10 essential under-the-radar club tracks: Armenian wedding music and ballroom Beyoncé
Every month in For Club Use Only, Gabe Meier of The Astral Plane rounds up the best new tracks from the boldest corners of the dancefloor, where Jersey club meets reggaeton, kuduro gets spliced by abstract noise, and nothing is ever predictable.
We’ve witnessed a string of “event albums” rolled out in recent months, from Lemonade to Anti. With rapid internet distribution, major releases are able to percolate into the club world quicker than ever before, whether in DJ sets or via remixes and edits. And while a good remix of Rihanna’s ‘Kiss It Better’ is always going to set the floor off, there’s a special, surreal feeling when an artist’s original work succeeds in both a physical and popular context.
Beyond this column, recent releases from M.E.S.H., ¬ b (fka Lee Bannon), WILDLIFE! and v1984 manage to blur the lines between club poptimism and abstract sound design, but strictly on their own terms. M.E.S.H.’s Damaged Merc, a surprise release on PAN, sees the Berlin-based producer reach back to the dancefloor, utilizing disarming vocal snippets and prickly percussion for his most playable set of tracks since 2014’s Scythians EP. Meanwhile, ¬ b’s 30 track epic Reflections 2012 – 2016 runs the gamut of the New York-based artist’s work, from eerie garage interpretations and manic hardcore to foggy soundscapes. To call it an album is disingenuous, but there are more moments of brilliance in these 30 tracks than most producers manage in an entire career.
Accompanied by a sound installation at SIGNAL Gallery in Brooklyn, WILDLIFE!’s Patterns is the Swiss artist’s most mature release to date and an example of a near-ascetic vision coming to fruition. WILDLIFE! has a knack for industrial rhythms and enough patience to let his foreboding grime and dancehall-inspired melodies breathe, and Patterns is as immersive a record as you’ll find this year.
Finally, Cleveland’s v1984 proves there’s more room for growth in the world of instrumental grime on Becoming N(one), his first original release and a record that marks the return of Glacial Industries (fka Glacial Sounds). Inspired by Japanese video game music as much as the icy sounds of East London, Becoming N(one) is the rare release that both fulfills and subverts the requirements of classical beauty, falling in line with the recent work of artists like Arca, Egyptrixx and Kuedo.
‘Lezginka Dance Scene’
A driving force behind the Bay Area’s Club Chai, Lara Sarkissian (aka Foozool) is a creative presence behind the decks (her B2B session with fellow Club Chai resident 8ULENTINA is everything) and her production skills are becoming increasingly in demand, appearing on last month’s DISMISS U compilation (out now on Tobago Tracks) and consistently coming correct via Soundcloud one-offs. With Club Chai set to collaborate with Fade to Mind on an event in LA, I’d expect to hear a lot more from the crew over the coming months, and if this is your introduction to Foozool then ‘Lezginka Dance Scene’ is not a bad place to start.
Incorporating samples and elements from Armenian wedding music, it’s a percussive assault threaded by strings that simmer into a single wavering note. It’s the type of track that shines a light on a specific musical form and history without forgoing of-our-time production methods. If you have a chance to catch Foozool and/or 8ULENTINA play out over the coming months, I highly recommend it.
‘Body Drop’ (Trina’s Theme)
You might remember Ase Manual’s ‘Fluent’ popping up in the April edition of For Club Use Only and now the Newark native is back with Gems, his longest project to date and one of the best projects to come out of Jersey all year. With Albyy’s Well Done Music The Mixtape and DJ Tiga’s The Sound, Vol. 1 in mind as well, the mixtape format seems to thriving in the world of Jersey club, allowing each respective producer to access and sample the rap/R&B canon while also flexing their talents at length. From start to finish, Gems might function best out of that group as a singular entity, showing off a flair for pretty synth work and an impressive line-up of collaborators that includes J Heat, Kieran Loftus and El Blanco Nino.
As one third of Los Angeles’ Club Aerobics crew, Bianca Oblivion is one of the most talented DJs the city has to offer and a near constant presence in clubs and warehouses, working out crowds to a range of East Coast club forms, Caribbean anthems and Afro-Portuguese rhythms. Over the past few months, mixes for Pretty Witches and This Is Kuduro have shown off Oblivion’s talents behind the decks, and recently she’s been experimenting with edits, melding ballroom, baile funk and reggaeton with remarkable ease.
‘Chant Con Sal’, a blend of King Doudou’s ‘Sal’ and Leggo’s ‘I Chant, You Vogue’ is the best work Oblivion has done to date, matching up Leggo’s whirlwind vocals with King Doudou’s sleek, hypnotic production, the two coming together far more naturally than they have the right to. There are a lot of watered down hybrid tracks floating around these days, but Oblivion has the skills and repertoire to back up her conversions, with ‘Chant Con Sal’ as example number one.
Club music tends to opt for shorter formats, whether it’s off-the-cuff digital downloads or 12” releases, but Italian producer Natlek diverges from that path this past month with the Graduation Burnout LP. With Baltimore and Chicago as obvious inspirations, Graduation Burnout is uneven and almost entirely comprised of dancefloor-focused efforts, but that allows it a sort of innocent charm, devoid of the trappings of the traditional album format. ‘Acceleration’ is a favorite from the album, which is out now on Lucky Beard, combining a familiar vocal refrain with squeaky breaks and an unrelenting speedway focus. Collaborations with She’s Drunk and Distal are also highlights.
‘Garden State Jerseyclub Anthem’
Jersey City’s Albyy has a way of interpolating a huge range of samples into his (often sub-two-minute) club tracks, arranging everything from Sir-Mix-A-Lot to Bobby Shmurda across spartan Jersey kick patterns that often wind up in the 140+ BPM range. The producer has created an array of Soundcloud accounts to host his tracks, which seem to pop up on a nearly daily basis and almost always reach peak energy and peak absurdity. ‘Garden State Jerseyclub Anthem’, a highlight from Albyy’s Well Done Music The Mixtape, is fast, lewd and manic, a total sensory overload with the perfect mixture of visceral, hip moving energy and a joyous, pop-overload structure.
‘Broke In’ (feat. Oxhi)
At once paranoid and ASMR inducing, Shanti’s ‘Broke In’ has been a specter in the back of my mind since I first heard it a week ago. Having garnered plaudits for their sparkling, vaguely dancehall and trap-inspired productions, ‘Broke In’ is a step in a more abstract direction for the Endless-affiliated artist, and with Oxhy providing scratched out guest vocals, the haunting beauty of recent tracks like “Bashful” and “Horizon Riddim” is rounded out with a narrative element.
Mavado, Laza Morgan, Kyla & Drake
‘One Dance’ (Smutlee Remix)
Just in time for summer, Smutlee comes through with the perfect ‘One Dance’ blend, mashing up the Drake hit with Laza Morgan and Mavado’s ‘One By One’ for maximum feel-good effect. Regardless of your thoughts on Views and/or Drake in general, you can’t ignore the dancefloor potential of ‘One Dance’. Smutlee has wisely left Kyla’s sampled hook largely intact, playing it off of the sickly sweet verses of ‘One By One’. Released on the second volume of Radar Radio’s download package, Smutlee’s blend is available here.
‘Sorry’ (Capital K’aos Shady Bitch Remix)
We can always rely on the MikeQs and Kevin Jz Prodigys of the world to churn out banging remixes of the most recent Beyoncé or Rihanna hits, but Brooklyn’s Capital K’aos has been running the remix game as of late, flipping Janet Jackson, The Internet, Bryson Tiller and more into some of the most exciting ballroom tools of the year. Turning attention to Lemonade, K’aos has taken on ‘Sorry’ and ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ – both primed to heat up any floor, but the former’s four-on-the-floor energy and bizarrely off-kilter ending earns it the spot. Pumpdabeat each and every time.
I wasn’t familiar with Zara Larsson before listening to ‘Best Of’ and am not especially motivated to delve into the Swedish singer’s catalogue after the fact, but Parisian producer Detente has done wonders with 2014’s ‘Carry You Home’, flipping the sanguine vocal into a strangled, barely human cry and harmonizing an array of synth work with the original’s lead melody. Meanwhile, Detente’s drums are tough as nails, scything through the misty harmonics and giving the track the potential for peak time play.
‘Bmore Up In This’ (feat. Tate Kobang)
Mighty Mark appeared in last month’s edition of For Club Use Only for his production work on Abdu Ali’s MONGO mixtape and he’s back again with a collaboration with another Baltimore rapper, this time pairing up with ‘Bank Rolls Remix’ artist Tate Kobang. The track has been released to celebrate Mark joining Space Is The Place Records in an A&R capacity, and considering the wealth and breadth of his network it’s hard to imagine a better person for the position. On ‘Bmore Up In This’, Kobang’s refrains of hometown pride are backed up with samples from Blaqstarr’s ‘Hands Up, Thumbs Down’ and the sort of hi-powered sub bass and expertly chopped breaks we’ve come to expect from Bmore’s finest.