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First Floor #185 – On the Road Again
a.k.a. The First Floor book tour is heading to America, plus a round-up of the week's electronic music news and a fresh crop of new track recommendations.
I’m going to keep the intro brief today. My big news of the week is that I’m going on tour (again) next month, and as you might imagine, I’m very excited about it. My most recent visit to the US was more than four years ago, and it’s been even longer since I was last on the West Coast, so while the main point of this upcoming trip is obviously to talk about First Floor and my book, it’ll also be great to see friends, family and many of the places where I spent my younger years.
And yes, I’m also dying to eat a decent burrito. (That San Francisco stop can’t come soon enough.)
Read on for more details about the book tour, but of course today’s newsletter also includes all of the usual electronic music goodies you’ve come to expect from First Floor. Below you’ll find a rundown of the latest news and release announcements, along with links to interesting articles and a list of the new tracks I’ve been digging the most during the past week. And for those who want to hear from someone other than me, I’ve also recruited artist Ana Quiroga to put together a special guest recommendation.
There’s a lot of good stuff in here, so let’s get into it.
NORTH AMERICAN BOOK TOUR
In case you missed Tuesday’s announcement, I’ll soon be heading to the US (and Montreal) for a series of talks / Q &A sessions focused on my recently released book, First Floor Vol. 1: Reflections on Electronic Music Culture. (If you haven’t yet picked up a copy, folks can order it directly from my publisher Velocity Press, but if you’re outside the UK, I’d suggest inquiring at your favorite local bookshop or trying one of the online sales links I’ve compiled here.)
More details about the tour (and all of the individual event flyers) are here, but the complete list of dates is below.
(Please note: the hyperlinked dates require either a ticket purchase or an RSVP, so please act quickly, as space may be limited at some events.)
September 21 - New York, Dripping at Nowadays (moderated by Avalon Emerson)
September 22 - Montreal, OSMO X MARUSAN (moderated by Patrick Holland)
September 23 - Miami, Paradis Books & Bread (moderated by Nick León)
September 25 - Washington DC, Eaton House (moderated by Joyce Lim)
September 28 - Seattle, Vermillion (moderated by Doc Sleep)
September 30 - San Francisco, Public Works (moderated by Mozhgan)
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.
Although it (thankfully) doesn’t address the recent debate around DJs’ increasing use of pop edits, this new article that Kieran Press-Reynolds put together for No Bells swims in similar territory, providing an interesting look at how and why mash-ups and altered-speed (i.e. sped-up and slowed down) remixes, fueled by social media trends and cheap AI / digital production tools, have exploded—some might say metastasized—throughout the music industry, especially in the major-label circuit.
Speaking of AI, 5Mag’s Terry Matthew has penned a fiery piece about Boomy, a music-generating start-up that has quickly flooded the major streaming platforms with what he describes as “a tsunami of shit-tier” music. Though his tone is unsparing, the article offers more than just critique, highlighting the exploitative ways that Boomy operates with its own users and also pointing out how the company potentially enables profit-seeking bad actors to further game the streaming landscape.
The untimely passing of techno veteran Alland Byallo was already mentioned in last week’s newsletter, but it’s worth revisiting to highlight this loving tribute that Marke Bieschke wrote for Beatportal.
LatAmTronica is a new interactive exhibit that’s designed to “chronicle the evolution of electronic music in Latin America.” Assembled by the ZZK label to launch its new ZZK Culture initiative, it kicked off this week in collaboration with Montreal’s MUTEK festival, though its contents—which include documentaries, music videos and more—are also available online. The exhibition includes commentary and contributions from artists throughout Latin America (Matias Aguayo, DJ Babatr, Nortec Collective, Bitter Babe, Verraco and AAAA are just a few of the people involved), many of whom appear in this teaser for the project.
This New York Times article isn’t about electronic music—or music at all—but writer Reggie Ugwu does provide an eye-opening look at the current state of cultural criticism by examining the rise of movie reviewers on TikTok. The picture it paints is relatively dire, as many of these reviewers not only shy away from the term “critic,” but actively seek out paid collaborations with major film studios.
Nina, an “independent music eco-system” that began life as a crypto-enabled marketplace—albeit a unique one that prioritized curation and was rooted in the tenets of independent music culture—where artists could sell limited-edition work (and continue to profit if said work is ever resold), announced earlier this month that it would begin accepting credit-card payments. It may seem like a minor change, but it means that engaging with crypto is no longer required for those who want to purchase music and other works on the platform.
In his latest newsletter, music journalist Ben Cardew surveys the career of Armand van Helden, a verifiable house music legend who’s penned countless classics over the years, but somehow still seems oddly underrated.
To mark the 40th anniversary of Depeche Mode’s Construction Time Again, writer Ned Raggett took a fresh look at the album for The Quietus, chronicling the record’s genesis and advancing the theory that it represented the beginning of what might be called “industrial pop.”
Yu Su is the subject of Mixmag’s latest cover story, in which the Vancouver-based Chinese artist tells journalist Issac Muk about how she went from knowing virtually nothing about dance music to now regularly touring the world as acclaimed left-of-center DJ. Folks like Floating Points, Ben UFO and the Mood Hut collective pop up in her story, and the article is also accompanied by an exclusive new DJ mix from Yu Su herself.
Malibu—who was interviewed here in the newsletter last year—has now surfaced in the newest edition DJ Mag’s Recognise series, which includes both a DJ mix from the ethereal French artist and an accompanying feature by writer Heléna Stanton.
A round-up of noteworthy new and upcoming releases announced during the past week.
Oneohtrix Point Never has completed a new album. Entitled Again, it’s described as a “speculative autobiography” and an “illogical period piece,” and was apparently born out of the idea of the artist collaborating with his former selves. Warp Records will be releasing the LP on September 29, but in the meantime, this short trailer has been shared.
DJ Shadow has a new full-length on the way. A largely instrumental effort for the Mass Appeal / Liquid Amber labels, it’s called Action Adventure and apparently contains no guest features. The LP is slated to arrive on October 27, but opening track “Ozone Scraper” is already available, along with the song’s official music video.
KMRU already has the Dissolution Grip album coming next month, but the Kenyan sound artist is set to quickly follow it up with Stupor, a collection of long-form tracks originally commissioned by Helsinki curatorial agency PUBLICS. On October 20, those tracks will be released by the Other Power label, but opening number “CPR-12*” is available now.
Verraco, the Colombian artist who also co-founded the white-hot TraTraTrax and Insurgentes labels, is the newest addition to the Voam label roster. The celebrated techno imprint, headed up by Blawan and Pariah, will be issuing his Escándaloo EP on September 15, but the record’s title track has already been shared.
pmxper is a new collaboration between Pavel Milyakov (a.k.a. Buttechno) and perila, and their self-titled debut album—which the two developed over the course of several years while only working together in the same room on one of its songs—is out now on Smalltown Supersound’s Le Jazz Non imprint, but it’s currently only available via Boomkat as a limited-edition vinyl release. (Update: the album is now available on Bandcamp in both physical and digital formats.)
Shanti Celeste and Hodge, who first linked up years ago while both were living in Bristol, have joined forces on a new EP for the former’s Peach Discs label. Bounce contains one original from each producer, plus two versions of their collaborative track “Whispers.” One of those versions—the “Rave Mix”—is available now, and the rest of the record will drop on September 1.
CV & JAB, the duo of ambient / experimental artists Christina Vantzou and John Also Bennett, will soon be releasing a new LP on Editions Basilic. Κλίμα (Klima) is rooted in the pair’s “live experiments, cyclical studio sessions and travels” across the island of Tenerife, and though the full album won’t surface until September 29, the track “Pottery Fragments” has already been shared.
Dania—the Barcelona-based ambient / experimental artist who heads up Paralaxe Editions (and yes, also happens to be married to me)—has two new releases on the way. The first is Acción y Destino, a 77-minute collaborative piece with Rupert Clervaux that’s rooted in fragments of strings from La forza del destino, Verdi’s purportedly cursed 19th-century opera. It’s set to arrive on September 15 via OOH-sounds, and just a few weeks later (on October 6, to be exact), Dania will appear on Run, an unusual EP compilation from Hivern Discs which features her, Cucina Povera and Céline Gillain covering “Run,” a 2017 track by Shakkatam that label founder John Talabot has frequently used as a closer for his DJ sets. The record also includes the original version of the song, and both that and Dania’s cover have already been shared here.
Passarani, the Italian artist who’s also one half of Tiger & Woods, will soon be returning to his tongue-in-cheek David Woods alias for a new EP on Running Back. Shuffling the Cards Again is scheduled to drop on September 15, and while no audio has been shared, more details can be found here.
Back in 2020, during the early days of lockdown, Lord of the Isles released Whities 029, an EP that featured two stunning collaborations with Scottish poet Ellen Renton. Those songs were some of my favorites of that year, and apparently their creators were pleased with the music as well, as they’ve teamed up again for a new collaborative album called My Noise Is Nothing. It’s slated for a September 29 release on AD 93, but its title track is available now.
ANA QUIROGA HAS BETTER TASTE THAN I DO
First Floor is effectively a one-person operation, but every edition of the newsletter cedes a small portion of the spotlight to an artist, writer or other figure from the music world, inviting them to recommend a piece of music. Today’s recommendation comes from Ana Quiroga, a London-based Asturian artist whose debut album Azabache will be arriving next month via the Houndstooth label. Keen-eyed readers may also remember Quiroga from her time in the acclaimed duo LCC—which released multiple albums on Editions Mego during the 2010s—but her current practice explores both the “mines, minerals, and mystical feminine energy” of her Celtic roots and the “urban occultism” of her present surroundings. That same taste for magic is reflected in her selection below.
It’s hard to recommend a track when there’s so much beautiful music out there… but I followed my gut and instinctively chose “I’m Not Done” by Fever Ray. They are one of my favourite artists, and their first solo album has deeply influenced my work—it was a big inspiration behind my upcoming album Azabache. When the record first came out in 2009, it was very refreshing; the music was weird, witchy, mesmerising and raw, and I think the LP was underrated at the time.
I love how the track works almost like a magical form of self-empowerment. The genderless vocals and lyrics are brilliant, the production is so beautifully done and the mixture of synthetic sounds with its organic rhythms takes you to another realm, a kind of past and future dimension where the invisible becomes more tangible. I also love its pop touch, which keeps the darkness just below the surface and makes the song very feel empowering.
NEW THIS WEEK
The following is a selection of my favorite tunes from releases that came out during the past week or so. Click the track titles to hear each song individually, or you can also just head over to this convenient Buy Music Club list if you prefer to listen to them all in one place.
The music Dario Tronchin makes as Chevel is rather good, but the music he makes as Money Lang is both good and a whole lot of fun. Beginning with 2021’s excellent Treviso Mare mixtape, the project is deeply indebted to the glittery sparkle and filtered loops of French touch, and “Dreams”—a new standalone single—continues down that path, its breezy guitars and soft-focus soul sounding like Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk, only without the Top 40 aspirations. Add in the song’s silky smooth, Jackson 5-esque vocal sample, and “Dreams” is the sort of giddy little tune that’ll be stuck in your head for days on end.
With its gleaming chimes, bright colors and insistent throb, “Creeping Plant”—the title track of French artist Fasme’s latest EP—is a perfect example of what might be described as Mario Kart techno. It’s luminous, carefree and brimming with energy, and thanks to its general air of fantasy, the song feels less like a simple jaunt across the dancefloor and more like a joyous excursion through the clouds. And once the wiggly acid line kicks in about halfway through, “Creeping Plant” starts to feel downright magical.
Since its launch last year, the fabric Originals imprint has largely staked its reputation on releases from established tastemaker faves (e.g. Kode9, Burial, Marcel Dettmann, SHERELLE, I. Jordan, Octo Octa, Eris Drew, Helena Hauff), but the new fabric SELECTS III compilation digs deeper, assembling a collection of what the label describes as “melodic, deep house and groovy electronic” tunes from a handful of known acts (e.g. Red Axes, Perel, Zombies in Miami) and a number of up-and-comers. It’s the latter group that shines brightest, as South Korean artist Shubostar skillfully combines chugging Italo and the campy sounds of ’70s science fiction on the twirly “Pale Blue Dot,” while Long Island Sound skillfully dabble in big-room melancholy and shuffling breakbeats on “Snow,” an openly twee cut that credibly threatens to outdo Bicep at their own game.
When it comes to bass music, the UK tends to gobble up most of the attention, but the new Worst Behavior, Vol. 4 compilation makes a strong argument that the American bass contingent is just as talented as their counterparts on the other side of the pond. bastiengoat hails from Oakland, and he delivers one of the record’s early highlights with “to a level where love is real,” a lo-fi rave bruiser whose vamping pianos and lovelorn diva both sound like they’ve been ripped from a podcast that’s been pitched up to 1.5x speed, and whose gloriously unpolished bassline rattles like the backseat of an old Honda with blown speakers and too many subwoofers in the trunk. “Spacemaker II,” a collaboration between NYC’s Doctor Jeep and San Francisco’s Farsight, is another bright spot, and while it doesn’t have the same ramshackle spirit, the song is a proper sledgehammer, one whose gurgling wobbles, jungle rhythm, pitched-up ragga vocal and looming sense of paranoia breath new life into what, in lesser hands, might seem like an overly familiar template.
What happened to Bodhi? The Welsh duo have been releasing music—most of it melody-driven house with a few splashes of bass music in the mix—for more than a decade now, but on their new Edge of Blue EP, it sounds like their tunes have spent the past six months living at the gym and consuming nothing but creatine powder and protein shakes. It’s not a wholesale change from the their past output, but it is a noticeable one, taking their sound in tougher and sharper direction. “DHB1” may be built atop a skippy beat, but its pulsing, not-quite-wobble basslines are borderline menacing, clearly meant to rumble innards and bassbins alike.
Plenty of techno (and techno-adjacent) music is dark and doomy, but “Void Energy Van” is positively claustrophobic, a suite of scratchy radio waves and oppressive static that’s been manipulated into something resembling a rumbling undercurrent. There are no real drums per se, but the track—a standout on the new Woodland Fantasies album—never stops moving. Constantly shivering and slithering, it’s the sonic equivalent of being neck-deep in a snake pit, and while that’s bound to get just about anyone’s hackles up, it’s not often that the discomfort caused by a track feels so thrillingly visceral.
Is YUKU the busiest label in bass music? Quite possibly, but the Cezch outpost has maintained an impressive hit rate during the past few years, even as it’s steadily extended its geographic reach. Joaquín Cornejo hails from Ecuador, although the polyrhythms on Más Allá Que Acá—his new album that also includes gorgeous patches of ambient—pull equally from Midwestern footwork and the crooked beat patterns that have long powered bass-centric outposts like Livity Sound. The bubbly “Cuica” veers closer to the former, but it’s not some Teklife knockoff, as its feverishly thrumming foundations have been nicely adorned with softly strummed acoustic guitar and pitch-shifted bits of vocal weirdness. Rarely is something so insistent also deeply hypnotic, but Cornejo makes the juxtaposition seem completely natural.
Beam, the new double pack from Dutch artist Tammo Hesselink, is ideal listening for anyone who loves to luxuriate in trippy textures and low-end fog. While other, more beat-centric tracks on the record offer a variety of (quite good) takes on left-of-center techno, opening cut “Function As Foils” shines while dialing back the drums, landing in a zone the combines the subtle grooves of dub techno with the the atmospheric float of early dubstep’s most spacious offerings. A little advice: grab a pillow, get horizontal, clear your mind and see where this one takes you.
A new project from Alex Pasternak—an LA-based artist who’s been involved in many musical endeavors over the years, but is best known for his time in the band Lemonade—DR. BRONZER specializes in beachfront chill, and its debut record, Sandee Bottoms /Wet Dreams, dives into the slow-motion rhythms and hazy Balearic grooves that have been soundtracking the Mediterranean for decades. The original “Sandee Bottoms” is a laid-back gem in its own right, but this mix by veteran UK duo Coyote is even more plush, its relaxed tempo and dubby bassline leaving plenty of room for the song’s glistening sensuality to blossom. (The presence of sultry, Spanish-language talk-singing certainly helps on that front.)
The ambient stylings of marine eyes have made many appearances here in the newsletter during the past few years, and awakened souls is the LA artist’s collaborative project with her husband James Bernard—who makes rather lovely music in his own right. Their new unlikely places album bears definite traces of early 4AD—Cocteau Twins in particular—but amidst the record’s multitude of swirly sonics lies an epic pop heart, to the point where lightly twanging LP standout “waiting” at times sounds (tastefully) like Dido guesting on a Sigur Rós instrumental. Its emotive, to be sure, but never saccharine, and though it seems to be streaked with sadness, it’s also the sort of song you wish would come on at the end of a tear-jerking film.
There are only three tracks on Hilde Marie Olsen’s new Ediacara album, and not one of them is in a rush. Perhaps that’s because each piece was improvised in real time, with the Norwegian trumpet player allowing her chosen instrument’s melodic wanderings to float free amidst a morass of jittery electronics and gnarled sonics. “Ordovicium” clocks in at more than 12 minutes, and yet its path never feels haphazard; even during its most jagged moments, the music retains not only a sense of patience, but elegance, its soulful undercurrent undeterred by whatever chaos Olsen conjures up along the way.
That’s all I’ve got 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.)
Have a good one,
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.