Keeping it simple and straightforward this month; Short Circuitry’s been swimming through a boundless ocean of heady delights, and inevitably any attempt to whittle it down is going to end up grossly inadequate. Still, top marks have been going to tunes that defiantly refuse to pander to the sheer heat and humidity that’s reduced this wasted copper wiring to little more than a weakly sparking wreck. In particular, regular injections of Rhythm & Sound’s seminal With The Artists CD and the veritable dose of sonic frostbite that is the Moritz Von Oswald Trio’s Vertical Ascent have kept these drums rattling in some form of delicate equilibrium. Just about, anyway. Right, onward…
Digital Mystikz – Return II Space [DMZ]
It’s been said before, and it’ll doubtless be said countless times again in countless slightly offset permutations, but Digital Mystikz’s Mala is dubstep. Or, to qualify that statement further, he operates as the absolute epitome of a genre term that’s fast becoming slightly redundant, buckling under the pressure of its myriad mutations. One step further than that would be to state, quite simply, that his music – more than that of any other producer within this sphere – operates with an absolute purity of vision bordering on the obsessive. And to be fair, why shouldn’t it be so? Along with his fellow Mystikz, Coki and Loefah, he defined a genre, and almost everything that now lands under dubstep’s widening umbrella is in some way indebted to him.
Mala – Livin’ Different
So it’s unsurprising that the arrival of his fullest release yet, many miles down the line from where the DMZ label first began in 2004, is both long awaited and dogged by serious weight of anticipation. As with everything he releases though, quality control is absolute, honed through years of ultra-exclusive dubplate play on some of the world’s finest systems; on a basic level then Return II Space is ‘merely’ another set of all-encompassingly brilliant material to add to a catalogue that hardly suffers for a lack of it. These tracks capture the meditative communion of the FWD sound and expand outward. Viscous sub-bass both binds and separates the congregation, like the stuffy gusts of warm air that fill the space between tube commuters desperate to avoid each other’s gaze. On one hand then, as is so commonly associated with dubstep, his music speaks of urban alienation: the storms of dissonance that gather throughout ‘Mountain Dread March’ evoke the pitch individuality of a dance at Plastic People. But it also offers resolution, locked in the unsteady melody that rises to the surface during the latter’s final minutes, and encoded in the DNA of ‘LIvin’ Different’s static positivity.
Well worth the wait then, and knowing the sheer volume of unreleased material Mala continues to sit on, there may well be another six years of anticipation before the next of its kind rears its head. Here’s hoping that’s not the case, but until then there’s enough locked in the furthest reaches of Return II Space to keep things heavy for the foreseeable future.
Various Artists – Workshop 10 [Workshop]
May saw the arrival of the tenth 12” on the Hardwax-affiliated Workshop imprint, home to deep cuts from the likes of Move D and the brilliant Kassem Mosse (more on him later), all unnamed to heighten the label’s chilly mystique. On the A-side two tracks from Lowtec delve into the kind of state your head might be after a night and day on the tiles at Panoramabar, the first chasing smokelike billows of melody that writhe around a steady four-to-the-floor pulse. It’s followed by a song for that evening’s twilight, which meanders in a gorgeous state of exhausted elation, seemingly happy to sit and contemplate the previous night’s excesses. On the flipside, Schweiz Rec brings jazzy explorations to the fore and Ron Deacon weaves fragments of found sound around a house backbone, but it’s really all about the A side on this little beauty.
A pause for thought: there’s something reliably lovely about buying music that’s untitled; it leaves room for it to breathe and absorb the listener’s own interpretation of theme and mood. Admittedly, the crypic or numeric names doled out by many a techno producer aren’t exactly screaming their intent to the world, but leaving something entirely unnamed is a bold and definitive statement at a time when it’s so easy to discover everything at the click of a mouse. Just try Googling ‘Untitled A1’ and see how you do: it ain’t happening.
Gunnar Wendel – 578 (Omar S Mixes) [FXHE]
And so now I’ve gotten to Kassem Mosse, here referred to by his real name, Gunnar Wendel. With an upcoming release on Nonplus, it seems he’s gaining a bit of a buzz – which is just fine with me, as his music’s marvelous, all grainy dubtech and nocturnal melancholy. For his own label FXHE, Detroit don Alex Omar Smith has reimagined one of my favourite techno tracks of the last few years, the spectrally beautiful ‘578’, in two competing forms. For my money the ‘Rude Boy Warm Mix’ is the keeper, leaving the original’s synth patter largely intact and upping the pace, and in doing so crafting a graceful slice of 4am deep house. Still, the slower Berlin mix on the flipside is hardly shabby either, and sees Smith rip the guts out of the track to leave only the tracest elements to spar behind its bewitching central theme. Lovely stuff.
LHF – EP1: Enter In Silence [Keysound]
Keysound boss and blogger of some repute Martin Clark describes London’s LHF collective better than I ever could: “like Sun Ra’s hijacked Rinse FM and is using it to communicate with the heavens”. The sheer wealth of ideas, influences and concepts packed into their debut EP is a little dizzying but thoroughly compelling. With any luck they’ll ‘do a Flying Lotus’ by the time of their album, and craft an entirely convincing and occasionally terrifying psychogeographical tryst round the hidden spaces of Greater London. I’m looking forward to the bit when they encounter a gang of muggers in a dark alley and scare them off with mystical magicks and glowing eyes.
Hyetal – Like Silver/Phoenix [Orca]
Hyetal is the jack in the Bristol deck (no prizes for guessing who takes the role of joker), constantly shapeshifting in his slightly less prominent role but providing some of the city’s most memorable recent releases. ‘Pixel Rainbow Sequence’ was a dazzling blaze of technicolour synthplay, curiously elegiac in tone, and his underrated The Last Time We Spoke 12” was one of my favourite things released last year. With this new 12” the prevailing wind really ought to begin shifting in Hyetal’s direction, as it’s hands down the best thing he’s put his name to yet. The shimmering waves of ‘Like Silver’ are good enough, but ‘Phoenix’ is utterly spectacular, an incandescent blaze of funk infused glory that leaves trails of superheated steam fizzing in its wake. It’s the soundtrack to a psychedelic session beneath the glowing vapours of the Aurora Borealis, and deserves to be played at the end of every rave from now until the end of time. It’s available to listen to in full here – get to know and fall in love. [LINK THIS! http://soundcloud.com/factmag/hyetal-phoenix]
George Fitzgerald – The Let Down EP [Hotflush]
George Fitzgerald could probably be summed up as the first post-Joy Orbison bass producer to work with the ‘Hyph Mngo’ man’s basic template and expand on it further; his The Let Down EP on Hotflush will doubtless draw many lazy comparisons from those less inclined to focus on the less overt details. Which is a shame really, as this is an even more impressive debut than ‘Hyph Mngo’ was a year ago. ‘The Let Down’ is a convulsing slab of dance energy, driven by a snarling beast of a bassline that prowls beneath the humid synths above, but ‘Weakness’ is what it’s all about. Hinged around a translucent vocal that rears out of the background before receding again, it takes the house/garage/techno/whatevs crossover to dizzying new spaces. They’re both available to peruse at his Soundcloud page.
Joe – Claptrap/Level Crossing [Hessle Audio]
Joe – Untitled/Digest [Apple Pips]
The mundanely named one Joe has finally returned to follow up last year’s blinding ‘Rut’ 12” with not one but two new EPs of material. And both are among the best to have emerged from the post-dubstep set this year. All of these tracks are pretty much entirely percussion, bar the odd patter of found sound and the occasional jazzy bursts of Rhodes that rebound off the traveling clatter of ‘Level Crossing’. And for such new tracks they all sound so lived in, so gritty, packed with miniscule details – the creaking of a door at the beginning of ‘Untitled’, tiny bursts of static hinting at forward motion – that belie the sheer minimalism of their construction. With both these 12”s Joe offers a masterclass in packing as much into music as possible whilst keeping the palette limited to the barest essentials. Just as convincingly innovative as the rest of the Hessle Audio stable then.
FaltyDL – Phrequaflex [Planet Mu]
Ital Tek – ‘Moment In Blue (FaltyDL Remix)’ [Planet Mu]
New York’s favourite (only?) IDM-informed two-step producer returns! And it’s about time, as his releases from last year showed no lack of awesome physical and emotional power. The first of two new EPs on Planet Mu, FaltyDL’s Phrequaflex takes as its starting point the jitterbug garage of his Love Is A Liability album. What’s amazing about this guy is his almost supernatural ability to keep The Funk – and I’m talking serious danceability here – in beats that are indecipherably complex, and packed with minute shifts and slippages that threaten to tear the music apart at any time. This release is no exception. Particular props to the razor sharp ‘Because You’ and the troubled soul of ‘My Friends Will Always Say’ though. On the same label, his remix of Ital Tek’s ‘Moment In Blue’ is a delicious four minutes of deep blue old-skool vibes.
Also rocking the Short Circuitry stereo:
Oriol – Night & Day [Planet Mu]
Planet Mu’s new signing Oriol explores the same wild jazzy house/boogie regions as fellow travelers Floating Points and Onra, but ramps up the Weather Reportage for his debut album. The results sound a little like Floating Points blasting round sunset Miami on a big-ass, fuck off chopper.
Kode9 – DJ Kicks [K7]
In which the Hyperdub boss squashes an accurate representation of his current DJ sets onto an eighty minute CD. Intense.
Roof Light – Kirkwood Gaps [Highpoint Lowlife]
Sadly, Thorsten Sideb0ard is winding down operations at Highpoint Lowlife HQ, but this is a reliably excellent bit of electronic gear from a consistently on-it label. Oceanic ambience, manic post/future-garage beats and spacey hip-hop all feature heavily, and the track titles are something to behold – ‘Marrying Maidens Fair Of Willow’, anyone?
Back next month for more tomfoolery.