Funky Alternatives / July 2020

The last time I did one of these – back in April – I think I kicked off with Adelaide’s Jura Soundsystem so I`ll start once again in the Antipodes since there are a number of releases from down under that fit the Funky Alternative bill. All of these releases channel, update and subvert techno, electro with a hefty industrial influence and sizable doses of dubwise dread.

Melbourne’s Efficient Space have a two-track 10” that teams fellow townsmen CS + Kreme with with New Yorkers, Blazer Sound System. Tanka Rhythm is a Basic Reshape of fizz and crackle, ominous rumble and tribal timbales. A stolen vintage JA skank providing the momentum on an obsidian squelch, part Stuart Argabright`s Black Rain, and part the organic machined mantras of O Yuki Conjugate. A lot like The Cabs doing digidub. Crushed Cream is a nocturnal 808 exploration – think RUN DMC`s Sucker MCs slowed to a crawl. A promise of danger in its dark, while a chorus of righteous horns bring light and illuminate the end of its 86BPM techno tunnel. 

Also straight outta Melbourne are Butter Sessions, who have two new releases that caught my ear. The first is another 808-driven expedition, the BSD-1 E.P. from label founders, Sleep D. Dog Eye is a seismic dub storm of bass heavy ragga banging. Jungle with the Amen, Brother break removed, and replaced by Kraftwerk Tour De France tapping. With considerable torque applied. Tram similarly kicks more than somewhat. Its keys echoed into an impenetrable wall, while rave hoovers sigh as if in prayer. A phreeked and phased LFO characterizes the slower, brooding, Grass Bath. Its hypnotic pulse fused to fractals and modular melodies.  

The second Butter Sessions broadside comes from Midnight Tenderness AKA Turner Street Sounds` Ryan Hunter, who turns in Digi Modes, a 5 track E.P. (2 on vinyl, 3 to download) which is kind of a potted history of house and “post-house”. Crosswinds finds flutes floating amidst fidgeting drum and bass rhythms. A techno that takes something from the skip of UK speed garage. Music for both the head and the feet that’s juiced for jazz by quality keys. Reflexiones also seems to reference pre-dubstep pioneers – the stripped back sophistication – and madness – of Steve Gurley and Arthur “Artwork” Smith. Its menacing bin-blowing bass balanced by snatches of sweetness, ambient washes that serve as an intro for Regent Street Dub – which is pure 90s US garage. Doing damage like the dubs of Matthias Heilbronn and Mike Delgado, Jahkey B`s “vibatory thing”. Transporting this listener back to a point in time were house and techno once again, briefly, joined hands. Where Rico’s Helly shucked and jived next to Mood II Swing`s Do It Your Way. Dub Dreams sounds like Winsome`s super minimal lovers on Sugar re-spun at 45. Elastic Dub is reggae proper. A reverb-ravaged sublime synthetic symphony worthy of masters such as the Bush Chemists or G.T. Moore. 

Midnight Tenderness

Still in Melbourne, after wowing everyone – including DJ Harvey – with their debut long-player, Phase, jazz-funkers Mildlife have now signed to the wonderful Heavenly Recordings. Apiento`s been called in to remix Rare Air. Both of his versions are effectively dubs, drawing on Paul’s beloved Compass Point – especially stuff like Grace Jones` cover of Flash And The Pan`s Walking In The Rain. A B-line modulation thats ever so slightly acidic, and shot through with laser gun blasts – a little reminiscent of Andrew Weatherall`s End Times Sound. Thunder claps, congas rattle and there’s gentle detuned percussion in the detail. 

Apiento has also rebooted his Test Pressing label with 3 pieces co-produced by house music veteran Alex Tepper – under the collective title, 17:44:58. The trio of tunes exist in the same space time continuum as the one explored by Midnight Tenderness. Modern musical mutations which channel a “golden age” of UK techno that itself drew inspiration from Detroit`s innovators and reggae’s sound systems alike. 606 Dog surely takes its name from the growling low-end. Its beat is the silicon chip soul that graced the duo’s earlier releases and remixes for Phantom Island and World Building. House Bells is an uneasy ambience of synthesized swirls and snapping snares. Motor City relics mixing with those of Europe’s second techno wave (I`m including UK artists such as Stasis, Peacefrog and A.R.T.`s rosters, here). The bells very likely the nagging, distress signal riff. The winner for me though is 100 BPM beauty of Bash. A slice of shuffling subtracted electro salsa. Tom Blip`s carnivals simmered down to a subtle, understated baked blend of Black Dog and Box Saga. The wistful melody that wafts in and out might have older listeners talking to themselves.  

More “alternative” mid-tempo moods come care of SVN`s carefully crafted archival Mechine beats, unearthed for Going Good, and The Orb`s Knights Templar referencing Oak Island Remix of Sarmacja`s Olimpijczyk for Byrd Out. 

Shakey, a new project from Silvia Kastel and Wilted Woman’s Lizzie Davis, for Palto Flats, is a more complex collage that crashes across a range of BPMs. Fancy footwork patterns twisting like tightly coiled springs beneath 3-note rave pianos. Trapping truncated drones and ping-ponging tones in counterpoint. Weaving Snake charmer shapes from the resulting interference. Angelic analog sighs and robotic rainforest mating calls ride tribal trance tub thumping. Bubbling in the same kind of psychedelic primordial soup that the Two Lone Swordsmen cooked up for The Money Penny Project`s Clarisse C and Super Discount`s Le Patron Est Devenu Fou. Dischidia is a spiritual abstraction of gongs, glass marimba, koto, shakuhachi, and organ scintillation. In stark contrast, Moth is the kind of dark proto-new beat diamond that could have been uncovered by “Fat” Ronny Harmsen or his Liaisons Dangereuses disciples, Paul Ward and Sven Van Hees. Its tubular bell sequences and anguished vocal sample I reckon will resound with the I’m A Cliche / Idle Press crew. Its definitely worth pointing out that Palto Flats is donating all the proceeds from July’s sales to the Audre Lorde and The Innocence projects. 

SHAKEY_FRONT copy

The second release proper on Brooklyn`s Our Starry Universe is Birds Of Pandaemonium`s Days Go By. A gothic western pop epic. Metallic, banging and saturated in 6-string displays that touch on glam, rockabilly, and ringing Will Sargent-like arcs. The vocal, slow and low like poor Michael Hutchence in his Need You Tonight prime. For the remix, Whatever / Whatever`s Bryan Mette fills the track`s testosterone tank. Pumping it up to a thumping, relentless, arpeggiated Divine / Native Love bass line. Throwing it into BDSM back room abandon. A place lit only by strobes and where safe words need to be shouted. One for the freaks, and not for the fragile. Mid-way though its 10 minute duration trippy trance textures take you by the hand and Kaa-like whisper, “Relax. Go with the flow. Don’t fight it, feel it.”

Migrating from Brooklyn, New York to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne there are the thoughtful redemptive renderings of rave remembered from Last Magpie`s Kissing Stones, on Me Me Me, and as we accelerate we also have Shaw & Grossfeldt`s Klavier on Drone. Classical – but still “Klarting” – techno, constructed from treated Yamaha Disklavier keys and meddled with MIDI files. 

The reworks of Coyote`s Buzzard Country long-player also crossover and out of balearic and into more banging territory. Max Essa treats the romantic Ranura De Marihuana to bongos and pensive Italo piano, and Woolfy Vs Projections turn Shimmer Dub into a chiming tabla-tastic chugger – suitable for both dawn and twilight – which bursts into a bit of euphoric electro boogie, BUT in the hands of the Hardway Bros Sun Culture is re-imagined as pounding minimalism. Bloodsugar revisited. Maurizio meets the Two Lone Swordsmen, the day after a night out at Steve Bicknell`s Lost. The ghosts of King Tubby`s Hometown Hi-Fi haunting its dancehall. Dancing between the electrical storms and emoting via a melancholy muted organ line. Monkton comes in and helps take the track further Uptown. Setting it skanking more strongly, soaking it in backwards guitar and subliminal sampled dialogue. 

woodleigh reserach facility lockdown art

In closing come two lockdown cuts from Nina Walsh`s Woodleigh Research Facility . Medieval Dub is digi-steppers – bolstered by breakdowns of tom tom timpani – and driven by a duet between what might be a melodica and an also unidentified strange stringed thing. The latter`s “traditional” nature perhaps giving the track its title. Low Slung Duster clicks, whirs and booms like a deconstruction of Chris & Cosey`s more “dance floor” moments. For example, Exotica and This Is Me. Its electro current underpinned by fog-horn like bottom-end and topped by a middle-eastern melody. 

I can’t currently seem to embed the mix from Mixcloud – but you can find it here. Any tips and fixes greatly welcomed. 

Track-list

CS + Kreme – Crushed Cream – Efficient Space
Apiento & Tepper – Bash – Test Pressing
Sleep D – Grass Bath – Butter Sessions
Shakey – Moth – Palto Flats
SVN – The Mechine`s Frequency Memory – Going Good
Sarmcaja – Olimpijczyk (The Orb`s Oak Island Remix) – Byrd Out
Last Magpie – Esmarelda – Me Me Me
Birds Of Pandaemonium – Days Go By (Bryan Mette Remix) – Our Starry Universe
Coyote – Sun Culture (Hardway Bros Balearic Channel Mix) – Is It Balearic?
Woodleigh Research Facility – Low Slung Duster
Mildlife – Rare Air (Apiento Vocal) – Heavenly
Shaw & Grossfeldt – Klavier MF – Drone
Last Magpie – Kissing Stones – Me Me Me
Midnight Tenderness – Elastic Dub – Butter Sessions

Pretty much all of the releases mentioned can be purchased directly from the artist via Bandcamp. The relevant links are peppered throughout the text. If you are ordering via Bandcamp try to wait until Friday, July 3rd, when the site is once again waiving its fees – furthering its support of musicians and labels in these testing times.

Reference Links to follow…….

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