The news dropped like a glowstick last month: clubs are reopening in Europe. We expect spring to be the season of dance music, as two years of tracks compete for hearts and feet. Should we dance or should we not, given the global situation? The answer is, we have to dance, to vent our feelings in a healthy way. We dance so we don’t have to cry, punch or scream. And after we let it all out, we may remember joy.
This is a transitional time for club music, as nostalgia became a driving force for so much of the electronic music released during the pandemic. Will IDM, jungle and breakbeat continue their resurgence, or cede the space to the intensity of newer subgenres? We can’t wait to find out!
Rich’s Pick: Field Works ~ Stations (Temporary Residence Ltd., April 1)
Temporary Residence is pulling out all the stops for the tenth entry in the Field Works series. The latest installment features seismic captured by EarthScope scientists, “dueting” with a wide array of artists including Masayoshi Fujita, Qasim Naqvi and convener Stuart Hyatt, plus a bonus album of reinterpretations from Amulets, Ben Chatwin, Olga Wojciechowska and others. But wait, there’s more! Stations: Listening to the Deep Earth is also a book, adding yet another sedimentary layer to the already-engaging project.
Max Cooper is already known as a multi-media artist, and Unspoken Words includes something we’ve been hoping to see for a long time: a Blu-Ray that includes videos for all 13 tracks. Cooper’s music, as always, is sublime, and the opportunity to recreate the concert experience in one’s own living room is a welcome bonus (Mesh, March 25).
The Languid Universe
Pulsar‘s ambient-electronic Nebula is introduced with a genre rarity: a solo dance video. Lucia Guarino helps to highlight the energetic undercurrent of the music (Rous, April 8). Damian Lazarus contributes Beijing Spring (Music Inspired by the Film), which honors the documentary about the fight for freedom of speech. The tracks alternate between ambient and electronic, while weaving in a strong undercurrent of resolve (Secret Teachings, April 1).
Croatian Amor delves into themes of childhood and wonder on Remember Rainbow Bridge. The tempo is upbeat while the tone is calming, a difficult trick. Subdued female vocals waft across the beats like soft gossamer threads (Posh Isolation, March 25). Finally vapordub gets its due on the compilation Vapordub: an introduction to contemporary psychedelic music – vol. 1. It’s always nice to know that more is coming! This blend of ambience and electronics is certain to please those who enjoy laid-back atmospheres, and the green and purple vinyl is like a violet jungle (Bamboo Shows, March 30).
After hearing Radar Keroxen Vol. 2, many listeners will want to visit the Canary Islands. The artists here span the spectrum from trip-hop to dub, opening new avenues of appreciation for a locale that already boasts stupendous beaches. Summer arrives early in these grooves! (Keroxen, March 25). We’re a little jealous of Space Ghost‘s Private Paradise, recorded after a restive stay at California’s Sea Ranch. However, we’ve glad the artist came back to share this positive, uplifting music instead of a slide show! (Pacific Rhythm, March 31). We filed last year’s Inperspectycon Vol. 1 under Ambient, but Vol. 2 lands on this page due to the six remixes that join three new tracks from Distant Fires Burning (Audiobulb, April 6).
Following a box set and EP, Autumna returns to Werra Foxma with the full-length Secret Radio, an abraded, retro-minded set inspired by the artist’s grandmother’s hi-fi system (April 1). Petter Lindhagen resurfaces as Tired Tape Machine on his own F.E.E.D.E.R. records, with the beat-driven Thing. The first single, Stitch, provides an indication of the laid-back sound (March 25). Dip Frisco‘s Crocodile or Real? sounds like a mixtape, even though it’s a record: a dub-infused, sample-happy trip to the smoky back rooms of an unmapped land (Real Landscape, March 25).
We always look forward to new music from Jilk, and Haunted Bedrooms is yet another winner. The intricate electronic sounds are met once again by organic elements such as strings and saxophone, while the album includes a reunion with Haiku Salut (Castles in Space, April 1). Castles in Space will also be releasing the single-track Trees in General: and the Larch, which arrives with beautiful etching on the clear 12″. The piece is the synthesizer score to a winter’s day in Dorset, and is related to a 7″, also by Twilight Sequence, available as part of the label’s subscription library (April 1). And while Castles in Space’s The Sound of Science is lyric-happy, we can’t help but be charmed by the theme, delivery and presentation. Dean Honer and Kevin Pearce fill this with an irresistible appeal (May 6).
Shifting from Castles in Space to DiN, Polypores returns with Hyperincandescent, two side-long tracks for modular synth (May 20). Cool Maritime displays one of the season’s happiest covers on Big Earth Energy, a psychedelic frog on a rainbow. It’s no surprise that the synth artist is a big fan of video games and saving the planet for future generations (Western Vinyl, May 20). The ambient sheen of JakoJako‘s Metamorphose lends the synth project an air of comfort and safety, two rare feelings in these dangerous times. The album rises gently to the dance floor and exits slowly back (Bigamo, 1 April). Poetess Isobel Bess conjures the spirits of beloved sci-fi authors on Light Play, which travels through time and space in a clean, unhurried fashion (Grimalkin, April 15).
The synth-rock sounds of Al Lover are on display in Cosmic Joke, a psychedelic journey with a cover to match. The title may be a commentary on the world, but the music is a playful alternative (Fuzz Club, May 27). The pleasantly retro sound of Sid Le Rock is reminiscent of the electropop 80s. Invisible Nation brings back that new wave feeling, with a nod to the indigenous people of what is now North America (Beachcoma, April 1).
The “space music jazz” of Wonderland is inspired by “slow life” ~ the recovery of an unhurried, unplugged pace. Numerous styles are included, from samba to jazz, as one might expect from the diverse pairing of Jeff Mills & the Zanza 22 (Axis, April 22; the 22 is significant!). House, jazz and acid all converge upon Hoshina Anniversary‘s Hyakunin Isshu: two side-long tracks that mingle together like yin and yang (Patience, April 29). House DJ Cinthie is the latest guest on DJ Kicks; her 23-track set lands April 1, and bridges the distance between the classic and the new. Simon Klee tackles altered states on The Light of Elevation, with a sound midway between electro-synth and trance. The entire album is danceable, with or without electrodes (Subexotic, April 8). With a couple singles already bouncing around the room, Super Frog Saves Tokyo is preparing the full-length Straw Man, which contains a pleasant undercurrent of classic trance (Electronic Architecture, April 8).
Blended to Perfection
Glass Museum continues to blur the lines between modern composition and electronics. Reflet, the title track from their upcoming album, demonstrates the fragile balance between organic and programmed (Sdban Ultra, April 29). The third offering in Leaf’s Nightports series is Nightports w/Tom Herbert, which showcases the skills of the Polar Bear double bassist in a series of electronic settings. Early copies are available in a limited edition die-cut sleeve (April 29). Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle honor synesthesia by naming each track of African Prayers after a part of the Moroccan Ritual of Seven Colors. The music is jazzy, percussive and spiritual, well in touch with its African roots (Lo Recordings, April 1). It’s never too early for summer sounds, and Branko‘s OBG (Thank You) is the sound of a hopping summer in Portugal: clubs filled to capacity, and dancing in the streets. Multiple guests join the joyful noise, exuding color and light (Enchufada, April 8). After many successes on the scoring and EP fronts, Drum & Lace is finally releasing its debut album. Natura includes contributions from Valentina Magaletti and the London Contemporary Orchestra, and represents a seamless melding of two genres (Past Inside the Present, April 8).
Matmos continues to push boundaries with Regards/Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer, which is a tribute to the Polish polymath with an underground reputation. Numerous guest stars contribute to this reimagining, dissecting and reconstructing Schaeffer’s sounds in a manner that would make the master proud. While some of these samples are half a century old, in the hands of Matmos they sound brand new (Thrill Jockey, May 6). Electromagnetic emissions are the launching pads for the pieces on Marco Monfardini‘s Detect. The album includes internet samples, amplified downloads, cell phones and EMF, and was originally part of an AV installation (Cyclic Law, April 1).
Gidha music is showcased in Aisaund Sings, a heavily percussive album from Nahi Mitti. This may be the DJ’s debut album, but her sound is already fully formed and ready for adventurous clubs (Mutualism, March 22). Even the name Carmel Smickersgill is unusual. We Get What We Want & We Don’t Get Upset plays with pop and voice, and offers an alternative to any pandemic gloom. This is her first release, after playing with New Order at the Manchester Festival (PRAH, April 15). Joe Rainey collects and shares sacred Pow Wow chants, honoring the Red Lake Ojibwe; but it’s likely these sounds have never been placed in such wild contexts as on Niineta. Drums, beats and pulses create a mysterious environment in which the spirits might speak to a younger generation (37d03d, May 20).
A Spooky Spring
On the heels of December’s 21-minute Ruined Abstractions, the sonic dream team of KMRU and Aho Ssan expand the set to a full album. Limen is apocalyptic and menacing, with moments of deep beauty (Subtext, April 29). Sermons by the Devil is an intimidating moniker, and the cover amplifies the menace. Below the Surface is an ambient-electronic blend, hedging its tone only slightly on the last track, “Falling in Love at 3 a.m.” (March 23). “The night is liquid with dark,” intones an unseen woman on “The Presence,” from Vādin‘s cinematic Black Tortoise EP. The cover is nearly solid black, an indicator of the shadows within (Utter, April 1). Whispering, drone and dark beats are all found on Modern Dance Gold Vol. 1, an album whose cheerful title hides its morose heart. We can blame The State51 Conspiracy for any incongruity (Conga 1, May 26).
Breakbeat, IDM, Drum ‘N’ Bass
Fans of Loraine James who hoped the artist might release an instrumental album finally get their wish, as her self-titled album as Whatever the Weather drops April 8. Each track is named after a temperature, and the vinyl is available in glacial blue or summery orange, giving purchasers their choice of seasonal colors. Expect this one to be huge on the global circuit! (Ghostly International). Breakbeats and vocal snippets populate Feiertag‘s Dive, providing plenty of meat for the feet. A variety of tempos adds to the appeal (Sonar Kollektiv, May 11). Now in her third decade of dance floor music, Shelley Parker re-enters the fray with the breakbeat sounds of Wisteria, a perfect title for spring (Hypercolour, March 25). Nature meets transhumanism on Body Logic, as Awe Kid references classic Warp in a sci-fi narrative (Atomnation, April 22).
“Between holy temples and the dancefloor” is how Orbury Commons describes The Traditional Dance of Orbury Common, which draws from multiple genres but circles back to tribal dance again and again. We already sense multiple crossover possibilities (Moshi Moshi, April 29). Splitting the difference between IDM and techno, M/R offers a 12″ of Anxious Meditation, while providing the panacea: a fragrance roller, plantable lavender seed paper and gorgeous sea-and-moss colored vinyl. An additional bonus: if the 12″ sounds too fast at 45 rpm, listeners are invited to slow it down to 33 1/3. (enmossed, March 22).
A variety of approaches lends variety to Sounds from the Iranian Ultraverse, which begins with the drone and experimentalism of Aria Rostami and Saint Abdullah and proceeds to dance stormers dark and light (Shaytoon, March 22). Moments in Unity is a nice name for an album these days and may be a reference to Art of Noise. Uni Son‘s album is launched with “Untitled for Now,” which is, despite its proclamation, a title (We Play House, April 4). Kodomo‘s Three Spheres project will conclude with Three Spheres (Remixes), an international cadres of artists taking the music in multiple directions, from ambient to IDM (FOIL, March 25).
Mutations I: Death, Taxes and Hanger just came out last week, so we’ll have to wait a bit for Mutations II: Delicious Intent, due April 29. This pair of banging EPs comes from Aquarian, whose AV tour looks to be one of the highlights of the season (Dekmantel/UFO). Splitting the difference between electronic and rock, KHOMPA fills its dance tracks with surges of electric guitar. Perceive Reality is out April 29 on Monotreme. The name doesn’t exactly drip off the tongue, but 33EMYBW and Gooooose offer complex sound design as well, incorporating both jazz and IDM on their split exhibition release, Trans-Aeon Express (SVBKVLT, March 25, pictured right). New Mexico digitizers Brainwaltzera offer a new take on classic IDM and jungle on the curiously titled ITSAME. The music is propulsive, upbeat and generous, with 17 tracks splayed across two 12″s. The desert may be dry, but the music is alive (PHAH, April 1).
Techno, Industrial and Overloaded Circuitry
As half of Factory Floor and one third of Carter Tutti Void, Nik Colk Void has been involved in many a dance production, but Bucked Up Space is her very first solo record. Improvisation hides among the beats, but everything seems natural, unfolding at its own pace (Editions Mego, April 8). Classic techno artist Terrence Dixon returns with the propulsive Other Dimensions, with beats ranging from 83 to 150 (ExoPlanets, March 28). The past comes back to haunt Plastikman & Chilly Gonzales on the expansive Consumed In Key, a love letter to the classic 1998 album Consumed. Richie Hawtin’s work not only sounds timeless, it apparently is timeless (Turbo, April 1). Pairing the sounds of Tunisia and London, Azu Tiwaline & Al Wootton produce a smooth, blended tone on the Alandazu EP (Livity Sound, March 25), chased by Toma Kami‘s Amapicante, four tracks that breeze by and beckon dancers to follow (Livity Sound, April 29).
Pounding techno is the order of the day on New Kids Records, which is prepping We Are NKR Vol. 03 for release on March 25, a vibrant showcase for their roster of related artists. Hyper Nu Age Tekno! isn’t always as hyper or techno as its title implies, but whenever Taro Nohara gets going, especially on “Eel,” it’s a lot of fun (Growing Bin, March 25). Shonky resurfaces to share his groovy techno stylings with global audiences, just as the world is emerging from its own cocoon. On the Run is out April 25 on Third Ear Recordings. Mere weeks after releasing the Les Mirages EP on Palinoia, Quelza shifts to Mord label for the booming techno of Les Malicieuses (April 15). Techno meets dark ambient on Bridges, the second release from the new Brussels imprint Initiate. The package of Pattrn‘s EP is sweetened by the presence of two Sebastian Mullaert remixes (April 15).
This is acid! Sebastian Cappatto provides a generous helping of squelch and beats on Acid, Uncensored and Raw (Subsist, March 25), which pairs well with iBot‘s Acid Cybotron, released just four days earlier on the same label, the violent Electronics Warriors from Rewx, released April 1, and D.S.‘ techno-dub Dissenting Sound, released April 8. Bonus points for the collaged covers; we’ve used iBot’s as the cover image for this article! Kotra‘s Radness Method is harsh, distorted and industrial, with tracks in the ten-minute range. It’s also a floor-filling set, with hints of early Front Line Assembly: as Prosir advertises: “the ultimate sledgehammer dance” (April 7).
Nervous Horizon compilation Vol. 4 offers a set of rising excitement, beginning at 90 bpm and rising to 160. The International roster stretches from Montreal to Bristol to the Congo (April 8). Swift and raving, Mr. Mixondo raises the BPMs to 200 while packing the sonic field with snippets of international song. DJ Travella is only 19, so he has the energy to keep the party going all night long! (Nyege Nyege Tapes, April 1). Red levels, distorted beats and clashing samples make RXM Reality‘s sick for you an album of excess, like the sound of a video arcade when every attendee is playing. T-shirts and tank tops are also available! (Hausu Mountain, March 25).