For every person cut off from their vocation, their livelihood, their reason to go to work, in any industry – it’s been a tough year. But if you need some dancefloor sounds to remind you what those can sound like, today there’s a surprising bumper crop of releases.
Now, first – a disclaimer. I am amazed that anyone would judge producers or labels for going silent a while. I know plenty of producers and DJs who are depressed. I know it’s tough to get inspired when you don’t have playing or dancefloors as motivation – not only in the abstract, but because a lot of people who play live even work out ideas as improvisation and bring them back to the studio. And there’s economic reason to put off releases for a while – labels and producers alike may not have the budget to press vinyl or hire PR or even pay for a couple hours mastering. And they may be busy with, you know, day jobs.
So I urge you if you’re in that category to listen to this music for yourself. Don’t worry about what you might have been putting out or feel you may be falling behind. If you give these a spin, do it entirely for your own mood and pleasure.
Here are just a few picks out of today’s bin. And hey, if you have been lacking some studio inspiration, do yourself a favor and mix a few of these together to make that sound happen again. Plus if you’ve got the cash to make a purchase, spread the love to some folks who probably need it right now.
Slikback is an early 2021 landmark – a hypnotic, all-encompassing event horizon of groove from the Nairobi powerhouse. Beyond heavy:
Not content with Barker topping lists with Utility [Ostgut Ton], now next up in the Leisure System revolution is labelmate Ned Beckett, with a hyperfuturistic rave energy that bleeds optimism. It’s a blast of light right when we need it, and it’s sure to hold up as a 2021 stand-out. (Barker is back on mixing duties.)
Flow State is simple a magnum opus from Shawn Rudiman, a textural journey with beats in between. It’s an essential follow-up to his Conduit last year and shows the Pittsburgh artist at the height of his powers, even in these dark times.
Ryuji Takeuchi is a favorite of mine, and what he describes as his take on “minimalism” is all punch. “No Life, No Music” – feel you on that.
Alan Oldham aka DJ T-1000 has made it to the bottom of the stack of reel-to-reels he resurrected from the legendary Generator imprint. And what a way to finish this amazing series – while we wait for him to fly back to America and get some DATs:
An extra track left over from the TXC-2 “20 Hours to Paradise” EP (GEN003), but so strong I thought it would work as a single-sided release. It came out with the same track on both sides because I was too cheap to pay for the full mastering and plating necessary to make a flat b-side. Both Pen (Level A) and I worked on this, but it was mostly him. He played the pads live while I mixed the track live using mutes. I don’t remember if it was the actual final thing we did together, but it was close. It holds up pretty well. Real old-school studio heads know that’s a Roland D-50 pad that is the main sound on this track. I leaned on that machine throughout my career until the Korg Karma came along in 2008. The pads on the D-50 were second to none. I’m completely in the box now, though, with no intention of going back to outboard gear.
While Alan goes through his reels, Ron S. of the epic Anode Records has been saving Pro Tools sessions. And it seems like the Pro Tools sessions of yore were just ahead of their time. Emerge into 2021, Pro Tools children:
Wunderblock Records is the massively underrated underground imprint out of Moscow, and label boss Mike himself comes out with some deep bunker s*** to lead an absolutely brilliant, dubby wonderland of a VA, which I would devour like a giant plate of buttery pelmeni. Sorry – that’s not me resorting to superficial stereotypes of Russia, I literally am thinking about a giant plate of buttery pelmeni I had last time I was in the Russian capital and I want it write now. Not journalism, just truth. And equally truthful – you should file away Lars’ feature track here and play it when clubs reopen to destroy everyone. That’s a massive hit if I ever heard one. (You can do it now in Russia as evidently the clubs are open and Sputnik V doses are available, so it’s Berlin that’s behind.)
This VA – get it. And get Dave Terrida’s genius Destroyer of Worlds from December while you’re there.
Chicago’s Grid Based Beats has this oddball, pumping peak-time angled synth business made by Frankie Vega and Tim Vitek. This is the kind of mouth-watering synth-centric stuff that gets me, even if I’m not totally sure how to describe it. But lovely. Be the first to buy it after me, it seems. It’s a preorder, but I’m sold on these two tracks anyway. $2 well spent?
“Tracks will probably slow down and get gentler after the pandemic.” Sure, maybe. No, not at all. Tensal is veteran Spanish producer Hector Sandoval and – you’re allowed to use distortion and go fast if it grooves along like this. Plus you do get the feeling the Dutch folk are up to go crazy in the streets, even the ones who have been good lately and staying at home in Rotterdam. Hello, ARTS, this is some proper brutal rave business:
Not to be outdone, Rotterdam rival label mord is going dark, wild, and crazy with another veteran – this one from Bari, Italy. (That’s meaning I guess “Kaiser” is not a reference to the former German mid-range grocery store chain, though who knows, things happen when you get hungry after a German rave).
Mediterranean manic dark techno filtered through Rotterdam is go, I see.
For a perfect example, though, take this hyperactive madness from the always-excellent OCD, launching this compilation like it’s a Soyuz outta Hell:
Machine Label out of Australia is totally new to me. I like the tracks not featured on Bandcamp, especially for some bone-dry grooves mixed into the darkness and the fast, crisp “Exciter.” Nice stuff from Ranjit Nijjer:
Dark Carousel continues their assault on our ears with a deliciously violent release by Zander PSR, with some rich timbres and fantastic rhythms. Stomp on this:
Reece Cox is a bit more on the abstract side, but like a bright beam of sunlight – including those remixes – enough so that it has the feeling of a raveL
Weird, dark, fast, OnScreenActor has this lovely two-track outing for Peder Mannerfelt, with a B-side to catch your breath:
Finally, not one but two festivals have done big releases of all their music on Bandcamp, which is a great way to bring the festival to your headphones. From Uganda, there’s the now increasingly legendary Nyege Nyege and their accompanying label Nyege Nyege Tapes. They’re apparently joining the “don’t buy digital” or “price digital like an NFT” bandwagon but uh, the cassette is at a reasonable price:
Unsound gives us the festival we missed, the lineup that never would be. SOPHIE, Jlin, Ben Frost, 33EMYBW, Moor Mother, Slikback, DeForrest Brown, Zosia Hołubowska, and the list goes on:
One fear of Bandcamp’s regular Friday promotion is that it makes people feel overly motivated to release music. I’m not entirely certain what that means – or what the heck people mean when they worry about whether music is thoughtful or with intention or something. (Vibrations in air? Your guess is as good as mine.)
All I know is that our friend Chaircrusher made, mastered, and released this quirky, stuttering music as an attempt at “90 bpm dub techno,” and it might invoke the green fairy for you.
Bonus track – I have no idea what this is. I think it probably got posted to a group on Facebook where it doesn’t belong. But you’ve scrolled down here, so you deserve to have something that came from Tokyo’s stranger corners. I mean, I’m glad it features Nanyara Idol, I assume that’s a plus?
Yes, you scrolled to the end bonus!