Mumdance – Teachers
A timely update of Daft Punk’s classic shout-out track of the same name — and if you’ve done your Homework you’ll get all the rave references. While the French duo listed heroes who’d shaped house and techno up to 1996, Mumdance hits the curriculum at a more hardcore, bass-heavy angle.
Over Drexciyan electro snares and an a squirming acid bassline you get pitched-down hat-tips to the likes of Omni Trio, Hellfish, Slipmatt, LFO, Photek, Basic Channel, A Guy Called Gerald and plenty more. Gold star from the teacher if you notice Joey Beltram, Surgeon and Jeff Mills are mentioned in both tracks.
Egyptian Lover – Future Tech (1985 LP)
The return of electro-funk pioneer Egyptian Lover to the studio in the past few years has led to some straight-up vocoder & 808-fuelled magic. The title 1985 is a handy pointer to the old skool electro sound – there’s even a track called Electrohiphopfunkoldschoolpartyjam, and he’s still throwing ‘Freak’ in his song titles.
Future Tech features the year zero hero of electro, Juan Atkins of Cybotron and Model 500, for a more serious cybernetic cut that shares Atkins’ ongoing fascination with the man-machine interface.
Objekt – Runaway (Cocoon Crush LP)
Objekt’s Cocoon Crush really feels like a hyperreal next-generation electronic record, sound designed to the nth degree, without sounding stiff or too academic. Runaway hangs on intricate whirrs, chimes and treated piano, before rebooting into an arpeggiator future-funk chug.
THE GASMAN – New Chair (Controlled Hallucination LP)
New Chair immediately makes me think of the opening track on Analogue Bubblebath 3, one of the most majestic tracks in the AFX universe. This is a stunning weave of cosmic Braindance and soft-focus rave euphoria, and the rest of the album delivers on the promise.
GARIES – Future Systems (Dull Clunk LP)
David Kitt’s deep house alter-ego New Jackson goes further into the sweaty basement on this team-up with electro producer Gareth Smyth aka Lumigraph. The title Future Systems evokes a classic Metroplex 12-inch or some 1981 coldwave act from Ghent, but this is a glinting, future-facing cut, with a New Beat bassline held up by constantly building percussion and aquatic synth effects and pads. And many, many bonus points for the stunning album artwork by Mel Keane.
AUTUMNS – Recovery (Eel Behaviour – Moray EP)
I can’t resist a good pun, and Dublin techno DJ and producer Sunil Sharpe has dived in head first with the brilliant Eel Behaviour series to mark the 20th release on his Earwiggle label. He’s roped in 24 artists for a series of six four-track EPs with each one named after an eel – Conger, Moray, Bobtail, Onejaw, Sniper and Sawtooth. If anything I’ve learned that eels have the most badass names in the animal kingdom, they sound like gang nicknames from The Warriors.
Autumns’ Recovery on the Conger EP maybe shades it, with its EBM kick and nervy synth bassline, nodding to the likes of Front 242, Terence Fixmer and Not Waving. There’s really not much in it though, all the Eel tracks so far have been unreal.
DENHAM AUDIO – Lift Off (To the Core EP)
“Hardcore You Know the Score” – Lift Off is jolted into life with a Hypnotist/Quadrophonia rave stab and you’re immediately in business. The new Denham Audio x Mani Festo EP is the latest release on Italian label Beat Machine, which has been leaning towards shattered jungle, breaks, footwork and grime. Lift Off hangs off a rugged, metallic hip-hop beat and D&B rolls, with NASA control room samples and whistling bomb drop effects to keep you on your toes.
G36 – Mass Surveillance (Floor Weapons Vol. 1 EP)
An EP of Japanese industrial dub called Floor Weapons on The Bug’s Pressure label – you kinda know what you’re getting into here. This is deep anxiety dub dread brutalism from the Skeng school of murkily-processed hard knocks.
NAZAR – Warning Shots (Enclave EP)
Belgium-raised producer Nazar takes the frantic, danceable kudoro music of his native Angola and adds a mechanical, militaristic grime spin. His new six-track EP on Hyperdub is a project based on Angola’s civil war from 1975-2002 and is shot through with the sound of bomb drops, guns cocking and intensely personal accounts of airstrikes by older members of his family. There is some respite on the serene ambience of EP closer Ceasefire, but Warning Shots is its anxious backbone.
Serpente – A Noiva (Crença) (A Noiva EP)
Portuguese producer Serpente’s last EP Rituais was a voodoo-inspired outlier made up of scattered remnants of techno, jungle and dub, with rusty metallic clanging among the 808 cowbells. Follow-up is EP Noiva is slightly more ‘conventional’, but it’s all relative. Crença is insectoid free-jazz techno with scuttling percussion that sounds like a 1990s PC keyboard being bashed. The kind of thing Ricardo Villalobos would play when he’s on one.
WUME – Walled Garden (Towards the Shadow LP)
Walled Garden opens with twangy rubber band synths and jazzy drum fills as April Camlin deadpans: “What Is wall? What is wall?” like GLaDOS from the Portal games, having a HAL malfunction. It feels like cyborg music but the humans are winning – there’s too much swing in the percussion for it to be a full-on A.I. infiltration.
ABSTRACT ORCHESTRA – ALL CAPS (MADVILLAIN Vol. 1)
I’m kinda allergic to the saturated orchestral cover thing that’s been hogging festivals the last few years. Not quite as bad as the sad sack acoustic guitar lad doing pop bangers, but getting there.
The Abstract Orchestra are going one better here though, with a big band psychedelia film score take on MF Doom & Madlib’s hip-hop masterpiece Madvillainy. They go beyond just playing the sampled loops of Sun Ra, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones etc, creating fluid, cosmic jazz pieces. And while Madlib’s beats are caked in grease and gakk, these pieces actually now sound like the rare records Doom would’ve been digging for his earlier albums and Special Herbs series.
RANDALL DUNN – A True Home (Feat. Zola Jesus) (Beloved LP)
Michigan artist Randall Dunn has produced and collaborated with Earth, Sunn O))), Boris, Akron/Family and Anna Von Hausswolf, among others, so his debut album was always going to be and intense, deep listening experience. A True Home is the transcendent album closer, with Zola Jesus’ chants wafting over a majestic event horizon synth pulse.
VESSEL – Paplu (Love That Moves the Sun) (Queen of Golden Dogs LP)
Going one better than Oneohtrix Point Never with his use of harpsichord effects on his album Age Of, Vessel’s new album channels acoustic chamber instruments and hyper-kinetic rhythms and digital leads that would make Hudson Mohawke blush. Paplu sounds simultaneously like a modern update update of an Orbital sunset rave moment, while also feeling like a medieval fever dream. One of the real singular-sounding albums of the year.
William Basinski & Lawrence English – Selva Oscura LP
These two ambient veterans are masters of texures and drones, and allowing wispy tone shifts to flicker in and out of your psyche. Selva Oscura is an intensely patient piece with the conviction of maintaining a mood with the most subtle impressionistic shifts. It can’t really be split into tracks, so take 40 minutes out of your day.
MADS KJELDGAARD – Storm (Hollow Body Timpals EP)
Danish label FLUF sidesteps its usual output of experimental synthesis and outlier noisy electronics for this 25-minute EP of field recorded cicadas. It’s an ASMR wet dream, with a few clanking surprises, and makes you want to go on a Chris Watson YouTube voyage.
As usual from the label, the text on the cover is brilliantly cryptic: “Like a heavy blanket it covers the mountain valley. It seeps in from everywhere: piercing trills, screams and grains. The insects are awake. They want to eat, they want to drink, they want to sing, they want to fuck. And so, they excite their mechanic bodies.”
LOW SEA – I Feel Uneasily Loved (Portals LP)
Irish-based duo Low Sea’s first album in five years is another coldwave dreampop spell, with wispy synths, mournful post-punk bassline’s and celestial vocals. Like the Drive soundtrack reimagined by Mazzy Star. Opener I Feel Uneasily Loved is a gothic-synthwave night bus ride with a transcendent but subtle shift change in the final third.
MART AVI – Here Future Smells Like Perfume (OtherWorld LP)
If ever CFCF does another Night Bus mix, this track could easily be there among the pitched-down R&B, drizzled city ambience and chopped & screwed versions. Estonian singer and producer Mart Avi creates “madcap lounge beat, transfigured”, in his own words but his underworld skewed pop is impossible to pin down.
Here Future Smells Like Perfume wafts in on Tim Hecker-style drones, and the intricate sound design includes shattering glass and dubby echoes, while Avi’s croon channels late period Bowie.
Kælan Mikla – Andvaka (Nótt eftir nótt LP)
Icelandic synth-punk trio Kælan Mikla work from a compelling palette of early 80s DIY coldwave, goth and the occult, with a lead singer Laufey Soffia hitting Blixa Bargeld levels of anguish on the title track. Andvanka is an arpeggiator-driven minimal wave belter that sounds like it’d be played in one of those basement goth clubs in 80s films, with the straight-edge cop elbowing past skinny back-combed kids and dancers in rusty cages.
SENYAWA – Tanggalkan Di Dunia (Undo the World)
First off, bonus point for Undo the World as the most simple badass song title of the year, and this wouldn’t sound out of place as the soundtrack when the big reset button is finally pressed. Indonesian duo Senyawa plumb the same sonic depths as Sunn O))) or early Earth, with droney, cave walls of sound created on banjaxed instruments they make themselves, and ritualistic throat singing.
THE GREAT SABATINI – Still Life With Maggots (Goodbye Audio LP)
And I thought Daughters had the nasty noise-rock thing cordoned off for themselves at the end of 2018. Montreal act The Great Sabatini hammer out venomous sludgy, noise-rock with some nods to Helmet (shouty version only), Melvins and Neurosis, and Still Life With Maggots is maybe the most tightly-wound cut on the record.
- November 2018 Spotify playlist: