Listening: October 2017
Quick blurbs on albums by Honey Dijon, Motion Graphics, Lone and Antwood
The latest line-up of records to inspire me to write quick blurbs in response have been mostly from the electronic sphere of things. The selections here peek both into the experimental and the more straightforward, dance-floor-friendly side of the genre. The latter proved more rewarding, though there’s definitely something to pick apart from the former. Something for everyone, I guess?
Virtuous.scr / Sponsored Content by Antwood (Planet Mu, 2016; 2017)
The cold, industrial sounds Antwood adopts to write his concepts behind Virtuous.scr and Sponsored Content call to mind grime-esque records like Jam City’s Classical Curves or Fatima al Qadiri’s Desert Strike EP. Machine whir and hardware boot-ups provide much appropriate texture for Virtuous.scr, an album that follows the life of an A.I.; more gun shells are heard for the eerie Sponsored Content, an exploration on the brutal, bloody reality behind how products get to your hands.
Though it pulls from similar sound banks, Antwood’s music on these two albums resemble club music even less than the works by the aforementioned producers. The closest may be “Prototype HA” from Virtuous.scr, but even its frenetic rush evokes more mood piece than hardcore rave. Sponsored Content as an experience focuses more on it as a thought exercise with the producer providing more immersive pieces via dialog as well as samples: the mangled chop of “I see everything” from an anonymous R&B record in “ICU” is superb in serving an extra chill of surveillance to an already-paranoid track.
Both records follow the path of violence as the conclusion. Sounds of weapons grows in Virtuous.scr, perhaps signaling the self-awareness of the A.I. From the jump, Sponsored Content digs into the dark side of humanity. Neither fully eases the tension, the latter more than the former. Though “Realization” in the former aptly provides one tender, if not bittersweet turning point in a soundscape lacking in a feeling of flesh and humanity.
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The Best of Both Worlds by Honey Dijon (Classic Music Company, 2017)
► “808 State of Mind” ft. Shaun J Wright & Alinka
The debut full-length from Honey Dijon collects some early material, though the entirety of The Best of Both Worlds might as well be new for me, who knew the Chicago icon as a DJ first, producer second. And may I add ambassador as a third role? Her recent contribution for BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix series traced her path growing up and getting acquainted with one of her city’s finest cultural imports: disco and funk made way for early acid and techno. Her talk with DJ Sprinkles and Juliana Huxtable for MoMA PS1 also opened up the culture, the good, the bad and the ugly, for discussion.
A mix of those genres materializes into timeless house. Like her BBC mix, some pays homage to her roots. The stretched-out calm of “808 State of Mind” with Shaun J. Wright and Alinka pays respect to 808 State, a group who introduced her to Balearic sounds, she said. Even without a direct reference to its song titles, though, The Best of Both Worlds brings comforts found perhaps in the collection of records played back in the day. The lively, human atmosphere transports as “Pacific State” did, to not necessarily a permanent vacation but still a temporarily space where one’s free to express, even more private corners of lust and sadness.
Motion Graphics by Motion Graphics (Domino, 2016)
I’ve warmed up to Motion Graphics thanks to his work on Visible Cloaks’s “Terrazzo.” He sources pretty, otherworldly sounds from a similar pool of influences as the duo. Full of new age, ambient and re-works of old Japanese pop, his Blowing Up the Workshop contribution is his Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboos. Though, he creates something more solid and beat-like than the free-form passages of his collaborators. While nothing of his self-titled album quite gives way to sticky enough songs, how Motion Graphics carefully handles his materials is still something to praise. The textures of his choosing and his re-configuration of them: this is essentially vaporwave, but more mindful of who and where his beloved sounds come from.
DJ-Kicks by Lone (!K7, 2017)
Lone’s literally glowing rave nostalgia of Galaxy Garden is quite the obsession between a few friends and me. That said, the most endearing thing about this producer is that the guy is a skate rat. Reality Testing from 2014 sampled a snippet of an interview with pro skater Theotis Beasley, whose all-smiles personality fares well with the record’s blissful moods. “Back Tail Heavy” from Levitate is probably a nod on the grind trick. And for his contribution to the DJ-Kicks series, he mixes in an original called goddamn “Brooklyn Banks,” a reference to the famous slopes in the New York City borough.
The beginning of the mix pushes along in the form a skate-rat mixtape, flexing New York rap like Method Man, Camu Tao and Lootpack — selections not at all foreign to Lone’s boom-bap-friendly albums as of late. Later comes Boards of Canada, the producer’s parent in glistening textures. And then he eventually slides in underground house, both the classic (Drexciya) and the ghost of nostalgia for the era (Ross From Friends). To be missed is definitely the speedy rave cuts that perhaps inspired Galaxy Garden and Emerald Fantasy Tracks, though you can arguably find traces of that corner of his taste in his latest efforts elsewhere, like one of the three EPs in his Ambivert Tools series. As an update of where his head has been the past few years, this DJ-Kicks provides a solid catch-up.