This week I return to bring you a strong trio of electronic gems, as usual in the categories of an official release (album or EP), a DJ mix from the week, and an unofficial, free, or bootleg track, hopefully available to download. There is clear overlap between these three selections, something I make no apologies for—I like what I like, but the influences coming in on these artists music are notably varied, and connecting those dots will, I hope, be the fun part.
FaltyDL - You Stand Uncertain (Planet Mu)
Brooklyn a la London producer Drew Lustman a.k.a. FaltyDL put out his second LP for the Planet Mu imprint this week, the follow-up to his 2009 debut Love Is a Liability. What was clear from that record—and a series of EPs he put out leading up to that release—was that 2-step and UK garage were the focal point of Lustman’s rhythmic palette. But despite the obvious nod to these sounds in his productions, they always seemed to be informed greatly by avant-garde jazz drums and hip-hop, two great reasons to choose New York as your jumping off point, and even greater reasons to flesh out a UK breakbeat already greatly indebted to hip-hop and its roots.
Love Is a Liability succeeded on multiple levels, the drums among them, but it was also Lustman’s use of vocal samples (largely female ones) that broke open the density and complexity of Lustman’s rhythms. If there were ever challenging moments for the listener on the first record, it was often the overwhelming amount of ideas that went into each track.
Thankfully, this is not the case on Lustman’s second outing, You Stand Uncertain. Many of the elements that made Love Is a Liability such a head-turner are here again—dizzying drum patterns and healthy low-end—but Lustman has cleaned up the excess production from his first record and stretched his rhythmic ideas to be contained across the whole of the record rather than packed chaotically into each track.
What stands out the most however, is Lustman’s arresting use of melody and vocals. On album opener “Gospel of Opal”, featuring frequent dubstep vocal contributor Anneka, Lustman delicately and expertly threads a subtle, yearning ring of a melody through a frothy wash of snare and drums, effortlessly putting Anneka’s voice comfortably in-between. The album’s title track accomplishes a similarly enveloping dynamic, deploying Lustman’s signature syncopation into what sounds like baritone male singers mimicking the track’s bassline.
The women that continue to show up in Lustman’s work, live in-person or sampled, complement the productions on this record in ways they didn’t on his first. And what makes this album cohesive is the balance Lustman has struck between how these female vocals compliment a rhythmic scheme that can easily steal the spotlight.
Bok Bok b2b Jackmaster on RinseFM
If one crucial media outlet could be pinpointed as a major reason for electronic music’s marginalization in the U.S., it would be radio. But since the rave days of ‘90s Europe, pirate radio abroad has (not with out notable struggle) managed to stay healthy, influential, and progressive. Such has been the case for London’s RinseFM, originally a pirate station, and has only recently been awarded an FM license. Dubstep had its most major platform here, not to mention grime and UK funky, and to this day RinseFM is where a great deal of underground dance music is spun for the first time and given a life.
One of the select few who hold down a RinseFM spot is future bass touchstone, label head, grime head, and producer Bok Bok. His label Night Slugs was arguably the most influential dance music label of 2010, with standouts like Girl Unit’s “Wut”, Kingdom’s “Fogs”, and Mosca’s “Square One”. Bok Bok continues to be a go-to for how bass music is being pushed ever forward, particularly with his bi-weekly show on RinseFM, where he goes back-to-back Night Slugs co-owner and producer L-Vis 1990.
On last week’s Night Slugs Bok Bok invited Glasgow DJ Jackmaster, who runs the equally forward-thinking Numbers label. Jackmaster is also an excellent DJ—his mix for U.S. magazine Urb was one of my absolute favorites from 2010—and what makes him so good is how much he’s willing to take risks with old and new material, making connections between classics and how they’ve influenced what’s new. Between Bok Bok’s ultra-fresh selection of brand new tunes (including a few of his own on this show) and Jackmaster’s dusty gems, the two have a blast going back-to-back on this one. Sorry, no tracklist. More interesting anyhow.
Bok Bok b2b Jackmaster on RinseFM (Right-click and save)
How to Dress Well – “Ready for the World” (xxxy Re-Edit)
One of my favorite records of 2010 was Love Remains from Tom Krell a.k.a. How to Dress Well. Krell is a ‘90s R&B obsessive—something I can already relate to having grown up with a mother who listened to as much Stevie Wonder as she did Babyface and Boyz II Men—but he’s also a truly thought-provoking sound designer. Much of the record is thin, overblown lo-fi atmospherics, barely supporting Krell’s disarming falsetto, yet it manages to capture the kind of tender loving sonic confusion an earnest white-boy raised on rock and hip-hop might create. Jump from Krell’s Chicago dwelling to London bass music (Krell actually listed many UK bass anthems as 2010 favorites on his blog), and you have this “re-edit” (don’t ask) from producer xxxy of Krell’s “Ready for the World”. Apart from snapping snares and a gut-wrenching bassline, this basically puts Krell’s gorgeous melodies on something made for the dancefloor, to which DJs and bass lovers say, “Thanks!”