BREAK WITH ME: COLUMN 2022
a feed of the things going on around us, updated regularly. If you would like to submit a piece of writing, send us a message from the contact page or via our Instagram DMs @breakwith.me
BWM RECCS 25/09 [Substack] - Hashbrown, Trevor Mathison, DJ Chap, Tomu DJ, DJ Python & Ela Minus
BWM Reccs 29/07 - Kode9 • Jawnino • Silvia Kastel • Bok BokNight Slugs • Singles Roundup
BWM Reccs 27/06 - 700 Bliss • Low End Activist • Bitter Babe & Nick Leon • DJ Pitch • Singles & Radio Roundup
BWM Reccs 26/05 - Organ Tapes • Goon Club Allstars • Phelimuncasi • Singles & Mix Roundup
BWM Reccs 26/04 - 33EMBYW&Gooooose • Bladee&ECCO2K • DJ Travella • Singles Roundup
.:AROUSAL:. - 5 channels by @video1nasty
BWM Reccs 18/03 - LC & Charles Verni • DJ Paypal • Drowzee • OSSX • EQ Why
CCRUD RESEARCH PORTAL [ONGOING] - A genealogy of crud by @0thermen
Music Takes U Away - An Interview w/ DJ HANK
BWM Reccs 14/02 - Iceboy Violet • Sirr TMO • blastah • badsista • ONY
SOUP x Transmute - Filter Dread • Acre • L-ii • LEO reviewd by @idrk.aryan
Don't Sleep On These (2022) - Lauren Duffus • DJ West • LOFT
Temps are on the up, unions are on the up, women’s footie is on the up, and my sweaty little fingers are sticking to my keyboard – July ’22 baby! Simp-szn is in full flow as I take on Kode9’s latest and @denglord talks NightSlugs; Hot takes from deng and @hcurtoys on grime’s past, present, + future; I get sentimental about three really nerdy dudes; siren talks about broccoli. That’s it. That’s the Editor’s Note.
ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Kode9 - Escapology
WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Wakey wakey sucklings, it's Christmas morning. Or, at least, as close as you can possibly get in the breakwith.me household: that balding, middle-aged Glaswegian stoner that we (rightly) revere as a god and mentor has finally released an album. Despite our considerable heft and relative weakness of the cardboard-asbestos sheets that comprise the internal structure of our London flat, @denglord, @victorysiren and myself are bouncing off the bloody walls.
For the uninitiated, it may be worth a brief recap as to how and why this obsession came to be, before getting into the meat of the review. Steve Goodman PhD (PrettyhugeDick) aka Kode9 emerged from rapidly-deindustrialising Scotland in the 1990s and spent the decade doing two things: first, cutting his teeth on Glasgow’s club scene, running nights, booking artists, losing money, we know the drill. Second, he undertook a PhD at Warwick University at a mightily auspicious time and quickly became a periphery member of the infamous CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Unit) alongside Nick Land, Sadie Plant and – holy moly – Mr Mark Fisher. After this, Goodman moves to London and quickly establishes Hyperdub. Initially a blog 👀 rather than a label, Goodman shortly became pals with **soyface** Burial, before agreeing to put out some of his music. The rest is history: Hyperdub has since become a lynchpin of electronic music and club culture both in London and around the world.
Simultaneously, Goodman has released his own music and, slowly, repositioned himself as a sonic-led contemporary artist rather than a music producer per se. In short, Goodman’s life is serious goals, and we’ve been tramping around London after him for as long as I can remember. It’s this perception of Goodman as a contemporary artist, rather than a producer, that will inform much of this review. Not because of any snobbish hierarchy - as is so often present in much of the ‘edgier’ music criticism that exists today (e.g. ‘shit’ album claims to be ‘experimental-shit’ or ‘art-shit’ album and Pitchfork gives it Best New Music etc) – but because this album is ultimately one part of a much wider work, a work that transfigures a vast range of influences and relies on a number of crucial components that do not feature on this album.
To fully appreciate this, a quick glance at the wider project: Escapology is styled as a video game soundtrack for ‘Astro-Darien’. So well styled, in fact, that upon seeing the ‘Trancestar North’ logo on the cover - an homage to the Rockstar Games logo - I quickly took up playing GTA for the first time in fifteen years… Anyway, ‘Astro-Darien’ is a game that simulates the political disintegration of the United Kingdom which Goodman (correctly) implies is a political inevitability. The album soundtracks this sonic-fiction which is itself scheduled for release on Flatlines – Hyperdub’s spoken word offshoot – in October. The fiction tells of Trancestar’s efforts to create the game, and is a blender of current affairs, colonial history, and speculative futures that draw on the UK’s own (somewhat farcical) attempts to get into the commercial space race – that’s the “Astro”. The “Darien” part refers to an imagined Scottish space colonization project modelled on the Kingdom Of Scotland's failed attempt to colonize part of Panama in the 1690s. Colonialism and space travel are, surprise surprise, not as disparate as you might initially imagine. Here, in the collision of the utterly anachronistic, you get the kernel of Goodman’s brilliance: Many reviews of this album so far end on the summation that you shouldn’t try to judge this album because it’s only a partial presence, a piece of a much bigger puzzle. Contrastingly, this is where I will begin, and why I think this album is genius in its own right.
This kind of partiality has always been central to Goodman’s work. Memories of the Future – Goodman’s most obviously Fisherian/hauntological album – “plots out a course through the [hardcore] continuum’s suffocating sonic fog” and leaves us with an ominous sound comprised of a melting pot of genres, all glimpsed partially and passingly through the aforementioned fog. 2015’s Notel was similarly marked by a sense of dislocation and vast empty spaces through which individual sounds would rattle and roll, as if living fragments of something greater that escapes our perception. As a DJ, Goodman’s been on this trip for over thirty
years now; just take a look at the Fabriclive mix with Burial, it twists, turns, starts, and stops without shame – the overarching sixty-minute “narrative” that so many people expect to come with the territory of a mix, especially one released on wax, is eschewed in favour of fragmentation. Goodman is living proof that the sum of the parts can, in fact, be greater than the whole.
And, finally, to the nitty gritty of Escapology where this pattern emerges once more. The album is, from the beginning, intensely textural, often ambient, but when a rhythm finally rears its head through the digital smog they are self-consciously jerky, jumpy, unpredictable, and envelope elements from genres all across the board without ever feeling as if one specific sound is being aped or plundered. As footwork, gqom, and funky roll into one, rimshots so clinically clean that you can still taste the chloroform collide with characteristically deep, dark, drowning subs. Add into the mix the post-internet crackle and long, swooping, almost trill pads that arc slowly across many of these tracks, and you’ll find yourself feeling as if you’ve heard these tunes before whilst simultaneously knowing that these are disparate parts of totally different beasts, never before yoked together; cognitive dissonance takes centre stage.
Specific examples: ‘Torus’ takes the slow, sparse pallet of Notel, but throws on top these sprinting strings and dissonant piano plucks that you almost can’t keep up with. ‘Cross the Gap’ takes all-over-the-place club-ready drums with a sideways-gqom feel and puts them over the bone-dry dot-com-dubs of his earliest work. ‘Angle of Re-Entry’ is a “footwork-cum-drill jerker” (not my phrase but boy do I wish it was…) that adds hazy, vidya-synths to gut-punching subs and awkwardly stuttering snares. ‘Uncoil’ is like early DnB if you replaced the desperately OTT attempts at making it scary with genuinely anxiety-inducing dislocated kicks and melodramatic synth lines that sound like a harpsichord’s been put through Steve’s washing machine. ‘Cross the Gap’ is a Durban-derived roller that adds ethereal, dreamy, deranged arpeggios onto classic SA bass clonks. Perhaps the prime example of this is ‘Lagrange Point’: darkside jungle put through the footwork meatgrinder… standard enough you might think, that’s basically what Juke Bounce Work have made an entire career out of. Throw some bubbly amapiano bass into the mix, however, and you’re left with something entirely new, built from entirely disparate pieces and parts of genres from across the board and around the world.
On top of this, there’s the array of perfectly produced beatless interludes that, once again, interrupt any sense of complete or continuous narrative in place of partiality and postponement. In this instance though, each individual, atmospheric fragment does serve the singular purpose of building anOther, dark, mysterious future that takes from the continuum’s multimedia cannon – Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Annihilation all donate vibes to this work – and shoots them through with the global sonics of all aforementioned genres; the creaks, the drones, the burning, the humming, and the disembodied text-to-speech vocals all add an anxious, paranoid, future-facing dystopic edge to this sonic smorgasbord, and do so through their partial, flickering presence.
Like other artists who work in the (broadly) same cultural sphere – Lawrence Lek, Hito Steyerl – Escapology is a tapestry of the aural, visual, informational, that uses these raw materials to toy with our expectations of what a dancefloor could or should be, and moves them away from profit-motivated rent-holes and towards communal, cultural spaces for progressive thought and artistic experimentation by producing work that resists the club-bangersTM industry tunes and instead takes atomised pieces of music from all around the globe and uses them as a cartographer might, to explore as yet unknown terrains, unknown ideas, unknown (and lost) futures. I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that someone else has been able to say what I mean far better than I have been able to. Samuel Beckett once said that ‘[James] Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could. I am an analyser, trying to leave out as much as I can.’ Steve Goodman walks the less-trodden path inbetween: somehow everything is brought into this album, and yet enough is left out to leave us wondering what exactly is it we’re listening to, where has it come from, and – most importantly – where can it take us? Shock horror, breakwith.me recommends Escapology.
Jawnino - 4040 GOOD THING BAD THING WHO KNOWS
WORDS BY @denglord
It feels like this release has been a long time coming: believe it or not, Jawnino’s breakout hit It’s Cold Out came out last decade. That’s not to say he hasn’t been busy since - releasing singles that cemented the 4040 philosophy, appearing alongside M.I.C and JME, dropping A Few Songs B4 40 EP just a couple of months ago and, all the while, making fans out of contemporary legends like Klein and Mark Leckey. Initially, he clung to an anonymous aesthetic and stripped-down social media profile which, as a rapper from London, inevitably led to a mocking speculation asking why he’s hiding his identity if he’s just crooning about girls? Since then, we’ve been allowed to get a little closer to the man behind the gaussian blur as glimpses of excellently groomed facial hair & fresh fades, an undoubtedly fantastic skincare routine, and designer jackets suggest Jawnino to be some kind of psychedelic Drake bot, effortlessly generating pitch-perfect poetry over melancholic sonic glimpses of a gamified existence. But don’t get it twisted, as he told us on Scr33ntim3, you can call him artsy, but he never went to art school.
That tune, off the pre-EP EP, was produced by 3o, who among the likes of Cold, Poundshop, and Oliver Twist has defined this new-era sound palette of gender-neutral grime that’s essential to what makes Jawnino so good. If eski-emergent grime flipped synthetic orchestral arrangements into icy plateaus, plains emphasising the severity of MC wordplay in a cold and remorseless world, then this new sound leans into the melodramatic potential in the elongation and curtailing of these orchestral samples. Ours is a world of questioning the reality of feelings, mediated by atomised virtual profiles; as the pitched-up Jawnino repeats on opener Can’t Be, “and now the clocks won’t rewind, there was no love on the other side”. This feeling of being eternally stuck in the past but unable to reach the way you felt back then is symptomatic not just of the kind of non-committal personal relationships endemic to our time but more broadly of a population wrought by impossible credit ratings and society-halting heatwaves.
This track is followed up by Choongtingz, whose instrumental works as a contemporary update of sinogrime, lilting oriental bardcore plucks over pointilistic stabs and deep sine waves. Fittingly, Oliver Twist’s unreleased (although a remix appears on a recent release by 3o’s bassline alias) instrumental is best known as ‘Nakaisan’ named after the owner of a Japanese tuning shop in the Need For Speed video game franchise. The first guest verse on the track comes from Kibo, who previously linked up with Nino on last year’s Unknown Endz: his naive speak-sing delivery is followed in quick succession by Renz’ straight-to-the-point flow, leaving most of the track bare besides the hypnotic chorus in a decision that centres the music, not Jawnino’s voice. In fact, across all four tracks his voice is welded into the beats as if his words are emerging out of the noise instead of him being a large-and-in-charge MC. This is especially clear on Dance as the reassembled 2-step chews up Jawnino’s ‘hard times’ and spits back la-la-las and woos, while his refrain “I don’t trust in people, look in their eyes I see evil” generates a call and response hook from within the machine - it’s a remarkably fun closer that follows the sombre Felt Less, which sees Oliver Twist and Cold as auto-tuned angels in a ghostly choir of internal doubt, Jawnino’s bars folding into murky fragments. His most iconic ad-libs "yeah, wow " relish the simple observations made at one’s most dissociative, and on this EP Jawnino and his crew of collaborators have found a way to communicate the magical potential lying dormant in the fog of dissociation; our most powerful tool has always been boredom. The structure of the tracklist with its sad one, then fun one, then we go back to a sad one, Felt Less, before another fun one, Dance… it’s 50/50 init mate, or 40/40 with a little bit left to magic, fingers covering your face but your thumbs are a secret still. Life is crazy, this new Jawnino rules, and if it was half the price on Bandcamp it’d have 10 times the sales. Breakwith.me recommends 4040 Good Thing Bad Thing Who Knows.
SILVIA KASTEL - XANTHARMONY
WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Xanthomonas campestris is found to produce black rot on leafy plants like cabbage or broccoli. The pathogen fills up the infected veins of the leaves, creating intricate networks of black and brown eventually consuming the plant as a whole. Xanthan gum is a food additive derived from this bacteria. It is used as a thickening agent, it stabilises, emulsifies, and increases viscosity, it holds parts together, bonds elements to each other. It makes a whole thing contingent on its individual ingredients.
It isn’t hard to follow this through the intricate melodies at play in Xantharmony. Mantide opens with the sound of bird song recorded by Kastel in Berlin, which is overlaid with a jangling choral motif, circling round and round. The bird song seems to forewarn of the chorus, almost sounding like the two parts are trying to mirror each other, as one rises the other falls. The crystalline jewel of melody radiates a bright light, it shines and moves as if it were alive. Understanding this as a part of the Xanthan process, you can hear the fluidity and elasticity that Kastel references as her inspiration. On her instagram she wrote: viscous melodies that wouldn’t exist in isolation without a degree of contamination. The contamination here perhaps referencing the tendency of the sounds to turn, coil up, into uncomfortable disorientation. From the beauty and light of Mantide there is also equal part dissonance and discordance of the melody, it falls into disarray, pushes you through the delicate membrane to return to the harmony before. The beautiful parts are so beautiful, synthetic choruses viewed through microscopes, magnifying the sounds of biomes as they ferment and squirm. The contamination Kastel refers to can also be understood as the self-referential, replicating sounds that appear throughout her pieces. As a painter will use elements of the same pallet for subject and background alike, the sound producer can mutate one sound for various uses, the background of the painting is contaminated with the colours and tones of the fore, in turn creating a cohesive whole where nothing seems out of place. The Xanthan-ic substance is in full effect here, melting down and constructing the whole, drawing the parts together creating these thick viscous melodies that Kastel is chasing.
The listener dissolves into Spoons. Rising saplings growing at impossible speeds, rushing up like fiber optics cable, sizzling into millions of fine strands. Organic matter given a voice. Much like the artificial voices employed on Holly Herndon’s Proto, the choruses sound like human voice, but the synthetic wondering creeps in - are these voices human or robot? Does that change the tenderness? Microsymphonies, rising and falling, voice given psychedelic qualities as it runs off and loops over itself. The final track is disorienting, you imagine you’ve just inhaled the Xantharmony itself and what you’re listening to is the process of subsumption. I feel it’s wrong to describe these lush sonics as wholly dis-orienting, -turbing, or -concerting, as it seems to disregard these sensations when this degree of contamination actually spawns the new, which was unachievable without said contamination. The uneasy cinematic sounds we’re enveloped by are friendly, maybe overwhelming… but this psychedelic awe is ultimately good. What is the point of bizarre electronic sounds if not to dazzle and reconfigure?
The choral and sacred sounding elements also add to this psychedelic exhalation, a shared intoxication, this psychedelia seems so prominent over repeated listening, the music melts from track to track, and as the third track emerges the stranger side of the harmonies step forward. We hear voices shrieking, ghostly, in your ears, panning and pitch-shifting. It sounds like a bizarre ritual, cavernous and rich. Kastel gives the noises and sounds of microbiology a life of their own, vocalising and harmonising the meticulous networks created on minute scale. Much like Xanthan gum’s ability to bind and construct interdependence between separate parts, we hear abstract sonic depictions of virology combined with choral symphonies and scattered birdsong- emphatically leaving no stone unturned in the search of beautiful sound. Breakwith.me recommends Xantharmony.
Bok Bok - Ouais [NS035]
WORDS BY @denglord
Night Slugs simping has been a mainstay since breakwith.me’s inception, not least because of the Bok Bok/Jam City art school connection. For those unfamiliar with the label’s history, Bok has been curating a popular modernist approach to the club from its basecamp in South London for the best part of fifteen years. In NS’ halcyon days , its iconic graphic vision largely emerged as a response to the 1981 Panasonic ‘Glider’ short film, a 3D animation that emphasised neon lines emerging out of a digital grid; this era was a launchpad for the post ‘08 crash underground to envision what a brighter future might hold, and it only takes a peak at the video for Bok Bok & Kelela’s Melba’s Call to recognize how influential that crew have been. For their first proper post-Covid release, Bok helms an EP with 3 remixes from collaborators old and new.
Ouais, a title that embodies its slick and sexy production, thumps at 125bpm - closer to gqom than grime - whilst maintaining signature Night Slugs motifs like close reverbs and saturated rims. First up on remix duty is Hysterics, fka Girl Unit, one of the crew’s OGs adding an extra percussive flair and ‘energyy’ vocal hits. The remaining cuts come from Atlanta natives Zaida Zane and Helix, who we were lucky enough to catch at their Unit 58 event on the cusp of Summer. Their remixes of Ouais speed it up with R&B stings and slow it down with a funky clav. As per, the Night Slugs crew present the gold standard of functional floor-fillers, formulating a futuristic vision of the dance whilst paying un certain regard to a globally diverse network of subcultural house and techno influencing contemporary club vibes. Breakwith.me recommends NS035.
LU6IFR, VOOR - LXV
WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Internet friend and head of the French Tabloid label Polofayot reached out with the latest from their cavernous archives. Polofayot, a name somewhat seminal in the pursuit of underground electronics, started as a Youtube channel and Soundcloud dedicated to the sharing the darkest corners and lost hard drives of bedroom producers the world over. Label mainstays LU6IFER and VOOR, both with discographies of weightless piratical grime instrumentals, have joined hands and created something that feels fresh and murky.
Far away from the grime that was outlawed from public performance and played on bandit radio stations in the early noughties, both LU6IFER and VOOR are invigorated by the multifarious experience of the internet and online personas. Grime is no longer a singular genre but has dissolved back to its original noun-status, describing ambience tinged by dirt, soot, dust, smog, mud, and mire. Ambient tracks are both of these producers’ go-to - the future of this music feels weightless, transcendent, perfectly converging with their online disembodiment. French Tabloid features many releases that experiment with singular moments of an old-school grime sound, taking the icy FM synths and exploding them. Grime is no longer serving the DJ and MC but instead is travelling further and further into sonic oblivion. Voor’s Digital Mist seems to hit the nail on the head: viscous droplets splatter over crisp percs and pulsing subs, it’s as if you’re able to step inside the music they’re inspired by and look around at its insides. Ominous and brooding but somehow soft and supple. On Voor’s remix of LU6IFER’s Vacant you can hear idiosyncratic Drill samples followed by silenced gun shots as the bass glides into your midriff… baow. Breakwith.me recommends LU6IFER, VOOR – LXV.
MOVES x Cruise & Dj Slimfit - King of Riddim
WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
A batch of long-awaited singles from MOVES were finally dropped on bandcamp this month, including a track by DJ WEST, who I featured on the blog back in late 2021 after hearing a couple of this tunes on Ian McQuaid’s T&B show. However, I wanted to feature ‘King of Riddim’ this time around. That may come as a surprise to some, it certainly did to me, as there’s few things in this world that I despise more than the words ‘slim fit’, a position that the girthy founding-fathers of breakwith.me will no doubt align. However, this cut from Cruise and DJ Slimfit is a banger against the odds: it has all the hammered-out chaos of West’s freebeat stuff (I think we’re still calling it that??) - including the overblown vocal snippets, ha-dance screams, and two bar loops that jitter and stab their way through the track – but it also has a very pretty arpeggiated synth line that sits across the top and adds a much-needed melodic tilt to this track, as well as one of those bottom ends that is so low your headphones don’t do it justice, but you know that on the right stack it’s going to set the ground ablaze.
Dean Blunt - London Tonight Freestyle
(Feat. Skepta, Novelist, A$AP Rocky)
WORDS BY @denglord
Leaked by producer Dean Blunt is this epic and rainy combo of words and sounds from the kings of cool. Old skool but also new, laid back but also banger etc etc. DB has an insane ability to make tracks whose ‘add to cool new playlist’ potentiality never seems to expire. Skepta, Novelist, and A$AP Rocky on the other hand, seem to be experts in making songs that seem like the freshest thing ever until you do something that distracts you momentarily. What will win this battle… words or beats?!
Roska - Call Mi ft. なかむらみなみ (Nakamura Minami), Sweetie Irie, Serocee & Flowdan
WORDS BY @hcurtoys
God bless Roska. Experimenting with Nakamura Minami’s vocals combined with a stuttering funky template, this track is reinvigorated. Highly rhythmic and effortlessly grooving.
hmurd - red sky at night
WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Taken off their 3 track release on TT, this feverous club tune is part of the sonic documentation of the artist's chronic illness. It consumes you and is utterly disorienting, just giving way to allow the bleeping melody to escape the synthetic madness.
Nick Leon - Xtasis feat. DJ Babatr (Pearson Sound Remix)
WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Straight out the gate, this is a Pearson Sound/Hessle Audio club tool par excellence – big bottom end, big fat kicks, a hint-of-hardcore synth line that glitters along the top, and drums that are crispier than Ben UFO’s egg and soldiers on a Sunday morning – this is a roller that should be on everyone’s nightstand this summer. The reason it caught my eye though wasn’t just because it’s a good tune, but because I’m feeling sentimental in the extreme. Last week marked my last in-person performance with breakwith.me before I move abroad later this year. Hessle was for me, as it was for many, the incubating chamber of my nascent taste for electronic music, having totally reoriented, and eventually gone on to dominate, the UK underground from the late 2000s through to the mid-2010s. To see a titan of that era remixing an artist that @denglord featured for his album review only last month gave me that full-circle feeling; the earliest days of this quasi-autistic obsession meet its most recent iteration, I pack my bags and go. Catch me down under you freaks.
Blaketheman1000 - Dean Kissick
WORDS BY @denglord
Let it rip!! Very excited to report that the world's most soothing art critic has his own bubblegum trap anthem c/o king Blaketheman1000. With bars like 'chip on my shoulder, chip in my arm, glory to god the profits to johnson & johnson...whole city dropped on my johnson' and a video featuring titular character nursing a JBL beach speaker whilst posted up on a rented Tesla, this undoubtedly passes the vibe check.
Two Shell - Dust
WORDS BY @denglord
This is the best song off much-talked about new EP by mysterious psyop techno freaks...do not research Mainframe Consulting Companies House
The Fertile Crescent - Fervent
WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Taken from their full album released last month, I keep coming back to this weirdness. It’s the least like the rest of the album, less guitar and more rhythm. Clattering percussion and sun-rise sounding vocal/synth combo. Some kind of weird shoegaze; deserving more writing than I’m offering, check them out.
Miike Snow - Animal (Leemz Jersey Club Remix)
WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Miike Snow’s ‘Animal’ is – if you happen to be British and nestling in the interzone between bitter Millennial/zesty Zoomer – one of those tunes that you definitely know, but may not be able to exactly place where you know it from. A quick browse of (the mostly twelve-year-old!!) YouTube comments will leave you feeling both very nostalgic and very old – “I have tickets to see this band when they come to Brighton at the end of the month (jan 2010) I cannot wait”. Released during a fleeting but fertile period of time where indie bangers still dominated the charts but so-called EDM was slowly on the ascendance and getting its tendrils into the industry (Leemz’s updated album art implies this very nicely), the song is pure 2009 catnip, and shortly afterwards went on the be the theme tune for Friday Night Dinner. It’s a tune that somehow – perversely – seems quintessentially British, which is why I was very pleasantly surprised to see LA-based Leemz go at it with all their Jersey-inspired genius. I reviewed their Kehlani remix last month, and am happy to be back for round two: my pre-teen nostalgia collides with my mid-twenties club fanaticism at a bouncy 130 beats per minute, and I’m very happy about it.
OKZharp - Fall Up in the CLK
WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Going to keep this one short and sweet as a more in-depth write up may be coming soon. Zharp hits the dancefloor again, whipping the 120bpm SA’s Gqom sound up to 156bpm as he borrows the coiled tension from Chi’s footwork. Fall Up in the CLK sounds like the inside of a puma ready to pounce.
Beyonce - I'M THAT GIRL
WORDS BY @denglord
Less of a 'check out this track you probably haven't heard yet' and more of a 'shoutout everyone who made this track as good as it is' - least of all, Bey. I remember once Frogman, a virgo queen, and I were at the Burger King in Surrey Quays shopping centre together. They were doing a covid promotional deal that netted you a cheeseburger, chili cheese bites or nugs, chips, and a pepsi max all for less than a fiver. Whilst we waited for our combo boxes, Bey's Love On Top hit the tannoy, and I noticed Frogman unable to resist flailing his weird giraffe limbs. If that's not an indictment of the kind of 'spiritual energy' Beyonce inspires I don't know what is. Regardless, her a&r must be extremely clever because she hired Kelman Duran (amongst some other heroes) to produce this track and it's obviously fire.
THE HUSTLE NEVER SLEEPS. Not only have we got our usual buffet of tantalising LP, EP, single AND radio reviews, we’ve also got a new contributor in the mix: welcome to hell @rileynicholas. Riley takes on some new Livity/Le Chatroom releases, @frogmanfilth goes ham on 700 Bliss, @denglord sucks some lemons, and @hcurtoys makes it abundantly clear that his crush on
Low End Activist is far from fading.
Skate and Enjoy.
700 Bliss - Nothing to Declare WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
DJ Haram and Moor Mother’s debut LP dropped on Hyperdub at the back end of last month and is, without a shadow of a doubt, one my albums of the year thus far. The Philadelphia-based duo last visited the label in 2018 with their EP Spa 700 which saw Haram strip-down and tweak-out East Coast club music into a shimmering shadow of its usual high NRG bounce, before Moor Mother laid down her trademark deep, dark, unashamedly disconsolate lyrics. Here, the project is taken to a new level of intensity: a melting pot of club and noise that uses its catastrophic collapsing of genre to gesture towards a wider societal collapse, but simultaneously open a Pandora’s box of sonic and social connections that gestures towards the infinite other-worlds that can-and-should exist in place of ours.
Most reviews of this project to surface so far are built upon the idea that over the course of this album the duo ‘gradually abandon rigid club beats in favour of noisy abstraction’. And this is absolutely true: though none of the tracks on this album could be described as kitschy-catchy-chart-ready-bangers, the opening few tracks have a melodic thread running through them that quickly disintegrates, making the whole project delightfully resistant to the slick and smooth, algorithmically-driven world of streaming services and automatically-generated playlists; even at the macro level, this is an artefact that protests.
But what does this sound like if we take a closer look? Compared to Spa 700, Haram seems to challenge Moor Mother with more chaotic, venomous beats that inspire a suitably shapeshifting response from the lyricist; this newfound flexibility from both parties leads to an album that, from the off, speeds between prescience and delirium with intoxicating ease. ‘Nightflame’ takes an R&B vibe but twists it with fast-rolling kicks and Moor Mother’s darkly whimsical wordplay. ‘Anthology’ takes the Afro-Caribbean rhythms that you (think) you know and love, and then kicks the shit out of them with an out-of-nowhere, muddy techno stomp. The entire album is anchored by a cocktail of chaotic darbuka drums, glitched-out machine percussion, bloated basslines that fill your headphones to bursting point and noise – lots and lots of noise - that makes the whole project feel as if it could tear at the seams at any moment; a project on the brink of collapse to reflect the conditions of its conception.
Add into this mix the smorgasbord of vocal styles and sounds: there’s barely a moment on the album where Moor Mother’s voice isn’t processed or pitched. I’d be the first to say that the music landscape is, at present, oversaturated with artists trying to LARP the 100 Geccs-style maximalist autotune to such an extent that an unprocessed voice can come to feel like a breath of fresh air. Here, however, the ever-varied reprocessing of Moor Mother’s voice actually makes for an incredible hall-of-mirrors that sees the individual artists dissolve, and a swarming mass of sonic fury rises up in their place. Add to this the immensely well curated number of guest features on the album - including experimental pop producer Lafawndah, Palestinian experimentalist Muqata'a, and punk artist Alli Logout who gives serious MC Ride vibes – and you’re left with an LP that instantly feels bigger than any one person, place, or position.
But what does it all mean?! What I want to add to the conversation about the album is this: that collapse always equals connections. Yes, the collapsing of genres does perfectly reflect a collapsing world that the album takes aim at from the get-go. But, I would argue more importantly, in collapsing sonic pigeonholes and the notion of a single, stable voice, the album simultaneously opens up new sonic avenues between emotional and cultural nodes that, ultimately, gesture towards a thousand new worlds just as readily as it gestures to our one, disintegrating, civilisation. One reviewer picks this out nicely: As well as documenting the impending apocalypse, Moor Mother’s lyrics also dig down to the shared traumas and increasingly wide generational rifts that connect Willie Lynch with contemporary class wars, Luniz and Leviciticus. Where I take issue with said reviewer is that this fact doesn’t suggest that there’s ‘no clear distinction between 2022, 1712, and the Old Testament’, but rather implies that if such vast swathes of time can be shown to be so slippery and so porous, why can’t the future be thought of in that way too? If there are a million different ways to slide between past millennia, why can’t there be just as many ways to slide into the next?
That could’ve made a nice climax to this review, but I’ve a little more ranting to go… Another theme that rears its head on Nothing to Declare is paranoia. It sits beneath the surface, a little more subtly than many themes on the project which announce themselves with teeth-bared bellicosity, but once you notice it for the first time it becomes hard to miss: the high-pitched keys of ‘Discipline’ that mimic Jaws; the gunfire drums of ‘Sixteen’; the slugged-out drum kicks that step like a Second-Coming Sphynx over ‘Bless Grips.’ And this paranoia seems to extend to the two skits that break the album into three increasingly-cursed acts: the two artists trade parodic critique of their own album: “Literally, who wants to hear that shit?” says Haram in a hyperbolic Valley drawl, before Moor Morther bites back with the bitterly ironic “It’s not like it’s the end of the world or anything,”, “I mean, gimme a break.” In a world like ours, paranoia is a perfectly justifiable, near-ubiquitous phenomenon. But once again, their acknowledgment of it isn’t purely pessimistic: by pre-empting their critics they are able to cannibalise them, transmuting them into the texture of this album. In doing so, they acknowledge connections between the album-as-art-object and the position it is forced to occupy in the non-stop music media slurry of unrequested, oft-pretentious, feedback (guilty as charged…); just as this album resists streaming’s frictionlessness, it resists the mass media’s endless, unqualified commentariat.
Despite this, the thing that Haram and Moor Mother seem most paranoid about overall is silence. Specifically, the silence that ‘is killing us’, the silence that is born of the political and social alienation that the album takes as its subject matter. It would be easy to say that this increasingly-unhinged album represents a burst of unfiltered noise, a manic scream out of the void that serves to fill the silence with something, with anything, in an attempt to redress the imbalances of power, but in doing so leaves all of its scintillating questions unanswered. What’s actually going on requires a little more consideration and a great deal more optimism: the album may ask a hundred questions, but by collapsing genre and voice, by opening up new sonic avenues, by rewiring emotive networks, the album doesn’t suggest that there are no answers, but that there are an infinite number of possible answers – what matters is which one we are fearlessness enough to will into existence. Breakwith.me recommends Nothing to Declare.
Low End Activist - Hostile Utopia WORDS BY @hcurtoys
How far can you travel within a sine wave?
‘Mutation’ is the word I frequently come to when thinking about Low End Activist’s music. His first EP Low End Activism became a central reference point of my BA dissertation for its timewarping ability to reinvigorate found footage of a soundsystem in action. Mutating the already warped audio from the footage, we’re blessed with weightless echoes bouncing around until they sound like drums; mutation in full effect.
Low End Activist stays true to the sound he’s cultivated whilst continuously reworking the sounds of his past. Hostile Utopia is filled with tension, though it feels different to the static tension of Game Theory (2020) - where techy and dark felt hard to move to - this new one seems to be looking around at the smoke filled dance floor and saying “yeah okay I’ll make u move”. Expect gloomy sounds and the sine tidal waves, but note that LEA isn’t necessarily making moves towards the distinctly new, instead a sound that feel relevant for today’s metropolis, still-murky-but-not-stale memories of a time that none of us lived thru.
Low End Activist does well at capturing the essence of Grime, the parts that make something Grime-y, without actually making any tracks that follow the supposed blueprint for a grime track. Instead, he does what a vast number of producers attempt: he stands in view of whatever the Hardcore Continuum is meant to be and boils it down into something that retains an ‘ardkore sensibility without sounding overtly similar. Tracks like Amphibious Creatures and Exotic Possibilities are prime examples of this: they sound ruff and overcast, blasting dysphoria and reorienting your nerves. All this without the release of a breakbeat or pumping bassline. LEA’s aiming for the head(s)- this is music for those who aren’t necessarily there to dance or to escape; its re-broadcasting urban sounds in unfamiliar ways. Tbh I think I prefer LEA’s alien dub music, I feel that what Hostile Utopia is lacking is the ambient-cum-heaviness that we hear in his older tracks like Neighbourhood Nationalism… but that’s absolutely not the point of Hostile Utopia; he’s created somewhere where the dysphoria of a concrete jungle can mutate further and further.
The sonic depth of Mercenary, the title track, and even the album's singular drum-less track Wild Roses, is incredible. A depth in which synths writhe and laser beams zip past as you descend. Wild Roses also sounds like it may be the emotional crux of the release; as the name suggests, it’s a rare beauty amongst murky concrete. This same angsty emotional struggle within the highly tensile sonics is played out at the end of the title track: a distant voice, who throughout the track is distorted into oblivion, suddenly comes forward with the proclamation: “see I told you, tell ‘em all I’m living in hostile bliss, and bare man think I’m a hostile prick”… seconds later he’s silent. Nowt exemplifies the artist sparring with emotion more than these scuffles with alienation, territory, and class; Emz’s bars in Get Get describe the grind and what it takes to get out and move on to a better place. Of course, the lyrics are aggressive and harsh, but this is how this music is meant to function; utilitarian descriptions of life with no gruesome details spared. Emz’s bar ‘Chase your dreams and never look back, altered carbon pull out the stack’ references the Netflix show and 2002 novel by Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon in which the ‘cortical stack’ is the device that stores a person’s consciousness. Stacks can be removed and ‘re-sleeved’ into new bodies. Emz’s futuristic analogy seems clear: change yourself to overcome your material surroundings, ‘dog eats dog’.
My fav point of Hostile Utopia has gotta be the Tek remix of Signal To Noise from his 2019 Low End Activism. The viscous oceans of sinewaves of the original are pitched down and perforated with some depraved breakbeats as the sampladelic MC loops the phrase “no bwoy caan tek it”. LEA is constantly reterritorializing territory he has already established, remixing remixes of samples of music from decades ago, the feedback loop being intensified honestly and artistically. This is music I can’t get bored of, and a producer who has carved out his own sound from the surrounding concrete. Breakwith.me recommends Hostile Utopia.
Bitter Babe & Nick Leon - Delirio WORDS BY @denglord
One of the most positive developments of the dance-music economy in recent memory is the explosion of Latin American styles into the global rekordbox repository. Goes without saying: thousands of artists, promoters, and journalists have all played important roles in this cambrian/cumbian shift but, on this side of the pond, it’s the extended network of triumvirate Sangre Nueva (DJ Python, Kelman Duran, and Florentino) that has managed to infiltrate club spaces so significantly. The latter’s Club Romantico label is home to this new EP from Miami-based Bitter Babe & Nick Leon. On Delirio, the duo offers up an uncompromising mix of changa tuki, guaracha, and bubbling - a synthesis of regional syncopated styles with vastly different histories that, admittedly, I might’ve just described as like ‘reggaeton but fast and new-sounding’ before I did any research.
Yet this is exactly where the appeal lies: when I started going to decent clubs in London around five years ago, the best nights would offer up an eclectic mix of what little freaks like me might call the ‘hardcore continuum’, dishing out 2-step, funky, and junglism in equal measure. But the spectre of dancehall loomed large over the bassbins, leaving my stupid ears convinced that ‘Despacito’ was substantively representative of an entire portion of the world’s dance music. With the rise of crews like Mexico City’s NAAFI and a popstar like Rosalia (whose album BB & NL contributed to btw), it’s become much clearer how important underground acts like Bitter Babe & Nick Leon are in influencing and communicating with mainstream perceptions of these styles that are long overdue proper recognition.
I try to avoid a kind of pointlessly violent language that’s endemic to the Bro-est ends of DJ culture when talking about this stuff, but all three original tracks are undoubtedly club ‘weapons’. The remixes by De Schuurman and DJ Python are unsurprisingly - in the best way possible - hype and chill respectively. The thing is, such visceral music evades description: the flag raised by acts like Nguzunguzu ten years ago - fusing global styles with those most palatable to western ravers – is being firmly waved by Bitter Babe & Nick Leon, and I can’t wait to hear these tracks make their way into more and more sets. Breakwith.me recommends Delirio.
Radeco Domar - EP WORDS BY @hcurtoys
I feel like I’ve stumbled on something rare. With no idea how I ended up on Radeco’s patch of Bandcamp, being one of the seven who have supported this release, it’s one of those precious moments of finding something (sort of) on your own, and I’m keen to share this treasure.
Track #1 ‘Elotito’ is a tropical thunderstorm. Rumbling, cavernous, sepulchral, a magical drum machine pumps forward into a vibrant loop, taking with it the surrounding infrastructure. Sounding like 20 tracks at once and littered with rippling arpeggios, these are some of the most unique sounds I’ve heard in a while. Calling on both the metropolis and rural idyll to conjure a bizarre sonic environment, overlaying unfamiliar Cumbia rhythms with the somehow more familiar squirming snares akin to the stranger corners of Teklife, somehow the tracks are cohesive and dazzling.
It’s hard to not comment on the artwork. Not because it is especially unique or impressive, actually the opposite: All of Radeco’s artwork seems a little primitive, or functional perhaps. Made on a smartphone, this rlly is no bad thing. Tbh, the recent influx of open source GAN bots and other AI imaging, whilst fascinating, has already turned a little stale as clubs like Fabric quickly snap it up for their line-up posters. The artwork stands out for its simplicity: I feel it’s something I would scroll past if I were trawling the internet for music, but for this reason I feel like I understand it as being a part of something I am not. Where the uniformity of labels I frequently listen to subconsciously provide me with a niche categorisation for the thumbnails I am more likely to click on, this prejudice is also highlighted by the fact that I also want to explore the sounds that have the opposite, most distant looking artwork. In turn, this also taints the view of the music itself, deeming something as less-good because it doesn’t use a certain set of visual codes. What I am really trying to get at is that it now feels rare to listen to genuinely interesting electronic music that hasn’t already been picked up on by a label and therefore has such startlingly non-affiliated artwork. It’s almost as if this release is deemed more functional than creative. Like a lot of Ballroom or Voguing tracks I’ve listened to recently on soundcloud, the artwork is usually just the producer’s name in a fancy font, presumably because frequency and notoriety is more important than the artist trying to create an overall aesthetic for their work.
The music is incredibly vivid and visual, and the sounds take on such visually physical forms in my mind. The difference between various soundwaves and tones, the feel of each sample seems so key. The second track, ‘ECCHDQNP‘, stutters forward on peg legs, clattering around the place, parrots cawing in the background, intensifying the instrumentation of Cumbia with the charge of music made to move to. Squelching Juke-y bits with pulsating wooden-sounding percussion, hyper-charged snares swarming like some electronic Wood Pecker, the ‘polyrhythm wrongfoots you, tugs and pushes at expectation, yanks the floorboards from underneath you’. Quoting Kodwo Eshun here (as I always do) reminds me of his descriptions of space in Lee Perry’s dub: how beats can disappear round a corner into space, and how space is the material from between each beat that is rolled up into a ball and used as the buffeting wind from the low end. Radeco Domar also uses such mind bending audio trickery, coordinating space and vibration into such tightly packed and intoxicating rhythms from a producer who I feel I don’t fully understand, from somewhere I have never visited, making music I feel like I’ve never heard. Breakwith.me recommends Elotito / ECCHDQNP.
DJ Pitch - Spiritual Claustrophobia WORDS BY @denglord
In the promo pic for a recent radio show with Madjestic Kasual , it looks as if DJ Pitch has bitten the top off a lemon, and is extremely proud about it. This kind of sums up the vibe behind his latest EP, which according to this Instagram post, is about asking “have you outgrown yourself?” The little boy on the album cover shrugs - who cares? Mr Pitch certainly shouldn’t feel that way about himself. After all, he’s helmed a huge wealth of releases on both the TT and All Centre labels, doing the unimaginable: uniting corners of London ‘scenes’ and making them sites of positive reinforcement (instead of competitive cesspits) by building connections between London DJs and those further afield like Toumba and Mucho Sueño.
DJ activism aside, this collection of new tracks is a blissful drive-thru funky and dancehall, with …“intelligent”… sprinkles thrown in for good measure. It also does that thing where each track segues into one another… mmm, yes please! That said, like all the best dance music, it doesn’t take itself too seriously; despite being influenced by the same IDM that someone like DJ Python listens to, Pitch also maintains the chillmaxxing prevalent in Python’s work. Sonically, the EP acts as a quasi-sedative for all the virtuality-induced anxieties that come with being alive right now, hinted at across the track titles until pants get truly pissed in the final seconds of ‘Spiritual Claustrophobia’, where a nagging voice says ‘no one trusts you’, just when you thought you’d gotten away with being a maladjusted freak. The track that brings this all together has gotta be ‘Fractured Collectivity’, with its original monologue that matches the effervescent pharmacollectivity of Sadie Plant with the cold rationalist cut-ups of J.G Ballard like some geo-strategic island-vibes version of the CCRU’s swarmachines tapes. In this, Pitch reveals the streak of jouissance running thru the tracks, echoing the sentiment of that ‘five year plan’ meme that goes along the lines of:
>Fully develop brain
>If still insane, kill self
>If normal, start podcast
That tune ‘Fractured Collectivity’ also blends mad with ‘Massive’ off the new Drake album, which is how I personally plan to clear the dancefloor this summer. Breakwith.me recommends Spiritual Claustrophobia.
Pluralist - Console WORDS BY @rileynicholas
Earlier this year Pluralist delivered the B Squared EP on the Manchester based label Left, Right & Centre, which expanded his personal canon of UK Techno/Bass, characterised by syncopated percussion and warping, metallic melodies and sampling.
Now, the Bristol based Producer with a keen ear for percussion has released a four track EP on Le Chatroom, the London-based label whose tracks are typically saturated with whirls of percussion driven by weighty kicks.
Pluralist’s music has a tactile feel: shifting, textured drums move you through the mix. Yet his tracks retain a sonic alienness, otherworldly tones and heavily processed human voices tap into sounds unknown. That which you feel in your body and that which you struggle to even conceptualise butt heads. Pluralist’s artistry is found in working this contradiction, chopping opposing energies together into beats that are, first and foremost, utterly danceable.
A release on Le Chatroom then, perhaps, offers the producer license to untether his more percussive impulses. And whilst we’re not quite into the ‘more is more’ glee of other Le Chatroom drum workouts - such as Cando’s Clutch - this is Pluralist at peak levels of drum.
Console is Le Chatroom’s second EP lead by a single artist since Cando’s excellent EP last year. The bar has been set high. Pluralist delivers. Console opens with the titular track: a tightly looped vocal draws us into a weighty, pulsing Broken-Techno dance at a lower-Dancehall BPM. Melody is mostly stripped back, creating space for multiple layers of intricate drum patterns to pirouette around one another.
The second track ‘Body’ drops the tempo further; heavy bass glides under hypnotising drums that spiral and spiral. Next up is ‘Got2’ which brings us back to digital dancehall BPM as a playful voice clip precedes weighty bass stabs, both oriented in the track by light but insistent binaural percussion.
The EP ends with a remix of ‘Console’ from Washington-based Leftfield producer and 3024 affiliate Djoser. A fellow percussionist, Djoser reprograms drum loops and distorts the vocal sample as his dubstep influence is let loose - elevating the original mix into a wall-shaking Leftfield Bass march. Breakwith.me recommends Console
Ido Plumes - Balancing WORDS BY @rileynicholas
Bristol-based Livity Sound is tricky to pin down in terms of genre. The label reconstituted the ruinous leftovers from the Dubstep implosion to pioneer the UK Techno scene we now know. But the nominal “Bristol Techno” and “Soundsystem / Body Music” classifications we use today don’t properly represent a label that made its name through experimentation that transcends genre and dance music tradition. With Livity Sound, radical difference is the norm, along with top-tier sound design, intricate percussive work, and avant-garde sonicscapes. So, it’s utterly commendable that this EP from Ido Plumes distinguishes itself even within the Livity Sound catalogue.
We last heard Ido Plumes on Livity Sound in their compilation to mark their ten year founding anniversary with the track ‘Albeit,’ where light, fast percussion and frenetic chirps kept up the energy over the top of heavy waves of Dubstep-derived bass rolling through the low-end. Before that was Ido Plumes’ debut EP Away From the Reign, which gave us Dub and Leftfield Bass influenced heavyweight percussive beats filtered through an aquatic sounding pass.
Here, on his Balancing EP, The Bristol-based DJ/Producer is utterly confident as he executes twists and turns throughout the tracklist, unafraid to let ideas immediately fill out the mix in their own right, rather than being built up through more conventional Trance-based arrangement. Were these tracks coming from another producer you might find yourself anticipating where the track is telling you you’re going, but with Plumes at the helm, you’re invited to enjoy the track’s ideas moment to moment. When the twists come it is not with the conformation of a promise fulfilled, but with the disconcerting fun of a new thrill engulfing you unannounced and on its own terms. Honestly, it’s not dissimilar to listening to a tightly mixed DJ set.
The EP opens with ‘Sitting In The Clouds.’ At a neat Dubstep BPM, the track invokes sounds of industrialised production akin to fellow Bristol favourites Time Dance. The pulsing bassline which enters the track midway through has an almost video gamey feel to it, as if I’m navigating a factory-production-line-themed level from a 90s-era 3D platformer. Next up is the EP’s featured track ‘Afloat’, a UK Techno odyssey through multiple phases. The through-line is commonality found in ghostly abstract sounds, tightly peppered drum programming to keep the energy up, and well utilised low end. Track three is ‘Waiting 4 Us,’ and perhaps the EP’s most accessible in terms of danceability. Here, Dub influenced bass lines fill out the mix, kept up to speed by the fast, industrial sounding drum programming congruent with the first two tracks. Balancing finishes out with ‘Been Here’, which sees Plumes at his most unconventional; tradition is thrown out in favour of an uncompromising concept, or a few concepts back to back, actually. Expect heavy bass, continuously shifting sounds and percussive ideas, and moment-to-moment mood shifts. Breakwith.me recommends Balancing.
Trax & Singles
Luis - Jack Anderson WORDS BY @denglord
Unfortunately did not bag the press for this one, but a couple of radio plays and the ‘traxsource’ preview were all I needed to know that the closer of Brian Piñeyro aka DJ Python aka Luis’ new EP 057 (Schwyn) on AD93 was gonna be the sun-coming-up tune that breaks my heart every time for the foreseeable future. Now that it’s been released I can confirm this: Mr Piñeyro’s hallmark blissed-out sound design wraps around drums that pivot towards classic 90s breakbeat, whilst a radiophonic angel coos ‘you make me feel so…’ young? good? cool? free? odd? Whatever she says, I feel the same - the whole EP is in search of the right person to make you feel better. Shoutout to Python for being a former fat guy who hit the gym as he got famous. I’ve also heard he’s scoring a video game, man is just goals.
Kehlani - Toxic (Leemz Remix) WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
It’s a simple formula, but so easy to get wrong: sexy pop tune + jersey-style bounce should always equal big-bad-banger. It can, however, lead to a cookie-cutter blandess that leaves you feeling suitably underwhelmed. Not here though. Leemz takes Kehlani’s always-sultry 2020 single and makes a club-ready flip that I’ve had on repeat for weeks – two and a half minutes of bouncy bliss..
Shygirl - Come For Me WORDS BY @denglord
A collaboration with Arca that apparently predates all their pre-existing collaborations, the second single to appear from Shygirl’s long-awaited debut album is a cyberotic deconstructed dancehall number engineered to embrace the pathological desires that exist in the gaps between cyber and meatspace. ‘I like it when you say you’re busy, but you’ll be free for me’ she repeats to her parasocial lover, insisting it’s easier when she takes the lead. Shygirl’s voice pitches up and down and welds itself to the Terminator armour built by Arca as she embodies our contemporary inability to allow the objects of our desire their own space and time. Incoming album def one to look out for.
Gafacci - Plant Bass WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Ghana-based Gafacci has been a stalwart of the ever-expanding afrobeats/electronic/hip-hop blender that increasingly comes to dominate dancehalls the world over, and rightly so. This short but oh-so-sweet single takes all the panting-intensity of gqom but shoots it through with summer sunshine – another one for the outdoor, daytime dances that I hope your diaries are soon to be brimming with
Lokowat - SEM ORDEM WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
‘it was really hot when i made this song’ reads Lokowat’s simple but very endearing description to his most recent bandcamp release. It was also very hot when I first stumbled across it, flicking through my music feed on London’s most sweltering day of the year so far. The jittering, frenetic, always high-NRG Lisbon sound that forms the basis of this incredibly pretty tune really is perfect fodder for the bright-blue skies and white-t-shirt weather that adorn the album artwork – take it for a spin.
I.Jordan - Always BeenWORDS BY @denglord
Opening with a lick of orientalist synths chiming thru a vape cloud, ‘Always Been’ initially drops into a fidgety house rhythm before evaporating again - ‘just won’t tell you no lie’ the vocalz insist. This draw towards earnestness has categorised much of I.Jordan’s music, allowing tracks like ‘For You’ and ‘Admit It (U Don’t Want to)’ to garner the universal appeal they deserve. No doubt, this new single - out now on Ninja Tune – will continue their duly venerated reign on the good-vibes throne, and I look forward to seeing it used in supercuts of dogs shaking their hips and cute stuff like that.
Ep1, Part 1
New Models Podcast
WORDS BY @denglord
To the uninitiated: New Models have been at the fabled intersection of art and tech since the dawn of time (2018). Their web 1.0 website is an online content aggregator, but they’re predominantly known for the podcast hosted by founders Dan Keller, Carly Busta, and LIL INTERNET aka Julian Wadsworth. The latter began his career in underground electronic music, going on to direct music videos for the likes of Diplo and Beyonce, whilst mapping the pop cultural climate for various publications. In his new radio drama, LIL INTERNET does a bit of William Gibson style speculative fiction about a character known by the alias ‘Ricky Backtrace’, a console cowboy hired by crypto execs to infiltrate a black market of cancellable info on celebs and CEOs not-yet available to the public. It’s a brutally funny Rick Deckard impression that’s dangerously hyperstitious, and I can’t wait for the next ep to drop.
WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
‘Reggae’ is one word that’s often used to describe a lot of things, given the countless transmutations and permutations that Jamaican sounds have taken since coming to dancehall prominence some >fifty years ago, and very few DJs can move between them all as seamlessly as Felix Hall. Add into this the fact that he dropped an unreleased Bob & The Wailers tune which, when you think you’ve heard them all (to death), is always a treat. Whether you like Burning Spear, DJ Python, or anything on the broad, bass-booming spectrum in between, this mix is gold dust for any summer evening
Back at it again! The breakwith.me variety show is in full swing, with hot takes on this month's best releases that you didn't ask for but definitely want to hear. Kicking off with three wicked albums - a GSA comp, antifa Gqom heaters, and (contain yourself) one with a (so-called...) real guitar on it! Then, a lovely line-up of singles & even some mixes to keep you nodding away til next month. Salud.
Organ Tapes - 唱着那无人问津的歌谣 WORDS BY @denglord
Have you seen the classic film Paris, Texas? Directed by Wim Wenders, it came out in 1984, between his films The American Friend, and Wings of Desire. Before he made any of these films - in 1962 - a group of German filmmakers released the Oberhausen Manifesto, a declaration that ‘Papa’s Kino ist tot’ (Daddy’s cinema is dead). As Wenders became an adult he aligned himself with this crew who vowed to put an end to the economic and cultural stagnation of the FRG by making radically new films, in a movement that became informally known as the New German Cinema. One of the best things they did was make a rule that production companies and distributors had to wait at least six months after a film’s release before it could be shown on television or sold on VHS, giving people more time and reason to catch some of these future-classics in the kino.
The American Friend’s ‘fascination with America’s rootlessness’ (k-punk) is taken even further in Paris, Texas - a film about a man walking and driving around non-places to find his son’s mother just to leave her again. This existentialism of the frontier reminds me very much of Tim Zha aka Organ Tapes’ latest album: distant and hazy guitars gushing between winks of electrical interference like the giant vistas in the film that are flashed by fluorescent lights and telegraph poles. However, in Wings of Desire, Wenders loses his ability to marry the existential world with its tender voices; instead, he leans too far into the saccharine and sentimental as his humanism got the better of him. That film is rather like the landscape of contemporary guitar music, which pedals out familiar sounds and stories and concludes that "we’re all people at the end of the day". Organ Tapes uses his guitar to ask: are we?
‘唱着那无人问津的歌谣’ (‘Sing the song that no one cares about’), is lifted from a rock song you’d expect to hear in Chinese supermarkets, giving you an idea of the culturally indifferent inspirations for this album. Considering The American Friend as a loose adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, we can imagine Organ Tapes’ songs as loose covers of Arby’s advert jingles, but not those heard in commercial breaks on Route 66 country radio stations, rather stumbled upon during late-night YouTube rabbit-holing. With its auto-tuned, contemporary trap sheen it’s an occidental kickflip of the orientalism of southern rappers like Gunna or Young Thug, whose repeated sampling of Chinese stringed instrumentation recontextualises Country’s classic flat-pedal steel guitars to Atlanta’s haunted metropolis.
Organ Tapes is an artist who made a name for himself producing dreamy sample-based music, so what kind of politics is in play with this flirtation of ideas that emerge from spontaneous ideas on a guitar? On his recent appearance on the Contain podcast, host Barrett Avner asks Tim what he thinks of the term ‘cyberfolk’ in describing his music. What I loved about Tim’s response is his insistence that the best parts of what we would traditionally call ‘folk’ denominate a social organisation that involve an economy of trading ideas within community syndicates rather than being about a strict acoustic aesthetic; he infers that the Soundcloud-adjacent scenes he emerged from are almost ‘corrupted’ folk ecologies with a virtual surface appearance of community minus any tangible infrastructure beyond subscription fees and reposts. The crumbling dream pop of this new collection of songs feels like the tongue-in-cheek work of a lone ranger bestowing an inimitable beauty upon the cold frontier of the 21st-century (which started in 2021 btw). Avner’s response is to ask, if there are no ‘posers’ in folk, then what does the desire to return to older instrumental approaches say about our relationship to time? Obviously, the boring response is: we stare at bad-screen all day then go home and look at good-screen and that makes us wanna go outside and be with nature.
Beyond that, I’m reminded of an overused William Gibson quote (which I can’t source) that’s along the lines of, ‘the cyber- prefix is going the same way as the electro- prefix’, i.e. it’s usage is moot because everything is already cyber: an acoustic guitar becomes an electronic guitar in its recording, then an acoustic-electric guitar becomes an acoustic-electric-cyber guitar when we stream it over the internet. Making guitar music doesn’t have to be a reactionary bent against the electronic music bogeyman, but it can draw attention to its tendency to pastiche its own futurism. What Tim Zha manages to do on his new record is pinpoint a kind of songwriting that combines the immediate cybernetic condition of interacting with digital audio workstations and virtual studio technology, whilst maintaining the spontaneous and haptic affect of picking up an instrument and trying to develop an idea from memory, without the cloying humanism of contemporary indie rock. Breakwith.me recommends 唱着那无人问津的歌谣.
Goon Club Allstars & Friends Vol #2 WORDS BY @hcurtoys
The lovely people over at the Goon Club sent me a prerelease for the latest compilation featuring music from OSSX, DJ JM, ZVRI, and Fiyahdred! Goon Club have managed to cement themselves as an integral label in the recent tidal wave of syncopation-oriented dance music; their discography is anthemic, featuring Missingno’s icy EP, DJ Lag’s self-titled EP - incl. the amazing ‘Ice Drop’, the return of Funky legend KG and the refix of her track ‘808’, and most recently their & Friends series.
Goon Club are one of a handful of labels diving deeper into what syncopation can offer today’s dancehalls. The arrival of Gqom and Amapiano in the UK – which can largely be owed to a webbed Durban/London connection – prompted a resurrection of other off-kilter rhythms like UK Funky, and have created a renewed experimentation with syncopated rhythms. Syncopation is a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm. Though common in much music that features a bassline, syncopation as the driving rhythm opens up a grooving, shuffling, sensual, multi-layered kind of movement that renews and emphasises a libidinal and collective spirit within dance music.
What’s more, the idea of this ‘disturbance’ or ‘interruption’ as the genesis of a new rhythm allows for any producer to create the new. Through this accident-prone synthesis of baseline and rhythm, artists can joyfully throw out any semblance of predetermined “danceable-ness”; if it works, it works. Look no further than the abundance of dance battle videos taken in South African high schools where young dancers bruck out the strangest moves to extremely spacious rhythm-heavy Ama and Gqom; the beats seems so far away from “beats” that you’re left bewildered at how someone can move so perfectly to it. One comment says: “These are moves and rhythms you can’t learn but have to be born with 🤣 🤣 🤣”
Fiyahdred’s opener Log On follows thru from their sexy Do it Anyway release on Hyperdub late last year (sound write up done by Frog) – truly Funky and effortlessly simple. A gateway into how syncopation and off-beat bass can get you moving, combined with sunny gated synths and a couple of nods to Jersey Club bedframes, Fiyahdread is sparking the imagination of libido chasers. The nod to US percussion is not misplaced alongside Fire Hydrant from BWM’s beloved OSSX. The beat pulsations that make OSSX synonymous with Jersey club are as much a part of the syncopation-machine as the rhythms from Durban and London. The off-beat or triplet kick is key in Jersey Club as it creates the urgent bounce that defines the style; the urgency and speed is translated as a bouncing, kick-up-the-arse (“keep going” 😩). Transcending the organisation of genre is apparent throughout Goon Club’s music: to not be attached to genre or style but to understand how these sounds transmute and pulsate straight from the futurhythmachine – they come and go as the machine is repeatedly updated and refreshed, as the algorithms turn and churn, so too the rhythmachine moves onwards and deeper – not towards a final destination, just moving on.
This release features a track from Lithuanian human drum machine DJ JM, who has been making tracks under the tag of 'Hard Drum', which I am admittedly more and more intrigued by the more I listen. The labels and producers who coined the term (Her Records, NKC, MM) seem to have little interest in establishing some kind of ‘new genre’, much to the disappointment of institutions like I-D and Vice that can’t help but call it the next big scene in London. Looking at a few mixes and releases, Hard Drum has already dissolved into several variants. As NKC said in an interview: “Some people are just saying ‘drums’ now”, the style incorporates so many influences there’s no need for the rigours categorisation, it’s simply “______ Drum”. The malleability of digital music is clear: we aren’t preoccupied with organising around a genre, instead we organise around music that reflects the ineffability of contemporary digital music culture, vast, rhythmic, and un-anchored. DJ JM’s track in this comp, Prove it, is a bleepy bloopy electro stomper that wud b at home in a Stingray set. Again utilising a lulling triple-kick, but with some Kraftwerk-y synths, you can hear the curators at Goon Club wanting to show off the variety of percussion on offer. The whole release could be mixed together in quick succession, the bass of one lending itself to the next, the swing of Fiyahdred floating into OSSX, and DJ JM’s groove filling the gaps in the final track Kontrol by ZVRI feat. Cue.
From Fred Moten: ‘syncopation, performance, and the anarchic organization of phonic substance delineate an ontological field where black radicalism is set to work’. Breakwith.me recommends Goon Club Allstars & Friends Volume #2.
Phelimuncasi - Ama Gogela WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
It’s a sound that resists a Twitter-ready two-line summation, but the best effort I’ve found comes from a reviewer at boomkat: “Imagine DJ Lag, DJ Menzi and Byrell the Great in a blender… sick.” Malathon, Makan Nana, and Khera – the three vocalists that comprise Phelimuncasi (which I am once again reminding you is a kind of very angry African bee) – bring their politically charged strain of club-ready, experimental gqom back to Nyege Nyege. This time, they’ve got a wealth of production talent in tow: Gqom stalwarts DJ MP3 and DJ Scoturn, local legends DJ Nhlekzin and DJ Ndakx, as well as South Korea’s NET GALA who dropped the ripping “신파 SHINPA” on SVBKVLT last year.
To understand the political edge to this album, it’s worth recapping gqom’s short but tumultuous history before getting into the nitty-gritty of the tracklist: gqom is a mutant strain of house that simmered up through Durban townships in the early 2010s. Like so much African electronic music, it has a kind of "DIY lore” around it that is in equal measure inspiring and problematic, but nevertheless broadly accurate: a series of happy accidents on FruityLoops births a twisted version of kwaito – mainstream African house – which then spreads like wildfire in WhatsApp groups and websites like TrendyBeatz and NaijaGreen, always as free downloads. Unmastered, unreleased and, as such, unsuitable for above-board radio play, township parties and local taxi driver – who blast the tunes from their vehicles in an effort to attract post-club revellers – become the main infrastructure through which the sound circulates before taking hold a few years later.
Naturally, this incites an excessive, violent, anti-culture response from South Africa’s government which, despite everything, is still hideously conservative and oppressive: those tracks that are officially released get banned – the government cites the violence and drug use they inspire – and local venues are hit with a series of ongoing police raids which scare punters away from the few spots that can survive such attacks at all. But, like any artist worth their salt, Phelimuncasi use this setting to feed their craft: Bhejane features on ‘Maka Nana’ and cites swarms of police vans and impending arrests: “We just having fun” but it’s a “dark entertainment”. Gqom has never been melody-centric at its poppiest of moments, but any semblance of mellifluousness is cast off in favour of drones, bone-dry hi hats, and dread-filled bass that speak back to Durban’s gritty reality; this is a sound of resistance.
The absolutely huge opener ‘I Don’t Feel My Legs’ (reviewed briefly in last month’s reccs) marks the consummation of this theme: an absolutely stomping Miami-style bass line comes screaming into the track over Makan Nana and Kera’s back-and-forth vocals that, especially when the wailing police sirens come into play, sound like a realtime protest, a chanting clan psyching themselves up for war as armoured riot police come rolling down the way with a rhythm that feels so intense and enveloping that it’s hard to resist its immense energy.
Net-Gala’s cut ‘Ngiphupha Izinto’ is a similarly off-kilter blaster than combines a bubble-blowing synth line with rolling percussion that’s just as battle-ready as its predecessors, and 'Dlala Ngesinqa’ keeps the dread slowly building, the intensity winding ever tighter, before a totally insane, half-speed breakdown in the form of 'Uyaphi WeNano’, which takes the classic gqom sound and lays a furious, half-drunk vocal line over the top – the album feels bloated with anger and distrust, like it’s fit to burst at any moment.
But perhaps the most telling lyric on the album comes, almost by accident, on ‘Kdala Ngiwa Ngivuka’. Malathon embraces his “hardening” by historical context but, as dubbed-out chirps reverberate behind him, he implores listeners to “listen to my good music and dance like you don’t have a future”. We must remember that, wherever you are, this is always what is at stake: whether it’s police raids and censorship or zero-hours contracts and the ongoing criminality of landlords that has left a generation financially gutted, it is a liveable future and, in some cases, the right to live or die at all, that is being fought for. Pitchfork says this when reviewing the album: “Uninterested in subtlety or the slow burn of build-ups, they prefer sensory overload: clattering, repetitive polyrhythms and snarled call-and-response vocals.” The question though is “why”? My guess would be this: there simply isn’t time. Phelimuncasi’s is an urgent cause reflected in an urgent sound and its… sick. Breakwith.me recommends Ama Gogela.
MA1 - PHARAOH WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
In the naivety of youth, I used to think that some UK Funky was just too… well, funky. Thankfully, I have recovered from this affliction and, as such, am ready for a sun-soaked, syncopated summer filled with bright, bouncy basslines. Enter MA1’s new tune ‘Pharaoh’: a 6-and-a-half-minute roller with pretty little piano breakdowns, housey hihats, and dry-as-a-bone drum fills. As a man who generally likes to stand in dark, fogged-out rooms, making as little eye-contact as humanly possible, it may come as a surprise when I say that this – as the artwork suggests - is definitely one for your next beach party.
DJ EARL ft. RAINEY - HOL UP WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Despite being defined, more often than not, by hair-raising sub bass, footwork has become known for its bounciest, souliest tunes, often with caricaturish vocal sampling that give the genre a unique sense of humour. However, DJ EARL’s newest tune takes sub bass back to what dub originators made it all about: dread. But this isn’t zion dred, its hi-tech future dread, as the [always vibey] Blade Runner aesthetic on the artwork suggests; a pulsing bassline, a skeletal selection of drums, and an angry rap verse are all that EARL needs to produce a terror-laden footwork tune that I recommend to androids and skinjobs alike.
100 Gecs - DORITOS & FRITOS WORDS BY @denglord
I’ve decided to add a track review that includes an exceptional music video to my monthly takes. This time round, my eyes have been held by the Chris Maggio directed Doritos & Fritos, a single off 100 Gecs’ next album 10000 Gecs, which has been teased for several months now. In keeping with this teasing, the video sees Laura Les & Dylan Brady evading the capture of a territorial news channel and several rogue assassins. The Repo Man-style visual perfectly captures the delirium of their nonsense lyrics: the Gecs cartwheel and fly thru the sky as a vaguely annoyed burrito-wielding Danny Devito look-alike looks on from a desert highway. The autotune is dialled down but still present as the snipers look down their auto-stabilized lenses like Redditors on celebrity boob slips. The setting reminds us that Laura & Dylan are no longer midwest mallrats but bonafide California popstars, and they’ve traded their destroyed 808s for Les Claypool string thumpin’, whilst leaning into ugly harmonics to complete their ska-punk transcendence. Much of the (often fair) criticism levelled against hyperpop and everything further down that particular iceberg suggests that its artists warp things that are already shit into things that are even more shit because everything’s, like, so shit, man. But 100 Gecs have always resisted this ironic distancing, instead using cheap autotuning and bitcrushed samples as a way of adding intensity to the universality behind much of their catalogue – they act in emphasis, not dissonance. This new output’s foray into slightly more familiar sleazy punk rock territory is indicative of a band well aware that their maximalism is no longer unusual – looking out into a sea of fans both deficient-in and addicted-to mommy’s milk, the Gecs are ready to scream ‘what the fuck is up, Coachella?’
ASE MANUAL – My Everything & CAN U WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Ase’s return to the directly clubby and fast paced. Tru hyperembodiment, soulful alien vocals play over crisp breaks and climax in devilish baltimore funk. Ase’s constant experimentation throughout the track reinvigorates the potential for fun dance music. It almost feels kitsch and mass produced, but within that you recognise Ase’s meticulous and heartfelt exploration into becoming-digital flourishes. CAN U follows on from the syncopation tip earlier, oozing sex and prowess, ‘lightning in a bottle’.
JAY R NEUTRON - GONE CRAZY WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Jay R Neutron’s qween beat stomps thru the ballroom. This track is filled with rising tension much like Footwork or Baltimore Club; the suspension of the dancers is key, giving them a nest, tightrope, or platform to move on top of is crucial, the crashing percussion creates the space needed for the dancers to move.The sensual pounds from the low end encourage movement regardless of style or talent. Jay R’s capability to churn out relatively simple music that still keeps the ballroom moving is wicked.
SASHA B - ANARCHIST WORDS BY @denglord
Health-goth geezer Fran Lebowitz rambling around Shadwell industrial parks is the vibe of this fantastic new track from Sasha B. Producer 3o’s insta promoting the song suggests that Animal Crossing is sampled somewhere on the beat but, sadly, I’m no gamer – to my ears it’s somewhere between Curb Your Enthusiasm and squelchy bassline pop-rap. Undoubtedly the funniest rapper / producer combo in London, check out this track and everything else they’ve got to offer - thanks to them I can no longer sit on the overground without hearing ‘rother-if’ in my head, stuck on repeat.
PETE CANNON - NAUGHTY VOL 1 WORDS BY @hcurtoys
90s style ‘ardcore with big sing-a-long helium vocals. Both tracks are stompers tbh. Its hard to find a decent, soulful Hardcore track within the stale abundance of the ‘future-retro’ and ‘authentic’, but here I am praising music that is, arguably, exactly that. Idk, the haunting of Hardcore is well trodden and I’d usually just turn to Tango n Ratty 🤪, but I keep coming back to Just a Dream… Euphoria guaranteed…
CFCF - CODEPENDENCE WORDS BY @denglord
This one’s more of a general shoutout to CFCF, the Canadian producer whose recent remix album Memoryland Enhanced has had me amped up revisiting last year’s glistening Memoryland. Many a fun summery rhythm on this remix comp but I’m giving a special nod to this original bonus track which I think perfectly captures the tension in his work between long-forgotten college rock and commercial electronica - think how omnipresent advert music like The Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition feels like an aural representation of Nikon CoolPix snaps uploaded to forgotten Facebook albums, just as much as it feels like the menacing WWE theme for Jack Dorsey and how that might be a useful tool in diagnosing a humorously sentimental side to our 21st century condition. Also especially enjoying the After the After and Night/Day/Work/Home remixes - defo memory stick material for this summer’s doomer-adjacent parties.
JLZ - oi oi oi WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Taken off his album Beats Medianos, JLZ’s beautifully serene oi oi oi, is an introspective and melancholy beat to dissolve to. Almost Drill, almost Hip Hop, the trickling percussion and gliding bass speak for themselves and whisk you deep into the rainforest…
GULLYDOCTOR - THE RAIN / PLAYGROUND WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
With my increasing years has come increasingly little time spent listening to silly jungle remixes; releases like this make me regret the cruel passage of time. Anyone who pays close attention to the column will know I have a soft spot for a break-heavy genre crossover, and gullydoctor nails it here: ‘The Rain’ is a jungle/footwork mashup with Missy’s iconic vocals weaved in, and ‘Playground’ takes a classic riddim (Sim Simma! etc) and whams it to fuck with clattering drums – great vibes.
Atki2 - BUBBLE ON VOLUME 2 WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Alright I’ll admit it: Bristol gives me the ick. I don’t know why; probably some ludicrous jealous feeling brought on by unwanted and undeserved local pride; Bristol so often feels like the less-ugly stepsister compared to my own crumbling homestead, Brighton. Point is: Atki2’s Bubble On Volume 2 might have me changing tune. Three leftfield dancehall tricks: one overlaid with a blissed-out piano riff, one with a synth line to rival ‘Unravel in the Designated Zone’, and one that’s just lushed-up in the extreme, this is a heavenly ten minutes. Plus, the producer’s a specky bam like me…
THE TIM & BARRY SHOW, NTS, 28.04.22
WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Lord forgive me, I am a simp: T&B were back at it for the back-end of April, and they had Mr Ian McQuaid in tow once again. As ever, they cover an exquisite mix of grime, dancehall, batida, and much more. Classics seamlessly crossover with very exciting forthcoming cuts from MOVES (peep my DJ West recc from Jan) and new releases from T&B themselves. The highlight has to be Tim blending Omo Frenchie’s ‘Toleka Dirty’ (new on MOVES) with a dub of Skepta’s grime classic ‘Serious Thugz’ – masterful stuff tbh. P.S. Your feet stink.
MADJESTIC KASUAL - LIFE SUPPORT SCHEMES 1-17
WORDS BY @denglord
When this mix came out, I had just come back from a work day mostly consumed by cleaning up the piss and shit of attendants at a “productivity conference”… forgive the tiny violin reveal from under my tiny beanie. So I got home, put on this mix and nursed a handful of reduced-section sandwiches; the clouds turned grey but I felt alright. The mix includes a song by Jawnino, who I had seen live the week before in Shoreditch’s worst venue, Madjestic Kasual was there too as a punter. He was also at Spanners the week before, this time DJing – with the lovely Texture Mag kru – and seemed to be quite a well-adjusted young man. I was taken aback by his American accent, but not as much as I was taken aback by this blissed out mix.
This month's batch of new music reviews comes with a hot singles roundup on top of the usual longer reads. Featuring the usual NTS worship, half-baked critical theory, and buttered croissants with lashings of orientalism.
33EMBYW & Gooooose - TRANS-AEON EXPRESS WORDS BY @hcurtoys
‘Ecstasy is no longer the state of escaping matter, but instead a matter of escaping the state; state-of-art, of nation, or the mind itself. “State” is the obstacle to what becomes the question of getting out of order, a flight away from the ideal, away…’ (Sadie Plant, Seduced & Abandoned)
In 2020, artist Weirdcore exhibited a work called ORIENT FLUX at the ‘avant-garde luxury department store’ SKP-S in Beijing with a soundtrack produced by SVBKVLT residents Gooooose and 33EMYBW. Weirdcore constructs an 'airport of the future', an ‘ambient portal’ designed to transport its passengers thru China’s past, present, and future. Central to the exhibition was the Trans-Aeon Express; a digital zoetrope of the view from a simulated bullet train, speeding through time as opposed to space. From the window seats, one can catch glimpses of China’s ancient past and distant future in faster-than-light bursts. We’re shown how the imperial past of China evolves into the techno-futurist present, and then speculates how the future will arrive. ORIENT FLUX required its audience to constantly move through the artworks, the bullet train’s curved screens forming a kind of tunnel, as well as the labyrinthine mazes and walkways of the Stellar Lounge framing the audience within the works, reflected on the screens and encircled in the graphics.
Gooooose and 33EMYBW described how they collaborated with Weirdcore very closely. The artists reference various science-fiction film scores, ranging from Logan’s Run to Poltergeist, that are key to the sound palette of the work. The soundtrack for this installation had to mirror the transportive nature of the work it scores. The themes of fwd movement as well as transition, stasis, and limbo seem to also be crucial to constructing the airport and the various stages of momentum it engenders. Listening to the trax, the production is initially perhaps the most striking element: the weightiness of the ambience in the titular track is a perfect example of how immersive the work must have been. In descriptions of the exhibition, there are various mentions of how many different speakers and audio channels there were throughout the space; Gooooose explained how he wanted his track TAE to overlap with itself whilst playing:
“I then exported a different part for the final track, to then play them simultaneously from different speakers on-site. The original idea is, when all the stems are aligned, they will form the final track, but if they are not aligned, they still form harmonically interesting sonic experiences… Some of the speakers on-site played the same stems with slight differences in frequency, so when the audience stood at different locations they heard subtle wobble movements.” (Taken from Fact mag interview)
The Trans-Aeon Express’ destination is set to an unmarked future, an unfixed point; it’s ambient music designed to timewarp and disorient. This ability to be transported thru music isn’t really anything special, it’s done in films and TV all the time. Therefore, it’s the place you’re transported to that seems to be more important. Weirdcore’s work demands its audience to think about how the future might look, and how we might get there. Note: the sound takes you there whether you’re ready or not… Gooooose’s From Stellar Maze to Infinity follows in the footsteps of Vangelis’ Memories of Green: a symphony from a strangely distant yet recognisable place with cascading melodies that disperse into the background as snippets of hi-tech machinery buzz and whirr in the foreground. From Stellar Maze to Infinity opens up Weirdcore’s airport into a glistening, sample-delic sound field, soundtracking something that seems both familiar and alien. This is perhaps what the whole exhibition is trying to say: the future (and perhaps the future of China specifically) is something that arrives as alien — the dissimulating alien, the duplicitous fairy, the illegal immigrant, the all-too-human machine, whatever name one gives it (it wants nothing more than for you to name it). Undercutting how capitalism, as Marcuse wrote, has established a ‘biological foundation’ within wider culture, Weirdcore, Gooooose, and 33EMYBW, work on a tangible horizon beyond the superimposed biological foundation or dependence, in favour of imagining an outside that works with our biology rather than infecting it, a common wealth, common ground.
Within 33EMYBW’s Dimensional Horizon we hear choruses and choirs of synthetic voices, we imagine a chorus of synthetic bodies effortlessly rising and growing in intensity, littered with splutters from babbling robotics. We imagine this is how the voices of the futurhythmachine speaks to us, from the past and present, recognisable landscapes for the new and alien to land on. Looping back to an earlier track: Microcosmic by 33EMYBW, the scattered and broken beats seem to lethargically organise themselves, jumping and skipping in some strange rendition of ‘breakbeat’. I am interpreting this again as part of Gooooose and 33EMYBW’s personification of the sound through ORIENT FLEX, soundtracking not just the work on offer, but the exhibition as a cohesive whole. We hear familiar clunks and strums from the Sino-musical pallet; hollow wooden percussion and xylophonic melodies over unusual and disorienting rhythm. In the same way you can hear a Grime instrumental in the beat template left by Ryuichi Sakamoto & David Sylvian’s Bamboo Houses, Microcosmic is a creative and loose rendition of how electronic music sounds in the Sino-future.
This work naturally overlaps with Lawrence Lek’s Sinofuturism: ‘a video essay combining elements of science fiction, documentary melodrama, social realism, and Chinese cosmologies, in order to critique the present-day dilemmas of China and the people of its diaspora.’ In which, Lek explores how the often negative stereotypes and cliches of China within Europe could be true… just not in the way we think. Lek deconstructs these Eurocentric affirmations, but also introduces us to the contingency of a digital and alienated future that China represents and, in its quest for technological and political dominance, has oriented itself as far more future-spective than the rest of the world. China is re-imagined as a ‘posthuman intelligence’; a network of bodies and brains more creative, disciplined, and interdependent than any of the European enlightenment. Within this we can see how ORIENT FLEX is attempting to harness Lek’s theoretical analysis and takes the proverbial Bullet Train out for a spin. Watching the zoetropes from the exhibition alongside the soundtrack, the pieces of East Asian pop culture are hyper-lapsed into producing new forms of visual culture, a temporality of anticipation. Like Lek’s work, Trans-Aeon Express is looking towards the production of content and culture that is processing the dream-cum-nightmare of impending reality created within Sinofuturism, a visual and theoretical prediction of how ‘orientalism’ could be harnessed by the very people its network is made of.
Gooooose and 33EMYBW explore the humanisation and dehumanisation within these concepts. Similar to what I began to write about Leo’s a buried river (released on YOUTH aug last year), the relationship between what we hear as human, organic, soulful, non-synthesized and robotic, sci-fi, and ‘not real’ is purposefully intensified. Tracks like Gooooose’s Through and From Stellar Maze to Infinity juxtapose the supposed dehumanisation of this highly technological music with fervent and empathetic melody. We can understand the more human moments in the music, whether it is symphonic piano or vocal chorus. This isn’t to say that they’re live samples, rather sounds we understand as being (or potentially being) human, contrasted with synthetic and mechanical sounds; we appreciate the soul this adds to the music. I feel that musicians that utilise this juxtaposition, rather than removing the human subject from the work, actually intensify its human subject. The ‘turning off’ of the machine was done by the artist, and so they are intrinsically a part of the electrical process, regardless of criticisms of synthesised sound or pre-programmed beats; the overlapping and intertwining of technology ought not to be seen as removing a craft or skilfulness. As Lek’s video essay is getting at, we as a species are now totally entangled with technology, and this dependence is flowing through all tenets of culture; to resist it is rejecting the potential of the augmented world around us, and the potential of re-establishing the human subject within creative projects. In Trans-Aeon-Express, capitalism’s investment in abundance is repurposed. The desire we all have of getting on a train and heading elsewhere, to break up our landscape, to alleviate the stresses caused by our environments, is scaled up. The bullet train goes 305 km/h towards the immanent outside. Breakwith.me recommends Trans-Aeon-Express.
BLADEE & ECCO2K - CREST WORDS BY @denglord
A doctored IndieWire quote from Ryan Gosling recently appeared, claiming the actor had said that everyone who makes memes about him are losers and virgins. Back in the Vine era, Gosling really did respond, rather politely, to a much-loved trend of videos in which scenes from his movies would be repurposed as if he was rejecting a spoonful of cereal offered to him by the Viner. By posting a video of himself eating a bowl of cereal, the Notebook actor completed the soyface inducing celebrity/normal feedback loop that defined pre-Trump internet memetics. That was in 2015, when Benjamin Reichwald and Zak Arogundade Gaterud, aka Bladee and Ecco2k, were mere footsoldiers at the underground nexus of [sound]cloud rap. Fast forward to 2022, Bladee & Ecco2k’s Drain Gang are almost singlehandedly responsible for a certain brand of terminally online zoomers. If the Ryan Gosling of Vine-era-internet resembled a typical heartthrob, swooned over for his classic sartorial sensibilities, then the icon to losers/virgins – Ryan Gosling of Drive and Blade Runner 2049 – is much closer to the Drain Gang identity: a fanbase making it through the day on an IV drip of esoteric shitposting and boredomaxxing who deify specific artists for their intense sincerity, unachievable to the average sentient being trying to process climate collapse, the billionaire space race, and government war crimes under the influence of screen-based amphetamines. The crucial difference in these divinations is that the Gosling apostle wishes to transubstantiate a non-existent sigma identity into the noumenal world, whilst the Drain Gang libidinal economy strives towards a perfect world in which the complex glitches and malfunctions of the self no longer exist. Or, in real terms: Drain Gang is pure vibes.
On their new album, Crest - their first as a duo - Bladee & Ecco2k make the best case yet for the Drain Gang philosophy. The duo’s sincerity is marked not in a hollow appeal to the thematic insistences of broadcast tycoons – like we see in such American sitcoms as The Office – which strive towards valorising whole lives dominated by meaningless work, but instead by childlike awe in the face of a meaningless sublime. Perhaps this is most clear on the album’s centerpiece, the multi-chaptered 5 Star Crest (4 Vattenrum) which – as the title suggests – Is a demarcation of their ideology as much as it is a devotional piece in memory of their friend who died: the Gravity Boys / Sad Boys producer Vattenrum. Bladee sings on the penultimate star of the crest: ‘we think we exist, that’s why we suffer, do we not? Give it to me raw; death is beautiful’. Gesturing towards a Romantic preference for emotionally volatile aesthetics, the pair are lulling us into their petite transcendence. The petite part of this can be understood thru the album’s hand-drawn cover that may as well have been pulled from ten-year-old Bladee’s sketchbook, whilst his imperfect, flat vocals give such intense statements as ‘death is beautiful’ an air of humour and humility. Crucially, this recognition of identity beyond the prosaic promises of Jim & Pam’s depressive romance opens up vistas of possibility outside the contemporary self. Elsewhere on the album, we’re told that desire is a trap and girls just wanna have fun - caught in the crosshairs of sincerity and irony, the best step forward according to Bladee and Ecco2k is an ineffable love.
Where do we find this love, then? In an interview with 032c, Ecco2k says ‘I already have what I want…there’s no end point’. This Taoism that perforates his recent work is a far cry from the ironic capitalist realism of (certi bangers) like Western Union or Bladee’s Hotel Breakfast. What the duo now realise is that they have become very influential and that the best response to this is to make work that suggests… they don’t really matter at all. Before this seems nihilistic, let’s take a cautionary glance at the digital utopianism of Steward Brand that resonated very much with the tone of pre-Crest DG. To be reductive, Brand’s countercultural vision combined ancient Eastern divinations like the I Ching with Randian libertarianism that envisioned, and ultimately shaped, a large part of the Californian ideology that persists across platform capitalism’s primary frontiers: therapize yourself out of sadness, organise your life to perfection, smile your way to the top. Fred Turner wrote an extremely convincing book about how Brand and his Whole Earth Catalog infiltrated countercultural groups like the Merry Pranksters to utilise their hippy aesthetics to a more corporate end. As many have spoken about already, the same has come of rave culture, with the subsumption of yellow smiley faces and breakbeats into the same pattern recognition symbolism that dictates what Instagram ads we’re shown; a once depersonalizing event becoming the epicentre of individualist escapism. Even MDMA and ketamine are offered up in small doses as experimental tools for self-therapy. What Bladee and Ecco draw from the utopian dreaming of both the 60s counterculture and of the 90s rave scene resists the urge to settle into the demands of either. The Drain Gang imperative is no longer washed in a melancholic pleasure principle, the goalposts have shifted towards finding an exit from dejected apathy - hopefully, one that involves a collective break away from the eternal solitude of everyday consumption. Breakwith.me recommends Crest.
DJ TRAVELLA - MR MIXONDO WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
I can’t deny that I feel quite late to the party on singeli. For some time, my various feeds have been peppered with videos of delirious outdoor free parties, usually focusing on swarms of dancers moving around a stack or, more often, stacks of monolithic black speakers, entranced by an aggressive, faster-than-light sound that, for all its attention-piquing intensity, left me none the wiser as to what the sound actually was, or where it came from. However, the recent release of DJ Travella’s much anticipated first full-length LP – Mr Mixondo – and the trickle of pre-releases and social media pushes led me to finally take the research-based plunge.
The sound slowly-filling my feed was singeli: a Tanzanian sound that has been incubating in-and-around Dar es Salam and other urban centres for the best part of decade, and started making waves in the whiteboy Bandcamp sphere in 2017 when Nyege Nyege dropped Sounds of Sisso. The follow up compilation – Sounds of Pajoma – released in 2021 alongside an aptly-timed NTS mini documentary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vqwMFM1Z_U&t=196s), and pushed the neck-breaking genre (that often rattles past 200bpm) into the spotlight. However, there’s an important shift in the sound from these early pioneering compilations, to the LP I’m reviewing today. Though these early comps sat firmly in a bpm range that most audiences (particularly those in techno-tyranny Western Europe) would associate with experimental gabbercore tunes, they were ultimately marked by their pop-proclivities. Syrupy auto-tune, sticky hooks, and catchy choruses were always at hand to keep the whirlwind sound – defined by a vortex of snares, horns, and pounding bottom ends – gilded with an anchoring groove.
But this is where Mr Mixondo makes its departure from normalcy. Travella’s sound is incredibly dense, tightly-wound, and, for the most part, forgoes these sweetening elements, adopting a dark and doomy cyberpunk aesthetic in their place that is used to reimagine an infant genre for the New Dark Age. Though singeli has always been inflected with cybervibes (MCs adopt pseudonyms taken from memory cards and antivirus software), Travella takes this to the next level by elevating cyberpunk from an aesthetic cherry-on-top and, instead, working it into the form and production of the album.
This is where this piece overlaps somewhat with my reccs a few months back (if I do say so myself…) on so-called ‘freebeat’ (as coined by Ian McQuaid on Tim and Barry’s NTS show) to describe another East-African sound that was defined by the chaotic production style relying on the use of DJ Controllers and their cue pads to relentlessly smash out samples over one another, with little regard for ‘traditional’ structure or phrasing. Prior to this release, Travela’s work existed exclusively as YouTube live screen recordings where, in slick, semi-improvisational style, he loads samples into VirtualDJ, and then shuffles them in and out to create mind-bending beats. This leads to an album where genres and styles come and go at great speed; R&B, hip-hop, trap, all momentarily appear, are wound into punishing rhythms, and disappear again as quickly as they arrived. An example of how Travella uses this to transmorph more canonical singeli sounds into something new appears on “21212” (and is lifted entirely from a Pitchfork review on the album…): a woodblock sample, a sound that would usually mark one of the few more rhythmic percussion elements in singeli is recklessly pitched up and down to reluctantly lure melody out of such a simple sample. Travella then lays an eerie synth over it to create something that is definitely singeli, but definitely more twisted, more haunted.
But there’s one little production trick Travella uses that really butters my croissant. This is the regular, and shameless, switching-off of the track entirely, as if it were a buffering YouTube video. At the end of the opening track – ‘Crazy beat Music Umeme 1’ – the track switches on and off without warning several times. At first it is jarring, but quickly it becomes melodic. This reminded me of a slightly-overused but very important quote from my arch-nemesis Brian Eno:
“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart.”
And that’s what makes Mr Mixondo an important milestone in this new sound: it takes the uglier parts of digital production – the moments where the laptop just can’t handle it, the moments where the woefully-inadequate speakers are blown, the moments where your internet connection simply isn’t there when you need it most – the moments where the material realities that underlie the production process reach their technological limit, and transforms them into an integral part of the sound. People used to claim that jungle wasn’t music, just undanceable noise; the uninitiated will undoubtedly say the same about this album. What those people miss is that Travella is self-consciously looking at the limits of the sound – and the limits of the creative processes that go into that sound – and transforming them into an integral part of that sound; that’s always exciting, sometimes revolutionary, and why breakwith.me recommends Mr Mixondo.
DJ ANIMEBBY - PRAY 4 ME PACK WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Anyone who knows me knows that I lurrrrrve a Kanye edit. DJ Please’s On God refix album got me through the pandemic but, having played it to death, I’ve needed something to itch that same spot… this release is it: DJ Animebby delivers a melancholy but rattling breaks number on track one that’s ready for the moodiest of club nights, and then a euphoric refix-of-a-refix on the B-side that’s ready for summer-soaked outdoor parties – vibes abound.
BLACKHAINE - STAINED MATERIALS WORDS BY @denglord
As per, this new one from Blackhaine and frequent collaborator Rainy Miller takes a night-time drive-thru the concrete interzone between Manchester and Lancashire as its starting point. That’s not to imply that this muse has become stale, no, on Stained Materials we’re treated to some of Blackhaine’s most immediately affected musings yet - becoming imperceptible among the endless grey capacity of anonymous highway he wrestles with his own desires for oblivion before being whiplashed back into reality; raw as fuck vox cascading over some of the silkiest drill I’ve ever heard. After being hired last year to choreograph Kanye’s huge stadium performances, I hope the forthcoming Armour II EP expands Blackhaine’s own audience to the capacity he deserves.
CASSIE - ME NU (Henzo's 1ne Time Edit) WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Our lord and saviour Tash LC has once again delivered the goods. On her NTS show this month she opens (or thereabouts) with this thumping Henzo rework of the Cassie classic. The sex-soaked original loses its libido in favour of thumping, almost-overblown kicks, dry-as-a-bone drums, and a wailing siren sound that inspires a darkcore dancehall sound that could fill Corsica room 2 in a heartbeat – belter.
GINA JEANZ – Amagroove WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
The description to this one on bandcamp simply reads “AfroHouse + Amapiano = Amagroove”. This is an apt summary: the bouncy horns and rounded bass tones of ama meet the atmospheric synths and urgent step of South African house music. Simply put, it’s a blissed-out three and a half minutes that you don’t want 2 miss.
LAUREN DUFFUS - DUBPLATE 07 WORDS BY @denglord
This new single from BWM favourite Lauren Duffus is both her debut on AD93 and the first track to lead with her voice. Gentle plucks that just about stay in-grid cascade into a gothy 2-step drama consumed by bassbin feedback, washing thru swayed echoes of an imaginary film score set somewhere between Dr Caligari and Skins. Dubplate 07 is music born from an overcast stroll wrought by energy drink comedown headaches and ambient regret, but it finds new life in purging shoegaze bliss that extends into its abstract epilogue. Undoubtedly my favourite single of the year so far.
OKZHARP & MA.MOYO - Who Are You WORDS BY @hcurtoys
Renowned for providing instrumental tracks that contain as much soul as the poetry they are soundtracking, Okzharp's seminal collaboration with South African poet, dancer, and musician Manthe Ribane sparked several Hyperdub releases, including the full-length album Closer Apart. His latest track Who Are You is a collaboration with South East London-based poet/vocalist MA.MOYO. Described as an experiment in how MA.MOYO’s vocal delivery can be set to music, this track is distinctly a Zharp production. Opening immediately with the drawn out, prismized, autotuned, harmonised voice of MA. we hear a series of call and response chants: “hmm… I am, Recording…I am, Listening… I am…, Conditioning…I am, Studying… I am, Learning…I am…”
The instrumentation has a kind of anthemic summeriness to it, almost channeling early Niche/Organ House style tropical synth stabs; the track was destined to be vocalised and humanised. Like all Zharp productions, there is an overwhelming emotional response throughout; the parts between the beats and the vocals are aimed right at the heartstrings, designed for hazy melancholia and euphoria. MA’s soulful “whoooooo are you, tell me whoooooo are you” subtly glitches whilst drenched in prismizer; the shimmering mechanical voice to sound even more passionate. MA’s prose is refreshingly fun, spoken with a smile: we hear her giggle after she proclaims “I am…inside, I am…outside, I am…hinside…”. We hear the construction and deconstruction of an identity: the track begins “I am… in your streets” and ends “I am…life source”. It is a beautifully simple declaration of self without the preoccupation of symbolism or semiotics. This style, as summarised in MA’s insta bio reads: ‘a bit hood ting that shows purity’.
OVERMONO - GFORTUNE WORDS BY @denglord
A change of pace from the Russell brothers, this mellow EP cut is all detuned plucks and emo singsong. In my mind at least, singles like So U Kno that cemented Overmono as festival circuit A-listers are at their best when repurposing stock vocals bereft of genuine affect. So U Kno’s vocals came from an R&B sample pack whilst Gfortune’s come from a vaguely eminent Tiktok Drake-style crooner, making for an eerily generic vibe that’s pushed to its sonic limits by the duo’s intensely studious gear control. At a moment where Overmono finds themselves on the cusp of Bicep-level asphyxiation, it’s nice to kno they’re still willing to try new things. Also worth noting that (BWM fav & interviewee) DJ Hank’s Get @ Me expertly wields the So U Kno sample to fold in his transatlantic hybrid of footwork/ukg /drill.
PHELIMUNCASI - I DON'T FEEL MY LEGS WORDS BY @frogmanfilth
Phelimuncasi are a group of leftist-activists from South Africa that united to soundtrack their political beliefs, and it’s fair to say they’ve done a pretty good job of it: I don’t feel my legs is a call to action drenched in police sirens, shockingly heavy bass, ominous gqom percussion, and multilingual rap verses; to stay sedentary is no longer an option. Like the album’s namesake bee, the track’s got a sting that, if it somehow doesn’t get you up and dancing, will at least stay with you for quite some time…
SPACE AFRIKA - B£E FEAT. BLACKHAINE (AYA WAFEFOLD)
WORDS BY @denglord
Surprise remix from aya of one of Honest Labour’s many highlights. as you’d expect, it’s very fun and very good. Soaring past the 200bpm mark, she embraces those originally unfashionable Northern dance styles ironically co-opted in recent years by post-everything teenagers and spits back an anthem of cold world ressentiment, in a city where there’s no one left. Yes please.
YUNG LEAN - BLISS (feat. FKA Twigs) WORDS BY @denglord
I’ve never been totally convinced by Yung Lean’s wider project, and in recent memory FKA Twigs has felt more like a fashionable polymath than 21st century Kate Bush; both artists are often hailed as being ahead of the curve, but I think they’re a lot closer to being weirdos with good timing. That said, this surprise collab has everything worth celebrating in our contemporary drop culture, most notably a shamelessly hype-r-maximalist video directed by Aidan Zamiri that’s perfect for Insta clipping, memeing, and remixing (until it gets chucked out by the Condé Nast trendgods). Perfectly timed to soundtrack Hinge spring-flings everywhere, a lovely slice of quirked up Soviet post punk sampling rides a surfy drumline emulsifying one helluva hymn for hot freaks.
The fresh-faced newborn, only hours old, craves the swollen nipple of the mother. The lactation squoze from readied nipple ducts that expand with an elasticity like the banks of the Nile. Through closed eyes the baby navigates the soft breast tissue with their tiny pursed lips, searching for the browned areole like a blind man with an erection. The new mother lies on their right side in bed, exposing their right breast through the unbuttoned shirt for the thirsting child. Lying next to the mother, the baby tilts its tiny head whilst stretching the mouth like a big O in exclamation of a primal hunger, curling into the sagging breast offered in name of love. The mother cups their breast, gently squeezing the fatty deposit protruding from the pectoral muscle, enveloping the mammary glands. As they pulsate with every massage, a thin white liquid leaks from the invisible holes in the nipple and runs round the curve of the breast like a holy waterfall. No drop must be wasted as the child cranes it’s weakened neck towards the escaping elixir of life. After a trying endeavour, breast finds the mouth in an ancient fusing. The baby wont feed independently for a while; it stays in symbiosis with the mother’s nursing body. The baby’s lips swallow the nipple pointed toward an unknowing future. The rhythmic sucking of the tiny child stimulates the engorged nipple and arouses an involuntary tingling sensation in the mother’s genitals. The sucking sensation and physical closeness between the two stimulates a steady release of oxytocin to seal the eternal bond. Oxytocin is present in orgasms, helping decrease sensitivity to pain and even promote healing post-partum by the womb contracting. They quickly reach climax as soft erotic pulsations echo through relaxing muscles. An intense relief of loving radiates the space around the nursing bed.
The mother won’t tell anyone.
…caught on a grainy video courtesy Al Iraqiya TV. The video shows a crowd of hooded men in a dimly lit concrete room. They lead Saddam to the noose and tighten it around his neck. He is composed and stands casually in the face of imminent death. Abruptly he drops through the gallows floor and his limp body twists from side to side. The execution was on Eid Al-Adha, which many regard as disrespectful to the holiday. The lunchtime coverage caught youthful imaginations innocent to the faint humming of abstract Eastern conflicts that later bleed through clipped attentions in headlines. The bad man gets what he deserves when his last moments of private prayer are globally broadcasted. The images possess passing retinas and the truth of the War is sculpted in an arrangement of pixels. A hunger for the absent epilogue ignites the impressionable dimension of newly discovered libido. Everyone saw the passionate conclusion in their minds and couldn’t distinguish it from what had occurred on their television. The aura of entranced blurred images excites the cerebral maidenhead where everything is known by sight alone. The symptom simply appears in all the cells of Abu Ghraib, reflecting in the kaleidoscoping retinas of Argus Panoptes. The orgasm of victory has been vanquished. In the binbag of history. The execution comes three years after the original capt…
Two figures roll on crumpled white sheets stained with oblivion. Jouissance emanates from the entwined flesh, transcending with impressions of dark curtains, enshrining the timeless boudoir. The unassuming perspective lies dead-on from two bodies cleaved to each other in ecstatic heat, smudging their boundless edges. The impassioned clasp in fight, or in fuck; all lines are blurred in fervent strokes of grease pulsating. It’s certainly a bold painting for the time; it was made in 1953. The onlooker is seduced into the role of voyeur, peeking into the bedroom of the 20th century’s Michelangelo. In the most impassioned moments we are raw meat stinking and fumbling about the infinite, inky void. The factual brutality of his brushwork has inspired many since. An iconic but more underappreciated work of his. Immortalized buggars in disarray.
..scene was hard to film because of its crude dramatization. It starts with a sinister soundtrack, crawling up the bathroom wall in shadows as she prepares for her nightly rest. When the intruder pounces and slams her head against the bathroom mirror in a scuffle, my clitoris pulsated and my vulva engorged with blood. The trickle-down the bathroom looking-glass cabinet in the dominoes of firing synapses. The shock I knew was contradictory. It was my first time watching the film, with the intention of making this Blue-Ray commentary. I do enjoy the odd thriller, especially those that tribute, more obviously, their noir roots. Articulated eros through mis-en-scene alleyway shadows and dimly lit apartment buildings. The surprise of his gloved hands around her luminously white neck. The fear receptor floods the roots of mons pubis, where secretions of epinephrine leak into sweat and diffuse into the atmosphere around us. Fear are my pheromones when the hurt is blurring from reason. Hurt in erogenous areas where an involuntary switch flips the network of confusing electric impulses. Neural structures fuse and dissipate with movements shrouded in the dark heat of lust. The polished porcelain threatens to crack, exposing the fear conditioning of visual media, mediating arousal in the floating pink matter that’s opening. Catherine said to me they had to film it 24 times because it felt too real. Something like 19 prop mirrors were destro...
…in their bedroom. The couple have been kind enough to let us film their morning routine.
So, after waking, Inga brushes her teeth, then returns from the en-suite to dress Sean. Because of his spinal muscular atrophy, Sean relies on Inga to be his hands. We watch as he lies on his back, whilst Inga picks out child-sized clothes from the IKEA wardrobe in the corner of the room. She carefully places the black skinny jeans and grey jersey on their bed, and peels back the duvet cover to reveal Sean’s smooth naked body. She begins to rub the tender skin of his calves between her painted forefinger and thumbs, rolling gently to the backs of his knees and up the inside of the thighs. The white boxers Inga picked are then pulled around the ankles, up his folding legs, where she lifts up his bottom half to pull them taut around his waist. Sean watches, immobile as she stands over him, occasionally making eye contact. Then, reaching into his pants to rearrange the penis with her cold fingers, she massages his genitalia into place between his closed thighs. Her hands warming in the crux of his crotch; as she gently kneads his penis, it begins to elongate in her delicate clutch. They watch each other as Inga lays back down on her side of the bed, still with Sean growing in her right hand. She leans forward as he buries his face into her ear, whispering softly and inaudibly to the boom mic, while her other hand circles her visibly erect nipple, protruding through her grey vest top. Clasping his throbbing member in her palm she pulls his shaft gently back and forth, concealed by his boxers, with both their eyes closed, and whispers still fluttering in the otherwise stillness of the room. Bliss washes over their faces as the rhythmic movement of limp wrists and stretched lips result in the quivering limbs, huddling closer. Inga hypnotically spiralling her left breast appears to be lost in Sean’s obscured words. They share a tensed brow. The faint poetic murmur escaping from his throat forces her to suddenly pull her breast from her top, squeezing the pointed nipple, flicking brisk with her index finger, right on the tender skin of the tip. The hand, hidden from us under white cotton, appears to be increasing speed. Abruptly it stops. She pulls down his boxers that had scrunched in the process as he watches from his supine position.
Editor’s note: J.G. Ballard-cum-Henry Miller, @video1nasty returns to the column with five vignettes of anti-oedipal delight. Going toe-to-toe with the cartographers par excellence of mass-media psychogeography, we can see the influences discussed in their previous contribution distilled and sublimated into a piece that takes characteristic pleasure in collapsing and compounding every libidinal boundary it comes up against. From one pervert to another, I salute you.
Ladies, gentlemen, pals, it finally happened: we got a dubplate: Scorpio Red’s latest production, Gaze-Star, is our lead-recc this month, with words from @denglord and sideways glances to Lady Gaga, Megan Thee Stallion and, of course, Charli XCX (you dirty boy…). After that it’s me (@frogmanfilth) talking Drake, depression, and DJ PayPal, before deng goes ham on the new Drowzee. I then spend far too long forcing Freud on OSSX, before @hcurtoys gives us a cute little closer on Chicago legend EQ Why, who appears on the column for the second time. Stay blessed, and buy some damn tickets for BWM @ Space289 next week!!!
LC & CHARLES VERNI - GAZE-STAR REVIEW BY @denglord
In Tao Lin’s novel from last year, Li the narrator eats psilocybin mushrooms alone in his apartment where he ‘deleted much of his internet presence in a trip whose main message appeared to be “leave society”’. That book isn’t really about the drugs, well it is, but it’s cosmic and tripped out in search of a different egress - away from the substance that overrides our sensibilities and convinces us we’re paranoid, not working hard enough, too dumb to succeed - society. This new EP from LC & Charles Verni explores a similarly cutesy dissection of our contemporary collective malaise. Mostly floating around a lackadaisical trap style: the high-ends squeak and float like weird, tiny bugs convulsively pinging around an inescapable glass jar, the low-ends gliding and bubbling like syrup aimlessly poured on a gaming PC’s motherboard. It’s a ten-minute-long performance that starts with a warped guitar tuning itself, and ends with a synthesised audience clapping them off the stage - the perfect snack of high-concept pop dedicated to those who can ‘break the normativity of hyperstimulated life and achieve perfect purity through boredom’.
LC & Charles Verni seem to crave the simple aesthetics of rage comics and that squiggly font from the shitty early Android smartphones; not as a reactionary turn against the abundance of vibe shifts and goblin modes, but as a means of coming to terms with the pressure to constantly assimilate into ‘new’ styles that do little more than perpetuate the same mandatory entrepreneurialism central to our attention economy. Compiling cues from post-financial-crash-second-wave-social-media trends and post-covid virtuality marks a historicity often missing from extant pop projects; time is still out of joint, and art not only has the power to poke holes in the ruling ideas of today, but also to gesture towards a tomorrow where things are a bit better.
In 2009, Lady Gaga said ‘I’m your biggest fan. I'll follow you until you love me’ on her hit song, Paparazzi. Back then, the ‘follow’ was a Real physical threat, whilst when LC says it in 2022 on abcdef the ‘follow’ has become of course an online feature – why would you waste your time actually stalking one person when you could stalk everyone all at once? ‘Stop. Wait a minute, let me disappear. Stop. Wait a minute, I’m being sincere’ she says on Double - it is funny to laugh at how distant the culture that spawned Gaga little more than ten years ago feels, but at the same time it’s scary to realise that we live in a much more cut-throat, fast-paced cultural ecology now and yet our material situations seem only to get worse. We all want to disappear, sometimes.
The interpolation (as opposed to sampling) of Gaga’s Paparazzi mirrors wider pop trends - on the cooler end you have Charli XCX doing up September’s Cry For You, replacing its cheesy trance for the slick two-step of Beg For You - also flipping the empowerment of the original: Charli is not at all like September’s phoenix, she’s mired by the desperation and fear of being alone, not inspired by it. On the commercial gym-friendly end of interpolation you have Dua Lipa, whose Future Nostalgia is seemingly all made up of reworks: openly on the Olivia Newton John nod on Physical, but more discreetly or even accidentally on Levitating or Break My Heart. The plane this contemporary form of Pop sits on ideates a world of intense short-term pleasure followed by long stretches of longing and pain; quick dopamine hits of familiar earworms marketed for Instagram ads and content appropriation with no community infrastructure to support us narcissists’ pathologies. The DNA of Pop is largely the same as it was fifty years ago, but back then they were only selling you the music; the internet organises culture so that we don’t have to decide what we pay attention to.
At the same time, Dua’s recent single with Meg Thee Stallion sounds like ten different Miami Bass tracks all at the same time - the Hyperpop that formed the likes of Charli XCX has done more to influence major labels into appropriating underground dance music than it has to diversify the contemporary pop landscape. LC & Charles Verni’s abcdef then switches this dynamic - stealing from the pre-Hyper pop of yesteryear, and donating it to the judgemental ears of niche internet microcelebrities. It reflects this landscape we inhabit of abstractly being able to cry out into the DM void of our favourite celebrities, proudly declaring our ability to embody their virtual personas, and recreate their work and lives in ten minutes. Sean Monahan recently wrote in Spike Art Magazine that the ‘-cellectuals’ Instagram accounts emergent around the pandemic simultaneously embodied the commitment to identity impersonation and the ‘dogged pursuit of personal brands’. They shone a light on the fact that the internet is at its most magical when it does not pertain to the miseries of real life, something the Gaze-Star EP captures too. At the end of this all, we’ve wasted so much time thinking about things that aren’t even real, when we could’ve just been bored for the sake of it. Scorpio Red have done it again with this collaborative EP from LC & Charles Verni. Breakwith.me recommends Gaze-Star.
DJ PAYPAL - DRAKE EDITS VOL 2 REVIEW BY @frogmanfilth
The release of Drake Edits Vol. 2 marks almost eight years since the first edition of Drake Edits from North-Carolina born DJ PayPal...and the release has been well worth the wait. This latest album is, once again, a 30-track megalith loaded front-to-back with impossibly catchy bangers that will have you bopping around, wishing you could actually footwork, for its entire duration. However, what makes this album (and its predecessor) really push my buttons – other than the masterful production – is the way its subject matter (@champagnepapi) and its form (fütwerk) both speak to our contemporary moment as individual phenomena but, I reckon, double-down on their impact when intertwined by PayPal… plus, we’re long overdue a Mark Fisher simping moment on the column so… Lfg.
Before we get into it though, a disclaimer: this review talks about the album as a whole, focusing on it as aggregated artefact, rather than looking at its constituent tunes one by one. However, this is not to say it isn’t loaded with tunes that are exceptional in their own right. Highlights include: ‘Over 2’, ‘Work’, ‘Drunk or High’, ‘Controlla’, ‘Take Care’, ‘Wishin 2’, ‘Wants N Needs’, and ‘From Time 2’. Each of these are bangers; go and enjoy the album first, then come back and listen to me rail against the world.
Drake’s tunes are, I'm sure we can all agree, characterised by an ‘electro-downer haze’ that saturates much of his work – listen to the opening couple of bars on ‘My Woes’, ‘Passionfruit’, or ‘Wishin 2’, and you’ll know the vibe I mean. As well as turning Drake’s tunes into unshakeable earworms, this sound also speaks to a capital-induced melancholia, ‘a sense of hopelessness that quietly subsists beneath all the twerking and tweeting, all the twitter and the chatter of 21st century culture’. This is maintained in PayPal’s album art – the little Drakes are soaked in smoke, emanating from a crudely shopped-in spliff in the bottom-right corner; Generation Rent has always subsumed itself in kush and xannies to help take the edge off the hopelessness. Drake has – somehow, despite his immense privilege and increasingly questionable haircuts – always spoken to this feeling.
But this is not a Drake album, this is a PayPal album, and as such is characterised by chaotic-but-rolling footwork beats, infected with an almost childlike excitement and bounce that – once more – make you want to get up and juke despite a total lack of ability. So, what does footwork, as a musical form, bring to the conversation? To a jungle-head, footwork can initially sound like a dried-up version of jungle; the ‘glistening, viscous’ bottom-end is replaced with the stabs and jabs of kick drums and rolling 808 bass hits that amp-up and wind-down tension, but never entirely release it in that tsunami-of-breaks-and-bass way that jungle does. Don’t get it twisted, this album has plenty of impeccable breaks littered across it – ‘Wants N Needs’ and ‘Controlla’ are stellar examples – but overall, footwork is defined by an almost jerky repetition that, like a GIF, grows more absurd with each repetition, and serves to disrupt late-capital’s promises of eternal smoothness, seamlessness, and efficiency. Look at the way that the eponymous ‘wishing’ of ‘Wishin 2’ is made to stammer and circle around itself, as if Paypal’s machine has infected Drake’s voice with glitches and Freudian slips. Look at the way the little Drakes on the album cover are perfect, stuttering replicas of each other…
The question now is: does this coming together of forms, that ruminate on capital’s automatisms, repetitions, and drives that we find ourselves caught in – knowing that something is missing but longing for more – represent a symptom, diagnosis, or cure to our situation? You could argue that the base material Drake provides is the symptom – drugged-up, blissed-out, depressive hedonia – to which Paypal’s beats are the more self-aware diagnosis, chopping and screwing the Drake tunes until the jittering, mechanised material conditions that bring about the downer-haze are exposed; in this sense they serve to “represent” two sides of the same systemic problems, one side that is seen, the other that is shrouded.
Or, we can take my slightly more optimistic view: one of the few characteristics of (Foucauldian) disciplinary societies that has carried forward into (Deleuzian) control societies is the rigid imposition of bodily postures in day-to-day life. I may no longer have to work in a factory, or even go into an office, but I remain chained to a desk, slumped at a screen, for 10 hours a day. PayPal takes the Drake tunes that seemingly give into this sad state of affairs, and through Dadaistic collage is able to flip them into high-energy, absurdist, and at times hair-brained beats that demand you get up and dance; PayPal takes the emotional shackles of late capital and collapses them, only to build them into a new weapon against capital’s control of the body…. etc. Breakwith.me recommends Drake Edits Vol. 2.
DROWZEE - PATIENCE REVIEW BY @denglord
A lot has been said about how the past few years have signified a dominant post-genre strain of club music. It should be noted that the uncompromising regional Baltimore and Jersey variants of ‘club music’ do not fall under this categorisation in the same way, being so unflinchingly and functionally attached to the dancing spaces suggested in the name. In this instance, ‘-club’ is rather a suffix designated by lazy journos like myself as a reductive umbrella in the same way that ‘-bass’ has been used in the wake of a diverse decade curated by the likes of Hessle Audio, Night Slugs, and Nervous Horizon. For a lot of critics, this is not the utopian result of scenes overlapping in harmony, but instead a damning reflection of an ecology wholly dependent on providing ever-expanding spectacles for increasingly impatient consumers at the behest of commercial landlords. After all, most clubbers now are in that millennial / gen z nexus of eternal debt and insecure income, so who can blame them for wanting the whole world in one night out when their future seems so out of control? Drowzee, newcomer artist from Manchester, has a positive answer to this conundrum: his debut album PATIENCE offers a bubbly amalgamation of dancehall, garage, and drill all wrapped up in the playful sheen of summer-y synths and pitched-up vocals.
These eleven tracks were produced over the past five years, which should give you an indication towards the kind of temporality currently operating in the world of dance music - can you imagine releasing a club record you started in 1989 in 1994? I’m sure some older headz could point me in the direction of such a phenomenon, but it's safe to say you don’t need to be that much of a head to hear the difference between Goldie’s music in 1995, 1998, and 2000 - let alone hear the broader transitions sweeping clubs in general. Drowzee himself has said it took so long because ‘this process is an extension of the work I’ve been doing on my mental health, that idea of doing things one step at a time’. I feel like this serves as good a reminder as any that the entry-point to a career in underground dance music is marked just as much by a producer’s ability to constantly market themselves alongside working at least one full-time job as it is by their commitment to developing radical new sonic experiences and getting a crowd moving. The economy is looking bleak, and it’s not just DJs paying the price! By this point we’re all cloyingly familiar with the introspective lockdown ambient release, so no doubt am I relieved to hear something birthed from the same emotional breadth in the form of front to back heaters - unscathed by the pretensions of trying too hard to be new, Drowzee maintains the freedom and joy dancing with mates and strangers alike is supposed to provide. In this way, the long time spent on this project does it wonders - the now standard gliding 808s on tunes like Patience and Starfish are kept alive by of-the-minute percussion that trades Jersey bed squeaks and Baile funk vocal samples in equal measure. Perhaps then, Drowzee’s debut works not as a prospective map for how future dance music pioneers can navigate the cross-breeding styles central to current club music, but instead as a retrospective of the best elements of the past five years rolled into one delightful listen. This album is a fantastic blueprint for how club music in the 2020s might embrace its heterogeneity for the better. Breakwith.me recommends PATIENCE by drowzee.
OSSX - CHECK ENGINE EP REVIEW BY @frogmanfilth
After several years of non-stop simping, the breakwith.me crew finally got to see (1/3 of) legendary New Jersey outfit OSSX live and direct; they stormed Ormside with some heavyhitting pals in tow – Fiyahdred, Bok, Kamran were all on the bill, and Mr DVA himself even stepped up to the controls for a couple of minutes at the close… rumour has it that Fauzia and Nammy Wams were floating about in the crowd too… star-studded vibes.
Point is: we were lucky enough to preview some of this new EP – CHECK ENGINE – at the event. There’s only one thing better than hearing a song you love played out on club speakers, surrounded by fog and flesh, which is: hearing a song for the first time on club speakers, surrounded by fog and flesh, and instantly knowing that it’s going to become one of your all-time go-to all-stars. When they dropped ‘LOLLL’ at 3am, I knew this was one of those moments – thumping jersey bass, a garage-inspired shuffle, and the sweeter-than-sweet September sample over the top… chef’s kiss. However, it was hearing the EP’s opener – ‘Big Yawn’, that struck a different kind of chord with me, and got me musing on the recurrent themes and vibes in OSSX’s work, and their genre (define it as you will) more broadly. PSA: like my other recc this month, this one takes a theoretical turn; be sure to listen to the EP first and just soak up the bangers, before I poison your nascent opinions with babble and bile.
Anyone who has the misfortune of knowing me IRL knows that, for my sins, I’m a psychoanalysis fiend, despite its hideously outdated and unfashionable foundations. So, when the ‘pleasure principle’ sample came rolling over the top of ‘BIG YAWN’, it spurred my kush-pickled brain back to life. It seems to me that OSSX are one of the few artists whose tunes generate a feeling of jouissance, the most common definition of which is probably that offered up by Roland Barthes in the ‘60s – essentially a feeling of rapture, bliss, or transcendence. The club is, on a good night, rammed with people looking for that feeling, as well as artists/DJs trying to get them there but, for me, the way OSSX generate jouissance with particular precision is through speed or, specifically, acceleration.
Some of my favourite OSSX tunes are in the 160/165bpm range, but this new EP sits cosily at ~135-145bpm, and yet maintains the sense of momentum that the faster tracks generate so seamlessly… how? One of the most important factors has to be the samples they choose; their drums – whether that’s breaks, kicks, whatever – all seem to use samples that sound especially quick, even if they’re not quick in terms of the song’s overall BPM… does that make sense? They pick samples where you can hear the drums whipping through the air, the kicks come in with a particularly urgent punch. Take a look at the artwork if you don’t believe me – speed, or the feeling of speed, is a big thing here, and it generates jouissance in the sheer thrill of going fast, going faster, to the point that the wheels might just begin to fall off…
And that’s the other side of jouissance, the more traditionally psychoanalytical (Lacanian) one: Jouissance isn’t just about pleasure, but also pain or – to be specific – the lingering threat that your relationship with the symbolic world – the social world, language, so-called real life – could be on the verge of being broken apart, or, at the very least, seriously disrupted. I think this is part of what makes dance music – in the right setting – so powerful; as the lights go off and the fog sets in, your body’s guiding coordinates are scrambled, and in their place comes a pounding kick, rumbling bass, or rattling break that have an equal-if-not-greater impact on your body than they do on your mind. The normal world fades away, and in its place looms something other and unknown. Listen to some early, heavy dub if you don’t catch my drift; dread bass sounds like danger, like sonic warfare, but it feels so good too.
Once again, OSSX are well-placed to generate such a feeling: as well as their gotta-go-fast sample selection that always reminds you of its own hard materiality, they’re particularly good at drawing out the sudden absences in the Jersey sound – take a look at ~2mins in to ‘INTERNET CAFÉ’, the second track on the EP that glistens with an irresistible ‘Lady’ sample: the break suddenly disappears and all that’s left is a heavy, echoing kick – the track suddenly feels hollow and enormous, as if a vast cavern has opened up in front of you, but you don’t know where to go within it, or how to respond to it… just as you adapt the floor falling out beneath you, suddenly it's back, and the track moves on. This happens in so many OSSX tracks, and those sudden absences – the abyss at the edge of the symbolic world – are jouissance rocket-fuel.
But then the question for me is this: what role does jouissance play for Generation Rent, how does it work in the club setting, and why is it that an EP that is so unashamedly tinged with melancholia seemed to bring on such an acute feeling of jouissance? The final track, ‘OUT COLD’, offers some clues. It takes that oh-so-classic ‘Born Slippy’ sample that all your most irritating mates know from their favourite ever film, Trainspotting. It’s the anthem of long-90s optimism, of self-aggrandising pleasure, of an old notion of jouissance. But once again, OSSX’s brilliance is in how they seed-in that feeling, and then all of a sudden make it disappear, and once again we’re left with an echoing kick, feeling ever so slightly adrift. Similarly, ‘LOLLL’ is, ultimately, a breakup tune – one that speaks to romantic denial and frustration. Is the mood of this EP representative of a broader melancholia that better represents the time we – not Danny Boyle – live in? A generation that feel trapped into reluctant repetition, like OSSX’s silly little breaks? And do these tunes suggest that the dancehall might just be the place where the conditions that inspire this melancholia can be most intensely experienced, acknowledged, dismantled, and rebuilt anew? Maybe. Breakwith.me recommends CHECK ENGINE.
EQ Why - EQUALISED 3 REVIEW BY @hcurtoys
EQ Why represents the strange side to Chicago Footwork. He’s a well-known name amongst the Teklife lot and the other Chicago heads, and his Juke Pack Vol. 4 was reviewed by bwm’s own Frogman, so clearly a man of substance and talent 😽 and respected for his off-kilter style. Equalised 3 is perhaps some of his most ‘out-there’ Footwork productions to date.
The Life Of The Why: The MixTape Vol. 1 from 2021 was praised for its speed and hypermobility, the concept of the tape being 60 tracks in 60 minutes; resulting in a cacophony of kicks, samples, rhythms, and snares. In a sense we can imagine this as being some kind of logical conclusion of Footwork: accelerating all aspects of the genre, whilst proving the prowess of the producer and demanding even more from its dancers as the tape clicks, clacks, kicks, krashes, surging forward thru sample and melody. It’s easy to imagine this tape as also being the exact reason people can’t get into or understand Footwork’s allure, and so perhaps this leads into the relief supplied by the symphonies of Equalised 3.
The stand out is ‘Orbits’. The track opens as if it’s an opening scene of the Cote d’Azure, lulling you into a blissful-cum-hypnotic sunny slumber; swaying into the distance. Then the kicks erupt, a bubbling, spitting cauldron of bass n snares, peaked with some scary strings, you’re suddenly in the dark streets, falling, spinning, with every surge, stab, and jab, ‘heightening and lowering tension without ever releasing it’. It’s absolutely cinematic music, littering my imagination with fog-soaked streets and cyberpunk city tropes. We are transported. Transported perhaps somewhere no different to where we are now, but at least somewhere where the darkness is alleviated by the sunshine breaking through the smog. ‘Orbits’ ticks all the general footwork boxes yet it’s asking way more of its audience, to imagine a different place together, to imagine how to move alongside this track, and how these sonic tools can illustrate unbound creativity.
CCRU-D RESEARCH PORTAL (ONGOING)
A genealogy of crud by @0thermen
breakwith.me squad has been saying it from day dot - @patchfutures is a ruddy genius (or cruddy genius, it seems). A renaissance man for the discord generation, he is equally adept with his signature patches and his sonic installations (if you missed him and the othermen crew at Space289 in December, you’re part of the problem), but here he turns his hand to bass-heavy linguistics with equal, enviable ease. Don’t sleep on the crud dear friends…
My Crunderstanding (Crud Understanding) History
Originally, I knew crud to be a more-allowed version of crap or shit, a PG/legal word which still meant badness, excess badness. This is when I was in primary school. Then the crud receded for a while and I didn’t hear of it for a long time. It wasn’t until about age 14 when I first heard the phrase ‘on crud’ when I started listening to grime. I knew what it meant without knowing how to explain it, and without needing to. ‘On crud’ felt like a very beautiful way of describing that feeling of goodness (musical exaltation, movement, that feeling, that excellence, the hot liquid, the nodding brain) and that feeling of badness (the screwface, the gunfinger, the ooooiiiiiiiii, the naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, the shaking head, the cry of fuuuuckk offffff). Grime is one of those genres / scenes that organically produces its own musical language, which is so close to the music and makes sense with the music: it makes synesthetic and sensorial sense, and sense-ations, which produces a new kind of logical sense at the same time.
Later I was alerted – by watching reaction videos – to the meaning of ‘on crud’ being ‘on violence’, or being gangster in general. Hearing the similarity between ‘on crud’ (gangster) and ‘crud’ (crap) is what excited me. Hearing crud’s general shape, its shadow, its outline, shows it can fit all kinds of sonic badness inside.
A song which just hits really hard can be on crud. Anyone doing something with a deep intensity can be on crud. Crud’s badness is necessarily broad and abstract in order for its portability to flourish…
Crudshift and Crudfiction: Mr WOT (Drill)
In the intro to most Drill tracks the producer will signal their presence, and the track’s provenance, with an audio clip identifying their production. Often the tag doesn’t just state their name, but it uses the voice of someone else to embed their name within a phrase, a frame, a context separate from the producer just bigging themselves up; producer M1’s tag is “m1onthebeat”, and this tag has actually bled back into his name to the point where m1 is typically known as m1onthebeat.
Mr WOT (aka mr_wotentertainment) is an engineer. He records, mixes, and produces UK Drill tracks for many artists including “Russ,TionWayne. Also Loski,Buni,Swarms,Aitch,Jay1,MsBanks,Scribz,Chipmunk,ArrDee,3x3,Soze9th,ink & more #mad#”
Mr WOT’s producer tag is “I-I-I-I looove mister wot entertainment…..”, but it is his adlib that identifies him as a crudshifter, a crud mover, crud generator, crud machine.
The Mr WOT adlib: “cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuduh!!!!! ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!!!!!.............................................................................”
What is notable about Mister WOT is the crudfiction that he assembles. As with most artists (becoming-influencer) his presence is not limited to the musicwork he makes. The difference between Mister WOT and the next guy is the loud crud scent that accompanies him. He is loyal to crud. Wherever he goes, the crud goes too. In any music video: shouting “cruuuuuuuuuuuuduh!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!!!!!” Mister WOT is in tune with the deep crud current beneath him, not just his singular self.
In the written form, the adlib gains a hashtag (‘#crud #mad’) which punctuates all of Mr WOT’s Instagram posts. The hashtag is easily and silently snuck in, tagged on like a sigil, a tattoo, invoking its power, calling upon its spectral sonic counterpart which falls out of Mr WOTs jaw (but not just his mouth; his entire body is involved in the emission of crud; his arms and legs gesture-towards and point-at crud, they create crud, move-with-and-by-crud).
A crud influencer: does he influence crud, or does the crud influence him?
Mr WOT x @theslothclubnft crud NFT
Current homepage of ukcrud.co.uk as of 03/03/22
Crud lives within the badness fields of signification. It is parasemantic, paradenotative… It is symbolic, but not indexical… It indexes the closest and most magnetically sensitive somatic semantic, or in other words, it calls upon the badness-feeling which makes the most sense (logical and sensation-al sense).
What is badness?
Badness is negative, right? Left!!!!!!!! Badness is incredibly broad and it is much more easily understood through feeling than logocentrism. Badness is a defining feature not just of certain words or semantic fields, but also of entire music continuums. Any music which is bass-focussed/bass-centric invokes badness through a thick, unignorable presence, bodily intensity, double-digit depth... Badness is that which summons the screwface, gunfinger, cries “fuck off!!” etc.
Some examples of badness-words:
This list solely contains adjectives used to describe things in motion, things experienced, and motions, and experiences. Badness is a quality of an object or an experience. Crud, however, is a distinct and confident noun, an object, able to be touched, outlined, handled, used, formed, crumbled, splashed, dropped. What does it mean to contain badness in an orb, a globe, a ball, a bag, a box, a boba? Pandora’s crud… Compressed crud singularity…
Let’s go back to On Crud. What could it mean to be ‘on crud’? There is a phonic Resonance between ‘on crud’ and ‘on drugs’. Being ‘on’ is a preposition, so it denotes combinations, assemblages, distances and proximities. To be on drugs is to ride them, ride with them, have them move you, to go with their path and to be mobilised by them. To be on crud is to be moved by crud, to be moving cruddy, to be crudding out, to express crud as it modulates your expression. Interestingly some use the word crud to describe weed too (mainly in the USA).
Crud Drill Vs Wordplay Drill
UK Drill’s identifying marks (across commercial and underground Drill) are its speed, its rhythm, its shapes and colours. The shuffling hi-hats and big, bending ‘FOOHM’ bass lines. It has a knowable weight. This vague lang-description could refer to any kind of bass-centric music, which leads us to consider that crud is simply an emanation of weight, and the badness that this kind of abstract shape beckons. So crud is always present in drill. But in the compilation “UK DRILL: CRUD VS WORDPLAY”, by ‘Drillas’ on YouTube, a ‘crud/wordplay’ binary is created, shifting the focus from the instrumental to the lyrics, identifying crud within lyrics and language.
The most obvious observation to be made is that crud is not present (or is at least less present) in wordplay-type lyrics. Wordplay involves a kind of semantic ornamentation, identifying and arranging multiple meanings around single signifiers, making a kind of fractal spiral around the lyrics. In the ear of the crud-trad listener there could be a kind of excessive boujee-ness about wordplay, a frilly, tangly, over-adorned aesthetic to the lyrics. Crud’s thud, crud’s bug, crud’s hug is immediate. But from the video (and despite its title) I could not discern a clear distinction between crud and wordplay drill types. What was identified as crud drill still involved wordplay, and what was identified as wordplay still included crud. Let’s turn to the comments:
It seems that authenticity is involved, that crud is a presence of authenticity and that wordplay is an attached, removed exercise, purely aesthetic and frivolous.
It is not that crud drill does not involve wordplay at all, as producing a consistent rhyme pattern necessitates some kind of semantic hopping, border-crossing; it is naturally metaphorical. But excessive wordplay can act at crud’s expense, withering the crud as the wordplay inflates. There are still many levels of obfuscation and diversion still present (slang, censorship, and euphemism), but the line that they traverse shoots crud into the heart of the listener more directly.
Crud metaphorics rely less on intellectual-lyrical hermeneutics than wordplay metaphorics. Crud metaphorics still require an innate understanding of slang and gangster lifestyles (or at least their aesthetic counterpart: drill tropes). From this video it is clear that crud is conceptualised as the kernel of gangster-criminal badness, not a general badness that is present in all of drill’s sonic elements. Both crud lyrics and wordplay lyrics aim to evoke and achieve a sense of authenticity and artistic credibility, but not all will induce a Crudibility…
MUSIC TAKES U AWAY
An Interview with DJ Hank
Resident chatterbox @hcurtoys is in dialogue with DJ Hank, a Chicago-based producer whose EP City Stars drops today, and marks his Hyperdub debut. The conversation is wide-ranging and covers Hank’s origins, inspirations, and creative processes. Hank is – without a doubt – one of the most exciting producers in the game right now, and the whole @breakwith.me squad wants to express their gratitude – both for his words here and for his amazing music. Get City Stars NOW.
"Some trax I make with specific dancers or battle events in mind, but sometimes I'm thinking about other places – the party, the rave, the club, the whip, the bedroom – whatever. I like drawing on samples that resonate with people – Inside jokes, self-referential stuff, local Chicago topics... most all the trax have a story to them. I think that can give the music a more personal edge, but also make it more universal at the same time"
I caught up with DJ Hank over email to chat about his forthcoming release on Hyperdub, and how he found his way into the world of Footwork.
Hank grew up in North Carolina and first experienced dance music down there. At about five or six he took up karate taught by an ex-Marine, who brought with him a collection of home-burned Chicago House CDs for the class to work out to: 'Think stuff like "Cajmere - Percolator", "Shannon - Let the Music Play", "Adonis - No Way Back", "Debbie Deb - When I Hear Music", "Daft Punk - Around the World" etc. So, not just strictly Chicago House music, but I think this is where the seed was planted.' After moving to Chicago at eighteen without a driver’s license and a penchant for cycling, he became a bicycle messenger delivering food and parcels around the city. I was obviously excited that Hank was – like myself – a bike freak, and wanted to press him on the relationship between speeding thru a city on a bike, the acrobatic finesse of karate, and the speed and physicality of footwork. Moves like Crossovers, Skates, Jukin’, Jitting, and Jacking can’t be that far away from the splitting, mashing, spinning, and track-standing of cycling in a city… maybe that’s a post for another time…
'Being a bike messenger, doing karate – these are all physical manifestations of energy that I think have parallels to dancing. When I was a bike messenger, I might put on a specific song if I needed an extra boost of energy to meet the deadline of a fast delivery. There are footwork trax that have that same effect – trax that just make dancers go nuts as soon as they drop. I try to channel that urgency and energy in stuff I make to this day. I've always loved turn-up music.
[Making music] was kind of a gradual progression that happened after I started going to footwork battles and connecting with people. I've always been doing music since I was a kid, I started making beats in FL Studio around '06 or '07. Early-2012 was probably when I first tried making trax, and in 2013 things started to come together.
DJ Phil and Boylan from Teklife were the first two people to actually sit down with me and show me the ropes of making footwork trax. Phil outlined a lot of the basics – the different types of drum sounds and where to use them, what parts of a sample to look for, the building blocks of making a track, that kind of thing. Boylan taught me how to use the Akai MPC and imparted a lot of knowledge from his own track-making philosophy. I learned a ton thru osmosis being around everyone in the footwork scene, but Phil and Boylan were the most like actual teachers to me in the early stages. Luckily, I was able to catch DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn playing at a rare all-ages venue one of the first weeks after I moved here. At the end of the night, they got on the mic and advertised their gig at Battlegroundz the next night. I made my way out to Battlegroundz and had my mind blown.
That first night I went was really insane – lots of legends in the building and everyone was on 10. DJ Manny introduced himself to me, and then started to introduce me to a lot of people who were there that night. From there I started getting in tune with the culture and going out to other footwork events like the Warzone and the Slaughterhouse. These are basically all underground footwork events that were organized by people in the Chicago dance community.'
For those unfamiliar with Footwork, it is simultaneously the dance and the music. The term ‘Footworking’ – referring to what you’d be doing alongside the music – has since been dropped; instead we refer to the network of dancers, music, crowd, speakers, and movement as Footwork. A key component of the scene is the dance battle, where dancers from various crews go head-to-head in an attempt to win respect or money from their oppz. Obviously hailing from the long history of Breakdancing and sound clashes, this tradition is soundtracked by DJs back-to-backing on the decks. This is the arena where Footwork became the fury of sound and movement it’s renowned for today. DJs and dancers feed off the same thing, as pioneer and Teklife affiliate DJ Spinn remarked: “We feed off the energy and we go back and make tracks about it back at the studio”.
Hank’s first encounter with the Ghettoteknitianz – DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, DJ Manny and DJ Clent, to name a few – was at a Battlegroundz with the Red Legends vs. the West Side
“I will never forget that night. It felt like the DJ's could predict what the dancers would do next, and vice versa. Very harmonious. That mutual respect is an inspiration for me. Footwork has a competitive spirit that fuels the intensity, kinda like sports or battle rapping. I try to maintain that competitive spirit in my music, but I mostly just want to be competitive with myself to always make better trax. Kaizen.”
‘Kaizen’ refers to the Sino-Japanese word for ‘improvement’, and is usually used as a business philosophy for processes that continuously improve operations; Hank takes this Ouroboros of business and apply it to sound and movement. His musical inspiration takes on a storytelling edge as he draws inspiration from locations like
'the party, the rave, the club, the whip, the bedroom – whatever. I like drawing on samples that resonate with people – inside jokes, self-referential stuff, local Chicago topics... Most all the trax have a story to them. I think that can give the music a more personal edge, but also make it more universal at the same time...
I wanted City Stars to feel more cohesive than my previous releases. Most everything I’ve done before this has almost felt more like a mixtape or compilation to me. My old trax were from all over – things I had made at different times without any intention of ever releasing. When Kode asked if I wanted to do an EP for Hyperdub, I told him that I wanted to make new trax that were specifically for this project. I usually work fast on trax, like a few hours and they’re done – and I like making loads of different trax. City Stars took me like three or four months to finish, which felt like the longest I’ve ever worked on six trax before. I wanted to create something that feels immersive, like its own little world that you could jump into for twenty minutes. I tried to make transitions between the trax and for the project to be ‘beat matched’ so it sounds glued-together when you let it play start to finish. I was geeked to be asked to do music for Hyperdub, so I made music that reflected that mindset… But I think there are some moments on the EP – like on ‘Get @ Me’ – that show a glimpse into a different, darker, or more aggressive side of my personality. ‘Lift Gate’ and ‘Air Ride’ are names that come from the transportation industry where I work. Hopefully there’s a lil something for everyone.
Music-wise, "melodic percussion" was the main idea that was running through my head while I worked on the EP. The melodies are mostly VST synths that I played out, then sampled and re-sampled a bunch to get it to the final product. I used the Log Drum a lot, that’s something I want to explore more in the future. Vocal-wise, I sampled some UK stuff, and some stuff that other Hyperdub artists have sampled in the past to pay tribute to those that paved the way.'
City Stars’ overlaps with distinct UK samples and sounds isn’t unfamiliar territory for Hank. His discography is littered with tracks like Steam Room, Parking Garage, and Alphagrafix which take huge inspiration from the icy keys of Eskibeat and Grime instrumentals. As he said when I asked about the reception these grime tracks got at dances over the pond, he said the reaction depends on 'the audience and setting… but if it’s a cold track it’s a cold track'. There are obvious overlaps between phenomena like Grime and Footwork; both scenes develop elements of autonomy, pirate economies, and sonic experimentation within contexts of urban radicalisation that, as Dhanveer Singh Brar states: 'for the large part, have remained unaccounted for because they belong to an insistently autonomous and highly mutational continuum across the Atlantic.'
As Hank describes, this music is gravitational:
'Grime and stuff is relatively niche/underground in the USA… I don’t know if a ton of people in the mainstream are tuned into it. Footwork trax are also relatively underground too, albeit a little less in Chicago. Music heads who are into that sound will gravitate to it. Seems like people who enjoy my music also like the grime and garage influenced stuff I make. It’s been really great to see people’s reactions to my music. Other than that, I do listen to other overseas genres like Garage, UK Funky, Kuduro, Amapiano, etc. I genuinely love all kinds of music, it’s my obsession. I’m sort of averse to being labeled a 'hybrid’ artist tho. I don’t want people to think I have a gimmick or that I’m making watered down trax.
Hank’s genuine passion for this world stands out through his music. There is an authenticity in the Footwork producer’s desire to make trax in the certainty that they will make people dance. These ideas of expression through sound are integral to Hank’s process; he aims for an endlessness in his vocals, something that “takes U away” something “more human than human”.
'When I’m chopping up vocals, I’m getting inspiration mostly from house, garage, rap, and footwork music. If you record your own voice, the possibilities are endless in what you can say. But if you work with a sample, you are kinda limited in the words you have available to use to tell your own story. I think that’s a fun challenge, to rearrange the sounds/samples and make something new. I do like the idea of making vocals sound robotic, inhuman, or maybe even More Human Than Human like Rob Zombie. On City Stars, I used vocal samples on every track, and recordings of my own voice on 50% of the trax.
Sometimes the main version of a song doesn’t have what I need, so I have to get creative. I might look for dub versions, covers, karaoke versions, etc. Sometimes I use combinations of all the above, or try to re-sing or re-play it myself. I think you can get just as creative with samples as you can with synthesizers and instruments'
Keen to push further into the relationship between the city and its music, I ask Hank about the music video for Stay. In the video we travel through Chicago via train, boat, and foot alongside two dancers. The dancers show off their footwork on the carriage floor, the platform, under the underpass, in front of financial district skyscrapers, with architecture zipping past as we fly through the dark streets. Their limbs stretched and tense, rhythmically shuffling over the urban terrain, filling the space between sample, snare, and bass kick… but to say they’re merely filling space is an understatement. 'Lupay and Tempo' appear to be the only living things against the backdrop of the metropolis, cutting through the static concrete with their hyperspeed flamboyant movements. They leave traces of themselves across the city, glitching and jittering.
Hank’s Stay is brightly coloured, soulfully vocal, and ear-pricking in its dynamic sonic textures. The percussion rides rattling sub bass, stopping and starting; it urges movement to fill its gaps in a sonic cat-and-mouse between drums and dancers. There’s both distinctions and similarities between the movements of the dancer and the pace of the city that birthed them, the stasis of the architecture, the speed of the trains, do these impact the way the dancers move?
'Honestly, I think you’d get a better answer to this question from a dancer. I think footwork dancing is related to Chicago experiences in general. Chicago can be intense, but also time can seem to stand still here. It’s a multifaceted city and I think the culture around footwork is just as deep. Footwork is a great creative outlet. The footwork community in Chicago is strong and deeply rooted. Its practitioners are dedicated to their craft and culture. I think that type of community has the power for positive change and to create a new world for sure… In that sense, I think there's something universal about the sound and vibe. It can be a spiritual thing.'
From Dhanveer Singh Brar’s book Teklife, Ghettoville, Eski: The Sonic Ecologies of Black Music in the Early 21st Century comes this idea of a ‘Sonic Ecology’, which I believe is how Hank describes the Footwork scene: a dedicated culture of producers, dancers, and crowds, collectively forming new environments and architekture within their own neighbourhoods, far away from record labels and commercial clubs. The network of producers and fans, along with the hardware of decks and speakers and the wetware of the dancefloor or battlegroundz, pushes this musical scene into the realm of a sonic ecology; Footwork has mutated beyond the confines of genre or dance.
I want to thank DJ Hank for chatting to me, and breakwith.me recommends DJ Hank’s City Stars - out now.
Dhanveer Singh Brar's Teklife, Ghettoville, Eski: The Sonic Ecologies of Black Music in the Early 21st Century
DJ Hank recommends:
It's that time of the month pals: breakwith.me squad talks you through our favourite releases from the last month or so. Northerner-in-residence @hcurtoys has an epic Manchester moment as he dives into iceboy Violet’s Vanity and the scene that made it possible. @frogmanfilth gives his hot takes on Sirr TMO’s debut LP on Teklife and badsista’s emo-inspired exploits, and @denglord’s got a cracking long(er) read on ONY’s Children of the Apocalypse that you don’t want to miss…
oh, and he also compares the new
blastah record to a
perfect sandwich –
ICEBOY VIOLET - THE VANITY PROJECT REVIEW BY @hcurtoys
Iceboy Violet’s sensitive and hypnotic lyricism is mesmerising. Their recently released mixtape The Vanity Project sees the Manchester avant-garde reveal their intricate and interdependent network of artists, friends, and geography. In a recent chat with The Quietus, they said how completely interactive Aya’s live performances are, and how they changed the way they approach performance; “[Aya] would regularly cut out the music to interact with the crowd … she shakes the audience into realising that a performance involves two. You’re all in there together.”
These ideas of connectivity, mutualism, and collective creativity are central to Violet’s debut. The collaboration between an extensive list of artists and the The White Hotel – a local venue credited with as big a part as the artist in the mixtape’s physicality - all come together to represent different strands of the musical and emotive. Features from Space Afrika, Emily Glass, Jennifer Walton, Slikback & Nick Leon, Mun Sing, Blackhaine, Daemon & Orlandor, Exploited Body & aya (under her LOFT alias) all find their place amongst the twists and turns of The Vanity Project, mapping out four years of diligent introspection.
Descriptors like harsh and abrasive are always the go-to buzzwords for Violet’s vocal style, and whilst they do lean into an intrepid ‘ard northernness, I feel like these terms suggest a fuzzy negativity to their ultra-energetic music. I’m not denying the hardness of tracks like ‘DEATHDRIVE’, but to call the sound abrasive reduces it to being ‘mindless’ or ‘angsty’, when these tracks are so descriptive and grown up in their lyrics. ‘Urban Ambience’ and ‘Atone/Blankface’ are key instances of the tape’s energetic textures; both tracks sound alive, squirming under hyperspeed-snares and warped bass, flashing with industrial clangs and pings of grime tinged keys. Violet’s vocal style is so in-your-face and draws energy from clubs and MCs whilst retaining its raw and revealing edge. ‘VANITY’ is a flirtatious and sexual monologue shouted at your thru some alien-tech mic – distorted, disorienting, and promiscuous.
I’m sure the angst is there somewhere. As they described, growing up in a predominantly white area like Halifax, and crossing the hinterland of rap, poetry, noise, and rhythm, means loneliness is an inevitable inspiration. Laura Grace Ford, in an issue of Savage Messiah, says of Halifax: “there are no angels to herald the next epoch, these are the despised and forgotten, animated round fires lighting up the tawdry streets. For some it’s too late, for us it’s just the start”. “Just the start” is the sentiment I got the most from this mixtape; the short runtime, the range, and the overarching themes point towards an artist who prioritises the search – both internally and externally – for the new and promising. There are glimmers of the streets of Halifax or Manchester throughout the tape, as well as echoes bouncing off the walls of The White Hotel, which also provided physical space for the artist to overlap with all their collaborators. Blackhaine, who frequents the venue, said in an article with The Face: “The White Hotel has helped me a lot, and there’s a lot more to come out. I can do what I want there, sets that I couldn’t do in London. The crowd in there has allowed me to develop my own sound, and I just keep pushing forward. Really, me and The White Hotel is the best relationship I’ve developed.”
Iceboy Violet’s alive-and-kicking approach to experimental club music is fulfilling the desire for the emotive and raw inside the dance, to be moving and feeling. They said: “The best compliment I get is when people have both danced and cried during the same set.”
Breakwith.me recommends Iceboy Violet’s The Vanity Project.
SIRR TMO - 888(INFINITY) REVIEW BY @frogmanfilth
I first came across Sirr TMO when he released his Forbidden Jutsu EP in May 2020 – deep in the UK’s first COVID lockdown – and quickly became obsessed with its closing track ‘COVID OPERATION’, which starts with a hysterical sample of an as-yet-unidentified Scouser waxing lyrical about all the conspiracies he believes are bound up with the pandemic (5G and the MOD are his prime suspects) before a rolling break comes clattering in… I recommend a listen. In the years since TMO has been prolific, releasing singles, EPs, and longer projects both on his own Bandcamp and on choice labels. 888 (INFINITY), however, marks his long-overdue debut on the legendary Teklife label, home to some of the biggest names in footwork.
TMO is – by his own admission – a dancer first and foremost; this isn’t uncommon in footwork, far from it actually, with the genre’s pioneers (Traxman, RP Boo, Rashad, Spinn, etc) all starting out as combatants in dance battles who went on to craft a new kind of music that would increase the intensity of those battles. I bring this up because its informed the way this new LP sounds; TMO said in a recent interview that “Footwork is battle culture, while juke is rooted in a club environment. We didn’t just play footwork, but also dancehall, R&B, hip hop, grime and old school.” TMO isn’t restricted by genre, location, or era. Don’t get me wrong, I could listen to early-2010s-hayday footwork all day long, laced as it is with beautiful soul, disco, and hip-hop samples, but on this LP TMO brings a lot more to the table, and the album is all the richer for it.
This isn’t to say that TMO discards of Chicago and all that’s (very) good about it, but the album draws on a wide spectrum of influences, informed by his travels around the world. Sufi musicians, Buddhist philosophy, and blissed-out yogis are all put through the 160bpm meat grinder with thrilling results. The album opens with ‘On Your March, Get Set, Go!’, which feels like a war chant for the new lost generation; it opens with a slow, throbbing bassline with ominous horns that stab over the top, before a metallic break chimes in, launching the track from doomy to dancey in the blink of an eye.
The highlight for me is ‘Ethiopian Soul Food’, which drops right in the middle of the album. It twists and turns over its six-minute runtime, starting with tumbling triplet toms, then a booming kick, and then – out of nowhere – silky orchestral strings that are equal parts atmosphere and apprehension, before a pulsing sax note joins the parade before being chopped and screwed within an inch of its life. This is footwork fusion at its finest; it is undeniably footwork – the rhythms and groove are unmistakable – but its assembled from an anachronistic pallet that pushes the form to newly-defined limits.
TMO calls himself an ‘aspiring artistic scientist’, and this shines through in the final few tracks of the album – ‘Mothership 222’, ‘What?’, and ‘System Failure’ – the latter of which is the album’s closer and arguably the most pessimistic of the bunch, speaking to post-pandemic digital and societal collapse. These tracks, much like OG darkside jungle, are all dripping with sci-fi dread. These cuts are cinematic in scope without being so oversaturated with gloomy FX that they become kitschy and annoying, and speak to TMO’s unparalleled ability to keep the essence of footwork alive and well in his tunes, but to push their structure and composition to such an extent that the genre becomes a conduit for sounds and ideas that you’d never have thought possible. Breakwith.me recommends 888 (INFINITY).
blastah - forever REVIEW BY @denglord
There is a sound here that I’ve been craving a lot recently: on blastah’s new release forever – out on DJ Python’s label Worldwide Unlimited – the Lisbon artist perfects a kind of music that’s like chilled-out reggaeton but made in-and-for-cities-at-night instead of on-and-in-memory-of-sunny-beaches. As far as club music goes, everything about the record is pretty understated – from the digital artwork that’s just goofy lettering on a 12” sleeve, to the sonic palette itself; drums that sound like drums, bass that sounds like bass, and rain samples that sound like rain.
This isn’t to say it’s minimal at all. Instead, I’m reminded of that famous Lou Reed quote that goes along the lines of “one chord is fine, two is pushing it, three chords and you’re into jazz”. Tracks like ‘call’ and ‘cendres’ just bliss out until they’re over; their simple earworming – timestamped by random but perfectly crisp samples that keep you engaged – creates space that allows you to interact with the music in a sort of stoned tactility, touching and getting-touched by hazy mock-ups of what dance music is assumed to feel like.
Ellen Willis’ classic essay on the Velvet Underground famously begins “I’ll let you into my dream”, and it feels like blastah is doing the same here. These simple compositions have that fine-tuned comfort and order of a freshly-cleaned bedroom or perfect sandwich. Somehow though, tracks like ‘fish friend anthem’ and ‘closer’ show that none of these tracks are too ethereal for the radio, or for someone who isn’t inclined towards listening to club music at home. The kind of productions here almost resemble Timbaland’s chart-destroyers from the early noughties, defined by their aspiration to be neither r’n’b nor hip hop but definitively pop. On forever, those sexy chart toppers from the turn of the millennium are stripped of the pop idols fronting them, and updated with legato drill bass and the robust precision of trap percussion… it’s almost embarrassing how irresistible it is to sway and groove to. Breakwith.me recommends forever.
badsista - LUCY 4D REVIEW BY @frogmanfilth
badsista is one of those artists that when you finally discover their work, you nonsensically kick yourself for not having got there sooner, uselessly berating your insta or bandcamp algorithms for not giving you the nod months earlier. Instead, I had to wait to discover badsista through the (digitally-mediated) recommendation of a so-called real person, Tash LC, who copped badsista’s latest compilation LP – LUCY 4D – earlier this month.
Badsista is part of Tormenta – a politically outspoken queer collective based in São Paulo, and a lynchpin of its burgeoning dance music scene – as well as co-founder of Bandida, a feminist DJ collective designed to bring women, LGBT pals, and people of colour into the industry. It goes without saying that since the election of the Bolsonaro government (and all the hardline conservative shite that’s come with it) these collectives have become all the more important. Badsista plays a crucial part in this, and the incredibly wide range of her sound speaks to the unifying politics of the rave that underpin her work and the wider scene alike.
“For young people of the gueto in São Paulo, what we call ‘rave’ is trance, psytrance, prog trance. I used to listen to Infected Mushroom and Tiësto in my room.” This scared me when I read it – trance is not my wheelhouse and, I hope, never will be. But she goes on to say that those ‘90s genres blend especially well with the new high-speed generation of Brazilian funk, making it more “robotic, tight and acid”. The fun doesn’t stop there: her mixes and tracks are genre-defying across the board, bringing pop, trap, hip-hop, ballroom, breaks, and emo into the fold. She’s even been lucky enough to play Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda – a “brain melting” experience – and is obsessed with the new wave of African ravers coming to the fore. Her ride-or-die muses are, perhaps unsurprisingly, anarchic new-gen Brazilian artists like DJ TD, but her palette is as diverse as the people it brings together.
LUCY 4D is no exception. It opens with ‘EN LA FIESTA’, a syncopated techno roller, and then slides into ‘SÓ ME CHAMA SE FOR HOUSE’, a delightfully dark house cut that’s littered with piano stabs and a catchy little vocal riff. Next up is ‘BALL NO LUAR ROCK BAR’ which takes a heavy, metal-sounding guitar line and underlays it with a bouncy jersey beat – not a combo I thought I’d be into, but it seems you can teach an old frog new tricks. Track six – ‘BOLOLO NA VIRGINIA FERNI’ is an experimental hardcore tune, with signature piano rolls, a never-unwelcome siren wail, and a deep-fried break that kicks it up a gear into proper 3am territory. However, the highlight is undoubtedly the LP’s penultimate track, ‘GARAGE NO PORTAL DO XV’, which starts with a mutant-sounding dread-bass rumble that has arca’s fingerprints all over it, and lurches along as claps and a doon-kanda-esque synth comes into play, before finally giving way to an irresistible speed garage shuffle that sends you flying into the middle of the track, before another wailing guitar line brings the whole thing to a vibsey climax.
I don’t claim to know anything about trance, I won’t claim to like it either, but if this is what it inspires then you’ll hear no complaints from me. badsista’s sonic melting pot spews unlikely but devastatingly effective experimental cuts, and if she’s able to use her unifying approach to dance music to unify the outcasts and oppressed of her homestead scene, then all the better. Breakwith.me recommends LUCY 4D.
ONY - Children of the Apocalypse REVIEW BY @denglord
The war in Vietnam was captured by its cinematic beautification to such an extent that the Western cultural imagination of the nation’s rich heritage rarely extends far from the red phosphorus glow of Hollywood’s depictions. In this way, it’s difficult to talk about Children of the Apocalypse, the new release by artist ONY aka Thierry Phung, without relating it to these cultural landmarks. Whether the war was depicted as an allegory for the worst aspects of humanity (Apocalypse Now) or a nostalgic excuse to flaunt imperialist garbage (Rambo), it's always shown to have left a ruinous imprint on an otherwise beautiful part of the world. Chemical warfare was used by the Americans to wipe out sections of the jungle by combining herbicides to form dioxin – Agent Orange – the most toxic substance known to mankind. Scattered over more than a quarter of Vietnam’s landmass, this process killed nearly 400,000 and has left millions affected by related illnesses, so much so that it’s unknown how many more generations the toxicity will permeate.
Children of the Apocalypse takes its name from a short YouTube documentary about a care home – established by a US veteran – for young people affected by diseases related to Agent Orange: ‘Vietnam Friendship Village’. The film is a verite portrait of several children in the village, spending much of its runtime illuminating the extent of the damage this chemical has done, as well as how unceasingly forgiving and resilient the Vietnamese people have been in light of such atrocities. As Uncle Ho famously said, “the government are to be blamed for the war, not its people”.
Phung’s album takes an impressionistic view of what it means to be Vietnamese, and living between France and London, in the wake of all this. You only have to look as far as the album’s cover to realise that memories of Vietnam are eternally infected by the horrors of Western Imperialism for its young diaspora. A photo of Phung’s grandmother is bleached and burned in the chemical processing of the film, so much so that she becomes little more than a seated silhouette in an unreachable room. The black letterbox frames her, like in a movie theatre.
The other thing I love so much about this record is that it privileges deep listening, not repeated listening. ONY’s radio shows will often feature unlikely pairings like Grouper and Young Thug meshed between video game soundtracks in a swirling chopped and screwed technique. On Children of the Revolution, stringed instrumentation sings its way into the mix reminiscent of (or perhaps even sampling) the monochord Đàn bầu, emotively plucked by the blind boy in the documentary. The procession of weary pads guiding us thru the heart of darkness give way to gongs, jumpstarted engines, and prayer song. The way ONY warps all these sounds together obliterates the line between those synthesised in a DAW and those taken from samples and field recordings, nailing the feeling of foggy alienation brought on by having family that know a wholly different life on the other side of the world, and having to settle into the culture of a different country as an immigrant. In their book Empire, Michael Hardt and Toni Negri concluded that the Vietnam War was the last national moment of imperialism, and since then the globalised world has asked all those traumatized by such things to assimilate into an international politics that serves to reify the needs of capital.
The dominant artistic response to things since this is concerned with atomising history in such a way that the worst