Covering Tracks is a regular series where we ask producers and DJs to take it in turns to pick ten of their favorite recent releases. Love new music? Hate sorting through it? Let them do the heavy lifting. This week we turn to Bristol collective Young Echo, whose members generate a variety of audio sorcery—from big-room grime bangers to haunting industrial ambience. Weighing in with their selections: Vessel (pictured above), Rider Shafique, Jabu, El Kid, and Ossia.
Notis & Iba Mahr – “Diamond Sox” [Notice Productions]
Rider Shafique: It’s like a revival of a more roots kind of dancehall which is coming out of Jamaica at the moment. It’s more conscious, moving away from slackness and generic lyrics.
Michael O’Neill – Untitled [Tesla Tapes]
Vessel: I don’t listen to a lot of new music, so I’m going to say something about the last thing I bought. Michael O’Neill manages to achieve something increasingly difficult with this record, which is to make genuinely political and pissed-off music without inspiring the usual raised eyebrow and wry smile that has become de rigueur for anyone who knows anything about art these days. Proper underdog music with good tunes.
David Dunn – Music, Language, Environment [Innova Recordings]
Sam Kidel / El Kid: I’ve been listening to this CD a lot this year. It’s a collection of some of Dunn’s early pieces for particular places. Each piece is composed in some way according to its environment, and the final recordings are of the sounds played back in those places. It’s a really beautiful CD, well worth tracking down.
Mamelon – “Koumba Fri Fri / Gulls Version” (Boomarm Nation / Sahel Sounds) 7″
Ossia: This is a tough question, but this has to be my favorite release of the moment. It’s full of energy and rhythm. I’m really feeling the music coming out of Africa, it’s refreshing to hear straight-up dance music again. It’s a versatile disc too, with a great re-interpretation of the original track on the flipside, with Portland-based producer and Boomarm bossman Gulls on the buttons. Nicely packaged too—can’t beat the simplicity of a hand-stamped brown paper sleeve.
Jeremiah Jae – Good Times [Warp]
Alex Rendall / MC Jabu: “The tracks feature some inventive soul sampling, and the rhyme schemes mesh intellect and street slang without overpowering the listener with either. I feel that the whole thing gets back to what hip-hop was at first—a meeting between the old and new in music. Some sharp guest appearances from Oliver The 2nd, an undeniably talented MC.”
Lil Ugly Mane – Three Sided Tape vol. 2 [self-released]
Amos Childs / DJ Jabu: Like Vessel I don’t listen to very much new music. This is the last thing I bought after Manonmars recommended it to me. It reminds me of what first really drew me to hip-hop, which is people pulling samples from all of these disparate places and managing to create something which they felt represented themselves. The rhymes are great too. ~
For more editions of Covering Tracks, head here.
Though ethereal and intense, Forest Swords’ debut album is nonetheless imbued with a buoyant spirit that never makes it depressing, and contains some of the most beautiful compositions to ever defy genre, says Daniel Jones.
At times, the artificial nature of synthesized music can overwhelmingly evoke the cold emptiness of concrete and metal, leaving little or no room for the warmth of the organic. Matthew Barnes’ aural landscapes are certainly colored by the rain-soaked grays of post-dubstep, but they’re also tinged with the blues of melancholic guitar (strangled as much as plucked), twisting orchestral flows, and stretched-apart wails, the language of which is naggingly familiar while remaining elusive and off-kilter. Perhaps that’s why Engravings, his debut LP as Forest Swords, has such an absorbing feel to it from the very start. There’s a rich, earthy vibe to the 10 tracks that evoke a sort of New Age vibe as envisioned by William Gibson.
Appropriately, the melding of old and new is a major sound theme for Engravings. Lush strings as smokey-dark and warm as whiskey are entwined with the static of radio transmissions on opener “Ljoss”; its propulsive chorus of intangible chanting and wooden percussion soon becoming hypnotic. Barnes has an ear for knowing exactly when to insert an aural oddity, and nowhere on the album is that more evident than on “Irby Tremor”. Emerging with a snatch of what sounds like the scene transition music to some shattered ‘50s sitcom, it soon develops a beat that mutates between the swagger of a Spaghetti Western hero and the wind-swept flutes of ancient mystics. Here, too, the vocals once again elude clarity, climaxing with searing synth stabs and a monstrous garbled chant. It’s a moment of brilliance when he drops a glitched-out snippet of big-band horns in the middle of all this and manages to make it feel organic; perhaps that’s also due to the semi-nebulous production quality of so much of the album—it lends an air of fevered daydream to the listening and occasionally makes you wonder what it is you’re really hearing. That deception is another quality that makes Engravings so rewarding; that knowledge that even as you’re being swept away by the immediacy of the waves of bass and pulsating sound, there are more subtle motions going on beneath the surface.
As amorphous as the vocals might be throughout the album, even when used sparingly they play a major role in the compositions—not only for organic purposes, but also as another instrument entirely. By removing clarity from the vocals, Barnes turns them into ethereal echoes of their owners, ghosts in the machine. “Gathering” is built almost entirely around snippets of human voice, rising in a crescendo of twinkling lights, while the broken mechanical chug of “Onward” soon becomes a delicate drift into a liquid flow of chopped-and-reformed gasps. The skeletal beat and harpsichord flairs of “The Weight of Gold” are empowered by immense soulful chants. By the time the album’s final track, the ecstatically straining “Friend, You Will Never Learn”, hums into existence; one thing has become clear about Forest Swords. Though his sonic textures may place him in the same bleak box as labelmate The Haxan Cloak, his work contains a vital human element: hope. On his first album, Barnes has brought an arresting element of positive emotion to experimental electronic music that’s rarely seen. Though ethereal and intense, Engravings is nonetheless imbued with a buoyant spirit, and contains some of the most beautiful compositions to ever defy genre.˜
Engravings is out now via Tri Angle Records.
Steph Kretowicz asks Bobby Krlic to delve deep on his critically lauded second album “Excavation”, uncovering the dark impulses that drive the record—and the human condition.
Dig deep enough and strange things will surface. For Yorkshire-born, London-based artist Bobby Krlic that means confronting his fears, however unpleasant. He’s made a career out of identifying, isolating and dissecting dread as The Haxan Cloak, taunting his audience with his black and wordless soundscapes intended to rattle rather than relieve. It’s fitting then, that the focus on death for his second album, Excavation, inspires visions of a grisly exhumation while the image of a hangman’s noose, dangling dangerously close, deforms its cover.
Both frightening and seductive, Krlic romanticises terror in the incessant clicks and queasy distortions of “Excavation (Part 1)”, the haunting pitch and rumbling palpitations of the Swedish folklore-influenced “Mara”. Anyone who’s experienced a night terror will be familiar with the feeling, an old hag trying to strangle you in your sleep, while the disorienting arousal of spiralling panic permeates. This is aurally overwhelming and excessively introspective sound design from a classical guitarist, with a punk and metal background and a shy disposition. But that shouldn’t be mistaken for malaise, because Krlic is a warm though softly spoken creature in person. At times he’s hard to hear over the bass of a café sound system, his words hidden in a mire of low frequencies, much like a sound exploring the mute terrors that lie beneath.
You’ve talked before about “finding comfort in discomfort”, it reminds me of when you get a cut and you deliberately aggravate it. It hurts but it’s strangely satisfying.
That’s the thing, you know this thing is going to make you feel bad but it’s almost romantically enticing. I used to do this thing as a kid, if I saw there was a terrifying film on late at night, I’d video it and I’d wait until my parents went out. Then I’d sit in my room, turn all the lights off in the house, put headphones on and watch it and be absolutely terrified. I’d be so scared but I used to get some kind of perverse pleasure from doing that. You find out weird things about yourself if you place yourself in that situation. I think it’s important.
On a sociological level, it’s like that refusal to acknowledge those feelings and compulsions as real. By evading the negative aspects of our humanity, you’re setting yourself up for disaster because when someone does something really awful, it’s often treated like it’s an anomaly but it’s actually, probably, an inherent part of everyone’s nature.
Yeah, of course, that’s exactly what I mean. That’s what I said about the theme of the record—I could have made it about something else, it didn’t have to be about death, but if you only embrace things that you want to embrace and that are easy to embrace, then there’s no challenge is there? If you’re going to do something like what I’m doing, putting yourself out of your comfort zone and to challenging yourself with ideas that make you feel incredibly uncomfortable, it’s going to take a project somewhere that you’re not aware of. I definitely arrived at certain points where I felt really uncomfortable and there were definitely feelings that I didn’t want to deal with.
It’s like medicating sadness or something. It’s a natural feeling, people are meant to feel bad and if you don’t, it’s not healthy.
Exactly. I’m always the kind of person who—and it drives my girlfriend bonkers—if there’s an elephant in the room, needs to get rid of it; I need to talk about it. Granted, there probably are times when you shouldn’t talk about everything but I’m the kind of person that’s like, “Look, I want to get this out in the open”. I’d rather just engage with something, rather than leave it for another day, because often that day doesn’t come.
When I thought of ‘excavation’ I thought about exhuming a body. But that’s not necessarily where you’re going with that is it?
No, the way that I think about it is, the excavation is from one plane to another plane. If there is a soul, it’s exhuming that.
The track listing is almost the reverse of a burial, because “Fall” comes at the end.
The drop is signalling the start of another journey.
With the new material, I got the impression that because you’re moving in to ‘phase two’ of human existence, the way the music comes across is far more ethereal. It’s not so grounded in organic instrumentation as your last one.
That’s totally true. I was thinking about that because with the first record—and obviously when you’re dealing with an organic process which is someone descending towards death—it kind of makes sense that the instrumentation you choose would be natural acoustics, resonating objects. And then, this place, wherever the place that this current record is, is very, well… It’s kind of indefinable or as definable as you want it to be as a composer. It made sense for me to take it away from the first record and reverse that process.
You’ve qualified before that you’re not a depressive person, is that really true?
I don’t know, probably as much as the average person. You know what? I think it’s different having this kind of job and being permitted this amount of freedom because if you have a nine-to-five job then it’s very regimented and ordered and you have someone to answer to; it’s very rigid and you have goals to meet on a daily basis. It does give a kind of structure to the way that your mind works because, obviously, in that timeframe you’re in work mode. But with what I do my mind is probably allowed to wander more than the average person. I think it’s easier to, again, engage with things you would probably save for another time or maybe not even bother with.
… Or push them out of your mind.
Exactly and it’s in those times when you’re looking for inspiration that those things present themselves. So I think, yeah, I can be a depressive person but it depends. Generally, day to day, I’m not, but I think because I’m permitted time to think about those things way more than the average person, it’s easier to go there.
You could look at your music and those ideas as restoring a balance to modern modes of thinking. Where rather than just presenting a happy escape, you’re showing that these other feelings are real too.
Yeah but there’s another thing that my granddad used to say to my dad, which he used to repeat to me when I was a kid: “one man’s poison is another man’s medicine.” I think that’s really, really true, especially with my music. I’m sure there are people that listen to it and think “Jesus Christ this is horrible, why would anyone want to make this? Why would anyone want to listen to this?” And I’m sure there are other people that listen to it and it makes them feel elated. ~
Excavation by The Haxan Cloak is out now via Tri Angle.
Light a candle. Draw the required sigils. Now, raise your arms above your head and slowly, gently, exhale your soul. You won’t need it here. This is Audioccult, and it’s time to get low.
My coworkers tend to think of me as not a particularly pop-oriented guy. This is true, up to a point; my brain has always veered toward left-field sounds. Still, there’s a sort of pop-not-pop that trickles down into the underground and, subsequently, into my ears. Ghosted versions of Top 40 skewed in a way that makes them somehow more. Take London duo AlunaGeorge, for example. A liquid blend of repitched R&B vocals and 2step vibes is typical UK fodder these days, but when done well it still has the power to make my tendons twitch. Small wonder that Tri Angle have assimilated them into their roster. Trill beast Craxxxmurf does it even dirtier. Dude’s latest mixtape for DIS Magazine is a corruption of hip-hop and dance music, dragged and industrialized sonic evil that would turn an Ibiza crowd into a pulpy mess…someone’s been sneaking a peek at my seasonal wishlist. R.I.P., party people.
AlunaGeorge – Just A Touch
Craxxxmurf – R.I.P.
Mashups are another form of production (if you’d like to call it that) which, when done well, touch the reconceptualist destroya in me in a way that originals often can’t. Both Grimes and Busta Rhymes are pretty beloved on different levels for me, but Lake Radio‘s Busta Grimes refix is seriously worth your time.
I get you, naw, I feel you. I spent a few days myself being all, ‘No. No way. Do not post this on my facebook. Do not put it on my blog’s wall or I’m going to whip your posting lips off’ but actually it’s pretty enjoyable in a really goofy sort of way. You don’t even have to be intoxicated to get down on this one, it’s pure summer fun and Busta’s vocals blend seamlessly with Claire’s synthy bliss. Myrryrs‘ Fantom Doze’, on the other hand, feels like one of those tracks designed for sizzurp drinkers. Take a listen and tell me honestly that you don’t want a sip. The Nashville producer has freaked this bitch out slowwwww, a heavy juke-hop combination of stretched-out 808s, perfectly timed breaks, and down-low vocals that’ll make any ghetto goth throw his crosses up and say damn. His I’m A State Of Mind EP is begging to drip into your music folders. Lil Jabba‘s new junt ‘Spektor’ lurks in the same grave, but as a shuffling mechanical haunting. Is the sound of death beautiful? I suppose it can be.
Busta Grimes – Dangerous Vs. Oblivion
Lil Jabba – Spektor
What the hell is up, Kloaks. Where’s the ‘Dreams Are Gone‘ followup? Do you know how much I’ve played that track, and do you understand how hard people freak out and beg for more every time I do? Now do you understand that was in June 2011, and you haven’t released a single thing since then (unless you count ‘Last Dance’, which isn’t even on your soundcloud anymore) and now the goth authorities are lobbying to change your name to Jokes. Okay, so this new NVR MND mixtape is pretty aight, I guess, but this is getting a bit OD. We want to love you, and we want to experience that black magick we felt when that chorus of ‘Now that all of our dreams are dead/ a coffin or a bed‘ kicked in. Hands up, heads back, fog machine button taped down. Work it out, guys.
Hundebiss, on the other hand, have some serious output happening; particularly when it comes to videos. Earlier this year label boss Dracula Lewis‘ ‘Spacies II‘ got a 3D render that’s as hypnotic as his track, but the latest visual for the mighty Jaws is geared more toward disorientation. A fitting treatment, as Jaws’ sounds are aimed toward a certain mutant segment who like their electronics raw and nihilistic. Me, in other words, and hopefully you too.
Kloaks – Distortion, Love Songs and Brain Damage
Jaws – Sufferer’s Song
I was both surprised and pleased when Baku Shad-do asked to have my X-Files-soaked refix of Bestial Mouths‘ postpunk rager ‘Gulls’ for their latest compilation, alongside other audio pleasures like Men In Burka and ?AIMON. The…imprint? musician? persona?…actually, I’m not quite sure what to label Baku Shad-do, other than ‘dedicated’, perhaps. Regardless, there’s real love here, an honest need to showcase sounds that they feel are worthwhile. Since that’s essentially my job as well, I can connect to †PURRSSESSIØN† heavily. While not all 35 tracks are necessarily my cup of tea, they’re all based around something that is: underground community, DIY aesthetics and a deep love of music. We see that dedication, babe.
On the subject of highly aggressive dubstep, I’m pretty much the only one in the office who actually enjoys it. Whatever, man. Parents just don’t understand. DJ Skull Vomit‘s ‘Antigoon’ was already a heavy thrashpleasure for me, but Gore Tech‘s rework is just. Too. Good. The amount of vicious joy this remix gives me is hard to describe; possibly it can only be articulated in a series of capitalized ‘A’s and snarling goats-head pentagram emoticons, the HTML for which is currently nonexistent or incompatible on any browser in this mortal plane. But if you seriously can’t get down with a track title like ‘DJ Skull Vomit – Antigoon (Gore Tech’s Gut Sucking Sluts Mix)’, you’re literally 2 Old 2 Live. True fact on Snopes.
If you’re one of the cool readers who does enjoy stuff like this (virtual fist bump, by the way), may I also recommend a mix of my own? ‘Witchburner’ is a live set by my DJ alias BlackBlackGold, recorded at my collaborative PURGE party earlier this month. It’s filthy and hard as heck, but there’s more than just your basic dubstep droppage going on here. Since my background is based on darker sounds, this one is packed with intense refixes/remixes of Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, NIN, and SALEM, amongst others. Perfect for dispelling good vibes.
DJ Skull Vomit – Antigoon (Gore Tech’s Gut Sucking Sluts Mix)
PURGE IV: Witchburner (Live set recorded 4/14/12)
Finally, Beyoncé With Elongated Skull. It’s how I spell culture.
Since the last edition of the our weekly music video round-up, we shared another seven videos with you: Scuba, Bryan Ferry, When Saints Go Machine, Oh Land, Terranova, Little Dragon and finally yesterday the latest visual installment from Chromatics. But, believe it or not, there are another eleven cool new music videos to discover in today’s 40th videodrome episode. Here you go:
#1 Ital – The Crying Game (dir.?)
Is this a music video? Who cares. This is music from New York house riser Ital. He has a new album, Hive Mind, out June, 3rd on Planet Mu. Highly recommended.
#2 Grimes – Circumambient (directed by David Dean Burkhart)
Grimes, or Claire Boucher, presumably, to her friends, is right proper well talented and that. Don’t believe us? Check our interview and listen to her new album Visions for yourself, in it’s entirety.
#3 Huoratron – Cryptocracy (directed by Lauri Warsta)
Forget dubstep. This here is serious hardcore noise of electronic disturbance in rhythm, and the master of the show is Huoratron (= Whore-a-tron, real name Aku Raski)
#4 Objekt – Cactus (dir.?)
Mystery producer of the moment TJ Hertz, aka Objekt, brings us a glorious video for ‘Cactus’, a chilled tune that I seem to constantly listen to.
#5 Sun Glitters – High (directed by Brendan Canty & Conal Thomson)
Stereogum premiered today Sun Glitters new video for ‘High’, single taken from the homonymous EP, released last month via music/is/for/losers.
#6 Evy Jane – Sayso (directed by Jason C Myers)
Evy Jane is the experimental R&B project of Vancouver-based musicians Evelyn Mason and Jeremiah Klein. It’s so warming, have a listen.
#7 Evian Christ – MYD (directed by George Tanasie)
Mysteriouso Evian Christ has revealed his true identity and signed on with Tri Angle Records. Though It’s morning now here in Berlin, this here is some great night time music. Evian Christ is exciting.
#8 DVA – Where I Belong (Video put together by Dean Blunt)
A big tune from DVA‘s full length Pretty Ugly, due March, 20th via Hyperdub. Until then you can tune into his monthly Hyperdub show on Rinse FM. Second Tuesday of every month I believe? Lock in.
#9 Porcelain Raft – Something In Between (self-directed)
Porcelain Raft‘s Mauro Remiddi has given another one of his hazy video treatments for ‘Something In Between’, which is the B-side of the newly released 7” vinyl of his ‘debut record Strange Weekend‘s single ‘Unless You Speak From Your Heart‘.
#10 Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier – An Age Of Wonder (dir.?)
Electronic, ambient, drone? Anyway, it’s a beautiful and dreamy track from Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier’s (a.k.a. Felicia Atkinson) upcoming LP, which will be released via Aguirre Records in March.
#11 Flourish Fill – Guru (dir.?)
Saint-Petersburg electronica outift Flourish Fill just unveiled their latest, colorful video for Guru. Are you Guru?