First Floor #55 – From "Save Our Scene" to "Save Ourselves"

a.k.a. Resident Advisor and Boiler Room got some big government grants.

Hello there. I’m Shawn Reynaldo, and welcome to First Floor, a weekly electronic music digest that includes news, my favorite new tracks and some of my thoughts on the issues affecting the larger scene / industry that surrounds the music. This is the free edition of the newsletter; access to all First Floor content (including the complete archive) requires a paid subscription. If you haven’t done so already, please consider signing up for a subscription (paid or unpaid) by clicking the button below. Alternately, you can also make a one-time donation here.

ON MY MIND

So… those grants.

Over the past week, Arts Council England began the process of distributing funds from the UK government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. First announced in July and promoted as “the biggest-ever single investment by Government in the country’s cultural and heritage sector,” the Fund specifically earmarked £500 million in grants for cultural organizations, both for-profit and non-profit. (The full application criteria is here.)

So far, the Council has issued two rounds of grants, all of them going to organizations who requested £1 million or less. Additional announcements are forthcoming, including grant recipients between £1-3 million and organizations that will be receiving more than £3 million (in the form of repayable financing).

All kinds of cultural organizations applied for these grants, and looking over the full list of recipients (warning: that link downloads an Excel doc from Arts Council England), there are museums, theaters, venues, nightclubs, dance companies, comedy troupes and more, including multiple entities from the electronic music sphere. This includes NTS Radio, publications like Crack and The Ransom Note and venues such as Ministry of Sound, Corsica Studios, Motion Bristol, Warehouse Project, Rye Wax and The Jazz Cafe. Even grime duo Elijah & Skilliam made the list.

Of all the announced grant recipients, the two that have raised the most eyebrows seem to be Resident Advisor and Boiler Room.

Go here to continue reading this essay. (PLEASE NOTE: the link will be open to all for the next 48 hours, but after that, it will be available to paid subscribers only.)


REAL QUICK

A round-up of the last week’s most interesting electronic music news, plus links to mixes, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.

  • DJ Mag published an in-depth report by Wil Crisp about how government measures in the UK are failing the country’s live music sector. It’s not the easiest read—the focus is absolutely on economics—but this kind of “real” journalism is sorely needed right now, and I’d love to see more of this approach applied to the live music situation in other countries as well.

  • After months of teasing on the part of guest editor Funk Butcher (a.k.a Kwame Safo), Mixmag kicked off “Blackout Week” yesterday with this introductory letter, promising a week of editorial “dedicated exclusively to Black artists, issues and stories.” The initial batch of features includes an interview with Honey Dijon, a report on legendary / notorious Chicago label Trax Records and its artists’ decades-long struggle to get paid, a piece detailing the history of Drexciya and an article celebrating the unsung Black women who helped pioneer house music.

  • Dance System (a.k.a. L-Vis 1990) inaugurated a new label, System Records, by dropping “Let’s Go,” a loopy, upbeat collaboration with fellow UK producer India Jordan that brings to mind old Daft Punk and Roulé releases from the ’90s.

  • Last week, hyperactive UK label Unknown to the Unknown made a trio of its older releases (from LA-4A, De Sluwe Vos and Person of Interest) available as “name your price” downloads on Bandcamp. There’s no telling how long those will last—probably not long—but just yesterday, the label offered up four more archival releases (from Palace, Deadboy, Trumpet & Badman and Kodiak) under the same conditions. This seems to be a recurring thing, so fans might want to consider following UTTU on Bandcamp so they can start directly receiving notifications about future giveaways.

  • The Knife released an “anti-nationalist” song from 2014 that was previously only available in their native Sweden. Entitled “För alla namn vi inte får använda (Europa Europa Theme),” the track focuses on migration politics and can be heard here. The duo has also commissioned a new music video for the song.

  • Palmistry has signed with NYC imprint Fool’s Gold for an upcoming album, and while the details have yet to be revealed, he’s celebrating the new relationship with an odds-and-ends collection called Post Eternity, which is out now and pulls together some previously unreleased tracks he’s written during the past five years.

  • Following a battle with cancer, legendary Ibiza DJ José Padilla—who had been playing on the white isle since the ’70s—sadly passed away over the weekend.


JUST ANNOUNCED

A round-up of noteworthy upcoming releases that were announced during the past week.

  • SALEM have a new album on the way. Arriving a full 10 years after the landmark King Night LP, the new full-length, Fires in Heaven, will be self-released by the Michigan witch house heroes on on October 30. The record includes “Starfall,” which I shared a few weeks back, and another cut from the album, “Red River,” is also streaming now.

  • Space-disco dons Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas are often mentioned together, but the two Norwegian producers haven’t actually collaborated on an album since 2009. That streak, however, is about to come to an end on November 20, when the pair are set to issue a new full-length, III, via the Smalltown Supersound label. Ahead of that, LP track “Martin 5000” has been made available to stream.

  • Octo Octa & Eris Drew will be at the helm of the next Fabric mix. An all-vinyl session recorded at their New Hampshire cabin during quarantine, it’s scheduled for release on November 27 and includes a new original track from each artist. Drew’s contribution, “Reactiv-8,” can be streamed now.

  • Kelly Moran and Prurient make for an unlikely pair, but after touring together in 2018, they decided to release a split album, Chain Reaction at Dusk, which is slated to arrive on December 4 via the latter’s Hospital Productions label. Until then, one track from each artist has been shared: Moran’s “Helix III” and Prurient’s “Tokyo Exorcist.”

  • Leaving Records has spawned a new supergroup called Galdre Visions, a collaboration between Ami Dang, Nailah Hunter, Green-House and Yialmelic Frequencies. Collectively inspired by “Celtic mysticism, outer space, and new age both classical and modern,” the quartet’s self-titled debut will be released on October 23, and one of its tracks, “The Sun Will Rise Again,” is already available now.


MY WIFE HAS BETTER TASTE THAN I DO

My wife Dania is a wonderful person, but she has little regard for my taste in electronic music. Head of the Paralaxe Editions label, she often describes the music I like with words like “cheesy,” “simple,” “predictable,” “boring” and, worst of all (in her mind), “happy.” In contrast, I think she has a fantastic ear, and I’m constantly amazed by the obscure gems she unearths, both from record bins and the dark corners of the internet. Given that, I’ve asked Dania to share some of her finds with the First Floor audience. Each week, she highlights something that she’s currently digging, and adds some of her thoughts as to why it’s worth our attention.

Scanner “Counterpointe” (DiN)

Hello. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve picked something new, but today I’m happy to share this track from Scanner (a.k.a. Robin Rimbaud), which is taken from An Ascent, his first album for Ian Boddy’s DiN label. For obvious reasons, most of Scanner’s live shows were cancelled this year, so back in March he went on YouTube and performed an improvised live modular set. (You should take a peek, there’s a particularly endearing moment at 49:00 when he opens the floor up to questions and also invites the audience to take a break and eat a biscuit.) An Ascent was made with the same set-up, using a beastly 6U Eurorack modular, and “Counterpointe” is a brooding ambient piece that slowly drives forward—it’s like being dragged into the vortex of a black hole.

Follow Dania on Twitter, or check out her monthly radio show on dublab.es.


NEW THIS WEEK

The following are some of my favorite tracks from three releases that came out during the past week or so. (Click on the track titles to hear each song individually.) An extended list of recommendations is available to paid subscribers only. If you are a paid subscriber and would like to go ahead and jump to the complete list—which includes the recommendations below—you can find that here.

Oliver Coates “Butoh Baby” (RVNG Intl.)

Oliver Coates “Honey” (RVNG Intl.)

Last week, I was asked for the first time to start thinking about my favorite albums of 2020—no, not even a pandemic can cure music writers of their need to make lists—and I feel pretty confident in saying that Oliver Coates’ new Skins N Slime LP is going to make the cut. On his latest full-length, the UK cellist—who’s notably collaborated in the past with artists like Radiohead, Laurel Halo and Mica Levi, amongst many others—has made something that feels as indebted to Sunn O))) as it does the symphony orchestra. Although his music remains undeniably beautiful, Coates has also added some grit to his cinematic vision; the fluttering string melodies of “Butoh Baby” dance atop a droning, sinister dirge, while the crackling static of “Honey” sounds like something straight out of the Jesus and Mary Chain school of fidelity. Whether these raw elements are a nod to shoegaze, drone metal or something else entirely, Skins N Slime is full of serrated edges, and though it may seem counterintuitive, their “imperfection” only enhances the majesty and sheer power of Coates’ compositions. This is bold, arresting music, and the album features far more highlights than the two tracks I’ve listed here.

Il Quadro di Troisi “Non Ricordi” (Raster)

Il Quadro di Troisi “Raggio Verde” (Raster)

As a fan of both Donato Dozzy and Eva Geist, I suppose it’s not terribly surprising that I’d find a collaboration between the two Italian producers so alluring. That said, Il Quadro di Troisi bears only the faintest traces of either artist’s solo work; Italo is an easy reference point, but the pair’s self-titled album (which is available digitally now and drops on vinyl next month) largely passes on neon-streaked dancefloor glitz and glamor, opting instead for the pastel pads and airy textures of sensitive ’80s synth-pop outfits like Bronski Beat. “Non Ricordi” adds a bit of swirly, Siouxie and the Banshees-style dark magic into the mix, while the confident, radio-ready strut of “Raggio Verde” makes the song sound like a dreamy, Italian-language B-side from Kim Wilde or Berlin. It’s all very retro—and unapologetically so—but the nostalgia element never weighs down the music, which remains light and relatively camp-free. Trips down memory lane rarely feel so effortless.

Letherette “About You” (Wulf)

Letherette “Illusion” (Wulf)

Back in 2018, Letherette released Mander House, Vol. 1, which took the idea of a beat tape and applied it to house music, offering up an hour-long, continuous mix of off-the-cuff, tape-saturated dancefloor cuts that honestly felt a lot more carefree and fun than many of the UK duo’s proper releases—including their albums for Ninja Tune. Several of the tape’s best excerpts were then extended and released on last year’s Mander House Edits EP, and now Letherette has put together a full-blown sequel, Mander House, Vol. 2. Clearly indebted the perfectly imperfect, funk- and soul-infused house sounds of the American Midwest, the new tape doesn’t break new ground, but it’s not meant to, and the music’s unpolished nature only adds to its charm. “About You” is a fuzzy roller with a peppy guitar riff and a rollerskate-ready vocal, while “Illusion” is a low-key bit of piano-flecked deep house that’s best suited for smokey lounges and the latest of late-night dancefloors. I don’t know how long Letherette spent on these tunes, but many of them sound like the byproduct of finding a simple groove, hitting record and seeing what happens. Sometimes, that’s all that’s needed.

Once again, additional track recommendations are available to paid subscribers, and can be found here. This week’s selections include new music from Zenker Brothers, Otik, Kangding Ray and more, including new tracks from labels like Posh Isolation, Herrensauna and Blue Hour.


And with that, we’ve arrived at the end of this week’s newsletter. Thank you so much for reading.

Back next Tuesday,

Shawn


Shawn Reynaldo is a freelance writer, editor, presenter and project manager. Find him on LinkedIn or drop him an email to get in touch about projects, collaborations or potential work opportunities.

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