It’s been a while since my last Essential EP’s selection so here an edition with releases that are all from a month back or so. Influential releases like Chino Amobi’s or Kid Antoine’s, which received widely read attention from of the major online music magazines, have already cooled down to lukewarm in terms of attention, making place for even newer excitements. Other ones, like Los Innsurgentes’ La Maldad EP have flown a bit under the radar. Two artists whose previous EP’s were among the most impactful of 2015 are back now with follow-up releases that continue where they left off. Overally, as 2016 begins to take shape, the innovations of 2015 seem maturing into recognisable sounds, enriching, branching off and finding their way into different corners of music.
Let’s start with Nazar, whose NIHIL EP was perhaps the single most original release of 2015. His confrontational, political approach to kuduro created a throat-gripping, industrial flavoured sound. ‘Hubris EP’, the Angolan avant-garde producer extends this powerful signature style with an even more rich set of influences, venturing into 808 drums, industrial techno and the ethereal synths of avant-garde club. In ‘Tyranny’ the producer also makes his first appearance as MC, using his own vocals to ironically praise Angola’s president.
The EP had been announced for a long time but could finally see the light via the upcoming avant-garde club label Track Meet.
One of the other most groundbreaking works last year was without any doubt ‘Ascension EP’ by Cape Town based NON co-founder ANGEL-HO, debuting on Halcyon Veil. Now, 6 months and many great single tracks later, he is back with a fresh EP released via his own NON WORLDWIDE label. And like Nazar’s, his sound too has become richer and more crystallised. Whereas ANGEL-HO’s arrival at the stage of the music scene seemed more concerned with disrupting the dominant cultural forces, now the post-disruption era has arrived with full force. This means that the black queer trans identities that ANGEL-HO represents have broken free from the colonial forces designed to suppress and erase them, triumphantly expressing themselves the way they want to, no longer needing juxtaposition to binary heteronormative whiteness as a reference frame at all. As I interpret it, this is also what the magnificent artwork (made by Chino Amobi) refers to: proud dragons, breaking out of the burning remnants of the past. “The old has gone, the new has come.” In sound this means that the characteristic tumultuous industrialism is no longer an end-point but a beginning. On ‘Emancipation EP’, ANGEL-HO’s signature sounds like accellerating cars and shattering glass are the crude ground from which all kinds of new sounds rise up in freedom.
3. Chino Amobi – Airport Music For Black Folk
Richmond based producer, designer and NON co-founder Chino Amobi has a unique style of producing that deviates most notably from conventional club music. Chino Amobi’s music isn’t there to make you dance and feel good about yourself. That is precisely part of the story that Amobi – as I understand him from interviews and from my personal interpretation – wants to convey with his music: resisting the exploitation of black music for the entertainment of the privileged, de-stereotyping black music and reclaiming it as a tool to express the reality of the black experience. Airport music is not much different. Brian Eno’s iconic experiment using hypnagogic soundscapes to transform the dull, hasty terminal into a serene and thoughtful environment has brought ubiquitous soothening background music to airports, most of which based on jazz and soul.
Amobi radically reverts the perspective. With trunkated, looped pieces of recognisable elements, unpredictibly interjected by menacing sounds and vocal messages, he exposes rather than dissolves the chaotic, tense atmosphere of the airport and its post 9/11 obsession with security and threat. The way Amobi manages to capture the intimidating unrest not of being in danger but of being looked at as the potential danger, an experience that can make air travelling an alienating activity for black folk, is an esquisite achievement of translating complex emotion into sound. And that makes him, in my opinion, one of the greatest composers of all time, on par with the eternal masters of blues, jazz and classical music.
‘Airport Music For Black Folk’ has been recorded in Berlin and was inspired by Amobi’s European tour, resulting in five tracks named after the cities and airports he visited. The elements used in the tracks overlap and the album is most fully appreciated when listened as a whole.
4. Los Innsurgentes – La Maldad EP
The Apodaca based duo Los Innsurgentes announced their dark flavoured 3ball bass EP ‘La Maldad’ more than a year ago but ever since, they went virtually silent until the point that even I, first hour fan of Los Innsurgentes, no longer expected it ever to be released. When listening to the EP, it is good to keep in mind that these are actually old tracks, probably finished and released long after they were first created. I was personally amazed how archaic, even nostalgic it sounds, to hear such an experimental use of growl bass synths. ‘La Maldad’ truly feels like a time glitch directly out of the now almost forgotten golden age of global bass, with producers like Caballo, when this formula of percussion with growls ruled supreme. The tense, mysterious atmosphere, especially in tracks like ‘Base Frapp Cafe’ and ‘Litros de Sangre’ goes back to an even older root of Mexican electronic music: ruidosón.
Apodaca is a suburb of Monterrey, where the US-Mexican border region begins. The outburst of creativity, from Nortec to NAAFI, that made Mexico one of the most innovative places in the world for music over the last decade, is inextricably connected to the socio-cultural and political reality of that border and the American War on Drugs with all its evil (‘Maldad’), death and destruction it has created. Whether this is a second beginning for the duo or rather a goodbye present before leaving entirely, this anachronous EP sends a message that the Mexican electronic underground, 3ball in particular, needs to wake up once again.
The track ‘Bodypaint’ by the Copenhagen based producer Kid Antoine is already an excitement in the club underground and got a shoutout from us recently as well in our summer festival bangers post. But beyond the track, the EP of which it is part, containing another original production, ‘Flood Control’ and a remix of ‘Bodypaint’ by Florentino, can’t possibly be absent in a selection of essential releases. Presenting the ethereal, futuristic vibes of the avante-garde club movement in an accessible way, perfectly combining with a wide variety of genres and sounds is becoming his immediately recognisable signature. He did that already on his debut EP ‘Proximity‘ a year ago and ‘Bodypaint EP’, which contains even more energetic drive, is the perfect follow up, again released on MM‘s label HER Records. On top of Kid Antoine’s already baile funk & dancehall inspired & jersey club inspired polyrhythmic beats, Florentino adds even more pumping, almost moombahtonesque dembow. If there must be any best example of ‘the sound of 2016’, where the flavours of avant-garde club will reign far beyond the avant-garde, trickling up into everything, ‘Bodypaint EP’ is all you need.
6. y y y – Last Breath
I’d already been following this enigmatic avant-garde project from London for a while when I noticed how unique their work actually is and how solid their following. Scene-wise, they seem to come from the cloud/silk/vapor trap side, but in the grey zone between this section of the post-internet underground and the avant-garde club movement, which are often still worlds apart despite of the extensive overlap in aesthetics. Sound-wise they even smoothly blend in influences from genres like witch house or futurebeats. In the Soundcloud followers list too, I see all the imortant avant-garde club names popping up, which makes me wonder why we at Generation Bass have been sleeping on this all the time.
‘II’ is a unique, emotionally gripping EP with powerful sounds that, if anything, sound like a more less industrial version of the radical alchemy of WWWINGS. Officially it was set for release on the 25th of March, but so far the only thing I can find of it online is this folder without a buy or download link. If anyone knows their bandcamp, let us know via our facebook page. For the time being you can grab their equally impressive previous work, ‘ EP’ HERE for free.
‘Acapulco’ is the intriguing product of a collaboration between the better known Infinite Machine curator, Wolf, and experimental futurist Witnessing, both based in Montreal, sharing Latin American heritage and personal friends of each other. They decided to explore their roots in the context of the critical reflections on the future which both of them usually focus on in their creative work. The track is a stunningly thoughtful, introspective as well as vibrantly expressive ambient-dembow-club tune. The catchy melodic work slightly resembles Kid Antoine, but with the viscous smoothness scorched away by a combination of the gothic heaviness of y y y and the raw chaoticism of Los Innsurgentes. Together with KABLAM‘s uptempo skeletal remix it makes a mini-EP which was released already two months ago on the Berlin based avant-garde label _WDIS.
A third NON WORLDWIDE release that can’t possibly be missing from any essential releases list is MHYSA’s ‘HIVEMIND EP’. E. Jane a.k.a MHYSA, a.k.a. E. The Avatar and one half of the performance & sound duo SCRAAATCH, is a multi-talented musician, visual artist, poet, critical internet theorist, activist and futurist from Philadelphia whose work is an interrelated patchwork of visions for the future of Blackness and queerness in a high technological world. With a combination of music, designs, performance and more, she exposes and radically rejects the ongoing systemic colonialist, racist and patriarchical oppression structurally built into the technology shaping the world. Like Chino Amobi’s has shown for airports, control, exploitation and exploration are persisting, white-colonial dreams that have shaped the internet to such extent that its language, assumptions and default structures produce an othering and agressive universe. Her resistance is itself cybernetic, embracing, bending and using rather than rejecting technology in order to create new, radically independent futures for Blackness and queerness to flourish.
‘Hivemind EP’ addresses the existential nature of social media as a networked space and the way it visualises the workings of collective consciousness, power relations and the impact of art and social change. With six stunning, thoughtful experimental ambient tracks she paints panoramas of and lays the cornerstone for her Utopian visions, for and by Black women. Two tracks are co-produced with teammate plus_c under their joint project SCRAAATCH, and another one together with Generation Bass favourite DJ Haram.
9. Compilation Japan Edition (Club Late Music)
Club Late Music is an exciting, relatively new, globe-spanning collective & label curated by 100% HALAL (Frankfurt), AZN Girl (Brussels), Bubbles (London), Dragon UMA (Yachiyo), Ideal Corpus (Marseille), Michel Ours (Paris), Prince Lucien (London) and T/B/O (Los Angeles). Their musical focus ingeniously connects the world of avant-garde club to the euphoric and kawaii flavoured sounds of retro-rave and nightcore – a combination that we will definitely see more in 2016. Earlier releases like the ‘Summer Hits Compilation‘ and their mixtape series have our radar unfortunately. But ‘Compilation Japan Edition’ is a perfect, much more diverse follow up that shows even more pronouncedly the forward looking direction in which this blend of music is paving the way for new developments this year and beyond. It probably got its name after the download-for-free-entrance promo for the club night at Lounge Neo in Tokyo, already three months ago. In the run-up to this party, it used to be downloadable via this interview on the Japanese music & culture webmagazine Public Rhythm, but the link is now broken. We’ll keep you updated about future releases!
Finally the debut album of Abu AMA, the producer whose absence of support from our blog for so long still puts me to shame. I recently called his unique ‘ArabXo’ sound, blending Middle Eastern music with tarraxo and mesmerising experimental dub, the most Generation Bass sound ever. But even more importantly, his engagement with Middle Eastern culture is far from a gimmick, either exoticising or demonising Arabic culture. Quite the opposite, his strong political message, weaven continuously into the titles as well as the compositions, is an incisive denouncement of the demonisation and fearmongering depiction of the Middle East, refugees and muslims in Western media and culture and a passionate cry for end to the vicious geopolitical destruction of the region. This is significant, especially considering the producer’s embedding in the dark ambient music scene, a world where harmful, othering exploitation of the fears from our collective prejudices can still be bread and butter.
‘Riad Noir’ (‘Black Garden’) contains 10 delicately produced tracks that show the full breadth and depth of Abu AMA’s style, released back in January broad multi-genre dark underground label hexx 9 Records, also home to a number of essential producers from the ‘new dark underground’ like Volkanos or Bedtime Stories.