It is the season to be rated and ranked. Seriously, I thought we were done with this? Ever since Resident Advisor penned that very “sincere” open-letter about stopping their yearly ranking of DJs – right after they had just released a best-of list I might add – I was under the impression that the general consensus had shifted from blatant objective favouritism, to everybody just making up their own mind about what they’ve enjoyed listening to this year. Apparently that’s not the case as Mixmag, DJ Mag and host of others start rolling out their best-of lists for 2018 – from best of DJs to best EPs and mixes. Even those sanctimonious harbingers of cool at the gate of electronic music, Resident Advisor couldn’t help themselves and have already compiled a best-of-albums and a best-of-tracks selected by a group of very eager-to-please elves waiting in their ranks.
But what of all the artists that are still releasing records in 2018; what of the limited pressings of records, baring little more than whitelabel; what of the ones that don’t have a mailing list bombarding the media types with familiar names, labels and tags? How can one piece of music be better than the next anyway when there is no absolute objectivity behind one person’s choice over another? If a DJ was the best DJ in 2018, was s/he a worse DJ in 2017? What about the albums you didn’t hear or the music, that like most music, simply exists without the eternal hype machine plugging it to the media?
Records like those do exist; The whitelabels, the artists and the labels that refuse to pander to the music media and the capitalist systems that tip “objective” favourable scales with a wad of cash. That’s why we and Filter Musikk, started The Cut, to put a spotlight on all this “other” music; the not-good-enough (or more likely not popular-enough) to make it on to the best-of, better-than-the-rest of lists. These are not the best records out of the new releases (sometimes they aren’t even new), but rather the releases where Filter Musikk and Jæger’s tastes converge for that brief moment in a fortnight.
Don’t, for a single moment however think that his is going to be something like the best of the cut of 2018. No, Roland Lifjell is still taking deliveries of new records, the latest in the cutting edge world of electronic club music. In fact, he has just unpacked a fresh batch recently. It’s the last batch of records for the year, but then there’s still tomorrow, because like P.Diddy on a sugar cookie, music “can’t stop won’t stop uh-uh-uhh.” This crimbo edition of the cut with Filter Musikk we’re saving you from the ranked and the rated, the popular and obnoxious to get back to the thing that matters above all else… the music.
Ajukaja – Untitled (Bergerac) 12″
From the vaults of Red Rack’em’s Bergerac label, comes four Deep House cuts from Estonian producer, Ajukaja. There’s always something a off-kilter about Ajukaja’s music and this record doesn’t fail to produce its own quirky, eccentric results. Combining synthesisers, samplers and vocals, Ajukaja doesn’t exceed the parameters of House music persay, but he does offer a view from the side through a pair Bootsy Collins’ formal glasses.
From the treatment of vocals, often pitched down to foreign abstract elements bouncing off the surface of grooving beat concoctions, this record gives us a fresh new alternative take on a genre that has become too comfortable in its own shoes. Testing the boundaries of House music, his approach is unique and foregoes formulaic function for an eerie expressionism.
The sluggish basslines and sedate vocal of the opening track “Mhmhmh” drags its feet through an oozing mire of synthesizers and found sounds. The deep, grumbling vocal crawls out from the depths of a sunken hole, urging you close to the speaker. A reserved down-tempo rhythm indulges the body in subliminal rhythms that groove with a gangster lean. From that opening track to the inventive use of vocoder on “Walk”, and the haunted disco of “Ekleeer”, Ajukaja’s music hardly confirms to any kind of template.
Dopplereffekt – Athanatos (Leisure System) 12″
There are so many imperceptible layers to Dopplereffekt’s music. From the influence of Kraftwerk on the group, to the scientific themes that course through their work, and all the other mysterious abstract concepts that influence each record, decoding a new Dopplereffekt record is like trying to piece together a 4-D puzzle in minecraft. There’s never a guide, a clue or some red thread to follow, but as you contemplate these themes and more, you’re allowing yourself to be swallowed way down in the rabbit hole of Dopplereffekt to a point where you are completely immersed in their music.
While Gesamtkunstwerk-era Dopplereffekt is still the best example of the group’s work, they’ve hit something of new stride in their relationship with Leisure System since 2013’s “Tetrahymena.” They’ve followed it up with a split release with Objekt and an Ambient electro LP called “Cellular Automata” and now their back with the genetically-themed “Athanatos” for the label.
Dopplereffekt are at their best in this realm with swinging electronic beats and punchy bass-line workouts like the second, half of this EP. When they move too far too left, with electronic experiments overwhelming the track and not rewarding the body the results can often fall flat, but luckily they’ve contained that aspect of their DNA to the title track only. “Hayflick Limit” especially harks back to that golden era Dopplereffekt with vocals, bouncing beats and textures evocative of Drexciya’s underwater escapades finding a common ground in their production.
They’ve saved for last though with “Mitosis” which is just classic Dopplereffekt, and “Athanatos” is definitely worth it for that alone.
Psyk – Voiceprint Remixes (Non Series) 12″
Manuel Anós’s Psyk gets the remix treatment over on his own label, Non Series with three blistering takes on his “Voiceprint” EP from earlier this year. Tangible functionality is the key to these remixes, as the three remix artists do away with any idiosyncrasies for the sake of the dance floor. Even Peter Van Hoesen, who in his own music usually offers some kind of dynamic partnership between the beats and melodies, foregoes anything that doesn’t work on an immediate level on his interpretation of “Falling”. Neel and Shifted toe the same line with “Night Current” and “Voiceprint” respectively, re-interpreting the originals as autonomous and brazen DJ tools.
Code 6 – Untitled (Midnight Drive) 12″ reissue
Yet another blast from the past, finally getting a re-issue. When people are all out of new ideas, digging through the archives is sometimes the best solution. It’s that shot in the arm we need to reset, rewind and get back to the original ideas. Code 6 is one of the many Joey Beltram aliases forgotten in time, appearing on three or four releases before completely dissolving by the mid-nineties.
Code 6 was his escape from the hard-edged “hoover sound” of European Techno he helped pioneer in the early nineties where the records shared more in common with the emerging break-beat Detroit sound from artists like Carl Craig. This re-issue of the last of the Code 6 releases captures the current zeitgeist in the UK for the return of the break-beat and a more a melodic approach to the dance floor.
Synth movements hover (not hoover) above the shards of splintered beats, softening the harsh exterior of determined drum machines, with layers of evocative charge. Everything Beltram touches as Code 6 is simply drenched in brilliant layers of harmony and melody that languish in their own reverie as they fill the spaces between the beats. You gotta love a re-issue.
Laksa – Delicates (Ilian Tape) 12″
Ilian tape are an uncompromising label. They are not a label that indulges a sound as much as an attitude. If you’re looking for something familiar, cosy and easy to play amongst the rest of the conformists, Ilian Tape is not your label; here, there be monsters. Rhythm structures that defy not only convention but physics, brooding electronics and body punching percussion are the order of the day at Ilian tapes and on the particularly trying days, even we have to pass up an Ilian Tapes release, but not this day.
UK artist Laksa makes his second appearance on the label in as many years following up “Camo” with the ironically titled “Delicates”. The title track lures you into a very false sense of security under the misnomer, utilising some breathy synths and sequences, before the second track on the EP, “Madu’s Break” has the record tumbling down a flight of stairs in an ingracious onslaught of broken beats and glitching musical interfaces. It’s a ferocious 6-minute percussive track that moves like an improvised diatribe through a musical vitriol, exploding in a release of tension that has been building up through the preceding track.
There’s a general continuity that flows between the tracks, where one takes up from where the other left off, and after the all-mighty energy of “Madu’s Break”, Laksa tempers his sound for “Dust” before it subsides in “Yogi’s Choice”. It’s rare to find a narrative like this through an EP. Delicates is an intense, deft-defying experience through four tracks that uphold that uncompromising Ilian Tape ethos, but Laksa puts his own stamp on the ideology through gnashing fractured beats, crunchy synthesisers and the omnipotent bass billowing through the production.