Sam Ribakoff has moved to the Darkside.
A.A.L. (Against All Logic)– “I Never Dream”
Nicolas Jaar is a Chilean-American DJ and producer who over the last seven or so years has become one of the biggest names in the electronic music universe by making enigmatic electronic music that lies somewhere between chrome cold gentrified European techno, secondhand house grooves, and space rock singer-songwriter stuff. Suffice to say, for a good portion of my life, I was a salty hater of the dude’s music.
For awhile, it seemed like Jaar was music non-electronic music fans could point to as the token electronic artist that they liked, like saying you enjoy country music and specifically meaning just Johnny Cash. But as news spread online that Jaar had released a collection of tracks under the pseudonym A.A.L., or, Against All Logic, I gave it a listen, and I have to say, this track, and this track alone on the record, changed my mind about Jaar. “I Never Dream” carefully builds a secondhand, glitchy house groove with bubbly synth pads that tease and manipulate what sounds like a filtered soulful gospel sample. Eventually, its ecstatic energy is released towards the later half of the track. I can imagine myself singing along to its wordless chorus with on the dancefloor. What else do you need form a dance track?
Sela– “Gangstas Don’t Juke That Long”
Way back in 2015 the rapper Busdriver, along with the production crew The Jefferson Park Boys, quietly put out an amazing record called “MUCH.” Released as a single for Busdriver’s album Thumbs, the video for the song copped a quarter of a million views on Youtube, but that’s about it. Busdriver has always had an ear for avant garde beats, but the one for “MUCH” was much different than anything else he had ever rapped on. The beat, produced by Kenny Segal, Mike Parvizi, and Mr. Carmack as The Jefferson Park Boys, was able to slow down and sand out the edges of footwork music, without completely sanitizing its skittering triplets. Sela on “Gangstas Don’t Juke That Long” seems to expand on that idea by slowing down a footwork track with ghostly smooth synth pads to a hip hop crawl, perfect for any truly adventurous SoundCloud rapper to steal and jump on.
Tone Pardon– “All of My Stunts”
House of Kenzo, the San Antonio, Texas based collective of producers, DJs, artists, and dancers, made one of the best pieces of political art last year in the form of a SoundCloud EP called Bonfires of Urbanity. It blew up the boundaries between heavy metal and club music while artfully railing against white, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic systems of power with righteous and vicious anger.
This loosie from House of Kenzo affiliate Tone Pardon, is simply a good ballroom music workout of the famous “Ha Dance” sample, a break from house music duo Masters at Work that formed the basis of a once mostly underground queer community of vogue dancers and balls like those depicted in the documentary Paris is Burning. There’s been countless “Ha Dance” remixes from ballroom and ballroom influence DJs and producers, all of them just slightly different from the others with different DJs accentuating different aspects of the sample; stretching it out, or tightening the time between the bass punch and the snare whack. Tone Pardon chooses to stretch out the bass drum kicks, leaving time to play with a vocal sample of a confident baritone to proclaim, “Maybe it’s because I’m naturally beautiful.”
100% Silk– Silk to Dry the Tears
On December 2nd, 2016, a fire at the Ghost Ship artist collective and DIY space in Oakland killed 36 people attending a dance party at the space. It was once of the most devastating fires in the history of California, devastating to the friends and family members of those lost, devastating to the Bay Area, devastating to the electronic music community, and devastating to D.I.Y. spaces around the country.
On the night of the fire, Ghost Ship was hosting a showcase of acts from the small L.A. electronic music label 100% Silk. Out of the five 100% Silk artist at the event, three were killed in the fire: Cherushii, Nackt, and Joey Casio. The music on this compilation, made by 100% Silk artist, friends, and alumnus of the label, is the perfect memorial to those lost in the fire. Throughout the 170 minutes of the album, the music is never maudlin. It’s music in mourning, but it’s also uplifting and hopeful, cognizant of the emotional spectrum that encompasses grieving.
Tracks like the opener, “The City Hangover,” by The Cyclist presents a pretty commonplace groove at the well travelled intersection of techno and house music, but as the track moves on, a hazy ambient pad brings to mind the Bay Area itself. Later, an emotive, detuned bass line finds its way into the track, followed by a bright breakbeat breaking out of the fog. You can hear the reflection, the mourning, the chance for hope in that track. Strategy’s “California” presents an uptempto disco-funk sample with seemingly chopped up Yoshi sound effects, slathered in filtering effects, implying that underneath this grief and tragedy is a chance for hopeful renewal and regeneration provided by a community of people, inside and outside of the dance music world.
Picasso had his blue period and Lil Wayne has the ongoing Dedication series of mixtapes. For some artists, experimenting in a framework, in a mood, a tone, or a style, can be a way to work out and tweak ideas until they’re just right, or to simply explore around the confines of that set framework. On Floor, AshTreJinkins seems to be doing all of those things, working out ideas in this techno house music framework while exploring the boundaries of that sound.
Tracks like “Temperature Hood” and even “Season Settings” seem to be reworkings of previously released AshTreJinkins tracks, with these versions simply accentuating or emphasize certain elements, usually highlighting the nocturnal techno thump of the original tracks. The opener “Eternal Valley” with Sage Caswell is an interesting exploration into chopped and screwed slow ambient techno, filled with wordless wailing vocals and synth morse code lines. It’s on tracks like “Stuck Here,” though, that AshTre really lets the melodic lines of his music breath and speak for themselves. On the track, right up top of a grey-black ambient synth pad, stretched and pulled behind a filter, is a haunting voice that sounds like a human-whale hybrid, singing out a simple melody into the foggy haze. It’s a beautiful track, and an indication of how far AshTreJinkins can take his music.
Dedekind Cut– Tahoe
Don’t press play expecting a banger out of this one. The closest thing to a hard bass line on this album is the guttural vibrato of what sounds like a Mongolian throat singer about halfway through the record. Fred Warmsley, aka Dedekind Cut, started off his career making RZA style boom bap beats for The Jacka and Inspectah Deck, eventually moving on to being an important component in crafting the neo-boom bap sound that propelled Joey Bada$$ to fame on Summer Knights. But all the while, Warmsley tinkered with his sound as a solo artist, playing with experimental soundscapes, noise breaks, and ambient pads over a series of EPs, eventually speeding up those experiments to 160 BPM and dropping a great drum and bass record called Alternative/Endings.
Now, Warmsley has dropped the Lee Bannon moniker for Dedekind Cut in order to completely break from the burdens of his past music. As Dedekind Cut, Warmsley has been making ambient music that simultaneously calls on the esoteric spiritual uplift of new age music, club music rhythmic experimentation, and the slow moving tonal shifts of minimalist new music. On his previous album, $uccessor, and an EP, American Zen, these influences moved and morphed the ambient textures into interesting, dark, and noisy forms, stepping out of the “chill” or quiet modes that Spotify playlists confine ambient music to.
With Tahoe, though, Warmsley has mostly cut all of that out, instead making an album of earthly deep and earnestly unobtrusive ambient music. The tracks on this record move at a sloths pace, but with purpose and determination, often relying on one simple choral synth pad to be slowly joined by another choral synth pad playing a different chord, to eventually interlock and form an ethereal harmony. This might not be a record to bust out on a dancefloor, but once you get accustomed to the pace of life in Tahoe it’s easy to get lost in its aura.