The idea that electronic music is one-dimensional is laughable in the best of times. But now, as we long for connection to other people in other parts of the world, the vast diversity of sounds, styles, and points of origin of electronic stands out more than ever. From audio representations of fungal networks to fiercely politicized turntablism; film noir funk to Brazilian bass; sleazy Serbian techno to joyously cascading Norwegian braindance—it’s all here. There are memories of the past, too: whether its in the reconstructed rave of a veteran Midwest producer or the unearthed teenage experiments of British bass innovators. So whether you want to be soothed, startled, or just get a groove on, there’s a whole world waiting for you.
For electronica lovers, the fact that Stian Gjevik—aka EOD—has had records released by Aphex Twin and the Icelandic Nina Kraviz protégé Bjarki, is in itself enough of an endorsement. As you may have guessed from those connections, Gjevik’s style involves complicated skittering rhythms and melodies, but it all retains the beating heart of funk. It’s lifted even further by an emotional intelligence that gives these tunes the eerie bittersweetness of very early Aphex tracks. All four tracks are heartbreakingly lovely, with the beat-less opener, in particular, transporting you to a misty, pre-dawn landscape you’ll want to return to again and again.
Sabina Plamenova—the Bulgarian-Italian Londoner formerly known as Subeena, and now Alis—never seems to get stuck in a creative rut. These three tracks span Massive Attack-like, stretched out breakbeats, surging acid house, and claustrophobic underwater ambience. Not one of them is generic, all of these elements are used in the service of high-drama song structures, with Alis’s voice weaving through grandiose reverb, unshowy but hugely confident.
2006 – 2009 1/2 & 2006 – 2009 2/2
Over the course of several EPs, Shy One has proven herself one of the most innovative producers in UK bass music, constantly joining the dots between many styles. But before she ever released anything, she was a teenage grime beatmaker—and this collection reveals her earliest experiments. There are 23 instrumentals spread across two volumes, and though some of the mixdowns are fairly rudimentary, there’s loads here that are hugely playable, and there are plenty of little moments—like the mind-bending surge of synths on “Untitled Nov 08” or the interlocking melodies of “Matthew”—that show Shy was hungry for the new from the very beginning.
place : ecuador
The New York label Air Texture consistently delivers fantastic compilations of deep listening electronic music, curated by smartly-chosen names. Equally fascinating is their place series, which has introduced listeners to local scenes in various corners of the world, each time with a local curator as guide. This month, they released a sterling edition from Vancouver assembled by Kuma, and, even better, is this collection from Quito, Ecuador. Prolific “retro-futurist” producer Quixosis has compiled 19 tracks from his compatriots that tend toward slow-motion dance grooves, situating traditional instrumentation in strange digital spaces, and creating a startlingly consistent aesthetic. All profits from both volumes go to supporting indigenous rights and environmental protection in the respective countries.
Cosmic Garden EP
New Yorker, Angel Deradoorian, has released two outstanding records this year. Find the Sun channels great psych-pop and krautrock sounds from across the decades to soundtrack a journey of personal exploration, while this record is altogether more electronic and more blissed out. It touches, at various points, on Italian cosmic disco, new age private press tapes, and particularly dreamy Japanese deep house. And as with all those things, while it sounds very simple at any given point, you’ll find yourself getting swept away to some very strange places by it.
Strange Adventure EP
Ilana Bryne is a veteran of the Midwest rave scene, and she certainly isn’t shy about using old-school sounds. The warm pads and breakbeats on “Exclusive Shit Holds No Weight” and the cheerily singing acid tones that turn up throughout, evoke starlit vistas and woozy sunrises at some never-ending rave under a huge sky. It’s all lovely enough to feel quite utopian—although there’s also a faster, moodier booty-electro remix of “Theoretical Medical Genitals” by Russell E.L. Butler to stop you from floating away in a cloud of PLUR.
It remains astounding that, nearly three decades into his career, 31 Records boss Doc Scott’s ears for talent are just as sharp as they were when he started out. The rhythms on this EP by Lupo from Bournemouth on the English south coast are your standard tightly wound, rigid drum’n’bass patterns. The snarling bass sounds and MC vocal snippets are familiar too. Yet somehow, the young producer opens up space between all the elements in such a unique way that, even when there’s barely anything happening, the momentum is furious—like the floor’s fallen out from under you, and you’re being propelled through space by an invisible machine.
Jay & Bash
J. Bevin’s releases over the years have been few and far between—but when they do arrive, they’re always worth checking out. The latest is a collaboration with Bristol house/bass linchpin Julio Bashmore aka Bash, released on the label run by both Bashmore and Bevin’s old friend and colleague T.Williams. It’s structured around the Afro/bashment-influenced percussion syncopation of UK funky—the scene where Bevin started out—but everything is slowed down to a creepy-crawly house plod, and stripped down to fearsome levels of minimalism. Thus the purity of 808 kickdrums, the crispness of percussion sounds, the smoothness of soft synth tones are all given the chance to worm their way into your consciousness as the hypnotic grooves progress.
This album, recorded in the Willem-Twee synthesis studios in Holland, is extremely conceptual: the music was created by feeding data from the hidden mycorrhizal networks of fungi into retro synth equipment. But this isn’t some exercise in academic abstraction that would appeal only to noise and code enthusiasts. There’s a regularity to the patterns in this music, and a clear love for fizzing synth textures, gamelan-like rhythms, and hints of classic ’90s electronica that makes it eminently listenable.
Mina & Champion
British producer Mina thrives on joining the dots between a variety of syncopated dance styles. She’s worked with artists and labels from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Peru, Jamaica and Portugal, but here, she’s working closer to home, with fellow Londoner Champion. Champion is normally all about high-energy four-to-the-floor bangers, but on these two tracks, his bass tones slither around Mina’s slower, tricksier, Brazilian-inspired rhythms. The results are brilliant. Careful with this one: you may find yourself attempting highly undignified dance moves as it plays.
Myoptik & The Horn
Compact Disc (CD)
“Techno gone wrong in the best possible ways” read the album notes for Banana Splitz, and those words couldn’t sum it up better. Myoptik and The Horn are both veterans of the sections of the UK underground that prioritize big, noisy fun, and have no interest in chin-stroking. On this album, which contains both solo tracks and remixes, it’s all about delighting in crunches, burbles, gurgles, blurts, and parps. The rhythms span straight techno, loose and loping electro, Aphex Twin style “braindance” and more, never once getting boring or tired, always radiating an endless sense of mischievous joy.
Serbian artist 33.10.3402 has been making music for nearly a decade now and, as you can see from the cascade of near plain-black artwork on the Bandcamp page, still obviously enjoys classic techno facelessness. This is the pick of several tracks they’ve released this month. Like most of the catalogue, it’s sluggish, gloomy techno, but in this case, the gothic atmospheres have been ramped up even further courtesy of its distorted, guitar-like drones, whip-crack snares, and post-punk bassline. It slithers along over 11 minutes, sounding like Ricardo Villalobos in a particularly sleazy mood. Which, obviously, is a great thing.
Gemmy was known in the late ‘00s and early ‘10s, along with fellow Bristol producers Joker and Guido, as being a part of the “purple” sound—tracks that mixed p-funk synths with dubstep/grime rhythms. He returned after a brief hiatus in 2018 and it now looks as if his productivity is increasing. Like last year’s “TXNG,” “Bamboozled” heavily reaffirms his roots in grime: it’s all abrupt stop-start rhythms, stinging claps and deadly laser zaps, precision tooled for high-adrenaline dancefloors. Here’s hoping he’s back to stay.
Whether she’s running an LGBT+ choir or creating sound art with turntables, Mariam Rezaei’s work in Gateshead, Northeast England revolves heavily around reasserting who is allowed a voice in modern discourse. You can hear that in this album, recorded in lockdown and made entirely from turntable manipulations of her friends’s music. Human voices—as well as voice-like electronic sounds—get warped and twisted, to the point you can almost feel them in your own throat. The tracks feel as if they’re straining at the edges of expression and meaning, speaking against pressures and constraints. The results are sometimes contemplative and sometimes aggressive. It’s never easy listening, but it’s challenging in the very best sense.
It seems like the UK’s bass pioneers are in a retrospective mood. Just one month after Kode9’s huge dump of unreleased dubplate tracks, Ollie “Skream” Jones has seen fit to release long-sought-after unreleased material from his early days. Along with the two volumes of Unreleased Classics, this new brace of tracks perfectly capture dubstep at the moment it was breaking out into the wider world. Stately rhythms that seem to pull you from one side of the room to the other and back, sonar bleeps, swooping dub sirens and, of course, deep sub bass, are deployed with such finesse it’s almost impossible to believe that Jones was still in his teens when he made them.
Cycle of Ages
“Cycle of Ages” couldn’t be any more different from L.A. producer Prism’s March comeback track “Mr. Lucifer.” Where that track’s dubstep lurch was punky and apocalyptic in mood, this one—apparently composed slowly over more than a decade—is 14 minutes of muted trumpet, fretless bass, lyrical sax soloing, and wide-open spaces—with a sample of a spiritually inclined narration from Wayne Shorter at the end. Impressively, the two tracks feel like the work of the same mind and the same traditions—jazz and dub, as filtered through British bass and rave music—showing the huge richness and sense of possibility they contain.
Loan Shark EP
Sheffield producer Commodo has always stood apart from the dubstep/grime colleagues he plays alongside, with a low, slow funk sound that’s all his own. It’s part West Coast G-Funk, part Bristol Trip-Hop, and on this EP, he has stepped up the sophistication and individuality another notch or two. There’s less obvious use of melody, but the musicality is still present in subtle twangs and subliminal chords, which all convey the feeling of something hiding in the shadows. If anyone is working on a 22nd century film noir at the moment, this would make for the perfect soundtrack.
Blanc Motif are a Portuguese duo, working between Porto and Rotterdam, Netherlands, who build their tracks from found sounds. Not that you’d know it: there’s nothing in the repeated arpeggios, drones, and kickdrums that is recognizable. But it certainly doesn’t sound like much other techno, either: the sheets of reverb and the buzzing, fizzing sounds are as much like shoegaze as anything, and the endlessly patient sense of pacing lifts you up, up and away, into radiant spaces where your brain can gently unwind.