Image via Nia Archives/Instagram
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Sam Ribakoff misses the days when Bandcamp didn’t cater to Fortnite streamers on Twitch.
I’m writing this right after reading that Ryuichi Sakamoto, one of the visionaries behind the Yellow Magic Orchestra, the world’s most accessible ambient-experimental-classical music composer, and one of music’s most steadfast cosmopolitan internationalists, died a couple of days ago. Whether he was making downtempo tango music, electro-funk, or gentle piano and organ music underlit by ominous noisy textures, Sakamoto wasn’t just showing off his taste or influences for clout, he was trying to find bridges between music made throughout the world in different times and different places, showing us how they’re all connected, and while genres are cool, they’re also a fuck. May his memory be a blessing.
I think noise musician Dreamcrusher gets this. For a minute, they have been screaming at people through waves of distortion, feedback, and industrial-synth punk percussion – what they refer to as “nihilist queer revolt musik,” but a new two-pack of songs released as Suite ONE adds something interesting to the mix of noise music and classic hip-hop drum breaks. Glimpsed at the beginning of the track, shrouded in grain and oversaturation, the break from Last Poet Jalal Mansur Nuriddin’s Lightnin’ Rod alias, (with Kool and the Gang backing him), soon gets swallowed by piercing feedback and Dreamcrusher’s howling hardcore vocals. The break and its accompanying bass line reappears at the end, like Mansur Nuriddin’s break from an album about systemic injustice was always undergirding Dreamcrusher’s whirlwind wall of rage. I think Sakamoto would be proud.
The queen of the neo-drum and bass scene, Nia Archives, came out with a new EP this month, fittingly entitled Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall. Nia’s great because while she obviously loves classic 90’s and 2000’s drum and bass and jungle tracks, she’s not trying to recreate that music. She’s got her own style, indebted to her forebears, but focused on keeping the music pushing. Besides the first two tracks, most of this EP tries to add a kind of Sampha-esque pensive millennial, solemn chords on a slightly out of tune old piano, vibe to jungle music. It doesn’t really work for me, but the first two tracks, “Baianá” and “That’s Tha Way Life Goes,” plays around with Brazilian music in interesting ways. “Baianá” uses samba percussion and chants to add some sunshine to a ridiculous jungle break. It’s great, but it came out six months ago (sorry! I miss a lot of stuff), so let’s talk about “That’s Tha Way Life Goes.”
On the track, Nia loops a couple bars of a jazzy bossa nova plucked guitar and then comes in with her own classic bossa nova like monotone vocals to sing about falling in love after heartbreak over spinning and sputtering jungle breaks. Along the way there’s some synth strings, a little hard accent action, and even some classic drum and bass and jungle echoey siren effects. It’s like if Astrud Gilberto made jungle.
The underground experimental Jersey club sound continues to expand. Just listen to the Yvngsolo and Chillznycc remix of PinkPantheress and Ice Spice’s “Boy’s A Liar” and @pxTEMP’s “Sza Fin – Temp” (Is this a SZA remix? If it is, I don’t recognize the sample. That’s fine. I don’t want to sample snitch anyway). On the “Boy’s a Liar” remix, the Yvngsolo and Chillznycc take the hints of Jersey club in the original song and expand upon them, turning the track into a ricocheting ball of whipping detuned snare, distorted bass drums, piercing snaps, where PinkPantheress and Ice Spice are turned into percussive elements in the fray. It’s a hit.
Seemingly on the other end of the volume spectrum is @pxTEMP’s “Sza Fin – Temp,” an almost ambient take on experimental Jersey club. On the track @pxTEMP floats silky soft ambient keyboard chords between subliminal bass drum kicks, a snare that sounds like a damn whip snapping, and an incessant loop of a vocal sample. Somebody send these kids “Music for Airports” and Laraaji’s discography stat, or at least the Minecraft soundtrack.
Remember Shangaan electro? For a hot minute this sped-up South African folk music mixed with kwaito and South African house music became a kind of minor underground sensation in the west after Honest Jon’s put out a compilation of electro-Shangaan tracks in 2010 (Pitchfork said it seemed “to laugh away the notion of context altogether, or at least rush right past it,” and that some of the tracks “started to thrive in a zone of no context.”) I can’t say I know where the style is at now, but the influence of the breakneck tempos of the music, the recontextualization of folk and traditional percussion into techno and electro music, the vocal chants, chops, and manipulations in tracks, and the centrality of the importance of dancing and audience participation to the music is easy to hear in Malian Balani Show music, and Tanzanian singeli music, and even Chicago footwork/juke music. Put out by the always essential Ugandan Nyege Nyege Tapes, this mixtape by DJ 0.000001, aka Jonah Mociun, is full of straight Shangaan electro headbangers from 2015 to 2022, and some remixes of original tracks, including by footwork/juke music godfather RP Boo. Not only is it fun to hear this music from years ago still sound so ahead of its time, but also how much this music does exist in context and in a continuum of mind blowing electronic dance music from Africa.
Rustic gabber-footwork is the only way I can describe Nondi_’s music. It’s fast, dense with jittery, clipping, layers of percussion, chopped up and manipulated vocal samples, and either ear-piercing melody lines, or ones that are so subsumed by the barrage of percussion coming at you that they sound like they’re emitting from the back of your own lizard brain. Nondi_ lives out in Jonestown, Pennsylvania, far away from any of the gabber revival or footwork scenes, but with HRR, a collective/label she runs, she’s been able to connect with like minded yeomen producers interested in making music that patches together various bits of the most out there electronic sounds and styles to create a colorful, heterogeneous, Katamari Damacy like sound.
Speaking of Pennsylvania, Yotzerert Sheydim is another out there producer based in Pittsburgh that usually makes very noisy noise music. Last year she put out a really interesting, almost industrial-punk, album called Avraham that explored her trans and Jewish identity [It was one of the best electronic albums put out last year if I do say so myself.] Evocation Experiment Aleph is not that. This album is straight noise, but not ear piercing screams or walls of distortion, this is an album full of electrical sounds. Like the sound two live electrical wires make if they were like the size of a house. It’s my favorite ASMR record.