Donky Pitch started as little club night in Brighton, England back in 2009, but now in 2015 the label has become a force of a label. Delivering wonky club driven music, Donky Pitch is label with no equal, simply because the diverse range of artists and styles brought to the table. From a string of singles and even two amazing albums by Lockah and The Range, this label has a lot to draw from. This smorgasbord of musicians plays well on the labels newest release, Remixes.
As the name would suggest, Remixes is a compilation of edits and mutations by label mainstays as well as outside names. The mixture of woozy and gleaming synths with rumbling bass provides for a fun ride through this collection of remixes. Only one of the remixes appears to be previously unreleased, but coinciding with the five year retrospective released last October, it seems like a good companion piece.
Cuts like Obey City’s remix of The Range and Mount Bank’s VIP of Starfoxxx seem to present the more downtempo and chill side of the label. Synths flow while subtle bass and drums seem to fill out any open space. But that doesn’t mean the remixes can’t take it to the dance floor. Lockah presented an excellent remix of LiL Texas’ “My Love” that absolutely takes the vocal sample to new euphoric heights. Tokyo Hands remix of Tel Aviv’s VesperTown starts with a hard four to the floor kick, eventually giving way to skittering hi-hats and wonderful stabs that sound like a sugary coated rave, which would play well with labels like PC Music.
The biggest winner on the compilation might go to their very first release from back in the fall of 2010. Mweslee’s remix of Slugabed’s “Donky Stomp” falls near the end of this 8 track compilation, but the wait is worth it. The opening synth glitches don’t prepare the listener for a fluid bass line, hard drums, and clicks of chimes that are soon to appear. By the time the vocal sample comes in, the song mutates into something like a neon version of early James Blake.
Remixes by Donky Pitch is available now on Bandcamp at a name your own price point.
Born in Senegal, raised in Kuwait, and presently splitting time between London and New York City, Fatima Al Qadiri could be seen as world traveler. Her debut album Asiatisch, being released on Hyperdub, takes the listener to what is described as an “imagined China.” It’s clear from the start it’s a China as taken from the perspective of Western Culture, the sonic explorers she’s associated herself with, namely labels UNO, Fade to Mind, and Tri-Angle (under her Ayshay alias) as well as bass futurists Nguzunguzu and J-Cush of Lit City Trax, whom Al Qadiri has collaborated with as Future Brown.
Nothing introduces this imagine China better than the opening track “Shanzhai (for Shanzai Biennial).” The song, as the title suggests, was born from working with art collective Shanzai Biennial, but what the title doesn’t tell you is that it’s a muted, a soulful reworking of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Instead of being kitschy, it comes away hooking you in.
The idea of the “imagine China” plays out into the next few songs. Where the opening track soundtracks a nice landing into the airport of Asiatisch, the following three songs take you on a hover-taxi ride through the sprawling Utopian cities that inhabit the China of our mind. Ice cold synths in “Szechaun” give way to the sharp percussion and warped vocals of “Wudang.” The end of the first half, “Hainan Island” features skittering percussion, with just enough sadness in every hit.
The second half starts strong with the proto-grime tune “Shenzhen.” The synths have now gone from being ice cold, to completely frozen over. The sparse percussion and subtle vocals dance somewhere in the range of anxiety and paranoia. “Dragon Tattoo” might be the best song on the album, with all the parts previously explored on the albums coming to a head. A rich kick drum and bass, reverberatingbackground vocals, liquid synths, and a subtle gong hit that might be missed. The main vocals are an interpolation of “We Are Siamese” from Lady & the Tramp, and instead of posing it as the stereotypical joke, it’s posed as a menaching R&B jam.
Fatima Al Qadiri’s Asiatisch is released on May 5th Hyperdub Records
Recently Squarepusher released an EP called “Music For Robots” on Warp Records. The EP featured typical Squarepusher tropes: frantic breakbeats, virtuoso jazz bass and guitar, and those melancholy chords. What makes this Squarepusher EP so special is that while it was written by Squarepusher, the EP was performed by The Z-Machines, a trio of robots. “Music For Robots” wasn’t just for mechanical men, it was also by them.
By now Squarepusher has said he wanted to challenge the perspective of how we view music with this EP. The idea was that music played by robots could still be emotionally engaging is the idea spurred out of this, but let’s be honest, it still had a human touch. The writing was done by a human, specifically Squarepusher, but played by robots who are essentially giant sequencers. As Squarepusher pointed out in an interview with NPR, it’s not much different than when he used drum machines on his 1997 album Hard Normal Daddy, these drum machines just hit real drums.
Furthering this, the younger generation is presently obsessed with electronic music, which often lacks the traditional instrumentation that gives the “human element” to music. So the real question is why does a distinction matter? Sure, the music you might hear your favorite DJ playing is coming from their laptop or CDJs, but that doesn’t make you any less likely to dance than say a full band running through funk classics.
Consider Tycho for just a second. His last two albums Dive and Awake are sun drenched and sand covered trips to the coastline that evoke more emotions than a bland generic band with your typical bass, guitar, drums setup. So why does Squarepusher feel it necessary to try to make a distinction between music by robots and music by humans? Would it be any different than Tycho programming a drum machine through MIDI because someone doesn’t “actually play” an instrument? While Squarepusher and The Z-Machine’s “Music For Robots” is a fun project, it really isn’t causing waves in a technological generation.
Ten years ago yesterday, one of the most important hip hop records of the 2000s came out. Madvillain, the combination of MF Doom and Madlib, released the fittingly named Madvillainy on Stones Throw Records. Making use of Madlib’s jazzy, crate digging production and Doom’s stream of consciousness rhymes. The album was abstract, broke down the typical format of hip hop songs, and is completely a unique release.
Ten years down the road, the record still sounds fresh, a quality many classics can claim. What makes this a truly special record is that while others have tried to emulate, nothing else comes close to Madvillainy. The blunted raps on Raid, All Caps, and obviously America’s Most Blunted flow well, but the abstractness of Bistro, Curls, and Rhinestone Cowboy also ground the listener into an altered reality.
22 songs in around 45 minutes is strange for any record (save maybe the most hardcore of punks) but does so in the world of hip hop. The record gets to the point, even if you’re not really quite sure what the point was. By today’s standards, even the more underground rap isn’t quite as adventurous and intellectual as Madvillainy.
The record spawned several singles, two remix EPs, one by Koushik, the other by Four Tet, and a re-imagined version by Madlib himself. While the group has only spawned one new song since, promises of a follow up are clouded by the ever mysterious Doom, who is apparently holding the project up. Since then Madlib has released many, many, many albums, while producing for tons of other rappers as well. Doom has released a few albums by himself and with others, but really nothing touches the legacy of Madvillainy.
Grime, mostly of the instrumental variety, had a hell of a year in 2013. With releases from the likes of Slackk, Logos, Visionist, Murlo, Rabit, Filter Dread, Mssingno, Dark0, and many more, the distinctly UK sound returned to critical acclaim in the wake of the dubstep explosion. Besides just being active and exciting, grime producers fired shots at one another with a very public and prolific battle of war dubs.
Aside from the clash of producers, one label seemed to stand above the rest in grime: Her Records. The label displayed some of the best forward thinking grime and bass music and is based out of South London.
Off the accolades of label co-head of Her Records Miss Modular’s Reflector Pack / Cruzer Edge EP comes Her Records first release of the year with the other co-head Sudanim’s The Link EP. With everything expected, this five track EP is full of the metallic bass, off kilter eski-beats and punishing synths. The opening track, and title track, “The Link” opens like a hip hop beat out of hell, with punishing kicks, erratic percussion, reverb heavy vocal samples and all nasty synth stabs.The second track “Midrift” is just as great, built off airy and playful synths. A Neana mix at the end of the EP turns “Midrift” into a nice 4/4 banger with paranoid synths and schizophrenic vocal samples. “Lightmare”, the third track, opens softly until descending into an arpeggio of rain drop synths and detuned toms. Big and punishing, this seems to be the highlight of the EP, being suitable for the Night Slugs and Fade To Mind camp, with a noticeable nod to Jam City and Girl Unit. “The Thirst” suitably rounds out the original mixes, and sounds almost like what would happen if you ran a trap song through a grime filter then let Kode9 turn it into something suitable for his ever experimental label, Hyperdub.
Be sure to check out Sudamin’s new EP, The Link EP above, and get your hands on the name your price HERVOL002, a compilation from the label, below.
My first encounter with Perc was the lead track on his A New Brutality EP and that piercing high note entered my soul in a way very few ever have. By the time the boisterous kicks entered the fray, it was over. A New Brutality couldn’t have had a better title, but Perc’s latest album The Power and The Glory doesn’t quite live up to it’s title.
Perc, aka Alistair Wells of London, last released a full length in 2011 with Wicker & Steel but hasn’t necessarily remained quite, releasing at least 11 singles & EPs in the time between the two albums. The Power and The Glory is frankly about what you’d expect from the Brit: gritty textures, that locked groove rhythm, and punishment beyond punishment. The style has worked for Perc and is a very cool sound but how does that translate into an album?
Techno (and by extension, house) albums often feel dull. Very rarely can it sustain attention for longer than about twenty minutes. Perc falls into the stereotype by opening up his album with an ambient piece (featuring sampled dialog potentially explaining his philosophy nonetheless). It feels less of a gimmick and more of a sequencing choice when you realize the album’s middle and end are also being held up by ambient pieces. It breaks up what would otherwise be a very familiar record.
Songs like “Lurch”, “David & George”, and “Bleeding Colours” are exactly what’s to be expected from Perc. The heavy kick drums propel this record into an advanced and frantic sense of movement. “Dumpster” provides gleaming rave stabs that sound isolated on an otherwise angry album. The shuffle of “Galloper” has the shuffling percussive tendency of UK Garage, but the mean spirited attitude of the techno scene. My favorite moment was the last track before the closing ambience, “Take Your Body Off.” Those heavy kicks, stuttery clicks, and distorted vocal sample is all the ugliness and power expected from Perc. The power is definitely there, but maybe not the glory. Not to say The Power and The Glory isn’t any good, but it’s definitely not going to turn anyone onto techno that wasn’t already.
Helm, the alias of London sound artist Luke Younger, has been releasing music since 2007. It wasn’t until 2012’s Impossible Symmetry that Helm was known to much wider audience. That release came out on Pan, and started a wonderful relationship with him and the label. Helm’s recent release, The Hollow Organ, is his third release on Pan.
For the uninitiated, Pan releases music from experimental artists. So on first listen you might be looking at yourself if what you’re listening to is really music, but trust me, here’s a label that specializes in sound. The Hollow Organ is just another fantastic piece from Helm. It opens with a light drone that gives way to thumping percussion and the sounds of what could be a Tesla coil firing straight into you brain. Ominous doesn’t seem to do opening song “Carrier” the justice it deserves. As the storm subsides, it takes you to a leaky boiler room that is possibly being visited by alien invaders.
“Analogues”, the second track is a paranoid race through the dark alleyways of a city that seem entirely too foreign for somewhere you’ve been before. Just when you thought you had finally settled yourself out, a gang of dudes sweep you off of your feet and throw you into a van, carrying you into “Spiteful Jester.” It’s a mind scraping affair, and leaves you completely discombobulated. It doesn’t stop, as much as you keep forgetting it’s happening.
Closing track “The Hollow Organ” is far the greatest of the four tracks. Imagine after having your brain scrambled in the song before, you wake up and find yourself laying out on an examination chair in the middle of an empty room. You get the strange feeling that something isn’t right with you, and you vaguely remember something happening but you can’t quite place it. You head to the only exit, a large steel door that sits slightly open. Pushing the door open it’s obvious you’re in some underground location. Darkness surrounds you, save a couple of dim lights that flicker from the ceiling. The hallway in front of you extends for quite some distance. Doors are on your left and right, but most are locked, those that do open reveal rooms that have been caved in. Your footsteps echo in the most ominous of ways. You reach the end of the straight hallway with a daunting choice: Left or right? In the current haze you’re in, you choose left. As you go down the black hallyway, you eventually hear an organ being played above you. It’s very disorienting, but you push on regardless. The organ fades slightly, but you finally see light from around a corner. You head up the stairs from which this light is coming from and find yourself emerging in an alleyway. Next to you is an old warehouse you were apparently underneath. The location is familiar. You pass the warehouse all the time on your way to work, but never pay any mind to it. With the sound of the organ still faintly playing, you gather yourself and head home, not quite sure what just happened.