More than 2 full months into 2k17 now and there are still tons of essential releases that cannot be left unblogged on Generation Bass. The stuff that has come out in the last months of 2k16 belong to the year’s best releases and give most insight in where stuff will move towards from now. See this much belated post as a springboard into the music landscape that is taking shape right now.
Abyss X is my favourite artist at the moment and opening the Pantropical night in Rotterdam with her on the lineup has been the best experience of the year so far. Her intense, confrontational and consciously disorienting approach to music has resulted in two equally groundbreaking releases in 2016. The first, ‘Mouthed‘ was released by last year’s tone setter, Rabit‘s Halcyon Veil, followed about a month later by ‘Nüshu’, on the forward looking Mexican-Canadian label Infinite Machine. In a way only parallelled by Elysia Crampton and very few others, Abyss X evokes a very unique spectrum of emotions and experiences. By fusing elements from ambient, techno, traditional folk, industrial, noise, metal and opera as well as pop references and afro-Latin bass rhythms, she shows a peek into a future after the wave of cybernetic and deconstructed club music as we know it. In this respect, she is definitely one of the most important artists to watch this year.
Involved in the Dutch vogue scene as well as in Shanghai’s budding club underground around pioneer tastemaker Tavi Lee (who also made the design) and Berlin Community Radio’s Incubator programme, the Berlin based Chinese producer RUI HO is a known name in many cornerst of the music world. Ru Meng Ling is their first release on the Shanghai based Genome 6.66 Mbp label. ‘Ru Meng Ling’, based on a poem by the influential female Chinese poet Li Qingzhao, articulates non-binary identity in the context of the internet, virtual identity building and Chinese cultural heritage with an energetic blend of distorted polyrhythmic beats, bell percussion and a cyberpunk flavoured high octane drive. Tho complete the EP, Why Be delivers an even rougher remix that zooms in on all the individual elements of the original like a magnifying glass and twists them into a psychedelic, intensified experience.
3. TRENDY PACK 1 (TRENDY DECAY)
When this compilation first appeared on my Soundcloud feed, I’d never heard of TRENDY DECAY, a collective created by LUNARIOS, RULES & BOY. Unfortunately, because they’ve been active for a while now, bringing a unique blend of dark, emotional RnB melodies and vocals, deconstructed afro-Latin club rhythms and powerful black metal & gothic aesthetics. Closely involved with the Bala Club crew, where LUNARIOS released the mighty ‘ENTRA EP‘ (another essential release we slept on), this compilation brings together some of the most on point producers of this moment, including Merca Bae, Kamixlo, WWWINGS, Swan Meat, Coucou Chloe and Santa Muerte. Even though they are involved in the new wave club movement and are making deconstructed hybrids of some sort, the sound explored here 1 is notably distinct from the cybernetic club formula. TRENDY PACK 1 sounds like the first in a row of compilations, which I’m convinced will guide the way into the sound of 2k17.
One of the most intriguing developments that have occurred in the avant-garde of the new wave club movement is that not just the boundaries between individual genres have become fluid, or the boundaries between umbrella categories such as ‘electronic’, ‘club’ or ‘experimental’ music, but even the boundaries between the ultimate decried conservatory binary of ‘light music’ and ‘modern classical music’. This scene has been bringing together sounds from worldwide local club undergrounds or from bedroom rappers and producers, to be experienced in clubs or via cellphone speakers, with conceptual, experimental audio art, suitable for classical concert halls. This materialisation of Adam Harper’s vision outlined in his fundamental work ‘Infinite Music: Imagining the Next Milennium of Human Music Making‘ has confronted us as a blog with a number of fundamental questions. What are the criteria we use to select music? What is the meaning of terms such as ‘club’, ‘bass’, ‘dance’, ‘global’ etc.? Isn’t finding our way through our existence in the context of accelerating technology and the corresponding social, political and cultural circumstances not what binds music together across all the different areas where music is being pushed forward?
Strikingly, Eaves’ background reflection to his album, or in fact, full blown classical concert piece – “if reality mimics our ominous, fictional projections of the future, it’s clear that our current systems aren’t resisting as much as they should be” – comes strikingly close to the description of my own mixtape, published almost two years ago now. Apparently, the line from underground dance music expressions from different corners of the world, cybernetic club deconstruction and conceptual sound compositions destined to shake up the modern-classical world is a very obvious one. This is strikingly visible in Eaves’ own work. While conceptual and experimental from the start, it leaned towards clubbier vibes on the EP ‘HUE‘, moving a more into more abstract territory on ‘GORILLA‘ while reaching full abstract epiphany with ‘Verloren’. ‘Verloren’ (German/Dutch for ‘Lost’) is an overwhelming, emotionally exhausting journey that moves through desolate, ruined worlds, painted with layers of wide ambient scapes, fragile melodies, menacing bass sounds, explosive abstract beats, haunting vocal samples and transcendental choir chants. Together with the work of musicians like Chino Amobi or Elysia Crampton, I am convinced that ‘Verloren’ will be looked back at as the most essential music created in our times.
Like Eaves, many more producers are on the same road of experimental club abstraction and cyber deconstruction towards conceptual sound art, each in their own way. Swan Meat is one of the most promising examples. It is remarkable how quickly, and seemingly out of the blue, new talents can appear into view. When I heard her set at c a r e #4 I was completely overwhelmed. Her relentless, complex blend of menacing atmospheres, warped pop references, poetic vocals straight out of the uncanny valley, abstract hardcore inspired beats, and the raging energy of metal, keeps intriguing, constantly switching between minimalism and maximalism, abstraction and rhythmical groove.
After a number of promising mixtapes and tracks on compilations for platforms including Classical Trax‘ side-label JEROME, Shanghai’s Genome 6.66 Mbp and the activist initiative Co-Op, Bounty is her official debut, released via the Paris based avant-garde multimedia platform Permalink and premiered via Thump. She told Thump, about the background leading up to the EP. ‘Bounty’, which deals with issues of embodyment, is the condensation of the alternate forms of embodyment in poetry and sound that helped the producer climb out of her struggle with bulimia nervosa. Her characteristic sound, created with self-build plugins and game samples, is accompanied by a gripping design from the Hungarian forward looking art genius Gergö Kovacs.
The Uruguayan SALVIATEK label, started by Lechuga Zafiro & Pobvio, keeps occupying a peculiar space on the map of interconnected music scenes. They are operating mostly in the corner of the new wave club avant-garde, yet their sound is refreshingly different than most of what’s going around in that scene. The rhythmical structures are percussive, less abstract polyrhythms and seem much more focused on reinterpreting indigenous and Afro-Uruguayan heritage than on deconstruction and abstraction. Yet, where the South American part of the old global bass movement, think about labels as ZZK or Frente Bolivarista, is commonly characterised by a romantic representation of nature and ancestrality, reflected in organically flavoured (pseudo)acoustic sounds, SALVIATEK is the exact opposite. Somewhat resembling the philosophies of Eco Futurism Corp or Xenopunk, SALVIATEK’s vision is about breaking down the binary between nature and technology. In their own words:
“What happens when an AI learns from nature and decides to imitate it in order to survive? In a probable future, the limit between nature and technology is no longer definable. CPU’s control the jungle, birds are cameras and roots are circuits. The world has been taken by the technologic jungle and this system dominate all other species, including humans. By night, when the Salviatek flows in the techno-organisms and metallic chlorophyl does the audio-synthesis, the survivors dance to this biorhythms from their underground hiding.”
‘Hélices’ is the debut of SALVIATEK’s freshest addition, the Brazilian avant-garde producer Superfície, whose minimalistic, percussive ambient style is created from abstracted rhythmical structures of genres like baile funk, vogue and dembow. With these elements, ‘Hélices’ paints conceptual, sci-fi ambiances that bring to mind images of complex, artificial lifeforms, digitised indigenous knowledge and the diffusion of high-tech beyond the asphalted road network. The EP is completed by two more energetic, club-ready remixes by foozool and umurmurum.
Last month, the ‘future tarraxo‘ microgenre tured 3 years of age. Evolving mainly out of Bison‘s mellow, melodic approach to the tarraxinha genre, it took off full force with ‘Odyssey of the Mind‘, in my view the best thing ever released on our own Generation Bass label, where Bison teamed up with Miguel Afonso a.k.a. Squareffekt. It would be the beginning of a successful formula, pushed by influential platforms like Enchufada, Thump and Boiler Room.
Coming out of a period of silence and reorientation, they are working on a substantial comeback this year, finding themselves in a thoroughly post-global bass world, where both sci-fi sounds and afrodiasporic rhythms reign supreme in both avant-garde and mainstream, but where most pre-2015-style microgenres have evaporated into the digital air. ‘Distant Planets’, casually referring to the frequent popular excitement about NASA’s discovery of new exoplanets, is their first release that is entirely uptempo. The 2-track mini-EP still carries the characteristic 80s space-age melancholy that made them unique, yet with a more energetic, even heavy undertone. ‘Cosmic Fellings’ is a destructive afrohouse track, keeping ambiguous whether ‘fellings’ refers to natural processes or to the ruination by humans or other intelligent civilisations. ‘Distant Planets’ is a Mexican-style 3ball tune that brings out the desolate dramatism and gripping coldness of outer space worlds. With astroid mining and a new space era gradually unfolding in the course of this century, I view the EP as a commentary on the issues of exploration and colonial destruction translated to the context of space travel. Political space music for the 21st century.
8. Club Chai Vol. 1 (CLUB CHAI)
Club Chai is an Oakland based initiative by foozool and 8ULENTINA, with a recurring party and a show on London’s influential Radar Radio, focused on diasporic narratives, women and trans artists, DJs and producers. Their blend of mainly RnB, dancehall, club sounds in the broadest sense and non-Western pop and traditional music, pushed on the club nights and in the shows has now resulted into the first, exciting compilation that brings together artists from many different corners of the music scene, including Generation Bass’ cumbia favourite Turbo Sonidero, SALVIATEK’s Lechuga Zafiro, Manchester’s DJ Florentino and Bala Club affiliate Organ Tapes, alongside many other artists worth checking out, never before blogged on Generation Bass such as The Creatrix. Musically too, the spectrum covered on this compilation goes way beyond what’s usually seen in the club avant-garde, extending into salsa, techno and acoustic guitar songs. This refreshing diversity combined with cultural and political substance makes Club Chai a very important frontrunner for 2017.
I’ve been a fan of both GIL’s energetic dancehall, kizomba & dembow inflused club tracks and Aisha Devi‘s Danse Noire label, where I heard eye-opening dark flavoured experimental blends of abstract industrial, hardcore, grime & ambient for the first time. Coming from a sound that could come surprisingly close to global bass, GIL has notably moved towards darker experimental sound in his more recent productions. This exploration is now crowned with a release on Danse Noire. ‘Orchids and Wasps’ combines relentless distorted drums, noisy dystopian soundscapes and haunting vocal samples, with GIL’s passion for afro-latin club flavours and polyrhythms.
I’ve been following Eco Futurism Corp for quite a while already, and even thoughI never came so far to blog any of it here on Generation Bass, I’m really stoked about ever more artists emerging from this movement such as Tropical Interface, SHYQA, HERBARIUM and now ZRDZM (ZRD) who debuted via Eco Futurism Corp subsidiary Bio Future Laboratory. Especially with the rise of cosmic horror aesthetics, this EP is fundamental. ‘XX’ touches upon many crucial aspects of today’s exponential age, from immortality and artificial life to high-energy experimental physics as well as the Lovecraftian horroresque awe that surround these matters. ZRDZM’s style is best placed in the conceptual sci-fi ambient corner, with long stretched soundscapes, thoroughly abstracted, suggestive rhythmical elements and lots of cinematic samples that construct a lively, almost interactive videogame-like experience. And the worlds painted are as dark, alienating and overwhelming as the future we may have ahead.
11. OO-B – ÁFRICA, ENCANTADA
Together with Abyss X, the Montpellier based producer OO-B is one of the most unique artists I’ve got to know lately. A producer and rapper with a background in grime, he stands out, both sound-wise and aesthetically, from most of what’s going on in the scenes working with forward-looking club and bass music. Where most of his older work is clearly grime, with ‘África, encantada’ (Spanish for: “Africa, nice to meet you” as well as “enchanted Africa”), he moves into experimental club & music, which seems to draw from genres including grime, vogue, afrohouse, kizomba, deep ambient, new wave club and hiphop, yet it doesn’t sound at all like the sounds going around in either the new wave club or the global bass related scenes. The sound is melodic, melancholic, percussive and somewhat mysterious, yet fascinatingly uncategorisable on any possible level. With this self-released EP, OO-B shows that it is still possible to make music independently of dominant movements, approaches and formulas.
12. Katasonix – ()
From the depths of the internet, where meme charming chaos magicians and occult cyber clairvoyants are initiated in the secret principles behind the forces that govern our information based reality, hails the enigmatic soundcloud channel Katasonix, named after Kode9‘s first label name. The Kode9 reference goes further, especially his involvement with the with Nick Land’s mysterious Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, as the title names are all drawn from ccru’s Pandemonium.
The tracks themselves are complex patterns, constructed from analog synth recordings, that sound like a language. They leave the gut feeling that they carry a hidden message to decipher. I leave the interpretation to the listener. Yet I am convinced that this whole new way of treating patterns in sound, free from intuitively human ways of processing music, while intriguing enough to listen and enjoy, will open many new oportunities for music making in the near future.