Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
The life blood of DJs everywhere, my love of the humble 12-Inch began in the 80s, with extended versions of the hits of the day. From Madonna to Duran Duran via Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Luther Vandross (seriously, the extended version of Criticize is dance floor gold), my teenage years were spent tracking down overly long mixes of well known songs. In 2018 it can seem easier to purchase a mail order bride with a bad attitude than a slice of wax, but creatively at least, the 12-Inch is in rude heath. By JOHN BITTLES
This is a point proved by this week’s selection of singles and EPs. We have the sublime house of Serena Butler and Frank & Aakmael, the messed up dubscapes of Primitive Art, the big room pomp of Solomun and Sascha Funke, the techno thump of ASC and T.Raumschmiere & Reinhard Voigt and lots more.
So, take a deep breath, and let us begin…
As I’ve been playing it almost non-stop lately it seems only fitting to start with the philosophical techno of Serena Butler’s fantastic We Want Neither Clean Hands Nor Beautiful Souls EP. In the press notes the artist claims that the record embodies “the explicit, organized effort to repurpose technologies for progressive gender political ends”. The results are stunning to behold! Containing four tracks which combine mid-paced grooves, politically charged samples, hushed beats and the ghosts of Detroit, the EP is a truly mesmerising listening experience. Opener If Nature Is Unjust, Change Nature merges an elongated sample with minimal synths and the mere spectre of a beat to craft a piece of music which actually makes you think. Globular Hymen meanwhile ups the pace slightly, its trance-like riffs and cymbal led rush sure to have even the most reticent of dancer hurrying to the floor. The package is completed by the deep dub techno pulse of Science Is Not An Expression But A Suspension Of Gender while the sample led And With Fire Came Disparity has a bassline to die for. Honestly, I can’t recommend this enough. 10/10.
When I discovered that Scissor & Thread label head Francis Harris had teamed up with American icon DJ Aakmael as Frank & Aakmael I did a deeply uncoordinated jig of joy. For those of you who haven’t already purchased a copy, Mercy Of Means is formed of five tracks of the most succulent, melodic house music known to man. The gentle jazz/electronica of Aakmael’s Deep Muzik creates a soft tranquil buzz, before Francis Harris adds fizzing percussion and a mild synth throb on Frank’s All that Light Mix. Flip over for the mid-tempo loveliness of Mercy Of Means, which sees both producers working in tandem to craft a delicious slice of warm up gold. Further in, Frank’s Part Song is a bittersweet little groover, while Aakmael ups the snare kicks and introduces some cuddly melodies to the same tune on a remix dripping with beauty and soul. Go buy! 9/10.
Released to celebrate two decades of Skylax Records, the Skylax House Explosion double mix CD saw label head Hardrock Striker pair up with the legendary DJ Sprinkles as S.H.E. to present more than two hours of disco flecked deep house gold. Spread across three separate slabs of vinyl, exclusive tracks from the LP are now available on wax for any DJs out there. The first is out now and features four tracks all but guaranteed to entrance any self-respecting clubber. Move D gets things off to a stunning start with the drugged up house of Outer Rim 64. Gloriously lethargic, this is pretty darn close to divine. Next, Jason Grove & Merwyn Sanders‚ Deep In Your Heart picks up the pace with a classic sounding Chicago groove. Yet the fun doesn’t end here, as California native An Expresso’s Club Called The Garage is shiver inducing and sure to kick things off in any club, while Bongo Trax by Signal ST ends things in a flurry of percussive noise. While the hefty price tag will put off some, this is well worth tracking down. 9/10.
Also worth checking is the fantastic new EP from Warp offshoot Arcola who constantly keep fans guessing with each release different from the last. From the glacial ambiance of Dream Catalogue legends 2814, the tough as nails gabba bounce of Nkisi, to the psychedelic techno of Ethiopian Records, the only similarity to be found between any two release on the fledgling imprint is that they will be suitable strange. A prime example can be found in the heady dub soundscapes to be found on Crab Suite by Primitive Art. Dislocated vocal snippets merge with dense atmospherics, a rampant post punk attitude and a healthy dose of bass on a four track EP which holds you spellbound from beginning to end. Limited to 500 copies you’d better get one for your Grandma quick to avoid a clout around the ear. 8.5/10.
Next we have some Italo house and tongue in cheek techno with German native Sascha Funke’s fresh and fruity new EP. Following celebrated releases on labels such as Kompakt, BPitch Control and Turbo Recordings, Sascha arrives on the excellently named You And Your Hippy Friends imprint with the heady grooves of his new EP. Acatenango is out now and finds the producer heading straight for the floor. A-Side Aggravate merges cosmic disco snyths with an Italians Do It Better style bassline and discreet trance touches to craft a track full of atmosphere and funk. Next up, the title track is a disorientating slice of leftfield genius, just when you think it is settling into a routine, it blasts off to worlds both fabulous and new. Surumu brings things to a close with a fucked up electro flourish which will leave any eager beaver overjoyed. 8.5/10.
This month sees tech house legend Solomun release his first 12-Inch record in three years with the big room dynamics of Customer Is King. Formed of three melody heavy bombs, the EP is the 100th release on the highly respected Hamburg imprint Diynamic Music, and finds the label head in fine form. The title track gets us going with huge trance riffs mixing with deep house sensibility on a song tailor made for dancing in the sun. Dre meanwhile is a deep electro throbber whose squelchy bass and out of control bleeps build to a marvellous crescendo. Closer Ich Muss Los wouldn’t sound out of place as the highlight of a Paul Van Dyk set from back in the day and ends things on a euphoric high. While Customer Is King isn’t exactly subtle, its components are sure to make any main room audience beg for more. 8/10.
Over the years the mysterious producer know as ASC has pushed the boundaries of drum n‘ bass, ambiance and techno until their music left all adherence to genre behind. This summer sees the release of The Difference Engine a punishing four track EP made for darkened rooms, echoing warehouses and those who dance with their eyes closed. Silent Reign opens proceedings with a K-Hole rush, its hypnotic synth line merging with repetitive beat sequences to give it a visceral, sinister edge. From here, Dimensional Rift is a thrilling piece of atmospheric techno perfect for when the club is just starting to wind down, Vulpine sounds like a Berghain anthem, while Curvature ends things with a welcome leftfield flourish. Consider The Difference Engine a must for those like their beats both cerebral and tough. 8/10.
This week we’ll finish with a pair of genuine bangers in the melody led techno rush of Speicher 104. Cologne imprint Kompakt’s long-running series has graced many a dance floor over the years, and their latest missives are sure to do the same. On the A-Side Augen Zu by T.Raumschmiere is an electro-tinged bass heavy monster which is practically pleading to be played loud in a club. Minimal, melodic and bouncy, I could listen to this on repeat for days. My only complaint is that it is far too short! Over the flip, Reinhard Voigt delivers a superb piece of punkish techno with the aptly named Drei Millionen Kölsch. Heady and atmospheric, this has festival anthem written all over it, building slowly but surely with a deep, mesmeric throb. Also be sure to check Marc Romboy’s brilliant May released two-tracker Speicher 103. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: The Bluff EP by Alex Albrecht Pres. Melquíades – Four tracks of mid paced melodies with a wonderfully melancholic edge, 9/10, So. Candy by So. Mind – The Berlin Bass Collective label come up trumps with a fabulous EP of lo-fi house and techno jams, 8.5/10, River EP by Mary Yalex – Merging slow burn house and soft focus ambiance, Mary Yalex’s debut for Leipzig based imprint Kann is a rare and beautiful thing, 8.5/10, MVX/U41A by Minimal Violence – Imagine your favourite soundtrack enveloped by tough techno beats and you’re not far off the hardware infused sound of Minimal Violence, 8/10, On A Mission by Arthur Baker Feat. Rockers Revenge – UK label Crosstown Rebels celebrate their 200th release with a powerful house track featuring remixes from Michael Mayer and Francois K, 8/10, Rondo’s Return by Dudley Strangeways – Deep, mesmeric and funky as fuck, lead track Show & Tell is a tune you never want to end, 8/10, Tusk/Aku by Cleveland – ESP Institute deliver a pair of deep and heady tracks certain to move even the most jaded of floors, 7.5/10, Back Up Off The Wall by DJ Pierre & DJ Sneak – Guaranteed to have a generation of acid casualties getting misty eyed as they throw themselves around the room, 7/10 and The Night Land Remixed by Talaboman – The deep, techno groove of the eleven minute long Superpitcher Remix of Dins El Llit is worth the price of admission alone, 8.5/10.
And let’s not forget: A Says Hello EP by Alton Miller – Detroit legend Alton Miller has, over the years, produced a body of work full of funk and soul. Long term fans and newcomers alike will find much to enjoy in the lush house grooves on his excellent new EP, 9/10, Thursdays (Be There) by DJ Counselling – A triple-treat of lof-fi house brilliance from the up and coming DJ Counselling, with the euphoric strains of the title track the pick for me, 9/10, The Sound Of by Austin Ato – Man Power’s Me Me Me imprint strike gold yet again with an EP of funk filled delights, 8.5/10, Ab Initio EP by Abby Echiverri – Head straight for the acid flecked groove of Nadezhda, a track of unrestrained brilliance, 8/10, Irafas EP by Lord Of The Isles – Barcelona based imprint Lone Romantic present a quartet of emotion rich techno full of melody and heart, 8/10, 4X4 (Remixes) by Bawrut – Make sure to check the epic trance flourishes of Lauer’s take on I Hear Voices and Marlon Hoffstadt’s heads down classic house groove on his Aloe Vera Mix of More Cowbell, 8/10, SW:SVN by SW:SVN – Following the reissue of SW’s sublime LP, SW returns to Apollo with fellow SUED label head SVN with a dense and eerie bass filled six track EP, 7.5/10, and Drum Union Vol. 1 by V/A – The ever excellent Drumpoet Community label launch “a new series documenting the different shades of leftfield house” with an EP whose purchase should be considered a must for any Sub Club regular, 8/10.