First Floor #116 – Avoid This File Format
a.k.a. Wrestling with WAVs, plus a bunch of great new tracks and a round-up of the week's electronic music news.
A QUICK SCHEDULING NOTE
Assuming that neither COVID or the travel gods interfere, I’ll be on some very long flights next week. Given that, I’ll be taking a short break from the newsletter, but First Floor’s regular weekly publishing schedule will resume on Tuesday, March 8.
DON’T CATCH THE WAV
PLEASE NOTE: This article was originally published on Tuesday and made available to paid newsletter subscribers, but the paywall has now been temporarily removed for the next 24 hours. If you’d like exclusive first access to long-form First Floor pieces—and unlimited views of all newsletter content—then please sign up for a paid subscription.
It’s 2022, and people are still sending WAV files.
Why do they do it? Habit? Fealty to lossless audio?
Whatever the reason, WAVs routinely create all sorts of headaches, which is maddening, as there are other, better options out there.
What sort of headaches? What other options? I did my best to answer those questions in an article earlier this week, and anyone who’s sending their music to people in the industry—whether that’s DJs, labels, journalists, venues or someone else—would be advised to take a look at it.
A round-up of of the last few weeks’ most interesting electronic music news, plus links to interviews, mixes, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.
Marking the one-year anniversary of their official split, Daft Punk briefly took over the internet earlier this week, broadcasting a video of an unmasked 1997 live performance at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles. The legendary French duo also announced forthcoming 25th-anniversary vinyl reissues of their Homework and Alive 2007 albums, which can be ordered here. A digital edition of the former is already available, and includes remixes from Motorbass, Masters at Work, DJ Sneak, I:Cube, Roger Sanchez, Slam and others.
Crypto pessimism continues to skyrocket—it certainly doesn’t help that right-wing ideologues like American politician Marjorie Taylor Greene have recently become vocal advocates—but the creators of Nina provided a welcome bit of thoughtful optimism on this episode of Mat Dryhurst and Holly Herndon’s Interdependence podcast. Coming from independent music backgrounds themselves—and more specifically, noise and experimental music backgrounds—they’ve constructed a crypto-based publishing / streaming / sales platform that is at the very least rooted in the idea of putting artists (and their art) ahead of speculation and needless financialization, which is likely why it’s already been embraced by people like Surgeon, Bergsonist, Chevel, Torn Hawk and Space Dimension Controller, among many others.
Bradley Zero, founder of the Rhythm Section imprint, shared an expansive—it’s literally two-and-a-half hours long—new online workshop called “How to Start, Run and Grow a Record Label.”
With his latest LP due to arrive in a few weeks, Fennec—a sample-loving American house producer whose music has been featured numerous times here in the newsletter—has been profiled by Elias Leight for Rolling Stone.
Huerco S. was interviewed here in the newsletter a few weeks back, but with his new album about to drop, the native Kansan has now popped up on Resident Advisor, who enlisted Zoey Shopmaker to pen an in-depth feature.
Matt Anniss is no stranger to the history of UK bass music—his 2019 book Join the Future dug deep into the genre and its origins—and now he’s written a fairly comprehensive feature documenting the history of bassline for DJ Mag.
Speaking of genre histories, Arjan Rietveld—who authored the book Hypnotised: A Journey Through Trance Music (1990-2005)—has put together a new feature for Ransom Note that traces the rise of trance in the UK.
Deep house specialist and Upstairs Asylum founder Norm Talley is one of Detroit’s many unsung heroes, but he receives some deserved shine in this profile that Terry Matthew has written for 5Mag.
Having just released a new album called Sell_By_Date, veteran UK producer Neil Landstrumm spoke to Joe Muggs for Bandcamp, tracing back his influential 30-year trek through various strains of techno, rave and bass music.
A round-up of noteworthy new and upcoming releases that were announced during the past week.
Lucrecia Dalt has made her first film score. The leftfield Colombian artist was tapped to create music for sci-fi horror flick The Seed, and the full soundtrack will be released on May 20 by the Invada label. In the meantime, one of its tracks, “Venutian Offspring,” has already been shared.
Experimental / ambient artist Claire Rousay has teamed up with the Shelter Press label for her next full-length, everything perfect is already here, which is slated to arrive on April 22. The LP consists of two long-form compositions, and an extended excerpt of the title track has already been made available.
House- and boogie-loving Oakland producer Space Ghost has completed a new album, Private Paradise, that will be issued by the Pacific Rhythm imprint on March 31. The title track (and first single) is on various streaming / digital sales platforms now, and additional clips from the LP were shared as part of his initial announcement about the record.
Shelley Parker, who dropped a record on Hessle Audio back in 2018 and more recently appeared on a split release with Peder Mannerfelt, has a new album on the way. Entitled Wisteria, it’s due to arrive via Hypercolour on March 25, and one of its tracks, “Glisten,” is available now.
Armenian festival Urvakan has shared a new compilation called A Collective Memoir as a name-your-price release on Bandcamp. Focusing on artists from Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine that are working with the concepts of time and memory, it includes a new track from Perila, along with tracks from several other musicians.
NEW THIS WEEK
The following is a selection of my favorite tunes from releases that came out during the last week or so. The ones in the ‘Big Three’ section are the songs I especially want to highlight (and therefore have longer write-ups), but the tracks in the ‘Best of the Rest’ section are also very much worth your time. In both sections, you can click the track titles to hear each song individually, or you can also just head over to this convenient Buy Music Club list to find them all in one place.
THE BIG THREE
It’s not often that Mariah Carey’s name gets mentioned here in the newsletter, but what’s even more surprising is that it’s experimental artist Rupert Clervaux who’s prompted the iconic diva’s return to First Floor. (Full disclosure: Two Changes, Clervaux’s 2016 joint album with Beatrice Dillon, came out on my wife’s Paralaxe Editions label, and he’s subsequently done a fair bit of mixing and mastering work for the imprint.) An oft-unheralded figure who was raised in England and is now based in Mallorca, he continues to lend his engineering talents to a myriad of experimental artist and outposts, but Clervaux has also just released a new, name-your-price album of his own, Zibaldone IV of CVX, the latest installment in a series of what he describes as “rhythmic and melodic sorties into, and salvoes from, the worlds of literature, philosophy, poetry, psychology, history, politics and so on.”
It’s unexpected that Mariah Carey would somehow fit into such an undertaking, but “Thylias Moss #2” is largely constructed around a line pilfered from her 2005 smash “We Belong Together.” The lyric (“Wait a minute, this is too deep”) loops over and over, running through a gauntlet of fluttering distortion as Clervaux’s composition—which initially sounds like something from a sound installation—gradually transforms into a herky-jerk (but undeniably bumping) avant-pop tune.
There are no pop stars on “Departure from England,” but the song does feature a reading of a poem by Ingeborg Bachmann, along with a regal suite of horns and what sound like booming kettle drums. Swaddled in the sounds of howling wind and lapping waves, it’s a more forlorn and introspective piece, but it’s no less stirring.
Soaked in soft static, “Time Decay” is a gorgeous selection from Dwell Time, the arresting new album from T.R. Jordan. The Washington, DC-based ambient and classical composer previously made music as The Greatest Hoax, but under his own name he’s carved out a warmer, more intimate space. True to its title, “Time Decay” documents a sort of digital collapse, its constant tape hiss mingling with stirring melodic swells as the song’s delicate synth riff slowly gurgles across nearly five spellbinding minutes. It’s akin to watching a time-lapse video of a wilting flower, and while the whole thing ends in a sort of quiet oblivion, there’s a real beauty in observing the process unfold.
Electronic music has been obsessed with revisiting the sounds of the ’90s in recent years, but ambient techno has somehow been left off the revival list. Perhaps the reissue of Soundtrack  will change that. Created by The Detroit Escalator Company (a.k.a. Neil Ollivierra, a Motor City O.G. who was also a promoter at groundbreaking venue The Music Institute), the seminal album was first issued in 1996, but more than 25 years later, tracks like “Abstract Forward Movement”—a light-filled and joyously psychedelic number that recalls Manuel Göttsching’s minimalist electronic classic E2-E4—haven’t aged a day. “Fate (As a Chasm),” one of six previously unreleased tunes included in the reissue, is a bit heavier, but it still feels effervescent; its skittering percussion teeters on the edge of drum & bass, but wisely keeps its cool, allowing the song’s soulful synth riffs to glide along toward the horizon.
BEST OF THE REST
After being diagnosed with cancer, Lithuanian producer grad_u funneled all of his fears and emotions into a new album, T2NO, and while it’s (mostly) a rather dark and somber record, there’s still a lot of beauty in the steady, static-dusted march of “Adenocarcinoma,” a cinematic tune whose sonorous tones and widescreen orientation perfectly aligns with the gravity of what its creator was dealing with.
Following a lengthy absence—the last Sally Shapiro release was a 2016 single—the Swedish duo has returned with a surprise new album, Sad Cities. LP standout “Believe in Me” is dreamy slice of wistful dance-pop with some slightly posh (albeit not annoyingly so) undertones, echoing the legacy of groups like Saint Etienne.
Macedonian producer Herzel fully harnesses the power of the arpeggio on “Shaking Slightly,” a track off his new Bitter Tears EP. Landing somewhere between Carl Craig’s seminal remix of Delia Gonzalez and Gavilán Rayna Russom’s “Relevee” and the synth workouts you might hear in a ’90s high school chemistry video, it’s both hypnotic and highly danceable.
Dark, scratchy and razor sharp, “Accelerator”—which can be found on Dutch artist RXmode’s new Tunnel EP—is a thrillingly nightmarish cut that could technically be classified as electro, but ultimately has more in common with an industrial threshing machine than whatever tunes were blaring out of boomboxes at 1980s breakdance competitions.
Dark, driving, dubby and riddled with tension; that’s “Relentlessly” in a nutshell. A haunted highlight of Terrence Dixon’s new Relinked EP, the track gives off some definite (albeit subtle) horror-soundtrack vibes, but it’s also a low-key techno stalker, its pulsing kick racing along beneath a blanket of storm clouds.
Given his prodigious rate of output, referring to Slikback as simply “prolific” no longer seems adequate. The Kenyan producer hast just dropped a new album called Condense, a collaborative affair that tears across the electronic spectrum with the help of Giant Swan, Hyph11e, Xzavier Stone and a slew of others. French artist Malibu lends her ethereal touch to the floaty bombast of “Uendeligt,” while Sicilian beatmaker Shapenoise brings the noise to the gnarled flurry that is “Fog.”
Linha de Ofício 93", the new EP from Brazilian artist RHR, pulls together threads of baile funk, techno and electro, and the latter looms particularly large on “Mente e Drama,” a paranoid bit of cybernetic funk powered by booming beats and taut, serpentine basslines.
Dub techno done right. “Recursion”—the title track of UK producer Forest Drive West’s new EP—balances scratchy textures against feathery bliss, resulting in a tune that’s objectively plush, but also has just enough dark undertones to leave you wondering if something sinister is afoot.
Following a series of impressive techno releases as Aos, Seattle artist Kayla Waldorf has reemerged with a new moniker (Selene) and a more meditative approach. “Color of Sound” is from her new The Secret Garden Is in Your Mind EP, and it’s a perception-bending composition, its opening volley of pitch-shifted vocals and dubby undulations gradually morphing into a rousing slice of melodic techno.
Neither the lap-steel or pedal-steel guitar feature prominently in the electronic music canon, but those instruments fly high on this particular pair of tracks. Both are great, but “The North Line” is definitely the more melancholy of the two; a highlight of veteran artist Pan•American’s new album The Patience Fader, its gentle, americana-infused warble rings out across a snowy expanse. “Lake of Dreams,” which appears on the new High & Lonesome LP, goes a bit bigger, with UK artist The Howard Hughes Suite creating a weighty melodic mist that sounds more appropriate for a cathedral than the prairie.
That’s it for today’s edition of First Floor. Thank you so much for reading the newsletter, and as always, I do hope that you enjoyed the tunes. (Don’t forget, you can find them all on this handy Buy Music Club list, and if you like them, please buy them.)
Back in a couple of weeks,
Shawn Reynaldo is a freelance writer, editor, presenter and project manager. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter, or you can just drop him an email to get in touch about projects, collaborations or potential work opportunities.