In Nondi_’s music world, fuzzy reveries of grooves emerge as if half-remembered from sleep, sometimes insistent and raw, sometimes fading to murk. It’s the Internet-fueled sound of artist Tatiana Triplin from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in a city whose entire history is marked by neglect and ruin.

This got some well-deserved attention by coming out on Planet Mu – as far as I know the first Johnstown artist to be included on that label. (Do check out her own HRR netlabel, too!)

The mention of that town stood out to me, especially, as it’s home to some of my most vivid childhood memories. My mother was born in Detroit but grew up in Johnstown; there was enough of that Lebanese-American family there that the football team was dubbed “Ali Baba and the Forty Gehas” because of all my relatives playing on the high school team. (I did not inherit that trait, apparently.) We spent Thanksgivings in Johnstown, collecting bags of candy from the family’s soda shop, and the town took on a mythical quality. My sister and I could recite by heart the story of the Great 1889 Flood which you’ll see in the album notes here. By my visits in the 80s and 90s, the steel mills had already long since closed. Negligence and racism proved even more destructive to the city than that iconic 1889 flood. And in a cycle all too familiar in America, Black communities were given the leftovers in neighborhoods like Kernville.

So as the USA celebrates Juneteenth, it’s important for all of us – even those outside the US – to reflect on the intersection of poverty and Blackness. For all the bleakness that inspired this album, Nondi_’s creation is transcendent, one of the bolder visions you’ll hear this year.

Cycles of rhythm overlap and reveal themselves in repeat listenings. This is what people imagine generative AI will sound like, but with actual imagination – a thick stew of genres that have let their flavors simmer together. Juke drifts into techno and ambient, trap floats and spins, finding some mystical other dimension, like a Rust Belt dervish. But that’s what makes all of this so gripping: it’s a tale of emotional experience channeling genre, not a copy-paste affair meant to mimic a style like a fashion. (I suppose that is what ultimately holds back a lot of wallpaper music, human-made and AI-produced alike.)

And it’s haunting to listen to. I’m aware that this privilege is what moved my own family out of Johnstown – and left someone else behind. In my mind’s eye, I can see every mountain and every street. I remember the plots where family members are buried, and the sinking sensation in my gut when first seeing the hospital parking lot on Franklin Street that replaced the family restaurant and home. But Johnstown is still there, and the story of wealthy white people turning the city below into a disaster remains the story of the USA.

We have every opportunity to do what others did not, and listen and care.

And from the Conemaugh Valley, you should absolutely not miss this singular invention of vaporwave footwork.

Apologies for my own anecdotes – absolutely read Tatiana’s full statement:

Nondi_ is the alias of Tatiana Triplin, a US producer based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, who also runs the net label HRR, releasing the music of friends and herself under various aliases. Her brother is the up and coming MC, Eem Triplin.

The music Nondi_ makes is informed by footwork, breakcore and Detroit techno. However, as she’s only experienced them via the internet, she has has filled the gaps with her imagination and consequently the music is rendered from a dreamlike solitude that feels adjacent to other internet genres such as vaporwave. Her tracks are gauzy and abstract, smeared with gentle melody, rusty tones and occasional shafts of sunlight, sometimes set to a distant pulse, sometimes collapsing as if the music itself is falling apart.

Of the album she says:

“Flood City Trax is music that captures the mood of living in a town like Johnstown, and more broadly the isolation of poverty. That’s the environment these tracks came out of, after all. Johnstown is a very poor isolated small factory town in Western Pennsylvania which has a dark history of deadly floods, the most well known being the 1889 flood which was like something out of a horror story and the 1977 flood which the Triplin family survived. Johnstown has never moved past its floods, hence the nickname “Flood City”. There’s very little to do and every year the town shrinks more, and more buildings are knocked down or condemned. Everything is old but simultaneously the past seems like it has just disappeared.” 

HRR has a ton of additional treasures. After the gauzy and sentimental Flood City Trax, strap in for the wonky stripped-down – but no less mystical – wildness of shadow, just out end of last month. This may even have been a bit too weird for the critics, but I love it just as much – hypnotically firey tracks like “echo reject”. At time it sounds like a fire or car alarm heard through a wormhole. (I was going to say that after listening to the tracks blind, and then “fix ur fire alarm” actually gets a track title.)

I don’t know who Riteskeeper is, but then you get rituals of rhythm here, too, violent and sublime:

You Bandcamp diggers know exactly what to do with that giant grid of albums that people who only listen to Planet Mu most absolutely missed.