Dexterous Material: Edition 12
I'm tapping this into my phone as I hurtle through Germany, one of Kraftwerk's beloved autobahns easing my passage across Europe at a steady 170km/h. By the end of the week I'll have travelled through a further five countries, emailed/Skyped/Facetimed people from seven more and received at least one miss-sold PPI call whilst traversing a mountainside, 2.5km above sea level.
That technology, the internet, smartphones have made our world smaller and infinitely more interconnected is hardly groundbreaking news and electronic music producers have long been collaborating, inspiring and stealing from their peers all around the world, so I don't think for a minute that this brief example of the much vaunted 'global village' will have TED demanding I deliver their next keynote address. Still trite as it may well seem, when you stop and think it is something worth celebrating.
The history of humanity has been, and will be for sometime, a fairly bloody affair and whilst not a day goes past without some new atrocity coming to light, in relative terms we actually live in one of the most peaceful times mankind has ever known. Thankfully despite what the headlines say, the closest most of us will come to sectarian violence is the comments section of a dubstep video on YouTube. Small beer I'm sure to those currently waking up to the din of mortar fire, random drone strikes or suicide bombs but still an achievement of sorts.
Now 'Hold up', I hear you say, 'I thought this column was about electronic music, I came here to learn about Disclosure's latest hot joint not get bored into submission by someone who clearly failed his sociology A-level', and right you are. So whilst I wouldn't go as far as saying that kids from New York dancing to the rhythms of Brazil's favelas, or clubbers in London shuffling to South African house is a panacea for all our species violent pathologies, the more we get to know each other the less incentive, in most cases, we have for killing each other and music still remains one of the best ways of being introduced to, and maybe falling in love, with different cultures.
Growing up in a fairly average suburb of London, music from far, far away saved me from a lifetime of winkle pickers, leather trousers, dodgy haircuts (well almost) and a habit of writing bad poetry about bats, corseted women and thinly veiled, guilt laden allusions to masturbation. To this day I still remember vividly the night I walked into a darkened room at a party in rave central Ashford to hear, for the first time, Aphex Twin's then just released Selected Ambient Works Volume 1. Two decades on I can still remember the shock, a shock that has lead me on a still happily unfinished journey into sound.
The irony that the music that started off my obsession with discovering new music from far off places was made in Cornwall, the county I had spent nearly ever summer of my childhood in sheltering in a caravan from the rain was lost on me then, but its impact was not. The next day I emptied my bank account (it didn't take long) headed to the local record shop, demanded similar sounds and more by accident than design came away with a bag full or records made in Detroit, Tokyo, Germany and beyond.
Since then I've enjoyed periods of intense addiction to everything from Nigerian Afrobeat to Jamiacan Dub, Brazilian Funk Carioca to Angolan Kuduro, South African Kwaito, High-Life, the sounds of Gamelan orchestras, Chicago House, Detroit Techno and on and on and on and whilst I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on any of these cultures (or indeed anything at all really) music has inspired me to find out more about cultures a world away from my own and allowed me to become friends with people half the world away.
These days of course it's much easier to discover, obsess over and evangelize about the latest mutated strand of dance music, days spent poring through the detritus of dead men's record collections in second hand shops looking for something out of the ordinary have been replaced by a few lazy clicks of a mouse, but for the inquisitive it's never been easier to learn about, and most importantly interact with people on the other side of the planet.
It's a situation that, admittedly, has created as many problems as it solves, but today I have decided is all about positivity, an attitude buoyed by the latest nascent scene to blip onto my radar, Pakistani Electronica and the people who are driving it. Whilst, as mentioned, we are currently enjoying a relatively peaceful time on this planet, it's fair to say that not everyone is enjoying the bounty of our ages and to more than most countries the past decade has been unkind to Pakistan and its 180 million inhabitants. When girls can be shot for going to school, or forced into hiding for playing guitar you might think that an electronica scene would be the last thing to take hold, but just as The Falls Road isn't Dalston, not all of Pakistan resembles Quetta* and most people are just trying to get by in whichever way they can.
Centred around the two cities of Karachi and Islamabad, Pakistani producers have been going about building a community, throwing parties, hosting workshops and now releasing their own take on electronica back into the world. One of the driving forces behind all this activity is the Forever South crew, whose members have been filtering the sound of techno, electronica, and hip-hop through the intense bustle, sounds and life of those two teeming metropolises to produce something that, whilst still at its earliest stages, looks well worth keeping an eye on.
Forever South's Collections Volume 1 is a great starting point, 20 tracks recorded from September 2012 right through to February 2013, it showcases the breadth of talent in Pakistan today with producers such as Chi.Boss, EMPROR LEPHANT and Dreadnaught are all making music that is outward looking, yet with its own distinct local flavour. As a compilation, it's not without the odd misstep, but available from Bandcamp for as much as you care to pay it should already be downloading onto your machine of choice.
Responsible for some of the standout tracks on the compilation and indeed one of the leading figures on the scene is Karachi based producer Haamid Rahim aka Dynoman. His debut album Naubahar is also available from Forver South's Bandcamp page and again at whatever price you choose to pay. Full of densely layered textures and skittering beats, it's an accomplished debut album that whilst would sit comfortably alongside anything from, say, LA's electronica/hip-hop scene still feels deeply rooted in its country of origin.
When we are bombarded with images and news that seek to create fear of other races and cultures, music remains the best way of both bringing us together and celebrating our differences. When the word Pakistan has become synonymous with bombs, it's good to remember that beyond the headlines are people just trying to make the best of an often terrible situation, people who are probably waiting as impatiently for the next Aphex Twin or Boards of Canada album as we are, and who might just go and actually produce the next Richard D. James whilst we're waiting.
Music isn't going to usher in the age of Aquarius, and getting the leaders of the world loved up on ecstacy wont solve the world's problems either, lets face they'd just grumpily nuke each other two days later. Still music provides us with a way of expressing ourselves when perhaps other avenues are closed to us. Whether we've grown up in a leafy suburb of London or under threat of random death by deluded maniacs, music, and especially electronic music, provides a way for us to at least temporarily bridge those gaps, hopefully just long enough to give us the chance to make deeper connections.
Ok… I'm aware that some of you might be a little gipped at having read several thousand words of me waffling on without so much a mention of a buzz band, a filthy baseline, disgusting 'drop' or mention of the latest 'hilarious' Harlem Shake video, so here's a quick rundown of some other notable releases from the weird and wonderful world of electronic music that you might want to check out…
Out on March 11th (yesterday) through Phantasy, BTU is a collaboration between Sao Paulo's Babe, Terror and London entity U. It sounds like someone's put a tape recording of a Larry Heard DJ set through a washing machine, it's interesting to say the least.
On a more danceable tip, London producer Capracara marries martial Funky drums with trance like arpeggios, droning strings and even a little jaunty piano on his remix of Photonz '1551' on DJ Haus' much talked about Unknown to the Unknown label, out soon I'm sure.
To be honest I'm not really sure the new single from Valentina counts as electronic music but is so wonderfully good I'm claiming it, produced by Kwes it sounds a bit like Bjork's 'Hyperballad' which is to say it sounds close to perfection.
Ahead of the release of the March release of his new album Nostalchic on Brainfeeder, Lapalux teams up with LA rapper Busdriver for 'Forlorn', which pretty much sounds exactly as you'd expect/want it to, free download too if that floats your boat.
DFA have done many things worthy of raising them up into the pantheon of truly great record labels but re-issuing the Peter Gordon & The Love of Life Orchestra album the other year is probably one I'm most thankful for.
Anyway Mr Gordon clearly enjoying a second wind has collaborated with younger DFA signings Factory Floor (though the fruits are coming out on Twitch's great Optimo Music label). The results sound like a soundtrack to replicant foreplay, in other words marvelous.
Vinyl festishists should be well aware of the Tusk Wax label by now as everyone's been raving about them for some time. Anyway Horn Wax is its more off-kilter label responsible for the recent acid space sludge of Posthuman's 'In Apophenia' and their new EP featuring two tracks from Timothy J Fairplay and Foreversound manages to sound like the last moment of consciousness an astronaut might have as his oxygen tank slowly ran out and the sun rose over the moon’s horizon. Exemplary stuff.
Then finally if that all sound a little complicated check out something completely and utterly different from UK disco/house producer Mighty Mouse. His bright and breezy new single 'Love is Gonna Life You Up', is a little like watching an elephant ice skate across a lake of barely frozen cheese, but then it's good to remember that dance music isn't all about greyscale techno and weird time signatures and sometimes it is just about dancing and having fun on a Friday night and is all the better for it.
Hold tight as the radio used to tell us, as coming up in the next couple of weeks we have interviews with Warp Records Darkstar, Forever South mainman Dynoman and in all probability a comparison between the rise of BPMs and human rights abuses around the world, all in your all new super soaraway Dexterous Techniques column!
*Saying that I do need to point out this piece arrives a week later than planned as on the day it should have gone up some scumbags decided that blowing up a market in Karachi, killing dozens of people, was in some way a sane and reasonable thing to do.
The cold is coming. This is not a weather column, but some music just sounds better at the right temperatures. Summer is for music that induces heart palpitations and head rushes, when autumn comes it's time to slow it down and get a little darker. Put some audio fleece on your ears. My personal favorite. [read more]
I've been listening to the new David Bowie album a lot recently, mainly trying to figure out exactly what all the fuss is about. Sadly despite numerous, hyperbolic press reports that he had all but single handedly saved music, I'm yet to be convinced The Next Day is anything other than a fairly decent rock album. [read more]
Last month (or thereabouts) I conclusively put to the sword the notion that the album format is on its deathbed, just a raspy cough, plaintive cry of 'Mother' and voiding of the bowels away from expiration. Buoyed by the overwhelming feedback to that piece I figured I'd turn my attention to another foundation block of the music industry often said to be circling the drain, record labels. [read more]
I don't think it's a surprise to anyone when I say that electronic music seems to have made a pretty big punch in music lately. This is the debut of a monthly column that will highlight some of the more quality tracks and artists that surface each month. Electronic music is growing exponentially, and I know I will only be able to scratch the surface each month, but feel free to let me know if you have anything my ears absolutely need to hear. [read more]