Recent mainstream coverage and exploitation of so-called “EDM” — like Forbes‘ list of the top-earning DJs; an accompanying featurette where the writer allegedly proves the ease of DJing; an apparent Smirnoff ad that’s making the rounds on Twitter, in which the “DJ” is playing on a deck with no slipmat or cartridge — have me feeling like I’m close to my own Skyler White-style meltdown. (You know: “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up!“)
So I thought I might be able to vent some spleen by writing a snarky piece on the devaluation of electronic music culture. Maybe get all Maureen Dowd on someone’s ass. But the more I tried to write, the more disgusted I felt — not just with the state of the “scene,” but with the fact that I paid it any mind at all. What the fuck does Forbes know about electronic music? Why the fuck should I care? As the throb in my temples became intolerable, I popped an ibuprofen and turned to a widget of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, always a proven remedy for writer’s block.
“Turn it upside down,” read the card.
Sage advice. In the interest of positivity, I’m back to doing what I like best: Talking about music that excites me.
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe (Sekuoia Lolmix)” (bootleg)
You can’t get much more positive than Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” either. I’ll confess: I love this song, unironically and without reservations. As far as I’m concerned, it’s pretty much everything that pop music should be. And, secretly, I’d been hoping that someone might remix it in a way that actually did justice to the song — not just slap a donk and a drop on it, but create a bridge between “underground” aesthetics and the song’s universalism. Well, color me amazed, because an artist named Sekuoia has done just that with a remix that the Danish producer uploaded yesterday to his SoundCloud page. Pitching down Jepsen’s voice and casting the tune in a smoky, minor-key vibe, Sekuoia delivers something you might mistake for James Blake or SBTRKT if you weren’t familiar with the original. It’s subtitled “Sekuoia Lolmix,” but there’s really nothing lulzy about it. I say this less and less, but thank you, Internet.
Sandro Perri, The Light / The Drums Remixes EP (Phonica Records Special Editions)
More sweetness and light that’s guaranteed to take the edge off. Back in June, two songs from Sandro Perri’s winsome Impossible Spaces got taken apart and put back together again on an admirably diverse remix EP from DFA. Now Slow Hands and Tom Croose take a shot at remixing Perri on a limited-run 12-inch from Phonica Records Special Editions. On the A-side, Croose spins the four-minute “Love & Light” into nine minutes of strummed acoustic guitars and synths that float as effortlessly as dust motes. If pressed, you could peg it as Bon Iver + bossa nova + Balearic disco; it’s dreamy as all get-out. Slow Hands, of the Wolf + Lamb label’s extended family, turns “The Drums” into a mid-tempo house number touched up with steel drums and guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Vampire Weekend record. Tom Croose — you might remember him from his delightful “Cho Chua” edits on the Resista label — takes a curtain call to put his own spin on “The Drums,” a song originally released on Perri’s debut LP, Tiny Mirrors, in 2007. Compared to Slow Hands’ tropical interpretation, Croose’s is moodier and more circumspect, somewhere between New Order and Arthur Russell.
Pépé Bradock, Imbroglios Part 2 (Atavisme)
Paris’ Pépé Bradock follows up April’s gleefully off-kilter Imbroglios Part 1 with four more tracks in his idiosyncratic and inimitable style. Side A is actually fairly restrained, as far as Bradock goes. Pieced together from bells and organs, “Hello!” sounds like a cross between prime Herbert and recent Four Tet; it’s a pumping, pneumatic stomper right up until the last minute, when the beat cuts out, and all the sounds go swirling down the drain. (DJs, beware!) “Ma Souris Est Folle” (“My Mouse Is Crazy”) plays it similarly straight: It’s a rock tumbler of funk samples, but it never veers too far out of control. On the B-side, the fluttering “@ The Stanley” reprises the samples and techniques used on the last EP’s dizzy “Inconsequent Pussy”; a jazzy little hi-hat and finger-snap rhythm gives the new version a sense of structure, but it still drifts like dandelion tufts on the breeze. He wraps up the EP with “Decision Fatigue,” two minutes of errant oscillations followed by two minutes of jazz samples and whippoorwills. It’s the most absent-minded thing I’ve heard this year. Listen to samples at Phonica and Boomkat.
Mala, “Cuba Electronica” / “Calle F” (Brownswood Recordings)
Digital Mystikz’ Mala gets uncharacteristically sunny on “Calle F,” one of the standout tracks from Mala in Cuba, an album resulting from the dubstep pioneer’s recent trip to the island with Gilles Peterson. Hooking up with the young Havana pianist Roberto Fonseca and his band, Mala commissioned the group to record a set of traditional Cuban rhythms at 140 beats per minute, to facilitate their reworking into the London DJ’s own style. Most of the album sounds definitively more Croydon than Havana, with quick-stepping percussion anchored by sub-bass rumble, suffused in skunky dread. But the smoke clears on “Calle F,” in which dubbed-out trumpet cuts through a reverberant haze of pianos and rippling percussion. I don’t know how groundbreaking it is, but it sure sounds good.
Joy Orbison, Boddika & Pearson Sound, “Faint” (Sunklo)
After SUNKLOWUN and SUNKLOTUU — those are catalog numbers, believe it or not — Boddika and Joy Orbison return with SUNKLOFREE, the latest EP on their Sunklo label. Here, I guess, is where the sweetness-and-light theme of today’s column goes up in a puff of burnt ozone, because the three-track EP is rather unsettling indeed. With its haywire oscillations and bleepy breakdown, “Moist” sounds like a more muddled Oni Ayhun; “Nil (Reece)” takes a smoke break on the factory floor, zoning out on a meditative synthesizer melody amidst mechanical clang and chug. But it’s “Faint,” a collaboration with Pearson Sound, that leaves the greatest impression. There’s not a ton happening beyond a skeletal rhythm built of crumpled kicks and flashing metal, but that doesn’t matter: Twisting and tangling, the groove just keeps pulling you in closer, accentuating the force of the track’s offhanded hits. A spoken-word loop — “Begin to go weak / Yes, I begin to go weak” — only adds to the sense of free-floating delirium, mimicking the sensation it describes with strange processing that seems to turn every utterance to dust. (Linguists, take note: It’s also a prime example of vocal fry.)