SINGLES / EPS
10. LUKID - THE DOG CAN SWIM (WERK DISCS - WDNT002)
‘The Dog Can Swim’ is the first single to be taken from Lukid’s fourth album for Werk Discs, the often brilliant ‘Lonely At The Top’. The companion tracks ‘This Dog Can Swim’ and ‘This Dog Can Run’ find Lukid in focused form, reworking the same sonic palette to explore differing moods. ‘This Dog Can Swim’ is a fierce onslaught of heavily distorted percussion and icy synth work that has both bark and bite, driving forward with a buildup of unnerving energy.
Alternatively ‘This Dog Can Run’ rewires that growl into a warmer, more expansive affair that offers an afterthought to the uncompromising heat of ‘This Dog Can Swim’. On the flip, talented young Swedish producer 1991 takes on the title track shifting it into haunting ambient territory while Mass Prod delivers a restless and agitated deconstruction of the original.
9. MAK VS. PASTEMAN - THE THROWBACK EP (CAR CRASH SET - C/C/S2086)
Continuing to ascend the ranks with impressive speed, production duo Mak and Pasteman return to the Car Crash Set label with the follow up to ‘What Love Is’. The four-track ‘The Throwback’ EP sees the pair pitting their solo efforts against each other, giving them the room to explore the different facets that align under their collaborative efforts.
In Mak’s corner are ‘Work On You’ and ‘Cameo’, two well-crafted house efforts that showcase the fine-tuned balance of groove, soul and power that has elevated the duo’s name to where it is. Meanwhile, Pasteman takes things in different directions delivering ‘Beggin’ It’ and ‘Thinkin’ Of You’, a blazing bassline anthem and refined old skool house cut respectively.
8. ILL BLU – ILLUSIONS (MADTECH RECORDS - KCMTDL005)
Madhouse offshoot MadTech continues its fine run of form with this killer three-track EP from London production duo Ill Blu. Having crafted a series of heavy percussive workouts for Hyperdub and Numbers, the ‘Illusions’ EP thankfully sees them continuing to do exactly what it is that they do best. ‘Omar’ is a clattering rallying cry of syncopated snares, pitch bent synths and propulsive chords that is both powerful and detailed, showcasing just how devastating this pair’s productions can be.
Up next ‘2nd Nature’ sits back a bit tackling more traditional house conventions with style if not quite so much originality, while ‘Tick Tok’ reverts to more rugged territory deploying manic synths and chopped Amens brilliantly.
7. MY NU LENG - THE GRID / HIPS N THIGHS (877 RECORDS - 877004)
Following releases on Mindstep, Mimm and Lo Note, Bristolian duo My Nu Leng step up to the plate for 877 Records with two heavyweight club riddims. Propulsive and focused A Side ‘The Grid’ leads the way, honing directly in on its target and pursuing it with vigour.
Built around a solid 4x4 beat, its billowing low end, scuttling textures and dark ambience all work together to drive it forward. On the flip they team up with another promising producer, Majora, on ‘Hips N Thighs’. This is a similarly powerful effort with an energetic step that pivots around the vocal as they reel off gnarled bass hits.
6. LAPALUX - SOME OTHER TIME (BRAINFEEDER - BF12032)
Essex-based beatsmith Lapalux makes his return to Brainfeeder with the follow up to his stunning ‘When You’re Gone’ EP. Picking up where the last EP left things, ‘Some Other Time’ continues to explore the more fractured outer fringes of hip hop while exhibiting his most refined songwriting and eloquent soul to date. ‘Quartz’ opens the EP softly, slowly engulfed in a spray of tape hiss and chiming synths that leads into the scratching rhythmic edits and lush synths of ‘Jaw Jackin’’.
‘Forgetting And Learning Again’ featuring Kerry Leatham loosens the bolts with its swooning synths and jazz-tinged keys before ‘Strangling You With The Cord’ provides the most maximalist moment of the EP, exploding in heavy handed drums, buzzing bass tones and lurid streaks of colour. ‘Close Call / Chop Cuts’ then plays out the EP in a jumble of endearingly naive beauty.
5. JETS - JETS EP (LEISURE SYSTEM - LSR004)
Having both enjoyed great individual success over the last couple of years, fellow Berlin residents Jimmy Edgar and Travis Stewart AKA Machinedrum have now teamed up on the highly anticipated Jets project with a four-track EP on Leisure System. The self-titled EP is the culmination of four years of intermittent studio sessions between the pair and is a dynamic alignment of their respective projects.
‘In Her City’ is a swirling vortex of saccharine rave influences tied to an incisive rhythmic swagger while ‘Sin Love With You’ is injected with some of the sleazy glamour of Edgar’s recent productions. ‘Meu’ is driven by the kind of tumbling, rhythmic syncopations that have driven Stewart’s recent footwork inflected-productions while ‘Lock Lock Key Key’ cuts up its lush samples as it works up a sweat.
4. WILEY & MARK PRITCHARD - SCAR / MONEY MAN (BIG DADA - BDDNL202)
Close to three years since they first surfaced and nearly a year after they saw the light of day on Wiley’s last album ‘Evolve Or Be Extinct’, these two Mark Pritchard produced tracks are receiving a long overdue EP release along with the instrumentals and a bonus Harmonic 313 remix of ‘Money Man’. With Pritchard delivering two typically warped, bubbling instrumentals, Wiley is able to break out of the lyrical homogeneity that recent chart successes have imposed upon him.
Here he sounds more vital than he has done in a long time, freely navigating connections and letting his abstract thoughts lead the way. On the Harmonic 313 remix of ‘Money Man’ Pritchard explores the energy and force of early grime while retaining the razor sharp sci-fi palette that characterizes the original.
3. VENICE CALYPSO - TRAPEZOID EP (SENSELESS RECORDS - SENSELESSDD011)
Retaining the overloaded rhythms and sinewy melodies that characterized Venice Calypso’s earlier productions, ‘Trapezoid’ forgoes the skewed playfulness in favour of a darker, brooding intensity, operating at the dizzying apex between the scattershot rhythms of early grime and the muscular power of techno. EP opener ‘Trouble’ immediately sets the tone with its stuttering 808 rhythms, disjointed riffs and viscous atmospheres. Channeling the industrial delivery of techno rewired into the unabashed aggression of grime, title-track ‘Trapezoid’ reels off a breathless volley of metallic snares, skittering hi-hats and warped vocals that is as uncompromising as it is potent.
Rounding off the trio of original productions, ‘Poseisus’ is built around a snaking 4×4 rhythm, as cascades of white noise and pitched percussion rain down on the track with unsettling results. They don’t hold back on the remix package either with JTRP, Reilly Steel and label boss Deville all stepping up to the plate.
2. ARP101 & ELLIOTT YORKE - FLURO BLACK (DONKY PITCH - DKY007)
The seventh release on the burgeoning Donky Pitch imprint plays host to the heavyweight pairing between like-minded beatsmiths ARP 101 and Elliott Yorke, of Eglo and Project Mooncircle fame respectively. Title track ‘Fluro Black’ is a low-slung, thugged out hip hop banger that laughs in the face of the current spate of ‘trap’ beats flooding the internet. Pivoting around the booming bass hits, crisp percussion and deftly deployed strokes of colour, it is an impactful club track of the highest calibre.
On the flip ‘Polybot’ take a complete left turn, opting for a dense, loping instrumental saturated with squirming synths and hazy textures. This leaves ‘SLAM’, a solo effort from ARP 101 that has been doing the rounds for a while. Here he employs smooth boogie synths, vocodered vocals and bouncing bassline to create an infectious slice of digitized funk.
1. SHELTER POINT - FOREVER FOR NOW (HOTFLUSH - HF035)
Seemingly appearing out of the ether, Coventry duo Shelter Point’s arrival on Hotflush is a markedly assured and accomplished one. The four-track ‘Forever For Now’ EP is an understated offering that barely raises above a whisper while commanding your attention throughout, delivering deftly constructed hooks and plenty of light and shade. While comparisons to the likes of James Blake and Hotflush alumni Mount Kimbie are inevitable, Shelter Point’s undeniable songwriting capabilities demand that they are judged as their own entity.
The mournful minimalism of lead track ‘Braille’ provides a perfect entry point to the EP with its tumbling drums, wavering synths and heavily processed vocals, before moving through the shuffling swoon of ‘Forever For Now’. The buzzing low end of ‘Hold On Me’ paired with its skittering hi hats and 808 snares deftly nods to the influence of current hip hop movements on their productions while the brighter quirks of ‘Sleep Easy’ showcase this duo’s ability to craft uniquely left-of-centre pop.
BEST OF THE REST
HYPHA – WHISPERS (MUTI MUSIC - MUTI122)
‘Whispers’ is a diverse affair of bold beat experiments from Hypha that showcases energy and life in abundance.
A THOUSAND YEARS - FARMERS IN FIELDS OF STARS (KING DELUXE - KING015)
A Thousand Years’ debut for King Deluxe takes the 4x4 beat pattern into new realms with a knack for inventive sampling and melodic detail.
OLD APPARATUS – ALFUR (SULLEN TONE - ST003)
The Old Apparatus collective continue their journey into otherworldly dimensions with ‘Alfur’, the second in a trilogy of EPs from its individual members.
KAMIKAZE SPACE PROGRAMME – EXPLORER (DECAYRHYTHM - DECA027)
Kamikaze Space Programme continue to deliver uncompromising dance floor energy with the four track ‘Explorer’ EP for Decarhythm.
DEBRUIT - FROM THE HORIZON REMIXED (CIVIL MUSIC - CIV047)
Tracks from Debruit’s recent LP for Civil Music get pulled into a plethora of new shapes as Mweslee, LV, Kelpe and Fulgeance take the chance to reinterpret ‘From The Horizon’.
3. PHOTEK - KU:PALM (PHOTEK PRODUCTIONS - PPROLPD01)
Rupert Parkes, AKA Photek, should be a name already familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in electronic music having crafted a discography packed with seminal releases going back to the late 90s. Following a prolonged hiatus, Photek has returned to the fray over the last eighteen months delivering an impressive string of singles and EPs for his own Photek Productions and Tectonic that have seen him diversifying and finding a rich vein of form exploring new rhythms and tempos. Now having eased his way back into the right mindset he is ready to drop his first LP for five-years, ‘KU:PALM’.
Featuring recent tracks like ‘Aviator’, ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘This Love’ as well as a selection of brand new material, the album’s new shapes are tied together by its intricate rhythms and immersive atmospherics. From the precision-tooled bump of ‘Quadrant’ to the elegantly freeform flow of the recently unveiled ‘Pyramid’, the poignant melody of ‘Munich’ to the hip hop futurism of ‘Mistral’, Photek’s ability to craft a cohesive body of work is undeniable, and while the weight of anticipation looms large over the album it is a valiant return form one of electronic music’s most revered figureheads.
2. FANCY MIKE - MARY B. JAMES (KING DELUXE - KING016)
The evolution in Fancy Mike’s sound on ‘Mary B. James’ is certainly impressive. While in many ways a natural continuation of the occupations that informed his earlier releases, the new record is undoubtedly his most accomplished work yet. Stripping away many of the layers and mechanisms that shrouded previous productions, the album revels confidently in the space it creates, resulting in a cohesive and thoroughly immersive listen with uniquely transportive qualities.
From the first notes of sweeping opener ‘Africa Sky’, held aloft between joy and sadness, Fancy Mike lays the foundations for the journey that is about to unfold. Skittering rhythms give a tense energy to the poignant weight of the swirling synth calls on ‘Miami Vice’, tumbling rhythms guide you through the shimmering landscape of the eponymous ‘Mary B. James’ and lofty synths on ‘Vangelis Horse’ threaten to abandon gravity completely if not for the gallop of the rhythmic anchor. I could take you through every track on the album, but really it is best seen as one entity – a voyage through unknown territory, both for the creator and the listener.
1. ITAL TEK - NEBULA DANCE (PLANET MU - ZIQ325)
Ital Tek has never been one to rest on his creative laurels, as one listen to his back catalogue will verify, and the release of his third long player marks another decisive evolution from the producer inspired by the recent output of his label. New record ‘Nebula Dance’ retains all the hallmarks of his previous productions while exploring the fraught energy and rhythms of jungle and footwork that could be first heard on his standout ‘Gonga’ EP from late last year.
Laying down the gauntlet with the warped breakbeats of its title track, the album’s restless percussion proves a fascinating skeleton for Ital Tek’s productions. From the hazy tones and spiraling arpeggios of ‘Pixel Haze’ to the sweeping landscape of ‘Intercruise’, shifting rhythmic layers give life to the albums broad melodic strokes. The propulsive chords on ‘Glokk’ collide with its jungle-inflected rhythms, while these patterns are reduced to a spectre on ‘Discontinuum’ and the icy shimmer of album closer ‘Yesterday Tomorrow Today’ is played out on a wave of light.
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