Weekly Soundscape: a list-with-review of the best releases of the month, selected by our editors.
Label: Halcoline Trance
What if Lorenzo Senni was a lot into ’80s movies? I’m sure everyone of you wakes up every night to this question, so here is your answer: Universalist by ACT!
ACT! is the moniker of David Psutka, a well established Toronto-based producer, at his first album release on the Canadian label Halocline Trance. And trance is the breeding ground for ACT!’s music, that deconstructs and pushes to the limit the original features of the genre, as it often happens these days.
What is peculiar of his music, compared to, say, Lorenzo’s pointillistic trance, is the heavy use of sci-fi sounding MIDIs and robotic synths, depicting a very different image and mood.
Universalist takes the sound of old school trance and throws them into an internet apocalypse, full of computer sounds as in B.T.H.L. and Tron-ish instrumentals (of which “Wish” is the perfect example).
A great first full-length release, that paves the road for other even deeper explorations of Psutka’s hi-tech world.
“Thank you, ACT!, very cool”
By Carlo Casentini
Artist: Dj Heroine
Label: Self Released
Skin is extremely sensitive, it is delicate. When there is no skin as a filter between the external world and the organism, raw flesh is what faces the outside and consequently gets hit easily. In this respect, Skinless is a patch of ice which, politely, slides cold on you.
Registered, mastered and mixed by DJH himself, therefore totally DIY, Skinless is the German producer’s debut album, released just seven months after his last EP, Remnants, a blend of previously unreleased tracks and live-performed-only ones, along with other 6 releases in slightly more than 2 years.
The record puffs up and goes down many times in a pinch. 40 minutes of deconstructed club music not always that rigid, pleasantly velvety at times, even in the most squared tracks. Without varying that much from start to finish, (which isn’t always a black mark), it seems to be more of an urgency of the producer rather than a search for something brand new for the sake of it, it’s quite well-crafted and entertaining.
With Skinless DJ Heroin gives you a light sensation of the future, embroidered with cold synths and prudent dubstep echoes once in a while. Some more danceable tunes don’t lack, and everything makes up for a coherent album on the whole.
By Andrea Alfieri
Artist: DJ Seinfeld
Album: DJ-Kicks: DJ Seinfeld
Say DJ Seinfeld and – if you’ve paid loose attention to electronic music trends of the last couple years – your mind will likely suggest you the following: lo-fi house, YouTube algorithm, hype, distorted kicks, fad.
To put him in charge of the latest edition of the iconic DJ-Kicks series feels both as a choice for !K7 to be up-to-date with the current state of electronic music and a chance given to DJ Seinfeld to show that there is more than just online hype to the lo-fi-or-whatever-you-want-to-call-it movement.
The Swedish DJ and producer brilliantly pass the DJ-Kicks test, discarding the euphoric, pumping 4/4 house beat in favor of a subtler mood offered by twenty-one tracks among which breakbeats and Balearic vibes are in the spotlight.
After a beatless intro and two four-to-the-floor tracks, Seinfeld switches already to melodic breakbeats, sometimes building the energy and sometimes releasing it in an ebb and flow of Balearic-like melodies, acid swings, electro vibes, and UK garage beats, plus the always effective 4/4 kick drum occasionally brought back in the mix to shake things up.
The ending of the mix is perhaps its best part, thanks to sci-fi injected tracks shifting the atmosphere from the placid sunset vibes of the beginning to a late-night driving (or dancing) cyberpunk scenario.
DJ Seinfeld could have just slammed bangers or vocal house tracks one after another; instead, he took the challenge of a commercial mix as an opportunity to show a more nuanced side of his musical vision, proving himself an eclectic selector not afraid of taking unexpected routes. A pleasurable listening from start to finish.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Album: King Kami
Label: Bala Club
As co-founder and active member of the UK label and music collective known as Bala Club, each of Kamixlo‘s releases has played an important role into the development of what he and his crewmembers refer as Bala Sound, which could be defined as the result of several experimental takes on Latin dance music.
In his Demonico and Angélico EPs (which feel like the two parts of a unique work), for instance, the young Chilean-English producer has given life to a brilliant mix between dancehall tempos and rhythms and the skull-bashing sound of hardcore and industrial music.
With his latest fatigue, the King Kami EP, Kamilxo tries to push the Bala Sound’s boundaries even further and, spoiler alert, he nails it. Yes, the more hardcore and dark elements of his previous production are all still present, especially in the album’s first half (you can rave assured while listening to it), but they are arranged in a less straightforward way, making what was already (beautifully) heavy even heavier. But there’s more! In the second half of the EP, other than the usual industrial sounds, Kamixlo chooses to rely also on clean synths with which he creates emotional melodies able to open up a little bit the groovy claustrophobia of the previous tracks.
This sensation of openness culminates in the last track, “NXB4VA”, a beatless drone jam all built around what seems to be a looping sample of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s” Californication” (I’m not sure about it tho, Kamixlo please hit me up if I’m right, because that would make the track even more amazing).
Do I need to add anything else to convince you that this is a good EP? Go listen to it.
By Michele Sinatti
Artist: Laurel Halo
Album: Raw Silk Uncut Wood
Latency is the Paris-based record label behind some of the most intriguing electronic records of the last five years. Their last release comes from Laurel Halo, an artist renowned for the versatility and high quality she infuses all her records and Dj-sets with.
After just one year since Dust, one of the best albums of 2017, Raw Silk Uncut Wood sees the American producer changing path once again. Gone are the febrile rhythms and the avant-pop song structures. Here instead we have 6 rarefied instrumental, beatless tracks, each a gem on its own.
The atmosphere of the record is constant throughout the tracks and it is pensive but not heavy, peaceful but not flaccid. The music is abstract enough to let you isolate from the surroundings, though it never allows you to listen to it simply as background music, as the compositions always claim your attention.
The record starts and ends with two 10 minutes pieces which enclose four short compositions, all with a cinematic mood and an eye for almost-unnoticeable details.
As I listened to Raw Silk Uncut Woods for several times in a row locked in my room, it felt like wandering barefoot in a zen garden, my body light as windswept leaves, reading poetry and being overly moved by even the smallest insignificant element around me. If you’re looking for a record to get lost in your thoughts or let them freely go for a while, Laurel Halo here provides 30-something minutes of pure bliss to sink into.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
We all know Lotic as a key figure in the niche of artists trying to push – I’d love to say to ‘deconstruct’, had this word not been overly (ab)used – the boundaries of club music in the past 5 years or so. Their previous releases on Tri-Angle and Janus, their involvement in the latter collective, and their DJ sets are testaments to an aesthetic devoted to shattering dance music conventions.
Perhaps it’s because of this background that Power, Lotic’s first album released via Tri-Angle, feels surprising and unexpected, though with an unmistakable familiar touch to it. It is at once their most accessible and most multifaceted record to date, covering a wide range of emotions and music structures, as well as premiering Lotic’s voice singing (and even rapping, see “Nerve”) over their tracks.
The album sounds like an attempt to be human in a world dominated by machines, violence, and hatred, as Lotic’s trademark sharp beats go hand in hand with chamber music-like pieces with their voice as the supreme unifying narrative.
There are quieter pieces abruptly disrupted by noisy hectic drums (“Fragility”, “Power”), while the harsher tracks are softened and humanized – though usually in disquieting ways – by melody (“Distribution of care”, “Resilience”) or by Lotic’s singing (“Hunted”). “Heart” and “Solace” are beautiful, moving avant-pop gems, “The warp and the weft” is 1:26 minutes of cacophony, “Bulletproof” is classic Lotic, and “Love and light” with its rich texture is the perfect opener for an album that shows Lotic’s mastery of putting together a wide array of contrasting feelings.
A record that exudes the struggle, passion, misery and delight of human life. Long live Lotic.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Artist: Meuko! Mekuo!
Album: Ghost Island
Label: Danse Noire
I am a shaky chickensh*t and them Swiss guys of Danse Noire, the same label as Random Gods and Haf Haf, founded by none other than Aïsha Devi, have decided to make me shiver hard releasing Ghost Island by Meuko! Meuko!, one of the protagonists of the booming Asian game, that persuasively combines traditional culture with Europe’s electronic music vanguard.
From the first to the last, remixes included, the tracks contain disquieting sounds that could remind of those classic horror movie – squeaks, creaks, rattles and so on – but it is not limited to this.
As told by suggestive caption on Danse Noire’s Bandcamp tells, this album wants to convey a sense of dereliction that takes shape in a sort of apocalypse of humanity whose ultimate realization happens in a floating temple, all witnessed by a semi-unconscious girl (I’m not doing enough justice to it, please go read it here!!!).
Straight to the single pieces, my favorites gotta be indeed “The Temple”, featured with distorted voices and harmonies seemingly coming from aboriginal instruments, and “Princess Sika”, that my mind depicts as a majestic princess in a blue silk dress personified by the girl mentioned above. I know it’s a long shot, but the hissing female vocals whispering on that muffled beat made me compare it to some cornerstones of the genre like Crystal Castles’ “Affection” or “Sad Eyes”.
Precisely because, as promised, this album gives the impression of being projected in a a future dystopian landscape, it strongly belongs to actuality and to the ones whose mind understands it – the actuality -and consequently has the tools to go further the mere present.
By Margherita Rho
Oroboro’s Harkonnen is one of those albums that confirms once again that we Italians, while being bad at practically every other thing, are good af when it comes to make electronic music (and trap, according to coucocu chloe <3). Out for Air Max 97’s label, Decisions, starting from its title (which is the name of the dominant clan of the world depicted in the sci-fi masterpiece Dune), this three-track work is a sonic meditation on the concept of accelerationism. And although this may sound stereotypical referring to a UK bass album, the young producer from Cesena manages to be original anyway, focusing more on the emotional implications behind the idea of a “positive” apocalypse than on the aseptic depiction of the concept itself.
In order to do so he creates a brilliant dialogue between complex, bashing drum patterns, further enriched by constant micro-variations, and synth melodies that are both touching and epic at the same time, constantly striking the listener ears and heart.
And this great variety is not limited to the songs’ arrangement but to the entirety of the album, which changes from jungle to 2-step to a trap-like beat, track after track, transforming the rhythmic elements of these three genres into magmatic textures that will definitely make you move (or lose your mind, listener discretion is advised).
So, if you are looking for the right soundtrack for your thoughts on apocalypse (which could become real sooner than we think), or you simply wish to listen to some emotional bangers, be sure to check out Oroboro’s Harkonnen.
By Michele Sinatti
Artist: RP Boo
Album: I’ll Tell You What!
Label: Planet Mu
You can’t spell the word “juke” without saying RP Boo – ok, actually you can but you get me. Footwork and ghetto house powerhouse RP Boo is back with a full-lenght album that has all the features of a contemporary anthology of the genre.
This release on Planet Mu,a label that I’m pretty sure I don’t need to introduce, allegedly marks his first album of recently composed music, something not so usual for the Chicago producer, almost as he needed to express his new vision on the universe, to “evacuate” all of the ideas he has inside, as stated on the artist’s Bandcamp page. The result is a beautiful journey through countless variations of the genre, guided by perfectly harmonized percussions and dark bass lines.
My personal favourite of the album is “U-Don’t No”, a truly heartfelt Juke ballad, built around a perfect piano line, reminding me of great masters of the beat as J Dilla and Nujabes.
I’ll tell you what! has everything that Juke can offer, from funky beats to dark and evocative moods, in addition to the above-mentioned ballad. A real masterpiece by the guru himself, RP Boo.
By Carlo Casentini