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.

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.

Review: DJ Trump – Trumpin’ Trax Vol 1 (Black Beacon Sound)

Chief amongst the modern age’s extravagant weirdness is the lumbering orange gonk enthroned in the Whitehouse. Language has remained almost powerless to explain it. And now, even a year on, a large swathe of the planet still wakes up in the morning and begs an answer from whatever deity they hold sacred to give them an answer, an explanation, as to how the actual fuck Donald Trump became President of the United States of America.

Still, we’ve had a while to think on it and the responses are beginning to slowly drift out into the wider world. For electronica, a scene which has always seemed a bit reticent to involve itself in anything other than a handful of laudable causes, commentary is often sheltered if it’s there at all. The signs, though, are that this is slowly changing.

Which brings us here to Trumpin’ Trax Vol 1 by DJ Trump and a dose of satirical, cynical house music. Whether or not you’ve been waiting for a collection of tunes by a mysterious producer and featuring a narcissistic, tiny handed, manchild is neither here nor there. We needed some sort of response. We’ve got one now, and the spotlight burns bright over that awful, weird, haircut.

But how is the music? Interestingly, although the record’s label, its imagery and symbolism, would have you believe that it leans heavily towards the tight avenues of Dance Mania’s pugnacious, stomping sound, the music actually casts its net wider, and that energized DM feel provides only a small part of the power. Largely, this is dark, prowling, scything UK acid house; bleached by a glorious tongue in cheek cynicism, and tensed with rave’s tempering effect on homegrown acid.

Work The Box Trump The Box and Trump Dat revel in the fierce snarl of Armando doused 303s and crumbling kicks. The former stretching the garrulous rhythms until they pound your brain into tiny pieces with its dirty wobble, the latter throws itself straight up, harnessing the dripping clip of the acid lines to marshal some choice Trump vox. Its chorus of ‘dirty Trump, nasty Trump, filthy Trump’ pumps it beyond a simple acid kicker, the vocals locking it down into proper mid period Dance Mania filthiness and elevating it into the sort of demented Friday night anthem you never knew you needed. God, I can think of some parties where this would lock the floor solid.

Elsewhere, the format is finely kinked. Trump That Body evokes French Kiss’ sophisticated simplicity, but adds in more 303s and a ruffle of bright, primary, colour which gives it the feel of a maniacal euro-house banger going off on a real tangent. It’s a simple trick, but one done with real aplomb. It’s also quite, quite, insane; the wide grin of the music pulling heavily at the happy cheesiness at its heart. Ghetto Trump rolls out with a wild pitching burst of jacking house and is happy enough to just kick around, piling on the beats.

The two best tracks here are the ones which reach out further from their beginnings. American Carnage, again with snippets of the lummox in full, fecund, throw down, starts out as more primo acid, but slowly becomes more ambitious, building in collapsing riffs alongside the 303s and flavouring the smoky atmosphere with nitrous tang of hard, early techno and classic acid house.

Feel My Trumpin Bass is even better, and expands the sordid trip further with an accent on a sort of lithe, poppy, swagger which powers the mayhem. The acid is held slightly in check, allowing the tune to open up and build on interlocked themes and frills, rounding out the sound and drawing in a sense of shiny nihilism. It’s fresh enough you could envision it on Top Of The Pops. A really sick and twisted ToTP maybe, but ToTp nevertheless.

What gives the music its strength is the way that, although its riddled with dark humour, it never plays for laughs. Yeah, the kookiness of the name and the theme might give lie to the idea this is some sort of bleak novelty record, but it really isn’t; the snap and snarl of the music, the seriousness that sits at its heart quickly forces that idea out of your head. And if it still contains a slight feel of surreal art terrorism, then that is surely something which is more indebted to a sort of heavy KLF style playfulness than anything less biting. A record for our times, created from discontent. Buy it now and play your resistance loud.

Wee Reviews: Nachtzug – XP Lore (Possblthings), Diasiva – Station 1805 (Acroplane)

Well, Like I said the other day, I’ve been a bit drifty with regards to getting stuff done and the big pile in the corner is getting scary and wobbly. Luckily for me, if not for everyone else, the summer was a season of fairly slim pickings as all your favourite producers tootled off to Ibiza or wherever it is they go to cluster together in a great big techno-nest and jabber themselves to sleep with talk of cables and machines that go ‘wheep’.

Nachtzug – XP Lore (Possblthings)

Still, there’s been some decent stuff floating about. first up is Nachtzug. A German duo ( I think) who may not be overly familiar even though they’ve been tune-smithering for a decade or so. Most recently they cropped up with a fine release on Vortex Trax, and now appear on new label Possblthings with XP Lore, a record which comes at electro and techno from a slight tangent.

In fact, it might be best to describe XP Lore as an electro outrider. Although its core is very much electro, it skirts many of the more obvious sounds, reaching instead for a toolbox of influences that take in IDM, the waviness of early techno, and a rosey mist of ambient. Tunes such as Side Track and Cable Cake are tied tightest to the genre, and are both pretty darn good. Mixing crisp breaks with acidic grooves and flurries of angelic synths, they lock down their moods quickly to draw out some icy funk. Elsewhere the electro feel is toned down in exchange for a greater sense of IDM exploration. Komitee Kosmos danks down the speed until it becomes a slowly unfurling coil of shifting gothic emotions. Transmit rides a similar road, but stretches out a belt of acid to give it direction. While XP Lore never really convinces about what exactly it wants to be, it’s content to explore the shadows at the edges of a number of genres, doing so with a certain amount of panache.

Diasiva – Station 1805 (Acroplane Recordings)

A collaboration between Monolog and Swarm Intelligence, Station 1805 was very nearly victim to me not properly getting it at first. The first time it barked out the speakers at me I wrongly assumed it was going to be a slab of industrio-goth mentalness and I got ready to treat it accordingly. While my initial reaction was not entirely racing off in the wrong direction, there is a heck of a lot more going on that I first gave it credit for.

Once you dig below the crust of static and distortion, the leads and chords bent out of shape and the ricocheting beats, Station 1805 is a record of much invention.A lot of modern techno at the harder end of the circus has reached a point where grooves and funk have been almost surgically removed (well, as surgically as anything can be removed with a rusty penknife and lots of shouting) in order to cram as much bleak noise as possible into a limited frame-work. While Station 1805 feels at first as if it’s aiming for the same burning horizon, it actually veers away towards something very different.

It’s those very same ricochetting beats which make the difference, cutting through the clouds of noise with precision and giving the music a clarity of vision. Ethereal and Scrape are the biggest threats, both of them twisting the rhythms until the tracks lean away from raw techno, dragging out nuance from hardcore and jungle until they become pitch black slabs of alternative rave swaddled with echoing chiming insanity and dispassionate, cinematic, angles. Neckbrace ducks back into a tunnel-like 4/4 structure, and pumps out a nasty skanking mover which is reminiscent of 65D Mavericks’ sweet viciousness. Closer, Suffer Your Woes is a thick morass of despondent frequency, barely alleviated by the puncture-wound beats. It’s slow, heavy, and fascinating to witness. Like the back of some vast primordial rising through the brackish water it is thrilling and compelling and very unsettling.

Even so, it is the proto-grooves which keeps the music going. Not an easy feat in such a darkened and cloudy environment. And while Station 1805 is never going to be a record of choice for peak time escapades, there is a lot here to fire you up and out as the sun dips below the world’s edge.