Half a year after the first edition, DJ FASTA’s long awaited second Ultimate Trackpack is up for download!
Fans of the Dutch urban-eclectic sound have already been able to enjoy some of the tracks, pre-released on the producer’s Soundcloud page over the past months. But the Ultimate Trackpack has something everyone: 25 tunes in total, ranging from pumping moombahton to dancehall-club to festival-flavoured afrohouse – remixes as well as original productions, riddims and club tracks as well as songs. DJ FASTA’s remarkable approach to the Dutch urban-eclectic umbrella creates a perfect bridge between vastly different worlds of music: equally mainstream as underground, equally ‘festival’ as ‘club’, equally nostalgic as forward-looking!
Zidonian X, the new moniker of the industrial/EBM producer-DJ formerly known as Aztlan Zidonia, joined forces with multi-talent Giek, one half of the performing arts duo Kots, forming a fresh music project focused on preparing humanity for the coming spiritual transformation as well as bridging the boundaries of synthpop, minimal wave, shoegaze and dreampop into an accessible sound.
It is the connection of mutual recognition, both originating from a place far away from earth, a shared deep compassion for this planet’s future, as well as a passion to push music forward, that drove the two together. Giek as a songwriter and stage performer with experience in many areas of music, Zidonian as a longstanding producer-DJ in the Dutch industrial scene. The result is a melodic, mellow yet dark edged melancholic-futuristic sound, accompanied by poetic lyrics about dreams, love and introspection.
Before we start this months musical intake, here’s is a little ‘aparté’ on a solar powered festival organised by good friends of La Selva and great tropical lovers and promoters, in which we will have the pleasure of mixing with many of the artists who we often mention on this blog:
FESTIVAL TROPICAL CAMP (Tierra Candela & Guacamayo Tropical)
“Tropical Camp is a gathering in a beautiful natural spot where tropical music and environmental conscience meet.”
And it’s exactly what it says on the box: Wapapura’s solar powered sound system, a wicked line up, in a great natural environment & surroundings: get involved ! Tickets are flying and they are still really cheap! If you need more info check out their webpage http://tropicalcamp.es/ and watch how it all went on last year
And now, down to the music, with loads of great releases, compilations, mixtapes and videos that came out along the past month. We never stop to be surprised and this is what is great about what is happening musically at the moment, with new ideas rising from the past with a stop in the future on the way.
Kechifla (La Niña) Inti Ziman Revisited Ocho Y Media
Every month there are a few tunes that go round and round in repeat in my speakers, and in May, this was one of them. It has all the ingredients perfectly blended together into one wicked latin bass banger ! The electronic beat and melody are really potent and go really well with all the shakers, cowbells, percussions, trumpets….as well as with that beautiful vocal ! I really look forward to this one being released!
“Welcome to the most outstanding musical reunion of contemporary artists coming from Latin America and related diaspora with “Viaje Andino”, a two volume soundtrack presented by Regional label and Arte Usable.”
Now that’s been played in and out for the past week over and over again, they couldn’t have described it in a better way; this is indeed an “outstanding” musical journey straight into the Andes! Propper jungle business ! Every tune is amazing; but to try and represent the whole lot, I chose to bring to your attention Mr Toé’s ‘Ícaro Marirí’. It might have a little more of an electronic approach to the journey, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy how deep, organic and truthful it sounds, with a lovely subtle slow-housey groove & bassline; and that vocal is the cherry on the cake ! Make sure you check out the whole double-compilation on http://www.selloregional.com/
You’ll also find a tune from the Viaje Andino 2 selected by The Silly Tang below.
Kraut – Especias EP (Shika Shika)
Big ups to Shika Shika for this release. I had never heard of Kraut, and was really pleased to discover his debut EP: Especias. The whole EP (previewed in the above link) is an amazing journey across different musical worlds and continents, and starts with a particularly great one straight into the Andes, with the tune ‘Selva’. You can really enjoy how clear all the instruments sound; you can feel their texture. Listen to the whole EP on bandcamp: https://shikashika.bandcamp.com/album/especias-ep
El Milagro Verde – AQHATA TOMANI
This is brand new to me and I freckin’ love it. This is the first tune to El Milagro Verde’s first EP ‘San Lunes’. It’s some wicked “huayno cumbia electro” as he calls it. Heavy guiros and shakers, powerful melodies, strong kick, spaced out echoes….let me say no more, hit play and enjoy !
It’s always a pleasure o discover a new volume of Lulacruza’s Orcas remix album. They are once more all different, innovative, surprising, elegant,….whilst keeping Lulcruza’s deep essence. Vol. 5 includes 4 names which I didn’t know and had the pleasure of discovering thanks to this release: KR3TURE, Roscius, Srikalogy and Psilosamples
Moonanga – Modular Cumbia Bounce (Live Extract of Psychedelokumbia)
Great friends of La Selva: Moonanga ! This live extract is taken from a new duo they are creating, combining one nutty guitarist & beat maker with his lovely accordionist. Their musical story is too long to go into right now, but for now, here is their stop into South American influences.
And while we’re on the live business, here’s a great video of Chancha Via Circuito & Tremor performing ‘Manoteo en menor (Tremor Remix)’ together:
With so many great mixtapes seeing the light recently, I thought I would share with you some of the ones which I have had the pleasure to listen to this past month:
P.r.Λ.Λ.H – Mixtape – Festival Nomade
Great festival, great producer and great session ! He has a slow, deep & downtempo approach with the “base of the cumbia and the power of various percussion and melodies”. This is a powerful scenic journey into the depths of South America.
Métron Musik Mixtape – 024 – Vruno
This series of mixtapes always delivers quality, and for their 24th instalment, they present to us Vruno. This is another artist who really makes me travel. I particularly enjoy how he marries both electronic and organic worlds. You can feel all the influences of his roots brought subtly into newer berlin sounds. I really enjoy this fusion.
Dj Antü – Kalakuta Sur Color 3 – RSR – Genève
In a completely different vibe, DJ Antü, who is now based in Lyon just uploaded this wicked little mix recorded live a few weeks ago! Bringing back the classics in a more traditional approach, it’s a great and sunny mix, ready for the summer to come; I just wish it was a little longer to keep on dancing !
La Sardina – Caribe Psicodélico
This is fresher than fresh ! Brand new selektah just landed in Madrid. This mix is a a wonderful psychedelic journey into traditional Caribbean rhythms. Straight back to the roots, and to the dancefloor. Enjoy !
And before I pass on to my partner in crime Silly Tang, here are a few interesting videos which I believe you might enjoy, starting with Sidirum, one of the artists who will be at the Tropical Camp Fest, who has just released a wicked new video for his track ‘Intercambio’:
Make sure you also check out Rolando Bruno’s new video for his tune ‘Mi Chilota’, featuring……
And on another note, here’s an interesting interview with Grant C Dull (El G) from ZZK Records:
Caballo & Chuck Upbeat – Mirale Esa Nalga (Latino Resiste)
Here we have another month of pure magic and craziness within the cumbiaaaa world! This hit comes from the hands of two big producers: Chuck Upbeat and Caballo on Latino Resiste. Its more of a Reggaeton dancefloor killer than a typical cumbia but such a good track ! Some of it will remind you of this style that Happy Colours has.
Regional once again has brought us a sweet compilation full of wonders. This original and down tempo track is a real smooth piece of niceness. Shushupe a producer which I had never come across delivers a real traditional and at the same time dubby cumbia !
New kid on the block; no one knows where he comes from or where he lives but all we know he loves money and the gangster attitude. He must be such a rude boy! On this cumbia he brings us exactly these vibes. Half normal half juke styling I really like the moodiness of this release.
G-Flux – Cocaina (Hawaii Bonsaï Records)
First of all a huge big ups to Hawaii Bonsai records for bringing this excellent compilation out on vynil. A format not very frequently used amongst the tropical labels but which is always respected for the amount of work it takes. A little example of the goodness of this compilation is this track by G-Flux. A track called Cocaina where the use of synth and harps is so tight and so relaxing. Big up every time to the G-Flux!
Maki & Beni – Shangó
A new producer to my ears but such a talented artist. Maki brings us this subtle and energetic cumbia. A very dark and aquatic sound which blends perfectly with this type of electronic cumbia. A lot of real good music on this soundcloud so run go tell your friends !
El Cifickzer – Kumbia De La Derrochona (La Malamaña)
Very traditional sounding I really dig this man´s production and tastes. Very simple and at the same very effective cumbia piece by Dj Cifickzer ! Go check his productions as he is bringing a lot of stuff out at the moment.
G – Flux – Moviembre (Sumohair Remix)
Sumohair does it again! Broken rhythms, ragga delights and even a bit of Sublime ! This track is excellent for a crowd worker and also very intricate to mix as the beats are arranged in a mad very interesting way. Really dig Sumohair´s new releases!
This is heavy bass orientated cumbia with Killa Kumbias, a new release from Turbo Sonidero on Terror Negro Records. Turbo Sonidero always brings a deep and dark touch with moody synths and stomping guiro rhythms. The album as a whole has a nice psychedelic nu-cumbia feel and, between synths, accordions and others, there are some awesome swirling melodies to be listened to. Special mention goes to Cartagena de Indias.
HNRY – La Fiebre
Another very original electro cumbia production by HNRY, la Fiebre is a very inspired track that blends the old, the new, and whatever inbetween to great effect. The tune is covered in some nicely sequenced samples, and is full a tiny details that seem to further push this crazy mix together. Big tune!
Santi & Tuğçe – Doña Antonia (Frente Bolivarista)
Awesome cumbia from Santi & Tuğçe on their debut album el Regreso del gallito, this tune is definetitly “sensual, mystical, and up-tempo”. Beautiful guitars combine with spacey synths and an awesome vocal from the Turkish singer to take you on a oneway trip to paraguay, while stunning percs and guiro will shake bodies on the dancefloor! Check out the rest of the album which is equally as good and, as always, a heavy release from Frente bolivar.
Fat Joe – ATWU (SpydaT.E.K. & Quality Cumbia Remix)
A tasty number by SpydaT.E.K. & Quality Cumbia, this has the balls to combine some nice gangsta rap vocals with a tasty cumbia drop. The mix really works and will definitely work in the club. As the contrast between elements hits you like a pleasant surprise, the beats will take your legs for a boogie 🙂
Capibara – Gonzo [Jhon Montoya RICARICA]
This is a luscious sounding track by Jhon Montoya, it has an awesome traditional groove that will get everybody into it. The first couple of minutes are very catchy but relatively soft, with some cut up, pitched up, and tastefully arranged vocals. There is then a great surprise drop, when a heavier beat kicks in for the dancefloor!
Latido Regional #38 (KayGee)
Killer selection this mix from our one and only KayGee, as he takes us on a journey all over Latin America to sample its deepest organic flavours as well as its most recent electronic treats. The mix flows very naturally and seems to hit the spot at almost every tune. Big up KayGee!
Thanks again to all the producers who share their music with us, and to all of you who take a moment to read a bit of sexxyness on a monthly basis !
We hope you enjoyed the selection! See you next month for more crazy cumbias!
In my own reflections of the direction of innovation in music in the last two years, no one has been a stronger inspiration guidance than the extraordinary Oxford musicologist and music critic Adam Harper. The insightful analyses of groundbreaking developments as well as his personal engagement with the artists that create them recalls the way in which musicologist Wayne Marshall, Harvard lecturer and a close friend of Munchi’s, used to be at the same time a social hub and the academic foundation under the early global bass scene. Wayne was among the first to discern and articulate the common spirit in local interpretations of Jamaican soundsystem cuture, hiphop or dance music and their corresponding youth cultures from marginalised urban neighbourhoods across the world (“global ghetto tech”). In a similar way, Harper early on recognised in the myriad of variations of “post-internet” music and corresponding aesthetics a profound common reaction to indie culture’sobsession with authenticity and organic romanticism – just while the latter was becoming the new mainstream.
Our intellectual focuses have occasionally intersected, such as in the System Focus writeups on the Lisbon based IRL-URL underground or the one on Durban’s gqom. Last month, I had a chat with Harper at the Rewire festival in The Hague, where he interviewed experimental footwork producer Jlin about machines, the human soul and the fascination with cybernetic sounds in today’s wave of club music. I was most curious how he, as an academic and as a person, got involved in this intriguing area where music, technology and society intersect.
AH: My background is in musicology, with some contemporary music mixed in. Like a lot of people my age (29) I came up through a mix of modernist classical music and 90s / 00s electronica. I became interested in music, technology and society because of the need to move musicology into the field of recordings rather than scores etc. I discovered that the aesthetics of recorded music can be very complex, all bound up with different kinds of ideas about the negative effect of technology on ‘art’ and music. This is parter of a larger and really important discussion about what it means to be human.
GB: Isn’t it isolated working such a tradition-minded environment as Oxford? I can imagine it creates a separation between you as an academic observer and the communities and scenes you write about?
AH: Much of the more specialist music-making and -listening here (the kind of underground electronic music I like) tends to get sucked into nearby London, leaving a lot of the more usual UK mixture of folk, indie etc, which has a strong basis in Oxford’s considerable bohemian demographic. The students aren’t really a permanent presence here – they spend half their year away from the University – so even though many of them are getting interested in stranger, more modern things like PC Music it doesn’t really take root in a live scene.
There is a degree of the separation you mention, but it is closing. The major difference between academia and criticism for me is the degree of drinking the discourse on music’s kool aid. I think a good academic has a sense of the bigger, more relative picture, maintains a good degree of critical and theoretical qualification on what they write about – they shouldn’t just be fans that can use jargon. The researcher should have a foot in both camps at least as a starting principle, and then see what forms of knowledge from which camp are most useful. But you can’t avoid becoming part of what you study.
GB: How does that work for you personally?
AH: I try and keep the worlds rather separate. As a critic, I can (and I should) be more wild about my opinions and my language; as an academic, I should be rigorous. I’ve occasionally gotten into odd situations where as an academic I’d feel the need to quote myself as a critic, with that distance given towards the latter. But it would be rather absurd, and it draws attention to the problems of dividing my brain like that…
And in many ways though it’s about professional pragmatics. There are many universities that would hire a slightly boffiny music critic like me as an academic, but they’re far from the majority. For all the enthusiasm there appears to be for blurring these boundaries and bringing in fresh ideas from non-academic discourse, the fact that an academic’s work increasingly needs to be peer-reviewed and subsequently submitted to (in the UK) the Research Excellence Framework in order to be taken seriously remains a major factor and hurdle. No matter how hip you are as an academic, no matter how many gigs you go to or microgenres you’re up on, a blogpost is not going to fly in the REF, and so, ultimately, it’s not going to fly on the job application.
GB: Talking about blogposts, they used to be a principal mediator between artist and listener. If you compare blogs today to other types of media such as the webmagazine, Youtube channels, a forum like Reddit and especially the increasing importance of social media, what do these changes mean for the mediating role of the music writer?
AH: The music writer has become (or should have become) much less of a reviewer and much more of a curator and critic. They needn’t simply evaluate or describe the music on offer, in fact that would be a bit of a waste of time in a world of streaming. Now they can hunt for interesting music that isn’t relatively known yet, and put it in some sort of context for listeners, reflect on aesthetics and provide a commentary.
A lot of people say that opinions don’t matter so much now that anyone can voice them online. That’s a simplistic view of the Internet I think. Eventually, in certain ways, certain voices rise above the online chatter, whatever type of platform they’re on, perhaps.
GB: What are your predictions for the future?
AH: Difficult to say. While their importance might have been reduced, I don’t think the various kinds of musical experts are going to die out any time soon. The future is likely to be busy, and even if they’re able and welcome to, I don’t think many music fans will be able or inclined to spend huge amounts of time finding and thinking about music themselves.
Eventually, in certain ways, certain voices rise above the online chatter
GB: One of your main topics is the contemporary URL punk-like movements. Yet at the same time we seem to be right in the transition phase of the rapid ‘canonisation’ of the post-internet underground in art and music, where Tumblr and Soundcloud artists are lifted into the museums for contemporary art & modern experimental music.
How do you see the relation between culture that is ‘high profile’ and culture that is marginalised? Do you think the ‘punk’ element is disappearing or undergoing a fundamental change lately?
The current generation of innovators, like the artists connected to NON WORLDWIDE, seem to consciously situate their music in the grey area between the electronic underground on the one hand and high art/‘avant-garde classical’ music on the other.
AH: Even in the supposedly ‘flattened’ world of the Internet, there is still something of height difference (even if it’s only an imaginary construction) between ‘mainstream’ culture and ‘alternative / indie / underground’ culture, a gap that is emphasised in aesthetics, practice, ideology and social role. Quite how coherent the non-mainstream communities are in this respect is an open question. But one of the paradoxes of the non-mainstream communities is that they’re often somehow both marginalised and an elite high art thing (which, though heavy on cultural and sometimes actual capital, is still pretty much at the margins, socially). Part of the value of this art / music is that it is (supposed to be) frowned upon by a majority, or an industry, or a technocracy. And in time, this marginalised, frowned upon art / music comes to be canonised. The people who mediate that shift are normally people from slightly bohemian majorities who it would not be wrong to call ‘gentrifiers.’ Look at 70s British punk – in its time a scandal, now a good old British institution. Is it any wonder that its contemporary equivalents sound nothing like it?
GB: Sampling and recontextualisation of sounds and aesthetics are key elements of the punk attitude you describe. Yet, this attitude is also fiercely criticised (frequently by artists themselves) when it is the privileged side that grabs elements from the marginalised side in terms of race, class or sexual identity. Think for example about vaporwave’s orientalism or PC Music’s use of ‘femininity’ as a gimmick.
What are your thoughts about the significance of identity and power in the cybernetic present and future, with its initial expectations of free information and fluid identity?
AH: Yeah – neither a non-mainstream political stance (implicit or explicit) nor an embrace of technological modernity (often in a vaguely anarchistic atmosphere) guarantees a clean bill of ethics. Sampling and recontextualisation are punk in one way, inasmuch as it’s accessible and easy to make and release music with them. But large numbers of people are still unaware of the problems with using someone else’s ethnicity or gender as part of the exoticism and Othering that underground music is so often entranced by. In the examples you describe, the implication is that East Asians are a weirdly hi-tech and/or corporatised people, a frightening mirror into which Westerners can look, or that women and their bodies are somehow more the victims of a superficial modern technoculture.
What matters is not where something is from, but the stories about where it’s from
GB: Simultaneously with the ‘post-internet underground’ and its fluid aesthetics, there was the ‘global bass blogosphere’ that brought sounds of locally based underground youth cultures from many different parts of the world into online circulation. Today, post-internet inspired club music ubiquitously incorporates sounds like baile funk, tresillo or gqom, whereas new youth movements anywhere in the world rarely develop the kind of distinct, geographically based profile any more such as you saw in the past.
How do you see the future role of geographical or physical environments for the development of music, especially now the breakthrough Virtual Reality has the potential to erase physicality even more thoroughly than the web did?
AH: The digitised world (crudely put, the internet, and maybe virtual reality too) can ‘erase’ geography and physicality to some extent, sure, making it easier for distant parts of the world to communicate and influence one another. This, of course, is not new to the internet. Records did the same a century ago. The internet is just faster and broader. But URL doesn’t erase relative novelty and ethnicity (aspects which geography used to contribute, which used to seem virtually synonymous with geography) as being of great aesthetic importance – far from it. Sounds are now more easily unmoored from their actual physical locations and cultural contexts, but authenticity was always ultimately a lie anyway (again, URL just makes it more obvious). What matters is not where something is from, but the stories about where it’s from and how that becomes aesthetics.
GB: If you were a DJ and wanted to make a mixtape to take your listeners on an journey through the essential developments that you have described in your articles, which are the tracks that would most definitely end up in there?
AH: I kind of already have one: though it was very early in relation to my turn to writing about hi-tech and/or online music, I made a mix called ‘The Blue Liquid Mix,’ weaving together lots of stuff that was both hi-tech and from the online underground. It starts with a track called ‘Dreamb0y’ by I AM WATER, which had a huge impact on me. It finally made me convinced that online underground music could not only be technically proficient AND really inventive, but that it could beat the more traditional underground too. Lots of the artists on that mix I would still recommend today. I’d also chuck in some stuff from NON, Her Records, Yen Tech, White Colours, Contact Lens, Activia Benz, Graham Kartna, and more.
Artwork: ‘Transhuman Godatalia Complex’, a digital sculpture by the forward-looking, science-rooted visual artistKevin Mack
When music, technology and the future intersect, what are the main issues that come to mind? Label owners may be stoked to find the ideal disruptive business model, forward looking artists may want to experiment with new ways to create and deliver sounds, while bloggers or academics would rather focus on the way in which future technology shape social and political contexts in which music acquires significance. The issues are interrelated. Progressing communication technology – not only the internet but also its precursors such as radio or successors like virtual reality – changes the world in a way that inspires artists to make music, offers a pool of crude material from which music can be assembled and simultaneously offers a medium for music to spread. And if we take a step further, beyond the internet and current conceptions of music, there are even more fundamental questions about the creation and perception of sound, be it by artificial intelligence or by a generation of post-humans who have transcended natural sensory or cerebral limitations to preceiving, interpreting and conceiving the essentially infinite possibilities of imagination.
Our latest talkshow brought these two perspectives about music and technology together, featuring Demian Zivkovic and Lotte van Noort, respective President and Chancellor of Insitute of Exponential Sciences on the transhumanist movement as a cultural phenomenon, its reception and its relevance music and other forms of art and innovative music business consultant Bas Grasmayer of Music x Tech x Future. As a soundtrack to the theme, I selected a broad range of tracks from several corners of the music underground, that are at the same time a direct result of today’s accelerating, high technological time and an artistic reflection on it.
TheInstitute of Exponential Sciencesis a think tank and platform that brings together scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, culture makers, journalists and students with an interest in fields of technological innovation that will fundamentally reprogramme human nature. With social events, lectures and partnerships, the institute promotes transhumanist perspectives and initiatives in different sectors of society.
Music x Tech x Futureis a consulting service for professionals in the music business, sharing the sharpest insights in the impact of technological innovation on the music economy in the broadest sense.
It’s been a long time since we had any Rogelio Huerta on this blog after covering him some years ago and also releasing one of his EP’s for free some time back. Alongside Javier Estrada, he is one of the leading lights in the Prehispanico scene.
As we stated back in 2011 about Prehispanico with a post about Javier:
Prehispanic means before the arrival of Columbus. So in his music Javier wants to “recreate” the jungle vibe and the blood rituals of the Aztec people.
Coming back to Rogelio, he has dropped this amazing mix for The Big Eel and it takes me back to what I loved so much about Prehispanico in the first place. Some amazing tunage on this and also some suggestions for the future progression of this amazing, overlooked and most underrated of genres.
Here’s what the Big Eel say:
Rogelio Huerta is a young artist that’s made himself known in Monterrey (Mexico) as a night Dj and worldwide as a producer of Guarachero and “Tribal Pre-hispanico”, a genre reminiscent of the Mayan and Aztec cultures, giving it a modern twist. This led him to be featured on Mad Decent and Generation Bass back in 2012 after releasing some tracks and his free EP “IMPERIO”.
This mix he sent us is a recording of his last Dj performance and we can only wonder what kind of crazy shit goes on in those parties he plays in. It’s a fun listen anyway so hop on it.
The entire history of music (and perhaps all of culture) boils down to just three things: 1.) cultural roots; 2.) socio-political circumstances and 3.) technology. It’s probably no surprise that cultural roots and the changing socio-political environment in which these roots germinate and mutate have been our blog’s main concern since the beginning. But since at least two years of shaping the direction of this blog, I’ve noticed the centre of gravity shifting ever more towards technology, and not just because of my personal obsession with the post-internet underground or the avant-garde club movement, which likes to wrap tracks into pictures of robots, computers or shiny sports tech. There’s something much more substantial to it that has even brought me to places where I’d never think I’d end up for this particular blog. Starting out insquatters’ clubs or large event halls dancing to live cumbia bands, ending up in museums and even churches for the most experimental avant-garde sound art and ambient performances. And yet it makes perfect sense. I will explain why.
Take the history of bass music, rooting in the soundsystem culture of Jamaican reggae and its inseparable Afro-diasporic cultural & political DNA. The heavy soundsystems not only enabled low frequencies to be played at these unprecedented volumes but also came with the cultural use of heavy bass as an artistic way of channeling fear, which eventually opened the way to the elaborate sound design at the low frequencies in dubstep: the most perfect example of cultural heritage, socio-political circumstances and technology influencing each other in every direction.
Another example is the most far-reaching transforming force that has occurred during the 90s and 00s, which is what I call the democratisation of electronic music production technology. In the earlier decades of electronic music, going back to the electroacoustic tapes and synthesizer pioneers from the mid 2th century, electronic music was a poorly acessible activity that required specialised knowledge and, above all, sufficient money to buy gear. Following the DIY attitude of punk and hiphop, increasing access to electronic music production has increased the pool of creativity to new music movements and subcultures that has made many turn-of-the-century genres into what they have become. Pirated cracks of the most popular programme, Fruity Loops (now known as FL studio), which pooled together sound design, midi sequencing and audio sampling into one user-friendly interface, have circulated online for free since the beginning. Being so accessible to young people anywhere in the world without the privilege to buy fancy stuff, Fruity Loops has turned out to be be the decisive tool in the development genres such as bubbling, grime, dubstep or 3ball.
The third example is another transforming force, of equal importance and inseparable from the above one and it occurred for a large part in the same period (the 00s and 10s of the new milennium): the democratisation of music sharing on the internet. In earlier times of the internet era, bloggers with pre-internet experience could still nostalgically long back to the romantic experience of record digging at obscure shops and pirate markets in countries around the world. The web changed all that into the solitary experience that I myself know so well: sitting behind a computer, scrolling through endless Soundcloud lists, wandering not from record box to record box or alley to alley but from link to link and comment to comment. Especially Soundcloud, the place where DIY producers from all over the world could now instantly share, access, sample and remix anything on the same platform, generated an unprecedented hive-like ecosystem in which obscure new sounds and hybrids could suddenly go viral overnight.
The fact that anybody anywhere could now access anything with just a mouseclick, also squeezed sounds out of their localised context and the shared social, cultural and political experiences that so often underlies music movements and subcultures. The influential music forum Hollerboard where the early Diplo and other like-minded DJs and producers pioneered with blending sounds from not only different genres and subcultures such as hiphop and rave, but also different (Western as well as non-Western) cultures, was a build up for the blogosphere that specialised in digging up unique new flavours from all around the globe to support them and present them to new, interested audiences.
The internet has not only squeezed 3ball out of its Mexican context, it squeezed EDM back in (which can, like ‘Elements’ from DJ Giovanni Ríos, certainly lead to very good music)
In the now no longer accessible post from MTV Iggy, the one that popularised the term ‘global bass’ as the ultimate umbrella genre, the question was raised whether the enthusiasm with which the blogosphere and its corresponding club nights blended genres like cumbia, balkan beats and baile funk, heralded the advent of a utopian, unified global dance future. It didn’t happen. Not at all. In stead, the attention of innovative tastemakers became dominated by an obsession with alienating, recontextualised 90s cyberculture, dystopian corporate accelerationism and eventually, plastified virtuality and present-futurist reflections. What happened? Especially, what has happened to the rhythms and flavours from the marginalised neighbourhoods from cities like Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro or Lisbon that were once praised as the forefront of innovation? With some exceptions, they are all in stormy weather and, especially in the case of Mexican 3ball, the web is to blame. The delusion of international fame and big success has driven many producers to incorporate successful formulas while at the same time allowing EDM to defeat its thousands. As a response, producers responded by either reveling in romantic memories from times before the hype, or by abandoning the genre altogether.
The democratisation of music production combined with limited communication created the unique diversity of the 90s
3Ball is no exception. Subcultures as a whole are dead. It is claimed that, at least in the West but probably anywhere, gabber (I might actually challenge this claim and say ‘cybergoth’) was the last ‘true’ subculture in the sense of a solid and all-encompassing identity that fundamentally separates the people sharing it from the ones that don’t. Everything that originated after that such as emo, scene or even something like reggaeton was much more fluid, ambiguous and interconnected with a myriad of other identities and styles. Paradoxically, the democratisation of music production combined with the relative isolation due to limited communication (think about physically circulating records, tapes or local pirate radio) created the unique diversity of the 90s, in which the Jamaican soundsystems became UK-bass in London and reggaeton in Puerto Rico, or Miami bass hiphop, transplanted to Brazil, evolved into baile funk. The democratisation of music sharing instead has resulted in the volatile whirlpool of cyber-deconstructionism we’ve been seeing since the 10s.
This whirlpool too has its own vital organs, Soundcloud being one of them but even more important are the image-sharing platform Tumblr, forum-for-everything Reddit and the controversial messageboard 4Chan. In previousposts, I’ve called them the ‘grinding mills’ of culture: devouring chunks of digital information (sounds, imagery, ideas) on the once side while churning out seemingly random amalgams on the other. In the context of post-internet culture we usually think about witch house, seapunk, vaporwave, ocean grunge or health goth, but ‘global bass’ hybrids such as balkan-cumbia, moombahton, trap-bubbling or zouk-bass are essentially the product of exactly the same process. The only essential difference being that the first movement searches for information vertically, in the obscure archives of Western pop-culture, whereas global bass’ orientation is horizontal, focused on stuff currently produced but all over the world. The ‘temporal’ and the ‘spatial’ are equally important pillars of cyber-deconstructionism, but we’ve only just started to realise it now the two are increasingly coming together: the flavours and rhythms of the global bass genres so ubiquitously feature in avant-garde club music today that the movement itself almost seems like a second round through the mill.
Elysia Crampton‘s unique take on the ‘epic collage‘ style is one of the artistically most advanced examples of cyber de- and re-constructionism involving non-Western cultural elements. The sounds of baile funk, 3ball and trap in ‘Petrichrist’ are so finely ground, so thoroughly detached from any fixed reference frame, that the full resevoir of emotive energy contained in them is released in purified form, acquiring a powerful, spiritual force.
Other attempts (usually those meant as a joke) are on the opposite end of the spectrum, barely ground, lumping together two obviously recognisable genres. Yet a ‘second round through the mill’ nonetheless: ‘Passinho do Macintosh’ by the Brazilian post-internet producerG X S T X V X.
As cyber-deconstructionism is coming of age, it becomes apparent that both the spatial and the temporal pillars have faced the same delusion: the triumphalist capitalist promise from the 90s that globalisation as well as the internet would quickly lead to a world of total unity and total equality. Hailing ‘global bass’ as the soundtrack into a utopian, unified world village reflects the same old neo-colonialist globalisation narrative that was already dead. And if globalisation is dead, naive cyber-utopianism, the narrative of the internet as a radically egalitarian place where it no longer matters who you are even if you’re a dog, is dying rapidly. Where globalisation and migration in a changing economic and political world already stirred a renewed attention for identity since the early 00s, the often uninhibited hostility of the internet, and the fluid way in which people can select their own information environment, did that even more. Bosah Ebo (1998) juxtaposes naive cyber-utopianism with the ‘cyberghetto perspective‘, in which real world structural oppression and segregation along the lines of racial, class and sexual identities are replicated online, if not amplified. Even though Generation Bass’ cyber ghetto collab has come to an abrupt end after the night in Antwerp, the concept continues to fascinate me. Ruth’s idea of recontextualising stigmatised “ratchet” imagery from 90s ‘ghetto’ culture into a positively charged, androgynous aesthetic trend, blended together with styles like grunge and Japanese kawaii, is the inseparable mirror image of Ebo’s prediction of the current online culture wars. Not surprisingly, the grinding mill websites have become infamous places where issues concerning race, class or gender are fought out: Tumblr being the motor for a whole new subculture of uncompromising social justice activism, countered by Reddit’s and 4Chan’s neo-reactionary trolling.
Cyber ghetto: grinding mill aesthetics raise questions about the significance of race, class & gender on the internet
If globalisation is dead, naive cyber-utopianism is dying rapidly
From these questions of identity to matters of privacy, cyber-paranoia about New World Order conspiracies, blurring lines between real and fake or the coming of artificial intelligence, the way in which technological innovation shapes the world has become the principal socio-political circumstance for a generation. And this is giving significance to music in the same way as themes like the American civil rights movement, industrialisation, the War on Drugs or the economic uncertainty of the 80s have done before.
Just like the worldwide local interpretations of hiphop, reggae and electronic music, popularised by the global bass movement, turned out to be too tied to their geographical socio-political contexts to be transplanted easily into the West, the reverse applies to the post-internet movement. Vaporwave‘s reflection on the 90s’ corporate promises of history evaporating into an eternity of pleasure shopping and fears of Asian technological superiority, only resonates with the collective memory of the West, even most specifically the American white middle class. Meanwhile, large parts of the rest of the world were suffering from the exploitation and political destabilisation caused by the corporate pursuit of making these vapid dreams come true. Movements such as NON Worldwide, Afrofuturism or avant-garde club, at least as I interpret them, are essentially about exposing and reclaiming technology, the tools by which natural environments are redesigned for human purpose, as a socio-political phenomenon in itself asking: whose purposes? benefiting whom? at the expense of whom or what?
At the same time, they represent an attitude of embracing instead of than rejecting or demonising technology. It is a direct countermovement against ‘indie’ culture‘s romantic obsession with imperfection, organicism and the authenticity (whatever that may be) of the past. But it also goes beyond the recent revival of neo-cyberpunk and apocalypticism found in genres like witch house and vaporwave but also EDM trap’s dark underground. Where once the hippies tried to escape from modern technology as a threat to their romantic concept of nature and humanity, cyberpunk and the industrial music movement of the 1980s sought to expose the invisible megamachine as the evil totalitarian enemy that could only be resisted by ‘hacking’: smartly adopting its material to turn the system against itself. In the 90s, cyberpunk’s increasing fascination for computers morphed into Thimothy Leary’s “turn on, boot up, jack in” ‘cyberdelicism’ and ‘cyberfetishism‘: reveling in sexual-spiritual dreams of ‘becoming one’ with technology. In the last half decade, that cycle has repeated (interestingly, roughly five times as fast: 1968 – 2001 ; 2008 – 2016). This blurring boundary between our everyday lived reality and the imaginations of science fiction, ever accelerating and constantly balancing between utopia and dystopia, kitsch and spiritual transcendence, is what Adam Harper calls the ‘21th century experience‘. Artists and label curators consciously play with these themes, thence names such as Escape From Nature, Infinite Machine or What Do I See.
Celestial Trax‘ new EP is a perfect example of how, with a combination of sound and titles, avant-garde club music can meditate on the question who we are in an increasingly posthuman world.
uv ac‘s new mixtape: the latest wave of internet underground music, often no longer subsumable under the umbrella of ‘club music’, plays with themes of heaven, angels, and uplifting tenderness. The sound combines ethereal ambient with happy rave, autotune rap and RnB, romantic cinematic soundtracks and sometimes traces of ‘global bass’ rhythms, accompanied by oos emo-aesthetics, sad-cute clip-art and stock photo kitsch. Whether this should be seen as an expression of ‘cyber-piety’ or merely 00s teenage culture going into the grinding mills can’t be said yet.
Digital technology has itself become a culture of its own, offering a widely shared experience that is at the same time mind-expanding, liberating and addictive in essentially the same way as psychedelic drug culture was in the 60s and 70s. This has built a new kind of cultural heritage, now ready to be added into the grinding mill for yet a third round. After all, cultural heritage is nothing more than a sufficiently isolated ecosystem of social and material technologies, solidified into conventions over a long-enough period of time. And once these temporary new conventions, isolations and identities are in turn broken, recontextualised and fused with new elements, we’ve got a new round in the carousel of modern culture. What exactly will come out this time, we can’t tell yet, but we can be sure that whatever will go into the mill is a combination of different cultural heritages, old and new alike, that the process is driven by developments that shape the world, and that the new socio-political issues brought to light in this new world will certainly influence the outcome.
Accessible music production and sharing technology has created a spiralling vortex of consecutive rounds through the grinding mill. As it happens, it is still too early to be too sure about the specific influence of specific technologies or circumstances. The influence of mobile phones has created the practice of ‘sodcasting’ and youth’s relative indifference to quality sound on the low frequencies. And there’s certainly a visible attention shift going on in productions towards crystalline treble.
Now the residue of the second round is solidifying, it is becoming clear that this turbulent carousel process seems to have unlocked the secret to the ‘spirit of modernism’ such as envisioned by Adam Harper in his already classic work Infinite Music – Imagining the Next Milennium of Human Music Making, in a way accessible for everyone. As a result, the most stubbornly unbridgeable of all boundaries, that has dominated music virtuall forever, is finally eroding: the one between popular and classical music, between the passionate bedroom-punk and the formally trained concert hall musician. No wonder why Harper has been the quintessential thinker recognising, documenting and intellectually interpreting all the essential innovative waves in music right as they happened. Turning to the undergrounds of young autodidacts on the internet as the place where the action is, the action and continuously innovating energy that the 20th century modernist composers so often lacked.
The most stubbornly unbridgeable of all boundaries is finally eroding: the one between popular and classical music
Add to this the prospect of new ways of music making still waiting ahead and their eventual democratisation. Or what if no longer humans, but artificial intelligences will join the arena of creativity? What if future transhuman extensions of the senses or information processing will extend the range of music that can be perceived and understood? That is why it is essential to zoom in on technology and spiral in one move from a warm-blooded electronic cumbia party to a hyperfuturistic, conceptual avant-garde performance. Otherwise, I’d have ended up at a big festival stage, like so many from the scene that global bass once was, unconsciously escaping into yet another grinding mill product, built up from a hyped up version of Dutch laser synths and hardstyle drums I’ve grown up with, and canned snippets of hip-hop from Atlanta or dancehall from Jamaica, strategically mashed together to squeeze endorphins out of my pituitary gland. Or I’d have chosen instead to turn my gaze backwards, to any possible era in the history of any genre capable of upholding the illusion of being pure and impassioned compared to today’s ever less comprehensible tangle. In both cases, I’d have abandoned the focus forward, to new movements, new sounds and flavours, bubbling up all over the world. IRL or URL, the very reason why this blog exists.
I’m a cultural-historian of science and my theoretical knowledge of musicology doesn’t go into that much depth so I’d love to have feedback from readers who are more firmly grounded into these matters.
Sarantis has just set up his new label, Designated Records, who have kicked things off with this brilliant new free grime release.
This takes in all the trademark Sarantis Grime sounds that you would have become accustomed too by now following his recent output with us. The mood of this really does take us back to the excitement of the early Sarantis sound which he perfected during his Dubstep years!
This is just great and we’re all looking forward to more great stuff that this new label will be dropping that is bound to catch the ear of the underground in more ways than one.
Awesome new EP of Romanian music from Swedish Skweee pioneer Joxaren just dropped.
It focuses on Tallava or Talava, an oriental-sounding music genre originating in Kosovo but also popular in Albania and in the Albanian-speaking communities in the Republic of Macedonia. It is identified as part of the wider Pop-folk genre of the Southeastern Europe, which includes Chalga from Bulgaria, Skiladiko from Greece, Manele from Romania and Turbo-folk from Serbia.
The EP includes an original and 3 awesome remixes from our dude Center of the Universe and a romping Sebastian Gudding remix amongst others.
SPECIAL LIMITED SUPPORT DEAL: For the first two weeks after release, all earnings from the sales of this EP on Bandcamp will be donated to the singer and his family in Pitești, Romania. This will support basic needs such as firewood, roofing and school material for their children. Donate as much as you wish.
Seriously Hot Mix here from our boy Streamer taking in all of his recent remixes, edits and originals.
This mix travels from Africa to the Middle East and goes to some weird and interesting places in between. It also takes in some tracks from the recent “Walking with Camels Remixed” EP. Covers Voodoo, Gqom, Footwork, Afro House, Samba, Dubstep, Neurofunk and Arab Bass. So much quality in this.
Whilst you’re at it download some of the tracks that feature in the mix: