First Floor #140 – Passing the Baton
a.k.a. The roots of intergenerational rave conflict, plus a round-up of electronic music news and a fresh batch of new track recommendations.
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WHO’S IN CHARGE OF THE CULTURE?
Adults complaining about “kids these days” is a phenomenon that likely dates back to the earliest days of human civilization, and yet every generation still continues to look down on those who follow in their footsteps. Within the world of dance music, this intergenerational tension has been running particularly high as of late, with older heads increasingly voicing their disapproval of how zoomer ravers have burst out of the pandemic with a passion for nosebleed-inducing tempos, garish Y2K aesthetics and a general lack of interest in how things used to be.
Admittedly, this discourse often isn’t all that interesting. Ravers have been arguing online since the dawn of the internet, but what’s unique about these conflicts is that dance music in many ways hasn’t really changed all that much in recent years. Trends have of course come and go, and what was once a “underground” culture has sprouted into a giant global industry, but the music, fashion and culture has been somewhat static, endlessly recycling the sounds, aesthetics and techniques of the ’80s and ’90s.
Given that, what exactly is prompting the current intergenerational strife? It might be framed as arguments over preferred bpm ranges and what flyers ought to look like, but in truth, this fight is all about control. More specifically, it’s about control of the culture, and who gets to shape the dance music narrative.
Earlier this week, I put together some extended thoughts on the matter, reflecting on how the inevitably of aging raises people’s ire and frequently manifests itself in ridicule of the youngest folks in the room. That essay is now available (temporarily) for everyone to read in full here.
A round-up of the last week’s most interesting electronic music news, plus links to interviews, mixes, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.
The latest edition of David Turner’s essential Penny Fractions newsletter looks at fraud within the music industry, highlighting how artists, labels, platforms, the media and even fans are all complicit in a system where the numbers (i.e. sales figures, streaming totals, follower counts, chart positions, etc.) are actively being manipulated. He also highlights how despite stated efforts by the industry to crack down on this kind of behavior, genuine oversight is lacking and little incentive exists for bad actors to halt in their attempts to game the system.
Writer Caroline Whiteley has been penning a series of environmentally focused features for Resident Advisor this year, and her latest latest piece focuses on how the extreme weather brought about by climate change is already fouling up the festival landscape—and has the potential to do a lot more damage in the years ahead.
Speaking of the environment, Attack magazine has published an unbylined new feature about Green Vinyl, speaking to owner Harm Theunisse about the Dutch company’s unique manufacturing process—which is said to cut energy usage by up to 90%—and inquiring how their services and end product stack up against those of their more traditional competitors.
felte, a low-key imprint run by longtime Ghostly International employee Jeff Owens, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, prompting Bandcamp Daily’s Ned Raggett to put together a feature that briefly summarizes the label’s history and highlights some of the best entries in its catalog.
A round-up of noteworthy new and upcoming releases announced during the past week.
Avalon Emerson and Anunaku have a new collaborative project called A+A, and their first release, 060, will be arriving via the AD 93 label on September 30. Although the two initially intended to make something besides club music, the final product wound up having a dancefloor vibe anyways, and A+A will actually be DJing a series of dates in October. In the meantime, they’ve already shared their debut EP’s opening track, “Eternal September.”
Vaunted UK nightclub Fabric has launched a new imprint, Fabric Originals. Created with an eye towards releasing music from “artists that form the present and future of boundary-pushing club music globally,” the label dropped its first release, a split 12” from Eris Drew and Octo Octa, earlier this week. It will be followed by DJ Bone’s Black Market EP on October 21 and Helena Hauff’s Living with Ladybirds EP on November 11, and additional releases from Sherelle, I. Jordan, LCY and Marcel Dettmann have been lined up for 2023.
Before he became Galcher Lustwerk, the NYC producer (who wasn’t yet living in New York at the time) apparently made music under the name WADE:ltd, and last week he released a collection of tunes from that project, 2009:2011, which is available now on Bandcamp.
Pariah and Blawan, who make rowdy techno together as Karenn and also run the Voam label, have launched a new project, Persher, that’s dedicated to “an exploration of heavier sonics.” The duo’s debut album under that name, Man with the Magic Soap, will be released on October 21 via Thrill Jockey, and the LP’s chest-rattling title track is available now.
The Bug has offered up a new riddim album, Absent Riddim, which is available now through his Pressure imprint and features 17 different versions of the same beat. Sixteen of those versions include vocals from an all-star roster of collaborators that includes Justin K. Broadrick, Jonnine Standish (of HTRK), Dälek, Moor Mother, Dis Fig, Logan, YL Hooi and several others.
Following his recent “Blue Hour” single with Julianna Barwick, LA producer Nosaj Thing has shared the full details of his upcoming Continua album for LuckyMe. The LP is due to arrive on October 28, and features guest appearances from Duval Timothy, serpentwithfeet, Coby Sey, Panda Bear, Toro y Moi and others. Ahead of that, he’s shared another new single, a collaboration with HYUKOH called “We Are (우리는),” along with its accompanying music video.
UK garage and bassline don DJ Q has a new full-length on the way, Est. 2003, which is slated to arrive on September 23 through the Local Action label. Several tracks from the LP—including multiple songs that were previously released as singles, plus “Sweet Day,” a new collaboration with Todd Edwards—are already available here.
Dorian Concept will once again be working with the Brainfeeder label for his latest album. Entitled What We Do for Others, it’s said to have more of a “band sound,” and will surface on October 28. Ahead of that, quirky LP cut “Let It All Go” has already been made available, as has the song’s official video.
Cellist and experimental composer Clarice Jensen has completed her third LP, Esthesis, which the 130701 label (an offshoot of Fatcat) will be releasing on October 21. The album is inspired in part by the “phenomenon of chromesthesia—a condition whereby sound involuntarily evokes an experience of color, shape and movement,” and one track, “Joy,” has already been shared.
Ambient producer / vocalist Malibu—who was interviewed here in First Floor earlier this year—has collaborated with Swedish producer Merely on a new single, “Idle Citi,” which is available now on the YEAR0001 label.
Gold Panda will soon be releasing The Work, a new album inspired by his dedication to self-care in recent years. It’s slated to arrive on November 11 through City Slang, and two tracks from the LP, including new single “The Corner”—which also has a corresponding video—can be heard here.
Matías Aguayo’s relationship with Kompakt dates back decades, and the Chilean producer will soon be returning to the famed Cologne label for the first time since 2014. His new EP The Tiger is scheduled to surface on September 30, and while no music has been shared yet, more details about the record can be found here.
Brogan Bentley’s Diapson Rex LP was one of last year’s underappreciated gems, and now the California producer has returned with a new release, Precession of the Equinox. A two-track effort created with eye towards expanding listener consciousness, it’s available now through Leaving Records.
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of their Fever AM label, Mor Elian and Rhyw have assembled a new compilation, It’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature. The 12-song collection will be released on September 30 and includes tracks—all of them previously unreleased—from Peder Mannerfelt, Ayesha, Gacha Bakradze, and several others, including the label founders themselves. One track, Pariah’s “Squishy Windows,” has already been shared.
The latest edition of Crammed Discs’ Made to Measure series will be a new ambient / experimental compilation called Fictions, which is set to arrive on October 14. No music has been shared yet, but all the details are here and the release includes tracks from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Christina Vantzou, Mary Lattimore, Félicia Atkinson, Lucrecia Dalt and others.
NEW THIS WEEK
The following is a selection of my favorite tunes from releases that came out during the past 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
IDM has made something of a comeback in recent years, yet so many of the artists mining the ’90s Warp and Rephlex catalogs for inspiration oddly seem to ignore one key element of the genre: the music can be fun! Not every blast of glitch and static needs to be in the service of sound art or a heady academic concept, and Lake Haze has thankfully remembered that fact on “Bbyncole,” the wiggly, acid-tinged and downright playful high point of his new Henosis LP.
Over the past decade, the Portuguese producer has often stuck to the electro / techno / house continuum, but his work feels newly liberated here, frequently casting notions of functionality aside and instead indulging his various creative whims. As such, many of the tracks on Henosis run less than three minutes, and while a song like “Night Train” still nods toward the club, its plush pads and dreamy atmosphere sound more like a night of gazing at the stars than a sweaty evening on the dancefloor.
Jungle and drum & bass are clearly having a moment right now—although in fairness, that “moment” has been going on for several years—and while this has led to a flood of new artists, labels and releases, few outlets have proven to be as reliable as Over / Shadow. The London imprint, which was started in 2020 by 2 Bad Mice with the intention of bringing together “former Moving Shadow artists and like-minded producers,” is impeccably curated, its releases harkening back to the sounds and styles of jungle’s “golden era” without feeling like cookie-cutter retreads.
Last week, Over / Shadow dropped two new records, and while ASC’s Black Rain / Sixth Sense is absolutely worth checking, Loxy & Resound’s Divine Light EP is just a little bit better. “Atom Eve” is particularly strong, its opening passage of jittery sci-fi tones and lushly fluttering melodic textures quickly giving way to a bouncy Amen break, resulting in something that’s both lively enough to perk up the dancefloor and heady enough for a transportive bout of deep thinking.
Equal parts cinematic and unnerving, Hallucinating Loss—the new full-length from New Mexico-based composer William Fowler Collins—is an LP that reaches gut-wrenching emotional highs and lows. Album highlight “Death Acquires a Different Meaning” clocks in at more than nine minutes, and while the track itself is somewhat minimal, its instrumentation consisting of little more than slow-twirling guitar drones, Johanna Hedva’s vocals elevate the proceedings, acting as a kind of twisted Greek chorus as her moans, laments and growls vacillate between angelic beauty and the stuff of nightmares.
BEST OF THE REST
Although he continues to release the occasional tidbit as Murlo, UK producer Chris Pell has been more focused on his garage-influenced Sharda moniker in recent years. “It’s a Love Thing” is the project’s latest new single, and it’s a joyous delight, layering bright, cartoonishly pitched-up R&B vocals over a romping speed garage beat.
Returning to the Scythe project he debuted last year, Brooklyn artist Travis Egedy (best known as chillwave / witch house survivor Pictureplane) gets deliciously hazy on his new two-tracker for Mechanical. Lead cut “Weeping Blade,” with its glowing textures and ponderous pace, almost sounds like something from the Lost in Translation soundtrack, though it’s better suited for dark Japanese forests than the wondrous streets of Tokyo.
The debut album from UK producer Jeigo, Cerulean is said to take cues from Four Tet and Everything But Girl, and traces of both artists surface on LP standout “I.Y.E.F.U.” Built atop a foundation of shuffling breakbeats (which are arguably more Mo’ Wax than ’90s rave), the track definitely flirts with the dancefloor, though its swirly synths and hypnotic, post-trip-hop vocal loop provide a zoned-out energy that’s perfect for a night of chilling in a cozy corner of the club.
With decades of collective experience under their belt, drum & bass supergroup Watch the Ride (a.k.a. the trio of DJ Die, Randall and Dismantle) has a lot of jungle magic at their disposal, and new single “Time’s Up” offers it up in a very potent format, the track’s jazzy bounce recalling the classic Full Cycle sound—and doing it in less than four minutes to boot.
When it comes to noisy, industrial-strength techno, few artists go harder than FRET (a.k.a. former Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris), and the UK artist’s new album, Because of the Weak, offers no respite from his chaotic mind. LP standout “20oz Gripper” is a veritable meat grinder, its jagged textures and persistent stomp coalescing into the musical equivalent of being slowly—and repeatedly—run over by a bulldozer. That said, getting pummeled rarely feels this invigorating.
There’s a big-room house cut at the heart of “Circuit 15”—a highlight of the tempo-hopping new Circuits album—but London producer Moiré has submerged it in a dubby pool of late-night murk, creating a satisfyingly low-slung tune that’s better suited to coolly swaying than hands-in-the-air reverence.
The word “ambient” can mean a lot of things in the electronic music realm, but far too often, it essentially translates to “sedate.” California artist Forest Robots bucks that trend with his new Supermoon Moonlight Part Two LP, infusing his creations with light and color, even as his beats remain decidedly mellow. Bucolic album highlight “Somewhere in the Early Morning Mist” practically glides through the air, its bright melodies twinkling like dew drops in the morning sun.
In all honesty, many 16-minute-long tracks aren’t really worth sitting through. Mary Lattimore’s new standalone single “The Last Roses,” however, offers a uniquely exquisite listen, the LA-based harpist’s soft tones and gently plucked melodies evoking images of medieval luxury—think impeccably curated royal gardens and relaxed afternoons spent lounging at court. Those images are clearly fantastical in nature, but Lattimore’s dream world is one that listeners wont wan’t to end, no matter how many minutes have gone by.
Taken from Cub\cub’s sophomore album Radiant Crush, “Gather Now (Worlds in Collis9on)” is a song for the sunrise. Opening with washy synths that channel both Boards of Canada and the moodier end of ’80s synth-pop, the track initially captures the sweat-dripping exhaustion of long night spent partying, but once a shuffling breakbeat kicks in about halfway through, there’s a temporary surge of energy, providing one last push before the whole thing collapses in a heap of reverb and weary piano.
A long-distance collaboration between Japanese musician Yumi Iwaki and Brazilian experimental guitarist Carlos Ferreira, the Tenderness LP finds the two seeking out points of connection across a myriad of airy drones, smeared soundscapes and fractured instrumentation. It’s chaotic at times, but “Tactile Memories” provides a well-deserved patch of serenity, its robust synths harkening back to the neon of ’80s film soundtracks as the sounds of rainfall and the song’s chime-like melodies evoke feelings of zen.
That’s all for today’s newsletter. Thank you so much for reading First Floor, 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.)
Have a great week,
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.