Dance music is best produced and consumed in a kaleidoscopic manner. When history, genre and setting (both physical and mental) are swished together and coagulated into a singular, protean entity is when the form really flourishes. The digital age of music production has made the above painfully obvious and while it has resulted in a relative amount of democratization, the ensuing dilution in quality is also readily apparent. Especially when it comes to reigniting dance music classics. The internet and popular radio shows has opened up young listeners to a myriad of classic sounds and genres, from the relatively recent like dubstep and grime to the early 1990s sounds of ‘ardkore and gabber. Producers have attempted ad nauseam to replicate the sounds of yore and have largely failed in those attempts. The explosion of breakbeat sounds over the past few years has been a welcome percussive blast, but the amount of derivative imitators greatly outnumbers the true-to-form believers.
Irish producer Jack Sheehan aka Shriekin’ (formerly Shriekin’ Specialist) walks the line between pastiche and authenticity with meticulous passion, clearly pointing to grime’s past while refuting its more staid practices. Sheehan’s sound is cleaner and more clairvoyant than what one might expect from an instrumental grime producer, but that’s exactly the quality that sets him apart from his forebears. It’s a bright, exuberant sound that matches the film noir bombast of Ruff Sqwad with the tightly coiled, trance-sampling hip hop production of American production duo the Block Beattaz and the Dipset Trance Party mixtape series. Ironclad snares form the backbone of most productions and are matched against a distinct R&B aesthetic and the ever-distinctive eski sound palette.
For his Astral Plane mix, Shriekin’ turned time on its head and drew a squiggling line from the freshest sounds of 2014 down through contemporary iterations of grime’s classics. Forthcoming Matt Wizard (on Gobstopper), Samename (on Pelican Fly) and a hotly tipped Shriekin’ joint (on Local Action), start the mix off with a wish wash of industiral Jersey and skittering R&B. Before long, recognizable strains of Flukes, XTC, Dizzee Rascal and the somewhat more recent Joy Orbison (Gage’s bootleg is not one to miss) enter the picture and the mix takes on a reverent, cerebral air. It’s the type of mix that makes a listener both wildly nostalgic and ravenously excited for what the future has in store. And while there might be a mass of misguided revivalists, as long as we have artists like Shriekin’ in our mist, we’re in a good place.
In a general sense, grime is generally not thought of as party music, especially the melody-focused brand championed by Rabit and Visionist in recent years. It’s not necessarily after-club music in the night bus variety either despite the fact that it elucidates a neo-futuristic urban landscape better than just about any other form of electronic music. That doesn’t mean it can’t function in either of those settings though. Northwest London’s Dark0 proves that squarewave-based instrumental grime can soundtrack a night out with aplomb. It just might be a night where you got entirely too faded. With an ear for early grime producers like Davinchi and Maniac, Dark0 has a keen ear for the canon’s classics, but that’s the point where he stops looking back.
Last year’s Zero mixtape saw him matching classic acapellas with his brightly melodic, synth-focused productions, showings his ability to adapt the old and the new with a refined hip hop aesthetic. 2013 also saw the release of the I Ain’t A Sweet Boy EP, a more concerted effort that added blistering percussion to his shimmering melodic prowess. Last week, the adeptly titled Sin EP hit the streets, Dark0’s biggest release to date, disseminated by the aforementioned Visionist’s Lost Codes imprint. Sin is a large record in more than just its scope, adding a rough hewn amphetamine edge to his already efined template To celebrate the release, he laced us with a 30 minute mix detailing in blurry cognizance a night out, matching distinctive grime instrumentals with some of the funnest rap tunes to come out in recent years. It’s a fragmented 30 minute journey through Juicy J chant-alongs at the club, bleary-eyed public transpo rides and the eventual attempt to piece together the events of the previous night. In this context, Dark0’s take on melodic grime makes the connection between the before, during and after of the club experience and while the individual components might come off as incomprehensible, the whole makes perfect sense.
One of the most pervasive criticisms of American club music is that it lacks a level of maturity. American grime and dubstep producers don’t respect the history of their respective genres. Ballroom and footwork are functional sounds produced to assist a dance and nothing more. Jersey club is a bed squeak sample and nothing else. We call bullshit. These criticisms have been rampant since Uncle Luke and Miami bass were demonized and, unfortunately, there will also be a semblance of racial rhetoric in these discussions. Former member of Westside Schmucks and current Atlanta resident Jay Murphy knows a thing or two about club music in America and has quietly positioned himself at a major axis point of a number of scenes and sounds.
These days, Murphy goes by Legion and reps crews like Brick Bandits, Tomahawk Chop and Freshmore. In the past, Murphy has dealt mainly in the mid-Atlantic sounds of ballroom, Jersey and Bmore, but under his Legion pseudonym, he has refined his sound is a gritty amalgam of both British and American sounds. As far as DJing goes, you would be hard pressed to find someone more voracious for dubs, exclusives and wonky bootlegs, resulting in a fun, unexpected result in all of his mix work. Legion’s Astral Plane mix touches on why American club music has to be taken seriously without coming off as presumptuous, marauding through 23 tracks from members of his own crews, as well as AP favorites like Grovestreet, DJ Milktray and Inkke. The mix is breakneck and angular, settling into an aggressive modus operandi early on and never letting up. Stream/download below and hit the jump for the full track list.
Over the past few years, it’s become apparent that Soundcloud has become the dominant form of sharing and funding unreleased dubs and radio rips. While Youtube still holds a place in the collective consciousness and radio stations like Rinse, NTS and Berlin Community Radio continue to shine, Soundcloud is the real digger’s paradise these days. It doesn’t rile the imagination like pirate radio or offer physical substance like acetate, but Soundcloud does at least offer a relatively comprehensive database for unreleased material, often uploaded only minutes after being rinsed on an online radio station like Sub.FM, RWD FM or Nasty FM. Essex resident Gundam, a member of the RawSense collective, has taken a special liking to the Soundcloud platform, uploading numerous radio rips, reposting whole shows that feature his music and regularly offering free beat tapes and remixes to his fans.
As far as aesthetics go, Gundam fits into a cadre of modern classicists that includes JT The Goon, Major Grave and others, taking what was so effective about grime’s early years and giving them a contemporary update. That being said, he also dabbles in hip hop production and clearly has a keen interest in breakbeat-led forms and the percussion-heavy machinations of producers like Neana and Akito. He’s remixed pop stars Drake and Beyonce to great effect (trust me) and also accumulated nods from Flowdan, Slackk and Son Raw. His nom de guerre elicits images of larger-than-life robots and his music is equally massive, both mechanical and fluid, a far from linear course leading from grime’s past and into its future. Gundam’s Astral Plane mix exemplifies this ethos, picking and choosing key elements from the formative era (in the form of Blackwax’s “Pulse X” remix) and contiguously mixing them with hyped, but untested new tracks (William Skeng’s “Symbiotic Wetsuit Riddim”). If you’re looking for a comprehensive account of where grime has been, is and will be, then look no further.
Last week, we brought you Imaabs and Tomas Urquieta’s Jam City Reworks project, a two track effort that sees the two Chilean producers take on signature tracks from the Night Slugs representative. The tracks fall somewhere in the nether region where ballroom, Jersey club and grime meet, distinguished by their raw sonics and non-linear rhythmic patterns. These characteristics put Imaabs and Urquieta in the same realm as the Her Records folk and Gang Fatale crew, despite living thousands of miles from the sound’s epicenter on America’s East Coast and London. It’s easy to get caught up in the fantastical idea that producers from outside of the Anglo/Euro world belong in an entirely different category than those who reside within Europe/America/Australia, but this stratification is rarely useful and often results in a regressive, bifurcated classification system. The fact that Imaabs and Urquieta are from Chile should be noted, but it shouldn’t define the artists involved.
That being said, artists who reside outside of dance music’s core can and do offer a different perspective on both production and consumption methods. After hearing Imaabs ingest and rearrange ballroom on his Baroque EP and various one-offs, we asked him to contribute to our guest mix series and he came up with the brilliant idea of highlighting the work of South American and Mexican producers. The following hour and ten minute mix both draws parallels and points out the contrasts between the work of Santiago’s Alpha Stronggah, Urquieta and others along with Astral Plane favorites Rushmore, Neana and Piri Piri. It’s both seamless and discombobulated; an impossibly smooth production that still manages to knock this listener off his feet with every subsequent listen. There are hints of kuduro, zouk and other Caribbean/West African styles, but the majority of the mix falls into the aforementioned ballroom/club/grime amalgam. Moving past geography, Imaabs points out a number of wildly talented producers (Paul Marmota, Inti Kunza) and previews a few special new collaborations. Track list after the jump.
A lot of ink has been spilled on Lisbon, Portugal’s Principe imprint over the past several months, but few commentators have focused on the breadth and quality control that the label has achieved in just five original releases. DJ Marfox and DJ Nigga Fox have (somewhat fairly) garnered much of the plaudits from the press, largely because of their wildly creative synthesis of Lusophone-derived production methods, but each of Principe’s releases has shone a different light on Lisbon’s prismatic dance scene. As far as redefinition goes, Principe’s star act is Niagara, the trio made up of brothers António and Alberto Arruda, and Sara Eckerson. Working almost exclusively in the range of house and techno, the trio might lack the polyrhythmic capabilities of some of their label-mates, but they more than make up for it with melodic innovation and a keen sense of the grittier ends of texture. The most obvious contemporary comparison is Actress, but Niagara’s dubby, wind-drag take on house has a sunnier disposition than the London don’s brightest productions. 2013’s Ouro Oeste, the trio’s hardware-driven debut EP, is a six track rough hewn expose on chintzy snares, thick acid basslines and gritty, punchy kick drums. It’s easy to get lost in the fine-tuned analogue basis of the EP, but the sparkling, deceptively complex melodies are what really drive Ouro Oeste.
It’s not that Niagara are re-defining house music as a whole, but like their contemporaries MGUN and Actress, they strive to re-orient the form should be consumed. It can be both glamourous and uncompromising, dusty and sonorous. The following mix features 12 original Niagara compositions that make up 45 minutes of infectious, distractedly lo-fi fun. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t completely obsessed with it and Niagara’s focus on the minutiae of mixing cannot be ignored. I was also lucky enough to share a short email interaction with the group so stream/grab the mix below and hit the jump for the full interview and track list.
In the general sphere of “beat” music, the instrumental hip hop sound both directly and obliquely centered around Los Angeles’ Low End Theory club night, it’s an incredibly difficult task to differentiate oneself from the competition. While the club night has diversified and expanded (by leaps and bounds) since its inception in 2006, there’s a resounding sense that much of its original sonic make-up has become staid and predictable. With the exception of several recent projects, notably Teebs’ E S T A R A, it’s rather difficult to find producers invested in pushing the boundaries of experimental music. Which is exactly where the United Kingdom-based Iglooghost enters the picture. Encompassing both the direct and oblique connections to Low End Theory, the teenage producer is presently working on an LP with Hellfyre Club member-cum-laude Milo, the obvious connection. Iglooghost also represents an ever-growing camp of international producers adapting, expanding upon and sometimes aping the sounds of Los Angeles.
In January, Error Broadcast released Iglooghost’s first official EP, Treetunnels, an effort that saw him adding R&B flavor and vocals to his jazz-inflected productions. With productions under his belt for the aforementioned Milo and Kool A.D., he has also made strides into the hip hop world, resulting in collaborations that belie the oceanic distance between rapper and beatsmith. Outside of his work with rappers, he brings an expansive take on hip hop to the table, showcasing an impressive comprehension of sound design and composition. Iglooghost’s Astral Plane mix features a mature sound that starts with drum and bass and quickly dissolves into immersive ambient space. We first listened to the mix after a weekend at Death Valley and were quickly enveloped in a semi-coherent haze by 32 minutes of richly melodic, deeply rewarding beat work. The track list might not be immediately familiar, but rinse yourself in the mix and it will take you away.
In a sense, Bones & Money‘s production acumen mirrors their beginnings as a DJ duo, an amalgam of innumerable dance music styles rolled up into a tightly wound ball. Hailing from Aberdeen, Scotland, otherwise known as the Granite City, DM Bones (Shaun) and O.T.O.H. (Calum) began producing as Bones & Money at the beginning of 2012, releasing a free single on Tuff Wax Records, the label they co-run with Lockah. Unlike many of their contemporaries, the duo take a less is more approach into their productions and curatorial work (Tuff Wax was founded “as a boutique label aiming to revive interest in high quality vinyl”), preferring to synthesize grime, footwork, R&B and garage into an angular, club-focused weapon that can be deployed with ease in a wide variety of sets.
From an aesthetic perspective, Bones & Money’s output recalls the more abrasive output of a Paul Johnson or Parris Mitchell in its less-is-more focus and ruthless efficiency. B&M certainly don’t make ghetto-house, but their roughneck ethos and compositional understanding certainly allow for similarities. For their Astral Plane mix, the Granite City dwellers funneled contemporary grime and classic Baltimore into 35 minutes of rapid-fire break beats and swelling sub-bass. The pacing is excellent and the mix demands several listens to pick up all of the expertly composed gems. Find the full track list after the jump.
Steeped in millennial culture and bred on East Coast club sounds, Austin-based DJ/producer Mike G draws lines between the Internet, insular regional scenes and the ears of young listeners. It would be impossible to place Mike, born in Los Angeles, in any particular genre or sub-genre, his music instead evoking everything you’d want from the “bass” music genre without any of its pedantic proclivities. You know him via releases on Car Crash Set, Freshmore and B.YRSLF Division, but Mike’s remixes, bootlegs and one-offs might just have garnered him even more attention. Maybe you heard his “Code Switch”/Divoli S’vere edit on the Night Slugs/Boiler Room event or saw his Thomas White remix burning up the web. It might have been his collaboration with Falcons that caught your eye, released through the wide-gazing Mad Decent. Gathering up breakbeats, horn stabs and volatile “ha” samples, from across the avant-garde of yore, Mike has developed a sound in both his DJing and production that is always accessible, but never pandering. It’s as implacable as it is fun, fully existing in the prosperous nether-region of the Internet, without crossing over into self-indulgent fapping. Mike’s Astral Plane Mix elicits all of the above, a genre smashing affair, pedal-to-the-metal affair that actively refuses to be boxed in. In a simple sense, the mix and Mike G’s musical output in general offers up a quintessential progressive spirit, constantly striving for change and apotheosis. Stream/download below and hit the jump to peep the track list.