Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
With the Christmas season upon us it seems apt to reflect on some of the great records which have recently entered our lives. While the fact that Clean Bandit have been Number 1 in the UK sinlges chart for what seems like years may have led you to give up entirely on the humble single, it’s important to remember that it can still be a creative outlet of note. By JOHN BITTLES
For instance, this week alone we herald the return of Coldcut, raise the roof to the chunky grooves of Gnork, Recondite and Avalon Emerson, swoon over the electronic experimentation of Nathan Fake and Antoni Maiovvi, and delight in the future soul of Jessy Lansa.
So, before it gets too late to drop a hint to Santa we had best begin…
After huge EPs from Bruce Trail and Lance Neptune, Lone’s Magicwire label ends 2016 on a glorious high with the leftfield house of No Gravity by Gnork. Made up of four tracks which successfully merge the best of electronica, Detroit techno and deep house, the record contains more ideas in its 20 minute plus running time than most people’s entire careers. The title track pairs crisp beats with lush synth swirls to create a song which speaks as much to your heart as your feet, while Big Dipper is a majestic fusion of 90s breakbeats, Orbital style riffs and melodies galore. Capable of making any raver of a certain age get a little misty eyed, both these tracks are verging on the sublime. Yet, the fun doesn’t end here! Flip over for Influxxxx, a Derrick May sounding mid-paced jam you will never want to end, and the gorgeously optimistic slice of house music which is U. With all four tracks pushing melody to the fore, No Gravity is an EP which you owe it to yourself to hear. 9/10.
Best known for his releases on James Holden’s Border Community imprint, electronic explorer Nathan Fake makes his debut on London institution Ninja Tune this month with the heady trip of his new EP. A-side Degreelessness sees the producer team up with dark techno evangelist Prurient of Vatican Shadow fame for an eight minute long bleepathon that recalls the glitch heavy techno of Warp act B12. Pairing Prurient’s treated spoken word vocals with ever evolving clanks and squeals, the song sounds as awe-inspiringly beautiful as it does deranged. Recalling a lost IDM classic, Degreelessness sucks you right in to its richly textured world and is as enticing as a loved one gently lulling you to sleep. The more traditional house tones of Now We Know sit nicely on the B-side, its chiming synth pattern and shuffling beats making it a lighter, yet no less essential companion to its predecessor. Full of lovable quirks and experimental flourishes, this is electronica par excellence. 9/10.
Acid house legends Coldcut step back into our lives and headphones this month with the gloriously eclectic murmurings of the Only Heaven EP. Out now as the inaugural release on the recently revived Ahead Of Our Time imprint, the record is a collaboration heavy affair. Dave Taylor, otherwise known as Switch, produces, while it also features the vocals of both Roots Manuva and Roses Gabor. Fans of Coldcut’s previous output won’t be disappointed in the five tracks on offer here. The twinkling melodies and low-end bass of the title track, with Rodney Hylton Smith’s gloriously hazy rap is as good as anything the duo have previously sent our way. Also worth checking are Creative’s crisp house beats, and the furious drum flourishes of Donald’s Wig. Like most things in life though, the best is left until last, with the sombre hip hop of Quality Control making for an outstanding finish. With the stoned urgings of Roots Manuva featuring on three of the EP’s songs, this is a record which will appeal to rap disciples, soul lovers and house heads alike. 9/10.
Over the last few years, the artist known as Recondite has produced a steady stream of music capable of turning apathetic hipsters into eager fanboys. His previous releases on labels such as Innervisions, Acid Test and Hotflush successfully merged melody and melancholy with the ghosts of acid house to create something with the power to touch your very soul. His new EP, Corvus is out now and confirms why so many hold his music in such high regard. Opener Capable fuses subdued beats and searching melodies on a lush, downbeat affair, while Kauz is a superb piece of atmospheric house. The title track is a haunting slice of electronica, while Huibu goes deep and dubby to evoke long, empty landscapes with no one else around. Ricardo Donoso Clemency’s remix of Capable brings things to a close, and makes for a fitting end to a very strong EP. 8/10.
With Jessy Lanza’s Oh No album sitting pretty on many Best Of lists, it seems the perfect time to revisit its sultry electronic haze with a well deserved remix EP. Comprised of three tracks, On No No No, is a record full of smoke-filled electronic soul. Disco house legend Morgan Geist kicks things off with a nostalgia tinged version of I Talk BB. Languid, and with just a hint of melancholy, the Metro Area producer keeps the vocals centre stage, but adds Gameboy melodies and a loose bassline to compose a track which walks the line between R&B and techno with ease. Next up, DJ Taye & DJ Spinn add footwork shuffles and subdued beats to Could B U’s soulful air, while DVA [Hi:Emotions] delivers the pick of the bunch by turning Going Somewhere into a Kardashian sampling torch song. Reminiscent of the rich nocturnal soundscapes of fellow Hyperdub artist Burial, it features only the bare essentials of the original song, yet is something you could happily listen to on repeat for days. 8/10.
American producer Avalon Emerson has been on stunning form of late with releases on Whities and Schtum responsible for many giddy moments on the dance floor. This run is continued with her debut EP for techno institution Spectral Sound. Narcissus In Retrograde consists of a quartet of club based tracks seemingly tailor-made for getting reticent dancers in the mood. Yet, while the A-side highlights all that is great about Avalon Emerson, the B-side promises much, but disappoints. Opener Natural Impasse gets things off to a great start, it’s banging beats and melodic flourishes ensuring it will be a high point of any deep techno set. Next up, the superbly named Dystopian Daddy’s playful synths and funk-strewn air are the best thing on here, and recall the innocent experimentation of early acid house. Unfortunately, from here things quickly plunge downhill with the darkened tones of Why Does It Hurt and Groundwater monotonous and dull. A game of two halves then! Yet, the angular house of Dystopian Daddy make this more than worthy of your time. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Will To Power by Antoni Maiovvi – The Schrödinger’s Box imprint return with six tracks of soundtrack inspired Italo disco and goose-bump inducing house. Stunning from beginning to end, you’d be a fool to miss out on this, 9/10, Ritual EP by Rauschhaus & David Baader – The booming synth line and technoid atmospherics of opening song Prophet should be all the convincing you’ll need of just how great a record this is, 9/10, Gettraum003 by Traumer – Head straight for the fifteen minute slow-burn techno groove of Lucea for a track which recalls Radio Slave in his prime, 8/10, Ace Of Space EP by Few Nolder – While the trance-tinged melodies and firm beats of the title track and Teaser will delight the floors, it is the deep techno groove of Balance that will have you scrambling back for more, 8/10, Recurring Melancholy by Jay Haze – Two tracks of emotion rich house music which is sure to appease any Ian Pooley fan, 8/10, Pittsburgh Left by Henning Baer – Deep techno soundscapes and hypnotic ambiance abound in a tension filled EP which does wonderfully strange things to the mind, 8/10, E Numbers by Bobby O’Donnell – Chunky house music of the Murk variety which is sure to have your gran dancing round the Xmas tree, 7/10, and Battle Of The Deejay’s by D’julz vs Jordan Fields – The Rekids label end 2016 on a high with a killer split release which pairs the Parisian house delights of D’julz with the raw Chicago kicks of Jordan Fields, 8/10.