214 – Lyle At Dawn (Frustrated Funk)
Ahead of his North Bend double album (which should be out now) Dutch electro warrior 214 fires off this warning shot to get us all in the mood. Heavy in the European tradition this is an EP which sounds like warfare between the sky and the earth. Thunderous beats build a buckling backdrop for the tunes, but as is so often the case with modern Euro electro, it’s the richness of ideas spread out elsewhere which really tell the whole story, creating a captivating narrative that shows just how far the genre has evolved since it New York Kindergarten.
It’s not just the continental sound that 214 is indebted too, though. Lyle At Dawn uses the pummelling beats and some fiercely gravelly bass to open a pathway inwards. The slowly rising symphony of Detroity strings and chirped 303s add an undeniably Drexciyan movement to the tune, especially in the latter stages. Time For, a looser and more thoughtful piece, is gentler – at least to start with – creating a playful groove chalkful of cloudy sunshine and smiles, gradually tweaking elements until the fine funk of the beats find their feet, hooking you on-board until it ends with a burst of dubsteppy bass. Ektes reverts to a more classically Dutch feel with a tune that would sound as if it is on the run from Murder Capital if it wasn’t for the guttural bark of a bass so thick you imagine it would have to have been pasted onto the grooves of the record as it descends into a tight, half speed industrial shaker.
214 hits the right feel across the EP, locking things to the ground but keeping an ear on the celestial. As an appetizer for the album, and in its own right, it’s a pretty good example of where Electro is going in 2015. If this doesn’t whet your appetite for North Bend, I don’t know what will.
Gramrcy – Ruffian (Ancient Monarchy)
One of the more interesting aspects of the continuing fragmentation of house and techno is how exciting some of the shards have become when seen in isolation for the first time in years. 2015 may well be the year in which ‘new age house’ garnered the most acclaim, but when we look back it will be those artists currently unlocking the seedy thrills of 92 era breakbeat who will, perhaps paradoxically, be seen as trying to do something new.
Gramrcy’s debut on Berceuse Heroique sub label Ancient Monarchy is a cluster bomb of ideas and fun that, for all the twisted ravey chaos of the title track, never falls too far into blind homage for a long gone time. This is at the root of the record’s strength, I think: Old threads rewoven into very modern fabrics. Ruffian itself is a heavy, virulent piece of breakbeat nastiness that soaks itself in a nutrient bath of bleak psychedelic industrialized frequency. Bargain Jam cuts out the extraneous noise, rendering the psycho leanings down into a lean slice of claustrophobic neo-rave experimentalism that is perhaps even more unsettling.
The two remixes, courtesy of Hodge and Bruce are pretty special in their own way, both adding something new and vital to the originals. Hodge’s take on Bargain Jam is a stomping, loopy pop of demented UK house that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Bruce perhaps gets the harder job, with Ruffian, but manages to out nut-job the original by twisting its funk and half drowning it in sheer experimentalism. It’s the perfect way to take on something that can’t be taken on. An excellent, and very nasty, EP of modern UK madness.