For Club Use Only: The month’s best under-the-radar dance tracks
It’s been over a year since this column was inaugurated and in that time, a number of the artists we’ve covered have been signed, toured the world and generally gone on to make their mark.
The absolute fringe of the dance music world is increasingly occupied with and by the internet. It has become more difficult every month to understand a producer’s context and whether their tracks are even intended for club play – or even if the producer has ever visited the sort of club their tracks might be played at.
The latest movements in club music are often more referential to recent Soundcloud trends than genuine cultural phenomena, as young producers hear “ha” samples in the latest Her Records or Planet Mu release rather than tracks by originators like MikeQ, DJ Delish and Divoli S’vere. This confusion adds a level of subterfuge to the simmering cultural appropriation debate.
Whether you believe that this infinite feed-bred culture (if you can call it a culture) is just an aggressive recycling of existing trends or a potentially ingenious new mode of musical production, it’s clear that at least some of the music we cover is situated well away from traditional club spaces. That doesn’t discount its worth, but it is worth interrogating, and while some noise has been made recently about the IDM-ification of various contemporary club strains, it’s still too early to gauge how the scene will develop over the coming years.
M.E.S.H. x MC Bin Laden
‘Barulho Do Epithet’ (LS Vitamix)
There’s a good chance you know Lane Stewart’s work even if you’re not familiar with the name yet. The man behind videos for Bok Bok & Kelela, BC Kingdom, Rabit and more has become one of the most sought after video artists in the United States over the past few years, and as co-founder of Halcyon Veil (with Rabit) has begun to insert his musical tastes into the more abrasive end of the club music spectrum.
As a DJ, Stewart is a lesser-known entity, but considering his relationships with Halcyon Veil, Fade to Mind and Night Slugs, it’s no surprise that the LA-based creative director can hold his weight behind the decks. His March appearance on DIY station KCHUNG has been on repeat since airing and in April he dropped this bomb on us, smashing up MC Bin Laden’s 2014 hit ‘Barulho do Motor’ and M.E.S.H.’s ‘Epithet’ (which only seems to get better with time). The resulting concoction spills out of SoundCloud like some primordial baile funk ooze.
‘Cuando’ (Junior Makina Remix)
False Witness’s Hulkshare account has been one of the best places to find banging, breakneck dance tracks over the past few years. Between touring Europe and playing a key role in the KUNQ collective, the New Yorker has managed to continue releasing music with remarkable consistency. His latest (under the Junior Makina pseudonym) is a remix of Texas producer and vocalist DJ Demasiado’s ‘Cuando’, which features Black Panther chants, air raid sirens and a quite literally gun-cocking rhythm. Weapon sounds are everywhere these days, but False Witness’s call to arms feels sincere, transforming Demasiado’s hype original into a sonic barrage of revolutionary motifs.
‘Did That’ (Prod. Mighty Mark)
Abdu Ali’s MONGO mixtape is already one of the best releases of the year, in no small part due to excellent production from DJ Haram, Gobby, Mighty Mark and more. Released as a “black self-care mixtape”, MONGO has it all, at times hectic and forceful but also invoking a classical beauty in its brassy beats and motivating, self-reinforcing wordplay.
The mixtape is well worth a number of front-to-back listens, but I’ve come back to ‘Did That’ time after time due to its uplifting energy, fulfilling the self-care side of the release with a bombast reserved for the most talented MCs in the ballroom world. Mighty Mark and Ali make quite the team, and while some of MONGO’s other tracks are more imposing, ‘Did That’ is easily one of the feel-good tracks of the year.
‘Toques De Terror’
A lot of the kuduro/tarraxinha/kizomba coming out of Lisbon these days is extremely raw, but DJ Fatigado takes that loose, lo-fi digital attitude to its logical extreme, crafting dance-forward tracks that sound like they’re rolling down a hill in an aluminum can (in the best way possible). Little is known about Fatigado, but based on the handful of tracks on his SoundCloud, he trends towards the four-on-the-floor side, eschewing the less linear rhythms of the likes of DJ Nigga Fox and DJ Firmeza in favor of sparse, martial drum patterns that seem to itch and scratch across the surface of the track.
‘Toques De Terror’ is Fatigado’s best effort to date, combining a horror film synth line with a husky drum loop that seems to eat up all the space in a room when played very, very loud. In a sense, Fatigado’s sound is the kuduro analogue to the L.I.E.S. sound, and no matter your opinion in the New York label, the approach sounds damn good.
Rihanna x Kamixlo
‘Sex With Me x Mata Lo’ (Marcelline Live Edit)
With roots extending to Halcyon Veil, NON and Tobago Tracks, Philadelphia’s ATM crew seem to be everywhere these days, expressing themselves across a number of mediums and continuously pushing some of the most immediate, affecting and incisive work around. Up to this point, DJ Haram and the SCRAAATCH duo (E. Jane + chukwumaa) have garnered most of the online plaudits, but Marcelline, ATM’s fourth member, is a talent in her own right, working across the sound, spoken word and performance art spheres from a black female perspective.
Her SoundCloud is full of cross-disciplinary pieces that are worth a few close listens and her latest piece is a short but sweet live blend of Rihanna’s anthemic ‘Sex With Me’ and Kamixlo’s battering ram ‘Mata Lol’, the two tracks engaging in a seductive push-and-pull between the former’s drawling chorus and the latter’s propulsive kicks. We’re still in the ANTI edit honeymoon period, and while ‘Work’ might be reaching the end of its run, Marcelline has done wonders to refresh ‘Sex With Me’ here.
‘Lil Thot’ (Maverick Bootleg)
Cardi B and Sami Baha are two of the hottest artists around right now, so it feels only right that New York’s DJ Zone smashes up both on his “Maverick Bootleg” of ‘Lil Thot’. Baha’s Mavericks EP for Planet Mu has already been burning up clubs and airwaves and is likely to continue to reign over the next few months. DJ Zone’s addition of the Bronx rapper’s ‘Lil Thot’ adds s bit more menace to Baha & Kuedo’s ‘Cataphract’, and if you’re not ready to throw up the trap arms when this plays this summer then you’re reading the wrong column.
‘Hang Bang Slang’
Few artists achieve the same grandeur in their productions as Fresh Paul. ‘Hang Bang Slang’ hits all of the right notes once again, an outsized grime banger in the JT The Goon, Dullah Beatz or Trends mold. Released as part of Jockjomz’s april showers compilation (which also features Graves, y y y and more), ‘Hang Bang Slang’ is perfectly primed for peak time, full of emotional floating squares and well-timed ad libs. Another huge track from one of the most underrated producers in the game.
‘Nhanhado’ (Dj Jio P Remix)
There’s always room for emotional tarraxho tracks at this time of year, and DJ Jio P’s remix of Filomena Maricoa’s ‘Nnanhado’ is a special effort, especially if you’re ok with a little schmaltz. DJ Jio P’s simple swing and clean piano sound are the drivers and it’s hard not to be transported as the vocals drop out and the track’s wispy, Murlo-esque melody takes center-stage. Jio P has released a host of harder, more percussive tracks, but this take on ‘Nhanhado’ shows off the Lisbon-based artist’s more delicate side, and it suits him well.
‘Xanny Family’ (SM Edit)
Santa Muerte come through with the third edition of their bootleg releases this month, but it’s the Houston-based duo’s take on Future’s ‘Xanny Family’ that takes the crown this month, allowing the Atlanta rapper’s masochistic drug flow to glide over a beat that switches from menacing trap lurch to bust-out Jersey club halfway through the track. With three volumes of bootlegs out, SM are primed for a huge 2016, and if some forthcoming collaborations that have been floating around are anything to go by they’ll be a household name by year’s end.
With previous releases on Parisian labels Sound Pellegrino and Expect No Less, Deke Soto’s prickly, Bristol-by-way-of-Detroit techno has arrived in small doses over the past few years, but always seems to impress. April saw the “South American cybersecurity expert” join up with Liar’s Tessier-Ashpool label for SotoLeaks, a fitting combination considering both artist’s sci-fi fascinations and Neuromancer reference-laden work. ‘Last Derm’ opens SotoLeaks with a bang, a jacking, grime-influenced drum track that wouldn’t sound out of place in a set from the Livity Sound crew. Can’t wait to hear this one out.