Artwork via: x̸e͟no͝pu͏nk̶
After such a long silence, I’ve got to cover more than two months of an ever forward moving music landscape. Therefore a double edition with the most essential and guiding releases, 22 in total. I tried to balance between saving text and doing justice to the music.
If there is anyone I could call my all-time favourite artist, it would be the experimental sound collage artist and inspirational Latinx trans revolutionary Elysia Crampton. She describes her newest album as an epic poem. I had the opportunity seeing it live a couple of months ago at Progress Bar Amsterdam, where Elysia opened the night with a powerful performance, combining music with live recited poetry and engaging visuals of videogame dungeons, technofuturist sci-fi impressions and historical and present recordings of indigenous Bolivian people and their struggle for justice. The poetry, part of the theatre production ‘Dissolution of the Sovereign: A Time Slide into the Future’ paints a post-colonial sci-fi setting in which the citizens of NON have destroyed the oppressive structures of today’s world and have built their own high-technological future, linked back and forth with the queer-indigenous history of Bartolina Sisa, leader of an indigenous uprise in 18th century Bolivia which was brutally knocked down by the colonisers, and her body cut into pieces.
The performance was one of the few times where I had a truly transformative emotional experience on the dance floor (the other times being Kamixlo and Total Freedom). I have no other words for it than crying tears of fire, bringing to the surface resevoirs of emotions and aspects of existence that’d otherwise remain buried under solid rock layers of colonial oppression. The Demon City is the metaphor for the excavation of the voice of dispossessed and queer trans indigenous people and, as Crampton explained in her talks session before the club night, breaking the imposed binaries of identity, to which queer trans people of colour are condemned worldwide. The collaborative project is a defining elaboration of the conceptual ‘severo’ style: “an ongoing process of becoming-with, made possible by the family-networks and communities that have inspired and sustained our survival and collective search for transformative justice.” Contributions are by Why Be, Rabit, Chino Amobi and Lexxi and released on the Break World Records label, which also signed James Ferraro, Goth Money, Sagan Youth, Hot Sugar and Teengirl Fantasy.
The melancholic-epic leading track ‘The Demon City’ with Rabit, most striking in the Severo style’s approach of transforming theatrical kitch into something hyper-meaningfull
The energetic Dummy Track, featuring a diablada-like percussion beat, served as a pre-released teaser for the album
Lexxi’s wavy, crystalline, emotional club tune Red Eyez is a bridge between The Demon City and his own EP 5TARBO1
2. Erelitha (STAYCORE 117)
The Stockholm based label and collective STAYCORE 117 is a unique initiative, supporting young, innovative minded producers with an intimate, family-like community that is gradually extending, online but especially IRL. ERELITHA is the follow-up of last year’s Summer Jams 2K15 compilation with which the label put itself on the map. As Dinamarca explained to The Fader, instead of the geographically excluding concept of ‘summer’, ERELITHA is thematically built around the concept of capturing lightest possible light. This reflects both in the music, which strongly draws from saccharine bright retro-rave sounds, and in the equally impressive artwork by Jonna Mayer, which transforms a sulfuric surface lake of Titan or Io into a mysterious cotton-candy wonderland.
The compilation involves contributions from Staycore’s core members like Dinamarca, Toxe, Mechatok and Mobilegirl, but also from close affiliates like Zutzut (NAAFI), MM (Her Records), Pininga, RESLA and Oklou (TGAF) – who’s crystalline futuristic dancehall/afrohouse track is my absolute favourite track of the whole compilation! – as well as the (relative) new names jackie and the promising talent Don Sinini.
Over the last year, much has been written already in the major music mags about the mysterious formation made up of LIT INTERNET (Kamchatka, Russia), LIT DAW (Ukraine) and LIT EYNE (Siberia, Russia). They combine net-art flavoured 90s angelic tribal tattoo, stock photo and black metal aesthetics with intense cybernetic-ambient-club music, communicate via the encrypted messenger service Telegram and have never met in person. Very cyberpunk and very post-internet avant-garde. Musically, they occupy the middle ground between the abstract, industrial side of avant-garde club and the more dark melodicness found in the heirs of ambient-trap and witch house. After their debut EP ‘Angelysium’ last year and their follow-ups ‘3000‘ and ‘META‘ (Infinite Machine), they are back now with aNEP on the New York based avant-garde label Purple Tape Pedigree.
WWINGS have found their unique place on the music spectrum. They keep moving forward, but always make sure the combinations are balanced. Between rhythmical and abstract, percussive and melodic, ethereal and dark, experimental and danceable. Chimera is no exception. Perhaps, the word Chimera, which means hybrid, is even symbolic for this persistent, unique duality they incorporate. We’ll never know. They notoriously deny that their music has any rational or even abstractly sensible concept or narrative behind it apart from their inspirations drawn from life in different parts of the post-Soviet part of the world and from life on the internet. Also check out their even fresher release ‘PHOENIXXX‘ (Planet Mu).
4. OnlyNow – Hollow EP
It is already a year ago since OnlyNow, an experimental side project of bass alrounder Kush Arora, debuted with one of last year’s most underrated works: a breathtakingly forward looking self-titled EP combining subtly dark, cinematic cyberpunk ambient with organic percussive rhythms derived from African and Afro-diasporic styles like kuduro, tarraxo and gqom. Now, a summer later, he pushes his sound even further with an again self-released EP including a special feature on the music magazine XL8R. On top of the elaborated ethereal and dramatic soundscapes, polyrhythmic percussion patterns and industrial noise, this EP adds a strong melodic element. This makes ‘Hollow’ not just a vivid conceptual submersion into an Octavia Butlerian technofuture that could resemble Elysia Crampton’s, but also incredibly engaging on the emotional level.
There are collaborations that are a very logical result of how scenes and movements develop. Like-minded producers that release on the same labels or have a similar approach to sound. And then there are collaborations that seem to come more or less out of the blue. This joint EP by Mexican experimental and ruidosón OG Siete Catorce and the Hungarian tropicalist Stas is one of the latter category. Even though Siete Catorce seems to be extending his focus towards Europe with an EP via te Porgtuguese global bass imperium Enchufada and Stas has toured Mexico earlier this year together with the Kumbale crew, this collab was not at all obvious. And the not-so-obvious is precisely where the good things happen, because Fata Morgana EP – what’s in a name – is as unexpected as it can possibly get. ‘Fantasma’ is best described as psychedelic DnB, whereas ‘Espejismo’ navigates the middle ground between future bass, avant-garde club and dark trap. And then there is Stas with a recognisably percussive flip of ‘Fantasma’ and Siete Catorce with an even more mystical rework of ‘Espejismo’ that draws in elements of afrohouse, techno, club, cumbia and ambient.
On a side note, it is also interesting to watch the aesthetic development of the Babylon label, which started off pioneering with minimalist lino print style monochrome designs and is exploring a more post-internet leaning style since a year now but in a refreshingly unique way.
6. 2y (This is Kuduro)
Exactly a year ago, the enigmatic but impressively active kuduro channel and label celebrated its first year of existence with a compilation that we also included in our 8th essential roundup. There are many reasons why This Is Kuduro is an incredibly exciting label and an example for what is lacking so often in music in this age of post-bandwagon cyber-deconstructionist grinding mill culture. ‘This is Kuduro’ is extraordinary in its commitment to supporting both continuity in a genre as a consistent genre and at the same time diversifying the sound within the genre instead of recycling one template as well as building a persistent community around a genre from all over the world, smoothly integrating global bass producers with people from the original kurudo scene. On this compilation you hear Nazar’s dark-industrial sound alongside housy grooves from 2Pekes (Portugal) and Neki (Serbia), festival-EDM bangerism from Round2 (USA) and the unmistakably Lisbon batida flavoured beats from Dj KappaJota (Portugal), Dj Mika (Portugal) and EdiCerelac (Portugal).
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Where ‘This is Kuduro’ is a beacon of consistence continuity against the relentless grinding mills of internet, KABLAM’s music is cyber-deconstructionism in its most magnificent form. Categorisable, if possible at all, not as club music but rather as experimental electronica or even as avant-garde ‘classical’ music, her soundscapes draw in drums from genres like hardcore, club, baile funk and reggaeton blended with sampled pop and classical references and eery everyday sounds, which together create a throat-gripping cinematic ambient sound collage that is a powerful, confrontational mirror for our times. In this sense, the Swiss, Berlin based sound artist KABLAM can be called the Western counterpart of what WWWINGS do for the post-soviet world, yet employing an even broader range of elements combinations and vibes. And where Elysia Crampton’s collages are outspokenly explicit narratives about the struggle for justice and WWWINGS’ are outspokenly random, KABLAMs approach is somewhat in the middle. While feminist, anti-fascist and anti-capitalist anger about the world’s state of being is always a driving force, in her music it remains implicit and observing, making the listener feel along but on a deep, subconscious level. The title ‘Furiosa’ is illustrative for this: an allusion to the inspiring fearlessness and decisiveness of the protagonist and anti-patriarchy freedom fighter from the ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ film.
The album mix takes you on a Mad Max-like trip through our own world. Furiosa knows the direction and the mission, you as listener don’t, but you trust her and that takes the fear away.
8. Pirata 3 (NAAFI)
Pirata 3 is the third in a series that intend to bridge the bleeding edge avant-garde with the known and familiar, in home country Mexico, in Latin America and also worldwide. This translates into the most unreal mashups of reggaeton, pop and baile funk with hard hitting industrial drums, weird sounds and futuristic synths. Next to established NAAFI members like Lao, Paul Marmota and ZutZut, Imaabs and HiedraH Club de Baile’s Tayhana, but also the forward looking duo Santa Muerte, Mexico City cumbiaton OG Dj Bekman, enigmatic avant-club project Traxmatik and the Brazilian trainblazer Pininga, all of whom have worked with NAAFI before and now firmly embedded in Latin America’s most exciting, ever extending club music family.
Metaljackets is the new duo project of urban-eclectic & bass producer INDISA, whom we’ve supported several times during the heydays of moombahton, together with EDM bangerista SVNCHZ. With this debut on Munchi’s Selegna Records label, a label which is selective with its releases, they have aqcuired a solid place in the spotlights. ‘Bulletproof’ marks an important turning point in the relationship between the Dutch urban-eclectic scene, American EDM and the passionate under-stream remnants of the early ’10s global bass scene. Where the loud festival sound pushed by Mad Decent used to be the almost irresistable magnet force for producers in the global bass family of genres, producers are now returning more towards to the sound of the undergrounds beneath the hypes of the bygone years. And the Dutch scene is doing this together with movements from other parts of the world, more integrated than ever before.
In a time where what Metaljackets describe as “pop-bow”, varying from Justin Bieber to Major Lazer to Drake, reigns supreme, and cyber-deconstructions reign the avant-garde, a growing number of producers is gradually moving back to the original genres that have fed into today’s sonic landscape. Don’t mistake this movement for nostalgia or a lack of innovation. On the contrary, by broadening the sound scope while doing justice to the coherence of genres and avoiding homogenisation, much of this sounds refreshingly new. Much of it is still sitting quite close to festival EDM, with the combined explosiveness of DnB and hardstyle accompanying the persistent punching Dutch-kick tresillos, but it is the notable realness breathing through every vibration on this album that makes all difference.
Loyalty XIX, whom I believe is also the owner of the Total Trax label, is a relatively new name and certainly one of the most recognisable pioneers of the avant-garde club movement in Spain. In my experience, one of the characteristic features of the avant-garde club movement, especially when compared to a movement like future-bass/futurebeats, was the tendency towards crude productions, using old vsts that create a subtle retro cyberfuture feeling and DIY/bedroompunk flavoured minimalistic mastering and demo-esque track structures. I must add that this does not at all apply to every artist affiliated to this broad and diverse movement, but on the whole it was characteristic enough to wonder what the industrialistic, cyborgian sound would sound like when combined with the crispy, widely reverbed epicness found in much of the more mainstream corners electronic music. Loyalty XIX’ debut on the Spanish avant-garde label Total Trax is a hint direction. It takes the essence of the cybernetic club formula that has been gradually developing over a long time, but in a way that seems to polish and crystallise it into a blockbusterised version of itself. ‘CELICA’, a reference to the 2006 Toyota sports car as a car to choose in a racing game, is an incredibly powerful experience that, no matter how danceable still, feels like a immersive, haptic gaming experience from beginning to end.
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