Weekly Soundscape: a list-with-review of the best releases of the month, selected by our editors.
Artist: A Spiritual Journey
Album: The Road To Become One
Label: Absurd Trax
Hailing from Hong Kong, Absurd Trax is a crew of DJs, producers and creative individuals. Their third, brilliant release comes from A Spiritual Journey (or ASJ) and sounds like the oeuvre of a Hong Kong born-and-raised producer willing to find a balance between roots and discovery, tradition and exploration, local and global Internet culture. Listening to The Road to Become One, I can’t help perceiving a sense of spirituality lingering throughout the nine tracks. Yes, I know it sounds obvious given the producer’s name and even the name chosen for the release; yet, there’s something intrinsically inscribed in her music that achieves this effect without further explanations. For me, it’s the mix of traditional instruments and melodies smoothly blending with sharp beats, or the metallic and hectic percussions somehow humanized by lascivious melodies. Maybe the most captivating element is the presence of the voice, giving this album a higher aura. I felt aroused by these tracks as if I was witnessing the process of machines being humanized, and a human dissolving herself in the electric (and electronic) marvels of XXI century. The track titles also allude to several states and feelings: “Reverie”, “Awareness”, “Dreams”, “EPHEMERAL”, “Desolation”. Let me guarantee you this album is one of the most rewarding ways of spending 30 minutes of your time, daydreaming of Hong Kong skyscrapers, crowded streets, quiet gardens, sweating dancers in warehouse parties, traveling in space and time via your Internet connections, and so on. The road to becoming one is right at a Bandcamp player’s reach, let’s start the spiritual journey.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Album: Sol de Mi Vida
Label: Staycore & Rinse FM
Dinamarca seems to be willing to spoil us this year. After a juicy remix of Fever Ray‘s “Mustn’t Hurry”, the producer released Sol de Mi Vida, a seven tracks EP that has completely divided the audience in two.
Many fans have in fact criticized the record for its simplicity but if you ask me this is exactly the point of Sol de Mi Vida: perfectly definite synths and percussions with no frills are the means the Chilean-Swedish producer uses to distill the essence of dancehall. It may sound paradoxical but is exactly through the use of trance-y synth arpeggios, which are not a typical element of dancehall, that Dinamarca achieves this result, as if the two genres were born to be mixed together.
More spacious and bright than ever, Sol de Mi Vida is a further step in the developing of Dinamarca style, less aggressive and deconstructed than Holy and No Hay Break and closer to the mesmerizing atmosphere of Himnos, with the addition of an unprecedented tenderness.
But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you can’t dance to it. On the contrary, when it comes to Dinamarca you can’t actually get emotional without sweating yourself on the dancefloor until sei de la mañana.
By Carlo Casentini
Artist: Kareem Lotfy
Label: Quiet Time
Cairo visual artist, DJ and producer Kareem Lotfy has been under the spotlight in the past few weeks thanks to a certain rapper who has a passion for sampling without asking permission.
For making one of his beat the notorious rapper has in fact used “Fr3sh”, the track that Lotfy composed for P.A.N. Records 2017’s compilation, Mono No Aware. In a way Kareem should feel proud (and, above all, get paid if he hasn’t been), since one of the artists who has found himself in the very same situation is Richard D. James, who is a clear source of inspiration for Lotfy’s new, self-titled album out (on tape and digital) this month via New York label, Quiet Time.
Strongly ambient-oriented, this thirty-minute work seems to start exactly where “Fre3sh” has left to explore all the possibility of the delicate abrasiveness that recalls (other then AFX’s SA vol.2) Basinski’s Disintegration Loops and Deadbeat’s Something Borrowed, Something Blue.
The placidity of every song is in fact constantly fractured (or built?) by a crowd of small, dubby crackles, whistles, clinks and rings emerging and echoing from under the ethereal pads’ surface, thus creating a series of spellbinding soundscapes both emotional and engaging that constantly arouse the listener with lots of tiny sonic surprises.
A must for everyone who fell in love with “Fr3sh” and waited for a chance to dive deeper into the artist’s sensibility.
Editorial note: Lotfy’s album is part of a four-tape series, all half an hour-long, always published by Quiet Time, which you should definitely check it out on their Bandcamp.
By Michele Sinatti
Label: Ostgut Ton
After releases on 3024, Brainfeeder, Ninja Tune, Dolly and Hyperdub, Martyn returns with Voids, his latest LP and the first for the Berghain-affiliated Ostgut Ton. Voids sees Martyn on top shape as he refines once again his deeply personal and intriguing take on hybrid forms of dance music. Here, typical UK-infected sounds go hand in hand with more straightforward beats, as the drum’n’bass, UK garage and post-dubstep echoes of his earlier outputs flirt with the relentless 4/4 kick drums his residency at Berghain and Panorama Bar made him acquainted with. Voids feels stripped down and spacious, bass-heavy and dubby, melodic and yet dark, suiting gloomy warehouse raves and home listening at once. The first half of the album leans towards the UK continuum end: “Manchester” is a roller, “Mind Rain” and “Nya” are among his grimmest tracks ever, while ethereal, dubby pads and sampled voices bring the light in again on “Why”. The beatless, piano piece “Try to love you” acts as an interlude before the last three tracks restore the energy with more dancefloor-oriented grooves. “Cutting tone” is another obscure stomper, “World gate” is Martyn-techno at its best, while “Voids two” carries the listener to the end of this journey with breakbeats, chords, vocal loops and pads.
With one foot in the past and one firmly rooted in the present, this album will hint at dance music history while telling its own tale with a sonic architecture always defined and recognizable. Don’t be fooled by its name, Voids has plenty of (bass-)weight and substance to offer.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Album: Am I using content or is content using me?
Label: Different Circles
I don’t remember being particularly impressed by Raime’s previous releases, but I must admit I was bewildered by their last EP, and in a totally positive way. For Am I using content or is content using me? (serious candidate for the 2018 best-record-name-award) the London duo takes a break from Blackest Ever Black and moves to Logos’ and Mumdance’s Different Circles, known for pushing a ‘weightless’ take on grime and UK dance music, and this release fits the mood perfectly. Raime’s music is gloomy and stripped-down as always, but their typical greyish sound palette is enriched through the addition of colors (beginning with the cover art). Rhythms swirl throughout these 4 tracks, from the decomposing corpses of grime and dembow making love in the opening track, to the Shackleton-gone-cyberpunk-and-weightless vibes of “The nourishment cycle”. Their typical interplay of stillness and movement is here effective and rewarding for the listener as rarely achieved by Raime. There is a lot of space – i.e. creepy silent moments – around which drum patterns and ice-cold synths are free to levitate around. It’s as if Raime are willing to constantly remind us that their music is, after all, the result of dance music being burnt and turned into dust, aimlessly drifting in and out of (cyber)space, alluding to different directions and leaving us wonderfully astonished as our bodies and minds are freed from their weight and start a sonic voyage with no point of return. Their valleys may be always uncanny – as the second track goes – but trust me, uncanniness has rarely been so appealing.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Artist: Sense Fracture
Album: In My Escape I Look For A Weapon
Label: Haunter Records
Francesco Birsa Alessandri, aka Sense Fracture and co-founder of Haunter Records together with Daniele Guerrini, aka Heith, is a Milan-based artist not recently become well-known in the scene.
His latest release In My Escape I Look For A Weapon follows the line of music deconstruction and develops the single thematic of a noisy and violent war in contraposition to a precise and expert technique. Such mixing is able to create a rather oxymoronic pleasant disturbance in your ears that will spontaneously make you squint your eyes and pucker your lips to concentrate on both the details and the nucleus. The studied choice of sequences of impure, rough sounds is the core of the work, it will make you recall of something you know, it will make you exclaim “It is that sound!” “This is the din of a gun!”. You are dealing with some real sh*t. Among the five tracks, “Antifaschistiche Aktion” is the clearest example of what the final aim of Sense Fracture seems to be: a sharp political declaration throughout thought-provoking music. It is not a relaxed and trivial listening but it is definitely worth it.
By Margherita Rho
The young Swedish DJ and producer Toxe, born Tove Agelii, is one of the most intriguing artists of European collective Staycore, as well as an active member of The Vinyl Factory. Huge supporter of both “no analog-production” and of the inclusion of women in the electronic music industry, after a well-received first EP published when she was still in high school, she doesn’t slow down a bit and answers to unavoidably higher expectations with Blinks, her latest fatigue published by P.A.N. Records. Without musical knowledge, as stated by herself multiple times, this time she seems to focus more on construction than deconstruction, developing dreamy synth melodies and building minimalistic yet complex rhythmic sections that sometimes evokes Aphex Twin‘s Richard D. James Album and 90’s video game soundtracks. This peculiar choice makes Blinks her less abrasive work yet, but nonetheless capable of arousing the listener’s interest until the end thanks to the multitude of sounds that inhabits the background of every song and constantly tickles the ears and revealing an ulterior compositive complexity.
Layered and immediate at the same time Blinks is the work of an artist that gets more mature with every release, a good listen indeed.
By Andrea Alfieri
Album: Nordic Flora Pt. 5: Crush
Label: Posh Isolation
Swedish producer Jonas Rönnberg, aka Varg, is well known for being a prolific artist. According to his Discogs page, since his debut in 2013 he has released fifteen LP and eight EP. Among this enormous amount of works, my favorites have always been Star Alliance and the three (now four) records that form the Nordic Flora series. Started as an ambient techno project, with every issue the series has gotten more and more experimental, in a brilliant and non-pretentious way (which is very rare when it comes to ambient or techno), involving artists from different musical backgrounds such as the trapper Yung Lean and the singer AnnaMelina, thus erasing the boundaries between experimental music and other genres.
Nordic Flora Pt. 5: Crush, the latest (and apparently last) chapter of the series, is an ulterior step into this direction. Yes, some tracks could be considered techno, other drone or ambient but everything is so delightfully re-interpreted and re-invented that is almost impossible to label this work precisely without being reductive. Who needs this labeling anyway at some point? It is just music, good, excellent, electronic music about having crushes (after a breakup). And to portrait the state of confusion, the rush of blood, the sadness and the flowing of memories that usually comes from having a crush (after a breakup) Varg creates a narrative both chaotic and abstract, since it relies only on the music and on the song titles, full of shifts, recurring titles, changes of atmosphere and tempo, two-part tracks etc. So dating app, encrypted platform for self-destructing messages, description of daily action and names of train lines, become parts of a constantly moving soundscape that switches between different musical textures as it proceeds on telling its veiled story.
As a listener you just have to put your headphones on and press play and let one of the best album of the year to do the rest.
Editorial note: I haven’t been able to listen to Nordic Flora Pt. 4: Techno Music due to the fact that it was published only as a tape and that there were only 100 copies and they went sold-out in like 24h so I am very sad while writing this and I hope that the guys from Posh Isolation will bless us with a digital release in the following months.
By Michele Sinatti
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Artwork By Edoardo Maccari