Wednesday, 12 March 2014
There's a clutch of tunes here that will be familiar to many listeners already - the likes of 'Galactic', 'Persian' and, more recently, 'Play Your Corner' having been doing the rounds on radio shows and mixtapes - but for the most part, the album comprises of fresh material. This dialogue between new and old is, as much as the snipped vocal clips, the sort of constant which elevates the record's status from being merely a collection of songs, to a cohesive album; and that this is something so rarely achieved within electronic music needn't be played down.
In fact, one of the undoubted highlights of the LP has had its choppy vocals pressed to vinyl once already, but returns here reworked and churning a sweet nostalgia for the - pun no doubt intended - swinging days of dark garage experimentalism. Simultaneously paying homage to Keysound's own catalogue numbers, the 'LDN Mix' of 'Swingin'' is Wen imagining what El-B and Horsepower Productions might have done with the same source material; the result is as you'd expect, but that he manages to carry it off so convincingly is a testament to his production abilities.
And whilst some might argue that such nostalgia is often little more than repackaging for an unknowing audience, the dismantling of 'You Know' from an almost by-numbers steel drum-riff-plus-R&B-vocal-sample slice of anthem garage to an eery, piercing soundscape presents the LP's dialogue on a micro scale. That it tails off from here into the Random Trio-indebted drum shuffles of 'Persian' only makes the historical trawl more complete.
As well as the increasingly-imitated marriage of swollen bass hits and sharp synths that has come to typify Wen's sound, a common sonic theme throughout 'Signals' is his use of rewind and fast-forward effects - that is, shaping and tailing grooves using tape-stops and forward seeks. Though this sense of searching through tracks and albums may be all but lost on today's younger generation of listeners, for others (Wen himself no doubt included) who have grown up through the technological developments which have seen tape cassettes replaced on shelves by CDs, and then the shelves themselves replaced by the scroll wheel and the rise of online retail, these little become something of a leitmotif for the album's past-present-future dialogue. That cassettes, though admittedly not in any wide way, have been re-adopted more and more by small independent labels over the last few years fits nicely with this idea of back-and-forth.
The album concludes with a first, in the form of Wen's first officially vocalled tune to reach public ears. It's fractious, unsettled and raucous in all of the best ways, and Riko asserts himself as one of the most underrated MCs that the grime scene has produced. It's all in the combination here, though: simply put, Riko is one of the few MCs who can truly capture the feel of a radio set when laying down vocals on a tune and he's aided aptly by Wen in this, whose sonic aesthetic is heavily indebted to the crackle of the pirate radio dial.
Much of this, however, is what we could have expected from a Wen album. But that's fine: a debut album is an artist's opportunity to position themselves within the wider context of their influences and the scene surrounding them, and Wen does so here with a measured confidence.
There's a gentle irony to the cover's 'One way' signal: this is an album that is both knowingly and refreshingly dialogic in sound and aesthetic, and, looking to the future, one which will no doubt be cropping up regularly when it comes to end-of-year list season. The future is Wen. (You thought we'd make it through a tense-littered review without punning on "when"?)
01. Intro (Family)
03. Lunar (feat. Blackdown)
04. You Know
06. Swingin' (LDN mix)
08. Time (feat. Parris)
11. Nightcrawler (Devils Mix)
12. Play Your Corner (feat. Riko)
Wen - Signals [LDN044] will be released via Keysound Recordings on vinyl and digital formats on March 17th, and is available to pre-order from Boomkat now.
To listen to the album ahead of release date, click over to Resident Advisor for a full stream.
Tuesday, 11 March 2014
Competition: Win guestlist to Project 13 Secret Sessions #2, a copy of Acre's forthcoming Cold Recordings release, and a Hedmuk X Generic Greeting #2 t-shirt
A Manchester clubnight that's gone from strength to scene-pushing strength since its inception, Project 13 are bringing back their Secret Sessions for a second outing. The first saw an unannounced lineup of Hedmuk favourites Commodo, Walton and Alex Coulton play in a disused warehouse; this time around the lineup is being kept similarly under wraps, though the P13 team have let on that the night will feature four headliners representing two labels between them. Though we can't say exactly who is set to appear on the night, we can say that the unintentional theme of "Hedmuk favourites" is very much on show again this time around - and with a mixture of scene-founding, established talent, and fresh faced up-and-comers represented on the lineup, it's set to be a night of forward-thinking music, and with a proper party atmosphere to match: the disused warehouse setting means no bar, which means bring your own booze, which means a can of Red Stripe for a pound, not four.
This is strictly a ticket only event, and places are limited, so if you want to guarantee entry then head over to Skiddle to book now, then head below to enter the competition.
As with the last Secret Sessions, we've been given a couple spots on the guestlist to give away, and we're throwing in a copy of Acre's forthcoming release on Pinch's Cold Recordings and one of the latest Hedmuk X Generic Greeting T-shirts in too; to be in with a chance of winning, simply email your answer to the following question to firstname.lastname@example.org:
What is the name of the label that previous Secret Sessions guest Commodo last released on?
The competition will close on the 20th of March, on which date a winner will be picked at random by an independent third party and announced via Facebook and Twitter, as well as being notified by email.
Monday, 10 March 2014
Though relatively recently rebirthed as a dedicated dubstep label, Macabre Unit initially cut their teeth in garage's more MC-oriented grime offshoot. Closely associated with the earliest incarnation of Plastician's Terrorrhythm imprint, the Unit were arguably the most prominent crews operating outside of London in the early-to-mid noughties. Here, unearthed from founding member Demon's harddrive, is an otherwise lost recording of Macabre Unit's first appearance on Radio 1Xtra - the station itself being only a year or so old at the time. Guesting on veteran garage DJ Richie Vibe Vee's show, with MCs 9er, Logical, Gamma and Nuse sharing the mic and Demon running plenty of Unit dubplates on the decks, the energy levels are very high.
Demon dedicates this mix to Blaze and Dynamikk.
Download: Macabre Unit - 1Xtra Guest Mix - 17/11/2003
Macabre Unit - Shootin Starz
Macabre Unit - Bubble
Macabre Unit - Tulipz
Plasticman - Death By Stereo
Macabre Unit - Transformer
DJ Wonder - What
Macabre Unit - Elastikz
Macabre Unit - My Show
Macabre Unit - Glok
Macabre Unit - Toothgrinder
Digital Mystikz - Da Wrath
Macabre Unit - 1st Blood
Macabre Unit - Unit Jam
Macabre Unit - Montana
Plasticman - Shallow Grave
Macabre Unit - Akuma
Macabre Unit - Take Time VIP
Plasticman - Spring Roller
Macabre Unit - Skittlez
Macabre Unit - Chopstix
Macabre Unit - Shape Shifta
Macabre Unit - Slo Jak
Saturday, 8 March 2014
Caski returns, after something of a quiet retreat and almost a year since first showcasing new tempo experimentations , with four tracks for Electro Magnetic Fields, the sister label to Indigo's Mindset records.
The lead track, 'Rare Groove', has the hallmarks of Pangaea's formative productions, with as much debt paid to dubstep's LFO envelopes as there is to an incessant, irrepressible techno groove. 'Dancehall' and 'Elephant Tribe', meanwhile, both play with rhythms that are closer to UK funky or, particularly in the case of the latter, bashment. But, as is the case across the EP, Caski's dubstep sensibilities see him pushing out at these genre boundaries. 'Dancehall' is a particular standout here, employing little more than drums, sub-bass, an infectious vocal sample and subtle atmospheric variations to extraordinary effect. In keeping with not only Caski's refreshed direction but also both Mindset and EMF's tradition of envelope-pushing, Troy Gunner's remix of 'Elephant Tribe' is a masterclass in stripped-back.
With a few years spent honing his production abilities carving huge grooves from the 140bpm template, this new direction signals a new confidence in creative direction for Caski, and its one which we are as equally excited about as he must be himself.
Caski - emf:004 will be released in digital formats on the 10th of March 2014, and is available to pre-order from the Electro Magnetic Fields Bandcamp store now.
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Words: Silas Howison-Waughray
"System". If you’re still a passionate fan of dubstep, then that name shout resonate loud and clear. It’s a name more closely associated with an event curated by scene figurehead V.I.V.E.K; a night which stands at the pinnacle of preserving dubstep’s longevity. Alongside a string of infamous events has, more recently, been an impressive series of 180gram vinyl releases. The latest editions to the System Sound team are the equally infamous LAS & Gantz, both of whom now boast a myriad of releases across major imprints still pushing the dubstep sound.
This is a label which clearly takes its ethos very seriously: this is real soundsystem music. The A-side, ‘Fire Pusher’, has LAS & Gantz written all over it, with sporadic rim shots, looped vocals and an unassumingly hypnotic top line. The other two tracks on the EP feel (unsurprisingly) much more like solo productions. Gantz' offering, 'Second Nature', is heavily indebted to his roots, with ethnic percussion and instrumentation throughout. The focal point of LAS' ‘Malfunktions’ is the kick drum, which is finely tuned and the real driving force behind the track's rhythm. The off-kilter bleeps, blips and digitised idiosyncrasies which accompany all relate directly back to the title, itself representing that very digital sort of malfunction: the typo. Drawing for either of these in a club would be a challenge for any DJ, but it’s that originality and rhythmic versatility that sets these two apart, and their consistency in shying away from the norm that steadies and continues their appeal.
SYSTM004 sits perfectly alongside its predecessors, and complements the System Sound ideology.
LAS & Gantz - Firepusher EP [SYSTM004] will be released on 12" vinyl and in digital formats on the 10th of March 2014, and is available to pre-order from the System Surus store now.
Silas has written for Gottwood, Urban Nerds, Mavrik, and MisDigest, is one half (guess which) Silas & Snare Surgeon, and a resident DJ for the Leeds-based Brotherhood Soundsystem.
Friday, 28 February 2014
Blackwax, though by no means the most prolific, have built on a steady stream of - at times, inexplicably slept-on - releases, carving their own groove from the UK's rich history of underground dance music: an upfront mesh of grime, garage, breaks and drum machine brutalism. Their re-imagining, last year, of the seemingly ubiquitous 'Pulse X' made our end of year favourites list, and they followed that one up with a self-released brace of free downloads - found below, bookending the mix - which exhibited a new clarity in the unique sound that the duo have been pushing at for years.
Included in - and supporting through their selections on the Circadian Rhythms NTS show (presented alongside Last Japan) - the clutch of producers welding and blending all that's great about UK electronic music who've appeared as regulars on these pages over the last few years, it seemed about time that the London-Edinburgh pairing of Luke Dubuis and Ross Andy joined the exclusive series. And whilst there's no interview to accompany, we're confident that the music here has more than enough talk of its own to offer...
Download: Blackwax - Hedmuk Exclusive Mix
Blackwax - Grimace
Visionist - Pain
Lighter - Skanker
Dizzee Rascal - Strings Hoe (Wen Refix)
Cliques - Aut
Pearson Sound - Starburst
Jam City - Bells
Akito - Aqua Tryst
Lol Gurlz - Red Pill Blue Pill
JT - Twin Warriors (Rabit Remix)
Spokes - Pigs Riddim
Bone Squad - Skal & Bones
Annoy - Fort
Twwth - Naomi XX
Mssngo - D&C
Mike Midnight - Camera Shy
Beneath - Bells
Nativ - Broken System
Murlo - Cold Stroke
Facta - FWD
Compa - Bullets
Logos - Seawolf
Moleskin - Slippin'
Blackwax - Phobia
Thursday, 27 February 2014
We're welcoming another new scribe to these pages today, as well as (probably quite belatedly) a scoring system to accompany all the reviews you'll find on the site in future. As is to be expected, our standards are high and any release scoring within spitting distance of a five-out-of-five is one you'll kick yourself for missing out on.
Words: Alex Terry
A/T/O/S’ (A Taste of Struggle) first appearance came early on in 2013 by way of a self-titled single on the ever-adored Deep Medi Musik imprint. A low-slung, melancholic release pinching together aspects of trip- hop, R&B and dubstep, remixes from Skream and Commodo, and a video directed by Simon Mannaerts ear-marked the project of Amos & Truenoys as one to wait patiently and excitedly for. One year on, after confused anticipation, a couple of live performances and little to no information about the outfit surfacing online, A/T/O/S have announced their debut full length release.
Noticeably split between two different tempos - circling around the 140 and 100bpm marks - the album, on the one hand, seemingly pays homage to much of the Deep Medi back catalogue while markedly prying into regions previously unexplored by the dubstep label. Regardless of whether this was an intentional split, A/T/O/S present a debut album that oozes an undeniable 90's Bristolian demeanour while continually carving their own brand of dusky, leftfield R&B inflected with broken hip-hop: drunk drum patterns stumble spaciously over Moogs and Rhodes, lead by charmingly hesitant vocals.
Stand out tracks include 'Projects' bearing glistening synths that sound suspiciously sampled from 'Anti War Dub' - perhaps another appreciative nod towards influence - and 'Cosmos': a sunken, downtempo number that bears the qualities of the kind of industrial pop characterised recently by artists such as Grimes, and that benefits indefinitely from feeling submerged in cold bath water, washing off the saccharin edge and being stripped back into unnervingly few elements.
It is clear why the label seem to have been keen to lock the duo away while an album fell into place; quite simply, 'A/T/O/S' is one of the best debuts from any UK underground bass music act in a good number of years. Quite a statement, though one that becomes self-evident and difficult to dispute. Rich in emotion, confidently diverse production which retains strong continuity from track to track and an even stronger sense of A/T/O/S’ ownership over a sonic aesthetic and a bleak, sultry song writing ability.
A/T/O/S are undoubtedly special in that they have produced a stunning and unique debut album, and while they may not have spent the run up to its release gaining any noticeable momentum [Ed. - read: "shallow hype"], they have maintained an enthusiastic audience of label followers who are, let's face it, not outwardly interested in what they have to offer. To their credit, they have strung along the adjectives “dark” and “weighty” to encapsulate everything organic and timeless about the typical dancefloor-orientated MEDi release, while retaining them in what is absolutely a real listeners' album.
As for Deep Medi, who have a tendency to throw the occasional curveball - acts like Old Apparatus and Mark Pritchard being among the most notable - this is really the first vocal-lead act on the roster and it is difficult to imagine them not proving hugely successful in ways that bands such as Submotion Orchestra have proven of late. With that in mind, the prospect of further similar homegrown projects from the label would certainly be something to get excited about for 2014 and beyond.
A/T/O/S - A/T/O/S [MEDiLP009] will be released on the 3rd of March 2014 on 3x10" vinyl and in digital formats, and is available to pre-order from the Deep Medi Surus store now.