We haven’t ended the month with 10 highly recommended EPs, not at all. We’ve given you 15 (which are really 16) so that we could cover all of October, a real bumper crop. A guide to good vinyl to invest your time in.
Leaning on the horn, here comes the final delivery of EPs (the third one this month, after one about bass and another with a techno and house core) selected from the huge number of new releases filling the shelves of the most demanding shops. In this new column there is no single stylistic theme or particular bias other than quality and fitting in with the tastes that predominate here at PlayGround: we will be mentioning the debut of our Jami Bassols at 100% Silk, the messages exchanged between Mark Fell and Fennesz in a desolate post-dance future, the bass meets fourth world of Fatima AlQadiri, the sharp-knifed techno of British Murder Boys, Randomer and other dark creatures, and so on, in this manner, until your ears start to bleed and your feet turn into two festering stumps. Shall we begin? You know you want to, just admit it.
JMII: “Nueva York” [100% Silk, 12” + digital, SILK033]
Jami Bassols forms a part of Aster, the Barcelona duo that entered the Hivern label with two random songs – “Neon” (2010) and “Tormenta Del Desierto” (2011), the latter of which went onto their 12” for Mathematics, Jamal Moss’ demanding label– and this year they have put out another absorbing, nostalgic old-school American house release, the competent “Danza”. The thing with Aster is that with Pettre in Barcelona and Jami in Berlin, things are slower, so the latter has started moving ahead with his solo project, JMII, extending his influences towards the past. “Nueva York” finally went to 100% Silk (is there anything cooler than giving four songs to Amanda Brown and having her release them for you?), and the title summarises the record’s mood, with textual quotes of the Nu Groove sound ( “Els Burrell”), jumping, surface-peeling acid like Tyree ( “Nueva York”), deep house with some major piano ( “Fiesta Música”) and the inevitable jazz/Latin influence ( “Redivivo”). Jami has a deliberately worn sound, as if it were an imperfect mastering of an old 1990 record, and he emerges victorious from his flirtation with nostalgia. As Prince Charles would say, “he fills us with pride and satisfaction”.
Fatima Al Qadiri: “Desert Strike” [Fade To Mind, 12” + digital, FADE005]
Vatican Shadow isn’t the only producer who has an ongoing fascination with the Gulf War and its effects on geopolitics, the civil population and popular culture, as his creative incontinence over the last year testifies. Fatima Al Qadiri is on the same wavelength - there’s a reason why, as she was born in Kuwait and experienced the invasion of her country in 1991. “Oil Well” is full of samples of hammering and shots that rock over a dreamy ambient fabric and Arab-influenced synths, while Sufi influences - especially in the singing, which she filters in the form of spectral voice samples - fill most of “War Games”, an overwhelming track that is finished off by throbbing bass and a break that seems like it’s going to turn into a banger at any moment for Lil Wayne to start rapping over. Fatima Al Qadiri’s universe continues to be as fascinating and unique as it was when we discovered her on Tri Angle (signing as Ayshay) and in her amazing “Genre-Specific Xperience” on UNO NYC. It is slow post-dubstep - a sort of anti-trap done up in religious wrappings – seasoned with bits of videogame and those ethnic samples give another turn of the screw to what Brian Eno called “fourth world music”: ethnic ambient music, with the maximum technology in big Western cities. By Allah, she sounds like she’s possessed by all of the spirits of Jahannam.
Old Apparatus: “Alfur” [Sullen Tone, 12” + digital, ST003]
As has already been said here, Old Apparatus is a group that is hard to keep a handle on. They can work together or solo – apparently, there are four of them – and this is why every release accredited to the band, especially when it is handled by their own label, sounds so different from the previous one. “Alfur” is, apparently, the second Sullen Tone 12” dedicated to an individual producer (in the credits you can read that the author is A. Levitas), who undoubtedly has very different aims from those of the previous “Realise EP”, which was comfortable in the circles of deep IDM from the post-Autechre tradition. Here there is a trace of that armchair electronica, but the constant pace of the five cuts is marked by the bass, which is distilled drop by drop - beat by beat, like fine whisky – creating a delicate melancholy and a heady, hypnotic atmosphere sustained by voices with a sharp pitch. Labels like Tri Angle would kill for cuts like “Schwee” or “Boxcat”, and “Coalapps” improves on the bewitching encounter of chillwave and the influence of Burial that we already mentioned in the review of the new album from Bristol’s Stumbleine. But no: it’s all Sullen Tone, all Old Apparatus, and the winning streak continues. The next stop will be in three weeks, at “Harem EP”.
BMB: “Where Pail Limbs Lie EP” [Liberation Technologies, 12” + digital, LTECH002]
They were supposed to have split up - let’s remember (bitterly, too) how Regis left Surgeon alone in front of an audience in concert, staging a traumatic break-up, like an old married couple who can’t stand each other anymore - but when it seemed that all was lost, this BMB 12” symbolises the return of British Murder Boys (whether forever, or just occasionally, this question will need an answer). They continue to hide the whole name and take refuge behind the abbreviation (less transparent, more bad vibes), but what is unmistakeable is their martial, bouncy, harder-than-reinforced-concrete sound, a spurt of tarry techno, a steamroller beat and un-breathable atmospheres from which a squeak, an agonising voice, or a furtive conga occasionally emerges. It’s the first time that Regis and Surgeon have taken the British Murder Boys project to a label outside of their hermetic circle – Liberation Technologies is Mute’s new techno sub-label, the one that started off with Laurel Halo and the King Felix project – but the result is at the same level as when they quit in 2005 with “Father Loves Us”. If there is anything to complain about, it’s that the cover art doesn’t have images of torture and sadomasochism like in the legendary “Learn Your Lesson” (2003).
Emptyset: “Collapsed” [Raster-Noton, 12” + digital, R-N 116]
They hadn’t played techno since 2011, and it was about time that they did an album with some of those asbestos beats and textures sharper than the blade of a knife, even if it is with one foot riding the brakes. From “Demiurge” to “Medium”, it was all shadows and howling among the cypresses for Paul Purgas and James Ginzburg. The Bristol duo’s last 12”, which included the remixes of “Demiurge” by Roly Porter and Paul Jebanasam, was more likely to cause a bacterial infection than a Saint Vitus’ dance. “Collapsed” is another story. First of all, because it implies their entry into Raster-Noton within the ‘Unun’ series of records; secondly, in the same line as Mika Vainio, Kyoka, NHK and Grischa Lichtenberger before them, in four cuts, Emptyset have unleashed all of the demons, setting up a mess of asymmetrical beats and noisy feedback spread into the air, making it un-breathable. “Armature” seems as if it were made of black marble, while “Core” has more thorns than a rosebush; “Collapse” sounds like the blade of a helicopter that is stuck because of a lack of grease - it sounds like a Pan Sonic album slowing down and dimming as the electricity shuts down - and “Wire” is another bout in the effort to achieve an industrial, dirty, terminal techno sound. They are furious, and their sound is on the rise.
Fennesz: “Fa 2012” [Editions Mego, 12” + digital, eMEGO 151] + Sensate Focus: “Sensate Focus 2.5” [Sensate Focus, 12” + digital, FOCUS 2.5]
There is no longer any surprise factor to play with, but surprise wasn’t exactly what Mark Fell was banking on using to make his mark on the contemporary house circuit; with his sober, meditative, very personal work, every 12” he releases becomes even more necessary. This fourth delivery in the Sensate Focus series – which started with number 10 and is counting down until the fraction is almost indivisible and gives a weird logarithm that makes designers panic - is a variation, a supplement to all of the preceding volumes. There are dance beats muffled by clicks, soulful vocal samples inserted into an artificial landscape, glitches and deep atmospheres that bring together the concepts of Chicago and his experimental band, SND, in a logical yet shocking way. “Sensate Focus 2.5” could even be said to be the record that unfolds the most fluidly and pleasantly of all, with a deep covering and a strong ending with stabs of rave and a voice that completely unexpectedly says “ah yeah” in “X”, and more silky lines in the very sweet “Y”. Of course, that isn’t all: Fennesz’s 12 minutes of remix sound like his deformed interpretation – with beats that choke, run into each other, and pile up like lemmings in a race – of New York house. It’s also true that “Fa 2012”, the original song, makes it easy: Fennesz is as shoegaze as he is at his best, but with an underground drum that seems to find the missing link between My Bloody Valentine and Detroit.
Randomer: “We Laugh, We Scream” [Hemlock, 12” + digital, HEK018]
Since his landing at Hemlock, Randomer seems to have found the best conditions for spouting out his sound at us, spraying acid spit and rowdy techno beats with astonishing ease. It’s no surprise that an almost fanatic cult has arisen around the Londoner, celebrating every one of his EPs and sessions as if they were the coming of the Messiah or something. The truth is that on the entire scene built around bastardised ideas about techno and the sharpest extremes of bass, Randomer stands out the same way that Blawan does: for being a pig and not having a complex about it. “We Laugh, We Scream” is acid techno of the most dangerous variety, with rotten voices and a bassline that sticks to your ear like a big grease stain. The B-side isn’t as dirty, but it is just as solid, with skeletal beats that share an idea of minimalism similar to that of Pearson Sound ( “Freak Dub”), but in this case with less flexibility and more of a desire to bang heads ( “Nar”), something that the best Aphex Twin would do if one day he got the urge to twist post-dubstep breaks. Randomer: the fine art of the troglodyte.
Lapalux: “Some Other Time” [Brainfeeder, 12” + digital, BF032]
“Some Other Time” is a brother EP to “When You’re Gone”, which was released at the beginning of the year: one of the two models on the cover reappears here, this time alone and close to the corner, perhaps to represent that these five new cuts are more intimate, without as much intention of grabbing your attention as when Stuart Howard burst into Brainfeeder territory brilliantly. His language, which we already learned to love when the very attentive label Pictures Music discovered him, includes a deformation of hip hop – similar to that of Flying Lotus, with a lot of rhythmic pirouettes and chopped-up voices - that is decorated with sighs, isolated vocals and little bits of melody in a very high register. This is what happens with “Quartz” and “Jaw Jackin’”, signs that emotional post-dubstep is no longer as important to his artistic ideas as the hybrid, psychedelic soul made in California ( “Forgetting And Learning Again” even has Karry Leatham, a debuting vocalist, imitating Erykah Badu’s way of singing). The tempo goes up on the B-side with “Strangling You With The Cords” and the breaks pop out all over in “Close Call / Chop Cuts”, making it clear that Lapalux still has room to improve and to keep wringing those tears out of us with every album.
U: “Eah” [ManMakeMusic, 10”, MMAKEU01]
There is no information at all about U. The name chosen by the artist is also so minimalist that it barely leaves a possibility of tracing it through the usual internet channels - google “U” and see what it gets you - so whoever it is has guaranteed that the mystery will hold up for quite some time. As long as U isn’t a debuting producer, in which case there is no mystery, nor anything to reveal. What is known is what is included on the label of this 10” limited to 300 copies, U’s debut on George Fitzgerald’s label. In four short, wonderful pieces, it shows a mastery of the language of London deep house with a watery texture. This sounds as if you took Charles Webster and Chris Brann’s entire catalogue and diluted it in seawater. While everything dissolves and gives off smoke and dancing bubbles, you hear voices treated with helium and feathers ( “Haunted”, which is like Burial on a visit to New York during the clandestine underground period of house), a sort of film-like nocturnal trip-hop like the best moments of UNKLE ( “Heaven”), alongside two small gems of spectral, cobwebby deep house ( “Eah” and “Evil Spirits”), a fortuitous encounter of the catalogues of labels like Real Soon, Hotflush and Tri Angle. Listen to it, and an imperceptible shiver will race up and down your spine.
Shelter Point: “Forever For Now” [Hotflush, 12” + digital, HF035]
Speaking of Hotflush: lately, gunner Paul Rose’s label has been signing more than Manchester City, and among these recent discoveries is Shelter Point, probably the replacement they needed since Mount Kimbie announced a move to Warp. This London duo, two 20-year-olds whose identities have yet to be revealed, works on the fault line between melancholy dubstep and pop, mixing soft bass with languid voices that make you think of the James Blake effect more than once (although with more change of pitch, creating an artificial aura) - on “Braille” and “Forever For Now”, especially - and also for the use of pianos, elegant 80s AOR pop, and a refined idea of glamour. For now, it’s hard to know exactly how big Shelter Point will get in the future: this 12” is sure to put them on the map, and it will get them their first live shows, the occasional remix, and the attention of the most refined consumers of electronic passions. In the future, who knows: they might be incredible.
We could say that it’s over, but that would be a lie. We still have six more records to end this column, like a banker or a majority shareholder: with a juicy bonus.
Ghosts On Tape: “Nature’s Law / No Go” [Icee Hot, 12”, IH001] + Lando Kal: “Let You In The Sky / Help Myself” [Icee Hot, 12”, IH002]
In less than a month they have already put out two titles, and they are on their way to building up a high-flying catalogue. The truth is that with the talent behind it, everything is easy for Icee Hot: it’s a San Francisco label that Low Limit from Lazer Sword, Ghosts On Tape, Rollie Fingers and Shawn Reynaldo (the editor of the old magazine, and now website, XLR8R) are participating in; with support like that, they are on their way to making a niche for themselves on the North American underground house scene. The first title, by Ghosts On Tape, starts off from a very deep house premise – pads, pianos, meticulous, lovely crescendos in “Nature’s Law” and the two remixes by Lando Kal and Jus-Ed – while the other one is very bass, the accelerated “No Go”, which has some very fat basslines. The second title, which will be released next Monday, shows a Lando Kal who is far from arching beats and experiments with elastic hip hop, getting to the point of techno-funk with squirrely voices, Detroit basslines, an almost acid splash and remixes of Anthony Shakir and Grown Folk. Watch out for what’s coming.
Clubroot: “Summons EP” [Lo Dubs, 12” + digital, LODUBS-12002]
There are three songs on this new 12” from Clubroot: “Summons” had already appeared on “III – MMXII”, specifically the third track, with a rhythmic cadence that sounded like sneaky drum’n’bass walking on tiptoe through a field of thundering bass, as well as “My Kingdom”, another obsessive exercise in dubstep wound into circular harmonies (there’s a relationship with The Future Sound Of London, and it’s not only in the title). But for people who like to have it all, there’s a third previously unreleased cut, “Deep In Thought”, which won’t disappoint big Clubroot fans: as always, there are snowy dawn atmospheres and a devastating layer of sub-bass that pound your chest, while the chorus of samples of angelical voices caresses your hair.
Sigha: “Scene Couple / Brood” [Hotflush, 10”, LWG001]
These two cuts will end up forming a part of “Living With Ghosts”, the album that Sigha will release on Hotflush in a couple of weeks, to extend his area of influence as one of the producers breathing new life into British techno. But if you want vinyl, you’ll have to get your hands (exclusively) on the 10” with both of them, pressed with enough quality to shake the club with these hypnotic sequences ( “Brood”) that are so typical of British Murder Boys (see above): synthetic and stabbing, with the occasional burst of acid from the UR school ( “Scene Couple”), Sigha is here with a desire to disfigure some legs.
Ike Yard: “Regis / Monoton Versions” [Desire Records-Blackest Ever Black, 12”, dsr060-BLACKEST011]
Ike Yard was an American post-punk band that flirted with no-wave, which Stuart Argabright was in (whom we’ve run into again, decades later, in Black Rain, the techno-industrial project reclaimed by the label Blackest Ever Black). The label Desire has reissued their first album – originally pressed by the United States division of Factory, no less – and as a supplement, there is this 12”. It features two songs, “Loss” and “NCR”, remixed by Regis (comatose techno with sporadic peaks of intensity) and the re-released, reactivated Monoton (less comatose techno, with more echo). Noble dark lineage, with class and tension.
Pete Swanson: “Pro-Style” [Type Recordings, 12” + digital, TYPE110]
Since he has discovered techno, and especially now that he can unleash the same industrial mayhem as always with a bigger outpouring of testosterone and rage, Pete Swanson is letting his hair down, and his wrangling is even cooler, of course. There isn’t the slightest inkling of him going back to his noise beginnings as Yellow Swans, and the man is banging out left and right on this new 12”, which should be classified along with the very brutal album “Man With Potential” (2011). Two cuts with bad vibes on the A-side ( “Pro Style” and its VIP remix), with sounds that squeak like the motor of a poorly-greased train, alongside acid belches and a tour de force lasting over 11 minutes on the flip side ( “Do You Like Students?”), which may possibly mark a personal record in savagery, a desire to injure our eardrums and cause stress. Hot damn!