Add more Black club music to your life with the help of Dweller and Black Techno Matters. This month, Dweller shares a curated series of 13 films streaming on Criterion Channel, plus a massive compilation from Black Techno Matters.
Recognizing Blackness in music worldwide is something that should happen every day, but with the USA reflecting on its own systemic racism and the work by Black people to fight it, you can take this as a New Year’s resolution. And this should last you a while, as this is an epic and welcome selection.
First, from Dweller – the Black-led publication-platform-festival – we get a fantastic list of 13 documentary films devoted to exploring Black dance music culture, as selected by @negrolithic and @surrealsermons. It’s on the streaming platform from cinophile icon Criterion.
If you’re ready to really binge, Criterion Channel has a 7-day free trial, and yeah, I did just check my VPN to see if I can watch from Europe. 100%. (ExpressVPN I’ve found to be the best for streaming content in Germany. No affiliate links here; honest advice.)
The full list – I mean, Exhibitionist alone is must-see cinema for anyone reading CDM. Or Mosquito. Or…:
The Last Angel of History, John Akomfrah, 1996
Maestro, Josell Ramos, 2003
Exhibitionist-Purpose Maker Mix, Jeff Mills, 2004
Shakedown, Leilah Weinraub, 2018
Bring Down the Walls, Phil Collins, 2020
Songs for Earth & Folk, Cauleen Smith, 2013
I Held the Truth in My Hands, Anaïs Duplan, 2020
Pivot, Tarona, 2020
Lunar New Year, S*an D. Henry-Smith, 2021
MOSQUITO: The Movie, LYZZA, 2022
Hyperfate, Christelle Oyiri, 2023
Pacific Club, Valentin Noujaim, 2023
Trial Period, Kiernan Francis, 2023
One idea to reject, though, is the notion that Black contributions to dance music are something to view only through a historical lens. That seems to happen way too often – honor a handful of legends, but center new music focus on predominantly white artists. And, frankly, do that and you’re. missing. out. I’ve written before about my none-too-subtle fandom for Black Techno Matters, and they continue to work as a collective to embody new directions for the whole genre.
The first compilation was a must, and the second one is a whole new level. You get consistently fresh production techniques, bleeding-edge approach to sound, and endlessly inventive grooves. It’s in stark contrast to a lot of the regressive cheap-tricks worst-of-the-90s rave chaos dominating a lot of commercial music, not to mention the I-seriously-don’t-need-anything-this-monotone this-sounds-like-Berlin-weather grayscale conservatism that remains entrenched. (I’m sorry; that’s mean. Okay, I’m not actually sorry.)
No, this is exactly the kind of underground stuff I know we love, sounds that make techno open rather than closed. And it manages to be unafraid of experimentalism but still delivers utter scorchers. So, of course, long-time friends like B_X_R_N_X_R_D and Trovarsi come through, and they’re still exposing new names. (And “Pop My Butt” is just going to tear apart the right dance floor at the right time.)
They’ve also got a really clever idea, which is to put a 20-track, 2-hour mix on Bandcamp, but put the full 130-song, 16-artist collection out as a limited USB stick.
It almost feels unfair to get this many bangers in one go, but please buy it, and play it the next time you play; I’ll come round.
The open-ended approach here is terrific:
We see the F_X_M_X_L_Y v2 USB as a kind of a digital time capsule of what these black artists are creating right now in 2023 and a peek into what’s on the horizon of techno in 2024 and beyond. Each artist was given the freedom to choose what to put in their USB folder and the content ranges in scope from a single track, like the invigorating live techno of “Seek The Rhythm” from LA based modular master Trovarsi, to a massive genre-defining collection of l00ps, p0rtals and w0rmh0les from BLACK TECHNO MATTERS founder B_X_R_N_X_R_D. In between, there are gems like a dance floor ready EP by Baltimore’s Queen of the Underground, Kotic Couture, and a huge archive of unreleased tracks and b-sides from the prolific Baltimore producer S.DOT. BLACK TECHNO MATTERS in-house mastering engineer Blvksite not only applied their technical prowess to master this epic collection of music, but also contributed a few tracks of their own, updating their playful and sinister sound in a beautifully mysterious direction. F_X_M_X_L_Y v2 also introduces the world to emerging artists like the experimental musings of Richmond’s TP2 and the majestic spacey electro of DC’s MerlinBerlin (who won our Liber8 Remix contest in June 2023).
I’ve only gotten to check the Bandcamp version, not the full USB, but I’m sold. And it’s all beautifully mastered:
Visit their site, too, for all their projects:
Let’s close with a little more from Dweller. You can check out their festival this year if you’re in New York; you can’t in Berlin, as Dweller is joining an international call for cultural workers to strike from German cultural institutions.
It’s worth reading their carefully assembled list of Afro-Palestinian literature, which got a fall update. In a time of 24-hour news cycles and the desensitizing impact of so much carnage in Gaza and elsewhere, it’s a chance to step back and reflect on deeper issues and context:
That list has tons more reading and still more films covering Black music, techno, and more.
Reading should be as much a part of our lives as musicians as digging and listening. But some popcorn and Criterion movie night works, too. Thanks to everybody who worked on these projects; truly epic work.