Son Raw never leaves his disco pants at home.
It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you. Seriously, I really shouldn’t have: it turns out the music writing game is full of spots that expect me to pretend that Bieber is worth paying attention to, and keep going on about someone called Zayn. Meanwhile I’m only OK with listening to Rihanna if Murlo mixes her. That’s what we call an “enthusiasm” gap for what’s popping.
Shout outs anyone I’ve written for these past few months for taking some chances on the crazy bits I’ve been pitching, but overall, it’s a wasteland out there. As such, I’ve become an anti-pop curmudgeon and have retreated into compilations covering ancient dancehall and house music in an effort to flee the R&B zeitgeist.
Thank god Passion of the Weiss is back, because there’s been plenty of incredible music coming out of the underground recently, most of which doesn’t require me to acknowledge teen pop. Given our extended hiatus, I can’t cover it all, but here’s the best of the best in award tour form.
Most Mind-Blowing Record: Slackk – Aviary
Slackk’s Palm Tree Fire is one of my favorite records this decade so this shouldn’t be a surprise, but his follow up to that album for R & S didn’t exactly stick with me, so it’s a relief to say that I love this. At its best, Slackk’s music sounds like the soundtrack to imaginary 80s Hong Kong films and Aviary delivers that vibe in full. “Pigeons” is my personal favorite but R & S hasn’t uploaded it to the web, so here’s “Hundred Flute,” a shuffling bit of dancehall tempo madness that sounds like prehistoric Wiley with more texture. Big return for the Boxed poobah.
Best Vocal Records: Samrai & Platt – “Tease Me (ft Kemical)” Famous Eno – “Gangsters (ft Alexx A-Game, Serocee & Fox)”
A lot of what gets labeled as “experimental club music” these days isn’t all that experimental and would sound like shit in the club, coming off like some art student’s noise wank set to a poorly timed rhythm. The 2016 version of backpacker rap with growls instead of lyrical lyricism, basically.
In contrast, Swing Ting have been releasing ACTUAL club music and have been absolutely killing it, finding a sweet spot between dancehall’s sexiness, grime’s punch and rollage’s darkness. Samrai & Platt’s “Tease Me” hews towards the dark n’ sexy side of the equation, understated in all the right ways, bumping instead of bashing. Famous Eno’s “Gangsters,” meanwhile, merges plastic horns to badman chants at a slow roll, sounding like peak So Solid Crew fueled on Red Stripe.
Best Experimental Record: Odeko – A History with Samus
On the complete opposite end of bumping, dancehall-influenced music lies Odeko. Mr. Mitch’s Gobstopper Records spent 2015 pushing the boundaries of what you could call grime music, but with A History with Samus, they jetisson that term completely, hollowing out the form but keeping its influences: Japanese videogames, square wave leads, and heavy bass. The results are hyper-emotional chiptune music that doesn’t give a shit about your badman rep. Finally: a record for all of us who enjoyed indie-gaming phenomenon Undertale, but who also rock tapered tracksuits.
Heaviest Record: Boylan – Ghosts in the Machine EP
Taking another 180, Edgem’s Boylan has become Oil Gang’s secret weapon thanks to his crisp, high-def mixing and mastering. So it’s only right that he step out for a solo turn. Ghost in the Machine is a successful experiment that posits the question: What if you took widescreen D&B style production techniques but applied them to music that was rhythmically interesting instead of formulaic and played out? The results almost feel like cheat codes for DJs. Drop “Fire on Mars” or “Bass Go Boom” in a club and watch the dance floor get forcibly pushed back by the sheer bass pressure. To be used with caution.
Best White Label: White Peach – “Gundam 8 Bar Bonanza”
The megamix holds a cherished place in the heart of anyone who grew up in the vinyl-only era. Less obnoxious than the mashup but more intricate than a simple edit, megamixes were the glue that binded late 90s DJ sets and (crucially) gave DJs time to run and take a piss. Grime has its own storied history of quick-n-dirty platters merging Pulse X to just about anything, but Gundam’s “8 Bar Bonanza” ramps up the ambition, slamming the entire White Peach catalogue into a 5 minute burst of adrenaline. This one’s wax-only and there are still a few copies left as of my writing this. Grab one if you know what’s good for you.