Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
This week I have taken it upon myself to highlight, in no particular order, some of the albums released in the first half of 2017 which have forced me to crack a smile, and convinced me that getting out of bed isn’t a complete waste of time. By JOHN BITTLES
Like Moses parting the Red Sea certain records rose above the deluge to show us a better way. From house fused breakbeats, dislocated hip hop, dub heavy reggae, lustrous shoegaze and more, here are the albums which mattered in the first half of the year.
So, before Ed Sheeran brings another record out, let us begin…
Dwig – What’s Paradise.
Released in June, Giegling affiliate Dwig’s new album is a gloriously downbeat journey you will never want to end. A vinyl-only release on his own Dwig imprint, songs such as Room 26, Southern Sightseeing and Used To It recall the New Orleans loops of St. Germain one minute, the smooth tech funk of Rick Wade the next. Not much is known about the German artist, his Resident Advisor biography merely states “in love with beats”. Yet, two things are certain, this is a producer willing to embrace emotion in their music, and able to compose the aural version of crack cocaine. With the odd jazz flourish and the lushest of deep house sounds this is an album you would be a fool to miss.
Key track: Room 26.
Wrongtom Meets The Ragga Twins – In Time.
My father often said that ‚a man who didn’t like reggae music is a man who doesn’t know how to enjoy life!‘. Proving my dear old dad right are the raucous dub-heavy sounds to be found on In Time. Those of a certain age will remember The Ragga Twins from their Shut Up And Dance days, while Wrongtom is a well respected DJ and producer from South London who has worked with the likes of Roots Manuva, Trojan Records and, er, Hard Fi in his career thus far. With the duo of The Ragga Twins in fine voice throughout, In Time is a stunning celebration of the joys of bass.
Key Track: Trouble.
SW – Untitled.
Originally released on vinyl at the end of 2016, SW’s debut LP sold out within days. Luckily the good people at Apollo Records did the decent thing and gave the Sued founder’s album a very welcome re-release. As deep as a three way discussion between Camus, Derrida and Proust, Untitled deconstructs house music down to its barest elements to create something which sounds both alien and reassuringly calm. With no track titles, and elements of ambient, IDM, electro and techno easing in and out of the mix, this is an a record which sounds just as good on headphones at home as it does in a darkened club.
Key track: C1.
Porter Ray – Watercolor.
Every so often Seattle label Sub Pop, which is perhaps best known for unleashing grunge upon the world, surprises us by releasing a fantastic hip hop LP. This year’s offering comes in the form of Watercolor, the debut album by a rapper who blends the perfect pairing of beats and words. Inspired equally by the death of his brother and the birth of his son, Porter Ray’s music is experimental, expressive and shockingly good. From the deep echoes and fucked up R&B of opener Waves, to the laid-back flow of closer Sacred Geometry (Constellation Mix), Mr. Ray crafts a stunningly visceral world which welcomes even the most nervous of listeners with open arms.
Key track: Past Life.
Aleksi Perala – The Colundi Sequence Vol. 2.
Another highlight this year came from the mysterious producer Aleksi Perala who followed an earlier collection of electronic oddities (The Colundi Sequence Vol. 1) with the sublime dub tones of Volume 2. Composed of recordings taken from his celebrated Colundi Sequence albums, the new release is even more dreamy and downbeat than the much loved first comp. With soft acid squiggles, gentle eruptions of slo-mo bass, and tranquil ambiance, this is music which works like an aural massage for the mind. Fans of 90s Warp and Selected Ambient Works One era Aphex Twin will likely find themselves entranced by these deepest of grooves.
Key track: UK74R1409107.
DJ Sports – Modern Species.
A unique blending of Larry Heard-style deep house and UK breakbeats helped make Milan Zaks‘ debut LP on Firecracker one of 2017’s stand-out LPs. Truly inspired, tracks flit from B12 style electronica to euphoric junglist riddims with ease. Best known for his releases, (together with his brother Natal), on labels such as 2 Bit Crew and Regelbau, his debut solo album has seen the upcoming producer drastically raise his game. Sounding a little like LTJ Bukem creating a beautiful lovechild with Galcher Lustwerk, Modern Species may be almost impossible to categorize, but it’s very easy to love.
Key Track: For Real For You.
Slowdive – Slowdive.
Indie legends Slowdive made a very welcome return to our stereos this year with the haze-filled rush of their first album in 22 years. With the shoegaze scene having long since re-emerged from its years of ridicule at the hands of Britpop, 2017 seems like the perfect time for the UK band to come out of retirement to crank up their distortion pedals and guitars. Filled with an abundance of wistful epics, the record sees the band moving away from the experimental ambiance of their last album Pygmalion towards the mournful guitars of their debut. In short, Slowdive showcases a group revitalised and sounding as essential as ever.
Key track: Sugar For The Pill.
Octo Octa – Where Are We Going?
Released in March on the always wonderful Honey Soundsystem Records, Maya Bouldry-Morrison’s latest LP is packed full of gorgeously funky house grooves. The album’s nine tracks take in elements from Chicago, New York, Manchester and Berlin to create something touching and unique. Having first coming to most people’s attention with some stirring releases on LA label 100% Silk, Where Are We Going? saw the producer add personality and warmth to their unique blend of funk. Where Are We Going? Pt. 1 is light and airy, On Your Lips has a deep echo-drenched groove, No More Pain (Promises To A Younger Self) is a DJ Sprinkles-style dance floor bomb, while Adrift is a spine-chilling take on 90s trance.
Key track: On Your Lips.
Hector Romero – Weaving Genres.
So far, it has been an excellent year for the commercial DJ mix. Top efforts from Steffi, Call Super and Michael Mayer, illustrate that this often maligned format is in rude health. Pick of the bunch is the sublime house stylings of Hector Romero’s debut mix CD. Released in April on long-running label Nervous Records, the New York artist took everything great about dance music and blended it into one fantastic set. With contributions from the likes of Louie Vega, Joi Cardwell, David Morales and Teddy Douglas, Weaving Genres is, quite simply, one of the best DJ sets to be found.
Key track: Robert Clivilles Feat. Kimberly Davis – Set Me Free (David Morales Remix).
NTHNG – It Never Ends.
Spread across three discs, experimental house artist NTHNG followed a quartet of EPs in some style with the melodic whump of his debut LP. By turns dreamy and driving, this is dance music which will cause even the hippest of Hoxton clubbers to lose their cool. Interspaced between the erratic dance floor belters are the lush ambiance of Touches and In My Dreams which offer a much needed breather, while adding a touch of class to the whole thing. With enough melody and depth to entertain even the most belligerent of listeners, It Never Ends is a record any dance fan will find themselves returning to time and time again.
Key track: It Never Ends.