SINGLES / EPS
10. DOWNLINERS SEKT - TRIM / TAB (INFINE - IF2046)
Elusive Spanish duo Downliners Sekt make their debut on the French InFiné label with the beautiful 'Trim / Tab' single. 'Trim / Tab (Part One)' captures the kinetic rhythms of the dance floor in its spectral deconstruction. Enveloped by a grainy fog of ambience, disembodied voices and muted chords ricochet around the track's percussive skeleton to bewitching effect. 'Trim / Tab (Part Two)' is a darker companion piece re-imagining booming warehouse acoustics around a syncopated shuffle and the remnants of a once-euphoric melody.
9. HENSEN - BOSS MEI (TEMPLAR SOUND - TSWL00)
Having built a strong reputation for themselves with a series of digital releases that culminated in an impressive label compilation in February of this year, Templar Sound dip their toes into the physical realms for the first time with Hensen's vinyl only 'Boss Mei', a track which originally featured on the lauded 'TS0000' compilation. 'Boss Mei' is a well-crafted slice of skittering, techy 2-step that plays its deep pad washes off against a clipped, exacting beat and loping subs. On the flip is a remix from Thigpen, AKA Helix. Completely deconstructing the original, the largely beatless rework relies on the rhythmic swell of the chords to gently push the track forward as kicks tumble through the mix.
8. MIK - CONTRAST EP (SLIT JOCKEY - SJD022)
Having gone from strength to strength recently with a series of standout singles, MIK's latest offering comes courtesy of US label Slit Jockey. Featuring production from a host of the Slit Jockey stable, the 'Contrast' EP sees MIK switching up flows over a diverse selection of beats. The EP is bookended by two collaborations with experimental beatsmith BD1982 which give MI the chance to showcase his verbal dexterity as he snakes his way over tumbling percussion and morphing bass. He kicks things up a gear on the Starkey-produced 'Air Force Ones', a juddering powerhouse, while on 'Cold Outside' he goes in hard over Jack Horner and Dev79's deep, powerful instrumental. Completing a top quality EP he teams up with grime stalwart J Sweet on 'Grime Doesn't Pay', a militaristic 8-bar outing.
7. MELLA DEE - RUFF CUT EP (FOREFRONT RECORDINGS - FORE005)
Here Doncaster-based producer Mella Dee, who many might also know as one half of rising dance floor duo Mista Men, steps up to Forefront Recordings to showcase some of his solo studio experimentation on the 'Ruff Cut' EP. The three-track EP sees Mella Dee dropping the tempo lower than ever before and working a selection of precise and powerful grooves that reference house, garage and grime in equal measures. On the Crazy Titch sampling 'Gassed' he sets out his stall with a purposeful swung groove and low-slung bass, utilizing the rhythmic space to build a sense of menacing intensity. 'Fazed' re-appropriates the bump of UKG, injecting a touch of sensuality through the drifting female vocals which counteracts the incisive drum line, while 'In The Bits' just straight kicks, coming the closest to a straight house track while retaining the same precision cut force.
6. FLUME - SLEEPLESS ft. JEZZABELL DORAN (FUTURE CLASSIC)
Ahead of the release of his debut album, 20 year-old Australian beatmaker Flume drops new single 'Sleepless' featuring Jezzabell doran on the Future Classic label. The track in a question is a thoroughly endearing three and a half minutes of lush, shimmering hip hop. Built around a laid back head nodding beat, bouncy subs and flurries of bright arpeggios, the chopped vocal refrain coalesces with Doran's warm voice as the track hits its stride. Midland's remix reins in the track's off beat looseness, crafting a more propulsive structure while retaining the nuances of the original re-wired for the dance floor, meanwhile, Shlohmo warps the track into a creaking, bristling organism with an expansive, otherworldly quality to it.
5. CHAOS IN THE CBD - ROLLING 84s / SLAB / TRUNK MUSIC (CLEK CLEK BOOM - CCB007)
Next up to the plate for the French Clek Clek Boom label is brotherly NZ duo Chaos In The CBD with a heavy three-track EP of ghetto house mutations. 'Rolling 84s' leads with booming, syncopated percussion, pitched down vocals and an acid-flecked lead line that gives the track a bouncing swagger. 'Slab' opens things out letting its simple ascending-descending bass line and 808 drum snap carry it along aided by the slurred rap sample while 'Trunk Music' diverts the template with its tumbling kicks, distorted bass hits and skittering hi hats, more overtly referencing the hip hop elements that run through the whole EP.
4. KASKET - AUGUST FADES (APOLLO RECORDS - AMB1206)
Having realigned themselves with a flourishing roster of fresh talent over the last couple of years, R & S Records have recently revived ambient subsidiary label Apollo Records with similar success. A quick fire series of EPs from the likes of Synkro, Jack Dixon and Submerse over the last six months have explored a re-invigorated output championing a raft of new talent, and their latest offering from Kasket is perhaps the best thing they have released yet. Pivoting around the crumbling percussion and eastern melodic lilt at its core, 'Fallen' ebbs and flows with beautiful synth washes and the twisting tones of his vocodered vocals. 'Mia' on the other hand explores the kind of joyously naive, lush electronica that characterized Bath's standout 'Cerulean' LP, sweeping through intricate edits and weightless melodies with a brilliant lightness of touch. Title track 'August Fades' attacks more directly on a bandy-legged march, offsetting the digital bounce with rich strings and freewheeling melodies.
3. KRYSTAL KLEAR - MORE ATTENTION (MADTECH RECORDS - KCMTDL004)
Kerri Chandler's Madhouse offshoot MadTech Records has quickly established itself as a forerunner in top quality electronic music with an impressive string of singles from Citizen, Kashii and Lakosa & iO, and the latest single from Dublin-based producer and Rinse FM DJ Krystal Klear is going to do nothing to harm their solidifying reputation. Featuring Jenna G on vocals, 'More Attention' is pure 90s house euphoria. With its lush pads, funk-lined bass, sultry vocals and infectious hook, the introduction of a winding sax melody is the icing on the cake. 'My Love Is Burning' dances to much the same beat, referencing the sugar rush keys of old skool rave to drive it over heavy bass kicks and sharp 808 claps.
2. AIRHEAD - PYRAMID LAKE / BLACK INK (R&S RECORDS - RS1209)
Earlier this year Airhead joined the flourishing R&S Records roster with the beautifully strung out Yeah Yeah Yeahs sampling 'Wait' and expansive throb of 'South Congress'. The follow up to that single, 'Pyramid Lake / Black Ink', sees him defying anything close to artistic definition as he turns his focus towards the dance floor, albeit in his own deconstructed, highly idiosyncratic way. 'Pyramid Lake' is a whirlpool of juxtapositions that somehow comes out as the most ingeniously off-kilter banger that you will hear all year. Jarring whip-crack snares collide with tumbling live drum fills, smooth pads drip over heavy bass hits and soulful vocals are warped into maniacal spectres as Airhead carefully constructs a controlled cacophony. On the flip 'Black Ink' is a tumbling, splaying mess of drums that worms right into your head in manic fashion.
1. PEARSON SOUND – CLUTCH (HESSLE AUDIO - HES022)
Returning to Hessle Audio for the first time in two years with some of his most stripped back and vital work yet. On fragmented lead track 'Clutch' Kennedy lays down the gauntlet re-appropriating a brutal 8-bar grime template in typically skewed fashion. Drawing from an uncompromising palette, the scattershot percussion is wound tightly by the mechanical hiss that courses through the bare bones structure, only coming together to get its full weight behind the force of the punishing bass hits. Up next, 'Underdog' gives little in the way of respite. The only semblance of melody to appear is the whirring, reversed FX that periodically scratches its way through in to the vacuum while the tumbling, stop-start rhythm leaves the track wide open to the stinging bass pulses and harsh claps that ricochet through it. Completing the package is 'Piston', the most linear of the three, although no less punishing. Sticking stringently to the rigid march of percussion it is only the subdued atmospherics that dampen its inexorable forward momentum.
BEST OF THE REST
SHUTTLE – HALO (NINJA TUNE - ZENDNLS333)
Returning to the label for the first time since 2009, Shuttle delivers an accomplished EP of varied propulsive experimentation led by rave anthem 'Halo'.
ROBOT KOCH - COSMIC WAVES (PROJECT MOONCIRCLE - MC105)
Featuring a selection of new solo productions as well as collaborations with Headshotboyz, Pavel Dovgal, Kuhn, Submerse and Rain Dog, 'Cosmic Waves' is an immersive triumph for hip hop lynchpin Robot Koch.
OLD APPARATUS – REALISE (SULLEN TONE - ST002)
More deep, soul searching brilliance from the Old Apparatus collection on their Sullen Tone imprint.
GHOSTS ON TAPE - NATURE'S LAW (ICE HOTT - IH001)
Ghosts On Tape inaugurates the Ice Hott label with some dancefloor fire, backed with remixes by Jus-Ed and Lando Kal.
LORN - WEIGH ME DOWN (NINJA TUNE - ZEN12331)
More staggeringly powerful electronica from Lorn, taken from his sophomore album for Ninja Tune.
3. DUSK & BLACKDOWN – DASAFLEX (KEYSOUND RECORDINGS)
A lot has changed in the four years since Dusk & Blackdown released 'Margins Music', an album that brilliantly embodied the excitement and energy of dubstep at the time. Having spent the interim period focused on building the label into one of the best the underground has to offer, they are now back with 'Dasaflex', an album imbued with the spirit of Keysound's more varied recent output. Moving fluidly through tempos and rhythms, the album cuts across the grime and dubstep that characterized their last album to also touch upon Funky, house, jungle and more. Splitting the tracks between their two individual solo offerings and a selection of collaborative tracks, 'Dasaflex' is the sound of the pair reveling in their divergent and often tangled paths. From sprawling, alien opener 'Lonely Moon (Android Heartbreak)' featuring Farrah to the rolling Funky of 'Wicked Vibez' with MC GQ to 'R in Zero G's warped eski sensibilities, the album once again perfectly encapsulates the energy of the UK underground, just this time it is a very different landscape.
2. TERROR DANJAH - DARK CRAWLER (HYPERDUB)
This month sees the release of grime veteran Terror Danjah's second album for Hyperdub, the follow up to 2010 LP 'Undeniable'. A much more focused effort than the last album, 'Dark Crawler' sees him honing in on what he does best, delivering a body of high impact, inimitable grime productions. Tied together by the thread of 'Dark Crawler' tracks that are spread through the album and feature a selection of different MCs, the album is some of his most brutal and overloaded work yet, packed with intricate convulsive rhythms, flailing hypercoloured synths and bubbling bass tones. That is not to say that Terror Danjah doesn't find room to explores different territory though, from the mutant Funky of 'Air Max 90' with Champion to the glossy RnG anthem 'You Make Me Feel' featuring Meleka right to the rapid-fire jungle-influenced rhythms of 'Delicately' with Ruby Lee Ryder, but here it is done without ever forsaking his thrillingly unique sound.
1. MALA IN CUBA (BROWNSWOOD - BWOOD090)
In May 2011 Mala travelled to Cuba with Brownswood boss Gilles Peterson as part of the ongoing Havana Cultura project. This unique new project gave dubstep pioneer Mala the chance to absorb the country's vibrant musical culture, recording and collaborating with some extremely talented local musicians. His time spent in Havana has now culminated in 'Mala In Cuba', and the results are stunning. Managing to avoid any simplistic or ham-fisted collage, Mala articulates the common threads that unite Cuban music with the South-London soundsystem culture that he has championed and brings them to life in a nuanced and respectful manner. Bristling with intricate rhythms, melodic flair and spiritual depth, 'Mala In Cuba' is a consummate effort from a masterful of his craft.
Words: Sam Collenette
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