Writing about the meeting place of technology and music, we cover potential: what’s possible, what might be in the future. So as he launches a new music column, our new contributor Kid Kameleon has coined a cheeky title: “created.” This isn’t just what you could create with digital music, but what has been made, as he discovers and reviews new sounds. And while words like “genre-defying” get overused, producer/DJ/journalist Kid Kameleon – aka Matt Earp – really is on a quest for music that pushes out from the boundaries drawn around it. Over this and future installments, Matt will help widen our own listening to the up-and-coming and unexpected. So let’s get started, by peering through the window of one label and one artist. -PK
TESTTOON & OUBYS
Testtoon and Oubys are separate but symbiotic (for now). Testtoon is a very new label run by Michael Severi from Antwerp, Belgium, in collaboration with his brother Rafael. Michael’s girlfriend Eva D’haenens creates the label’s art and graphics as part of Testbeeld, the label’s visual twin. Testtoon is only two releases into its existence so far, but according to Severi, its agenda is to “promote creative and original electronic music” with vinyl-only releases of “only local or more unknown producers we like.” Severi’s current aesthetic for his own DJ sets as well as the label is “ambient, field recordings, and experimental,” and Testtoon couldn’t have found a better or more captivating artist for their launch releases than Oubys, from Brussels.
Oubys is the stage name for Wannes Kolf. From his succinct bio: “Kolf’s music is made with live improvisations, electronic treatment and field recordings. Influenced by early legends Faust, Heldon, Can and ambient guru Brian Eno, this music has a nice sense of subterranean depth and a pulsating progression.” Oubys has had two previous releases on the CDr label U-Cover (also out of Belgium), and his music has is perfect blend of textured soundscape, low thrumming bass and steady washes of atmospheric synths that combine in perfect proportion to yield richly immersing musical experiences. This world can be a space where it’s hard to sound original or interesting, but Kolf weaves just enough of a pulsing through many of his creations to give them the skeleton ambient music so often lacks. His first release for Testtoon was Terra Incognita in 2011, which falls somewhere between an EP and an album in length. It’s full of rich complexity reminiscent of Monolake and Chain Reaction, and it ends with the almost epic Blackland 2 (below). But it also takes in more collage-like sounds along the way, in tracks like “Hidden Base” and “Mitlt”.
The label’s second release is the Positronium EP, which heads in a slightly darker direction, more buzzing electricity than soothing sound beds. It contains an early version of the album track Positronium II, a remix by Oubys, and truly special restructuring by Substance of Hardwax, Berlin, a scion of German dub techno reaching back almost 20 years. A tantalizing snippet of it can be heard here:
That EP will be out by the end of February. For now Testtoon is doing the distribution themselves, so it can only be found in vinyl shops in Belgium and by mail order through a couple of internet outlets. But Severi is hoping to secure distribution soon, so untill then keep your ears on both Oubys and Testtoon’s SoundCloud pages for samples of new material. And give them both props for doing such small run and tangible releases in the age of digital music!
TEAL & BEASTIE RESPOND
Not terribly far from Testtoon’s sample-based ambience, a similar label/producer symbiotic relationship is going on, but for a different genre of music. The label is Teal Recordings, run by Simon Olsson, and the producer is Beastie Respond aka Tobias Pedersen. Both of them are in Copenhagen, Denmark, and both have associations with the Dunkle Bar there.
Teal is 4 releases deep so far, available both as 12″ records as well as digital, and much of its sound has been focus on that particular hybrid of house, dubstep, UK Funky and techno that doesn’t have a name yet but is currently saturating lots of clubs in London and beyond. Producers like Blawan, West Norwood Cassette Library, Hypno, and Kowton have all given some of their finest productions or remixes to the label – a favorite in this vein is the smokey jazz-club sampling shuffle-skip of Hypno’s Koko, a true gem.
But the label’s breakout sound has surely been the beguiling Syncope by Beastie Respond. A beautiful piece of uncanny music that draws equally from Drum and Bass, Dub, Dancehall and Chilled Out Hip-Hop, it’s one of the best examples of the current trend of DnB producers using increasingly tricky rhythms to give the illusion of both 85 bpm hip-hop (or in this case, with a 4×4 beat, almost slow disco) and the frenetic poly rhythms of Jungle. It is a sound that’s most closely associated with the producer dBridge, his label Exit Recordings, and what’s been termed the “Autonomic sound” of this particular strain of modern Drum and Bass – a sound hugely influenced by the “is it head nod or dance music?” slippery-ness that is Dubstep’s most impressive achievement to date. And frankly it’s an amazing breath of fresh air to the genre of Drum and Bass, reviving many veteran’s interest in a sound that’s accesible enough for a new generation of listeners who till now only knew DnB as classic ragga, harsh tear outs, or cheesy over-the-top atmospherics.
Now, not to pigeonhole Pedersen into only this one sound – he’s got musical skills that stand out on some darker and more straight-ahead productions, as well, geared to a more traditional DnB audience. But his syncopations are at their most impressive in this rhythmic netherland, so it’s not surprising that Teal is releasing a second single from him in March. This one, the label’s 5th, is 2 tracks, “Be Quiet” and “No More”, and once again, “No More” is just killer, full of crisp clean sounds that tumble over each other, constantly pinging back and forth between a head nod and a skank.
Beastie Respond says he has some other tracks and remixes coming soon. If both record labels and producers the world over can embrace this sort of tricky, intelligent music that works both on the dancefloor and in headphones, then the future of electronic dance music is bright indeed.
Kid Kameleon is a San Francisco-based DJ, promoter, writer, blogger, historian, archivist, and fan of electronic music.
Don’t miss Matt’s write-up of selections from 2011’s musical landscape – complete with a couple of recent choices from his more than 100 mixes:
The Music of 2011: Kid Kameleon Picks, Om Unit Mix, Techno Mix