It’s nice when communities come together for a good cause. Only a label with a towering presence like R&S Records could have the resources to gather 43 tracks – almost 4 hours – of brand new music from so many spheres of electronic music. It’s raised over £35,000 for the NHS. There’s a lot to talk about here.
R&S have always been diverse in their curation. They look for new takes, reinventions, breaths of fresh sonic air. Not one moment on this compilation sounds like the other. There’s slower mood pieces, club belters, producers experimenting and exploring new territory. It’s an expressive collage full of life, with a tracklist going A to Z by producer name packed with left turns. There’s a reason it’s labelled as ‘electronic’ – trying to define such a wide collection of styles into genres would be reductionist.
Barker’s contribution is the most unexpected. Positive Valance is a hypnotic swirl of gliding, angelic synths, elements shifting in and out of focus, panning in and out from left to right. It’s a different type of ambient. It sounds like the kind of music you’d hear playing in the hallways of some environmentally-friendly power company in 2043, all glistening white hallways and ‘here at Zobitron, we work to make the planet better’ automated messages. Its sleek, easygoing bliss.
BFTT’s contribution immediately stands out, too. The focus is always on rolling breaks, so it could be considered breakbeat. But there’s also 808 rims, grime-like bass drops, trance-esque synths and lush pads, all combining into a 7 minute epic that’s really difficult to define. Dance from another dimension. Breaka and Guava then soar the tone back down in gloriously murky waters on Fiscal Hibiscus. It starts off with a similar focus on atmosphere before revealing itself as a stripped-down, dark bass banger. A single cowbell echoes in the distance. The first old-school vocal sample near the end that blinks into sight before reverbing away is pure gas. Yak’s Lod’s Tribe is a brilliant demonstration of ‘less is more’. Drums, some hi-hats, a bit of sub bass, some vocals, and… That’s it. It knows what it wants to be, and that razor-sharp focus sets a sinister mood as thick as oil.
It’s not all darkness, though. Everything Dismantle touch turns to gold, Snow is one of the cleanest engineers out there, and their collaboration on Junior was destined to work perfectly. It does - it’s a straight-up tribal, UK funky-ish banger that’s easily one of the best songs on the whole package. Ahadadreams’ KOYAl earlier on in the record accompanies it well, rainforest birds chirping over percs with a sliver of gqom at a more gradual pace. India Jordan brings some warm nostalgia on the pretty Meri No More, sounding like what would happen if Boards of Canada tried to make something club-friendly. Sozinho from Silvestre combines breaks with modern hip-hop’s woozy sampling, choppiness straight out of the grime refix playbook for the breakdown. Anz introduces some happier, haercore-i-er fun mashing up breaks, soulful vocals and Rave Generator essentials, then Yazzus ends the journey on one of the most fun cuts, Wonky Raver. It’s nearly impossible not to skank when the guitar stabs kick in.
DjRum switches the mood even more with a stunning piano chillout session that morphs into an aggier leftfield mood breaker before DJ Tess brings us back to the dancefloor. Cruda has drums and percs that’d feel familiar in a More Time night, but restructured into something closer to techno, hypnotic looping over an incessant kick. TSVI is another producer whose techno DNA can be heard in Antares, but he takes it in a completely different direction, syncopated sounds melding into an off-kilter piece whose tempo is a challenging struggle to stay on top of in the best way.
Fracture’s percs on GETTIN DIS PAPER might take a page from electro, but the rhythms are a lot more Chicago, the synths more Corsica. It’s hyper and refuses to be boring for even a second. Hubie Davidson matches it well with something that sounds like 80s funk made on an Amiga, retro sounds and aesthetic that sound like a weird Streets of Rage fan soundtrack. There’s a little more of that flavour from Shanti Celeste – titled Amiga, of course – but it’s much easier going. The 90s organ takes the lead. There’s more touches of electro from Bamz on LAZER QUARTZ, which is a surprising exploration of new material from the primarily UK funky producer. Lone comes along with a smooth house on Ghost Story, an immensely clean bass sub bubbles under claps, snares, cowbells and synths with a hair of low-fi muffled distance to them.
Of all the producers here, though, Fauzia comes out as one of the biggest surprises on the compilation. She’s new to the production world having showcased her first production mix on DISCWOMAN, but the level of clarity and confidence in direction is impossible to ignore. Progression is well-titled. It’s a patient jungle grower, the arrangement going through so many stages of transformation it feels like a song double its length, ambient pads, amens and acid-like synths melding together into one hyperspeed package. She impresses again on a collaboration with James Massiah which sets a completely different mood, soulful bounces underneath spoken word musing on living. The diversity and sense of precision on show from these two along makes it pretty clear Fauzia smashes up the DAW just as well as the decks.
But it’d be a glaring omission to talk about jungle without mentioning Forrest Drive West’s monster. Isolation is an absolutely mental assault of snares, Ginger Baker strummed up on acid and ecstasy in a squat rave. The drums melt away for 4 minutes with zero respite until sudden silence. Stuart Ulman reminding us “for some people, solitude and isolation can, of itself, be a problem” before going right back into it. It sounds like a drummer stuck in quarantine going insane, losing all their marbles with a kit in front of them and sticks in hand. It sounds like he would’ve kept going if the tape hadn’t run out via the high cut filter fading it out. It’s unbelievably energetic, a non-stop drop with no stop, and it’s (probably) the best tune he’s released so far. Fans of this cut – check out Swans.
There are a few other tracks the Loose Lips team wanted to talk about:
Matt Hardy reviews Client_03’s Symmetry Finder
[Hardy shotgunned this track, much to the annoyance of Jack]
This track follows on from Client_03’s recent Thought Disposal EP on Astrophonica. His music always negotiates an electronic realm somewhere between electro & acid. Expect music to make you dream of a technological future!
Jack Hunter reviews Shelley Parker’s Induction
Induction seems to be the appropriate term to use when describing this track's overall tone, with chattering rides, clockwork percussion and a mutilated breakbeat that evokes the sensation of being caught up in a maniacal industrial blizzard. I feel like I'm in the bounds of treacherous winds, hiking up an icy mountain amongst the storm, with a horn ringing out across the vast landscape (as pronounced by the horn-like sound heard throughout the track). It guides us wearily, yet we are a determined group of travellers who seek higher and higher throughout these seemingly impossible odds. It beckons some kind of foreboding, ominous entity - as if we are truly entering the gates of hell, acting as our witness whilst we continue forward. The sub-bass rumbles like the icy mounds that vibrate underneath us, with every step taken in consideration, but never of absolute safety.
It's a cold psychedelic trip that will wrap you in sonic blanket - a digital bath of sorts. As the track ends, it feels as if we have found solace and shelter, only to then realise that truest of evil still lies ahead. The elements of the track break down, become ushered away, and leaves a longing impact stamped within our consciousness.
[Loose Lips interviewed Shelley Parker ahead of her performance at a LL Secret Location Rave last year]
Thomas Richardson reviews The Maghreban’s Dust
This compilation sees The Maghreban return to R&S after nearly 2 years with a new track. His first release on the label - 2018’s 01DEAS - was a kaleidoscopic but disjointed journey through the producer’s many influences, a consequence of his pedigree as a sample hunter for hip hop beats under the alias Dr Zygote. Later the same year, his EP Monster VIP (also on R&S) proved to be more focused and dancefloor-driven, with the barnstorming title track receiving noted support from Ben UFO and Objekt.
There’s often been an element of horror-movie soundtrack creepiness to The Maghreban’s production, and Dust is no different. Starting with a lumbering crunchy kick, punctuated by pitched down yelps, a seesaw-ing synth immediately brings a nervous energy to the track. Distorted basslines zoom around your head like slow, fat insects and it’s only when the 1/16th note hi hats appear that the track’s true pace is revealed. It’s slyly fast at 140 BPM, definitely outside the ‘normal’ realm for house music, but the swung out funk of the kick drum makes it feel less breakneck and more bouncy. The Maghreban uses his usual trick of fusing both purely synthetic and sampled elements in the percussion, employing a lesson no doubt learned during his tenure as Dr Zygote. About midway, the anxious synths morph into equally menacing descending notes, in turn replaced by high-pitched strings which could have been lifted from that shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Shit is tense. The addition of a final element of ethereal, twinkling pads brings a welcome release, like emerging from a fever dream - but before you can pinch yourself and check you’re okay, The Maghreban counts backwards from ten with a stripped-down beat, those seesaw synths resurface, and you’re back to wondering why you can’t stop all your teeth from falling out.
As we’ve come to expect from The Maghreban, this is a masterfully simple track, which carries disproportionate emotional heft with relatively few elements. It’s also a tense track for tense times, but unlike other songs on the compilation called Isolation and This Won’t Last, there’s no clear link between this track’s genesis and the ongoing pandemic. In fact, an early version of Dust appeared on The Maghreban’s Instagram Story 126 weeks ago. So either he knew exactly how worried, anxious and scared we’d all feel right now and timed the release of Dust perfectly (and is therefore an interdimensional being), or I’m projecting my emotions onto a track written over 2 years ago.
Caley Dewhurst reviews Anuj Nayyar’s Antifragile (Binaural Mix)
People say lockdown is a time to try new things, bake some bread, learn new skills. I get it. You’ve been eying up that binaural panning effect for what seems like eternity and now it’s your time to shine.
The track starts promisingly enough: waves of arpeggiated synth sway subtly against a stripped back garage beat. Then about a minute in the production veers off road like a toddler playing Gran Turismo – except in this game the car is a drum kit and the hedge it’s crashing into is my weary, quarantined brain.
Bin it, ban it, bundle it into the back of a van… I don’t care which but this bi-nonsense has to stop.
[Editor's note: I actually love this track, but I also love Caley's writing! I also feel that this review highlights how amazing it is that R&S have gathered so many tracks that we rate so hard, despite the fact that clubbing is but a distant memory for us.]
Will Soer reviews 96 Back’s Shapen1
Almost every morning over the last 9 weeks, I’ve taken Dusty out for a walk along an enormous crop field, about 25 minutes walk from my parents’ home. I love walking and listening to music so much, I always do it when visiting. I’d usually walk along a path that runs parallel to the fields, separated by fencing and shrubbery, but my Covid-era walks have increasingly taken me along the fields’ edge, hungrily feasting upon uninterrupted sunshine.
I first listened to this track at week 6, when the weather finally broke, spilling grand grey clouds across the sky, with rain that solidified the crops. It says something about my brain that I felt taken aback by the crops’ new stature, like some enormous green army had snuck up on me and stoop to sharp attention under my gaze.
Shapen1 occupies a similar space in my head to the new - amazing - DJ Python album; it’s not just a good sountrack to these times, it actually sounds like them. The human warmth felt through a glassy virtual sheen, the distant fears that roll past like grand cloudmonsters, blind to you in their monstrous size, the occasional feelings of euphoric build up that never quite crests. Exactly the kind of spellbinding production I’d hope for from R&S in these bizarre times.
And yet that still doesn’t cover everything. R&S have put together a great collection. Stop reading, stop clapping and support the NHS by checking this out if you haven’t already.