While I was working on the URL FUTUREFEST, a whole new series of releases has shaken the music world, continuing the transformation that has taken place this year. And they keep coming. By the end of the year, I’ll make a selection of the most essential releases of the entire year, that will show how music itself has become redefined this year as well as the ways of speaking about music. I’m starting to believe the whole habit of dividing things into decades makes no sense any more. Over the last five years, things have been accelerating towards a singularity point and we’re now beyond it. There are no bandwagons anymore, no genres, no next-big-things. Even labels and blogs are transforming into something different. And this all mainly due to the avant-garde club scene and neighbouring movements that we’ve only seen the beginning of just yet.
1. Oracles – Divination II
Oracles is the new label based in Houston, curated by SINES, one half of the duo Santa Muerte who are one of our favourite acts right now. With Oracles, the approach of avant-garde club with a dark twist is extended by bringing different artists together who all contribute to this concept in their own unique way. Divination II is their second big compilation (the first one came out via THUMP a year ago) that contains both original mixes and remixes by a diverse number of artists.
Next to Santa Muerte, who open the compilation with a breathtakingly dark witch-trap prayer to La Niña Blanca, there is the experimental ambient grime-techno from WWWINGS, Morten HD‘s melodic deconstructed dembow, and the surreal-dark edits from the Portuguese producer BLASTAH. Oracles bridges the avant garde club scene with the innovative energy in the new generation of dark music and is by doing this one of the most forward looking initiatives out there!
2. Kamixlo – Demonico EP
Now we also blogged Kamixlo‘s mix for DAZED Digital, there’s little chance you missed Demonico EP. But in case you did, here again big love for one the defining releases from one of the most promising artists today.
Like Santa Muerte, Kamixlo too fuses latin, dembow based tropes with dark flavoured club music but even in a more outspoken way. Here it gets full blown industrial, with distorted kicks and hard hitting snares in a way that remind of the hardcore inspired Doombahton compilation that came out earlier this year. But this is on such a higher level that no comparison to any other thing can do justice to it.
The 5 track EP starts with ‘Otra Noche’, a haunted ambient tune with a deformed vocal from the reggaeton classic with the same name, now sounding like bubbling up out of the swamps of the underworld and dissolving into a mechanical dystopia. ‘Paleta‘, has been somewhat of an anthem in the underground club scene this summer. It has been up on the artist’s soundcloud since the beginning of this year and was taken off at some point as the EP based upon it was being materialised. A motive hidden in the titles is the inspiration in wrestling, a sports which the producer also practices and aspires to combine with music. In a recent interview with Thump, Kamixlo explains that ‘Splxcity’, my favourite track of the EP, is made to give the listener the experience of undergoing suplexes while ‘Lariat’ subjects you to a lariat attack from a wrestler à la Stan Hansen. Kamixlo does not only bring entirely unique sound into underground club music but also challenges established ways of experiencing and enjoying music.
3. BUGA – PLUG-IN HYBRID EP
BUGA (not to be confused with Sello Regional’s El Buga) is a relatively new name in the underground club scene (at least, to my own limited knowledge), whose earliest but immediately mindblowing soundcloud tracks are from the beginning of this year. Most tracks breath the air of the new wave of contemporary-futuristic tech aesthetics such as sports cars, motorbikes, metallic gear and sportswear, expressed into dystopian, mechanistic ambient-club and grime. PLUG-IN HYBRID EP bundles this exciting creative potential into a recognisable signature project, with three original productions and remixes from Classical Trax family members Morten HD, EVAA, LHTL and Vaphoree.
4. Toxe – Muscle Memory EP
The Swedish club producer Toxe is one of the 6 most close affiliates of the Stockholm avant-garde label Staycore117 and this is her first solo release on the label. The EP is cryptic in terms of how it should be interpreted and I haven’t been able to get behind it. Muscle memory is a phenomenon in physiology and sports that repeated muscle movements become automatic over time. The cover design contains some allusions to fleshiness of muscles in an alienating, surreal way. Also, the line between the avant-garde club scene and the health goth movement aesthetics and wider culture, which particularly reflects on sports and our bodily existence, is thin. In the words of Adam Harper in The Fader, quoting Wyat Schaffer:
“…relies on an anti-nostalgic dystopian present,” providing “an ethos of mythologizing our technological present” and that “it may be hyper-masculine on the surface, betraying a distinctively sus interior of body-mechanized cyborgian humanity within… reimagining the present future by mocking self-awareness as a Humanist project of little efficacy.”
Yet I have no idea whether this philosophical environment is in any way related to this EP as a source or inspiration or otherwise but nevertheless it creates an ambient of dystopian, cyborgian existence in five original tracks that once again show the boundary pushing energy of the Stockholm scene.
5. Classical Trax – Jamz!
Classical Trax, which we introduced last month, is the community where the future of music is being determined this year, in the midst of the total overhaul in all of culture that is taking place this year. They are multifunctional. Not a label, not a blog but a community of people who together shape music and culture for the future. Nevertheless, they’ve become ever more focused on releasing music from their community, especially with their frequent compilations which we will be keeping track of as much as possible, picking the best and most representative things that come out. Jamz! is such an essential compilation with as many as 21 tunes that display the diverse energy that’s coming from their community.
Especially notable are the experimental arabic club tune from the Tunisian producer Deena Abdelwahed, Ida Dillan‘s dark-melancholic techno-flavoured track and the electrifying industrialism from one of our current favourite producers: Monotronique!
6. Pineal Sounds – Blue Satin Vol.1
One of the imminent dangers in the avant-garde club/trax scene as it is blowing up right now is that its sound will start degenerating into a formula that people follow simply to be part of the expected success of the movement. I can’t say this is happening right now already but it’s nevertheless refreshing to see how labels and collectives actively resist the formation of fixed formulas and keep releasing compilations where no track really sounds alike.
Pineal Sounds’ first volume of the Blue Satin Compilation series is a perfect example of this resistance. The diversity in rhythms ranges between kuduro, dembow, trap/trillwave (in such a refreshing way as if it had never existed..), techno, oldschool rave, 00s hiphop and Jersey club, alternately flavoured with dark ambient, grime, dreamy or mechanical.
7. ESCAPE FROM NATURE – EFN Sound Library Volume 1
Escape from Nature is a new avant-garde label established by the New York based forward looking producer Orlando Volcano, also focused on this same resistance to fixed formula’s. In their own words:
EFN observes, disregards and redefines the boundaries of what club music is and what it can be. The label acts as a space where club music’s functionality and intention can be debated and reconsidered. Why let a space that formed a genre dictate its future?
Escape From Nature showcases the most contemporary music possible, exploring the possibilities of the technology on offer to us.
EFN Sound Library Volume 1 is the first in an upcoming series of compilations from a wide range of artists in the club music underground. Unlike the Blue Satin one, this compilation is not just cross-genre diverse but much more experimental, trippy and less directly accessible for dancefloor audiences. With tracks such as 2lanes‘ dystopian-ambient jazzy flavoured opening track or KOH-IZT‘s (= Wet x Orlando Volcano) uncagtegorisable melodic experimentalism, club music becomes an artistic experience just as much as a nightlife thing as music is commonly experienced.
8. This is Kuduro – A Compilaçao Vol.2
Generation Bass has a long history of promoting the energetic Angolan dance genre kuduro and it’s always great to see new underground initiatives taking continuing to push genres after hypes fade away in the blogosphere. This Is Kuduro is such exciting new initiative which brings together artists from different scenes all over the world who are interested in kuduro. A major part of the producers affiliated to the platform are from the Portuguese underground scene, but the reach extends to Mexico (ChuCko), Chile (MiloMilo), home-base Angola (Nova Margem) and France (Zee Reech), equally spotlighting unknown talent and established names.
This Is Kuduro brings together the different flavours and approaches the genre has involved into since its origins and shows it’s there to stay for the future!
9. Ian Solow – Machine Gun Zouk EP
Zouk bass has undergone a similar wave of attention rise and fall, and especially with the arrival of the Portuguese tarraxo underground that went more into the direction of techno and underground club music than the established ‘bass’ formula, or Generation Bass’ own melodic ‘future tarraxo’, it was hard to discern at some point whether zouk bass was an actual genre and where its boundaries are. Still producers have been trying to re-invent the genre almost from the scratch, carving out a new space, free from the worn-out formulas of EDMified global bass but also subtly different and refreshing from the new waves of underground sounds. The La Brousse crew with Photo Romance and Ian Solow taking the lead, have been particularly important for this.
Machine Gun Zouk EP is the outcome of this re-creation of a zouk bass from the future. Aesthetically and thematically inspired by post-internet underground genres such as vapor-trap and tumblr and musically building on dancehall and DnB, this is zouk bass as if it had never existed as a hype. Nidia Minaj adds the flavour of the Portuguese ghetto tarraxo, while Jurassic Fight Club draws in hypnotising arabic influences and trap. Fautre‘s kuduro, Chris Dogzout x CZuR‘s hyped up tuki-trap and Photo Romance’s mellow zouk grooves definitievely put zouk bass back into the multi-genre palette of music for the future.
10. Brunswick Sound – Brunswick Sound Vol.1
This is a third underground-club compilation that would have fitted more with the Blue Satin and Escape from Nature ones but for the sake of variation in the post I prefered to spread it out a bit. This is definitely the most energetic and the darkest of the three underground club compilations. Here less explicit references to genres like reggaeton, baile funk or kuduro as most tracks lean most heavily on grime. Still the sound diversity and creative potential is enormous.
To my very own shame, I don’t know and can’t seem to find out a lot of background information about this label but it comes across as an essential voice in the critical area in music today, where the current, futuristic approach to grime merges with ‘club music’. Don’t sleep on this!
11. RECKLESS – Rotterdam Promo EP1
For some reason the playlist with all tracks has been taken off the producer’s soundcloud. So I can’t show it in it’s entirety. RECKLESS is the new project of the 17 year old Rotterdam based producer formerly known as Sambo. As Sambo, he was mainly involved in the Dutch EDM scene, jungle terror in particular. With RECKLESS he teamed up with a befriended producer to form a duo who are now exploring the wave of afrobeats & afrohouse that is currently a big hit in the major cities. This EP is the first step into that direction and from my own personal taste I’d say compared to jungle terror and bigroom, this is most definitely a promising improvement.
Check out this promo track of the EP, dedicated to the popular sound of contemporary Rotterdam. The entire EP can be downloaded for free via the link, with inside an exciting collab with Generation Bass favourite DJ LyCox!
12. Lush Selects – LUSH 002
It’s almost permanently stormy weather in the netlabel underground, with new labels, collectives and initiatives popping up like mushrooms while others swiftly disappear or slowly bleed to death. Lush Selects is an impressive example of the exact opposite. Since their establishment they have invested so much in community building and personal contact that they are now a slowly but continuously growing, solid community. We blogged their first compilation in March this year and said that it showed perfectly how the concept of ‘future beats’ or ‘future bass’ could be pushed free of fixed formulas, hypes or EDM-like pretentions. Similarly as I am considering now with the avant-garde club movement. In fact I think that these two movements can learn a lot from each other and in some ways this is already happening.
Here the second volume of their compilation series with the most creative post-hiphop, ambient juke and dreamy eclectic bass music. Especially notable are fortyforty‘s Latin flavoured, morning phone-alarm-esque experimentalism, Blak Trash‘ intense, wavy dream-hop and Roche Limit‘s apocalyptic deep ambient dub.