For Club Use Only: The month’s best under-the-radar dance tracks
There’s no shame in admitting it’s hard work keeping up with today’s rapid release schedule.
With on-demand services like SoundCloud and Bandcamp fueling the scene, it’s easier than ever to disseminate niche music, but sometimes a call to slow down is needed. Just because something’s been exported from Ableton or FL Studio doesn’t mean that you’re actually putting your best foot forward by uploading it to YouTube or SoundCloud, and just because you’ve been asked doesn’t mean you need to accept that third or fourth mix or radio invitation of the month.
The releases that have stuck with us recently have exhibited a care and precision that’s all too rare right now. A few weeks ago, Dubbel Dutch released ‘Rare Earth Tones’, a meticulous long-form piece that’s among the LA artist’s first original solo compositions in years. This week Stockholm’s STAYCORE collective released Erelitha, a summer compilation featuring tracks from Toxe, MM, Dinamarca, Mechatok and others which sounds as if it was put together with an unusual attention to detail.
‘Rare Earth Tones’ and Erelitha rise up above the everyday barrage of releases because they were approached with consideration. That isn’t to deny that being inundated with new music is a thrilling premise, but the most considered projects will always tend to shine through the murk.
Jay R Neutron
The Bey Mix 2: Lemonade
Jay R Neutron’s full-length remix projects are almost as momentous as the albums they source material from, and the Baltimore-based artist’s second stab at reworking Queen Bey brings out the fiercer side of a record that has seemingly been picked apart from every possible angle.
Favorites from the tape include Neutron’s extended take on ‘Sorry’ and a quick, bizarre blend of ‘Freedom’ and KW Griff’s Baltimore classic ‘Bring in the Katz’. Really though, The Bey Mix 2: Lemonade should be taken as a whole, enunciating the most dramatic parts of Lemonade and proving again that Beyoncé provides the best source material for ballroom remixes.
With a mix out on Rabit’s Halcyon Veil imprint and a growing collection of noisy, sparkling tracks, Dviance has quickly become one of a collection of producers blending pop and experimental forms in his own distinct style.
Starting off as a relatively straightforward remix of CRIM3S’s ‘MILITIA’, ‘2sik2breathe’ quickly departs from the London duo’s template with hammered-out kicks below static electricity and ‘MILITIA”s soaring synths. The track’s energy expands until it explodes in a series of ravey whoops and strafing sub bass. Music made for strobe lights.
‘Did Dat’ (Kilbourne Planet Core Edit)
Recently, and bizarrely, the world of club music has been infiltrated by hardcore and heavy metal. It’s a process that makes some sense when you consider the increasingly noise and industrial-tinged releases coming out of NON, Tobago Tracks and Infinite Machine, but often it comes off as awkward and lazy.
No such barbs can be aimed at New Orleans-based KUNQ representative Kilbourne. She established her hardcore credentials on May’s Sourland, a ripping five track effort that is easily one of the toughest releases to appear in recent memory. With stadium-ready riffs in hand, Kilbourne has given Abdu Ali’s ‘Did Dat’ the thrash treatment, and if the louder-than-thou guitars don’t stir your adrenaline reserves, the overdriven kicks certainly will.
‘Get Busy’ (Mina Remix)
After appearing on our list of 10 club producers to watch in 2016, Mina recently broke out with an excellent debut single on the Portuguese Enchufada imprint, and the London-based artist has maintained momentum by releasing a near-constant stream of bootlegs and mixes. For many American fans in their 20s, Sean Paul was an early introduction to dancehall and, for better or for worse, tracks like ‘Get Busy’, ‘Temperature’ and ‘I’m Still In Love With You’ hold an outsized place in the country’s pop consciousness.
Mina has transformed ‘Get Busy”s seductive tone into something more sultry and melancholic – less “raging beach party” and more “walk through the rainforest with a loved one”. The source material is recognizable, but the real star here is Mina’s confident drum programming and lush atmosphere.
‘U BEAT ME’
Full of paranoid synths, barely distinguishable vocal refrains and the energy of trance filtered through a darker lens, ‘U BEAT ME’ is disjointed baile funk from New York by-way-of Monterrey’s DEBIT.
Also a member of synth/EBM duo HD XD, DEBIT’s uploads so far have been shot through with dissociative atmosphere and ‘U BEAT ME’ is no different, utilizing the staccato drum stabs of Rio’s favela bounce as a framework for the swirling textures with thoroughly ominous results.
Sharp Veins’ music has an almost mystic quality to it, and if his earlier mixes ‘The Earth Splashed’ and ‘drifting’ are anything to go by, he’s heading more towards hallucinogenic pop than anything in the club canon. Taking on Desiigner’s immediately infamous XXL freestyle, SV has created his own take on Animal Collective’s prismatic pop, full of droning vocals, choppy drums and toy keyboard melodies.
Having included Grouper, Björk and Cocteau Twins in the ‘drifting’ mix, it’s clear that SV has an affinity for the more baroque edges of the pop world, and whether he’s manipulating Desiigner, Oceanlab or something more eclectic, it’s clear that his sensibilities extend far deeper than your run-of-the-mill poptimism.
Lil Uzi Vert
‘Ps and Qs’ (DJ Yae Remix)
Through the deluge of spring event albums, Lil Uzi Vert vs The World has remained on repeat and there isn’t a club producer I’d rather see take on the rapper’s drawling bangers than Baltimore up-and-comer DJ Yae.
Taking on the Don Cannon-produced ‘Ps & Qs’, Yae flips it into a flurry of chants, whips, crashes and rapid kicks while the Maaly Raw-produced ‘Hi Roller’ is matched with ‘Back Dat Ass Up’ in cypher format. Both are under two minutes long and potential nightmares for the unsuspecting DJ, but you’re not going to find raw energy quite like Yae’s anywhere else.
Liminal Sounds doesn’t release much, but when it strikes you know it’ll be quality. New York’s Orlando Volcano is the latest to join up with LS, providing five tracks in the dancehall-grime-funky mold popularized by the likes of Murlo and Dubbel Dutch over the past few years.
As head of Escape From Nature, Volcano has championed a range of upfront club material, including an EP of metallic excursions from Michael, but his solo material is different, part of a modern continuum of Caribbean music refracted through New York and London. ‘The Mantis’ is the most ponderous of the bunch, built around a simple chord progression drenched in reverb and buoyant percussion that marshals hips into action at will.
‘persona’ is the second track in this month’s round-up to take fragments of the baile funk sound and transplant it into another framework. It comes from Ninja Sword, a French producer who has impressed over the past few years with unusual tracks like ‘trust’, ‘vantablack’ and ‘advanced’, all of which blur the lines between original composition, bootleg and blend.
Here we find the Lyon artist applying a less-is-more approach even as the track takes on an outsized character, with horns, a twinkling central melody and percussive chants from what sounds like an MC Bin Laden track. Like most of Ninja Sword’s compositions, ‘persona’ involves both undeniable forward motion and a bizarre stasis, a disorienting clash that makes it an exciting yet difficult track to play out and an undoubted curveball for even the most adventurous dancefloors.
Air Max ‘97
‘Swelter’ (Ziúr Remix)
Air Max ‘97 and Ziúr provided two of the most exciting (and confounding) releases of June, the HPE EP on Decisions and Taiga EP on Infinite Machine respectively. Whereas much of the music covered in this column isn’t exactly sound system music, both Melbourne’s AM97 and Berlin’s Ziúr engineered these releases to larger-than-life proportions, and if you’re not a little knocked back after hearing a track like ‘Nails’ or ‘Inside Outside’ in the club then I feel sorry for you.
To sweeten the pot for all who like industrial noise and twisted techno, the two artists exchanged remixes, a practice that should really be more common and often leads to an interesting dialogue between producers, labels and DJs.