So far 2016 has continued the powerful, lively music spirit of the second half of 2015, delivering just as much if not more fantastic releases in a short time. The avant-garde club movement is still leading the transformation of the music landscape, which now seems to be slowly moving out of its chaotic singularity and slowly solidifying into a new configuration. Some shift can be witnessed already:
1.) the increasing rise to high fame of the avant-garde club movements and its most orominent artists, not in a ‘commercial dance’ way but rather as a form of high art and culture, joining, like the jazz movement, the canon of classical music (Sonic Acts Academy more or less takes this approach)
3.) the club underground is not only fusing with global bass, but also increasingly with the (excuse my problematic term use) “post-internet” underground, particularly its recent wave of nightcore, kawaii retro-rave and fascination with non-ironic kitchy angelic aesthetics, thereby moving away from the more dark neo-cyberpunk flavoured flavours (these three directions are then yet joined all together most prominently by visionary duo Ideal Corpus who have pioneered this unique combination of styles ever since they started back in the days)
Does this essential selection reflect all of these shifts adequately? No. Yet they are so fundamental that I had to spread out a clearer picture of the developments of the beginning of this year over two episodes. Wait for the next one, it’s coming up soon!
The Argentinian conservatory musician Moro’s masterpiece San Benito is by far the most essential release to have come out in the first months of the year for many reasons, but foremostly because he is the first (as far as I know) Latin American artist to have released on the NON label. This is a milestone not that many people might realise. NON’s mission is to unearth the treasures of pan-African identity and heritage from centuries of colonial oppression and erasure. Nowhere is this erasure and mental colonalism more refinedly vicious and hidden than in Latin America. Argentina in particular. Some Latin American countries, Brazil in particular, have a clear longstanding and long celebrated African heritage, which even there is still ridden with anti-blackness shame and internalised white supremacy. Yet in Argentina however, the once considerable afro-descendant population it once had, along with its cultural heritage, has been systematically dilluted and obscured upon the 20th century waves of European immigration, a largely forgotten history even inside Argentina.
SAN BENITO is exemplary of the awakening of the African heritage and black identity in Latin America, which has never gotten the deserved recognition as an essential pillar of Latin culture as indigenous heritage has. The productions forcefully rub away the thick layers of Europeanisation that have rendered the African origins of Argentinian folk music, tango in particular, unrecognisable. The skeletal, industrial rhythms, powerful water sounds, screams and ambient pads create an atmosphere of cosmic tension. The legacy of generations of oppression and injustice, gathered into an oceanic reservoir of resistance, beating against the fortified coast of the dominant, colonial privileges in cultural consciousness, not only in Argentina but everywhere.
London underground OG Endgame is one of my most personally underrated favourites in terms of blog support. His style, holding the perfectly balanced middle between dembow or tarraxo rhythms and melodic grime as well as between dancable club or rave music with music and music to be consumed as a conceptual artistic experience. Savage EP is his newest EP, released last month by the influential avant-garde club label & platform Purple Tape Pedigree, which has also released work by other important club producers such as Joey la Beija, Eaves or MM.
Most tracks on the EP are ‘riddims’, whether that is a symbolic reference the shared Jamaican heritage of both reggaeton and grime or an invitation to bridge the culture of track-centred club culture with the MC-based culture of dancehall is left to guess. But music wise it certainly does both at the same time. Endgame captures the energy of both afro-Latin urban styles and London’s basement futurism with a delicate sound that is equally capable of standing on its own as it could would be perfect beats for dancehall, reggaeton or rap artists to complete with vocals.
3. uv ac – unverified ep
I’ve known uv ac, short for unverified account, only since Ideal Corpus‘ online streaming event ‘c a r e‘ which I visited recently. It was a fascinating experience, especially because it was held not in a youtube-sharing platform like the URL FUTUREFEST, but in a Tinychat video chatroom, where the artists performed live on webcam, varying between DJ’ing, livesets, live MC’ing and live dance performances. uv ac is a perfect example of a whole new upcoming movement of artists – of which Kamixlo’s brother Uli-K is one of the most prominent – who not only combine and reinterpret a wide number of genres, but use these sounds to create whole new vocal songs. This pushing the disappearance of the divide between track based electronic/club music and vocal music beyond the realm of hiphop and grime, which is a very exciting development. Next to that, this movement differs from the main trend in the avant-garde club scene of using dystopian, ethereal cyber-futuristic imagery, going instead for a sound and aesthetics reflecting non-ironic ‘kitschy’ angelic cuteness and emo-romanticism, fused with the nostalgic smoothness of mid 00’s RnB and zouk. This style will definitely grow bigger this year and we at Generation Bass are already feeling it.
I must confess that I wasn’t able to watch the entire event all the time and I missed uv ac’s performance so to my shame I have no idea yet who is behind this account. I will get more information soon!
4. #INTERNETISFAMILY (GoldenHall Records)
This compilation has been out for a while already but unfortunately, I haven’t had the occasion yet to blog it so far. GoldenHall Records is a relatively new label & collective focusing on juke, future bass and avant-garde club music in Europe. After releasing a number of individual singles over the last year, #INTERNETISFAMILY is their first compilation pack, with 11 diverse tracks in different flavours including juke, grime, baltimore club, jersey club, post-trap and anything in between. As Generation Bass we’ve always been enthousiastic about bringing different underground flavours and genres together and collectives like this are a good example of how scenes joining forces together like a family will likely reach ever wider audiences in the near future, URL as well as IRL.
5. #weirdkids 003 (#weirdkids)
#weirdkids is another cross-scene underground initiative but rather focusing on accessibility, they go for the most boundary crossing extravangance and creativity. Last week, they released their third compilation with 19 wildly experimental, futuristic club tracks that range between hardcore-juke, ambient trap, post-vaporwave, kawaii club, witch-grime, deconstructed dream-trance and more. It wouldn’t do justice to specifically spotligth specific artists or tracks because they’re all equally groundbreaking. Keep expecting more from #weirdkids.. we at Generation Bass are a fan!
6. Mermaid Comp Vol.2 (HTS)
HTS, acronym for Handle The Sound, is a Lille based label curated by Classical Trax family member Juliette Boos. The label has been active for over three years now, but after a short series of sporadic single releases, came to full force with the first volume of Mermaid Compilation. In continuation of the first edition, Vol.2 brings 10 diverse, expressive club tracks again, with influences from juke, ambient grime, baltimore club, dembow, future tarraxo and more. Less future-beats flavoured melodic maximalism this time and more stomping drums and conceptual ambient filling. What makes this compilation especially essential, next to the music in itself, is that it shows the extent to which all kinds of flavours and sounds have firmly become part of the repertoire of club music as a new umbrella.
7. D-DOTs – FAYA EP
Then now a major shoutout to two producers who are pioneering the middle ground between the sound of the avant-garde club movement and old ‘global bass’. D-DOTs from London, whom we featured frequently before, is the first I want to spotlight. His soundcloud and previous releases record shows his musical background in genres like moombahton, kuduro, zouk bass and jungle terror. With Faya EP, he takes a new direction, focusing less on EDM-esque buildups, drops and ‘crazy laser synths’, and more on the rhythms themselves. These are not as skeletal and mechanical as with most club producers yet but they definitely have a much more grungy club vibe about them than most of global bass’ persistent tendency to wrap the beats into fruity, pseudo-Caribbean always-summer-fantasy flavours. This is definitely an exciting development if any movement of bridging the two worlds might emerge, we’d be stoked to assist. As for ‘Faya’, I don’t know if there’s a relation with the Surinamese word ‘faya’, which can mean ‘fire’ as well as ‘fucked up’, in any possible interpretation for each, or if it means something else. I’d be curious to know…
8. Kid Cala – TECHBOW
The other, even clearer example is Kid Cala from Madrid. We first found out about his music via a Caballito project already three years ago, featuring a very early zouk-bass/lento track, which was even before my time as a blogger. Ever since, he has pushed a diverse, never conforming spectrum of sounds, some more or less following trends in global bass, while others staying closer to the roots in dominican dembow, reggaeton or the hiphop side of trap. Even more interestingly, he also never persistently conformed to popular formulaic aesthetics going around in the wider global bass world as, ‘cartoonesque exotisation & objectification of ass’, ‘colourful fruits & jungle animals’, ‘hipster babes’, ‘aztec astronauts’ and so on. Instead, by varying different things and developing a unique style he comes very close to the Dutch ‘urban-eclectic’ approach to sounds like moombahton. I realise only now that he never got the recognition for that here on the blog.
Already with his previous EP, ‘Damnbow‘ (which we slept on..), he decided to push his passion for doing something unique into new territory by drawing in flavours from grime, dark trap, chicago drill, King Doudou-esque future reggaeton and avant-garde club music. This line is continued in his freshest release, a bootleg pack of classic tunes from the early heydays of techno and trance, recontextualised with energetic rhythmical flavours of dominican dembow, bubbling, jersey club and trap.
I recently found out that I happen to have plenty of IRL common friends with Halp, an upcoming experimental ambient producer from Amsterdam whom I still haven’t had the occasion yet to meet in person. I found out about him both via the Classical Trax community and especially via his exciting ‘Untitled Piano Tune‘ contribution to Oracles’ Divination II compilation, supported in our 8th Essential EP’s edition. While his previous album ‘~~~‘ – released by the American label NOREMIXES under his other artist project Dow Jones Brotherhood – already incorporated lots of grime and club influences blended into a largely a-rhythmical ambient-noise environment, with Polar, he fully dedicated himself to the characteristic fusion of dystopian-futuristic grime melodies and stomping mechanical, decontructed club beats. Especially from a producer point of view, Halp is certainly one of the few lead representatives of the current wave of avant-garde club music and now this world is opening up in this country right now as we speak, we will certainly hear more from him this year.
10. SATURATED VOL. 5 (Saturaterecords)
For a long time, the common expectations were that futurebeats, the maximalistic, melodic & crispy next generation of bass music, would be the uncontested successor umbrella of EDM. But, as with many predictions, it didn’t happen that way. Yet, futurebeats nevertheless managed to become and stay a stong, interconnected semi-underground scene of artists with diverse approaches and sounds. It is therefore even the more interesting how futurebeats is developing now, as the avant-garde club scene is gaining influence and the notion of ‘club music’ is now taking on the designated role of the new umbrella for electronic music. One of the most prominent similarities is the influence of grime on both movements. Grime occupies a peculiar place in the family tree of ‘UK-bass’ music, not entirely hiphop, not ‘dance music’ such as the way in which dubstep evolved when becoming ‘incorporated’ into the umbrella of EDM. It might be grime’s background as an MC-centred genre which has created a certain minimalism, which is one of the main refreshing style-breaks in sound of today, compared to ‘bass music’s American interpretation focused on loud and crazy low-frequency textures. Maximalism vs. minimalism is still an important difference between the sound of future beats and avant-garde club, but the difference is becoming smaller.
The experimental futurebeats label Saturaterecords is always the best indicator of how things will develop in the near future. Grime is one of the main flavours on the enormous compilation and among its 31 tracks, there are already several who would fit equally well on more club-oriented fusion labels such as GoldenHall, #weirdkids or HTS. Also interesting is the compilation’s step towards the psychedelic side of bass music, especially in the visual design, paving the way for two new directions at the same time, while staying accessible for a broad audience.
BANGANAGANGBANGERS‘ mixtape dedicated to the release