10. TOYC & ZULU – NEEDS TO BE SAID (ZOO MUSIC – ZOOMUSIC001)
This month saw the launch of Zoo Music, the label run by Rinse FM DJ Monki. Taking charge of the inaugural release are young London / Nottingham duo TOYC and Zulu. Having both garnered attention of late with their individual productions, here they team up on two impressive rugged 4x4 cuts. Title track 'Needs To Be Said' flirts with rave chords and tropical tinged percussion before unraveling into a sparse drum snap and incisive bassline that are made all the more deadly by their restraint. On the flip, 'Nothing Borrowed' builds on that template but doesn't hold anything back. Here the bass jitters through the track spurred on by waves of acid-flecked synths and razor sharp percussion.
9. MIKE G – BOOST (CAR CRASH SET – C/C/S2080)
LA-based producer Mike G makes a welcome return to Car Crash Set following the fantastic 'Throw Back / Disco Radio' single. Here he offers up 'Boost', an unabashed club banger. Taking its cue from the winding synth line, chopped breaks, skittering hats and deep bass hits keep the track rolling. The original comes backed with a varied selection of remixes to turn any dance floor upside down. Jersey club don DJ Sliink works the fundamentals of the original into a high speed percussive workout, chopping it into a more streamlined club tool. B.Yrslf Division alumni Admin pares it back to a tumbling 808 skeleton with a deadly sub undercarriage while Bosstone rounds off the package with a brilliantly overblown, orchestral trap rework.
8. DOBIE – NOTHING TO FEAR EP (BIG DADA – BD203)
Big Dada unveils new signing Dobie with the debut EP for the label from the veteran producer, the stunningly varied four-track 'Nothing To Fear'. 'Hustle With Speed' is as deadly a cut of snarling 2-step as you are likely to hear; driven by a razor sharp percussive swing, rude waves of bass sweep through the track. 'State of Flux' is a heavy, rolling acid number with an eerie undertone, 'Gillet Square N16' is a bounding tribal rhythm with plenty of character and 'E 2 Da P' drops to a hip hop tempo chopping distorted breaks and sinewy synths into a clattering monster.
7. BD1982 – IRON TREES EP (B.YRSLF DIVISION – BYRSLF014)
The French B.Yrslf Division label continues to cement itself as a go-to label for fresh and forward thinking sounds with its latest transmission, the hefty nine-track 'Iron Trees' EP from Diskotopia co-owner and inimitable producer BD1982. The seven original productions on offer here showcase a singularly brilliant and focused vision centred around dizzying tribal drum patterns, skewed synths and humid atmospheres. From the squirming bounce of title track 'Iron Trees' to the eski futurism of 'Just A Rhythm', the EP offers up a decisive statement from a criminally underrated producer. Remixes come courtesy of Greeen Linez and Qoso who re-imagine 'Outside The Tunnel' as a slice of breezy funk and 'Zero Hours' as punishing techno respectively.
6. KAMIKAZE SPACE PROGRAMME – FACTORY FLOOR EP (DECA RHYTHM – DECA020)
Having graduated from a healthy back catalogue of drum & bass productions under the Raiden moniker, Chris Jarman has found fertile new creative ground with the Kamikaze Space Programme alias, dropping the tempo and exploring new sonic territory. 'Factory Floor', his third EP for the Bristol-based Deca Rhythm label is his toughest work yet packed with mechanistic grooves and heavyweight bass. 'Anvil' lives up to its name with an inexorable industrial stomp ready to flatten anything in its path, while 'Green House' injects that sheer force into a deadly, clattering swing. 'Cascade' employs pitched percussive elements to form the hypnotic melody that runs through the thumping distorted bass hits while 'Gears' travels down a more minimal but no less kinetic path.
5. SWING TING FT. FOX – HEAD GONE (FAT CITY – FC106)
Manchester duo Swing Ting, AKA Samrai and Platt, may be relative newcomers with only two releases to their name to date, but as we all know quality will always trump quantity and they have certainly made each production count fully. With a background as a club night in their native city and tight DJ unit, they are well versed in the dynamics of the dance floor and this is deeply entrenched in their production style. New single 'Headgone' sees them teaming up with local MC Fox on some deadly, ruffneck bizness driven by snapping snares and plundering detuned bass. Fellow Mancunian Chimpo delivers a remix on the flip giving it a more overt grime touch using raw bass pulses and sinewy synths.
4. KUEDO – WORK, LIVE & SLEEP IN COLLAPSING SPACE (PLANET MU – ZIQ321)
Following last year's acclaimed album 'Severant', Kuedo returns with 'Work, Live & Sleep In Collapsing Space' a track taken from the same sessions that helps the brilliance of the aforementioned album live on. Pairing drawn out synth strokes against collapsing trap beats, the skittering rhythm section provides the perfect companion for the morphing, dramatic arpeggios that's shoot through the core of the track. New Hyperdub signing Laurel Halo deconstructs the track into little more than a muffled kick as she stitches together a collage of reverberating strings, languorous synths and hazy confusion that is strangely evocative in a peculiarly abstract way. Claude Speed, one third of American Men, rounds off the package with another largely beatless interpretations that floats along on a bed of lush soundscapes that echo with the drama of the original before building to an extended drum solo from Jivraj Singh that plays the track out.
3. FIDSER – CHECK THIS OUT (CONCRETE CUT – CCT012)
The Warsaw based Concrete Cut label continues to champion the emergent sounds of its native country with the debut EP from Fidser. Featuring four original productions as well as three well picked remixes, the EP jumps around in style with scant regard for any kind of convention as ideas are crammed in so tight each track could be an EP in and of itself. Following a subdued intro 'When You Came Into My Life' morphs into a raging no-holds-barred acid beast, 'Check This Out' pays homage to the breathless energy of classic rave influences via the tumbling percussion of juke, 'All Right' works to a skipping garage heartbeat while 'Activate' is a masterful exercise in progression, cutting up juke, hip hop, acid and more in the space of four and a half minutes. Remixes come from Artfruit, Space, Ladies and Hatti Vatti.
2. DISCLOSURE – THE FACE (GRECO ROMAN – GREC024)
The exponential rise of young brotherly production duo Disclosure over the last twelve months has seen them rise from relative unknowns to daytime radio darlings, in no small part down to their fantastic remix of Jessie Ware 'Running'. Steadily evolving with each release they seemed to have found a rich vein of inspiration in the meeting point between house, 2-step and pop sensibilities. This is demonstrated perfectly on the four track 'The Face' EP which is possibly their best work yet. Working with vocalists Sinead Harnett and Ria Ritchie on 'Boiling' and 'Control' respectively they are able to articulate a more well rounded sound, spreading the soulful vocals thick over their jittery 2-step rhythms and bubbling melodies. Elsewhere 'What's In Your Head' and 'Lividup' playfully cut up and re-pitch vocals to add movement and fluidity to their warm, rolling basslines and bright melodies.
1. FANTASTIC MR FOX – SAN'EN EP (BLACK ACRE – ACRE025)
After a twelve month absence Fantastic Mr Fox returns to Black Acre with another stunning four-track EP, which as always is well worth the wait. Still sounding as instantly recognisable as ever, the tracks here maintain all the hallmarks of his earlier productions while showcasing a more refined sound than we have heard before, enlisting label mate Alby Daniels on vocal duties for three of the four tracks on offer. 7-minute opener 'Pascal's Chorus' is more tempered than anything we have heard up to this point, letting the track unfurl at its own pace as he stretches wavering keys over characteristically jittery percussion underlain by a more linear house groove. 'Speak Nuh' is the solo instrumental track on the EP and uses the opportunity to explore a harder, more straight-edged dance floor sound bursting into a rude grime snap replete with warped strings and hissing snares. 'Yesterdays Fall' is a deftly deployed RnB slow jam that monopolises beautifully on the rich soul tone of Daniels' voice while title-track 'San'en' rounds off the EP with what is perhaps the closest to pop that Fantastic Mr Fox has veered yet thanks to the fluttering percussion, infectious vocals and glowing chord progressions.
BEST OF THE REST
HACKMAN & BLUTO – WHAT MATTERS (DEADPLATE – DPL003)
Warm house pressure courtesy of the burgeoning Deadplate label featuring a stellar remix from James Fox on the flip.
SINISTARR – CETRA (HIT & HOPE – HNH007)
The first non-dnb excursion from Sinistarr reveals a brilliantly skewed and indefinable style.
UNTIL SILENCE – THAT SHINE / HANDS TIED (PUSHING RED – RED010)
Dark dance floor sounds via soulful grooves on this quality 12” from Until Silence on the Pushing Red label.
TEENGIRL FANTASY – MOTIF (R & S RECORDS – RS1204)
The latest hazy analogue emission from Teengirl Fantasy provides a tantalising taster for their forthcoming sophomore album, while Actress turns in a deep, hypnotic remix to accompany.
KAHN – MARGEAUX (IDLE HANDS – IDLE012)
The ever-unpredictable Kahn turns his hand to fragile 2-step stylings on this two tracker for the Idle Hands label.
3. PARA ONE – PASSION (MARBLE - BEC5161202)
Throughout a singular career Parisian producer Para One has built an idiosyncratic discography of eccentric and indefinable electronic music. Six years on from the release of his lauded debut album 'Epiphanie' he returns in inimitable fashion with 'Passion', an album that is incredibly diverse without ever calling into question its creator, skewed to the point of abstract without ever being anything other than danceable. Moving from house to hip hop, electro to 2-step, the album is tied together by its vibrancy and ebullience.
2. LORN – ASK THE DUST (NINJA TUNE – ZEN187)
Two years on from the release of his revelatory debut album for Brainfeeder, Lorn has joined the Ninja Tune camp and come up with sophomore effort 'Ask The Dust'. Charged with the same, dark, grandiose and often brutal intensity as his previous effort, the new album reveals new shades to his visceral sound. Reigning in the production, a more nuanced approach here gives the listener more room to breathe without losing any of its immediacy or emotive qualities.
1. RYAT – TOTEM (BRAINFEEDER – BF029)
'Totem' is the stunning debut album from Brainfeeder's latest signing, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer Ryat. Blending classical and contemporary electronic influences, the album elegantly weaves a sonic tapestry that is as emotive as it is experimental, full of lush soundscapes, fragile composition and unexpected turns.
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