This is the third instalment of Midnight Movement, a personal take on the attention-demanding club tracks being made, played and obeyed this month
My picks of this month’s dance music is mostly of a darker hue than normal, and many of the tracks were made or released in Bristol, but there’s also stuff from Cardiff and London and all the way over the water to Austin, LA, Miami and Vancouver. My turntables have been out of action since last time Levon Vincent played at a club near me, when I decided to bring the entire smoking area back to mine in a fleet of taxis, so this is track listing is the work of a frustrated bedroom DJ, the tempo appearing to rise throughout, building from sparse, airlock rhythms into frantic tornadoes of percussion. So practice your psychic blending skills as we glide through haunted dancehall, modern boogie, black magic acid and swampy, post-dubstep genre meltdown.
Jabu x SKRS – BwoyTestVIP
A track by Canada’s SKRS is reworked here for Bristol’s unique No Corner label by producer/engineer Amos Childs and vocalist Jabu, both members of the city’s anti-genre troupe Young Echo. Gunshots and militant MC shouts sounding out death knells are drenched in burbling bass, nauseous synths and Jabu’s beautiful voice. No Corner continue their theme of “the vanishing original cut”, as it’s blurred and smeared with heavy reverberation into a ghostly swirl of contradictory elements.
Darkstar feat. GAIKA – Black Ghost
Darkstar have been with me for a long time. Their soft, weighted 2-step released in the dubstep days was a welcome change of tone, and after a few years of tender, traumatised pop, their new EP goes in yet another direction. GAIKA, a London-based vocalist, comes with a style close to Young Thug in its melodic drawl. Combined with Darkstar’s plaintive melodics and their return to beats, Black Ghost is a really affecting piece of music that seems to mesh perfectly with present-day London.
Ploy – Footprints in Solid Rock
This young producer debuted on Hessle last year, but previously released a couple of superb records as Samuel. His new release on Timedance, Batu’s excellently cohesive and futuristic label, shows him at his earth-toned finest. There’s definitely inspiration from the Livity Sound aesthetic in his murky, momentous tracks wreathed in tape echo and delay. The loose-limbed rhythms and subtle sonic layering of Move Yourself return on his Iron Lungs EP. With hints of Vessel’s Order of Noise and the proto-dubstep sound of Rephlex’s Grime compilations, Ploy sinks into the silt and slime of the river bed on the final cut – only for the darkest and smokiest rooms.
Darkhouse Family – Webistics
South Wales crate-diggers Earl Jeffers and Don Leisure have had their Darkhouse Family project running for a while. Though they’ve always been solid, this new EP is a new height for the pair, eight tracks of vibrant sampler funk, and has rightly been signed to First Word Records, where they fit in well next to guys like Fulgeance, Jon Phonics and Tall Black Guy. The whole EP is brilliant, with nods towards Madlib and On-Ra, but the track I’ve picked out is even more dancefloor-oriented and boogie influenced, with a touch of Funkineven too. Webistics is a pimped out, one-finger keyboard jam with the same kind of liquid 80s bass we’ll see a bit more of in the next couple of tracks. You won’t hear many guitar solos in this column, so get your fill here.
Adjowa – Penny Black
Keeping the 80s boogie/electrofunk vibe going, here’s the return of Miami’s Adjowa on Happy Skull, the Bristol label that first put his stuff out on their debut release. A trotting, clattering beat carries lo-fi dribbles of acidic bass, and with the vintage synths and echoing claps, it’s a waist-moving piece of warm-up action that sounds like it’s from another time.
Steven Julien – Jedi
Funkineven himself has come out to use his real name this year as he develops his sound on his self-titled debut album. It’s a confident collection of tracks – many tracks feel dense and sticky, and Julien doesn’t try too hard to be accessible by opening out the vibe and relieving the humid atmosphere. Julien is the UK’s equivalent of Detroit’s Kyle Hall, his music achieves originality through the barest of elements and the lightest of touches – it feels warm and throbbing with blood and breath. My favourite part is this simple techno-house cut played with deftness and freedom. There’s a palpable, textural quality to the grinding hum of bass churning and sliding beneath aqueous keys, oozing pads and a robust funk slapped out on one of his well-worn drum machines.
Seven Davis Jr. – Prince Michael
Cut from a similar cloth, LA’s Seven Davis Jr kicks off his new label with an EP dedicated to his soul-funk-dance heroes Prince and Michael Jackson. Does what it says on the tin (in the lyrics) – “this one’s for Prince / this one’s for Michael / move like you mean it.” Light of touch, yet heavy as fuck on the floor, this is ghetto-tech with purple sequins.
Bill Converse – Warehouse Invocation
Whirling polyrhythms fill the air on this new highlight on the Dark Entries roster, mainly re-masters from a 2013 cassette release. This darkly psychedelic track begins in media res and continues into ten minutes of Italo disco-tinged séance rave. Acid bass, discordant keyboard stabs, and an undulating haze of gammellan-like synth drone – close your eyes, get the Ouija board out and move into the next dimension.
LTO – One Again
LTO is the Bristol-based producer who is part of Old Apparatus, the shadowy production unit came into the open through Mala’s own Deep Medi label. His new album, released on Old Apparatus’s fittingly named Sullen Tone label, draws in elements of countless genres, this cut dramatically morphing a simple 2-step rhythm into a grinding, crystalline cascade of burnt out synths and reverberating harmonic explosions.
Mala – 4 Elements
I mentioned earlier that pivotal era when “Croydon Techno” grew into dubstep and rattled the very structure of dance music. Well, one of that grey London borough’s most influential producers has spent the last few years in quite different scenery. Mala is half of Digital Mystikz. After Mala in Cuba’s Caribbean absorptions, his second solo album Mirrors takes inspiration from Peru’s voices and rhythms. Mala has ever been an innovator, even among his formidable peers; hearing his Digital Mystikz production Neverland in a Gutterbreakz mix had an extreme influence on my teenage musical tastes, immediately snatching me from the pallid breast of nu-skool breaks. The album ends with 4 Elements, in which Mala brings out those end-of-days synths from Level Nine and pitches them into a storm of breakbeat syncopation. I challenge you to put this into a genre.