Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
Before TITEL goes on a well-deserved holiday for two weeks there is a load of new music, so good I simply had to review. In fact, with so many superb new releases by Thomas Ragsdale, Dinky, Synkro, Solar Bears, Kassem Mosse, Sepalcure and more hitting record store shelves this month, I shall dispense with the pleasantries altogether and get straight to the reviews. By JOHN BITTLES
Thomas Ragsdale’s last EP Dear Araucaria is just about as soul-stirring as dance music can get. Its five warm and inviting tracks speak of rainy evenings, hidden smiles and hugs from your mum. Thankfully, the follow up, (also released on This Is Forever), is every bit as good. Made up of two atmospheric, slow-paced and highly emotional songs, Blüdhaven recalls the melancholy reflections at the heart of vaporwave, but strives for something more. A-Side, All Men Have Limits is best described as an eleven minute long aural swoon. Bringing to mind the majestic ambiance of the likes of Ólafur Arnalds or Nils Frahm, the song is intense and stirring, at times so beautiful it is hard to hold back the tears. By contrast, Blüdhaven is a darker, spookier affair, its low end bass throb and John Carpenter-style synths conjuring images of some future dystopia where the majority of the population feel lost and alone. Stunning and addictive, whether you consider yourself a fan of downbeat music or not, hearing this is a must. 10/10.
Berlin-based Chilean Dinky makes a very welcome return this month with the acid house squiggle of her new single Casa. The song is the lead track of the producer/DJ’s upcoming sixth LP, due out in Autumn, and it is a truly wondrous thing. Featuring Dinky’s own emotion-rich vocals over some soaring acid lines and tranquil synths, Casa mixes the pastoral and the warehouse with aplomb. Sounding just as exceptional on headphones, or on the home stereo as in a club, the song seems to point to the musician rediscovering her dance music roots. As great as the leftfield pop of 2013’s Dimension D album was, it’s still a special feeling to hear the Acid In My Fridge producer back using a good old 303. Of the remixes, Pampa Records boss Axel Boman delivers a beautiful and melancholic interpretation on his Dub Mix, where he adds spoken word samples and soft pianos to create something which positively drags you to the floor. Upcomer, Satori keeps the original vocals and adds sci-fi synths and orchestral flourishes on his version, to complete a mighty fine package which should keep any house music fan in raptures for months. 9/10.
Last year’s Changes album by Synkro was beautifully crafted, and one of the the best things to come out of Apollo Recordings in a while. Chilled and melodic, the record’s ten tracks merged skilfully to create a body of work perfect for listening to in a room on your own. This month four tracks from said LP are revisited in the Changes Remix EP. Sven Weisemann’s 13 minute To Be Pure In Heart Mix of Your Heart opens the record in stunning style. Heart-wrenching and melancholic, the song gently introduces a subdued deep house groove to its lush ambiance to create something which will stay with you for a very long time. Bringing to mind bands such as The Orb, FSOL or Floatation-era The Grid, Sven Weisemann’s remix could well be one of the most beguiling songs you will hear all year. Of the other three refits on offer, Legowelt introduces a toughened edge to Changes, adding Detroit strings and acid bleeps to produce a stunning piece of future house, DBridge creates a dense, dark sonic underworld on his version of Body Close, while Helios turn Midnight Sun into an inspired slice of Boards Of Canada-style electronica. With each track a winner, this will make your stereo purr. 10/10.
Remixer extraordinaire and acid house legend Andrew Weatherall is at it again this July, taking the track Separate From The Arc by Irish duo Solar Bears and reinterpreting it in his own unique style. The original version of the song (included with the digital release) closed the band’s Advancement album with a rich cinematic swirl of pastoral ambiance, and was a highlight of the entire LP. In the first of his two remixes Mr. Weatherall adds a shuffling beat and some hazy leftfield flourishes to soaring strings to create a woozy sounding tune which recalls the experimental trip hop of the likes of Howie B. Trippy and psychedelic, the song doesn’t waste a minute setting up home in your mind. On his second version the Love From Outer Space DJ keeps the instrumental hip hop feel of the former, but adds acid squelches, Orbital-style bleeps and beeps, together with a propulsive groove to create a tune which couldn’t sound more 90s if it tried. Limited to a mere 300 copies on vinyl, don’t waste any time in tracking this down. 9/10.
While Folding Time, Sepalcure’s sophomore album, disappointed in comparison to the aural delights of their debut, there was no denying that it had some great songs. Any work born from the talents of both Machinedrum and Braille will always feature something to take the breath away. Late July sees Prins Thomas and Edward each select a track from the LP, and remix it in a more dance floor-focused style. On the A-Side Prins Thomas gives us a Discomiks version of Fight For Us, elongating the original, adding a loose disco bassline, handclaps, and an unhurried air to create a long and funky slo mo opus which is nothing short of great. Even better though is Giegling regular Edward, who takes the listener on a ten minute journey into the darkened heart of techno on his bassbin bothering refit of Loosen Up. Eerie and oppressive, this is dance music which could very easily clear a club. Yet, it is also forward thinking, thrilling, and funky as hell. Utilizing an elastic sounding breakbeat over jagged synth pulses, and some head scrambling loops, the track may be strange and disorientating, but it also sounds like nothing else around. In other words, it’s great! 8/10.
After the stellar Simon White Sessions EP from 2015, leftfield house hero Kassem Mosse returns to Honest Jon’s with the rugged groove of Chilazon. Awful title aside, the three track single features the kind of wonky house textures and deep dub rumblings which bring to mind the output of labels like Workshop and L.i.e.s. Chilazon 1 sits nicely on the A-Side, a twelve minute long shuffler with urgent stabs and a slightly woozy air. Percussive and propulsive, this will get dancers moving on a floor, but it is hardly vintage Kassem Mosse. Thankfully things improve somewhat on the flip, with Chilazon 2’s alien dub soundscape a strange, yet vital electronic brew. The EP comes to a close with the fucked up house deepness of Lanthanum, which skilfully utilizes a languid groove to take a trip into an aural world where techno never expected to be. While not exactly his most essential work, there is enough originality and experimentation to be found here to appease anyone bored by the rigours of the 4/4 beat. 8/10.
R&S offshoot Meda Fury have been on stunning form of late! Top EPs from OL (Jungle Fury) and Pearl River Sound (Remember Every Moment), together with Sad City’s sublime Shapes In Formation album have helped make it one of my favourite house labels around. This is something reinforced by the classic sounding electronic bounce of the five tracks which make up Rimbaudian’s Illuminations EP. The record opens with the rough and ready tribal thump of Let Me Beat U, where numerous samples merge with a percussive groove to ear pleasing effect. Next up, Werka 8 seduces as it maintains a steady house hue, while standards dip somewhat with the functional 4/4 beats of Holy Flesh. Things improve dramatically with the introduction of Hold Up Hold On’s sedate air, while digital bonus cut Inimical Dub closes the EP with some off kilter beats, and a freshness which washes over the listener like a cool summer breeze. Stimulating, arrogant and experimental, this is house music brimming with style. 8/10.
This week we’ll finish with the return of house music mainstay Fred Everything, who lands on Drumpoet Community this July with the jackin‘ grooves of his Winter Tones EP. Out now on vinyl (29th July on digital), we get three versions of the title track and two remixes by Tuff City Kids. The Original Version features warm synths, loose acid lines, and a rich Chicago feel that will see it sit nicely in a techno, electro, or house set. Bringing to mind the cosmic dynamism of Juan Atkins, Jovonn or Laurent Garnier, the song is a soft and subtle deep house jam. Fred Everything’s own Dub version enhances the electro elements of the original, giving it a slick, futuristic sheen, while the Outro Mix heavily ups the dreaminess factor to create a beautiful slice of ambient house. Next up, the duo of Gerd Janson and Lauer once again don their Tuff City Kids moniker to deliver two tough, club ready jams. While it can seem as if every single release these days has its own Tuff City Kids remix, their 303 Mix is fantastic, and something of an acid indebted bomb. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Cortina Kidz (Lipelis Remixes) by MacDonald Flak And The Ack Ack Pack – L.i.e.s. artist Lipelis turns the recently rediscovered acid house classic into a smooth house ride where the bassline on the Dub Mix is worth the price of admission alone, 9/10, Beckoned EP by Carl Finlow – You sometimes get the feeling that electro master Carl Finlow could produce this type of music in his sleep. Yet, when it sounds this good it seems rude to complain, 9/10, Back by Cassy – While the remixes from ItaloJohnson and Mr. Tophat & Art Alfie’s Karlovak are nothing special, the original version brims with a sense of yearning which speaks to the soul, 8/10, Ruehn EP by JPattersson – Lead track Elevator should be all the proof you need that this East German artist makes dub music which sounds like the work of a fevered mind, 8/10, Cobra Effect by Bodyjack – A triple assault of floor shaking techno, out now on Dext Recordings, with the sinister air and alien pulses of the title track being the pick for me, 7/10, and Abstract Frequencies by Keith Worthy – The track Rarified Air receives the remix treatment from Steven Tang and Hieroglyphic Being. Yet it’s the futuristic acid of the Detroit artist’s original mix which works best for me, 7/10.
Also worth checking are: Remember In Reverse by SMD – Simian Mobile Disco return to their own Delicacies imprint with the rich, atmospheric house of Remember In Reverse. The jerky techno of the DJ Hyperactive remix will keep you dancing for months, 8/10, Ani by Sasse – The Moodmusic label head does it yet again with the deep and brooding Ani sounding a little like heaven to my ears, 8/10, Gut Man Cometh/Destroyer Remixes by Audion – Two tracks from Alpha, Matthew Dear‘s new LP, receive the remix treatment from Matthew Herbert and Aus Music regular Fold. It’s the crisp beats and Detroit strings of the later which will enchant the floors, 7/10, For A Memory by Tim Green – With his recent Body Language mix still rocking my stereo, Mr. Green dons his production hat for an eleven minute long melodic house gem, 8/10, and Gohar/Pouran by Shahrokh Dini – Compost Black Label make a welcome return this month with a pair of epic and atmospheric tracks from the celebrated house veteran, 7/10.
And let’s not forget: Sueñ001 by Century – Out August 1st on new Mexican imprint Sueño, A-Side Noche De Ronda is a spine-tingling mixture of Latin American vocals and house, and is magnificently bitter-sweet, 9/10, Forget by Clayton Steele – The Canadian artist launches his new Fawn Recordings imprint with four tracks that mix the moodiness of 80s new wave with the production skills of modern house to winning effect, 8/10, Bed Bug Bites by SeixlacK – Four tracks of rough and rugged house which make perfect sense when heard in a club, 8/10, Miles EP by Keito Sano – The jazz house shuffle of lead track Miles is the one to rush to, recalling as it does the days when St. Germain and Super Discount were kings, 8/10, Forever/Never by Emika – Dance floor hedonists should head straight for the euphoric 90s trance of Never, a song sure to make you move, 7/10, Strobe And Noise Feat. Kasia Kowalczyk by Mïus – Gothic house music featuring stirring vocals, eerie synths and a real sense of emotional depth, 8/10, Temporis EP by Yemen & Eda – A quartet of deep and dubby house tracks, with the trippy synths and looped samples of The Mankind being the pick for me, 7/10 and Blossom by Dole & Kom – Make a bee line for the title track which is a deep, melodic builder that sounds perfect in the sun, 8/10.