Lest readers forget, nightclubs are those enclosed spaces where strangers stand close together, losing their inhibitions. In press releases, any beat-driven record is “club-oriented”. This begs two questions: 1) Where are the cool clubs that play these crazy sounds? 2) What becomes of footloose dancers in our socially distanced world? Thankfully, these singular new releases sound as good at home as they might in a DJ set.
If Push belongs to any live environment, it’s a surreal cyberpunk sound clash. Visceral waves of bass emerge from walls of speakers. Familiar rhythms of dub echo through the night, speeding up into dancehall. From the rival sound system, an industrial edge of dissonance cuts through. Looped vocals sing out in Arabic. A guest feature from Lee Scratch Perry should root this music in a Jamaican palette. If anything, his vocals enhance the otherworldliness.
Push is the debut album from Iranian-American musician, Maral. Whilst you shouldn’t judge a record by its cover, Maral wears her eclecticism on her sleeve. The artwork gives us disparate objects suspended in a clear substance. Maral’s influences and collaborations are similarly wide-ranging, but gelled into a pleasing whole. Mastering credit goes to Matthewdavid. A second guest spot goes to Penny Rimbaud, whose anarcho-poetic pronouncements have characterised his work since Crass.
Across the album, hard-edged downtempo meets spacey psychedelia. Off-kilter boom-bap rubs against woodwind melody and fuzzy guitar. In addition to making beats that defy genres, Maral sings and plays the Setar (an Iranian lute). Around the dizzying halfway point, “Sweet Thing” and “No Type” are standout tracks. Maral’s unexpectedly twee vocals (“what you and me could be” / “you’re just my type”) swim into a jaunty pop vibe. Combined with the heavy, distorted aesthetic, the result is somewhere in the neighbourhood of Black Moth Super Rainbow.
A new EP from Bambi OFS shares the virtues of eclecticism and harsh-edged charm. This record draws squarely on club music, as the closing track attests with vintage synth motifs, a squelching hint of acid, and a rapid-fire beat. The preceding tracks have tantalising touches of something more exotic. On the opening track, the beat’s hollow cadence evokes an organic essence of gamelan. It’s a surprisingly short jump from techno’s synthetic self-awareness.
The cover image (“shot by ethnomusicologist Judith Becker during a Bebuten ceremony in Bali”) again speaks a thousand words. A line is boldly drawn: from gamelan to techno; from an Indonesian trance practice to the gyrations of clubgoers. It might be heavy-handed, to use spiritual traditions as window-dressing. As a fan of both genres separately, I found the results unarguable. The third track is the highlight, where struck metallophones form a frantic, metallic foundation. On top, a more relaxed beat, booms of bass, and squawks of synth summon a kind of hyper-industrial mirage.
Of course, clubs and abandoned warehouses are not the only places to dance. Beats are as ancient as drumskins, and the urge to dance around primordial fires is elemental. Dancing alone in your pyjamas and headphones is good exercise too. These two records come highly recommended as soundtracks to whatever stage of isolation you might be enjoying. (Samuel Rogers)