Newcomers and scene veterans converge in this month’s edition of For Club Use Only, which traverses geography and genre to bring you the month’s best under-the-radar club material.
As usual, the first month of Summer was overflowing with the expected waterslide of pool-ready bangers, leaving it to those artists who bucked convention to really stand out. High gloss constructions from Jikuroux, Sega Bodega and Dirty K were a soundtrack to the sweltering cityscapes, while NÍDIA (fka Nidia Minaj), DEBIT and Batu allowed rhythmic complexity to outweigh melody, for a change.
Then there’s an Abyss X-curated compilation to raise funds for Support.FM, Kai Whiston’s Mukbang and Swan Meat & Yoshitaka Hikawa’s KNIFE SPLITS ICE. These releases offer misshapen visions of summer that can indeed sit cooly alongside an ice-cold beer and a hotdog, but aren’t informed by our preconceptions of what the season should represent.
With stars like Wizkid and Mr Eazi garnering widespread acclaim, it’s not hard to see why Afrobeats is making waves on a global scale. Paris-based producer DJ Helder has been releasing Afrobeats instrumentals for a while at this point, working in a number of styles from slow, lilting kizomba to breakneck kuduro.
‘NOo Baii’, from the excellent African Magic EP, exemplifies the dynamism of the sound, matching glossy, high pitched synths with sturdy, ever-morphing rhythms, the result unavoidably intoxicating.
Chicago’s Swan Meat takes cavernous sound design to absurd levels on ‘Mute’, laying bare a thick field of noise that ranges from high-pitched synth to what sounds like bats flying near a microphone. That’s all before any percussion, which batters the listener with cacophonous kicks that are only alleviated by an enticingly stuttered vocal.
June also the saw the release of KNIFE SPLITS ICE, a collaboration with Japanese producer Yoshitaka Hikawa out now on Apothecary Compositions.
Sydney’s Jikuroux, who released her second EP for Air Max ‘97’s Decisions label early in June, is one of the few producers whose work truly exhibits the “glassy” qualities often associated with contemporary club music.
‘Cracked’ is the best example on the Cradle Bay EP; it’s a track that effortlessly floats above the fray and retains an immersive clarity, even as it uneasily lurches forward. Jikuroux imbues her music with an innate surrealism, a quality many strive for but few attain.
‘Born A P.I.M.P.’
Proving that even Jay-Z is fit for a Flex Dance Music update, Uninamise interpolates ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ into ‘Born A P.I.M.P.’, adding stuttering Beyonce vocals and creating a ghostly duet in the process. The forceful dancehall strut of FDM will likely be familiar to readers of this column and artists like Uninamise, Epic B, HITMAKERCHINX and DJ Aaron are quickly making the New York-centered genre a staple in DJ sets on both sides of the Atlantic.
Uninamise is leading the charge in bringing new elements into the sound, constantly reworking his sonic palette and drawing on material well outside of the bashment lineage. His most recent full-length project was a volume of The Weeknd remixes and ‘Born A P.I.M.P.’ is another example of his willingness to offer a fresh look at already ubiquitous vocals.
Lil Uzi Vert
‘XO TOUR Llif3’ (Tim Dolla Remix)
Lil Uzi Vert’s ubiquitous Spring smash has already had its fair share of remixes, but it’s Jersey club innovator Tim Dolla whose brief flip wrings the most pathos out of the original.
Turning a vocal snippet into the track’s main nihilist refrain, the remix only really kicks in for a minute, but those 60 seconds are an unmissable energy rush of hectic breaks and vocals.
Shyboi X 21 Savage X Shirtless
Rui Ho debuts the Ruan alias with The Real Ruan bootleg edits Vol.1 之 天道酬勤, an eight track set of bootlegs that falls on the maximalist end of the club spectrum.
Here, the Berlin resident mashes up originals from Shyboi and Shirtless with 21 Savage’s popular ‘No Heart’ and fittingly the result almost sounds like something out of Rui Ho’s own solo catalogue. The high tension synths and propulsive drums recall tracks like ‘Saga’ and ‘Jaded’ with 21 Savage’s nihilist mumble adding essential texture.
‘Lurkin’’ (Devil Mix)
Labels like Different Circles and Gobstopper have already proven how well weightless grime can work in a club setting. Bushido is the latest artist to offer up a devil mix worth your time, putting a fresh spin on ‘Lurkin’’.
2016’s Grandmaster Cash EP, released via Astral Black, showed that the Glasgow-based producer is adept at crafting sensory overload hybrids, but this mix shows off a more restrained sound, utilizing a John Carpenter-esque piano for the intro before launching into choral synth notes and dramatic pads.
Jay R Neutron
Baltimore’s Jay R Neutron has long been one of the most consistent producers operating in the space between Baltimore club and ballroom, churning out full length remix albums with startling frequency. If you haven’t already bookmarked his Bandcamp then you’re missing out; you could easily spend a full day going through the archives, which date back to 2010.
‘Midnight Madness’ is the latest, a stark Bmore/ballroom hybrid effort based around a series of chintzy guitar loops that emphasizes the expertly arranged drums, breaks, breathing sounds and “Ha” samples to perfect effect.
‘PinkMoon’ (ft. LAO, Paul Marmota)
Eschewing the obvious route, DEBIT has built up a reputation for focusing in on the intricacies of the production process. That hasn’t stopped the New York-based producer from consistently crafting well-honed dancefloor material, though. Her latest track is a collaboration with LAO and Paul Marmota and hits on an immediate physical level.
DEBIT invokes a glimmering intentionality on ‘PinkMoon’, bathing the listening in sinister synth textures as drums piston away in the foreground.
‘Get Ya Shine On’ (ft. CupcakKe, Kreayshawn & TT The Artist)
Here, Schwarz puts on his new So Drove alias and lays down a sparse, bouncy beat for capable MCs CupcakKe, Kreayshawn and TT The Artist, doing his best DJ Mustard impression and giving each MC plenty of room to ratchet up the energy ever higher.