Sorry, futurists: This week's selection of records is all about looking back, whether it's Rush Hour unearthing an overlooked gem of New York house, from 1990, or Clone delivering the second installment of its Drexciya anthology. New releases from I:Cube, Aardvarck and newcomer Anthony Naples are also heavily invested in dance music's past, from megamixes to "Mentasm" stabs.
Anthony Naples, Mad Disrespect EP (Mister Saturday Night)
Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin's Mister Saturday Night parties are something of a Brooklyn institution, known for their loft venues, a clued-in clientele that's got dancing on the forefront of its mind, and a booking policy that encompasses left-field luminaries like Caribou, Pearson Sound, and Omar S. I've never been lucky enough to attend one, but the parties' reputation speaks for them. Plus, you know they rule from the simple fact that their mission statement's first bullet point is "Be kind."
This is the first EP on Carter and Harkin's new label, also named Mister Saturday Night, and it's a corker. It's hard to believe, in fact, that this is the New York producer Anthony Naples' very first release, as well. (On the strength of this record, Four Tet has already tapped him for a remix on an upcoming Text release.) There's nothing too fancy or funny here, just three tracks of deep, classically minded but slightly off-kilter house music, impeccably rendered, with spark to spare. Its slightly unhinged bricolage of chirps and yoinks compares the recent output of labels like Stockholm's Studio Barnhus and Dresden's Uncanny Valley — quirky, but no less immediate for it. "Slackness" sounds like a cross between Mu's "Paris Hilton" and Aphex Twin's "Didgeridoo"; "Tusk" filters easy-listening jazz through a sieve of hard-panned hi-hats, like Pal Joey with a bad nail-biting habit. The title track is the obvious standout, chopping up a lilting piano solo of electro-disco zaps and drums crunchier than a Granny Smith. I don't know what the R&B vocal sample is saying; I hear "Baby, I'm just bugging," which feels more than appropriate, given the context.
Dream 2 Science, Dream 2 Science (Rush Hour)
It's easy to be skeptical of reissues of "lost" records. This is not one of those occasions. This six-track mini-album by New Yorker Ben Cenac, originally released in 1990 on the short-lived Power Move label, is the real deal. This is the kind of record you might stumble upon in a flea market (except that you probably wouldn't: original copies trade for $150) and take home purely on the basis of the name, Dream 2 Science, and titles like "My Love Turns to Liquid," imagining dolphins and holographic orbs and light sabers fueled by yearning — and for once, the record would live up to your expectations. (When Legowelt talks about "unicorn futurism," I'm pretty sure this is what he means.) Somewhere between Larry Heard's deep-house fundaments and the plucky grooves of Warp Records' bleep-techno phase, all six tracks offer a vision of acid house as a dream of electric sheep. It's gorgeous, it's relevant, and the reissue is a testament to the Amsterdam label Rush Hour's curatorial acumen. As Daniel Wang, a far more knowledgable DJ than you or I will ever be, put it, "I searched for Dream2Science for about 18 years... Found it just two years ago. Had it on a Tony Humphries mix cassette and didn't know artist or titles. RH, this is one of your best re-releases EVER!! LOVE LOVE LOVE!"
Aardvarck, INDO EP (Skudge Presents)
In his 19 years of making records, the Netherlands' Aardvarck (Mike Kivits) has pretty much done it all. After a debut single for the pioneering Djax-Up-Beats, he's gone on to record six or seven albums, plus scads more singles, for the iconic labels Rush Hour and Delsin, among others. His 2002 single "Cult Copy" is easily one of the top 10 "Detroit techno" tracks produced elsewhere (and a remix from Carl Craig made its Motor City provenance official). Through it all, he's made instrumental hip-hop, broken beat, ambient, deep house and more, sometimes in the space of a single record. Between 2008 and 2010, he even tried his hand at dubstep, turning out ominous, skulking half-step that folded in reggae vocalists, Hoover bass and even pitched-down samples of Slayer's "Reign in Blood."
He picks a similarly doomy inspiration for "Yogya," the lead track on a new EP for Sweden's Skudge Presents label. The jagged synth riff references the 1991 hardcore classic "Mentasm," by Second Phase (Joey Beltram and Mundo Muzique), slicing up its liquid lightning into a cloud of petulant gnats that swirls above dead-weight bass and slow-moving strings — a hymn for the apocalypse if ever there were one. "Brawa" also dips its toes into "Mentasm"-roiled waters, with shrieking buzz dripping down over a syncopated thud that highlights the Netherlands' Afro-Caribbean musical lineage. (Played at 33 meanwhile, it could serve as a killer hip-hop backing track — not cloud rap, but thunderhead rap.) "Tengenan," meanwhile, is a tough-but-tender slice of bleepy electro that elegantly splits the difference between Drexciya and Recloose.
I:Cube, "M" Megamix (Versatile)
I've been freaking out about the French producer I:Cube's new album since I first heard it back in February. I discussed its lead single, "Transpiration," back in the inaugural edition of the Friday Five, in fact; on May 21, the album finally comes out. Its title and format both pay tribute to the restless, omnivorous sprawl of dance-music megamixes of the late 1980s, when Italo-disco, hip-hop, house and new wave might all jostle elbows in a single session: beginning with a spin of the radio dial, it locks in on an hour-long journey through dubbed-out downtempo, tweaky filter disco, deep house, synth pop, beatless interludes, melodic techno and more, usually mulling over a given groove for just a minute or two before changing shape and shuffling down a different path. Complete with cheeky samples like a downpitched "This is your brain on drugs," it's a loving homage to dance music's golden years whose urgency and ingenuity confirm, once again, I:Cube's own place in the canon.
Drexciya, Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller II (Clone)
Next week, Rotterdam's Clone label releases the second part of its mammoth anthology of the Detroit electro legends Drexciya, and it's just as essential as the first volume. The partnership of James Stinson and Gerald Donald, Drexciya were active from 1992 until Stinson's death 10 years later, in which time they not only recorded some of the most spine-tingling, mind-bending music in the history of techno but also invented an entire mythology to accompany the music. Operating anonymously, like their comrades in the Underground Resistance collective, they posed as representatives of a race of underwater mutants, the Drexciyans, born to pregnant slave women thrown overboard during the Middle Passage—"water breathing, aquatically mutated descendants of those unfortunate victims of human greed," as a manfiesto put it, who migrated "from the Gulf of Mexcio to the Mississippi river basin and on to the great lakes of Michigan." Fittingly, their music could be angry, cagey, clever and sad, and it bubbled like the shock waves of a cataclysmic deep-sea battle, while titles like "Aqua Jujidsu" and "Davey Jones' Locker" extended the dimensions of their Afrofuturist universe.
Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller II, the second in a four-part series, gathers cuts that originally appeared between 1993 and 1997 on labels like Underground Resistance, Submerge and even Rephlex and Warp; stylistically, it ranges from the icy hip-hop beats of "Danger Bay" to the death-ray electro of "Positron Island," but the whole set is full of the group's trademark bubble and squelch. Among the highlights are "Davey Jones' Locker," a cryptic New Age electro jam that originally appeared on a forgotten React compilation in 1996, and 1997's "Neon Falls," which lays out the blueprint for Rustie's zigzagging, fluourescent funk.