Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
There are so many excellent new albums around right now that, this week, I hardly know where to begin. We have house magnificence from Demuja and Kann, gorgeously deep ambiance from Gas, the leftfield techno brilliance of Jon Hopkins, Forest Swords, Max Cooper and Aïsha Devi and lots more. By JOHN BITTLES
So, tell your piggy bank to make peace with its maker, and let us begin…
Jon Hopkins‚ Immunity LP was close to ubiquitous in 2013, rightly appearing in most Best Of lists for that year. While the follow-up was a long time coming the good news is that it is every bit as good. Released at the start of May, Singularity contains the same mixture of techno crunch, ambient interludes and emotional resonance which Jon’s long term fans have come to expect. The title track gets things off to a great start, stuttering beats joined by trance like synths on a song sure to have any self-respecting raver resembling one of Pavlov’s dogs. Next, lead single Emerald Rush begins all soft and tranquil before bursting into life with some mind mangling bass stabs. Other picks include the epic trance groover Neon Pattern Drum which resembles the highlight of a Paul Van Dyk set, the melancholic clanks of Everything Connected, the tranquil piano refrain Echo Dissolve and the light and airy house strains of Luminous Beings. Full of peaks and troughs, Singularity gives the listener a proper journey filled with high drama and a sense of loss when it comes to an end. 9.5/10.
When house music is done right it can be a truly wondrous thing. Case in point are the lush deep house grooves to be found on Family Horror X Good Times, the fantastic new compilation from Leipzig imprint Kann. Founded back in 2008 by Sevensol, Map.ache and Bender, Kann has firmly established itself as one of the best labels around. Now celebrating a decade in the game, Family Horror X Good Times is available as a three disc vinyl set or download from Kann’s Bandcamp page and contains the finest house music to grace these ears in a long time. Soft and succulent melodies merge with spiky 4/4 kicks, soulful samples, electro flourishes and more on an album which, even at 15 tracks (12 on the vinyl) leaves you begging for more. Picks include the acid laced melancholia of Koburger Brücke by Eau Thermale, the melodic breakbeats of Sevensol & Bender’s Malekula, the technoid crunch of Matt Karmil’s Clean Bus and the disco-tastic Rätt Sida Om Cirkus by Art Alfie & Axel Boman. Every track is a winner though, making Family Horror X Good Times a must for any dance music fan. 9.5/10.
Next up we have some low BPM lushness with the highly anticipated return of Wolfgang Voigt under his revered alias Gas. Following last year’s well-received Narkopop album, the techno don comes back to his spiritual home Kompakt with the atmospheric mood piece Rausch. Created to be listened to in one continuous 60+ minute journey, the record is a fully realised body of work where low-end bass pulses and dislocated rhythms merge with the soundtrack inspired ambiance for which Gas is best known. After the Biosphere style darkness of opener Rausch 1, a deep, foreboding bassline slowly but surely enters the fray on Rausch 2. The steady dub techno style deepness continues on album stand-out Rausch 3, before the beats fall away sharply on the glacial soundscapes of Rausch 4. Over the course of the rest of the LP echo drenched grooves mix with beatless atmospherics on an album which will leave any listener satisfied and eager for more. 9/10.
Demuja is a fast rising producer who has been making waves recently with a string of releases which have featured some of the finest sample heavy house to have electrified a dance floor. This month he delivers his debut LP with the funk filled Hidden Paradise. Out soon on his own MUJA imprint, Hidden Paradise is a record which any self-respecting house-head needs to hear. Work It opens the record with a spoken work vocal, before a classic French touch groove bursts onto the scene to send shivers racing up and down the spine. Next, How Do You Love merges classic sounding disco strings with a soulful female vocal to form a song dying to make you move. Further in, the downbeat hip hop of Things Look Like makes for a welcome change of pace, You Smile Feat. Ainy could be vintage Masters At Work, the lush hedonism of Mr. Jazzy Wung will have even the most reticent of dancers losing their cool, while the deep house strut of See House is simply divine. Do yourself a favour and put this on your shopping list today. 9/10.
UK artist Max Cooper is one of those rare producers able to conjure a world of feeling with a minimum of fuss. Albums such as Human and Emergence successfully merged techno with classical and electronica to stunning effect, while the Traum Collection round up of highlights from his releases with revered Cologne label Traum will shatter unprepared minds. This May Max returns with a stellar contribution to Balance Music’s long running mix series. Balance 030 is a two hour journey into the heart of the electronic groove. Perfect for headphone listening, the album starts out with some deep, heady ambiance from Bing And Ruth, Nils Frahm and Max Cooper himself, before slowly but surely upping the pace. Slipping from deep house delights to mid-paced techno with ease, early highlights include Dave DK’s excellent remix of Straylight by Portable Sunsets, Lusine’s Ticking Hands and A Ritmica by Donato Dozzy. The second half of the mix merges instrumental hip hop with driving beats and emotional intensity to form a compelling set which should be considered a must listen for any electronic music fan. 8/5/10.
The Of Matter And Spirit album from 2015 marked Danse Noir label head Aïsha Devi as a star of the electronica scene. This month she returns to the Houndstooth label with the broken techno and deconstructed pop of her new LP. DNA Feelings pushes its predecessor’s expansive sound designs to awe-inspiring creative highs. The spectral ambiance of DNA opens proceedings in some style, Aïsha’s own fractured voice cut up and rearranged to form the foundation of a song which reminds you of Fever Ray one minute, Burial the next. Dislocation Of The Alpha meanwhile utilizes chipmunk vocals, ghostly electronics and just a hint of sub bass to create a four minute experimental pop masterpiece. Also worth checking are the Tricky style paranoia of Hyperlands, the brutal beauty of Inner State Of Alchemy and the melancholy drenched soundscapes of closer Cell Stems Spa. While definitely not for beginners, the rich sonic imagery of DNA Feelings means it is a record which will bewitch and enchant all enquiring minds. 8.5/10.
This week we’ll finish with the latest instalment of the highly regarded DJ Kicks series by Ninja Tune artist Forest Swords, who delivers a set filled with deep, hazy beats, smoky soulfulness and wilful eclecticism. Moving through genre and speed with ease, the mix finds Neneh Cherry sitting next to Tokyo Prose & Fis and Dead Can Dance without it sounding forced or contrived. After a spectral opening which features the ghostly ambiance of David Toop, Kara-Lis Coverdale and more, the mix gathers pace slightly with the lush dub techno groove of Best Friend by Rhythm & Sound With Love Joy. From here, Axel Boman’s remix of Gender by Skinnerbox merges electronica with house to craft an emotive slice of dance floor joy. Other picks include the fractured dubstep of Laurel Halo’s Throw, the funk filled bass pulse of Showreel Pt. 2 by Djrum, and the classic beats and chimes of Orbital’s The Box (Part 1). With convention kicked to the kerb, Forest Swords has crafted a masterful mixture of leftfield oddities which constantly catches the listener by surprise. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Infernum by Fauna – Messed-up rhythms merge with Rana Farahani’s own treated vocals to form a record which is fresh, invigorating and fabulously strange, 9/10, Sparkle Hard by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Former Pavement legend Stephen Malkmus joins forces with The Jicks once again for an engaging record full of slacker cool, 8/10, Light is Liquid by Örvar Smárason – The múm and FM Belfast member goes it alone this May with a heart-warming album of electronic pop which recalls the bittersweet melodies of Pet Shop Boys one minute, the glacial electronica of Christian Löffler the next, 8.5/10, Hundreds Of Days by Marry Lattimore – Haunting and beautiful, the Los Angeles based harpist’s new album has an impressively wistful air, 8.5/10, Chrome Sparks by Chrome Sparks – On his debut LP Jeremy Malvin mixes house, beats, hip hop and more to create a funk filled sound collage, 8/10, The Horizon Just Laughed by Damien Jurado – Sounding like the love child of Richard Hawley and Leon Bridges, The Horizon Just Laughed is full of soul-infused indie pop, 8/10 and Detroit Love Vol. 1 Mixed By Stacey Pullen – Carl Craig’s celebrated Detroit Love festival debuts a new mix series with techno legend Stacey Pullen blending 16 tough and funky gems, 8/10.
And let’s not forget: Image Certifies by Ora Iso ・ Brooklyn duo Kathleen Malay and Jason Kudo make a glorious sounding racket full of scruffy electronics, scuzz-filled guitars and punkish vocals. In other words, it’s fucking great, 8.5/10, Rebound by Eleanor Friedberger ・ The American artist’s fourth album is full of melancholic electro pop gems which will have you dancing round your room one minute, crying into your Tetleys the next, 8/10, Medusa by L One ・ Fans of DJ Cam or early Mo’Wax are in for a treat with these sun-kissed beats, 8/10, Mocro by D・ Maroc ・ Dark, angry hip hop from Germany with stunning production and Zeitgeist rhymes, 8/10, Anticlines by Lucrecia Dalt ・ Ghostly electronica merges with clanking percussion and spoken word poetry on a strangely beguiling record which really does sound like nothing else around, 7.5/10, Zwischen by Jan Jelinek ・ An adaptation of a radio play which the electronica pioneer produced for German broadcaster SWR2, Zwischen is a strange, disorientating affair full of disembodied voices, atonal rhythms, bursts of static and hypnotic pulses, 7.5/10, and We We We by V/A ・ Man Power’s Me Me Me imprint release a bumper 25 track compilation with all proceeds going to the Help Refugees charity. With artists such as Medlar, Pional and Shit Robot involved, head over to the Bandcamp page and get yourself a copy now, 8.5/10.