Posts Tagged ‘electronica’
Until 2010, 16 years after its founding, Rinse FM was a pirate radio station, broadcasting illegally from many east London rooftops. Although now outfitted with a proper license, operating in the open, Rinse holds true to its underground roots and continues to champion dubstep, UK funky, grime, and, in general, “youth-orientated music culture.”
That last part about youth culture is an integral component to Rinse’s philosophy. Rinse began when owner Geeneus and his DJ friends were kicked out of the stations where they had shows and were told they were too young when they went looking for new gigs. Frustrated with the politics of the scene, Geeneus and his friends decided to go out on their own; and so Rinse began.
During the early years, Geeneus didn’t have much of a plan beyond keeping ahead of what was new and hiring talented DJs but in 2009 he started a compilation series of mixes from Rinse’s all-star roster, a group categorized as “family” on the website. With the series now at two dozen albums, Rinse’s mix sessions are essential to any collection attempting to claim underground credibility.
Here are just a few suggestions to get you started.
Rinse 20 :: Uncle Dugs
According to Rinse FM’s website, Uncle Dugs is their only dedicated to old skool DJ. If his mix for the label is any indication, I’d be hard pressed to disagree. Starting with “We Are I.E.,” a breakbeat track from 1991, Uncle Dugs sets the stage for a throwback album. “I’ve called it my ‘Story of Jungle mix’,” says Dugs. “It’s a story of jungle music until it changed to drum and bass.”
As one would guess from that statement, there is a depth and breadth to the mix. Tracks range from classic drum and bass–featuring artists such as Alex Reese, Shy FX, and Andy C–to the dub of X-Project and Conquering Lion. Upbeat throughout, although not afraid of the dark and grimy, Dubs’s mix is an excellent collection of what drum and bass has to offer. It’s a gift to those who grew up on 90s jungle and mandatory for those who missed it.
Rinse: 11 :: Oneman
Oneman joined Rinse in 2007, coming up through garage and dubstep. His mix, ranging from dubstep, to vocal house, to grime, to the quirky tracks of Modeselektor and Crystal Fighters, shows off his versatility. In an interview with Spin he explains, “a set’s all about going up and down for me, like a rollercoaster. I never want to be in once place the whole time. I get really bored easily.”
Oneman, with his eclectic tastes and knack for blending seemingly unmatchable tracks, creates an album full of surprises; you never know what’s coming next.
Rinse: 22 :: Kode 9
Until recently, Rinse mixes were limited to their station DJs. Now, they’ve moved beyond their initial vision to include outsiders whose work they admire. This year Kode 9 made the list, for good reason. His mix is dark but energetic: a mix of grime, footwork, and heady downtempo with the longest track clocking in at four minutes, with most at or under two.
Beyond his DJing skills, Kode9 is an interesting character. He teaches music culture at the University of East London, and published a book with MIT Press in 2009 called Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear, an exploration of vibrational force, from military research to crowd control, to corporate sonic branding, and sonic encounters of sound art and music culture.
His mix is just as smart.
Rinse: 8 :: Alexander Nut
Alexander’s mix encompasses a range of highly produced tracks, from the super-dancey electro house of D-Boogie, to the soul of Canadian producer Marco Polo, to the tweaky Jamaican beats of Roots Manuva, to the grimy underground hip hop of Eric Lau and 2-Tall. These tracks distinguish Alexander’s mix from many others in the Rinse series. He’s considered the station’s only experimental hip hop DJ and is quoted as saying that he’s “never belonged to one particular group” and that he is “a child of the universe.” This early mix in the series is perfect for those who want a brighter album with that trusted Rinse quality. Lots of vocals on this one.
In the fall of 2011, British electronic duo Plaid released Scintilli, their first studio album since 2003. Since the early 90s, band members Andy Turner and Ed Handley have been at the forefront of experimental techno, a genre known as “Intelligent Dance Music”.
Along with Aphex Twin, Autechre, Plastikman, and Squarepusher, the group ushered in a heyday for abstract beats and knob tweaking. During the late 90s, while the rave scene was still in decent shape, my friends and I would go to various underground clubs. Unless it was a party with multiple rooms, dance tracks dominated the sound system.
I was never big into dancing but I did get pretty good: I ran in place wearing big pants, I could make an invisible ball with my hands, and my glow stick technique was better than most. But techno and house were always second best to jungle and IDM. Rightly or wrongly, I felt the latter were more sophisticated. Jungle was intricate; it had rolling basslines and complex breaks. IDM got in your head and messed with it. For me, it was music without reference, something completely new.
Out of the bands that made up this marginalized group of IDMers, Plaid was the most melodic. Aphex Twin was dark and grating, close to industrial. The tracks could easily get under your skin. Autechre, too, was tough. They weren’t so much rhythmic as they were a methodical outburst of noise. I admired Plastikman’s minimalism, and Squarepusher’s jazz background gave him esteem, but they weren’t as listenable to as Plaid. On their second album, Not For Threes, the duo included two vocal tracks; one with international sensation Bjork and the other with a largely-unknown singer, Nicolette. A move that endeared them to electronica fans.
Plaid’s latest, is, for the most part, soothing. The tracks are short, with the longest clocking in at four and a half minutes, and can be broken down into three types: ephemeral, grimy, and playful. The opener, ‘Missing,’ with its harpsichord melody and whimsical vocals is an example of the first; ‘Eye Robot,’ with its industrial beats and gritty overlay falls under the second; and ‘Thank,’ an upbeat, bouncy tune that makes you see sunshine easily falls under the last.
A reviewer for the much-respected electronic music site Resident Advisor, criticized the album for its lack of adventurism. As a longtime fan of the band, it’s hard to argue. There’s nothing surprising about Scintilli, it’s Plaid through and through. But for someone who was praying against a gimmick, who was hoping they wouldn’t jump on some bandwagon for a cheap sale, the familiar is comforting. It’s like running into an old friend from college and realizing that, while you’ve both matured, you’re the same people at the core. Plaid is like an old friend you can come back to years later and pick up right where you left off; and, for those coming to them for the first time, there’s a whole catalog just like Scintilli ready for the listening.
Plaid’s official website
it’s been a while since ive picked up new music. ive bought new cds lately but they havent felt new. they’ve all been by artists i know i like. as the years stack on top of each other it’s getting harder to find new albums by the same, safe people. but with age has come caution. i used to be adventurous. i was constantly on the hunt for new, obscure bands. all genres were fair game. as long as it sounded like quality to me, i was psyched. then, something happened. i became a clichè: i no longer liked anything new.
when i was first getting into electronic music—intelligent dance music (idm), drum n bass, trip hop—Warp Records and Minus were my go-to labels. their artists were, and still are, some of the best. Aphex Twin, Plaid, and Squarepusher on the first and Plastikman, owner of and main artist, on the second. they were doing things with noise i never knew possible. like wine, much of it was an acquired taste but once you fell in love you felt like you “got it.” it was as if this foreign noise contained something deep inside that required a sophisticated ear to understand.
an unexpected urge to hunt for new tunes and knowing i’d run out of Thievery Corporation, µ-ziq, and Underworld albums to buy, i ventured outside my comfort zone. Other Music, a rather unassuming CD and record shop, is a fixture of the east village. situated on the north side of the ever-quiet e. 4th street, between broadway and lafayette, under a faded and tattered baby blue flag, it can be missed easily. this small indie is known for having obscure stuff: indie rock, underground hip hop, experimental electronic. and it’s where many people go when their local brooklyn shop no longer does the trick. after sifting through, looking for familiar faces and logos, i glanced up at the girl alphabetizing the rock section and gave her my best “help me, please” face.
luckily the resident electronic music expert was working that day and she went to grab him from behind the counter. he leaned thoughtfully against the wood shelving, arms folded, listening intently as i gave him some background information. with just a few names from me and a few follow up questions from him, his fingers began to dance through the dozens of albums that had, just a few moments ago, seemed a blur. Kompakt, the Cologne-based microhouse and minimalist techno record label, although founded in 1998, had escaped my radar all those years ago but these days they’re hard to ignore; all three CD suggestions were in some way associated with them.
Pantha du Prince // This Bliss
although Pantha du Prince (Hendrik Weber) has a new album out this year, the guy at Other Music handed me This Bliss, a 2007 release. this album continues to blow me away. i love bleepy electronic music: lots of odd noises and syncopated rhythms but i also love warm, styled tech-house with a minimalist sensibility. Pantha blends the two into a smooth, solid partnership. the tasteful beats make your head bob while the experimentally-constructed harmonies tickle your ears. a Pitchfork review summed it up well when they said This Bliss, “filled with fragile melodic sequences, grim basslines, dolorous chimes, reticular house percussion, and unidentifiable found sounds[,] . . . seems to dwell at the precise point where nature and industry become indistinguishable.”
Cassy // Paranormal Bar 01
Cassy happened to be playing that night in new york but it was sold out by the time i got to a computer; i’m sure it had been sold out for days. the guy at the store couldnt talk her up enough. although she produces her own music, i was handed a mix CD she’d done: Pananormal Bar . Berghain/Paranormal Bar is a club in berlin known for its top techno djs–cassy’s a regular. in 2005 the owners started the record label Ostgut Ton, which falls under Kompakt, and this her is album with them. in  cassy “produced a hugely evocative document of just why so many of us want to go hear a DJ play one record after another for hours on end,” said a review on Resident Advisor and i’ll just have to agree.
Marcel Dettmann // Dettman
Marcel, east-german by birth, grew up influenced by electro pop. he began spinning records in 1994 and then producing and remixing in 2006. Dettmann, like Cassy, is a regular at berlin’s Paranormal Bar; his first full-length album, simply entitled Dettmann, is also released by Ostgut Ton. in the club he’s known for his lengthy sets of minimal, yet strong, genre-spanning techno mixes and brings that same sensibility to this album. at times the tracks are downtempo, nearly-ambient, while at other times they’re dancey and as solid as a neighborhood bully but the one thing they all have in common is their strong, earthy tone—as if marcel had taken ‘underground’ literally. this self-titled album is perfect for listening to around the home when you have a ton of stuff to get done.