There’s so much great music. Let’s dive in and impulse buy as much great stuff as we can handle. Strap in, because these releases can soothe you, cheer you, move you, groove you, and remind you of what we’re doing on this planet.
Lady Blacktronika has a release full of pitch-perfect, deeply felt House. It’s exquisitely mastered, too, via Kevin McHugh at Valence. It’s a release from this week that you’ll feel you should have always known. And it’s also wonderful listening to Akua Grant swap Jeckyll-and-Hyde style between this persona and the brutal techno of Femanyst.
Florian Meindl in Berlin makes acid like it’s never going out of style. He’s just… a force. This city has always been hard working; Florian makes it sound like the factories are running at full tilt – and if you missed techno in these months, inject it back into your brain:
St. Louis’ Ron S put this out in October, but Talus is such finger-licking good soul-healing, raw, grooving techno that it needs a mention here. Seriously, any midwinter depression not cured so far by this list, I can’t help you.
I’m not sure what the “Kompromat” is, but it sounds like it was worth the good time.
Speaking of good moods, NERK and BIZZ O.D. from Berlin team up for a witty, weird two-track EP to remind you what silliness and happiness feel like. The tracks are sharp, pared-down, and not drowning in seriousness and reverb the way so much music had become. There is also just a ridiculously effective groove tugging away underneath both.
Music for weirdos. Smart weirdos. Smart weirdos having a really good day. (Remember those?) Also with stylish video:
I’ve been following DJ T-1000‘s releases here consistently for a reason – there’s a longer narrative Alan Oldham is unfolding, one that’s as persistent and powerful as a marathon techno set. And while he’s been transferring the legendary Generator releases from reel-to-reel, he’s saved the best for last. This is absolutely fresh and deep, as Alan reveals the mind-blowing collaboration with Pen Jackson (“Ethan Nep Sevy”):
From France, Franck Vigroux pushes out to the very limits of timbre, like the invention of a new material pushed until its molecules break up. For some reason, there’s a Bandcamp bug that’s telling me this is a preorder, even though it released on November 25. (Someone reported my new release just did the same.) But maybe all of us have broken through to the future of music, finally.
Wonderfully weird new inventions abound from China’s masterful ayrtbh, who also produces the excellent sequencer.wtf series of Max for Live goodies.
Speaking of good things that happen when you’re working on incredibly time-intensive Max for Live device development, the supremely underrated producer Noah Pred has quietly let loose an album of sharply-composed groove spectacles in the form of Arcologies. This is exactly the kind of excellence that is flying under the radar right now – but more on Noah and what he’s been up to in his science laboratory of patches soon:
It’s so often those crackling, exposed ambient trips that read as pure emotion, without the tyranny of making an object. So as Belfast’s own Space Dimension Controller releases a container ship full of ambient creations, these feel not so much like excess bits as they do the real, personal story. They’re chilling.
Super-strange shadowy techno out on the imprint “Detroit-Berlin” (which is, despite the name, in Belgium) comes from the eccentric imagination of Eden Grey. And it’s just brilliant. Happy birthday, Marcel, apparenty.
Plus there’s a hilariously excellent series on how Rogue Unit did the remix:
Permit me to take us back to the heady days of August, because these two tracks from Cosmin TRG I find utterly irresistible:
The relaxed beauty of Pub will take you a way for half an hour, some summery calm to pierce the winter, from Glasgow’s ampoule records:
Algorave Istanbul has a spectacular mini-compilation of some live-coded wonders:
Gin & Platonic out of Prague is just the sort of blog-cum-mix platform-cum record label that 2020 badly needs, a throwback to the late 90s-early 2000s when such things grew bountifully like weeds.
Warm, fuzzy, deep – something like that, or else I’m just describing this chair. Whatever it is – the duo Action Sports is new to me – Action Sports 2 is just wonderful:
While we’re in Prague, let’s enjoy some dark witchy vibes and pop evil with DMITRIEVNA who has outdone herself with a nicely demented music video:
Heading east to Slovakia, who wants an hour of timeless, meditative voice + hurdy-gurdy? I do. Line Gate has us covered:
Finland-based AGF/poemproducer is a tireless champion of everyone else’s Bandcamp, so let’s pay some attention to the utter genius of abundANTIA, a forceful and acrobatic set of sonic etudes from back in July:
We’ve been tracking Zoë Mc Pherson and Alessandra Leone as they continue their excellent release schedule for their SFX platform, and they have a mesmerizing AV escape in the form of “Grounding in outer space”:
New York City has put together a corker of a compilation in the eclectic, driving VA SPIRAL, by Samo Records:
Russia’s Gost Zvuk is also full of tasty curiosities, and they’ve come through again. I’ll let them explain Loopdad, because I can’t, but also out today (Saratov is southwestern Russia, in the heart of… uh, well, Saratov Oblast, basically):
Loopdad is a cryptic young producer from Saratov and we couldn’t refuse his proposal to release a “loopdad tribute”, as he’s moving to the next stage of his musical endeavour. He defines his genre as a “new school crib music”. And what he’s trying to convey is a feeling of “dark jazz playing in the distance”. To each his own, but obviously, there’s a touch of obscure, post-beat vibration, melted with spoken word and if you’re into new rap territories – “Dramadayz Navigator” is here for you.
While we’re loitering about in Russia, I adore this darkly beautiful, longing-filled release by Alex Zhang Hungtai & Pavel Milyakov for the young imprint psyx:
Beautiful things sometimes show up in my inbox, like the haunting, goosebump-generating sounds of Valencia’s Otro, out on a little label called Modern Trips out of Leipzig:
Our friend Tim Shiel from Melbourne has not only a charming, personable, affable compilation of collected gems, but an answer to why to do this thing in the first place. And it’s the very opposite of Spotify metrics and behavior monitoring – and something I think can speak to all of us. From Spirit Level:
“Music is abundant, purpose is scarce.” – Mat Dryhurst
When music is everywhere, gushing freely out of internet pipes like a hose-gone-wild – why add to the noise? Why do it? Why bother?
I’ve spent a lot of this year looking for the answers to those questions, and here’s what I’ve got so far.
To connect. Not with anonymous listeners on platforms, but with the people closest to you, the like minds and the kindred spirits. Connection is a basic human need, but often it feels like it’s in short supply. Humans need hope and love in the same way they need water and food. Hope and love multiply, when you have your people around you. This is how families work. We all need to be reminded how good it feels to squad up.
To dream and to lead. Artists don’t tend to think of themselves as leaders, but its often the ‘creative types’ who everyone else turns to when they need guidance. Consciously or not, artists analyse and parse patterns of emotion and information deeply, and then publish the results for the public good. We do it in the form of pop songs or drum beats or soundscapes or whatever. Artists digest a diverse diet of humanity, processing the good with the bad. Along the way we tend to dream up new and better futures that can’t be imagined from inside the matrix. Artists can dream when others fail to, and we need dreamers desperately right now.
To breed empathy. From my experience, artists are kind. They are not simply tolerant of others, but they actively seek to understand perspectives that are foreign or confusing. They are generous of mind, spirit and wealth – at least the ones I roll with anyway. If you fold empathy deep into your work as an artist, you’ll nudge other people in the same direction. You’re helping to provide an antidote to all those bits of the modern human experience that feel so cold and uncaring.
2020 has been a mess. Many challenges still lie ahead. We live daily with a growing awareness of just how much is “not quite right” in the world. But here’s a plan. Find your purpose, then look for your people. Once you’ve found them, do not settle for less than close and meaningful connection. Be dangerous in your ideas – but kind in your actions. Organise and nurture each other, then move boldly forward into the world with empathy and purpose.
As we reflect on what it means to make sounds as humans, I think there’s nowhere better to conclude than on the compilation pieced together from international artists by Scotland’s Remembrance Species, in an effort to save the seabird and the axolotl:
Selection curated by Bell Lungs of Remembrance Species Scotland and Laura Luna Castillo of Lunetario Editorial.
All proceeds from album sales will be split between Umbral Axochiatl, an axolotl conservation charity in Xochimilco, Mexico City and Scottish Seabird Centre, a seabird conservation charity in North Berwick, Scotland.
Please visit the rest of our digital exhibition at www.lunetarioeditorial.com/remembrance-species-2020-exhibition
And bonus, from March – a reminder that what we need to do is to change models completely, ygam’s From our Future Selves is an insistent serenade from the future to change our world now:
‘From our Future Selves’ is Berlin-based label ygam’s first non-profit various artists compilation. This 12-tracks gathering was put together to support the organization ‘Friends of the Earth’ in their aim at challenging the current model of economic and corporate globalization, while promoting solutions that help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies. All proceeds from the album will be donated directly to them. In its drive to raise environmental awareness and inspire togetherness, this compilation also shares a sonic facet only slightly explored by the imprint so far: the dance floor’s rhythmical occurrences. Indeed, through their various contributions extending from power electronics and heavy bass deconstructions to dense techno cuts, artists propose a wide variety of approaches to club-oriented music and ways for bodies to engage in cadenced investigations.
ygam stands with the missions of ‘Friends of the Earth’ :
• To collectively ensure environmental and social justice, human dignity, and respect for human rights and peoples’ rights so as to secure sustainable societies.
• To halt and reverse environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources, nurture the earth’s ecological and cultural diversity, and secure sustainable livelihoods.
• To secure the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, women, groups and individuals, and to ensure public participation in decision-making.
• To bring about transformation towards sustainability and equity between and within societies with creative approaches and solutions.
more info: www.foei.org
2020 isn’t over. Music like this is a reminder not to look for its ending, but to see what more sound you can embrace in the time you have.