Posthuman Ft Josh Caffe – Preach (Dixon Avenue Basement Jams)

Posthuman Ft Josh Caffe – Preach (Dixon Avenue Basement Jams)

After a few releases where DABJ seemed to be moving on into new pastures the label reverts to something close to the sound they first started out championing. Posthuman’s first release for the Glasgow label has already drawn comparisons to Paranoid London’s deep and haunted acidic skank, and there are certainly elements common to both which bring out the best of the little silver box’s history without delving too far into the mire of homage.

Where Preach departs from its peer’s music is in its mix of the dirty and the sensual. The 303s are more restrained, playing a central role in forming the prowling grooves without ever dominating the otherwise stripped down and lean tunes, and the extra leg room is spent in allowing the fine, rubbery, rhythms and perc a moment in the sun.

The leading pair of tracks, Preach and Temptation, square themselves up in classic territory; a core of stone-cold funkiness moves them more into house territory than pure acid, partly through the way they make wonderful use of Josh Caffe’s sleepy vocals, allowing his voice to bloom and blossom across the empty expanse above the marshalling 303s growling and precise assault. Preach is the more compressed of the two, a tight yet flighty number which ties its acid down into something with an almost tribal ruffle to it, and shifts its arse with an energy sadly rare in a lot of modern house. It’s a mad wee groover, working over feet and ears almost equally. Temptation loosens up a bit, but spirals upwards and outwards with Caffe’s vox accenting the proceedings and directing your attention like a ringmaster in a particularly funky circus before the introduction of some scarlet, shimmering synths opens an unnoticed gateway and the whole thing just spills out, expanding into every nook and cranny previously untouched.

Last tune, Exit Drums (Extended Mix) shimmeys in a touch of experimentation, which pulls apart the foundations of the previous tunes with a 303 which curls and flickers around the wonky, scattered throw of the beats. It remains acid house, but only just, and breaks open the music to allow a sense of playful misadventure not always evident in such a rigorously curated genre. The other two tracks with – probably rightfully – will draw most of the interest and the plaudits, but it’s Exit Drums that will likely reward both many, many listens, and DJs willing to kick beyond the typical will find its cheeky pop a smart move out to a brilliantly alien tangent. A potent record which reworks many classic elements into something deeply modern. It turns in some of not only the fiercest, darkest, acid grooves of the moment, but adds to it a flare of clever sensuality which provides a sharp edge not often found in contemporary acid.

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Mesak – Kirot (Vortex Traks)

Mesak has been kicking around for a long while now, but I have to go ahead and admit that our paths haven’t crossed too often. I’m not sure why; checking out his back catalogue over on the Font Of All Knowledge (Discogs) shows a producer with an ear for the slightly off-on-a-tangent electro I tend to lap up. The occasional interface – a single track on the first Vortex Traks release, and the excellent Deep In My Mind split with Mono Junk on DUM – managed to show me differing shades of his work while holding on to something interesting and a little alien.

Kirot extends that feel, and does so by avoiding several of the major sonic themes so popular within the scene just now. The abyssal depths, IDM tinting and blood and thunder banging might well be noticeable by their absence, but they are replaced by something both older and more fluid.

That might not be your first reaction on hearing Kirot, and certainly the riot of colour with splashes out during the loose, scattered opener Spirit Ahoy is suggestive of a more deconstructed take on the genre, one that builds itself out of shards of Nintendo-esque sound and slow changes of tone where the tune travels from something upfront to a cooler, more muted approach. Such moves imbue the tune with depth rather than deepness, especially coupled with the flares of Two Lone Swordsmen style melodies and synths.

In fact, it’s in this that Kirot shows itself most clearly; a sort of remembrance of an era when electronic music was unabashedly, well, electronic, and was pushed to see how far it could go in splicing the artificial with the organic. Occasional this vibes gets a bit ahead of itself. Kiero, as an example, takes too long to establish some sense of itself amongst the vaguely random noises even if it does pull it out the bag somewhat towards the end as it begins to straighten itself out and make use of the multitude of wonkiness that almost buries it.

But this is a rare enough overstepping and shouldn’t detract from the generally pretty nice vibe the record sets out towards. Max Toisto, at the end, comes closest to setting its stall out as a burst of fairly conventional, contemporary, electro, but it avoids such a fate by means of its scruffy playfulness. Yes, you’ve certainly heard similar, but the way in which it evokes the flavour of dirty, crumbling, techno (and even the faintest tang of early Plastikman) locks down its energy to a different sphere entirely.

The standout here, though, is probably Vietti, a woozy, half-speed exploration of space and tone which starts out small and compressed, barely shining any light into the shadows in the corners, but slowly winds itself up into a ruffled and studied piece of porpoising weirdo-funk which shimmers with odd grandeur before diving out of sight.

I have a slight worry that Kirot stands a little too outside the gang to be picked up by the people who would benefit the most from hearing it, those who might find a little epiphany of sorts in Kirot’s wonderful asymmetry and joyful, playful, reworking of the genre’s basics. There is nothing here to scare off the legion of new electro fans; it’s not deliberately harsh (actually not harsh at all) or wilfully obtuse. What it is, though, is certain of its vision, displaying enough steel in its individualist streak that it won’t back down it its mission to expand upon electro’s themes.

Best Of The Represses – September 2017

Alright. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Firstly, anyone who missed the last lot of Frustrated Funk represses (I don’t know how you could – there were pure hunnerds of them) can now, once again, attempt to pick up some fine, fine, fine electro from the likes of Plant 43, ERP, Lost Trax, Cybonix and others. ERP’s Pith and Cybonix Make This Party Live are particularly fine records. Do us all a favour and pick them up. I won’t tell you again, you nuts. Strictly Rhythm’s attempts to out repress Trax sees them bringing Phuture’s ace Rise From Your Grave back from the dead. All the cuts are pretty sweet, but my choice is the brilliant ‘wild pitch’ mix which’ll still roll over any floor like a ghost train of pure funk. New Yorican Soul’s The Nervous Track also seems to be doing the rounds again, which is nice as I’ve got a soft spot for it, especially the Ballsy mix. That the veg, folks, now on to the meat!

Ross 154 – Fragments (Applied Rhythmic Technology)

Released originally all the way back at the dawn of time in 1993, Ross 154’s lovely Fragments makes a remastered return to the living world. In many ways it was a record well ahead of its time. While some people have described it as IDM, I’ve personally never been sure that’s the right way to go. While a lot of other ambient tinged records of the era were certainly no slouches in flavouring the sonic broth with muscle cut from other genres, Fragments remains a bit unusual in the depth and breadth of its influences. Sure, the crimson-sky flickers of the actual ambient fragments remain as delightfully hazy as ever, but what stands out now is how freaky modern the complete, ‘proper’ tracks sound as they pull through broken electronica, dinky, ravey warmers, almost Ninja Tune style experimentalism, and slow burning groove-outs. Stand out for me has always been Mayflower, a tune where the subtlest – and cleverest – of melodies informs some ultra-fine, silky, funk and sounds as if it has stopped just for a moment in Detroit to ask directions to deep space.

DJ Stingray 313 – Cognition (Lower Parts)

OK, not that old really. It’s, what, a couple of years? If you don’t have it already, though, you really should take this opportunity to land it. What’s always interesting about Stingray is that his take on electro really doesn’t sound like anyone elses. Even after all these years. Yes, there are still touches here and there which reminds you of his eternal links to Drexciya, but he long ago phase-shifted past that and into a realm entirely of his own creation. This EP captures him at his peak; less opaque than some of his material occasionally is, it’s a wonderful testament to the scope of the genre, ranging as it does from floor shaking 4/4 fired tracks like Acetylcholine to Dendrite‘s fractured, ghostly, footwork toned workout. The best track though remains Kon001’s remarkable remix of ErbB4 which takes the lush techno-soul of the original and wraps it in shadows and colour, and just the tiniest, almost visible, shades of ancient Model 500. It’s a thing of genuine, stunning beauty. It was my tune of the year a while back, and listening to it again, it still bloody well is.

Syncom Data – Den Haag EP (Syncom Data)

I don’t know why, but something about Syncom Data has never really filled the wings of the wider world For those in the know, though, both the band and the label have long been held has purveyors of some very fine music which maintain a brilliant ability to provide particularly singular takes of well-known genres be they minimial, acid, electro, dub, or just about anything that takes their fancy.

The Den Haag EP first appeared on the label about 13 years ago, and the prices of an original were beginning to head towards idiot-land on Discogs. Thank God for the repress as this is a stonker. I don’t even know how you’d describe it properly – a sort of acidy belt of wonky electro which simply couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks it is. Stuff like this – entirely headstrong, and original in both take and execution – doesn’t come along very often. It is a very Glasgow record (being the sort of thing I would expect to hear in certain clubs here) and I can’t really think of higher praise than that. From Abenteuer Im Abendschein’s spooky, freaky deaky skank to Den Haag’s machine funk which sounds entirely created from broken radios and a knackered washing machine this is a record which does a job on both the feet and the brain, and will leave your ears wondering what just happened. Superb, cheeky, and deadly serious.

Review: CEM 3340 – Polaris 1° (Lunar Orbiter Program)

OK, here’s a thing, had you asked me to describe my perfect electro I would have instinctively babbled on about dirty, nasty, beats, about darkside vocals, and the still potent thrill of techno-bass. For all the delicate, studied, tonality inherent in a lot of modern electro, I remain disappointed there isn’t more thunder and fire. It’s not that I don’t like a lot of it, it’s just I find myself lamenting the way the grooves have often become subsumed by a more patient and intellectualised approach.

Which is probably not a complaint you could level at Polaris 1° and its rough-housing blast of old school techno-bass and twisted electro. What we have here on this double debut (both the producer and the label are, to the best of my knowledge, brand new to the scene, although I suspect the producer may well turn out to be a well kent name) is the sort of electro which was once very common and now not so much. Beyond the obvious similarities to certain Direct Beat material, and peak period UR, it shares DNA with certain snarlers like Valve, Sole Tech or, at perhaps a bit more of a distance, Erotek and DJ Di’j’tal. There is even something of I-F and Murder Capital here.

A year ago I think this would have very much been an outlier, a record haunting the edge of what everyone else was doing. More recently though, there has been the beginnings of a resurgence of these stronger shapes and textures, and a renaissance for several of the above names as older material has slowly been rediscovered by a scene perhaps, like me, hungering for something a little bit more visceral.

All of this makes it sound as if Polaris 1° is dumb, route one music designed to be played fast, to floor it during a particular time of night. Well, yes, there is an element of that I suppose, especially on the first two tracks, Sedna and Salacya 2004, and it takes a couple of listens before the original image fades. Even still, the record hits all those same markers which made the first crop so thrilling back in the 90s.

But still, but still….Digging deeper reveals new layers. Beyond the heavy beats, the winding, lithe bass lines, there is something else at play here, something far more modern. I think this extra factor makes its presence felt most obviously in a couple of ways. Firstly, the over all sound is a world away from the sonic perfection of a lot of contemporary electro. It’s rough, harsh even; serrated by electronics and cut up more in the mix until it almost engenders an aural vibe not entirely dissimilar to what we’ve heard in lo-fi house. This sense is further amplified when the synths drop in. Sharp, often woozy, and always seemingly on the verge of splitting apart into shrapnel they add a strangely spectral energy to the music. Salacya 2004 in particular makes great use of them, and the way they roll out over the top of the barked, sore-throated, sawtooth riff simultaneously adds a gossamer grandeur to the track while leaving the meat free to really knock you down. Their use on Sedna is less centre stage, but still accents and shapes the fury. On the last track, Hygiea, they whisper and evoke memories of early, dirty, Dutch electro.

There is an argument that perhaps Polaris 1° is a little too perfectly ‘my sort of electro’, that the whole thing hits too many buttons to be anything other than cunningly studied, almost an homage to a whole bunch of memories. I’ll be honest, I can’t entirely be dissuaded from that. It also makes me wonder whether one of the reasons I like it so, so, much is because of a very real emotional connection to all the influences which went into it. Do I like it because I’m an old bastard and it does a job on me? Is this me turning into the old guy at work who likes modern bands because they sound like classic rock?

I think the answer is ‘yes, a bit’ but that isn’t the whole story. The music on Polaris 1° doesn’t entirely work those ageing synapses into a fugue state of memento mori. In reality, it’s a very modern take on an older sound, one which takes admirable liberties and augments it all with a sharp panache which leaves you knackered and happy. The fact that a lot of records used to sound like this doesn’t really detract from the fact that very few modern records do, and I quite like that about it. And if, at the end of the day, the worst thing you can say is that it’s a bit knowing, perhaps the best response is to admit that you know too, and then keep dancing. That’s the best response of all.

Friday Night Tune: Space DJz – Lights

Like most people my tastes have changed over the years, often rolling from one extreme to another as experiences have washed over me. There are stacks of records here that I once would have thought of as some of the best music ever made, timeless examples of everything I thought was good in electronic music and other genres but now just sound tired and frayed, dated by the passing years, emptied and discarded like bottles of wine enjoyed long ago.

There were brief infatuations: various forms of rock and jazz I was momentarily obsessed by before quickly becoming bored; ambient records which once felt like indescribably beautiful sonic paintings which now sound like yawns timestretched across infinity; IDM tunes which soon dulled through their cleverness and lack of anything approaching passion or soul. There’s a lot of stuff in that pile. I really should get rid of some of it. I know I won’t. It’s as much a part of my musical upbringing as everything else.

There are, however, some things which I tired of but have found myself recently swinging back to. There was a long period where the idea of listening to crumbly acid techno wouldn’t have gone down well. It had been one of the staples when I was getting into all this for the first time. For what seemed an age it was everywhere; every club felt as if it was pulsing with this stuff and I slowly came to hate it. Not because of its popularity, but because, like weeds, it choked out every other sound. A little later the same thing happened with ghetto house. What was, at first, a thrillingly alien and explosive change of direction soon became the new and boring normal, and it reinforced a lesson learned – familiarity breeds contempt, and over-familiarity murders scenes. In both cases I’ve slowly returned to them, feeling sheepish but knowing that the new space around them has allowed them to shine once again.

At one point I found myself disliking fast, banging techno. Everything seemed to blur together into a beige mash where only the loudest, most strident, and frequently the most boring elements, made it through into your conciousness. I began to seek out slower music, a lot of deeper house and lush electronica. At first it was a pleasant and interesting diversion, but it couldn’t really hold my attention. Of course, the problem wasn’t really the music; having gorged myself on it for years I couldn’t stuff any more into my ears. Something had to give.

Yet faster, harder music is something I’ve also drifted back to. I think the surrounding tastes for acrid myths of deepness, coupled with a harsher world to the one I remember from even a few years back has found me seeking out something more visceral. Some people turn to sedative music when everything sharpens. I don’t. I’m not someone who dips into a Sunday reverie of gentle, good time-ish tunes.; too light a touch has always irritated my skin. Part of it is that I don’t think I’ve ever looked towards music for chills. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to, but I can’t really detach the music from the obsession long enough to reach that cloudy passivity. I tend to only relax when I’m utterly immersed in something, anything, be it music or reading or writing. It’s a kink in my particular make up, and I’m sure that it’s unhealthy, but I don’t care: it’s mine.

My rediscovery of Space DJz’ Lights awoke all kinds of competing emotions, as this was a tune I really did obsess over for a long time. I was already aware of Space DJz when the EP was released on Soma back in 1996, mainly because Jamie Bissmire was a name I’d followed for a while because of his work as part of Bandulu, one of the first non Detroit techno acts I really loved. The work he did with Ben Long was a different creation from Bandulu; closer to a prime time burst of speed and colour, but with enough shadows playing across the surface to provide the all important contrasts.

I used to spend entire afternoons playing Lights, using it as the basis of a mix, dragging it for hours in an out of dozens of other records. I found an old practice tape not long ago, with moments of Lights scattered across the whole 90 minutes, like a recurring motif in a long classical work. Sometimes it was a few seconds, just long enough to dip out of one tune and cue the next up, other times it was long minutes, flowing across the tape and marshalling everything else.

Lights is still a paragon of faster techno. It’s just about the perfect example. Hard techno often cuts in links with both soul and groove, but Lights is all about both. The speed of the tune – and at about 140 BPM it certainly sails along – tenses everything else; the pure born flutter and flurry of the Detroit-ish melodies, the touches of Spastik style percussion, and that strange little bass which is at once so neutral yet controls and dominates the light speed funk.

It’s a reminder that soulfulness in music doesn’t tend to come from conventional approaches, from jazzy touches and minor chords. Often, it’s the outliers which provide the real soul, and only reveal exactly how soulful when you let them get right into your face, and right under your skin. It’s also a reminder that while tastes change obsessions rarely do. The trick is to make sure they’re worth it.