Plenty of bass-driven gems in August's booty round-up, from Organic favourites and some perhaps less familiar names alike.
And so the Great British Summer rolls on, and it's a wonder anyone is still bothering to make music when it's a sublime 30 degrees outside and there are 8 hours of cricket to watch every day, which for those from foreign soils and unfamiliar with our customs may be unaware, is obligatory viewing for all English males according to law.
Of course, the lengthy nature of the release process ensures that we'll be ok for the next few months at least, so let's fill our boots and our record bags while the going's good, in metaphorical and literal senses respectively.
Sam KDC - The Lunar Seas EP, ASC & Synkro / ASC & Sam KDC- VEIL002 EP (All out now on Auxiliary Music)
We kick things off this month with a little round up of all recent things Auxiliary, because we don't already talk about James Clements' label family enough at Organic towers. July has seen the release of a pair of new EPs, namely Sam KDC's "Lunar Seas" EP on the flagship Auxiliary imprint as well as the sophomore release for its collaborative sister stable Veil, the "Machine Love" EP. This time around it's a three-way joint venture between Sam, ASC and Synkro, the latter pairing of which I'm particularly excited to see back working together given the strength of their joint 2012 efforts "Borderline" and "Sacred Moments." Once again, the meeting of two of the Autonomic movement's most important minds proves to be extremely fruitful with Synkro's weightless and vocal take on ambience serving as a perfect compliment to ASC's clean and clinical drum machine beat work on both "Machine Love" and "Planet X".
Meanwhile, across the six tracks and two releases that Sam KDC gets his mitts on, results are as varied as they are otherworldly. Take the second half of "Lunar Seas" for instance, "Catacomb" feeling a more driven, darker and intense piece than the comparably mellow "Surrender" despite both possessing a fundamentally vague air, while true to the "Machine Love" EP's title, ASC collabs "Sonder" and "Blue Sun" clearly derive more of their beings out of synthesis and feel tangibly futuristic as a result.
Auxiliary, its sister labels and its associated artists might be familiar names by now, but ultimately as long as long as the camp keep putting out music of this quality with this regularity, we'll keep plugging it.
Samuel Kerridge - From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh 1-4 (Out now on Downwards)
Following up his excellent "Waiting For Love 1-4" from earlier in the year, Manchester-born and Berlin residing Samuel Kerridge returns to Regis' Downwards imprint for another four-part masterclass in trippy techno experimentalism, with the suitably challenging/giveaway title "From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh".
Opening with the tick-tock beat of what sounds like a grandfather clock on acid, "From The Shadows… 1" is the most rhythmically aware composition here, turning into a fully-fledged noise death-march from the moment it drops. From hereon in however, using the d-word among any description of "From The Shadows…" becomes pointless, as subsequent movements generally far more resemble ambient music set vaguely to tempo rather than being centred around any particular climactic moment. Mood is created not through the gradual build up and sudden release of tension but through maintaining a constant sense of unease, through atonal drone atmospherics that hang ominously and unsettlingly over it all like the stench of er… melting flesh perhaps, and via generally paying fuck all attention to when certain musical elements would usually be expected to appear, forcing the listener either to constantly realign their aural centre of gravity throughout.
Various Artists - Modernists 4 (Out now on Modern Urban Jazz)
Another essential addition to Modern Urban Jazz's outstanding "Modernists" series, and to the label's ever-diversifying catalogue. This time round there's a bit of a twist though, as only a single track makes obvious use of tempo within drum & bass' trademark 170bpm range. Considering MJazz is a label whose place is very much ingrained in abstract jungle and drum & bass history, this is a pretty big deal, although it does seem a natural move for an imprint that's rarely been content to stay in one place for too long.
Given the range of styles on offer, it's hard to summarise "Modernists 4" in a nutshell. What we do have is a real goodie-bag of all kinds of off-kilter electronic experiments, and though on relatively early listens some appear more successful than others, at no point does it ever fail to be interesting, compelling and as an entire package, unique. Even where originality takes a momentary backseat to familiarity, such as on the jazzy downtempo numbers like Critical Resistance's "The Shake Down", ever so fondly reminiscent of Good Looking's "Earth" series, and the stuttering breakbeat workout of opener "LMCDIAT" from new name Burlish which reminds me of some of Pearson Sound's recent output, there's a fundamental quirkiness of context underpinning it that lies in the unlikely marriage of such contrasting styles under the same banner. For sure, as with the vast majority of the Mjazz discography their latest addition definitely won't be everybody's cup of tea, but the open-minded among us should at worst find it's at least a real breath of fresh air of a listen, and at best find themselves falling in love with a whole series of uncommon approaches to bass music.
Rowl - Egipto EP (Out now on The Crescent)
In a mere four releases, relative newcomer label The Crescent has already covered more musical territory than most could hope to in their lifetime, pigeon-holing themselves neither according to tempo nor explicitly to any set of stylistic or aesthetic qualities. The newest comes courtesy of Rowl, a name that's new to me but one whose output I'll be certain to pay attention to from now on. It's an altogether extremely mellow and erm… "chillaxing" affair featuring two refreshingly sparse dubstep cuts that would go a long way on their own to reigniting anyone's love affair with a genre whose name has unfortunately become something of a dirty word among certain circles, backed up by a top-notch remix from the ever-reliable maestro that is ASC.
On paper, "Egipto" and "Someone" are very much cut from the same cloth, only being distinguishable through the latter's injection of vocals and slightly more scarce rhythmic elements, but this is to no detriment to the overall effect of either; in fact much the opposite is true. By maintaining a sense of coherence through the reuse of certain sounds, particularly the beautiful DeepChord-esque dub pads, there's a sense that to listen to the A and B sides start to finish in the same sitting is to listen to one extended and extremely immersive piece of music. Whether by chance or design, ASC's remix of "Egipto" can even be seen as an additional and no-less essential part of the journey, tantalisingly waiting till just over 2 minutes in to fully unveil its full atmospheric scope with yet more gorgeous pad work.
Pedestrian & Jasperdrum / Pedestrian- Kalakuta / Ndizi (Out now on 2nd Drop Records)
Let's face it, the use of African vocals has become something of a production cliché in house music over the last couple of years. Why then does Pedestrian's newest single and first for 2nd Drop Records, which makes heavy use of the motif, stand out from the rest? Though the afro-house concept itself might be a tad worn, Pedestrian's take on it here is relatively fresh, vibrant and most importantly, authentic feeling. That is not to say of course that it could pass for traditional Nigerian music as "Kalkuta"'s title (a reference to 1970s activist Fela Kuti) suggests of itself. Rather, it's authentic in the sense that it genuinely strives to create something modern and original with afrobeat as the starting point, blending elements of these two realms together seamlessly as opposed to slapping any old sample pack vocal over a drum loop. To boot, while house is often content to take a minimalistic approach when it comes to beats, "Kalakuta" and B-side "Ndizi" are anything but simplistic in this field, the latter in particular. Among its numerous percussive detailings "Ndzi" builds upon the potential uses of the rapid-fire juke 808 percussion line, re-contextualising it as a device dictating melody, not just intensity.
Incidentally, this 12" would appear to mark something of a "coming of age" for Pedestrian, or at least a return of sorts to the jazzier roots of breakthrough track "Hei Poa". "Hoyle Road" from earlier in the year was by contrast more pop than progressive, and as we know, all pop music is inherently evil. Hot on the heels of Djrum's standout LP it's another good move for 2nd Drop as well, continuing to push their sound into uncharted territories and reinforcing their status as one of bass music's must-watch imprints.
Ruffhouse & Clarity- Persecute / Aphasia (Out now on Critical Modulations)
Heavy tribal goodness from the Bristolian production combo of Ruffhouse & Clarity, this being hopefully the first of many outings for the well-matched pairing. While Kasra's label Critical has taken a perhaps slightly predictable dancefloor leaning in recent months, its sister imprint Modulations remains a hotbed for some of the deeper, more challenging and frankly, more mature music to emanate from the relative drum & bass mainstream.
Arguably tracing their roots back to Code 3's sleeper anthem "Living Proof", to my ears, "Persecute" and "Aphasia" both very much represent quintessentially what seems to have become the sound "du jour" among the more progressive echelons of the drum & bass fraternity, equally fitting as soundtracks for a gritty basement club as for a film scene portraying dystopian urban decay. No doubt, plenty of would-be emulators continue to emerge, but as I've said before about Ruffhouse's music and likewise feel about Clarity's, theirs is a sound that relies on expert command of weight and dynamics, brutal attention to detail and in short, bucketloads of production nous to pull off properly. Imitators beware.
Steve Moore - Zen Spiders / Lwaxana (Out now on Future Times)
As anyone who's attempted to mix his music among a DJ set will know, techno producer Steve Moore's music has one easy-to-miss but crucial defining quality- it doesn't deal in 4/4s. Unfortunately for this part-time DJ, the ramifications of this fact were only fully understood when I dropped one of his tunes in da club. As it dawned on me that it would be impossible to mix out of the 2011 L.I.E.S. synth epic "Frigia" without resorting to a cop-out fade, what ensued was 12 minutes of confusion, chaos, and plenty of raised eyebrows- and this was to a trendy, forward-thinking and officially more-intelligent-than-you Dalston crowd. Who wouldn't be terrified to think how the yobs of a South London party might have reacted, or heaven forbid that of a venue outside of London; it's feasible that people might have got so confused that they could have died. Do they even have clubs outside of London in fact?
Anyway, a couple of lessons to be learnt for all you DJs out there. Firstly, don't bother with Steve Moore's latest release if you only see electronic music as a series of DJ tools, unless you think the ability to deliberately bemuse your audience is a key aspect of "playing the crowd". Secondly, never underestimate the value of a fade mix.
Agree with my selections this month? Anything I've missed, or anything that I should be checking out for next? Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me via @invisiondnb on Twitter.