In the midst of a totally reshuffling music landscape, 2015 has so far been the best year for music in a long time. In a way it looks like 2009, very early days of what would come to be known as ‘global bass’, when a small circle of enthusiasts, producers, dj’s and bloggers, engaged in a passionate underground community on the internet, passing around the freshest finds from all over the world to remix, mashup, insert into mixtapes and to make the next round of tracks with ever more influences and flavours. The atmosphere was to inspire and to be inspired and to celebrate the diversity of the most exciting club and bass music coming from places ranging from Baltimore to Luanda, from Rio de Janeiro to Tilburg.
Then came the mainstream media attention and the rise to fame of one platform from this underground, becoming EDM’s innovation magician, drawing hype after hype out of its hat. But under the covered table supporting that hat was still this underground, blogs like Generation Bass, who kept on finding and, against our will, scouting talent from around the world who could then readily be grabbed by the ears and pulled through the hat. Hyped as if they were created out of nowhere. And the scene labelled as global/tropical bass became a race to be seen and heard by the big fish, with a sound already pre-crafted for the festival stages, ending up with a meaningless final genre which took the concept of EDM + hipster exoticism to the extreme (you know what I’m talking about).
Today, the vibe from 2009 is back like never before. There is a vibrant community on the rise, remarkably uninterested in self-promotion. Instead they find each other in finding the most exciting talent to involve in their circle, to mix and experiment, with an amount of energy and enthusiasm that keeps stunning me every day. But the wind is blowing from a different corner now. This time it aren’t the old global or tropical bass folks any more.
I am talking about the club-trax avant-garde, with Dj Rueckert‘s Classical Trax community taking the lead. They connect the club undergrounds of Baltimore, Jersey & Philly with grime, vogue, baile funk, 3ball, future reggaeton, dancehall, kuduro, gqom and more. Even cumbia is making its entry! On a personal note, what I´ve seen in this scene so far is so vastly superior to anything I´ve experienced during my years in ‘global bass’, a scene which I entered at its peak, right before the inevitable downfall. The trax scene is refreshingly free of the need to rebrand Afro-Latin & African flavours as exotic, ‘tropical’. They don’t even seem to avoid it actively, it’s simply out of the question. Baltimore, London, São Paulo and Durban have truly become unquestionable equals here and what binds everyone together are the club, the internet and the music, the trax. I realised that the artificial anti-eurocentrism in the global bass scene and the whole notion of certain music genres being ‘non-western’, no matter how ‘politically conscious’, all too easily becomes a twisted concept, hypocritical and offensive to all those producers in the scene who live in and fully belong to North America and Western Europe.
What has come in place are avant-garde visuals shaped by movements like healthgoth, DIS Magazine and post-internet aesthetics. In a sense, the club-trax scene encompasses the original heart of global bass as well as the heart of the other excitement from the last five years, the post-internet underground (witch house, seapunk, vaporwave and derivative microgenres). I’ve been predicting and promoting such fusion for more than a year. Now it is suddenly there, and in an unexpected way, more exciting than I could ever have imagined. No wonder that most of the list of Essential EP’s on Generation Bass have been coming from the trax scene for many editions in a row now. And let’s start right away with the leaders of the movement: Classical Trax’ Architecture compilation!
1. Classical Trax – Architecture… The Compilation
‘Architecture’ is an gigantic, 26 track compilation, divided into two Chapters, that includes a treasure of better and lesser known artists with a very diverse set of styles and flavours but with grime as its main ingredient.
2. NAAFI – PIRATA 2
Probably nowhere else do the club-trax avant-garde, Latin bass and urban genres come so close together as in the Mexico City based netlabel NAAFI. After a couple of months release-silence they’re back this week with the absolutely mouthwatering second edition of their Pirata pack series. Like we saw in the first edition, Pirata is a seamless blend of remix and mashup elements, acapella editing (something very common in the Latin American urban underground) and original productions flow together into one whole that is at the same time nostalgically accessible, and uncannily futuristic. Pirata 2 whirls fromexperimental grime and industrial sounds to underground reggaeton to Nicki Minaj and Drake, and the result borders on the absolute perfection.
3. //WDIS – _VIRALITY
//WDIS, acronym for What Do I See, is a Berlin based avant-garde label, also strongly involved in the club trax scene which is like Classical Trax one of the rising projects to watch in the near future. Their 7 track mini compilation _VIRALITY, adorned with a mindblowing artwork of what I believe is a big-data network connectivity visualisation, has been out for some weeks now and it generated a lot of enthusiasm in small circles on the internet already. NAAFI nestor Lao appears on it, together with promising members from the trax scene, including the healthgoth futurist DJ NJ Drone. Seven forward-looking grime club tracks inspired by the mysterious, biological properties of the internet.
4. Favela Wave – FAVELA TRAP HOUSE
A whole different kind of fusion between global bass and the post-internet underground is emerging in Brazil. Vaporwave is a vivid online subculture in Brazil and for every international style goes that at some point in time, a homegrown hybrid variant will emerge that adapts its aesthetics and elements to the local context.
That’s exactly what happens at the freshly established audiovisual platform Favela Wave, launched by the enigmatic Brazilian video designer KOI. The Tumblr page shows an eery, deconstructionist combination of vaporwave aesthetics, glitched and accelerationist brand-logo edits of Brazilian life and harsh favela scenery. The YouTube channel takes it to an even higher level by editing Chicago-drill, Brazilian hiphop and baile funk tunes into post-internet flavours that vary from lush future funk to suffocatingly dark witchhouse (<< this one is pure GOLD check it out!!).
The music to accompany these visuals is provided by a newly emerging underground of Brazilian avant-garde producers such as JAKZ, godjira and Vini ダサい, who are with one leg in online scenes such as vapor-trap/trillwave, dark trap and with the other in Brazilian urban club sounds like funk and rasterinha. This is a whole different kind of movement than the turn-of -the-decade neo-funk movement which tried to make the sound of the favela accessible to a wider electronic music audience. This is a new generation exploring ways to reflect on a rapidly changing, contemporary Brazil. In that sense it is comparable to what’s going on at NAAFI, but less trax-y and a lot darker.
The first fruits of Favela Wave as a label are bundled in a massive 14 track compilation full of brutal, futuristic dark-trap baile-funk hybrid stompers!
5. Deltatron – Ritmo & Sustancia EP
The Peruvian latin-bass alrounder Deltatron is a very interesting artist. As creator of the ‘dumbia‘ genre and founder of the label Terror Negro Records, he belongs to the circle of artists supported by the blogosphere since the early days of the global bass scene. On the other hand, he is one of the very few from that era, especially in the cumbia scene, who is at the same time so clearly part of new emerging urban-Latin avant garde à la NAAFI. Integration is happening in many parts of the scene right now but Deltatron is one of the most outspoken examples and apparently without a too drastic style-switch.
He was recently spotlighted again as a producer for the rising next-gen reggaeton artist Tomasa del Real and on this fresh EP that came out some weeks back on El Flying Monkey Records, it’s the avant garde duo Santa Muerte making their appearance. Ritmo & Sustancia is an EP with 7 pumping tracks that completely distroy the boundaries between ‘global bass’ as we know it and the future generation of Latin music that is taking shape right now.
6. Siete Catorce – Principio /// Final EP
Siete Catorce is another example of such artist. He first appeared in the border city Mexicali under the moniker of Den5hion in the days of ruidosón, a dark avant-garde style from North-Mexico which predated the popularity of 3ball and fused prehispanic rhythms with experimental synths and eery dark ambient effects. When 3ball came into the spotlights of the blogosphere, Siete Catorce became known for his unique, minimal-deep and experimental approach to that genre. In the recent years, when he moved to Mexico City, he was hailed as part of the avant garde gathering around the innovative climate generated by the NAAFI crew, where he released his previous EP ‘Flor de Lirio’.
This newest EP, out since a month again, is self-released again. Where ‘Flor de Lirio’ was more influenced by future beats, industrial, footwork and trap, ‘Principio ///Final’ returns to his characteristic sound of deep-trippy 3ball. The last tune, a collab with analog acid cumbia experimentalist Mareaboba, derserves a special note as gets most clearly into industrial territory and opens the way into a whole new sound.
Unlike what the cover image says, this EP is NOT released on Brother Sister Records but self-released by unsoundbwoy. Brother Sister tipped it to me so I thought it was their release, I’ll change the picture ASAP.
‘Walk the Rope EP’ is a collaboration between the innovative hiphop, dancehall and Afro-tronic producer and vocalist Yaw Faso and the bass music alrounder unsoundbwoy, both based in Melbourne, Australia. The 3 track mini EP contains elements from azonto, afrohouse, dancehall and DnB, blended into a sound that is yet again exemplary of a new generation global bass moving away from EDM, slipping back into an underground where the boundaries between electronica, urban and roots flavours have vanished completely.
8. This Is Kuduro – 1y
Kuduro platform ´This is Kuduro´ was established a year ago as a new channel and platform for the new generation of kuduro. The Angolan electronic genre that has reinvented itself many times, each time drawing in new and exciting flavours and vibes as diverse as RnB, hiphop, dancehall, grime techno and industrial. All these influences and a lot more come back on this anniversary compilation featuring artists from diverse musical backgrounds. Especially notable are the contributions of afro-industrial ambient futurist Only Now and the dark flavoured hiphop, trap & kuduro alrounder SP Deville who both move the sound of kuduro into radically new directions.
9. Erick Jaimez – El Tigre
No matter how head over heels I am about the Classical Trax sound, it would be shortsighted to suggest that the entire new generation of Latin music does or should converge onto one type of sound only. But fortunately that is not the case. Well before avant-garde trax emerged as a new post-EDM gravity point, a unique, fresh urban-Latin electronic sound has been on the rise in Texas’ cities after the rapid rise and collapse of 3ball among Mexican youths in those places. Most attention from mainstream media has gone to El Dusty and the #cybercholo movement in Corpus Christi, which featured prominently in El Dusty’s hit trapanera with 3Ball MTY star Erick Rincón.
The sound of this new movement is a characterised by sampled traditional cumbia and regional Mexican/Latin music with trap, crunk, 3ball and house beats. If there is anyone who most clearly deserves the honour of being the motor and inspiration behind this sound, it is the Dallas based #CVMBIATRVPLORD Erick Jaimez, one of our favourite producers for a long time now, with behind him cumbia crunk pioneer DJ FUNK E.
‘El Tigre’ is his freshest release, out for two months now on the rising contemporary Latin label Kumbale, and in many aspects a perfect follow up to his #CVMBIATRVPLORD EP. El Tigre continues where #CVMBIATRAPLORD stopped, moving beyond cumbia and hiphop into mariachi, salsa and techhouse flavours. And since this EP has been out, a number of exciting tracks have appeared again on his Soundcloud pushing his sound into even more diverse directions!
10. Monotronique – Voodoo EP
Last time, I introduced the trailblazing Ukrainian producer Monotronique with his conceptual Afrika EP. In the meantime, I got to know him better and found out, not surprisingly, that he too is an active member of the classical trax community.
Last week he released his newest project, ‘Voodoo EP’, via the online avant-garde label, event platform and clothing line Get Busy! Where Afrika EP was characterised by eery, hyperreal minimalism, Voodoo EP ventures into much darker industrial ambient à la Nazar and Only Now, with influences of jersey club and grime. Dark industrial rhythmical music is heavily in the air this year, and this EP may be a first sign that the trax scene may be getting onto this vibe as well.. to be continued!
11. El Catorce – Antesala EP
The Mexico City based alround prodigy El Catorce is a third artist who, like Deltatron and Siete Catorce, bridges the early days circle of global bass and cumbia digital with the newly emerging avant-garde. Also without a personal style-switch (band-wagon leap), as his cumbia, moombahton and trap have always sounded refreshingly forward-looking and unlike anybody else. Yet he hasn’t received even as half as much recognition for it as he should.
High time to spotlight this creative producer who on his new, absolutely genius EP – titled ‘Antesala’ (which translates as ‘entrance hall’ or ‘waiting room’) – blends flavours as diverse as Andean flutes, lyrical reggae-hiphop, vaporwave/future-funk, trax style club & grime, oldskool dubstep, moombahton, NAAFI-esque avant-garde reggaeton, footwork, trap and dark-industrial sounds! Remixes are provided by prehispanic trapstep emperor Javier Estrada and futurebeats specialist 10010.
Sexxy Saturday Cumbia blogger and producer Nico Bruschi, a.k.a. SidiRum teamed up with Barda, both from Buenos Aires and close companions in Argentina & Chile’s flourishing digital folk scene, a third enduring new Latin underground that is becoming the sound of a whole new generation electronic listeners in South America and beyond. Where movements like Classical Trax and #cybercholo are characterised by a dark deconstructionism and dancing energy, South American digital folk is toughtful, deep relaxation music. A meditative, purifying experience rather than club music. Little influence of urban genres like reggaeton, dancehall, trap and cumbia villera here but the Jamaican influence is certainly there, in the form of dub.
This stunning EP – released via yet another rapidly growing netlabel, Frente Bolivarista, moving out of the shadow of predecessors such as, ZZK and the Generation Bass-affiliated Chilean label Regional – draws from a variety of folkloric Latin rhythms, including Andean cumbia and Argentinian chacarera. Electronic influences include analog electronica, 80s spacedelica, deep dub, gothic flavoured minimal synth, oldskool prog, future bass and psybient. All tracks are original productions, created collaboratively.