hyper-polished approach. Deceptively simple with an enveloping groove, the opening track “Cheater VIP” has its moments of furtive self-reflection, winding deep inside itself before returning to its opening stabs. The not-quite-aptly named “Funkstation” has an obtuse quality separating it from the others; Eery notes creep up from under the surface, at times threatening to overtake its pointed rhythm. “Us” is unhindered and flowing, with expressive voices floating in and out amongst a glistening static. Lastly, “Them” is a percussive storm of rolling timpani and showering cymbals, which comes to a crashing finale only to leave a simmering moment of clarity in its wake. Archive III exemplifies Huismans’ ability to contrast the murk of contemporary experimental techno with the hi-fi demands of modern club enthusiasts, creating a style that does not conform to the standards set by either.
Following up her 2014 EP No Romance, Tirzah’s latest single “Make It Up” is one of those summer haze tracks played on repeat. Joining forces once again with school friend Mica Levi, the production is woozy and a little moodier than 2013’s “I’m Not Dancing”. Tonally and lyrically, this single is as on point as previous EPs, showing that the girls understand how to strip back a track and seamlessly combine it with vocal riffs. Out on Greco-Roman – the label behind certain Disclosure, Joe Goddard, Dro Carey and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs releases – the single is one that pretty much sums up this year’s British summer: brooding, vibe-full and humid.
Aurora Halal is perhaps best known for her involvement in Sustain-Release – the New York-based festival that recently took place for the second time to great acclaim – but she’s also a superb producer of crisp, heartfelt techno. Her Shapeshifter EP, the second release on her own Mutual Dreaming label, shares a nightmarish vision of dank, liquid vibes. The title track is built of an incessant, simple melody, embellished throughout with twinkling synth darts and hushed, echoing vocals. These vocals continue across the release, most notably on “Death of Real”, with its extra-terrestrial melodies, unsettling tones that springboard through octaves. “Sunlight” features acid gurgles and a lighter feel, while 12″ closer “Just Tell Me” is a mournful techno lullaby. Digital purchasers gain an extra version of “Death of Real”: it’s harsher, simpler, more focused. It lacks those unsettling arpeggios, but modulated cymbals and rattling percussion more than make up for them.
Mexican club collective N.A.A.F.I. have been throwing parties since the turn of the decade, but things have gone into overdrive this year, climaxing with a cosign from the unlikeliest of sources: Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio. Crew member Smurphy’s beautiful Leaving Records album >A Shapeless Pool… has been on repeat since release, but for summer soundtracking the focus has to be on N.A.A.F.I’s second bootleg compilation Pirata 2. The compilation features the whole collective on rude form, as well as refixes from fellow travellers like Staycore label head Dinamarca and London’s Traxmatik. All manner of source material – old Dizzee instrumentals, Nicki Minaj bangers and Mexican popstars Belanova – is cheekily transformed into bubbling reggaeton and percussive heaters that bang hard in the sun. Considering the diversity of the original tracks, it’s a testament to the crew’s vision that everything hangs together so tightly. Highlights include the two Tinashe appearances, Lao turning out the best Moloko remix since Herbert did it in ’98 and Imaabs repurposing Ciara’s EDM-baiting “Overdose” into an epic blend of clanging metal and soaring synth pads. The whole thing is worth your time though, and given that it’s a free download you’ve got no excuse not to take the plunge.
In many ways it would have been more appropriate to include Endian’s “Finish Me” in a Summer’s Best for 2014 than this year’s; Since its untitled debut in Joy Orbison’s stellar Essential Mix last July, “Finish Me” has acquired a near-omnipresent status in clubs and at festivals up and down the country. Such appeal to DJs is not difficult to understand; With a thundering tribal breakbeat bringing serious heft to proceedings, it packs enough punch to do damage to any dancefloor. But here it’s the deft synth work which really gives the track its brilliance, as pads meeti a killer vocal sample to dizzyingly exultant effects from around the halfway point. While we’ll predominantly remember it for soundtracking many an early morning moment over the past fifteen months, its release on secretsundaze in May has meant we’ve rinsed it all summer long.
Teklife-affiliated Brooklyn natives Tripletrain dropped This Is Tripletrain during late summer and the storming six-tracker has barely left rotation since. The duo’s infectious beats bristle with distinct influence from their city – from jazzy, subway busker-esque trumpet and piano loops through to samples of A$AP Ferg namechecking Biggie – whilst deftly exploring footwork’s hallmark rhythms, vocal chops and bassline syncopations. The EP’s peaks come thick and fast; the soulful breeze of “If Not”, the effortless swing and roll of the titular track and “Too Obsessed”, and the high drama of “Puttin In Work”. The crew are in full effect too: Teklife mates Earl, Manny, Taso and Boylan all feature. Don’t bet against Tripletrain making more serious noise in the near future.
Darko Esser’s new alter ego Tripeo might have had most of the fun this summer with a busier touring schedule and a storming Dekmantel set, but one of our low-key favourites of the season goes to an Esser original. Released in May, Esser’s “Juilce” would have almost certainly skipped us by if it hadn’t been a staple in Ellen Allien’s sets over the last couple of months. Combining strong electro-techno elements, the 808 beat is a key part of its strength, sounding incredible on a system. The percussion alone makes it, but the track truly excels in manifesting its melodic elements in anthemic territory. Evolving riffs are coupled with pads to make for a stellar breakdown experience. a.r.t.less have been putting out gold for time, and this only adds to the label’s great discography. Fans of Versalife, Drexciya, Umwelt, and Objekt should be all over this.
Transcendent, shimmering looped melodies, fired gun kickbacks, sci-fi laser zaps, crickets and Lil Jon’s brazen catchphrases find harmony over hefty, tribal drums, whilst vocal samples blueshift as they’re beamed down from the ether; “Axacan” on paper reads as an incomprehensible, unworkable mess, though Elysia Crampton excels at placing listeners in the eye of her storms. Whereas her dizzying, stirring collages as E+E felt like juxtapositions angularly locked into place, American Drift presents her ideas as intersections. Composed and considered, the record is part of Crampton’s Shenandoah Series, an examination of “brownness on a geological level”. Sonically, it certainly explores identity, cultural pollination and Virginia’s colonial past against a backdrop of shuddering, seismic continental shifts: American Drift. As listeners, it’s easy to become jaded by the dazzling and paralysing information flows brought by a colonially inflicted, globalised and digitally connected world, so much so that we see ourselves in any eclectic concoction. Whilst serving as Crampton’s own investigation, American Drift further strikes as a stark reminder to avoid projecting our own narratives onto others, and to recognise our own agencies. It’s also one of the most visceral, vibrant, and truly breathtaking works 2015 has given us.
Words by Koyejo Oloko, Antoin Lindsay, Stephanie Neptune, Matt Coombs, Akash Chohan, Taylor Trostle, Jess Melia, Aidan Hanratty, Simon Docherty, Matt Gibney, Oli Grant, Riccardo Villella and Tayyab Amin.