The end of the year is usually a slower moment for music industries, as releases normally abound in the few months prior, in time to be picked for December’s traditional tops. This seemed even truer this year, which may or may not be linked to the “top of the decade” lists that were added to round up the 2010s. There was no shortage of great releases, though, so here’s a short look back on some forward-thinking music from the dawn of the year, transcending the borders of the BPM continuum.
I already mentioned Pressure Dome in the first edition of this new feature, as Bristol-based producer and DJ Yushh launched her own imprint a couple of months ago. Whiletheir first release Welcome To The Pressure Dome was already was a great effort, showcasing new sounds emanating from the likes of Mulengasound or Syz, PDCOMP001, the sophomore release from the label, goes beyond, bringing together 15 tracks from some of the most exciting talents coming out of Bristol at the moment. The scope is even wider, ranging from slow BPM explorations from Balouu or Chooseme, to electro contributions from Zobol and Yushh herself, to faster-paced breaks courtesy of Kamiokande, or whatever-you-call that mix of techno, breaks, garage and grime Mulengasound are refining right now. There are also newcomers to be discovered: Sonic for instance comes up with one of my picks with “Mint Tea Riddim”, an aquatic-sounding dancehall infused track. Just as exciting is Territoires Vol. 2, the second installment in POLAAR’s various series. Six tracks, most of which see POLAAR regulars remixing other artists from the Lyon-based family. Expect Flore’s label’s usual sound signature: raw drums, detailed atmosphere and obscure sounds. You’ll find Prettybwoy at the peak of its talents with his insane remix of Mars89’s “Sky Burial”, Tim Karbon with a deep reinvention of Nasty J’s “Réalité Alternative”, or SNKLS offering a VIP of his own “Isandula”, displaying the darkest shade of his 160BPM palette.
Synaesthesia is a condition in which a perception in one sense may interfere with perception with another sense – e.g. seeing sounds, or hearing colours. It’s also the name for Off-Switch Audio’s latest compilation, and a theme that could seemingly be found in a range of releases over the last few months, displaying unusually colourful/visual sounds. Off-Switch’s comp is definitely one you should check out, gathering some of the most inspiring producers of the current 140 scene – Zygos, Imajika, Sam ULG – with some properly forward-thinking tunes. Hear Koma’s “Limoges” for some of the most inventive dubstep (?) you’ll have heard in months. Argo has long been a master of these vibes: if you’re looking for more cinematic 140BPM music, make sure to check out his latest, Days End, for London’s Vantage Records, featuring four trap-informed melancholy beats. On the same tip, have a listen to Mobes’s tape for Smho Wal (pronounced Smoe-Wow, as their Bandcamp asserts) – atmospheric grime that sounds like beats music, or atmospheric beats sounding like grime, it has been on loop on my tape deck since getting it.
Slowing down the BPM counter, similar words could be used to describe Squane’s newest EP for his, Ganesa’s and Rees’
Jelly Bean Farm label. Vesta may well be his most creative EP to date, refining his ever-impeccable sound design and bringing it to new heights through allowing more light and colour to filter in the mix. Melting techno and bass as always from the JBF family, Vesta’s four tracks are as efficient as they are evocative, as evidenced by “Crossed Wires”’ neon synths. For a noisier take on all these sounds, head towards FSS’ tape for VEYL – tempos range from 105 to 147BPM, as the artist takes cues from EBM and industrial music, on top of techno and bass, but the vibes are just as suggestive. An impressive debut from the project.
A couple of releases on higher tempos – Forest Biz once more demonstrated its ever-reliable curation with a brand new EP from crew-member EvoluShawn, Space Clash, which seemlessly blends d&b, halftime, neurofunk, instrumental hip hop, as well as grime and garage incursions. In typical FB fashion, the result is just as heavy as it is forward-thinking. For junglier tastes, I’ll recommend checking out Qant’s newest EP for his Egregore crew. While the French producer’s discography is essentially 140BPM so far, he’s been trying his hand at 130 and 160BPM all over the year, and Admoss showcases his ability to transfer his cold, mechanic sound from dubstep towards other styles. A great addition to any breaks-centered selection. I’ll briefly close up this feature adding a few more noteworthy releases. Chameleon Audio came up with a round up of the grime scene in the form of the nearly flawless fourth edition of its annual compilations – CA Volume 4 gathers 23 tracks, and as many killers, as B:Thorough, Mr Dubz or Aranha in particular offer insights into the future of the genre. Imajika has been one of the most exciting dubstep producers in 2019, and his latest for Simply Deep illustrates why "Hear Now" is an actual category-dissolving tune, while "Almanac" combines impressive sound design and perfect track construction. One last mention goes to Ghosttown’s excellent Deducted Bits compilation – occult sounds and a very distinct atmosphere make it a really cohesive and rewarding listen.