Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
The singles market has systematically been destroyed over the last few years. For me, the process began with the decision to limit the length of a single, and how many songs it can contain. Before this we had bands like The Orb releasing 40 minute songs and bands such as The Verve and Oasis bringing out sublime four track EPs. By diminishing its value the humble single became even more disposable than it already was. Nobody took chances anymore! By JOHN BITTLES
Rather than including that strange track or remix at the end of the record they would be discarded if recorded at all. This was further compounded by downloading which concentrates on individual songs rather than a full body of work. Streaming has also amplified the problem by making almost every song ever recorded available with just the click of a mouse. This means every new release must compete with the best of the past. An uneven field!
Yet, in dance music the single as a physical entity still survives. Vinyl emporiums have sprung up across the land dedicated to the slabs of plastic which we know so well. In homage to these shops which are keeping the faith this week’s article will be highlighting some delicious new 12inches that should be gracing your ears this month. We have the experimental pop of FKA twigs, some killer remixes by Tuff City Kids, a disco classic by Róisin Murphy, stunning electronica by Jas Shaw, trip hop blues with Romare, the ferocious acid of Worker/Parasite and much more.
Because it’s the single I have enjoyed the most this month it seems only fair to begin with the sublime deep house of Smoke. Following up his fantastic EP1 from earlier in the year, Nottingham house legend Nail dons his Smoke alias once again to bring us the wonderful yet functionally titled EP2. Containing two long, languid house cuts, this is electronic music that pulls at the feet and stirs the soul. A-side Nuutri constantly shifts and morphs throughout its fourteen minute duration, teasing the listener until they are completely lost within the relentlessly hypnotic groove. Played on a quality sound-system this is an immersive piece of music which you will never want to end. On the flip Familia doesn’t do much over its running time, yet it utilizes the most minimal of elements to create a devastating head-nodding groove. Recalling the laid-back funk of Larry Heard, or Mateo & Matos this is as good as house music can be. In fact it’s so good that I have had both tracks on repeat for weeks and never once get bored. 10/10.
Few pop stars push the sonic or visual boundaries as far as UK artist FKA twigs. Her debut album LP1 combined futuristic R&B, skewed electronica and introspective storytelling to mesmerising effect. If you thought LP1 was a bit out there or strange, just wait until you experience her follow-up the M3LL155X EP. The EP’s five tracks are constructed from the type of fucked-up noise you would expect to hear should Richard D. James discover he can sing. Opener Figure 8 merges vulgar synth crashes with an oppressive air to create something that sounds intimidating, disorientating and dark. I’m Your Doll meanwhile, is a subdued but unsettling cut with minimal backing that examines the perils of body objectification and more. In Time mixes soul and grime to create a thunderous noise, Glass & Patron successfully fuses skitterish electronica, dub pulses and helium vocals, while Mothercreep is both beautiful and deranged. Sonically dense and unbelievably claustrophobic, this is a challenging head-trip for the brave at heart. 9/10.
After the excellent Hairless Toys album, Róisin Murphy’s earlier single Jealousy seemed to slip by without receiving the attention it deserved. Thankfully the track has been revived through a deserved re-release which contains a trio of remixes by Greg Wilson & Derek Kaye, Timo Maas & James Teej and Citizenn. Out at the end of the month on Damian Lazarus‘ Crosstown Rebels imprint the song finds the singer on sparkling form. Yet, it’s the Greg Wilson & Derek Kaye version which is as special as a handful of blue M&Ms. Spine-tingling disco licks combine wondrously with Róisin’s impassioned vocals and a driving house groove to create a nine minute long masterpiece which can only be described as dance floor gold. While the other two remixes pale slightly in comparison, the Timo Mass & James Teej version injects a dose of tech darkness into the original while rising star Citizenn drowns the track in Detroit-style synths. In all honesty though the Greg Wilson & Derek Kaye version is all you really need. 9/10.
The end of September also heralds the release of Love Doubled, Jas Shaw of Simian Mobile Disco’s new solo EP. While regular partner-in-crime James Ford pursues a career as a producer for mediocre indie bands, Jas has rightly utilised his spare time to create three tracks of electronic wonder. Pick of the bunch is, without doubt, the title-track, a lazy house elegy whose chiming melody and deep, rumbling bass recalls Dial luminaries such as Lawrence, Efdemin or Pantha Du Prince. Graceful, mesmerising, and with a groove to die for, this is a song which nestles most snugly within your brain. Of the remaining tracks It’s Not The Clock That Tells The Time is disappointing and forgotten as soon as it ends, butTo Mock A Killing Bird’s emotional electronica more than makes amends. With not a Beth Ditto vocal in sight, this is exactly the type of music I want to accompany me on cold autumn nights. 8/10.
Ninja Tune artist Romare’s debut album Projections from earlier this year quite rightly received plaudits from the likes of The Guardian, DJ Mag and me (Projections Review). This September sees the producer beef up album highlight Rainbow for single release. Created in homage to the American disco scene of the 70s, the Club version touches on house, trip hop, disco and all manner of strange, funky-assed sounds. Emotive piano stabs, cut-n-paste vocals and slow hip hop beats work together seamlessly to create an eight minute long aural stew. The Bedroom mix slows things down to a nocturnal crawl, while new track Love Song finishes things off with a frantic mash-up of genres and styles. Just don’t call it trip hop, this is a quality release that highlights how, in 2015, both Romare and Ninja Tune are in tip top form. 8/10.
Much like parallel parking, parallel shopping is difficult, torturous and a waste of valuable time. It is also the title of Dutch legend Steve Rachmad’s new single out now on house label Life & Death. A-side Out In The Open is a gorgeous piece of subdued techno, featuring melancholy synths and an ever-shifting percussion line pushed right to the fore. Deep, emotional and mature, this is the future the original Detroit visionaries always knew we would hear. B-Side, Parallel Shopping is a lush, textured down-tempo number which is house music perfect for allowing your mind to wander wherever it dares. Reminiscent of the soundtrack work of John Carpenter, this will work at home just as well as the club and will be a lot of people’s pick for tracks of the year. With music this good, let’s hope we hear more from the veteran producer soon. 9/10.
Fans of Donato Dozzy, Basic Channel or dub-infused techno will be doing a jig of delight upon first listen of the debut release by Melbourne native Mosam Howieson. Spirals, out now on the ever wonderful Further Records, contains three long, luxurious tracks, so deep and otherworldly you could get lost in them for months. Lead track Spiral 7 is the most club ready of the trio, delivering over ten minutes of slow, textured electronic pulses which will sound fantastic at those after hours sessions where the dance floor is still heaving because everyone is too tired to go home. On the flip, Spiral 4 is a gorgeously alien sounding dose of downtempo electronica which contains only the mere ghost of a beat. The EP is made whole by Spiral 3, a deeply meditative soundscape which pulses with a dark ambient heart. Reminiscent of the tribal technoisms of Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia or Autechre, this is cerebral electronic music at its very best. 9/10.
Returning to the acclaimed International Feel after their break-through hit Deja Vu from earlier in the year Private Agenda strut back onto the nation’s dance floors with the double whammy delight of Paralysed/Little Bird. Disco boogie and gospel house combine on Paralysed, as summery a slice of vocal house as you are likely to hear. B-Side Little Bird meanwhile, is a relaxed slab of Balearica that is cheesy in the extreme. Much better is the Tuff City Kids remix of Paralysed, the main reason you need this 12inch in your life. Their version is an epic and spectacular dirty house groove which will grab any sagging dance floor by the scruff of the neck and kick it back into life. With every single release seeming to have its own Tuff City Kids refit nowadays they should be in fear of saturating the market. Yet, when the results are this good they can remix as much as they like. 8/10.
Those nostalgic for the glory days of Harthouse and Djax will be in seventh heaven with the tough technoisms of the strangely named and elusive producer known as Worker/Parasite. Depth Charge is the new five track EP from the Bay Area producer and was recorded straight to tape with zero edits. The result is rough and ready with each track sounding fresh, ferocious and raw. The recording process also lends the record an almost physical presence; you practically feel like you could reach out and caress each and every beat. Alam Al-Mithal starts us off in stunning fashion mixing acid lines, clanking percussion and an oppressive sense of depth that recalls a mix of Pulse or Hardfloor at their very best. Bene Gesserit ups the tempo on the beats, Crysknife is brain-shredding techno reminiscent of Damon Wild and Tim Taylor’s classic Bang The Acid, while Distortx0x is seriously fucked-up. Be assured that the punters at Berghain will have already lost their cool and inhibitions to these thumping beats. 7/10.
We’ll finish with the second remix project reviewed this week by those workaholics Tuff City Kids. After their successful rerub of disco disciples Private Agenda the duo of Gerd Janson and Philip Lauer turn in two fab versions of Return To Page One by UK house dons PBR Streetgang. If you have been a fan of house in any of its varied guises over the last few years then the prospect of these four producers working together should have you weeing you pants with excitement. The original version of the EP title-track Whiplash is uninspiring and, perhaps, best skipped so that you can delight in the wonder that is the Tuff City Kids‘ Disco and Electro Mixes of Return To Page One. The former combines hints of rave, and classic house to create a gorgeously epic groove that will have you smiling for months. Even better though is the Electro Mix which contains a gloriously fuzzy synth sound which is manna for the ears. 9/10.
A special mention must also go to: Lollipop by Jose Padilla – Taken from the Ibiza legend’s So Many Colours album, the original has been beefed-up for single form, but it’s the lush melody on the Dream2Science version that will give you a nice warm glow, 7/10, Some Things Rise by Various – A four track comp from the Life & Death label with Eleven by Locked Groove and the booming bass on Glacial by Scuba standing out for me, 8/10, Incline/Wallflower by Maison Sky – If there is a better house label around right now than Breach’s Naked Naked imprint I would be surprised. One listen to this pair of melodic house gems will make you feel the same, 8/10, Compost Black Label #127 by YOKTO – Three tracks of vintage sounding and hardware inspired house music which gives me goosebumps every time I hit play, 8/10, Northern Seoul by Paradise 100 – The shimmering synths on the title-track of this four track EP are more than worth the price of admission alone, 8/10, Deadlock Versions by Ulrich Troyer – These four versions of Deadlock explore various areas of dub, with the subdued chimes of the Kassian Troyer version getting the most rewinds, 8/10, and Canopée by Nautil – The second single reviewed this month from Further Records sees the Paris-based engineer conjure three tracks of deep, spacious techno which evokes images of barren landscapes, eerie darkness and melancholy worlds, 7/10.
And let’s not forget: In Your Mind by Grant Dell – You might be tempted to skip the other versions and dive right into the excellent Silicone Soul remixes on here, safe in the knowledge that anything the Scottish duo touch turns to gold. To miss out on the spacious electronica of Grant Dells‘ own Space Echo mix though would be a shame, 9/10, Hunger by Auden – The nostalgia enriched title-track is an extremely danceable and downright vicious look back at the glory days of rave, 8/10, Colours by Horixon feat. Else Brown – The atmospheric trance found on the Petar Dundov remix marries sullen indifference to melodic resonance to stunning effect. The club mix is pretty special too! 8/10, Thingzz by Timo Maas & James Teej – Two solid but unspectacular tracks of dark, trippy tech house from this team-up of two of electronic music’s heavyweights, 6/10, I Am Someone by Ed Lee feat. Alison David – Head straight for the silky smooth disco house of the original version which features a stunning vocal performance by Alison David, 7/10, Tender Skin/The Anxiety To Please by HVOB – While the bass-infused techno on the Scuba version of The Anxiety To Please is pretty darn excellent, the deep, booming bassline on the original mix of Tender Skin is every bit as good, 8/10, and Two Headed Beast by North Lake – The elusive Michigan-based artist makes a welcome appearance on Romanian label Origami Sound with four tracks of emotional and melodic house which, while far from his best, will keep most dance floors appeased, 7/10.