Tag Archives: Electronic

The Nomadic, Spiritual, Wholly Contemporary World of Ariwo


The word “Ariwo,” says Cuban trumpeter Yelfris Valdés, means “noise” in the Yoruban language. He and his fellow band members chose the name for the band because, when used in phrases like “Make some noise!” the word conjures the idea of being present, and having people listen to both your music and its message.

Ariwo, a Cuban/Iranian U.K.-based quartet, released their debut album on the Manana Records label which grew out of last year’s inaugural Manana Festival. Held in Santiago de Cuba, on the easternmost tip of the island, the festival hosted an extraordinary and first-ever series of musical encounters between U.K. and U.S. electronic musicians and traditional Cuban folkloric artists.


That same love of genre cross-pollination is central to Ariwo. The group consists of Iranian electronic composer Pouya Ehsaei, a well-known producer in his country’s experimental music scene, and three of London’s most influential Cuban musicians: Yelfris Valdés, and percussionists Oreste Noda (conga) and Hammadi Valdés (timbales, batá, minor percussion). All of the players have histories with iconic Cuban bands such as Sierra Maestra and Irakere. In their music, Noda and Hammadi Valdés combine the many textures of Afro-Cuban percussion, creating a rich backdrop for Yelfris Valdés’s flowing trumpet grooves, while Ehsaei’s hypnotic rhythms bind them all together.

We caught up with three of the four band members in London—Hammadi Valdés, Yelfris Valdés, and Ehsaei—as they shared their perspectives on how Afro-Cuban spirituality, Iranian mysticism, and the language of music helped them find common ground.

The conversations with the Valdéses took place in Spanish, and for these parts of the discussion, translations are provided along with their original responses.

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Ten Records that Blur The Line Between Electronic and Classical Music

Murc of Wagner

Murcof x Vanessa Wagner by Pierre Emmanuel Rastoin.

Considering how closely aligned electronic and classical music have been for decades—from string-laden samples and Philip Glass-like synth grooves to questionable covers like Tiësto’s dopey trance anthem take on Samuel Barber—it should come as no surprise that line between the two has become blurred over time. In fact, it seems pointless to peg many of today’s artists to either.

“I have always been surprised to hear my albums classified as ‘ambient,'” says Polish composer Michał Jacaszek. “They may have ambient elements—like deep reverb or delayed textures—but I prefer an ‘electro-acoustic’ label.”

“I don’t think I’d ever classify my own music in any modern classical sense,” adds producer/12k founder Taylor Deupree. While he’s collaborated with the legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto several times (Disappearance, Perpetual), Deupree sees more parallels between traditional and progressive music forms in the work of his longtime labelmate, Kenneth Kirschner.

“Ken often uses the sounds of traditional classical music,” explains Deupree, “but with very modern and very minimalist compositions. I think that’s where the interest and strength lies in this type of music—where the inspiration comes from people like [Morton] Feldman and [John] Cage.”

That’s certainly been the case with a recent string of records from Mexican producer Murcof and pianist Vanessa Wagner. Last year’s Statea LP reinterpreted everything from John Adams to Aphex Twin, and this summer’s EP.02 pays tribute to Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, and Morton Feldman without tarring the originals in techno-fusion tropes.

“The piano is the starting point of our project,” explains Wagner. “It’s important that electronic effects do not swallow its sound, even if it is sometimes distorted. Similarly, it also seemed very important to stay true to the scores of composers that we interpret.”

The same can often be said for post-classical provocateurs like Alarm Will Sound, the chamber orchestra famous for flipping Aphex Twin on his already twisted head. The following feature isn’t about concert halls invading the club, however, or vice versa. This is closer to the middle ground where it’s never clear what’s being “played” and what’s being “produced.”

Here are 10 essential classically-inclined electronic albums.

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Piratón Records Fights Stereotypes Through Compilations



In 2015, Carlos Huerta, formerly known as electronic/rap artist Josué Josué, and currently a music journalist, founded Piratón Records in Mexico City. Huerta had no intention of focusing on any particular genre, but wanted to create a platform for experimental outlier-type artists. He chose the name “piratón” (“pirate”) for the label to reference the idea of illegal recordings as well as the Spanish-language sense of something that is underground.

The first two releases focused on experimental rap and hip-hop beats, but the following veered into different territory. Titled No Hay Más Fruta Que La Nuestra and featuring only female artists, the label announced that the compilation sought to “break away from segregation, centralization, prejudice, machismo, double standards, classism, cultural exoticization, and other anachronistic expressions.”


Planta Carnivora

Highlighting the work of artists from all over Spain and Latin America (Mexico, Cuba, Chile, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic), that first compilation and its followup, released in May 2017, share a wildly varied and fresh range of musical styles—folk, experimental electronic, hip-hop, punk, psych-pop, noise, and shoegaze.

Both compilations’ titles, which translate to “There is No Fruit Other Than Ours,” are a play on words riffing on a famous quote by revolutionary Mexican muralist David Siqueiros: “No hay mas ruta que la nuestra” (“There is no other route but ours”).

We caught up with Huerta in Mexico City to chat about the curatorial path from Piraton’s first release to the compilations, which also took him to create a column for Thump/Vice called “El Eterno Femenino (The Eternal Feminine).”

The conversation with Huerta took place in Spanish, so we share both the original discussion and the English translation below.

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U.K. Dance Label Rhythm Section’s Guiding Rule: “Good Parties, Good Music”

Bradley Zero

Bradley Zero

Exiting Peckham Rye train station isn’t for the faint of heart. Within seconds of leaving its marbled arches, you’re on Rye Lane, a permanently bustling, consistently overwhelming half-mile patchwork of butcher shops, bars, and bodies. It’s the lifeblood of South East London, a mishmash of cultures swarming its sidewalks at all hours. A similar eclecticism flows through every release on local dance label Rhythm Section International.

Renowned for their genre-fluid approach, Rhythm Section International’s releases wind their way through jazz, R&B, house, disco, and countless other styles. The label, which grew out of a series of parties, gigs, and club nights on Rye Lane’s dingy Canavan’s Peckham Pool Hall that started in 2012, began taking shape when founder Bradley Zero’s crossed paths with an artist named Al Dobson Jr. during Zero’s day job at Boiler Room. Zero was adamant that Dobson’s free-spirited, jazzy works needed to be released, and in June 2014, he took it upon himself to do so. The diverse ethos of those Rhythm Section London parties went international with the release of Dobson’s Rye Lane Volume One LP.

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Album of the Day: Laurel Halo, “Dust”

On Dust, her third full-length album for Hyperdub, Berlin-by-way-of-Michigan electronic producer Laurel Halo leads off with a track that adapts the poetry of renowned Brazilian poet Haroldo de Campos to song. Through a fog of phasing organ chords and skittering drum loops, Halo unravels the precarious mechanics of consciousness de Campos explores. The lyrical centerpiece (“Where does this grinding grind? Where does this gear engage?”) becomes something of a mantra, establishing a thematic tone that carries through the entire album.

It wouldn’t be difficult to fill a page in admiration of Halo’s lyrical prowess. On “Jelly,” the album’s first single, her descriptions of detached emotions and reactive judgement within a relationship crisis are harrowing. Throughout Dust, Halo finesses modern conditions into classical poetic forms and sets a lyrical standard seldom seen in the liners of an experimental electronic record.

Though she has vacillated between instrumental and lyrically-driven work over the past six years, on Dust, she delivers the most openly narrative work of her career. In a sense, that makes Dust Halo’s most accessible recording. Though the poetic language of the album is strikingly direct, Halo’s compositions sprawl wildly, corralling stormy free jazz passages (“Arschkriecher”) and airy dubstep ballads (“Like an L” and “Syzygy”) with jungly El Guincho-esque body music (“Moontalk”). The diversity of the work indicates a dizzying breadth of influences, but Halo’s attentions never seem scattered or lacking focus—rather, the opposite. The 12 pieces that make up Dust maintain conceptual clarity; it’s an accomplished account of existential wonder and dread.

—Joseph Darling