Lone – “Reality Testing”

Matt Cutler has been recording under his Lone moniker since at least 2007. In that time, he has carved something of a niche for himself, developing a style that fuses ’90s golden-era hip-hop production with fat analog techno.

Reality Testing, his latest offering, released via R&S Records earlier this summer, is the most fully realized incarnation of Lone sound.

Besides playing nicely as an album (as opposed to merely a collection of tracks) it manages a to deftly balance decorum and functionality, effortlessly jumping back and forth between glowing electro-infused boom-bap and vintage Chicago house music.

Even when he’s in full-on dance mode, the rhythms remain interesting, slightly off-kilter, syncopated with a tilted swing anchored by throbbing analog bass lines and a colorful array of synthesized melodies.

“I think there’s always been a connection with certain house and hip-hop tunes, or any electronic music for that matter. I’m always drawn to any form of electronic music that has the rawness of hip-hop production,” Lone recently told Resident Advisor.

Here are a few previews from Reality Testing.

And here is his Resident Advisor podcast showcasing the primary musical influences behind behind the album.

RA Podcast Episode 420 Lone

Tracklist 
Kenji Kawaii – Unnatural City 2
Tha Alkaholiks – Killin’ It
Mobb Deep – Temperature’s Rising
Ghetto Concept – Much Love (Instrumental)
Pete Rock feat. Method Man – Half Man, Half Amazin’
Gangstarr feat. Inspektah Deck – Above The Clouds
Klear Soul Forces – Get No Better
Hieroglyphics – You Never Knew
Lone – 2 Is 8
Boards Of Canada – Opening The Mouth
Theo Parrish – Lost Angel
Urban Beat Dance – Urban Dust
Anthony Naples – Tusk
Seven Davis Jr – Celebrations (Funkineven Edit)
Brawther – Spaceman Funk (Deep Club Mix)
Brownstone Express – Metro
Omar S – Set It Out
Jtc – South Brooks
Greg Beato – Pma

EM.MA. – “Blue Gardens”

E.m.m.a-Blue-Gardens

With her debut Blue Gardens, E.M.M.A. has given us one of the best “proper albums” to come from the bass world in some time.

A relative newcomer on the scene, she hooked up with the Blackdown‘s Keysound Recordings camp sometime last year, and in the time since, has managed to infuse the drab atmosphere of South London’s underground with some much-needed color and life.

While she employs the syncopated swing of post-garage as a primary vehicle (in a similar manner as Burial), her music is really all about the synthesizer — the sinewy rhythms providing the framework for intricate melodic content that is somewhere between the twinkly arpeggiation of Zomby and the melancholic circuitry of early Darkstar. But where as Zomby is apt to sound cold and clinical, E.M.M.A.‘s pixelated melodies are alive and sparkly. And compared to the despondency of early Darkstar, Blue Gardens is practically exuberant, its loping bombast accented by florid bursts of melodic color.

“Jahovia,” her collaboration with the legendary Congo Natty (under his Rebel MC moniker), sums up two decades of British bass music, swings effortlessly between a half a dozen rhythms without ever breaking stride.

This corner of the music world is not known for its female influence, perhaps it could use some.

E.M.M.A. – “Intro” (160kbps)

E.M.M.A. – “Marina” (160kbps clip)

E.M.M.A. “Nostrum feat. Sully” (160kbps clip)

“Dream Phone”

“Jahovia”

Lil Jabba – “Scales”

jabba

For those who may not be familiar with Chicago juke music or its more esoteric and explosive permutation footwork, XLR8R ran this nice little feature a few years back. I’ll just sum it up by saying the music is something like the sound of jacking Chicago house crossed with gangsta rap and a whole lot of methamphetamine—basically 808 drum machines going off the rails as they reach to tempos in excess of 160 beats-per-minute, and jarringly repetitive samples of rap lyrics employed in such a way that the words lose all meaning becoming just another element of the track. It’s raw shit to be sure, made straight up for the battling dance crews on the rough streets of South Side Chicago.

Then sometime around 2010 (with the help of a few key players in the UK, like Mike Paradinas and Mark Pritchard), this simple template went viral, re-igniting the creative fires of bass music producers the world over, who had been struggling under the dead weight of dubstep’s mainstream success. And suddenly footwork‘s influence was seemingly everywhere; you could hardly turn around without hearing the stuttering 808 drums and vocal chopping that are the genre’s hallmark.

All this to establish that at the current moment, there is footwork, i.e. the pure stuff from folks like RP Boo, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn et al, which is mainly still an insular Chicago thing, and then the footwork-fusion stuff which is everywhere else.

Lil Jabba (real name Alexander Shaw) then is somewhat of an outlier. With ties to Chicago’s TekLife crew (essentially the footwork mafia) his street cred is unquestionable, yet he’s white, Australian, makes his home in Brooklyn and his  music sounds very little like anything coming from Chicago.

It’s true, these tracks are characterized by the same lo-fi production and isosceles rhythms that typify the genre, and the 808 drum kit is definitely prominent on the scene. But Jabba’s sonic palette spreads well beyond that of his fellow Tek-Lifers.

His sinewy drum tracks (which employ lots of tom rolls) are laden with an assortment of aural intrigues: angular synthetic melodies, snippets from arcane film, various glitchey and gurgling sonic artifacts of unknown origin, and a general haze of cough syrup ambiance, that is both placid and paranoid. It’s exceedingly dense for the famously minimal genre. Connecting dots from Miami bass to Detroit techno to London jungle, recalling the freewheeling anything-goes aesthetic of early ’90s hardcore rave music in its best sense.

You can purchase here.

Check out more Lil Jabba sounds over at his souncloud page

Darkstar – “News From Nowhere”

WARP225-Darkstar-News-From-Nowhere

James Young and Aiden Whalley’s Darsktar project has deep roots in the post-dubstep, low-frequency maelstrom of ‘00s London. Their earliest releases came in the form of a series of 12” stand-out singles for labels like Hyperdub–peaking with the excellent “Aidy’s Girls A Computer.

But the duo’s forays into bass music were just the beginning. Like contemporaries James Blake and Mount Kimbie they expanded their creative boundaries beyond the club, and into the realm of song craft.

This evolution was evidenced when they recruited vocalist James Buttery for their debut LP North (Hyperdub)–an album’s electronic ballads ranging in mood from merely glum, to despondent (Hyperdub boss Kode9 dubbed it “the sound of weeping circuitry.”)

News From Nowhere, released a few weeks ago on Warp Records, continues their trajectory into full on songs. This time though, the dominant melancholic motif that has been a hallmark Darkstar’s catalog up to this point, has been stripped away for the most part, revealing something much more lively and open ended—even the sparser cuts on North feel claustrophobic by comparison.

There’s a flowery indie-ish ambiance that pervades much of the album, characterized by celestial melodies and soft clock-work percussion.

The overall feeling to these tracks is much more “live,” and yet the vestiges of their club beginnings remain in the form of slight electronic warps and glitches, 808 subs and subtle manipulation of Buttery’s vocals.

I wouldn’t call it happy music by a long shot, but for an act like Darkstar, the sing-songy, Animal Collective-esque chorus of “Amplified Ease”  is probably as close to happy as is possible.

Purchase News From Nowhere here

Darkstar – “Amplified-Ease”

Darkstar – “Dear-Heartbeats”

Darkstar – “Aidys Girls a Computer

LHF – “Keepers of the Light”

This sprawling, opus of distended, sub-sonic frequencies, is probably the best example of real  London “dubstep” you’re likely to find these days;  it’s a near perfect encapsulation of the myriad disparate influences and free-wheeling artistic spirit that characterized the genre’s halcyon days circa 2003. In a parallel dimension this kind of thing could have been synonymous with “dubstep,” but of course in world we inhabit, the word has been thoroughly hijacked by angsty suburban American teenagers.

LHF first caught my ear back in early 2010 when Blackdown Soundboy’s Martin Clark posted a short profile accompanied by this mix.

LHF – “Pipe Down Mix”
(It was so fresh I didn’t even know what to make of it at the time.)

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