This is the second instalment of Midnight Movement, a totally biased run-down of what’s hot in the kaleidoscopic world of dance music.
When I say biased, I mean I have an attention span so short that I skip through 30-second online sound clips of new releases, and I live in Cardiff, which is a lacking in decent clubbing lately and has no proper record shop for dance music, since Catapult closed down. However, I have turntables, a sound system big enough to cause consternation in the gentrified media village where I live, and most importantly, the internet. That’s how I’m able to dedicate this month’s column to new music from the place where it began (as the Chemical Brothers said), Africa. We travel through Cape Verde, South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Malawi, and somehow end up in Glasgow.
Mino Di Mama - Quirino do Canto
As with last month, I’m kicking things off with something that doesn’t truly belong in this column. For a few years, the brilliant Analog Africa label have been compiling amazing music from West Africa and beyond, from the 60s and 70s to the present day. A few weeks ago the label released Space Echo – the Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed!, a unique journey through 70s and 80s synthesizer music from the islands. You can’t say this isn’t a dance track though. The rhythm is totally off the wall – offbeat, made for motion and instantly effective. Kicks fling you from side to side while a careening bass whirls you around; red-hot flourishes of synthesiser, far too fluid to be four decades old, light up the track. It’s electric, and the rest of the collection is dazzling too.
Spoek Mathambo – The Mountain (ft. Pegasus Warning, DJ Spoko and DJ Mujava)
Spoek Mathambo is among the best-known of South Africa’s rich electronic music scene, a vocalist who’s been a big part of creating the face, voice and sound of modern electronic South Africa, along with this track’s producers, DJ Mujava and DJ Spoko. The Mountain arrives on Spoek’s new EP Badimo on 17 June, and carries the memory of South Africa’s longtime love affair with 90s NY and Chicago house. This one sounds like it would work well in a big space, the two SA producers applying those classic foot-shaking SA snare rolls to a bass-warping, high-definition vocal outing courtesy of Spoek and his NYC buddy Pegasus Warning. The aforementioned DJ Spoko has just dropped a new album of his bouncy ‘bacardi house’, here.
Jumping Back Slash – Fall in Luv
Also in SA is the talented UK immigrant Jumping Back Slash, an innovative and technically proficient producer of modern Afrotronics. with the stripped back, elegant R’n’B of Fall in Luv, a highlight from his new self-released EP, JBS006.
Sound Signature – These Songs That Should’ve Been Out On Wax By Now Part 1 & 2
As if a forthcoming two-part Sound Signature compilation of would-be vinyl releases wasn’t cause enough for joy, Theo Parrish has hooked up with Tony Allen again. The Nigerian drum kit legend was a key part of Fela Kuti’s Koola Lobitos and Africa 70 bands 50 years ago, blowing James Brown away and revolutionising the way the West perceived African music and culture. Six minutes into this preview mix I can make out the unmistakeable sound of Allen’s famously dexterous drum skills, simmered into a sultry heatwave of Moodymann-esque ad-libs and deft jazz chords. If you head over to the Sound Signature website you can prove how “Detroit” you are and match all the other artists to the songs, to win a new car – Motor City indeed.
Jacob Mafuleni & Gary Gritness – Atuka Mondhoro (Club Edit)
Master mbira player from Zimbabwe, Jacob Mafuleni, gets gritted up in this slow, booming banger. France’s Gary Gritness has been producing club-friendly modern electro-funk that really bangs, endorsed by Underground Resistance main man Mad Mike, and he’s dropped some serious heat for Clone and Hypercolour in the last few months. On both Atuka Mondhoro and the flip side, Chikoni, Monsieur Gritness uses a light touch, rather than savaging the original material beyond recognition.
Santuri – Xylophone (Alejandro Mosso Rework)
Gilles Peterson does a great job of giving a higher profile to soulful dancefloor tracks from all over the world in his Worldwide Premieres. Here, Argentinian producer Alejandro Mosso works with Santuri Safari, an East African collaborative music project, building a trancey foundation of wood-clatter and metronome throb beneath the gorgeous strings and eventual woodblocks that turn the track into a 360 degree experience of melodic impacts, textural juxtapositions and crawling polyrhythms.
Phil Moffa – Center of the World
This track by NY’s underrated house stalwart, who’s loved by all your favourite DJs, features on a new charity compilation called Beating Heart – Malawi, which unites brilliant electronic music producers with tens of thousands of samples recorded in sub-Saharan Africa by Hugh Tracey between the 20s and the 70s. Not long after reading about the compilation, I spotted this track on Jackmaster’s forthcoming mix for K7’s long-running DJ Kicks series. It’s really spare and physical, with a choir of voices flowing over a gyrating skeleton of big-boned bass drums and rickety percussion. The breathy exertions of dancers become part of the rhythm, adding to the sweat factor.
Denis Sulta – MSNJ
Leaving Africa behind, here’s another track that features on Jack’s mix. From Glasgow’s big-room underground techno prince Denis Sulta, like his It’s Only Real tune for Numbers last year, this has an epic simplicity that suggests that Sulta might go stratospheric at some point. Ben UFO certainly seems to think so. It’s one of those tracks that never really happens, but instead keeps you at perpetual expectancy. Sulta fluffs you into exhaustion with loose percussion, cold-filtered sci-fi chords and a crowd-pleasing chopped up vocal. The big, round kick drums stay slow, sparse and tantalising. Suddenly you realise that eight minutes has gone by and it’s never dropped – not enough to finish you off anyway. You can think of this as a really tense DJ tool; a breakdown frozen in time, or just a transportive track in its own right.