Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
Good music should please the listener, cozying up to them like an old friend. Great music should challenge our prejudices, taking us down avenues and through landscapes which, alone, we would fear to tread. In this week’s article I will be reviewing some new music which challenges perceptions, gets us dancing, and will, hopefully, linger long in the mind. By JOHN BITTLES
New albums by Ikonika, Steffi, Michael Mayer, Forest Swords, Yoshimi, Peverelist and more sneak out of the speakers to do more than merely entertain.
So, without further ado, let us begin…
Sometimes it seems as if there are two types of producers in this world. The first group are those who quickly find their ’sound‘, refine it, and continue to peddle it until they run out of steam. Of most interest though are those who constantly strive for new noises to stimulate the ears. Hyperdub artist Ikonika sits firmly in the latter category. Since first coming to our attention with the 8-bit inspired rave-heavy jams of her debut album, Contact, Love, Want, Have back in 2010 the London artist has constantly pushed her music ever further from the norm. In doing so she has created some of the most forward thinking and downright thrilling music Kode9’s label has ever produced. Case in point is the r’n’b, dubstep, house, grime hybrid of Distractions, her brand new LP. Girlfriend opens proceedings with a gorgeously elastic sounding bass, game soundtrack style chimes and no little charm. Further in, Manual Decapitation sounds like Burial sound tracking The Fog, Lear is the sound of London coming up for air, Sacrifice feat. Jammz mixes 80s synths and grime tropes with enthralling results, while Not Actual Gameplay is like a Prince instrumental given an extra dose of melancholy and funk. Full of jolts and surprises, the record crams together a myriad of genres and influences to give us something which sounds startlingly fresh and unique. 9/10.
Next up we have the latest instalment of London club Fabric’s long running mix series, helmed by Berlin native and Ostgut Ton/Panorama Bar regular Steffi. Fabric 94 is out now, and features the DJ blending together fifteen deep, electro heavy techno gems. Made up of one-offs and exclusives, Steffi gives due respect to each song, letting most tracks run for four minutes or more before subtly introducing the faint echoes of the next. This results in a set which might frustrate the bosh, bang, biff brigade, but which will thoroughly delight the headz. After Echo 1 by L.U.C.A. and Voiski’s Sound Of Distance majestically set the scene, STFSHD’s (a pair up of Steffi and Shed) 1.5 introduces restrained bass and echoing beats to gently up the pace. From here, Freedom by Unbalance makes you go all warm and tingly inside, No Life On The Surface by Doms & Deykers is like a lost Drexciya track, Poison Valley by Late Night Approach is deliciously deep, while Privacy by Broke ends things on an 80s inspired high. Superbly mixed throughout, Fabric 94 is the sound of a DJ confident enough to avoid the crowd pleasers and play exactly what she likes. More please! 9/10.
Creatures of the night, snakebite drinkers, and those with a love of pale make-up and black eyeliner are in for a treat this month in the form of Silhouettes & Statues: A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986. A bumper five CD set, the album takes us on a journey through the much maligned genre’s punk rock beginnings, to its chart bothering 80s pomp. Lovingly compiled and surprisingly versatile, the compilation includes touches of bluegrass, pop, EBM, alt rock and more. This means that Goth mainstays such as The Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus, The Cure, Fields Of The Nephilim and The Mission sit next to the likes of Joy Division, Public Image Ltd, and Adam And The Ants without it seeming strange. Packaged in a beautiful hardback format with extensive sleeve notes and photos which make the package a work of art in itself, top tunes by the likes of Clock DVA, Alien Sex Fiend, Tabathas Nightmare, The Wake and Sad, Lovers and Giants show that sadness, alienation and anger really do lead to the best tunes. 8/10.
London label Dream Catalogue has long specialised in releasing music which takes the difficult path, hinting at future possibilities while messing with your head. Last month saw Yoshimi follow up the excellent Tokyo Restricted Area tape with the bittersweet industrial ambiance of his sophomore LP. Available now on the label’s Bandcamp page, Atavism’s ten tracks are beautifully haunting, wasting no time in setting up home in your mind. While most of the album recalls the epic soundscapes of artists such as Vangelis or FSOL, the album thrills most when it shocks. For instance, just as you’re getting settled with the opening few tracks‘ selection of downbeat atmospherics, along comes the brutal crunch of Possession And Occurring to remind us that this is a land where we are not safe in our beds. Dense and vividly realised, the desolate world of Atavism introduces the listener to a sonic wonderland any self-respecting sonic explorer would be happy to investigate. 8.5/10.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing any of his Immer series will know that Kompakt head Michael Mayer is the king of the mix. Favouring subtlety over pace and melody over beats, the Cologne native is an expect when it comes to crafting a well rounded set. This month the DJ follows up his & LP by presenting the next instalment of DJ Kicks. In the press notes Michael states that “For Kicks it was a group of records that are like friends to me…Circling in on and bringing together these friends was the only criterion for the making of this mix. I wanted it to be as personal as possible.” The resulting album is like a lovingly compiled mixtape given to you by a good mate. Picks include the jazz tinged dOP & Masomenos remix of Papas Groove by Bvoice, Anrilov, Danilov, the electro western soundtrack of Feuerland by Justus Köhncke, the mournful bounce of Michael Mayer’s own refit of Kasper Bjørke’s Apart, the melodic depth of Canopy Target by Boreal and the euphoric throb of the Ratcliffe remix of Throbbing Gristle’s Hot On The Heels Of Love. As always with Mr. Mayer though, his DJ Kicks is an album to be listened to as a whole. So, light some candles, get yourself a glass of nice wine, and dive right in. 8/10.
Bristol label Livity Sound has long established itself as one of Britain’s finest purveyors of bass and beats. Releases by the likes of Hodge, Kowton, Simo Cell and Forest Drive West are sure to feature in any club night which takes its music seriously but still worships at the alter of funk. May saw label head Peverelist return to the imprint with his much anticipated new LP. Tesselations will sound amazing when played at your local warehouse party and is a must buy for anyone who relishes getting lost within dense, spacious grooves. Bookended by a pair of atmospheric sketches, it’s not until the low end crunk and urban menace of Under Clearing Skies that we get our first glimpse of Tom Ford’s bass-heavy style. Further in, Still Early sounds like Detroit techno lost in an East London squat, Wireframes is a glorious mixture of bleeps and beats, while Further Inland touches on the heady electronica of B12. Cerebral and atmospheric, Tesselations is an album of grown up house music for club kids who prefer the fine art of dancing to sleep. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Bioprodukt by Ekoplekz – Bristol’s Nick Edwards steps up to the always excellent Planet Mu with an album which looks to the 90s for inspiration, before dandering off towards strange, uncharted worlds, 9/10, Symbolic Use Of Light by UMFANG – Full of hardware induced bumps, beats and raw grooves, the debut LP of the Discwoman artist starts slowly before building to an electrifying peak, 8/10, She-Devils by She-Devils – With its fabulous mix of fucked-up electronics, scuzz-rock dynamics and vocalist Ann Boucher’s sharp vocals, She-Devils‘ new album is drenched in pop nostalgia and oodles of charm, 8/10, Things To Think About by Sterac Electronics – When techno legend Steve Rachmad and Voyage Direct label head Tom Trago decided to revisit the archives of Steve’s Sterac Electronic’s alias few could have predicted the results would sound this fresh, 7.5/10, The Unspoken by DC Salas – Sounding like a lost Italians Do It Better album, The Unspoken has enough melodic touches and killer grooves to keep any Stranger Things fan amused for days, 7.5/10, The Ascension Of Mind by Lewis Fautzi – Ten tracks of deep techno from a Portuguese artist who sure knows his way around a beat, 7/10, and Baobab by Rodriguez Jr. – Out now on Mobilee, the French artist’s new record is an emotion-charged triple vinyl epic. Fans of melodic house music are in for a treat! 8.5/10.
And let’s not forget: Compassion by Forest Swords – If, like me, you slept on this upon its release in early May then I urge you to rectify this ASAP. Deep, dark and haunting, Matthew Barnes‚ new record is a work of singular artistic beauty which will stay with you for months after your first play, 9/10, A Part Of 20 by Tuccillo – Composed of eight hazy house tracks with just a hint of Balearic flair, this is dance music guaranteed to raise a smile, 8.5/10, Laws Of Nature by Kafuka – Fusing the melancholic melodies of Caribou with the post dubstep crunch of Mount Kimbie with enthralling results, Japanese artist Kafuka, arrives on Project Mooncircle with something to prove, 8/10, Kalaatsakia by Gunnar Haslam – As much of a head-fuck as a dance floor tool, these twelve crunching tracks are perfect for anyone looking to get lost in the groove, 8/10, Rocket by (Sandy) Alex G – These fourteen slacker inspired jams are perfect for anyone who needs a bit of weed to get through the day, 7/10, Fear Paralysis by Rebekah – Glasgow institution Soma Records continue their techno onslaught of recent years with the pummelling grooves and sonic depths of rising star Rebekah’s debut LP, 7/10, and 15 Years Get Physical by V/A – The Berlin label celebrate their 15th birthday with a bumper compilation of goodies both old and new. If you’re a fan of melodic house music with riffs so huge they could Donald Trump’s ego then this is the album for you, 7/10.