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First Floor #89 – Making Some Changes
a.k.a. A small bit of housekeeping, plus an extra-large batch of all the usual newsletter stuff.
Hello there. I’m Shawn Reynaldo, and welcome to First Floor, a weekly electronic music digest that includes news, interviews, 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.
MAKING SOME CHANGES
Don’t worry, it’s nothing too drastic.
The First Floor newsletter has been going for almost two years now, and while I’ve made a few tweaks along the way, the general formula has stayed more or less the same, with me sending out a single email blast (almost) every Tuesday.
Starting next week, however, that’s going to change. Simply put, I’m going to start publishing all new First Floor essays, interviews and other long-form pieces as their own standalone newsletters. These will still be happening on a weekly basis (for the most part), and will continue to go out on Tuesdays, but here’s the catch—they’ll be sent exclusively to paid First Floor subscribers.
What about everyone else? Again, don’t worry. These articles, essays and interviews (i.e. all the stuff from the “On My Mind” section of the newsletter) will also be highlighted in the free version of First Floor (i.e. the one you’re reading now), and when that goes out, they will be opened up to all—for a limited time—before they go back behind the paywall.
And what about the rest of the content? It’s not going anywhere. All of the usual news round-ups, release announcements and new music recommendations that have always been a part of First Floor will continue to appear in the free version of the newsletter, which will now go out on Wednesdays.
So what does this mean? If you’re a free subscriber to the newsletter, not much. Your weekly dose of First Floor will now arrive one day later, but it’s honestly going to look a lot like the newsletter you’re already accustomed to seeing. And as an added bonus, it’s going to be even bigger than before, as I’ve decided to go back to sharing all of my weekly new music recommendations with the entire First Floor audience, free and paid subscribers alike.
That’s about it. If you’re curious for more details about what’s motivating these changes—in truth, they’re largely driven by organizational / logistical / archival concerns—feel free to drop me a line. Otherwise, I appreciate you reading this bit of digital housekeeping, and as a token of thanks, the rest of today’s newsletter—which covers the past two weeks—is positively bursting with new music, news tidbits and other morsels of interesting information.
ANOTHER THING I WROTE
Moot! is the thrilling debut album from Moin (a.k.a. Raime’s Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead, plus percussionist Valentina Magaletti), and I reviewed it for Pitchfork. Electronic music diehards might scoff at this one, but anyone with an appreciation for ’90s post-punk and post-hardcore—think bands like Slint, Unwound and Shellac—is going to love this record.
A round-up of of the last week’s most interesting electronic music news, plus links to mixes, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.
Wrapping up a hiring process that began late last year, Whitney Wei was announced as Resident Advisor’s new Editor in Chief. Wei most recently held the same role at Electronic Beats.
DFA label co-founder and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy was interviewed on yesterday’s episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.
Over the past two weeks, DJ Mag has published several excellent features from its most recent issue, including Gabriel Szatan’s cover story with garage legend and Daft Punk collaborator Todd Edwards. Also worth reading are Marke Bieschke’s revealing interview with experimental artist Dax Pierson and Ed Gillett’s examination of the complex relationship between the dance music industry and the “Night-Time Economy” in the UK.
Crack Magazine has also gotten into the habit of publishing digital versions of its features several weeks after they appear in print, and they’ve now put their recent cover story with Anz—which was penned by Tanya Akinola—online.
Before her debut album Ali arrives later this week on the Incienso label, Turkish artist Nene H has been interviewed by Adam Quarshie for The Quietus.
Although the full article is behind the Water & Music subscriber paywall, Cherie Hu (who wrote the piece alongside Brooke Jackson) reports that music NFT sales are down a stunning 94% from their peak in March.
Over the past year I’ve written several times about the UK government’s official inquiry into the economics of music streaming, a process which included feedback and testimony from artists, labels, streaming companies and more. It’s been a long haul, but Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (which has overseen the whole thing) has announced that its official report will be shared this Thursday, July 15.
Following relatively brief reopenings, clubs and nightlife are starting to be closed again in certain parts of the EU as COVID-19 cases surge and the more infectious delta variant of the virus becomes increasingly prominent. That hasn’t stopped the UK’s plans to fully reopen on July 19—which were reaffirmed just yesterday, albeit with calls for caution—but the Netherlands has reversed its previous reopening, a move which prompted Dekmantel to postpone its upcoming 2021 festival until next year.
In France, nightclubs reopened for the vaccinated on Friday, but in the face of strict health protocols, 70% of venues have apparently remained shut. Here in Spain, openings and closings vary by region, but Catalonia (of which Barcelona is the capital) has shut its nightlife down once again. This kind of patchwork approach is happening across the continent, which explains how open-air events continue to occur in countries like Italy and Germany, and how EXIT—which has been actively billing itself as “the first major international festival of 2021”—took place last weekend in Serbia.
Speaking of Europe, the We Are Europe collective—which represents festivals such as Sónar, Nuits Sonores, Elevate and many more—is still seeking contributions for its editorial arm, which launched earlier this year. Writers will be paid for their efforts, and We Are Europe is looking for people who are interested in engaging with the many challenges (economic, social, technological, logistical) facing artists these days. Check the link for more details, but do ignore the June 27 deadline on the site, as it’s now been extended to July 28.
A round-up of noteworthy new and upcoming releases that were announced during the past week.
Nearly a decade has passed since Black Dice last released an album, but the veteran experimental outfit has announced a new LP. Mod Prog Sic is slated to arrive on October 1 as the inaugural release on FourFour, a new label from longtime DFA label head Jonathan Galkin. Ahead of that, the group has shared one of the album’s tracks, “White Sugar,” along with a trippy new video for the song.
Cold Beat is another band that’s been affiliated with DFA—Mother, their 2020 album for the label, was sadly overlooked by many—but the San Francisco post-punk group has put together a new full-length, War Garden, that will be released on September 17 via Like LTD. In the meantime, LP cut “See You Again” has been shared.
When I interviewed The Bug back in May, he mentioned that a new album was on the way, and it’s now been officially unveiled. Fire will be released by Ninja Tune on August 27, and its storming first single, “Clash” (which features the vocal talents of Logan), is already available.
NYC noise / modular experimenter Hiro Kone has completed a new solo LP, Silvercoat the Throng, that will be issued by the Dais label on September 24. Before that, she’s shared one of its tracks, “Nomad,” a collaboration with travis of the experimental band ONO.
Detroit techno pillar Terrence Dixon surfaced on NYC’s Mechanical label, dropping a new single, “Demo for Jakub,” which is out now.
Speaking of Midwestern innovators, RP Boo has a new LP, Established!, which is due to arrive via Planet Mu on September 17. The Chicago footwork originator has already shared two of its songs, “All My Life” and “Finally Here.” (The latter features the vocals of Afiya.)
Slikback has been rather prolific this year, and last week the Kenyan bass manipulator offered up a new EP, Akuhika, as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp.
Admittedly I’m not a huge fan of Little Dragon, but the Swedish outfit has pulled out all the stops for their forthcoming New Me, Same Us remix EP, enlisting artists like Andrés, Lil Silva, Midland, Octo Octa, Ela Minus, Georgia Anne Muldrow and more to rework their music. Several of the remixes can already be heard here, and the whole package will be available on August 6 through Ninja Tune.
Completing a cycle that began in 2019, Lee Gamble has a new EP, A Million Pieces of You, that Hyperdub will be releasing on September 10. One of its tracks, “Hyperpassive,” is available now, but all seven of its songs will also appear on Flush Real Pharynx 2019-2021, a compilation record that will include the UK experimenter’s previous two Hyperdub EPs, In a Paraventral Scale and Exhaust.
Last month I was gushing in the newsletter about “Ecstasy,” a new single from Brogan Bentley, and now the Bay Area producer has announced that he’ll be following it up with a full-length album. Diapason Rex will arrive via Leaving Records on August 13, and another one of its songs, “Phantom,” has already been shared.
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.
Hello. I grew up in Tasmania, where almost half of the island is protected national parkland. The nature there is really unparalleled, and even as I’ve traveled to different parts of the world, I have never been anywhere quite like it. One time I trekked up a mountain for an entire day to reach the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, and when I finally arrived, it felt like I was standing right on the edge of the world. That moment was so overwhelming, and left an indelible mark on me.
Perhaps Ron Nagorcka felt the same way when he moved to Tasmania in 1988. An Australian field naturalist and musician, he built a solar hut in a remote forest, and the booklet of his newly reissued Lovregana - Music From A Tasmanian Forest contains some interesting photos of his set-up from those days. Decades later, Nagorcka remains an important figure in the Australian experimental music scene, an artist who samples nature, plays conventional instruments (and the didjeridu) and uses just intonation in his compositions. This track sounds as though Nagorcka is conducting an orchestra of nature, leading the forest in a beautiful symphony.
NEW THIS WEEK
The following is a selection of my favorite tunes 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 on 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
Stop what you’re doing and listen to Moot! I know it’s a bit early to be handing out “best of” accolades, but the debut full-length from Moin is easily my favorite new album of 2021. For a more detailed rundown of the record, check out my Pitchfork review, but Moot! honestly feels like a wake-up call, an electric reminder that raw, guitar-centric music—at least when it’s done right—can still be incredibly powerful. As someone who spent my late teens and early 20s mainlining releases from iconic labels like Dischord and Touch & Go—and was undeniably moved by their vocal DIY ethos—it’s easy for me to revel in Moin’s clear love of ’90s post-punk and post-hardcore, but songs like “Right Is Alright, Wrong Is to Belong” and “Crappy Dreams Count” never feel like rote nostalgia exercises. They’re musical wrecking balls, and although I didn’t know it before I put the album on, the havoc they’re capable of wreaking is long overdue.
Ambient is everywhere these days, but few artists are actively tapping into the trippy spirit of the ’90s chillout room, which makes James Bernard’s newly reissued Unreleased Works 1994-1999 a must-listen for anyone craving downtempo grooves with a notably psychedelic vibe. Although Bernard was best known in the ’90s for the acid and trance tunes he made under the names Cybertrax and Influx aliases, his acid-laced ambient excursions from that era—which he largely kept to himself, save for a limited-edition (and now highly sought-after) CD-R release that dropped back in 2005—are potent, and have now been placed under the spotlight with the help of the always intriguing A Strangely Isolated Place label.
Unreleased Works 1994-1999 is broken into two volumes, the self-explanatory Acid Dreams and the more fantastical Elemental Dreams. “UWB03” is taken from the former, and it’s a cosmic trip-hop journey that clocks in at nearly 12 minutes in length, but somehow never feels overlong. “UWB02,” which appears on Elemental Dreams, has a more manageable runtime—it’s less than eight minutes long—but the track heads even deeper into the abyss, with wonky wiggles that are just about perfect for zoning out in front of a blacklight poster at 3 a.m.
Another one from the ’90s vault, “Port Gentil” is the opening track from Biokinetics, the debut album from German duo Porter Ricks. (As it happens, the LP was also the first full-length ever released on the seminal Chain Reaction label.) Twenty-five years later, this dub-techno masterpiece has been reissued, and its dubby, underwater undulations still sound incredible. “Port Gentil” is a 12-and-a-half-minute epic, and its deliberate kicks cruise through endless waves of pillowy, hypnotic distortion. At times, the song feels endless, but it’s never tiresome, as Porter Ricks constructed a labyrinth that just about anyone would be happy to get lost in. Hard enough to motivate a heady dancefloor and soft enough to soundtrack an afternoon nap on the couch, this tune is a prototype for what dub techno should be, and its dense textures are well worth exploring over and over again.
BEST OF THE REST
Bubbling never got its fair due. An upbeat cross between dancehall and high-octane house music, the sound was first created by the Afro-Caribbean community in the Netherlands during the late ’80s and early ’90s, but De Schuurman got involved (as a teenager) nearly two decades later. These are two riotous gems from Bubbling Inside, which compiles many of his earliest dancefloor smashers.
Some brawny Italo-house out of Belfast, “Gemini Boy”—the title track of Jordan Nocturne’s new EP—is a neon-streaked romp whose levels have (lovingly) been pushed all the way into the red.
Originally released more than 20 years ago, both of these tracks have now been reissued on the newly revived Pacific label out of the UK. “165 Drop,” remixed here by Charles Webster—who you may remember from his collaboration with Burial last year—is a woozy bit of tech-house (the good kind), while the more anthemic “Coco Loco” is a quality slice of melodic big-room techno.
If Discovery-era Daft Punk did a mixtape for Fractal Fantasy, it would likely sound something like Treviso Mare, the debut offering from Italian artist Chevel’s new Money Lang alias. Armed with rubbery grooves, sunny melodies and little bit of hip-hop swagger, these tunes are a whole lot of fun.
Slacker covers a lot of stylistic ground on What I Would Do with Saturn, but the London upstart’s debut LP is at its best when it delves into joyous, breakbeat-driven house. The dreamy “Summer of ’18” takes a melodic route, going heavy on the rave nostalgia, while the more muscular “Nothing Is Enough” employs cinematic strings and bubbling acid riffs.
UK veteran Pye Corner Audio has many different aliases, but The House in the Woods is the only one that sounds like a spooky cross between Tangerine Dream and vintage horror soundtracks.
Straight out of Lisbon, VIL & Cravo kick off their Klockworks 32 EP with “Fuck This Dub,” a booming anthem that lets a classic house diva (or, more likely, samples of one) run wild atop a booming, Berghain-ready techno beat.
I don’t know if LA producer Jarren was even alive during the early ’90s G-funk era, but his new single “Whittier Blvd.” sounds like a long-lost instrumental from Dr. Dre’s archive. All that’s missing are some verses from Warren G and Nate Dogg.
Trippy, late-night techno from a DC veteran, who opens her Dimensions EP with a bouncy rhythm and some delightfully “out there,” new age-style audio acrobatics.
Abadir’s Pause/Stutter/Uh/Repeat features some jaw-dropping sound design and a floaty vaporwave aesthetic, but what really makes it pop—and intriguingly bizarre—are the Egyptian artist’s vocal manipulations, which—as the LP’s title implies—focus on what he calls the “interjections, utterances and fillers” of everyday speech.
James Lavelle channels the glory days of Mo’ Wax on this rework, a highlight of the TEOE Remixes #3 EP. Anyone who geeked out over the Headz compilations back in the day will love the track’s dusty breakbeats, jazzy asides and epic melodies, but thanks to some sounds pulled from the Krust original, the song is more than just a throwback—it’s trip-hop with an old-school raver’s heart.
Ten years on from his debut single, UK producer Koreless has finally dropped his highly anticipated debut album Agor, and it’s gorgeous. The soaring “Black Rainbow” combines the beatless techno experiments of Barker with the fuzzy R&B flirtations of Jacques Greene—for what it’s worth, Koreless also has his own serious pop pedigree, having worked with the likes of FKA Twigs—and the track charts a dazzling ascent into the clouds.
Electro is known for its fast tempos and hard-hitting beats, but there’s a unique appeal to the genre’s dreamier side. “Swallowing Tubes” is a plush standout from Robert Dietz’s new Schnups EP, and finds the German veteran accentuating his velvety textures with just a hint of bubbling acid.
Scottish producer Barry Can’t Swim is a new addition to the Shall Not Fade stable, and his new Amor Fati EP hits a notable high on “Rah That’s a Mad Question.” Populated with sweet strings, soulful undertones and just enough nostalgia to give the track a fuzzy, feel-good sheen, it’s a breezy piano-house cut with genuine anthem potential.
The latest dispatch from the increasingly reliable (and still new-ish) Mechanical imprint—which releases a digital new single or two every week—“Falling Sky” is a gauzy new age track powered by tinkling piano and soft, pastel-colored drones. In short, it’s music for the luxury spa of your dreams.
Originally from Delhi and now based in NYC after a decade in San Francisco, Arushi Jain has concocted a bewitching blend of modular bliss and classical Hindustani music on her debut album Under the Lilac Sky. And while her synth wizardry is certainly impressive, on “My People Have Deep Roots” it’s her voice that hypnotically leads the way.
Inspired by a bout of self-imposed isolation in the French countryside, Dori Sadovnik (a.k.a. one half of Israeli duo Red Axes) dug into his trance and techno past last year, coming up with a new alias (Kapitan) and new solo album (30250) in the process. “In the Valley” is one of the LP’s more relaxed cuts, but there’s a lot to like about its gleaming melodies, which sparkle atop the song’s leisurely rhythm.
Although DJ Crisps hails from Rotterdam, he’s clearly a dedicated student of UK garage, and “Dynamic Reflections”—a highlight of his new No Dirty Money EP—almost sounds like a subby rework of the instrumental from Cassie’s 2006 R&B classic “Me & U.” (In fairness, the song’s melody isn’t quite the same, but its crystalline tones are infectious all the same.)
It’s odd to say this about one of the most celebrated jungle labels of all time, but Metalheadz is on a major roll right now, and UK producer Rizzle is the newest addition to their team. His Fragments EP opens with “Forgotten,” a crunchy stepper that injects a hint of soul—along with an epic breakdown or two—into its jagged rhythms.
That’s it for today’s (admittedly supersized) newsletter. Thank you so much for reading First Floor, and I do hope 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,