April 30, 2018
From new music to reissues, radio shows and live performances, here’s what’s been moving the VF editorial team this month.
Such is the size of the in-house team at VF that we rarely feel the need to put our names to things. After all, if you’ve been a fan of our round-ups, chances are you’ve read the words of either myself or Gabriela.
So this month we’re changing things up a little, ditching our monthly round-ups in favour of something a little more personal in the form of a bite-size overview of everything myself and Gabriela have been moved by in the last four weeks.
It’s hard to work at VF in April and not feel somewhat overshadowed by Record Store Day. And, in the interests of transparency, a full disclosure – I didn’t buy any records on Record Store Day, although WeWantSounds were kind enough to furnish the office sound system with two superb soundtracks in the form of Serge Gainsbourg’s Le Pacha and Dave Grusin’s The Friends Of Eddie Coyle.
Records aside, it was a joy to cover RSD this year, with Phonica Records throwing another wonderful basement party (the streams of which you can watch here), while The Run Out in Peckham put on the off-RSD event of the day, keeping things local with label markets, limited dubplates and a line-up capped by a brain-frazzling live drone set from Coby Sey and Micachu.
The latter also featured on one of my favourite new tracks this month, ‘What Can I See’, taken from saxophonist Ben Vince’s forthcoming album Assimilation A raking, glacial movement which has something of Arthur Russell’s World Of Echo about it, Vince’s tonal, textured playing provides a healthy antidote to the crisply, groove-based world of the UK’s current crop of dancefloor jazz rascals.
Grasping backwards to first wave jazz dance, Brownswood followed up We Out Here by releasing Toshio Matsuura’s LOVEPLAYDANCE – 8 Scenes from The Floor at the end of April, placing the veteran DJ alongside the likes of Tom Skinner, Yussef Dayes, Yazz Ahmed and Nubya Garcia for a series of cover versions. While the motorik glory of ‘L.M. II’ stands out a mile, many of the headline covers left me feeling a little cold, like workouts that struggle to emerge from the shadow of their originals with anything like the personality these artists have brought to their own work.
Speaking of cold… As the temperature drops back into single figures again, it’s hard to believe there were a few days in April when Duppy Gun’s Miro Tape was the only reasonable soundtrack – a mutant dancehall collab between Bokeh Versions’ Jay Glass Dubs, Seekersinternational and Abu Ama and the Duppy Gun Production House in Jamaica (founded by Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras). Rippling with electric energy, Miro Tape gets up in your face with an airhorn and it’s an exhilarating experience. I’ve been a fan of Bokeh Versions for the last few years and this truly cements its position as one of the most forward thinking labels in the UK today. ( A mention here also to Equiknoxx, who soundtracked Cecilia Bengolea’s performance at Palais de Tokyo earlier this month, set to be released on VF in due course…)
On a different tip, we had the first taste of Optimo’s latest import in April, in the form of Sex Judas’ new album – a satirical disco project from Norway that’ll doubtless appeal to anyone who found Todd Terje’s capers a touch too saccharine. I’ve also revisited the new Arp Frique album on Rush Hour several times – particularly the melancholy afro-boogie of ‘Nos Magia’ – which is the stand-out track on a record that is stacked with dancefloor fodder, and features an intercontinental cast, from Carioca crooner Ed Motta to Nigerian disco originator Orlando Julius. In the month that Rush Hour also released Hunee’s Hunchin’ All Night compilation, The Colourful World of Arp Frique did the uncanny job of building the ethos of a border-hopping afro-disc DJ set into a live album.
There were also first tastes of new material from Sudan Archives (we’ve made no secret of our admiration, with her debut EP last year’s #1 12″ on VF) and Anthony Joseph, who heralded his 6th album with one of his finest tracks to date – a lyrically dexterous exploration of the Caribbean diaspora from the London-based poet.
In the quieter moments, there have been a few records that also resonated this month – particularly the galling realism of Daniel Blumberg’s Minus, which tackles the darkest corners of depression with a blunt numbness that recalls Mount Eerie’s grief stricken A Crow Looked At Me. It’s out on Mute in early May and is well worth tracking down. Grief also colours two new records we got a taste of this month – Tess Roby’s Beacon on Italians Do It Better, a shimmering Lynchian synth missive, which recalls the fringe ’80s pop of Linda Thompson – and Hilary Woods’ new album Colt, which is due on Scared Bones in June.
Both provide a fitting segue to what has undoubtedly been my favourite reissue of the month, from Music From Memory. Like Bullion’s Pop Not Slop series, Uneven Paths: Deviant Pop From Europe 1980-1991 tracks the unheralded majesty of ’80s underground pop, as it dips in an around bo-ho jazz, art rock, new wave, and even acid house. Violet Eves, Pete Brandt’s Method, Sound On Sound, Ströer Duo – there’s so much to discover here, I suspect Uneven Paths will do for Europe what last year’s ground-breaking Outro Tempo did for Brazil. Both are reissues that challenge received narratives and re-write musical history, as any great compilation should.
I also very much enjoyed Tompkins Square’s Entourage, collecting thirty instrumentals made by The Entourage Music and Theatre Ensemble between 1972 and 1977. There’s something very intuitive and unrestricted about the feel of this record, as the spiritual flourishes, and un-nerving camp-fire instrumentals unfold naturally within a minimalist structure that has both purpose and freedom to wander where it pleases. Recommended for anyone enchanted by Woo’s woozy tea-time miniatures, or a curiosity about where Four Tet gets some of his more obscure samples.
Finally, the most impressive live events this month for me existed at two opposite ends of the spectrum – the raucous woodland punk-funk of Snapped Ankles, who cavorted like dosed wookies between, around and on top of the audience at Ghostnotes through a haze of driving motorik drums and psychedelic guitar licks – and Midori Takada’s theatre of minimalism, which enraptured the Union Chapel in secular homage to her gentle percussive rituals. I have a feeling the latter might have been something of a highlight for Gabriela too… – Anton Spice
Excitement fuelled by Japanese maestro Midori Takada reached a fever pitch this month, in both 2 and 3D forms. On the vinyl front, WRWTFWW announced that a long-awaited reissue of Takada’s rare 1981 MKWAJU Ensemble debut KI-Motion is on the way. A cause for celebration to all who have been patiently waiting for its return, myself included, in lieu of forking out an eye-watering £350+ to a Discogs shark for a mediocre copy.
One week later, Takada’s celestial visions descended on London’s Union Chapel. A magical ode to rhythm with echoes of Noh theatre, the performance featured aforementioned MKWAJU music, Takada’s solo releases, percussive incantations, even an unassumingly affecting homage to a Coconut Tree. Only in the hands of Takada could the tropical coconut provider be turned into something so poetic…
Whereas Takada drew all in attendance at Union Chapel into a collective state of awe, Kwake Bass’s monthly Balamii live show made me want to shimmy to and fro like a palm frond swaying in the breeze of Peckham’s Holdrons Arcade. I refrained myself to fervent head-bop meets toe tap, in the interest of it being early afternoon in broad daylight amongst a handful of people in the surrounding shops and whatnot. This episode featured a musician I was previously unaware of named Raven, laying down violin performances then sampling these instrumentals into mesmerising new sounds. Though still not online, it is 1000% worth keeping an eye out for; in the meantime you can check out past incarnations below. Also of note: Kwake Bass is dropping a new 12″ via his Done Studios collaborative label Dem1ns in June. Trust it will sell-out like wavy hot cakes, a lá the clothes.
I won’t ask you to bust out a tiny (figurative) violin for me – there were many opportunities to get a dance floor freak on this month, with two of special mention.
In early April, audio sherpa Charlie Bones returned to Total Refreshment Centre for his monthly Do You disco, with the most delightful and friendly crowd of attendees we’ve been surrounded by in time. As in his regular NTS shows, the tunes traversed everything from the essential (Larry Heard’s ‘Missing You’) to the sultry (Keysha’s ‘Stop It’) to the unexpected (Animal Collective’s ‘My Girls’), with requisite Sade thrown in for good measure. The tune that prompted a fervent id request though? The previously unknown, sweet sweet synth ascensions of Ghostwriters’ ‘Swizzle’, which also featured on Young Marco’s Dekmantel Selectors 002.
The Selectors series was back in consciousness elsewhere, thanks to Lena Willikens’ 5th instalment. Described by Willikens as “a little trip through the dunes”, Selectors 005 largely features unreleased tracks that she has been playing, formed into a ‘set’ you might hear her deliver at Dekmantel’s festivals. The collection is a refreshing change from the the diggers rarities that populated previous iterations, with standouts from JASSS, Le Matin and towLie leading the way.
Though Record Store Day was the subject of much ire (because every day is RSD and such), as per usual Phonica’s party was tops, with a stellar line-up that wasn’t revealed until the day of. Byron the Aquarius b2b Funkineven, and Peach b2b Jay were firm highlights, however there was one far and away favourite set, from man like KiNK.
I’ve listened to it virtually every day since, on repeat via the video upload. KiNK’s vinyl-only power hour also included one of my favourite dance records of the month – Phil Kieran’s ‘Polyrhythmic’. A record that, when I heard it playing in Phonica, spurred me to hightail it back to the office like a crazed banshee for fear it might sell out in minutes. Needless to say it prompted similar elation this time around. File under: big time cowbell funk freakout jam.
Taking your shakedowns out of the club and into your home, purveyor of d-floor delight Hunee released his Hunchin’ All Night triple vinyl compilation. Like his DJ sets, the collection has something to fit every mood from slung out dub chanting to horn-tooting Brazilian synth boogie and emotive xylophone-filled anthems, perfect for spring time wiling out no matter where you are.
Speaking of Hunee favourites – though it was reissued in March, Pink Rhythm’s ‘Melodies of Love’ continued its heavy rotation through April, solidifying its position as an all-time great. In the words of Hunee, “imagine people all smiling, musically open, then the sun sets and you drop this track… I would never leave.” Neither would we. – Gabriela Helfet