Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
January and February are usually quiet months for new music. So it is with 2017! New Year hangovers and Christmas overspending means most artists keep their shiny new records under wraps until the daffodils start to bloom. For the discerning listener though, there are still enough quality new releases to be found to make a trip to the local record store worthwhile. By JOHN BITTLES
This week we’ll begin with what should already be considered a modern acid house classic, as Johannes Auvinen returns to his Tin Man alias with a stunning collection of instrumental grooves. If you delight in the sound of weeping 303s, soaring 808s, and/or funky 909s then tracking down a copy of Dripping Acid should be considered a must. In truth, it is no departure from his previous releases on Acid Test, containing as it does 6 separate 12inches of melancholy jams. Yet, as songs such as Oozing Acid, Underwater Acid, Undertow Acid and Viscocity Acid attest, mastering a specific sound is no bad thing. Take opener Flooding Acid for instance, which utilizes heart-wrenching 303s over sombre techno to mesmerising effect. Seriously, if your eyes don’t well up with tears at least once over the song’s ten minute running time you should probably check they still work. Whether you consider yourself an acid techno connoisseur or not, there are few finer experiences in life than finding yourself lost within a Tin Man groove. 9/10.
Next up, UK institution Ninja Tune begin 2017 in sparkling form with the release of beatsmith Bonobo’s long-awaited sixth LP. Migration is available now and is, apparently, inspired by the idea of migration in the modern world. Or, as Simon Green himself puts it “My personal idea of identity, where I am from, and what home is, has played into this record and its migratory themes. Is home where you are or where you are from, when you move around?”. The resulting twelve tracks form a melodic and emotional journey full of exotic influences, mid-tempo beats, and laidback grooves. After the trance-tinged swoon of the title track, Break Apart Feat. Rhye warms the soul, its pop/soul vocals making it a record as content being played on daytime radio as in a club. Other picks include the optimistic throb of 7th Sevens, the bleep-heavy glitches of Outlier, the bass infused pop of Surface Feat. Nicole Miglis, and the string-drenched aural hug of Kerala. To some its smooth electronic jams may appear overly polite, yet, give Migration a chance and you’ll discover an album more than worthy of your time. 8.5/10.
Another record well worth checking comes via the Berlin-based imprint Project Mooncircle, who celebrate fifteen years of releasing quality music with a bumper 39 track compilation all but guaranteed to make any beat freak’s day. Project Mooncircle: 15th Anniversary should be sitting proudly in all good record shops now, and is jam-packed full of deep electronica, gut-worrying bass, leftfield flourishes and trip hop grooves. Previous Project Mooncirlce releases by the likes of Submerse, Parra For Cuva, Rain Dog, Long Arm and My Panda Shall Fly highlight why the label has flourished in these testing times. They take downtempo as a starting point before journeying to enticing and rarely travelled lands. This adventurous spirit is one of the main strengths on a compilation which thrills, surprises and seduces with every play. With acts including Synkro, Krts, Sieren, Jilk, 40 Winks and Kidkanevil all on peak form this is one fifteenth anniversary you definitely do not want to miss. 9/10.
Drum n‘ bass producer Calibre’s latest opus Grow completely passed me by when it was released in December last year. Luckily a friend’s recommendation meant I didn’t miss out on the album’s gorgeously realised aural landscapes. Out on Craig Richard’s The Nothing Special label, Grow is a record which really does speak to both body and soul. Composed of twelve richly produced tracks which touch upon IDM, ambiance, techno, jungle and more, the album by Dominick Martin is nothing short of sublime. Sand Promise gets things off to a thrilling start, a low-end pulse merging with subdued beats and metallic shivers to create a song so good you’ll never want it to end. Next up, Groove Seeker sounds like a lost Mo’Wax 12”, but with added crunch, while Softly Softly resembles dub techno after receiving a massive dose of funk. Creating a dark, ominous mood, which enraptures the listener from the moment they first press play, Grow is an album you will find yourself getting lost in for hours, if not days. 9/10.
This February sees Motor City Drum Ensemble’s Danilo Plessow team up once again with Marcus Worgull of Innervisions fame for a synth-tastic LP. The snappily titled II follows Vermont’s self-titled debut, and sees the duo further explore a magical electronic world where Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series and the soundtrack work of John Carpenter collide. Opening track Norderney utilizes bass-heavy synths and Robbert Van Der Bildt’s smooth guitars to craft a song with has a wonderfully mournful air. Further in, Dschuna evokes a sense of quiet isolation, Gebirge could induce moments of contemplative reflection in even the most hyperactive of children, the unbelievably mellow Ufer recalls vintage Howie B, while Skorbut conjures images of futuristic landscapes where nobody knows your name. Although it does lose some of its sparkle towards the end, II will make a perfect companion for lazy Balearic days. 8/10.
As any house music fan should already be aware, Amanda Brown’s 100% Silk label unleashed their one hundredth release in late January, a truly stunning compilation of classic sounding house. Sensate Silk features artists such as Keita Sano, Sage Caswell, Nackt and Westcoast Goddess delivering a superb mix of funk-filled analogue house. While the majority of names to be found here will be new to most, the quality of the average 100% Silk release means fantastic music is pretty much assured. Opener, With The Lights by Keita Sano continues the good work of last year’s self-titled album with a gloriously sleazy sounding hypnotic snyth-heavy jam. As far as beginnings go, it’s damn divine! Yet, there are plenty more highlights to be found. Picks include the mid-paced strut of Mass Ave by Jack Novin, the slow build drama of Silk Road by PARC, and the acid freak-out of Rising Tide by Nackt. While not every track works, Sensate Silk jacks, bumps and grooves with both passion and style. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Where Have All the People Gone? by Letherette – Originally released as a limited edition cassette, this forty minute mix of bass-heavy ambiance, hip hop shuffles and dreamy techno is the sound of vapourwave getting its groove, 9/10, Blank Tape by Worriedaboutsatan – The duo of Gavin Miller & Thomas Ragsdale soundtrack many a dream with a killer album of soft-focus melodies, epic soundscapes, killer riffs and a host of beautiful beats, 8/10, Hang by Foxygen – A beguiling mixture of 60s harmonies, gospel choruses, rock swagger and soulful urgings which is a blast from beginning to end, 8/10, Future Sound of Jazz Vol. 13 by V/A – Ripperton, Atjazz, Chaos In The CBD, Axel Boman and more feature in Munich label Compost’s latest collection of downtempo gems, 8/10, Sleeping With Her by Astrea – A short but sweet LP full of lush melodies, smooth vocals, and leftfield beats, 7/10, Losing Your Virginity: Metalized Boy’s First Adventures In Manhood by Metalized Man – Deep, dark bass pulses merge with technoid ambiance in a record which pounds your brain one minute before kissing it better the next, 7.5/10, Ensen by Emel – Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi’s second album is rich, dramatic and full of emotion. Who said world music was bland? 8/10, and The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads by Lift to Experience – Ignored upon release back in 2001, Josh T. Pearson and co’s epic rock masterpiece receives a welcome re-release so its deranged majesty can confound and confuse a new generation of fans, 8/10.