7 must-hear mixes from April 2018: Dirty-talking acid and cryptic avant-club, plus Grouper’s dronesong genius
It’s almost impossible to keep on top of everything that SoundCloud, Mixcloud and online radio has to offer. In our monthly column, FACT guides you through the must-hear mixes of the last 30 days, whether you want a club session to warm you up for the weekend, ambient soothers or a set of vinyl-only obscurities.
One kind of mix that only rarely makes it to the final seven is the “taster” mix, in which an expert in some niche category allows us an introductory breeze-through their specialism, hoping to set us on a path of further discovery. One that stuck out this month was LA producer E Ruscha V’s introduction to Hamburg’s Sky Records, a hub of experimentation by electronic pioneers like Conny Plank, Brian Eno and Dieter Moebius in the ’70s. Similarly, renowned digger Mr. Bongo led a journey through the work of 81-year-old Ghanaian highlife legend Ebo Taylor, featuring tracks that spawned some well-known samples.
Other medals of commendation this month go to Nick Dwyer, whose mix of ambient tones and ASMR textures from ‘90s Japanese video games is a fine companion to this bizarre blend of video game save room music from earlier this year. Finnish experimental label Frozen Reeds, meanwhile, gets the endurance prize for its six-hour contribution of tectonic plates of noise emerging from empty plains of clicks and cuts. Unbelievable.
And finally – astonishingly, really – a rosette must go to Diplo, who, despite being one of the most decorated and in-demand producers in the entire global pop game, found the time (or got a lackey) to make a mix for i-D this month. It’s fucking ace.
With April’s final seven you’ll hear dank electro from North Wales’ Dez Williams, the pulse of the Motherbeat from Chicago’s Eris Drew, and 160bpm speed-freakery from London’s Sherelle. Plus: explosive club material from Chants and Nightwave, cryptic rhythms from Object Blue and a very rare transmission from the one and only Grouper.
Dez Williams for Loose Lips
An electro lifer and his dank materials
Fans of Helena Hauff’s vintage electro earbleed had lots to chew on this month with the mix she delivered for Crack Magazine’s 200th podcast. But now that the Hamburg DJ’s talents are widely hailed by chin-strokers and mash-up crew alike, it seems right to turn to a lesser known figure for this month’s dose of red-light ruffage for ruined minds. Enter Dez Williams, an electro lifer who maintains a base on the gale-battered fringes of North Wales where he crafts releases for labels like Bedouin Records and Earwiggle; his 2003 LP Elektronik Religion is a cult classic.
Dez’s hour-long set for Loose Lips has everything a true disciple could want from a mix: a dark, mood-building intro; an ascending run of prickly electro beats and Reese basslines; a tapsaff crescendo of face-melting acceleration, all thrown together with a thrilling spontaneity that shows through in his zippy cuts and fades. Relentlessly banging until he taps out with a slow-motion cool-down as dank as the sweat-pools on your vest.
Sherelle – Fresh Kicks 66
High-tempo hijinks with a Hyperdub-approved newcomer
Billed by DJ Mag as the “footwork aficionado” of London’s Reprezent Radio, Sherelle is, more accurately, simply a speed-freak: her mix for the mag’s Fresh Kicks series hovers at 160pm end to end as she plays with the halftime possibilities of a high-tempo workout. With the ear of a Londoner, she draws out connections between Chicago footwork and homegrown styles like jungle and happy hardcore. It’s no surprise she recently played at the monthly Hyperdub party – her ability to shift smoothly between genres and find her own route from nasty jungle breaks to gurning hardcore to loony refixes of SOPHIE tunes, recalls the tempo-led approach of Kode9. But with more glow sticks.
Object Blue for Bandcloud
Cryptic and creepy from the Tobago Tracks producer
Currently turning heads with a cryptic, avant-club EP on Tobago Tracks (the Joan of Arc-referencing Do you plan to end a siege?), London-based producer Object Blue turned in one the month’s most deliciously confusing mixes for Bandcloud, a weekly mailout and mix series specializing in collapsing techno and claggy drones. Much like her own music, Object Blue’s mix is hard to describe in genre terms. Instead, it makes its mark through texture and atmosphere: ghostly synths, scruffy percussion, a sense of unease drifting in through the cracks. Even a blast of jazz-sampling footwork from Rashad and Spinn feels unexpectedly creepy. It’s a mood best expressed on her own tracks, some of which pop up here, nestled between material by M.E.S.H., Dro Carey and “ghost tech” duo Weniwasu.
Chants on Solid Steel Radio
Kinetic, syncopated, round-the-world club trax
It seems that Wisconsin-based producer Chants – a former jazz drummer who’s just released his third EP of thrilling club experiments on Astral Plane Recordings – has only recently got into DJing. That’s according to his label boss, anyway. You wouldn’t know it from the expertly arranged selections on this brilliant hour for Solid Steel Radio which opens boldly as possible with Badawi’s off-kilter dub and ghostly Mexican tribal from Alfonso Luna.
From there, he focuses on “kinetic, syncopated, percussion-heavy, high-energy tracks” from the likes of Montreal bootyhouse dude Martyn Bootyspoon, UK funky pairing TSVI & Wallwork, Brazilian rhythm-cutter Superficie and a Parisian named Le Dom whose track ‘AVC Sound System’ basically invents darkside filter house (a good thing!). It’s track after track of “WTF! Need this now!” and if you’re not down for it, please dial 999 and request to be rushed into taste transplant surgery immediately.
Eris Drew – Mystery of the Motherbeat Mix for HER DAMIT
Dancefloor transcendentalism with the Smartbar resident
A recent Resident Advisor podcast was a gift to those of us unaware of Smartbar resident Eris Drew and her “Motherbeat” rave philosophy, but here’s a more under-the-radar round of dancefloor transcendentalism from the Chicago DJ. The Motherbeat is Drew’s concept of “a language of resonant pulsation” found in the “archaic impulse” of rave, and if you’ve ever had one of those moments on the dancefloor, suddenly overtaken by the ineffable, you’ll click to her meaning. In this mix it means sliding from DJ Python’s dreamy reggaeton into dubby broken beats from Pseudopolis, from ’90s breaks ‘n’ whistles to deep-breathing house from 2017. It also happens to be one of those rare mixes that you can just throw on at a barbecue or on a long road trip for immediate ambience – a quality to be treasured, actually.
Grouper for RA
Oregon’s dronesong genius delivers emotional oblivion
If your reaction to the phrase “Grouper RA podcast” isn’t along the lines of “fucking hell wot?!?” and rushing to your browser immediately to confirm or deny – well, then, this Grouper RA podcast may not be for you. Essentially, it does exactly what it says on the tin – but what a tin! The basic elements of Oregon’s reclusive dronesong genius are refracted through a prism to reveal long-held influences and newer fascinations, with an emphasis on astonishing vocal performances and a very Grouper-like sense of emotional danger: oblivion awaits, should you allow yourself to be swept away by Valet’s lovesick noise or the Estonian chamber choir’s dense harmonies. She also makes space for Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, the Bulgarian women’s choir whose 1986 album on 4AD is a cult classic. If you’ve never heard it, you have but one important task today.
Nightwave – Guest Mix 189 for Boxout FM
Sky-scraping drums and dirty acid from a Glasgow club star
Hopping between vibes and tempos like a flea on a trapeze, Slovenia-via-Glasgow DJ Nightwave is absolutely flying on this guest mix for Boxout FM, one of India’s emerging sources for alternative music. Grab your windbreakers and rare colorways for sky-scraping drums from Tropical Interface, dirty-talking acid from DJ Haus and vision-blurring, lost-in-a-field-with-no-phone vibes from Special Request. Nightwave is a familiar name for UK ravers who came up in those neon-hued post-dubstep years, but it’s easy to forget that DJs tend to keep getting better when you’re not looking. A catch-up with this hard-grafting club DJ proves that it’s always worth checking in.
Chal Ravens is a freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter.