Control Voltage’s Friday Five: Confused House, Caustic Bass, and Secret Circuitry
L.I.E.S.' Bookworms and Steve Summers explore 'Possible Worlds,' Koreless and Sampha join Young Turks as Short Stories, and more
We can all breathe a sigh of relief because, seriously, I’m not sure how much longer electronic music might have survived without a coordinated effort between Live Nation, William Morris Endeavor, Creative Artists Agency, Sony, Atlantic, and other such grassroots outfits. After all, without the heroic efforts of the Global Grunge Coordinating Committee, there might have been no Nirvana; without the International Rap Roundtable, Kanye might have wound up in academia. (And then where would Kim Kardashian be? Won’t somebody please think of the children?)
As co-coordinator Kurosh Nasseri (a lawyer representing Afrojack and Paul van Dyk) explained, “These are extraordinary times for electronic music. We have seen it break through into the mainstream in the US and become the backbone of modern pop music. Yet despite such success, it feels like there is an even bigger need for an Association for Electronic Music to exist and speak with one voice.”
Finally, someone’s looking out for the little guy.
Short Stories, “Let It Go” / “On the Way” (Young Turks)
Helium prices have skyrocketed in recent months as the global supply runs dry; experts blame rising demand in China and India, but I’m pointing the finger at Short Stories, the duo of Koreless and Sampha. Their debut single for Young Turks is a fizzy cloud of high-pitched voices and beats that careen like heated molecules — some real head-rush shit. (Looks like they may have used up all the whippits, too.) Sped-up carnival synths and chirping vocals give “Let It Go” the feel of a James Blake LP played back at 78 RPM; “On the Way,” still dizzy, is a drowsier, bluesier tune that shows off Sampha’s voice in his natural register, with spongy production recalling SBTRKT’s “Hold On” (also fronted by Sampha, coincidentally or no). Clearly, something’s in the air.
Bookworms & Steve Summers, Possible Worlds EP (Confused House)
Bookworms (Nik Dawson) and Steve Summers (Jason Letkiewicz, a.k.a., Alan Hurst, Rhythm Based Lovers, Sensual Beings, et al) have both recorded separately for L.I.E.S. and Future Times; now they team up for the first release on Summers’ Confused House label. Despite the imprint’s name, the material here is more streamlined than the L.I.E.S. pedigree might lead you to expect, with chords glowing as cool as LEDs over pitter-patter 808s and distortion dialed down to a dewy fizz; they’ve scraped away the crust of barnacles that gave tracks like Bookworms’ “African Rhythms” and Summers’ “In the Mood for Love” their queasy pitch and roll, opting for smooth sailing through phosphorescent waves. Meditating on one- and two-chord patterns with soft edges and a matte-pearl sheen, they turn out a beatific, ruminative sound reminiscent of Move D and Benjamin Brunn’s Songs from the Beehive, but rendered in typical Brooklyn mid-fi mode.
Bandshell, Caustic View (Liberation Technologies)
Don’t come to Bandshell looking for clarity. His new EP for Mute’s Liberation Technologies revels in the same degraded textures as his Hessle Audio debut, with shuddering beats that sound like they’ve been chiseled from pure static, covered with bubble wrap, set on fire, and then flash frozen; his queasy synthesizer tones convey the tell-tale whiff of burned ozone. “Perc,” featured on Ben UFO’s Fabriclive 67, is actually the outlier here, plangent tones recalling Autechre’s Amber or Seefeel’s Succour; you could almost call it “pretty.” Not so “Winton,” “Landfill,” and the inimitably titled “Nice Mullet,” which stake out a position in scorched-earth terrain somewhere between Pan Sonic, Kowton, Actress, and Anstam. A thrilling case of burning the village — dubstep, “bass music,” whatever you want to call it — in order to save it.
Secret Circuit, “Afterlife” (Beats in Space)
Eddie Ruscha returns to Tim Sweeney’s Beats in Space label with “Afterlife,” a follow-up to last year’s “Nebula Sphynx” and a teaser for his upcoming Tactile Galactics LP. Like his last single, it’s a more straightforward affair than the spaced-out, psilocybin disco that he gathered for last year’s Tropical Psychedelics: 120 beats per minute, more or less four-to-the-floor, genuflecting both to Larry Heard’s dulcet house balladry and Legowelt’s gamine updates of the same. I’ve probably said this before, but there’s a ton of this kind of thing going around at the moment. (A note to producers finding their sound: Ask yourself, “Do I really need to use a 707 on this track?”) But “Afterlife” is one of the good ones, nudged doggedly forward by swung kicks and a squirrelly little acid line, and swept away by counterpoint arpeggios that go spiraling ever upwards until they disappear into the clouds in a flash of green and silver. (In the beginning was Jack, and Jack had a beanstalk.) The Ukrainian producer Vakula adds tape garble, oscillator squeal, and soiled Rhodes stabs to come up with a remix that serves as the midnight to the original’s high noon; Dope Jams once said that I should be “go before Ethiopian emperors and be decapitated” for my fondness for Vakula, in which case, bring on the guillotine, Haile Selassie. Finally, Ruscha trots out the congas for the bleary, lysergic “Afterdub.”
Tuff Sherm, Canal Cloaking (Reckno)
The tape label Reckno has gone and gotten itself a Bandcamp page, which means that all of you slobs who don’t have cassette players (including yours truly, although I have every intention of rectifying that, I swear) can finally get on board. Canal Cloaking, released on tape last year, is the work of Australia’s Eugene Hector (a.k.a., Dro Carey) in his housier Tuff Sherm guise, and if it’s not quite as essential as Tuff Sherm’s Shrapnel Maestro, it’s still a no-brainer for anyone who likes her house music tough and shermy (in a purely metaphorical sense, of course). Coldwave rumble meets video-game bleeps in tracks that sound like Wiley covering Cabaret Voltaire (“Maler,” “Adrenal”); “Claw Worlds” and “Clobber” approximate the post-industrial clang of B.D.I., and “Gateway Growth” tackles Theo Parrish-inspired jazz collage. It’s unusual that Hector stretches out to 10 minutes like this, but it turns out he’s just as adept as engrossing sprawl as he is at his bumptious little fugues.