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First Floor #189 – I Made It
a.k.a. Kicking off the North American book tour, plus a round-up of the week's electronic music news and a fresh crop of new track recommendations.
Greetings from New York City! I arrived yesterday, and assuming that everything goes to plan, I’ll be kicking off my North American book tour tonight at Nowadays. (If you’re planning to come through, please know that Avalon Emerson and I will begin chatting at 8pm sharp, so on-time arrival is strongly advised.)
More details about the tour are below, but of course I’ve also stuffed today’s newsletter with a full complement of news items, new release announcements, new track recommendations and links to interesting articles. I’ve also enlisted the help of Lukid, who has offered up a recommendation of his own.
Before we get into all that, I do have one last reminder:
In case you missed the initial announcement on Tuesday, First Floor now has its own Instgram account. Give it a follow if you want to keep up with everything I’m doing here in the newsletter.
NORTH AMERICAN BOOK TOUR
As mentioned before, I’ve traversed the Atlantic, and beginning tonight, I’ll be spending the next 10 days doing 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, it can be ordered directly from my publisher Velocity Press, but if you’re outside the UK, I’d actually suggest inquiring at your favorite local bookshop or trying one of the online sales links I’ve compiled here.
Copies of the book will also be available for sale at every stop of the tour, and the complete list of dates is below. (Click the links to either purchase a ticket or RSVP, and 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)
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.
Chal Ravens’ latest long read for DJ Mag at first seems like a commentary on the recent rise of cheeky pop edits in dance music—a phenomenon she cleverly describes as “silly-season bootlegs”—but the article quickly goes much deeper, tracking the evolution of sampling practices during the past few decades and also speculating how the emergence and continued growth of AI technology might reshape the practice in the years ahead.
Spotify critics were handed a new round of ammunition last week, as the streaming giant officially rolled out a new tool called Showcase, which allows artists to get their music placed on listeners’ Home feed—in exchange for a fee. Currently available to artists who’ve generated at least 1000 streams during the past 28 days, the service—which many commenters have already decried as a form of payola—requires a minimum spend of at least $100.
Discouraging the use of WAV files is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart—I wrote a whole essay about it last year—but I’m not alone in my position, as Midland last week not only tweeted about this topic, but also circulated a document he put together explaining how DJs, producers and anyone else sending out music files can easily send out properly tagged AIFF files instead.
Fresh off the release of his delightfully bonkers new album Cuspide des Sirènes, Simo Cell is the subject of a new feature in Crack magazine. Written by Seb Wheeler, the article does spend time dissecting the new LP, but it also digs into the French artist’s history and his long-standing penchant for world building.
Paused in Cosmic Reflection—the first official book about the Chemical Brothers, which was written by their longtime collaborator Robin Turner—is due to arrive next month. In the meantime, however, The Quietus have published an excerpt that looks back at “Song to the Siren,” the UK duo’s first release. (In fact, they were still calling themselves The Dust Brothers at the time.)
A round-up of noteworthy new and upcoming releases announced during the past week.
Salamanda have completed a new full-length. Following releases for the likes of Human Pitch, Métron and Good Morning Tapes, the playful South Korean duo are now making the move to UK outpost Wisdom Teeth, which will be releasing their In Parallel LP on November 3. Ahead of that, the song “Homemade Jam” has been shared.
Moritz Von Oswald has a new LP on the way for Tresor. Entitled Silencio and due to land on November 10, the album was created using a 16-voice choir, which interpreted sketches the German veteran had made in his studio using a variety of classic synths. Two tracks from the record can be heard here, and a brief teaser video has also been shared.
Sepehr has spent much of the past few years developing his own Shaytoon label, but the New York-based Iranian-American producer will actually be issuing his next album via Garmo, a sub-label of naff. The new full-length is called Pomegranate Skies, and before it arrives on October 27, LP cut “Fall from Grace” has already been made available.
Celia Hollander, the Los Angeles ambient / experimental artist who recently delivered a top-shelf composition via Longform Editions, will soon be dropping a new album proper. Described as “a tribute to the motion of making music,” the record is called 2nd Draft, and it will be released on November 10 by Leaving Records. One of its tracks, “In Plain Sight,” can be heard now.
Digital Underground isn’t technically a new Scuba album—the UK artist is billing it as a “mixtape”—but it’s nonetheless the most substantial collection of new music that the Hotflush founder has put together in quite some time. It’s set for a November release, but ahead of that he’ll offer up a vinyl sampler called Hardcore Heaven II. One song from that collection, “Tru Love (Digital Underground,” has already been shared.
Bristol mainstay Peverelist has completed a new EP, his second of the year. Pulse Modulation isn’t based upon any fixed concept, but it is billed as something rooted in its creator’s “instinct for energising, inventive tracks taking in a range of tempos and rhythms.” Opening track “Pulse V” can be heard now, and the rest of the record is slated to arrive on October 6 via Livity Sound.
LUKID 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 Lukid, a veteran UK producer who’s spent much of the past decade blowing minds and melting down genre boundaries as one half of Rezzett. On October 6, however, he’ll be releasing Tilt, his first new solo album since 2012 and an effort that—true to form—is both impressively constructed and borderline unclassifiable. Given that, perhaps it’s no surprise that the song he’s chosen to spotlight here is a rather off-the-wall selection.
I love it when music is both funny and good. It’s a very difficult combination to get right—there aren't many worse genres than “comedy music”—but when the vibe is nailed, it's a joyous thing. I’m not actually sure what makes this song funny to me; I can’t understand what he’s saying (apologies if it’s anything problematic), but it has a rowdy energy that makes me grin, like some kind of acid house cockney knees-up. It’s from a compilation of songs made in the ’80s and ’90s by Belgian shock-jock Pierre Elitair that I stumbled upon on during a desperate, last-minute trawl through Bandcamp approaching one of my NTS shows, and I now hate to DJ without playing it.
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.
I actually meant to include this track in last week’s newsletter—my apologies for the oversight—but despite the delay, it’s still a ferocious tune. Taken from A Circle in Stone, the first release in nearly 20 years from techno veteran Oliver Ho’s newly rebooted, experimentally oriented Veil alias, the tension-filled composition retains the apocalyptic bent of the UK artist’s work (both under his own name and as Broken English Club), but rather than channeling that fury towards the dancefloor, “The Hatching” unlocks something more primal. Adorned with squealing flutes and the guttural bellows of what sound like didgeridoos, the song evokes images of ancient jungles and towering beasts, its face-warping groans a harrowing reminder that nature is full of danger and utterly merciless.
Do you like drums? Then look no further, because “Lost in Chaos”—the title track of Indian artist Mutable Mercury’s new EP—is a percolating delight, one that brings to mind the percussive wizardry of producers like Anunaku and DJ Plead. (There are shades of Timbaland and Joe’s classic “Claptrap” in there as well.) Largely foregoing melody, the song is driven by its ever-rattling rhythms and a squirmy little bassline, its irrepressible bounce further enhanced by an unintelligible (albeit undeniably swaggy) rap vocal.
The elastic grooves of filter house are appealing at almost any tempo, but it’s not often that they’re cranked to 160 bpm, which makes Sempra’s “Goodbye” a uniquely appealing proposition. A standout from the Bristol producer’s new Call Me EP, the song takes obvious cues from footwork, but in comparison to the wild percussive workouts crafted by the likes of RP Boo and the extended Teklife family, “Goodbye” is far more content to color within the lines. In short, it still sounds like soulful, loopy house music, and though its drums do seem to sprint across the dancefloor, the track’s lush strings and smooth vocals nonetheless conjure thoughts of summer afternoons and backyard barbeques.
There aren’t many techno labels these days whose contemporary output feels absolutely essential, but Blawan and Pariah’s Voam imprint continues to breathe new life into the genre. Verraco displayed a similar level of enthusiasm for the label when he was interviewed here in the newsletter earlier this month, and Escándaloo, the Colombian artist and TraTraTrax co-founder’s Voam debut, is a buzzing thrill ride. While some will undoubtedly apply an awkward “Latin club” descriptor to its contents, this is first and foremost a techno record, one that shakes off the genre’s all-too-common rigidity while employing maniacal rave synths and the kinds of topsy-turvy rhythmic switch-ups one usually finds in the realm of UK bass music. Does it at times border on sensory overload? Absolutely, but that’s part of the fun, and the EP’s unhinged title track feels especially carefree, its percussive underbelly loosely skipping along as the song’s cartoonishly blaring lead—which sounds like some sort of civilization-zapping alien ray-gun—tickles the ribs of everyone in earshot.
IV, the latest album from Flaty and OL’s ongoing Serwed project, is a record that glistens and gleams, its melodic sheen and digital textures evoking cinematic images of the future—as it was imagined during the 1990s. That dynamic lends LP highlight “Beroca” a sort of surrealistic cool, its gaseous drones bordering on devotional grandeur as the song’s jittering synths rapidly plink and plonk their way across the horizon. Even more relaxed is “Contrail,” a new-age-adjacent (but still quite dramatic) number that sets the mood with synthesized harp melodies before settling into a woozy existential drift. Serwed may be charting a course towards oblivion, but at least it’s a chill ride.
Although Purelink have only been around for a few years, the Chicago trio have already established themselves as masters of narcotic bliss. The six-track Signs is the group’s longest release to date, and though it could be described as dub techno, it’s more like a variant of dub techno in which the techno element has been turned down to a veritable whisper, the music’s sparse drums functioning more like smudgy tonal textures than proper percussive blasts. That’s by no means a problem; Purelink’s music is better suited to a flotation tank than a dancefloor, and fully enjoying a standout cut like “Stadium Drive” requires a level of immersive surrender, a willingness to forget earthly concerns and simply lose yourself in the track’s dreamy expanse and tranquil, free-floating groove. In today’s ultra-hurried cultural climate, that level of commitment is perhaps a tall order, but records like this one make slowing down feel downright luxurious.
As someone who knows both Dania and Rupert Clerveaux rather well—the former is my wife, while the latter has been our friend (and her frequent collaborator) for several years now—I’m by no means an unbiased observer when it comes to their new Acción y Destino release. That said, when Philip Sherburne is calling the work “enthralling” and comparing it favorably to Smog, and Boomkat says, “Dania sounds as if she's wailing in a dewy cavern, the miasmic drones crystalizing on the walls,” I feel comfortable saying that this long-form composition is a rewarding slice of celestial drone. Clocking in at 77 minutes, it’s not one for those with short attention spans, but it does reward patience, particularly in passages like “II,” where Dania’s heavenly vocals twist and twirl amidst the glistening soup of Clervaux’s tonal undulations and reverb-soaked percussive outbursts.
That’s all I’ve got for today. 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.)
See you on the road,
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.