Dance Tracks of the Week: Pilooski, Daphni Remix Makossa Legend Francis Bebey
Plus: Buzzin' Fly bows out in classic fashion; heavy new techno hybrids from Night Slugs, Workshop, Ostgut Ton
Francis Bebey, Remix (Born Bad Records)
There’s no improving upon the work of the Cameroonian polymath Francis Bebey, a journalist, novelist, and musician who mixed African and Latin styles with jazz and electronic music, sounding at times like some dream combination of Afrobeat and Kraftwerk. (Born Bad’s anthology of his work, African Electronic Music 1975-1982, was one of SPIN’s 10 Best Reissues of 2012; I also covered it in my Control Voltage column.) So you could, understandably, be suspicious of an attempt to remix the work of the late musician, who passed away in 2001. Fortunately, the artists commissioned here appear to have approached the source material with the respect it deserves (yet also, fortunately, without being too dainty about it). Pilooski — the French producer whose bootleg re-edit of Frankie Valli’s “Beggin'” ended up as a minor hit on a major label — keeps his intervention to a minimum in a rework of “Bissau.” The core of the song — mbira, flute, disco-funk bass line, quavering vocal harmonies, foghorn reeds — is all there in the original; Pilooski mainly busies himself with stretching and hammering elements of the track over drum machines and synths until it has the feel of a hand-soldered assemblage, a riot of spinning wheels and honking horns. I don’t know what the original of “Forest Whistle” sounds like, but Daphni’s edit manages to preserve the playful, slightly otherworldly spirit of Bebey’s music while sounding very much like himself, weaving drums and flute and contrapuntal voice and guitar parts around a rickety skeleton of no-frills rhythm box. But that makes sense, given how much of Dan Snaith’s work as Daphni is schooled in Bebey’s own futuristic roots music.
The 12-inch pressing, limited to 100 copies, also will include edits by It’s a Fine Line and Young Marco; mixes by Populette and Etienne Jaumet round out the digital edition. Preorder here.
Ital, Workshop 18 (Workshop)
After six months of radio silence, Germany’s Workshop label returns to the fray with their typical lack of fanfare — just, “Oh, hey, a new Workshop record!” (A low-key promotional strategy suits low-key music like Workshop’s.) Ital (Daniel Martin-McCormick) makes his first appearance on the label after a string of records for Not Not Fun, Planet Mu, and 100% Silk; he’s only the second American artist to release a solo EP on Workshop, after Madteo. I wouldn’t necessarily have lumped his work alongside that of the other Workshop regulars, but hearing him here, he’s a natural fit. “Ice Drift (Stalker Mix)” and “Slower Degrees of Separation” both follow his more technoid impulses, but they’re murky and lopsided. The latter combines dub techno with flickering, footwork-inspired rhythms, and it sounds like it’s been recorded on gear dredged up from the bottom of a silted lake; the former lets the drums wander wildly beneath deceptively smooth organ chords. With “Pulsed,” Ital peels back some of the scuzz to focus on bright, echoing arpeggios and galloping snares, serenely summoning a Detroit state of mind. (Hear samples at Hard Wax.)
Rodamaal / Manoo and Francois A, Fortune EP (Buzzin’ Fly)
Pour one out for Buzzin’ Fly. In March, Ben Watt announced that he would be pulling the plug on the boutique deep-house label, after 10 years and 70-odd releases. The imprint will soldier on as an archive label (although, sadly, much of its vinyl backstock was destroyed in the Sony warehouse fire during 2011’s London riots), and Watt will turn his attentions to a new solo project and the publication of his second book, Romany and Tom, a portrait of his father, a Glaswegian jazz musician, and his mother, a Shakespearian actress and entertainment journalist. As a send-off, Watt rescues two tracks from the vaults, but you wouldn’t necessarily guess that these were old tracks, much to their credit. Rodamaal’s “Fortune,” from 2007, is linear and tightly wound, with a gently screaming lead and lovingly worn snares; it’s a peak-time track in fine Carl Craig fashion. Manoo and Francois A.’s 2005 track “Other Places,” on the other hand, goes back to the lush, melancholic sound of classic Buzzin’ Fly releases like Justin Martin’s “Sad Piano.” The shuffling groove, disco flourishes, and watery strings tip their hat to Pepe Bradock, Chez Damier, and Black Science Orchestra. It’s sentimental without being sappy, a lovely way to go out.
Helix, Club Constructions Vol. 4 (Night Slugs)
Night Slugs has the best imagery in the game. When SPIN interviewed Bok Bok earlier this year, he spoke in terms of “chrome and metal and broken glass”; now Helix rounds out the label’s ongoing tribute to post-industrial non-places with “Whoosh Ice Dispenser,” a hissing, spitting beast of a tune that applies 8-bar grime’s modular structure to a high-strung 909 workout. Rolling, blast-beat kick drums, relentless claps — Helix knows how to make a rhythm move. “Track Titled 1,” “Damnson,” and two “Linn Jam” versions are drum tools, essentially, but he crams them full of character; the brushed-metal textures and weird, tarnished gleam distinguish them just fine, and Helix’s signature is evident in his punishing rhythms, which hang in the balance between electro and thrash. They make melodies and bass lines seem almost middlebrow, by comparison.
Rolando, D & N’s EP (Ostgut Ton)
When it comes to techno, Detroit and Berlin are sister cities of a sort, so it feels appropriate that Rolando (of “Knights of the Jaguar” fame, and a former member of Underground Resistance) should find a new home on Ostgut Ton, the in-house label of Berghain and Panorama Bar. The thunderous “Filthy” sounds a little like the IDM-on-steroids “Junie,” from his last Ostgut EP; shuffling Latin rhythms and rich, queasy chords give the title track a rolling, roiling feel, like choppy ocean under a gunmetal sky. But the real gem here is “We Will,” which rolls out ribbons of voice over the heaviest kick drum you’ll hear this year, gradually filling in the negative space with the faintest hint of organ. Listen loud enough, and the voices begin to dart around that black hole of a kick drum like swallows performing delicate aerial maneuvers. It’s a psychoacoustic masterpiece.