Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
I have always been a fan of the humble compilation. Although much maligned in recent years, they can be a great way to introduce yourself to new artists, or genres. This June has seen a surge of quality collections all begging to be reviewed. Some are designed to showcase a particular label (Floor To Floor for Dusky’s 17 Steps, Facticity for Functions‘ Infrastructure New York, The Lost Tapes for Code Is Law), the selection skills of a certain DJ (Tim Green’s Body Language mix, Ryan Elliott’s Fabric 88), or a specific era’s sound (C87’s 80s indie).
If you aren’t a fan of compilations, please don’t despair, as we also find time to review great new artist albums by Rebolledo, Huerco S, Weval, Mala, Trevino, Wolf Müller & Cass, and more.
So, put on your reading glasses, open up your ears and let us begin…
This week we’ll start with the return of Rebolledo, whose second solo album, Mondo Alterado should be available in your local record store now. Continuing the soundtrack-inspired electronica of last year’s Momento Drive mix CD, Mondo Alterado is a stately, atmospheric downtempo delight. Described in the press notes as being “A kind of soundtrack for a movie that doesn’t exist”, the album conjures a wealth of emotions and imagery, making it Rebolledo’s most rewarding work yet. Opener, Here Comes The Warrior (Super Short Album Version) is a dense and absorbing fifteen minute ride into the heart of ambient grooves. Completely enveloping the listener from the off, this is one of those tracks which I could happily listen to on repeat for days. From here, Discótico Sinético utilizes a sublime synth-line and some shuffling hi-hats to stunning effect, Spacer Rainbow Woman is lounge-style trip hop which sounds so stoned you worry for its health, while Discótico Estático sounds like 70s disco gone wrong (in a good way though!). Brimming with imaginative energy from beginning to end, Mondo Alterado is pretty close to divine. 9/10.
Back in 2013, Colonial Patterns by Huerco S took the rigid structures and formulas of house and techno, tore them apart, and created something exciting, visceral and new. This June the producer returns to the album format with the dense ambiance and subdued poise of For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have). Out now on Anthony Naples‘ always excellent Probito imprint, the album recalls the glory days when IDM was the new rock n‘ roll and the chill-out room was king. Spread across two discs of the darkest vinyl, the LP’s nine tracks are mostly beatless, yet still manage to possess a sense of menace and drive. For instance, Lifeblood (Naive Melody) is exquisitely sedate and deep sounding. Further in, Hear Me Out is a beautiful technofied take on new age relaxation music, On The Embankment has a sense of nostalgia which stills the air, while The Sacred Dance is one of the most absorbing pieces of music you will hear all year. In short, this is intense electronica for those with open minds! 9/10.
After the Record Store Day vinyl reissue of the revered NME C86 cassette, Cherry Red Records belatedly, yet brilliantly imagine how a follow-up would sound. The result is the imaginatively named C87, a 3CD set packed full of jangly guitars, wistful vocals and the type of do it yourself attitude which would come to spark an entire scene. Songs by the likes of The House Of Love, The Wonder Stuff, The Heart Throbs, Cud, The Shamen, Pop Will Eat Itself, Gaye Bykers On Acid and 14 Iced Bears feature in a compilation which successfully captures the hunger, political anger, innocence and experimentation which epitomised guitar pop at the time. Yet, it’s the lesser known acts which make this worth tracking down. For example, on Disc 1 alone Good For Me by Blow-Up is a killer 60s style jam, Don’t Ask My Name by Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters creates a glorious punk racket, Get Out Of My Dream by The Clouds could well be a lost Smiths B-Side, while Big Rock Candy Mountain by The Motorcycle Boy will have you gleefully leaping around your room. Before the term ‚Indie Music‘ was polluted by bands who sold their souls to capitalism it was used to identify great music like this! 9/10.
Dutch duo Weval enter the album format this month with the melody-drenched aural landscapes of their self-titled debut LP. Out now on Cologne institution Kompakt, the record merges Gui Boratto style house with the experimental cheekiness of James Holden to stirring effect. Resembling Boards Of Canada should they ever neck a cheeky E, Weval is, at times, strange and discordant, emotional, welcoming, and an awful lot of fun. The stoned bass pulse of Intro makes for an engaging beginning, instantly inviting listeners into Weval’s hospitable, yet alien sounding world. Just as good is The Battle, which utilizes a hypnotic vocal cut up over soaring melodies and dense electronics to create something which sounds like it came from another world. Other goodies include the Modeselektor style bass pulse of I Don’t Need It, the trance-tinged You’re Mine, while You Made It builds slowly before reaching a euphoric crescendo to leave you desperate for more. Go buy! 8/10.
Next up we have Floor To Floor, a killer house and techno compilation from Dusky’s 17 Steps imprint. More British than a bag of fish & chips wrapped in The Sun, this is dance music with a rough, urban edge. The label has been on fire these last couple of years with releases by the likes of Christian Piers, Velvit and Dusky themselves causing devastation to both ears and floors. And, if you are new to 17 Step’s output then Floor To Floor should be all the introduction you need. The aforementioned Velvit gets us off to a blistering start with the funk-filled beats and low bass groove of Looking Glass practically begging the dancer in you to move. Other highlights include the tough garage and rave inspired work-out of Mount Belzoni by Dusky, the low-slung house of Restart The Sun by Hugo Massien, the 90s warehouse vibe of Where Haus? by Alan Fitzpatrick, and the atmospheric techno crunch of Moniker’s Moving. Yet, each and every track is a winner in a compilation which forgoes pretension and chin-stroking to concentrate on old fashioned fun. 8/10.
Dubstep don Mala’s debut LP, Mala In Cuba, combined traditional Cuban instruments with bass infused soundscapes to create one of the most rewarding listening experiences of 2012. For his sophomore album the producer travelled to Peru for a month to immerse himself in the country’s music and culture. The blissful house jams and laid-back dubstep grooves of Mirrors are the result. A more sedate offering than its predecessor, Mirrors successfully merges the angst of urban London with the openness of rural Peru. If this sounds a bit ‚worthy‘ or too Giles Peterson for your taste, don’t let me put you off, as this is a warm and engaging record from beginning to end. Just listen to the dub pressure of Dedication 365, or the creeping menace They’re Coming to hear exactly what I mean. The odd duff track aside, (please feel free to skip the likes of Cusco Street Scene, or The Calling) this is a rich, rewarding record which will put a bit of sunshine in your days. 8/10.
Get Physical’s esteemed Body Language DJ mix series reaches volume 18 this June with a superb house set by London producer Tim Green. With previous editions having featured talents such as Dixon, DJ T, Matthew Dear and M.A.N.D.Y. the pressure is on Tim to deliver the goods. Taking in house, techno, electronica and the odd smidgeon of trance the mix doesn’t disappoint. Over 72 long, luxurious minutes we are taken on an electronic music journey which positively exudes melody, melancholy and an addictive sense of groove. Off You Go by Sven Laux and Justus – Hommage by Ole Biege get us off to a lush, yet subdued start, meaning it’s not until the bass-heavy throb of Tim Green’s own edit of Landslide’s Still There that things really kick off. From here the mix takes in the heart-stirring melodies of Junge Junge’s Beautiful Girl, the gorgeously atmospheric Burnt by Kiasmo, and lots more. With many of the highlights being Tim’s own edits created specially for the mix, this is a CD which tells a story you actually want to hear. 8/10.
Best known for producing propulsive and dynamic drum n‘ bass, Marcus Intalex has also been making a bit of a name for himself lately in the house and techno communities under his Trevino guise. This month Marcus returns to the alias with the futuristic dance floor funk of the Front LP. Opener, Black Cat sounds as if it has been beamed straight from the dance music utopia of Detroit, its Derrick May-style synth mixing perfectly with a steady 4/4 thump and a succession of acid gurgles to create a track which will cause devastation on any floor. Next up, The Hop retains the Detroit influences to create a jazz-inflected piece of urban funk. Other picks include Defektor Dub, which harks back to the dub techno of Basic Channel and the deep house delight of LA View; Elements features a hypnotising crunch of a groove whose intensity sucks you right in. While the second half never quite matches the giddy heights of the first, this is still a strong LP which will no doubt be rocking a club near you soon. 7/10.
After a couple of uninspiring selections, Fabric’s long running mix series returns to form with the deep techno and twisted house of Ryan Elliott. Best known for his association with Berlin institutions Berghain and its subsidiary label Ostgut Ton, Ryan has long been a DJ in demand. In the press notes he claims that “Fabric for me has always been about getting lost and locked into one continuous groove. That’s what I hope to achieve with this mix.” Sounding as if it is coming direct from some dark, sweaty basement, Fabric 88 achieves this aim and more. Tracks by the likes of DJ Skull, DVS1, Robert Hood and Mike Parker add some techno clout to the mix, blending together with lesser known acts to create a tough and dirty electronic stew. By its very nature, this is a celebration of Fabric’s claustrophobic dance floors and, as such, will have limited home listening appeal. Play this on headphones though, with your eyes closed, and you can almost feel the sweat dripping from the ceiling. If that doesn’t sound like a good thing, then this isn’t the album for you! 7/10.
A special mention must also go to: The Sound Of Glades by Wolf Müller & Cass – International Feel’s series of mini-albums reaches a new high with this record of lush ambiance and Balearic grooves, 9/10, Pink Flamingos by In Aeternam Vale – Post-punk rhythms and techno dirges merge with the experimental flair of 70s krautrock in a raw, visceral record of machine funk, 8/10, Say Yes by Big Deal – Rock music with both melody and edge from Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe which sees the duo beef up their sound to stirring effect, 7/10, Facticity by V/A – Containing the dark ambiance of Vatican Shadow, the acidic swirl of Cassegrain & Tin Man, the experimental techno of Post Scriptum, the trippy house of Efdemin, and lots more, Function’s Infrastructure label’s first compilation is an unmitigated success, 8/10, The Hi-Tech Mission by Mattia Trani – Space-inspired techno which successfully pairs the cerebral with some body-rockin‘ grooves, 7/10, and Blood//Sugar//Secs//Traffic by The Gotobeds Out now on Sub Pop, these short, frantic punk songs are filled with teenage attitude and pop hooks galore, 7/10.
Let’s not forget: Afro-Cuban Electronics by Alpha 606 – Both a love letter to Cuba, and an electro-tinged set of dance floor grooves, this is electronic body music to stir the soul, 9/10, OnDeadWaves by OnDeadWaves – Conjuring images of distant beaches and lonely landscapes, the team-up of Polly Scattergood and James Chapman of Maps‘ debut LP turns melancholic longing into a fine art, 8/10, SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs by SHXCXCHCXSH – The man with the most annoying name in dance music makes a long-awaited return with the atmospheric techno crunch of Ss… 8/10, Black Label Series Vol. 6 by Olderic & Musumeci – Bumpy grooves, funky basslines and deep house goodness abound in a fab mix which highlights what a great imprint Compost Black Label is, 8/10, Topiary by Xeno & Oaklander – An album of synth-heavy pop music with Liz Wendelbo’s dreamy, yet discomfiting vocals adding an extra layer to these polished electronic jams, 7/10, Ghost Detergent by Prostitutes – Messed-up, yet playful electronica which ably recalls the work of Mike Paradinas and Richard James, 7/10, and The Glowing Man by Swans – American experimentalists Swans return mid-June with the dense textures and ambient soundscapes of this impressive double CD, 8/10.
And, just a few more: The Lost Tapes 1 by V/A – Out now via Code Is Law on cassette or digital download, these eight tracks of spacious techno and twisted ambiance are things of rare beauty indeed, 9/10, Darwis by Parra For Cuva & Senoy – Named after a monk, Darwis’s meditative elctronica and lush melodies sound like an all-enveloping dream, 8/10, Alpha by Audion – Tough techno rhythms and raw house beats feature in an album which is to dance floors as a match is to fire, 8/10, Magnum Vol. 1 by V/A – Gui Boratto’s D.O.C. Imprint highlights Brazil’s electronic music scene with a compilation of melodic house and techno cuts, 6/10, Live In Paris by Lolina – Strange, fractured electronics from Inga Copeland, which finds the hipsters‘ favourite as creative as ever, 7/10, Plugged by Mental Overdrive – A welcome reissue of Per Martinsen’s techno classic originally released in 1995, 7/10, and Moda Black Vol. IV by V/A – Featuring tracks and remixes by Tuff City Kids, Theo Kottis, Throwing Snow and Huxley, this is sure to have something for any house music fan, 7/10.