Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
After watching the above movie I was feeling a little traumatised, so I decided to keep my mind off vampiric women by immersing myself within the world of new singles and EPs. Luckily, there have been a string of fantastic new releases this month that are so good they, temporarily at least, proved a welcome respite from shivering in a lighted room wondering if she was going to come for this »bad boy«. By JOHN BITTLES
Helping me through the trauma was the fabulously freaky outsider house of Terriers and Weber, a remix EP of spooky electronics by Fink, shimmery Balearica by Steve Cobby, head-nodder grime with Slackk, the lush house atmospherics of Elijah Simmons, Recondite, Chymera and Stephan Bodzin, and, thankfully, not a single undead creature in sight. So, before the night stalks out upon us, ending the illusion of a world which is safe and free from those who would mean us harm, let us begin…
Last month’s Horizontalism long-player saw Fink re-enter the world of electronic music with extremely pleasing results. Continuing this theme album track Fall Into The Light gets the remix treatment from a trio of producers who take it to strange and alien places far beyond the safety of the 4/4 beat. The Prequel Tapes refit is the highlight for me, and is a drawn-out, spooky interpretation which slowly but surely worms its way under the skin. Next up, Panorama Bar resident Margaret Dygas drags the song into an eerily surreal world by reducing the original to the mere ghost of a beat. The package is completed by the Deadbeat remix which maintains the unnerving air, but introduces a welcome dub techno thud. These versions may well be disturbing and not for the faint of heart, but together they make up an extremely rewarding release. 10/10.
Since the glory days of 1990 Steve Cobby, the co-founder of the legendary Fila Brazillia has produced a succession of down-tempo delights. Last year’s solo LP Saudade was soft, seductive, just a little bit kooky, and an awful lot of fun. New single We Start Over sees him join forces with vocalist Trudie Dawn Smith to create a slice of melancholy Balearica which will make a welcome addition to any summer chill-out set. Of the remixes the pick is the Apiento & LX version, a mid-paced club destroyer already being hailed by none other than Andy Weatherall as »one of the records of the summer«. Next Gerd Janson and Phillip Lauer adopt their prolific Tuff City Kids guise to give us two stompin‘ refits. The Garage Dub is a slightly unimaginative piece of New York house, and no match for their Private Acid Mix which utilises tougher beats and a spiralling 303 to wondrous effect. A nicely varied release. 8/10.
Pisces by Kompakt new boy Elijah Simmons is one of those tracks that will win you over as soon as the first beat reaches your ear. A softly booming bass underpins a slow house groove which has enough depth and melody to seduce house and trance fans alike. The introduction of a mind-bending synth sequence almost five minutes in meanwhile is the closest music gets to a guaranteed money-shot. B-side Scorpi is no slouch either, employing a steady 4/4 beat within a sense of gently rising drama to create a track which tugs at the heart as much as the feet. Both pieces are perfect for lonely dance floors, or for losing yourself in the groove, and will still sound essential in five, ten or twenty years‘ time. In what has already been a stellar year for Cologne imprint Kompakt, Pisces may just be their best release of 2015 thus far, 10/10.
One of my pet hates is when callous record labels claim that two versions of just one song is an EP. As I am a bit old-fashioned and finicky, when I buy an EP I want three or four unique songs. Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest let’s move on to Stephan Bodzin’s new single Singularity. Out now on the esteemed Life & Death imprint, the original version is a richly melodic piece of melancholic house which sounds amazing when dancing with your eyes closed in a darkened room. The remix by Monoloc introduces spectral dub flourishes to create a smoke-filled dirge to recall the soundtrack work of John Carpenter. Although I would argue whether you can justifiably label this an EP or not, there can be no denying that it makes the perfect appetiser for Stephan’s new album Powers Of Ten which is coming out on the 12th of June. 8/10.
Containing no less than six tracks the Backwards Light EP by Slackk is better value for money and every bit as good. A mainstay of the UK grime scene, the record sees Slackk make a very welcome debut on the long-running techno institution R&S Records. There is a real sense of musicality here, together with some sublime touches which highlight how the album Palm Tree Fire was no fluke. Bells opens proceedings in wonderfully hypnotic fashion, sounding like a cross between dancehall, techno, and numerous strange genres in-between. Posrednik recalls a fast and furious form of trap, Monument is beautifully fucked-up electronic noise, Backwards Light has an almost playful air, while Saigon finishes things off by ushering forth the funk. Beat driven and experimental, this is like an aural massage for the mind. 9/10.
Better known as the drummer for indie experimentalists Yeasayer, Cale Parks takes a break from the day job with his new solo EP Lagoon Fool. The record’s five tracks (four on digital) explore a world of soft electronica that recalls the likes of Boards Of Canada, Future Sound Of London and the IDM heroes of the early 90s. Tinged with a heartbreaking sense of loneliness Appalachia opens the set with a lightly funky piece of ambiance. From here we get all manner of down-tempo sounds, with Big Hills containing a retro sounding synth line and some twinkling keys, while Jade is a trip hop afflicted tune which recalls the soundtrack of a dark and mysterious film with an enigmatic lead. Overall you have to say that these tracks are strong enough to suggest that taking a break from the 9 to 5 job may be no bad thing. 7/10.
I’m a little late on this one, but May saw Leipzig-based house experimentalist Weber follow-up last year’s critically lauded Eins with the imaginatively titled Zwei. Released on the cool as a toddler reading Camus Holger imprint, Zwei features six tracks of house music which constantly steers clear of the tired and the expected. It is producers like Weber, together with the like-minded Anthony Naples, and Barnt that are taking the rigid house blueprint, ripping it up, and introducing something fresh, exciting and new. After a short intro, Skit seduces the listener with a slow, constantly shifting techno throb. Dr. Clapper meanwhile, is a mid-paced un-categorisable slice of electronic goodness which I have been blasting repeatedly for over a month. Warten continues the high standards with a 13 minute techno funk odyssey that is so good you want to give praise to God. A kick in the face for anyone who claims that house music has run out of new ideas. 8/10.
In a great month for house music, the track Alma by Olderic still manages to stand out. Released as number 125 of the Compost Black Label Series, the original version of Alma consists of a gorgeous groove which constantly rises and peaks throughout its duration. And, as if that wasn’t enough, half-way through the song suddenly erupts into a blast of pure joy that will cause raptures on even the most reserved of dance floors. On the flip, Oasis is a pleasantly melodic groover which is also worthy of your time. Of the remixes, Christian Prommer creates the pick of the bunch by adding to the already epic feel of Alma and reaching straight for the stars, while Musumeci adds a sumptuous bassline to Oasis to give it a bit more oomph. 8/10.
The Jonglage EP by Toby Dreher feat Dirty Paul is the type of record your Momma always warned you about: dirty, sleazy and desperately trying to lead you astray. The main track, A Try, is a deep, driving bit of dark house that recalls the bombast of Mushrooms by Marshall Jefferson vs Noosa Heads, or the filthy groove of Baby Wants To Ride. Clattering percussion and punishing beats underpin a spoken word vocal which is both sexy, menacing and strange. Papis meanwhile, starts out like a mid-paced chugger, before finding its stride midway through to become a booming techno cut. Best of the remixes is the Mollono.Bass version of A Try which deconstructs the original into a mellow house jam that recalls the Balearic splendour of labels like International Feel. In fact while the original will rock many a club, it is the Mollono.Bass refit which you will come back to again and again. 7/10.
This week we’ll finish with the Levon Vincent protégés Terriers who help launch new label Rhythm Nation (which is not named after a Janet Jackson track, apparently) with the excellent Octagon EP. Containing three tracks of house music with an overabundance of both melody and soul this is just about as good as club focused dance music gets. The title-track has a strong dance floor dynamic together with a Detroit techno sense of emotion to help it soar above mere functionality and into something very special indeed. Believing The Crystals is a smidgeon tougher, while Serpio800 is a trance-tinged moment for when you just have to raise your hands in the air. If only all dance music was this good! 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Think Twice by Recondite – Reminiscent of last year’s Iffy LP on Innervisions, Lorenz Brunner makes his debut on Life & Death with two tracks of smouldering deep house, 9/10, Other Worlds by Chymera – A rather special four track EP of lush, synth-heavy house out now on MFRR, 8/10, Hold It Like I Own It by Horixon feat Maya – Yet another slo mo disco delight from the Eskimo stable. Head straight for the smooth seductive tones of Burnt Orange for a six minute musical master class, 8/10, Somber Clarity by AntiAlias – New Berlin label Schakal is launched in style with this tidy dark houser which is so good I didn’t want it to end, 9/10, Move It by Sebb Junior – A soul packed three-tracker of jackin‘ house from Kerri Chandler’s always on point Madhouse Records, 6/10, Waikiki Part 2 by Jozif – Out now on LA label Culprit, if you like your house music deep and melodic then this is a must, 8/10, Aleister EP by Matt Nowak – Head straight for the Jerome Sydenham remix of Chemical Planet, a six minute spiritual house odyssey, 7/10, Tokyo EP by MANIK – Three tracks of energetic house/techno from the New York based producer made for the floor, 6/10, Endeavor EP by The Result – Those who like their grooves long, trippy and sexy will find much to enjoy in a pair of tracks that clock in at over 30 minutes between them. A trip for both mind and feet!, 7/10, Power Of The Funk by Philipp Gorbachev – Club kids and disco deviants will be in seventh heaven with this fearsomely funky tune which launches new label PG Tune, 8/10, and Animal Maschine by Mixhell & Gui Boratto – This collaboration between Kompakt mainstay Gui Boratto and Sepultura drummer Iggor Cavalera is a fun but limited two-tracker for when you want to inject a bit of Brazilian flavour into your set, 5/10.