Waveform: New Highlights from the Electronic Underground

Every week an avalanche of sound is let go into the world of electronic music. The merchant alleys, virtual pathways, and myriad communities that exchange music are overwhelming in the age of the Internet. That said, electronic music is atomizing and reinventing itself like few other musical sounds, partly because these avenues of distribution are so widely embraced and promoted by the electronic music community.

Yet, to listen to all of these releases and pick out the head-turners would require as many people as there are releases. Sinking into a piece of music is itself a time consuming process, that is if you’re willing to absorb the sounds with the same care in which they were made.

Here at Sound Affects I will regularly choose an EP or album, a DJ mix, and an unreleased single to highlight and say a few kind, endearing words about. Each of these formats is meant to represent the ways in which electronic music is consumed most commonly these days, with DJ mixes being fascinating albums in their own right, and unreleased, self-released, and bootleg singles being extraordinarily rich realms of sample-based possibility. Now that you know what you’re in for, here are my first three!

Distal / HxdB / Mayhem – Typewriter Tune (Surefire Sound)

More so than other genres of late, dubstep seems to be fracturing into a thousand tiny ineffable pieces. The year 2010 was defined by this exciting prospect if nothing else, even as we saw folks like Benga, Rusko, and Skream get called on to make music for the pop market.

Nearly all of these intriguing sounds seemed to be emanating from dubstep’s birthplace of London, though 2011 could be a year in which North America responds with something engaging. Few other producers working in the realm of dubstep/UK funky/house/juke/blah blah blah are messing with these descriptors like Atlanta, Georgia’s Distal. This EP, titled Typewriter Tune for San Francisco’s Surefire Sound—an outfit that has done most of its business in booking up to this point—is a dynamic delight in percussion, largely due to Distal’s uncanny way with drums.

Over the course of three tracks the sounds of Chicago juke are in there somewhere, as are dub and dancehall’s intoxicating use of echo and horns. Gliding synths rip through “Typewriter Tune VIP”, and “Mayhem” is more closely related to dubstep’s low-swung swing, though the emerging horns manage to be both harrowing and celebratory. “Typewriter Tune” and its VIP version are the real highlights here, as the namesake clicks and taps give the tracks a fun-loving energy with out drifting into cheese.

Hype Williams – Mix for Fact Magazine

Whether or not you like the muddy, malignant music of Hype Williams’ Inga Copeland and Dean Blunt, this mix for Fact Magazine’s excellent mix series is worth sifting through. To call this a mix in the company of Fact’s many seamless DJ mixes is unfitting, as none of the duo’s picks are beat-matched or bridged in any clean way. That alone is a breath of fresh air in a rote world of software-programmed promo mixes.

But all that can really be said about this mix is that there are four, yes, four Steely Dan songs dropped like saccharine bombs through out an already confounding mixture of songs from artists like dub hero Augustus Pablo, Japanese experimental composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, and of course Fleetwood Mac. The mix results in an adventurous listening experience, something that could surely bring someone into Hype Williams’ own production world with greater ease.

FACT mix 216 – Hype Williams (Jan ’11) by factmag

Kalamarka – “Aguas Claras” (Wilder DJ Remix)

I know absolutely nothing about this song except that it comes from one of my favorite music blogs to grow out of the internet in the last year. Out of Chicago, Dave Quam writes the blog It’s After the End of the World, where he has been instrumental in sharing his lens into Chicago juke music and footwork. He also posts a lot of amazing, bewildering dance music from parts of Latin America and Africa. This is Andean folk music that has been chopped and screwed a.k.a. slowed down for those don’t have time for a history lesson.