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11 Aug

The pick of the week

SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Malcolm McLaren – Call A Wave (remixes) (Be With)
I’m almost inarguably turning into an old fart, a disco grandad in the making if you will. But, regardless of my steadily advancing years and the accompanying sense of jadedness that I’m doing my best to temper, whenever I discover, rediscover or am reminded of bygone music of this calibre, I can’t help but question how far electronic music has actually come (or not) since its halcyon days. Originally released as a white label promo by Epic in 1989 (that’s a year before The Orb’s classic ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’, just for some perspective), the remixes of Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Call A Wave’ don’t appear to have gained a full release — until the good people at Be With did some sublime licensing manoeuvres to re-issue (or should that be issue) the double-pack in all its glory. Recorded alongside The Bootzilla Orchestra — formed of none other than Bootsy Collins and Jeff Beck among others — the remixes of ‘Call A Wave’ are about as close to a Balearic prototype as it’s possible to get. We could, of course, debate the origins and parameters of Balearic music for hours on end, but there’s a distinct possibility that nobody on God’s green earth can adequately or definitively explain the true meaning of the sound.

Which is, of course, part of the mystique. In any case, the music here is brilliant, timeless, and objectively better than a good deal of its contemporary rivals. Produced by Massimino Lippoli (one of the collective responsible for reforming Manuel Göttsching’s ‘E2-E4’ into ‘Sueño Latino’, another, infinitely better known Balearic blueprint), the ‘DFA Dance mix’ is likely to get the most attention here. Cosmic, trippy, innocent, undulating, hypnotic, and uplifting, the immersive groove, lush instrumentation and wide-eyed vocal make for some powerful, heads-down dancefloor gravity. Mark Moore and William Orbit’s ‘Orbital mix’ is rather wonderful too, as is their stripped ‘Return To The Deep Ambient mix’. The reverse, Twin Peaks vocals of the ‘Breakdown mix’ provide some hallucinatory flashback incitement, while the ‘New Age mix’ is perfect for a kick-drum-free sundown. Apart from all that, the original pressings are crazy expensive on the resale market. In conclusion, probably a smart purchase, this. 

PC

Brian Jackson / Joaquin Joe Claussell – Mami Wata: Sacred Rhythm & Cosmic Arts Remixes (BBE)
Venerated multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, composer and actual musical legend Brian Jackson’s latest package is most certainly something to savour, coming, as it does, with a selection of Joaquin ‘Joe’ Claussell reworks to augment the already wonderful original. Probably best known for his groundbreaking collaborations with the late, great Gil Scott Heron, Jackson’s decades-spanning career has produced a multitude of indelible highlights, and it’s clear that he’s lost none of his compositional prowess after all these years.

A contemporary rendition of a traditional song, ‘Mami Wata’ draws inspiration from the depths of West African mythology, meandering through Mali and into Ghana as the hypnotic musical journey unfolds. The steady, mid tempo pace of the original drives vocal chants over Afro rhythms as dazzling jazz keys, hypnotic flute, stirring horns and plucked guitars intertwine to form an epic harmonic tapestry. Spiritual house maestro Claussell goes into creative overdrive as he serves five gorgeously respectful reworks.

His ‘Sacred Rhythm’ version beautifully spaces out the instrumentation, placing them over the trademark drums that have provided the rhythmic thrust for so much of his bewitching back catalogue. The ‘House dub’ ups the tempo a touch, with slightly tougher beats powering the sumptuous orchestration and delayed vocal chops, while the ‘Sacred Arts Story’ version continues the theme with undulating motifs and musical themes reappearing across the arrangement. ‘Joaqin’s Deep Dub’ is perhaps the funkiest of the set, its syncopated ride adding a little house magic to the mix, before the ‘Sacred Arts Future Instrumental’ breaks up the rhythm for a rolling and gently psychedelic finale. Supreme quality throughout, and each nuanced mix is equally worthy of adding to the collection. Simply stunning.

PC

Doppelbanger – 2020 Vision (Electro Banger)

Little is known about producer Doppelbanger. What we do know is he is a relative newcomer on the scene, and hails from Solingen in Germany. Via the underground music circuit he’s been making a bit of a name for himself through his specific blend of electro, techno and break, and is influenced by the likes of Locked Club, Re:drum, Dagga, and Manao. And with ‘2020 Vision’, his debut EP, he cements himself as an artist to watch and one that any electro fan should be listening to.

If the record sleeve wasn’t eye-catching enough (literally), the tunes will grip you by the eardrums and shake you about. Opener ‘Irregular’ sounds like a computer starting up, albeit one that has made its way to the middle of a club and is intent on out-dancing all the other punters. Samples blare and electronics ripple, before we collide head on into ‘Zeitreisender’. The percussion is harsher here, brought to the forefront as a drum machine fights against electronic tones that flash like the warning lights on a control panel. The “thud, thud-thud” of ‘Levee Breaka’ builds with scythe like synths and that gallop into a frenzy, with a head-nodding melody that oscillates between the percussive blasts.

Closing out the EP are maybe the gnarliest tracks of the bunch. ‘Post Mag Clarity’ is as thick as a swamp, electronic textures that squelch and bubble like a steaming puddle of mud you can’t help but jump into. And ‘Ultra Violence’ certainly evokes that phrases used so often in Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’, hissing into existence before dark synthesised slabs of sounds buffet you over the head before the rhythm goes beserk, and cymbals start crashing around the shop.

Underground he may be now, but with ‘2020 Vision’, Doppelbanger will raise his profile and then some.

FM

Aion Draught – Aufhebung (Abundanz)

Increasingly rarely do we get the chance to review new breakcore of any kind, so this Aion Draught release has us frothing at the mouth. Extremely little is known about this artist, perhaps because it might be the invented soundworld of the label heads over at Abundanz, and not the brainchild of a person concerned with linking breakcore to personal identity. 

The deconstructed approach of this EP, as with all other releases on the German label, seems to match this sentiment. All six tracks are like sonic demonic sigils, summing up the unique characteristic a different layer of hell. Opener ‘Aufhebung’ (an interesting choice of title, being a difficult-to-translate German word meaning either “subsume”, “transcend” or “sublate”) implies the feeling of giving over to a hellish collective consciousness. Our ears are plunged into impossible-to-predict sonic gnashings, kick drillings, and bat-winged whooshes.

The hellish trend continues across the EP; on ‘Nirvikalpa’, the aesthetic of drill n’ bass is taken quite literally, sounding like a giant malfunctioning drill cyclically pummelling and re-melting some wall of molten granite found in the sixth layer. ‘Vector’ sounds like a grime clash hosted by Baphomet. ‘Cloture’ sounds like the darkstep danger show promoted by Beelzebub in the firepit next door. ‘Rubricon’, finally, is like a gory experiment undertaken by morguish grunts – holding up one of its many flesh-rending utensils, one exclaims: “I thought we going to stop focusing on the neurophysical and concentrate on something more practical!”. Et cetera, et cetera. Such is the unforgiving world of Aion Draught, in which we find ourselves without peace or individuated consciousness, fully sublated, damned. 

JIJ

Transcendance – What Time It Was? (Fuori Orario)

A kooky new-beat curveball fresh from the workstation of Trascend∆nce aka. Riccardo Buccirossi, Italian DJ, producer and otherwise donner of the mask Bladymore Galaxy. Since 2021, Buccirossi has pushed a playfully anachrofuturist techno sound, slippery and playful as it is raw. Scouring prior releases like ‘Under The Sphinx Eyes’ all the way up until their latest for Off The Grid here, ‘What Time It Was?’, the music of Trascend∆nce has a distinctly droll character, as if the ticking-away of techno is made wholly or at least partly in jest.

Comparable to the slinkier side of Hieroglyphic Being’s music melded together with the gluing spirit of Sylvester, ‘What Time It Was?’ has the distinct character of new beat, synthpop and Italo, but is wholly instrumental, homing in on a 4×4 technoized take on that fusion while always playing up the maddeningly melodic side of things. The EP grows progressively more riveting, with ‘Sonicsenses’ being the first weirdo highlight, recalling what might happen were Mr. Oizo’s ‘Flatbeat’ were to have been released as an 1970s Italian library music cut, and with added acid cranks and psychotic vocal mutterings to boot. ‘Ultraverse’ and ‘Gilfico’ are impressive enough as openers, but our favourite has to be the B-siders, the other of which is ‘Temporaton’, whose gated box reverbs, glassy bells and acid matchings are too great to resist.

JIJ

De Sluwe Vos – Terraforming (Deeptrax)

Put out an EP this good and it’s no wonder your label will give it the die-cut treatment. So ‘Terraforming’ is a five-track stonker from Dutch techno producer De Sluwe Vos, who on the electoral register goes by Robert Vosmeijer. His debut on the equally Dutch Deeptrax Records, ‘Terraforming’ was created during the pandemic, with Vosmeijer longing for a time when he could get back to the dancefloor. The result is five tracks of eclectic club-ready beats that are more than worth your time.

Opening proceedings is the bass-heavy ‘Reeeese’, its thick electronic squelch juddering from left to right, harkening back to that early Detroit techno sound. ‘Solar Prince’ flutters with a xylophone melody broken up by stabs of strings, its rhythm a panic that threatens to bubble over. The star-sailing ‘Jupiter’s Universe’ is all cosmic synths, with electronics like shooting stars that soar over bouyant melody of bleeps and tones; like a musical satellite orbiting Earth. And while ‘Crawford’ takes machine learning to new heights (seriously, catchy doesn’t do it justice), it’s the title track that takes centre stage here. This is techno stripped back, seven minutes of hisses, pulses, and punches, as De Sluwe Vos shows us why this 12-inch is getting the die-cut treatment it deserves. Seriously, add this to your record collection.

FM

Cérémonie – Orion (Enfant Terrible)

Coldwave is the flavour on this EP from Paris-based French trio consisting of Sabrina Pierron, Cédric Convert, and Massinissa Nait Mouloud. Their sound is one that is strongly influenced by the 1980s, subtlely balancing electronic melancholy with new wave sensibilities – and is very proudly French.

So this four track EP contains three original cuts as well as a cover of ‘Dernière Nuit’, the 1988 track from French coldwave band Message. A pounding drum and a delicate synth melody kicks everything off with ‘Légende’, soft French language vocals floating across delicate keys. The title track has an even sombre feel, descending chords against a bassline that’s not dissimilar from something you’d expect from The xx. But it’s ‘Néons’ for us that’s the standout, its dark electronic textures undulating like a rippling wave, before synths twinkle and soar, making this the most upbeat of the three original tracks.

And that cover version? The sound of the 1980s with bells on. Cérémonie have taken Message’s original and made it lighter. The synths are brighter, the drum machine thicker and the vocals are softer. New Order en français, if you will. We’re told there’s an album on the way, and if it’s as good as ‘Orion’ then Cérémonie have a promising future ahead.

FM

This week’s reviewers: Patrizio Cavaliere, Finlay Milligan, Jude Iago James.

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