Before September comes to an end, a new batch of singles and eps from this month, so that you have plenty of choices. This time we focus on the latest from Todd Edwards, Violetshape, Silent Servant, Trimbal, SFV Acid and other underground heroes.
The work is piling up on us. The musical inbox is overflowing with fresh plastic, and it looks fit to burst, like a person wearing clothes several sizes too small. Not to mention digital promos, which make moving from one computer folder to another a tougher job than blazing a trail through the Amazon with a machete. The second law of thermodynamics, which states that the amount of entropy in the universe tends to increase over time, becomes painfully real and close to home when we have to use a knife to carve our way through new short-format record releases to separate out the ones that are worth commenting on. A few days ago we offered you a first selection of singles and EPs from this month that were noteworthy. But there is more. Here is a new batch.
Violetshaped: “The Remixes part 1” [Violet Poison, 12”, VPN003]
What is known about Violetshaped is almost nothing: Violet Poison is supposedly German, although he could just as well be Spanish, and apparently Shapednoise is Italian (he is part of the hard core of Repitch, along with two Neapolitans, Ascion and D. Carbone), but he lives in Berlin. Everything that can be sensed about his identity is what comes from his albums, so far two records on his own label, which have evolved from the cold techno-dub of “Untitled” (2011), signed only by Violet Poison, to the new violent, grainy turn taken at the beginning of the year with “The Great Mother Down The Stairs”, a cavernous, screeching lo-fi slap in the face in which Shapednoise started to get in on the action. The label’s third title is the EP of remixes of this last 12”, and what gives it added value is the collection of guests, perfectly chosen for the occasion: Roly Porter covers “The Lord Won’t Forget” with a mantle of expressionistic synthetic textures, Vatican Shadow adds more drum and more (bad) vibes to a “Delusory Parasitosis” which seems here like a shot of James Ruskin, and Kangding Ray deactivates the fury but adds tension with his techno rereading containing intermittent breaks. It sends a chill up and down your spine.
Trimbal: “Confidence Boost” [R&S Records, 12”, RS1210]
Trimbal, better known as Trim, but also as Trimski or Taliban Trim, has been the most unpredictable vocalist on the grime scene for years, a man who uses his vocal chords like a ventriloquist and who bends or destroys them unspeakably to give voice to different characters. His four “Soulfood” mixtapes – which took him from 2007 to 2009 – consolidated him as an odd bird at a time when grime was shamelessly skipping down the garden path in the direction marked for it by Dizzee’s bejewelled finger. Perhaps that’s why he sort of fell by the wayside, like a cult figure misunderstood at the time of the grime resurgence, and one can count the number of times he appeared as a featured artist over the following years on one hand: just a few releases by Riva Starr, Mark Pritchard, Dusk + Blackdown and Becoming Real. Now, when people thought he had just about retired from the game, comes “Confidence Boost” – a very appropriate title, given the context. It is re-launching him with the guarantee of distribution that R&S Records always promises; the same is true of the double remix that he gives Harmonimix, which is known to be James Blake’s more spectral parallel project. The redhead plays with Trim’s voice on “Confidence Boost” as if it were an elastic band, making it sound like a squirrel or a lion, high and low, among overloaded synths that saturate the entire auditory spectrum, as if they were an aeroplane taking off. On “Saying”, he adds beats and places himself aesthetically in the type of experimental grime put out by the LHF collective, but without giving up the toxicity that is presaged on the A-side. The release gets hallucinatory.
Silent Servant: “Negative Fascination (Extended 12” Mixes)” [Hospital Productions, 12”, HOS356]
In the review that we published of “Negative Fascination”, we informed you of various striking aspects of Juan Mendez’s debut full-length after the sudden closing of Sandwell District. For example, the fact that without having given up the tough techno substrate of releases on Historia y Violencia and other intense labels, the direction of the music was more subtle than eruptive. That there were more moments of tense atmosphere and introspective curvatures than rhythmic outbursts. To correct this situation, which didn’t make the music frustrating, but which was a problem for people approaching his music with the intention of DJing with it, this 12” serves the purpose of lengthening the duration of several songs and giving them an injection of drums, as if they were slurping down a protein shake. “Utopian Disaster (End)” reaches the ten-minute mark here, with a frenetic British Murder Boys-type gallop (the drum is very elastic and repeated in very short cycles), “The Strange Attractor” becomes more toxic as its seven minutes of gluttonous echoes progress, and “Invocation Of Lust” is harder here, a little longer than in the original version. The drums sound like they could crack nuts using only their expansive wave.
Pearson Sound: “Clutch” [Hessle Audio, 12”, HES022]
The canonical track of David Kennedy’s production – which has been prodigal since 2006, spread out over dozens of records under the aliases Ramadanman, Pearson Sound and Maurice Donovan – is “Glut”, issued on the Hemlock label in 2010. There he reached his highest level of virtuosity, a real spasm in the building of basslines, leading the cut to resolve itself like a fish snapped directly out of the water. The rhythmic structure was a perfect representation of his music’s transformation at that point; going from the dubstep of the early years to more malleable material in which one could particularly hear a diaphanous influence of UK garage. In this sense, “Clutch” sounds like a 12” equivalent to “Glut”: the percussion sounds skeletal in the midst of buzzing, with fine columns of beats and snaps halfway between the schematic quality of grime and the high arches of garage. There’s not much more than drum machines in collision, pure minimalism that skins you alive with the same ease that Plastikman’s “Spastik” did years ago, when played on a good sound system. The other two cuts go in the same direction: “Underdog” is de-boned grime, and “Piston” offers a sunnier, quieter landscape, although it is equally unadorned. This is one of the best examples of an album that takes advantage of silence and the space between sounds in a long time.
Les Sins: “Fetch / Taken” [Jiaolong, 12”, JIAOLONG004]
We know Chaz Bundick already, and we know his taste for everything 80s. We’ve also almost always listened to him in a light context; making sounds for listening to while having a cold drink at an outdoor café, wearing shorts and sandals and tapping your feet in time to the music as people pass by. Accordingly, there are plenty of people who would have liked to hear something a little harsher or nastier in some of his songs. But it turns out that Bundick has a more erotic, bestial side, which is what he has been saving, like a bottle of fine wine, for the release of material as Les Sins. His first EP under this alias outside of Toro y Moi was “Lina”, on Carpark, but really the two cuts that he is bringing us now for Caribou’s label don’t have much to do with that Balearic exercise. “Fetch” is dressed up in the finest garage apparel (both US and UK), with sturdy bass, springy sound effects, a bassline that is gummier than Schwarzenegger’s muscles today, and a vocal sample that seems to say “fetch”, but actually says “bitch” (yeah!). Meanwhile, “Taken” has a somewhat more intuitive development - a rhythmic section that sounds programmed by ear as he went along - with deep house delights added over it, from vaporous synths to smooth arpeggios. No one talks about hipster-house – or house made by reconverted indie kids – anymore, but this 12” could have come from either Jiaolong or 100% Silk. It shares that same free, hedonistic, hopeful spirit.
Jonas Reinhardt: “Foam Fangs” [100% Silk, 12”, SILK029]
Speaking of 100% Silk, we mustn’t forget to mention Jonas Reinhardt, the man who has placed himself at the head of the pro-cosmic manifestation of the American underground in recent years; from San Francisco and from Kranky (and its mothership, Not Not Fun), shoulder to shoulder with Emeralds, OPN and the rest of the strain that has been revitalising the trotting arpeggios of the purest Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream style. In “Foam Fangs”, however, the man has played a new card, dusting off his drum-machines and allying himself with revitalised cosmic disco, in a position that, this time, reminds us of Lindstrom’s masterpiece, “Where You Go I Go Too” (2008). These are five cuts that may be a bit short to reach the epic heights of Moroder or Cerrone, but they have plenty of muscle and drive. For example, “Foam Fangs”, the first track on the A-side, starts up fast and sure with an autobahn of metronomic beats and airy synths that trace complex figures in space, and which could go on for half an hour that way. “Soak”, “Audio Grift” and “Hot Black Mastic” maintain this disco urgency – which also can also be compared to the DFA production team’s instrumental cuts and the wonderful LCD Soundsystem piece “45:33”. It makes you listen to it on the street as if you were floating on air, and in the club you have to clench both your fists and your jaw.
KW Griff: “Club Constructions Vol. 3” [Night Slugs, 12”, NSCC003] + The Bug: “Can’t Take This No More / Rise Up” [Ninja Tune-Acid Raga, 7”, ACIDRA001]
Night Slugs’s “Club Constructions” series is intended for the house producers to take off their kid gloves and put out something truly savage, lawless - even as far as the label’s own law goes, which is fairly lax and a proselytiser of rave: L-Vis 1990 and the maestro of funky Lil Silva have already stopped by. KW Griff isn’t exactly an artist with a career on Night Slugs, although he does have a long career outside of it: he’s been working on the foundations and expansion of the Baltimore sound since 1995. He has his machine-gun percussion, splashed with thrumming bass and hysterical fits of screaming rap. He takes advantage of it here in his song “Bring In The Katz” with two versions, one with Pork Chop on the mic and another that is a L-Vis 1990 dub remix, both of which cause the same results: blisters in your ears and cramps in your legs. The same bastardised mechanism is applied in The Bug’s two new pieces, in his reappearance for Ninja Tune: if there’s rap in KW Griff, here he spits ragga (toasting by Daddy Freddy) and underneath the same agitation of basslines and drum-machines that wind you up are brewing. But the best thing is “Rise Up”: how to mix Tricky (from “Maxinquaye” days) with acid bubbling and a spectral atmosphere that suits the voice of Inga Copeland (Hype Williams) very well. It makes you feel like you could invade Poland.
Surkin & Todd Edwards: “I Want You Back” [Sound Pellegrino, 12” + digital, SNP032V]
Watch out if what you want to buy is the record: it only includes the two official versions of “I Want You Back”, the vocal one and the instrumental. Therefore, as the edition is more limited than a two-year-old child’s oratory skills, it’s not really such a big deal. That is to say: you’ve just got to go for the digital release with four cuts, which has a lot of meat on its bones. For example, “Mighty Love”, a dynamic garage track where most of the work comes from Todd “The God”. It boasts an impeccable weave of chopped-up vocal lines and a cyclical bass, over which Surkin has laid some basslines that are spongier and breaks that are more solid than usual. Without a doubt, this collaboration has benefitted the New Jersey magician, who suddenly finds that his production still has its liveliness and punch, but now with an overhauled sound palette, which is fatter and more digital, like on “This Way”. There are even grime rhythmic patterns in the opening of “ I Want You Back”, a garage anthem with a layer of perversion underneath. A first warning: the album might blow your mind.
Suzanne Kraft: “Horoscope” [Young Adults, 12”, YA002]
Suzanne Kraft is a new Sarah Goldfarb of sorts: an artist with a woman’s name who is really a man, with hair on his chest and everything. In this case, it’s Diego Herrera, a Los Angeles producer and a member of Pharaohs (a band that released a shiny house 12” on 100% Silk in 2011), who has now brought the new platform Young Adults four cuts oscillating between almost crystalline deep house and the Balearic quality of arpeggios as smooth as the waves on a Mediterranean beach, alongside beatific synths. These are the two extremes that come together in the seven minutes of “Horoscope”, which at the very least lives up to Beautiful Swimmers and John Daly. But that’s not all: “No Worries” has a lovely sway and “Ritmo” is a schematic study of Caribbean influences mixed with British bass (sort of like Pearson Sound’s “Clutch” mentioned above, but in Antigua and Barbuda), while “Feel” is a sort of recreation of the synths and bass of Mr. Fingers’ “Can You Feel It”, but with an ocarina. Those who want something more (and who doesn’t?), will find an extra song and remixes on the digital edition.
SFV Acid: “Neighborhood Archives EP” [UNO NYC, 12”, UNO013]
SFV Acid: “Neighborhood Archives EP” [UNO NYC, 12”, UNO013]
Since it’s a small world after all, it turns out that Herrera and SFV Acid know each other; and the former helped the latter with “Morning Come”, the song that opened Suzanne Craft’s release for Running Back. But the two Californians’ artistic worlds are quite different: Zane Reynolds is a 303, analogue technology purist, with a creative incontinence comparable to that of Venetian Snares and Tin Man at other times. However they are brought together by that iconoclastic way of destroying and re-forging acid. Before this “Neighborhood Archives EP” - which was, in turn, the advance of an album for 2013 that was supposed to blow the lid off like “Analord” - SFV Acid had already pressed a generous EP on Post Present Medium (“New West Coast”) and another, even more abundant one on 100% Silk, “Grown”. Whoever has listened to those thoroughly will find the same type of carnage on his first EP for UNO NYC: silky synths that cover abrupt trippy lines, shot through with drum-machines that practically stutter. It’s a balanced play of Luke Vibert-style acid freak and the beach-Balearic spirit of the new California psychedelic electronica (even a little new age at times). For a track for napping and cruising like “Seaside Cruisin’ Tribe”, we have the kind of quality gems that the Rephlex catalogue would love to have, such as “As Is” (in two parts) and “Ashland Slumber”. Future hero.
Don’t go away yet, there’s more. As a sort of bonus or dessert, three more records that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Crystal Ark: “We Came To” [DFA, 12”, DFA2339]
Gavin Russom nails it again. Two years after “The City Never Sleeps” and “The Tangible Presence Of The Miraculous” - somewhere between acid and Latino, thanks to his vintage gadgets and the warm voice of Viva Ruiz (which was like mixing Sueño Latino with Patrick Cowley and Aphex Twin) - comes a new 12” with long improvised jams. The best of them is the house mix “We Came To”, which starts off with a speech by José Luis Moreno ( “Con fuerza…”, the lyrics say, which means “with strength”). The album is about to drop, and it looks to be dripping and dirty.
Ripperton: “Let’s Hope” [Tamed Musiq, 12”, tamed musiq 004]
Tamed Musiq was born last year as a split-off from Perpectiv to handle only Ripperton material, or to be what Virginia Woolf called “a room of one’s own”. Here he can do whatever he bloody well pleases, and it’s like this: one song of his that is very long, very deep, very well-done and a remix. In previous releases Ghostek, Margaret Dygas and Skudge have appeared, but here it is Bicep who squeezes the proggy expansion of the 11 minutes of “Let’s Hope” into a more solid construction. It features a strong drum and a house piano that pirouettes in the middle of the track, tasting divine.
Sensate Focus: “Sensate Focus 3.33333333333333333” [Sensate Focus, 12”, Focus 3. 33333333333]
There will be another release from Mark Fell in his new house outfit before the end of the year (it will be “Sensate Focus 2.5”), and at this point there are no longer surprises, but there are plenty of things to like. A meeting point between the universes of snd and Akufen - between the most radical efforts of digital abstraction and cubist house - the latest title from Sensate Focus is more difficult to pronounce (3 point 17 threes in a row, more or less) than to listen to, thanks to the ambient layers that wander about underneath the nervous break and vocal pronunciation in the purest garage style.