Dance Music Roundup: May 2017

The Dance Music Roundup returns with new music from Chino Amobi, Jlin, and more.
By    June 6, 2017


Sam Ribakoff is not here for club night.

Unfortunately, a lot of DJs—and a lot of clubs—think people can only dance to, and only want to hear, house music, techno, or some sort of market tested EDM. Other genres often get segregated to special nights, or don’t get played at all. It’s a rare treat to hear a DJ branch off of the house-techno continuum and connect that music to hip hop, experimental music, rock, pop, and whatever else, but when it does happen, and the DJ is able to weave a narrative between disparate styles, it’s an amazing listening experience and one that shows that you can dance—or at least express yourself through your body—to almost any music.

The music I loved that was released this month doesn’t reside in that house-techno matrix, but I think the aggressive 160 BPM triplets of Jlin, the dissonance of Chino Amobi, the ambient house experimentation of Sela, and the ethereal waves of Johnny Nash and Suzanne Kraft are just as danceable music as any four on the floor rhythm when in the hands of a creative and ambitious DJ. Okay, maybe not the Johnny Nash and Suzanne Kraft record, but ambient space is just as important on the dance floor.

Chino AmobiParadiso

When I interviewed Chino Amobi earlier this month he said that he wants people to envision Paradiso “as a space they can walk into and interact with and experience in a visual way.” If you give Paradiso any of your time, (and you should), it isn’t so much a walk in a museum, but rather Chino throwing you into a sci-fi hellscape. The first half of the record is filled with growling drones, roaring sirens, the sounds of smashing glass, and pummelling industrial churns, with brief moments of reprise from the chaos and paranoia provided by Elysia Crampton’s reading a reworking of an Edgar Allen Poe poem and other poetry provided by Aurel Haze Odogbo.

It’s in the second half of the album where the claustrophobic industrial churn of the first half opens up to warm ambient pop, listful pop-rock, and radical hip hop from Chino’s NON Worldwide music collective friends. Like all great sci-fi, Chino sets a stage and lays out a narrative that’s set in an imaginary future world, where, removed from our own time, we’re free to think more openly, freely, and critically about our current reality and envision a future that’s better and more just than our present.

JlinBlack Origami

Jlin makes polyrhythmic electronic dance music with strong influences from Chicago Footwork and Indian, North African, Middle Eastern, and Brazilian rhythms, tempo, and structure. Since Jlin came to the world’s attention on a 2011 compilation of Chicago footwork music called Bangs and Works, she’s been pushing footwork past its speed up house music origins, past soul samples and the influence of British drum and bass, and onto more sparse, moodier, more experimental territory. On Black Origami, Jlin continues that experimentation but adds in more percussion instruments and rhythmic ideas from around the world while simultaneously reaching back to further experiment with the chopped staccato vocal sampling and structure of Chicago footwork. On Black Origami, Jlin hoists the ideas of footwork up to stand and interact with the other great rhythms of the world, a place it most definitely deserves.

SelaSell Your Life | Internet Money

Sela is a young dude from Vallejo California who’s been grinding quietly on Bandcamp for a couple of years on music that straddles footwork, ambient music, post-Low End Theory beats, and vaporwave. On Sell Your Life | Internet Money, Sela mostly forgoes the rhythms and structure of footwork and instead tries his hand at house music. These songs are chopped and stretched to their breaking point while accentuating the more ambient side of things and always prying out a melancholic feel. They reach straight into 2 AM house thumps and then softly transition back into ambient ether. Sela’s ability to shape spaced out musical texture and suggestion into interesting melodic and harmonic ideas that shouldn’t work, but do, is amazing. It’s a beautiful album that deserves a lot more attention.

Johnny Nash and Suzanne KraftPassive Aggressive

A lot of ambient music is about turning the simplicity of a chord, the tone of an instrument, or the texture of a sound into a meaningful notion. On Passive Aggressive, Johnny Nash and Suzanne Kraft dig in on tone and suggestion to propel their ambient jam sessions. Almost all of the tracks on the album feature just two instruments at a time, usually one acoustic instrument, and one electronic. The electronic synth tones are buoyant and comforting, almost swelling with life and a little bit of melancholy, while the acoustic sounds, made by either a tinkling piano or a knowing bass, are delicate and caring. It’s an interesting dynamic that shows how soulful a synth, and electronic sounds, can really be.

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