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Basal Sounds

Muttley SubVersion

With each month that passes, more music flashes by. Some will shine brightly, others will disappear into the void... But what is illuminating our lives this month?

Tycho – Past Is Prologue (Ghostly International)
Out Now

More melancholic than the lauded-by-Organic "Awake LP", the guitars are buried deep in the mix on "Past Is Prologue" and instead Klute-like chords are affluently spread across the pizza base. On top lies a variety of flavoursome ingredients: mushy pads, pineapple-sweet vocal samples, hammy key progressions – everything except the cheese. That's replaced by savoury, crusty percussion that's more machinery than humane. "Past Is Prologue", the title cut, is Warp drum & bass with a solid drum chassis into a hamper of double bass and live brushes. The beats in all tracks generally play phrasing hop scotch. The remixes are sturdy gear, Mux Mool's take on "From Home" making me want to dust off the synths. In all it's a more worthwhile record than "Awake", a tanned happy pill rather than a standard energy drink.

Mr Scruff – Friendly Bacteria (Ninja Tune)
Out Now

From the off Mr Scruff's "Friendly Bacteria LP" is rife with infestation. The synths gurgle like a plug coming unstuck. But through all this bass-heavy charade, there's brighter days amid the next track as the major key piano pattern of "Render Me" comes to fore. The lyrics from guest vocalist Denis Jones are slack-jawed and very British in accent. This gives the record an initially urban character in a realm of Americanised kitsch rap. Meanwhile the beats tread on well-dutied broken beat ground, and the LP length befits an exploratory zeal of Scruff, and his marathon 3-6 hour-a-night sets around clubs worldwide.

The clips on Ninja Tunes' page don't do "Friendly Bacteria" justice. Like a long set, there's ample time to lose yourself in its progression. However also from this a necessary line of attention to plumb deeper. The beat programming of "Deliverance" is characteristic of the whole album – scratchy, funky, simple. It's "the pressure cooker sound", as "Thought To The Meaning" outlines. The title track is the closest someone's come to "Flat Beat" by Mr. Oizo in some time, but here the drums coast at dubstep tempo with a massive big room synth welded into the wax. That epileptic squelch can't handle the lights, flashing from the synaesthesia of sound to visual, as if a set speed collision between Mr Scruff and the big time was planned all along. Favourite track: "Where Am I?"

Prema – In Rome / Jiva – The Milk / Kamchatka (Bitrate Music)
Out June 2014 / Out Now

It can be all too easy to drift through life and not note the events that have an impact. The netlabel scene is one proponent of a waning attention span, to name but one downside of everyone enabled to release everything they want on the internet. Usual arguments over quality arise between journalists, critics and bloggers, and all speak from this scorning triumvirate. It's often difficult to separate the good from the bad to an even ardened tastemaker. That's where Bitrate Music succeeds at surpassing expectations, and acting as a below-radar electronica hub for everything (un)usual. They have a certain sound, one of brooding sentimentality and passion for what matters, as shown in this set of releases from Prema and Jiva. To begin with what's already available, "The Milk / Kamchatka" is a mighty fine salsa dip into deep dubstep and intergalatic drum & bass, all rendered in a maverick style as befits Jiva's "Periods Of Constance" LP from Omni Music in 2012. There's a wealth of hidden detail in the way the drums drift from miasmah-tics into asthmatic ash weathering, plundering a time when Pinch and Pangaea were bigger names on the intelligent dance music (cue laughter, or not) circuit. One of the best netlabel releases of 2013, and criminally overlooked at that.

Prema has a family connection to label runner DJ Shiva, as his sister, and she's a singer and producer on "In Rome", the first vocal track for Bitrate. The production and vocalisations – in a sultry Andreya Triana of Ninja Tune cocktail – are equally strong. Eliane Radigue drones waft in the wall of sound that's probed by many pieces of dynamic contrast. "All is fair in love / I must be wounded / Shot down in Rome / In the age of Alexander / Piece by peace / Limb by limb" – lots of manna for historians of electronic music lie in these lines, from the country innocence of Joan Baez to the ragga-toast of Cutty Ranks. It's like listening to a carpet tumble off set of an Aladdin film – indebted with enough restrained charm for it to become almost impossible not to like. Prema's SoundCloud page is full of more tracks with plenty of quiet thrill, so do investigate.

Borja – The Realisation Of Time (Vast Realms EP, Omni Music)
Out Now

A filtered atmospheric Amen roller is nothing new, but Borja makes "The Realisation Of Time", for me the best track on the "Vast Realms" EP, sound as purposeful as can be. The lulling keys create two cross-currents in the production, where boundaries dissolve into a kayak through a turbulent riverbed. The musical space, the starts and stops in the drums and chords unite the recording with dubstep's seismic flow. Textures in the bass never take the rasp too far, instead permeating the sound with a deep kinetic energy. Recommended if you like your spacey Amen workouts regardless of genre.

DJ Trax – Attack Of The 50FT Amen EP (Tempo Recs)

Speaking of Amen, DJ Trax takes a similar but more heavy approach to samplage on "Attack Of The 50FT Amen", a track owing much to drumfunk's subconscious assemblage of sparse material mixed with melancholic yet driving atmos. This pin-pricking of emotional synapses is there from check-in on the 808-resume "89 'Til Infinity", where an almost 4/4 house groove rockets over stretched-out strings and syntatic sighs. "Bring It Back" is closest to contemporary drum & bass with a funked-out bassline that slithers and pumps like a Boa Constrictor eating an Indian buffet. As is the general consensus with Basal Sounds, there's no "just good" tracks – everything shines here like a solar beam jetted from Jupiter, back to the Photek-ite "Rings Around Saturn" vibe and a perplexing otherworldliness like Bowie's "Life On Mars". Planetary funk, also in a playful Seba style.

Greg Haines & Peter Broderick – Greg Gives Peter Space (Erased Tapes)

The first collaboration between contemporary ambient and classical maestros Haines and Broderick might call for a Basal Sounds questioning right off the bat, so let me clarify: this has more in common with King Tubby dub music than anything out of the familiar violin and guitar/piano stable, which is why I'm also reviewing it somewhere else than Fluid Radio. Those embellishments still exist in "Greg Gives Peter Space", but transformed, and although the drums are a little tepid and the pseudo-psychedelia of the lyrics slightly saccharine, this 24 minute experience becomes very cohesive because of its sheen simplicity. Within the hull of the ship lies a complex network of frequency modulation, with Peter's partly eccentric lyrical ditties about spinning and black cats in the first rub "The Drive" oddly entrancing. "I can't shake this feeling" on the coastal drift of "The Feeling Shaker" is the most effective for me, as it relies on a repeated hook that ingrains itself in your perception and gives play to the other elements like a lock to a key.

Doctor Jeep & Lean Low – MDME feat. Emira (Bad Taste)
Out Now

Insatiable clicks and pops, like a pool ball getting doused in a pre-club atmosphere introduces the inevitably candy-like "MDME" featuring Emira, from Doctor Jeep, a reliable producer associated with End Fence (see Soramimi's "Square Esteem" on the same imprint). Ascending and descending Super NES-like synth notes accompany the "now I've been down this road before / always expecting there'd be more" posterity of Emira's delivery, and the minus point is it doesn't extend for longer. The Darkstorm Remix rallies up further tribal elements like re-pitched vocals interspersed by grimy bass rhythms and Middle Eastern coda scatter-gunning. Grab a good pair of headphones and enjoy – unfortunately you won't find this played at many dubstep raves. Hey, you could always take the initiative from reading this! The instrumental is an apt encapsulation of what precedes it, giving greater focus on the bare essentials.

White Blush – Loves Park EP (White Blush Bandcamp)
Out Now

White Blush aren't about specifics. "I wish we could hang out / maybe we could stand out" sung by Carol Rhyu in the opening to this synth pop-turned indie disco 17 minutes, bristles with energy and lopsided emptiness. The beats that carry under her voice are about as close to specifics as you'll get, being loops wound around a nascent grill pan. That charred sweetness resonates as an aftertaste and central spice to the Euro-trance inflected synthesiser lines, but these are also not about one thing, one club, or two feet. The modus operandi of White Blush, like a make-up after a breakup, is about transcension. Dreamier than their first self-titled EP, I await an LP from this male/female duo.

Agree with my selections this month? Anything I've missed, or anything that I should be checking out for next? Get in touch via or hit me at @MuttleySV on Twitter.