The Cut with Filter Musikk

Music sales figures for 2018 are in! According to the RIAA, sales of physical records (in the US) went up 14% last year while cassettes increased by a whopping 19%. It also says that sales of streaming services went up by 44%, but if the rest of that industry’s counting is anything like the Carters at Tidal, who seemed to be enlisting the help of their infant daughter Blue Ivy in the process – 5, 7, 20, 100, 200 000, 3 000 000 – the veracity of those claims are questionable at best.

The tangible evidence we can take from this however is that vinyl sales have seen yet another increase, which means it must be time for another Cut with Filter Musikk and it’s two-for-one deal this week on our first edition of the series out of Roland Lifjell’s hallowed hollow in downtown Oslo.

Thanks to a myopic moment on our part, the start of 2019 still remains something of a blur and although the records have already started arriving at Filter this year, we somehow passed over an entire box two weeks ago. So we are making up for that today with an extended cut with Filter Musikk.

Roland Lifjell has been tucked away in his little corner as usual and in a tug of war between the boxes of records and space for movement he’s starting to lose the battle. It’s only after navigating a maze of plastic and cardboard that we find Roland huddled over a stack of the latest arrivals, admiring his own reflection from their shiny untouched plastic sheaths.

After unpacking two boxes over the course of last two weeks, Roland has sent us the best of these for the Cut with Filter musikk. These records, selected from an already meticulously curated collection of latest arrivals, are the musical pieces that you can touch, see, hear and acquire.

There’s no hype here, with months of inane clickbait directed through social media threads and constant previews of halfarsed loops that are printed up in limited numbers only to disappear on the shelves of the distributor before they are even released. No, these are the records that are here and now, the music that matters, this is the cut with Filter Musikk.

Ansome, Umwelt – Rave Or Die 11 (Rave Or Die) 10″

O, it’s like that is it Roland? We’re just going to launch ourselves into the deep end with some no, holds barred, growling Techno? Umwelt’s Rave or Die imprint makes no concessions when it comes to club music. There is no posturing or attempt to cajole the listener with some innocuous looping twaddle. The music on Rave or Die and in extension anything with the Umwelt moniker stamped across the record is music that shouts at its listeners, foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal with vitriol intent.

Ansome and Umwelt accompany each other on this florescent 10”, providing two mammoth Techno cuts that are too big to be contained on its dinky format. Two blistering percussive arrangements twist and writhe in their constraints as they wrestle free from conformity. Ansome and Umwelt find some synchronicity between their tracks with jack-hammer beats puncturing unnerving atmospheres with all the grace of a two-ton truck.

In light of Umwelt’s ferocious kick-per-beat “Affre”s, Ansome’s “Vakuum” is almost tame – I said almost. Both producers are in a class of their own however, applying noise and distortion with the most delicate of touches that produce awe-ínspiring results.

Rave or Die 11 is not breaking any moulds and it ventures very little in terms of the sound Umwelt has cultivated since its inception, but what it does, it does incredibly well and few very prominent labels and artists brandishing the Techno badge could come close to the intensity that real Techno artists like these put forward.

Posthuman – The Snake Bites Twice (Craigie Knowes) 12″

The UK acid outfit Posthuman set their sites on Electro for the precocious Glasgow label, Craigie Knows on The Snake Bites twice. The barely-new label, which has already garnered a reputation for its bold dancefloor cuts across 18 releases over two years, turns to the east-London stalwarts, Richard Bevan and Joshu Doherty for their latest release.

With a glance in their rear-view mirror, Posthuman continue to honour the roots of club music in their sound, with infectious melodies, kinetic beats, acid bass-lines and progressive arrangements balancing their sound. On The Snake Bites Twice they don’t mess with perfection, and their modernised take on Acid, Electro and Detroit Techno fwavers little from previous releases. They bulk up the tried and tested sounds of Roland’s x0x range, but dust off the cobwebs and bring it up to date, where it completely does away with those DIY associations of yore.

Stripping back the elements to their essential parts like on “Polywater Acid” they favour a minimalist modernist take, leaving tracks like that enough room to breathe through modern scooping sound systems like the Funktion One. Where “Steal the Show” does indeed steal the show with its Electro breakbeat and engaging melodic phrases, there’s a little bit of everything and something for everybody across this release.

From “Cobra Structure’s” lysergic movements beyond the known galaxy to “Down to Jakk’s” monstrous jacking rhythm section the record goes from accessible dance floor workouts on the A-side to stripped back DJ tools on the b-sides with the TB-303 almost always front and centre in the arrangements as Posthuman’s defining character.

Birds Ov Paradise – Part 1: Bayou (Hypnus) 12″

The alluring, hypnotic sounds of Hypnus have been providing a deep alternative to the boisterous sounds of Techno since 2014, with an ambient treatment of experimental electronic sounds that drift along at tempered tempos as they swirl around, slow chugging beat arrangements. BLNDR, Luigi Tozzi and Feral have all contributed to the Swedish label, solidifying the sound of the label in those artist’s exploratory views of electronic music.

Birds ov Paradise (David Sabel) joined the roster with a three part release which saw the light of day last year and now finally arrives in Oslo. The Göteberg artist finds a natural synergy with the label directly on the first part, Bayou. Rich textures cascade over the tempered rhythm section, where they float light as air across the audio spectrum. Bass lines whispering from the depths of the arrangements ride waves of steady four-four kicks as electronic organisms swarm around their brief appearance only to dissipate back into the ether in glowing reflections of their existence.

Across four tracks Birds ov Paradise creates a mystical sonic narrative that runs through the short LP. You can almost that touch the foggy humidity of the Bayou on this release, setting the scene for the rest of the series that will venture further onto the Savannah and the Plateau. We look forward to the journey.

Mall Grab – How The Dogs Chill, Vol. 1 (Looking For Trouble) 12″

“It’s straight up party music,” reads on eager Discogs commentator on this, the latest record from hip-house / lo-fi (whatever you want to label it) producer and DJ Mall Grab. Wait, since he’s been doing this kind of music since the beginning, does this make him a Hip-House veteran? As confusing as that sounds, Mall Grab is one of the originators of the resurgence of House in this current epoch of dance music. Originally defined by distorting hats and cymbals and a quirky moniker, I think it’s safe if we just call it House music today.

How the Dogs Chill Vol.1 (I expect there will never be a volume 2) is the debut of a label that takes its name from the EPs third track, “Looking for trouble”, suggesting this might be a MG imprint. It’s got that nineties throwback, self-deprecating aesthetic that we’ve encountered across releases from similar acts like Ross from Friends and DJ Seinfeld that re-affirms this.

With an all-encompassing musical palette, Mall Grab channels everything from Jungle to Hip Hop through his work and How the Dogs Chill wavers little from his sonic dexterity. From the deep House,Trance inflection of “Liverpool street in the rain”, to the broken beat of “Get impetuous”, there’s no singular genre or style to pigeonhole his music.

There is an infectious attraction to his musical creations however and we would have to agree with that eager Discogs user; How the Dogs Chill Vol.1 is  straight up party music.

Versalife – Nova Prospekt (TRUST) 12″

At the forefront of this current wave of Electro is Versalife. The Dutch producer has been making expressive electronica within the canon of Electro for the best part of a decade, but where others have favoured the DIY palette of the genres roots he’s opted for a more progressive approach to the genre. Skipping beats coaxed from a modern interpretation of the tried and trusted sounds of the Roland x0x series, travel through the alien electronic textures, skipping through the cosmos at hyperspeed as it boldly takes us into the future of the Electro genre.

Versalife returns to TRUST for Nova Prospekt, a label that has embodied this new age in Electro and electronic music, immortalising the sound for the next generation as they step into the future. Nova Prospekt is a more familiar approach from Versalife after the concept-driven Soul of the Automaton series, which saw the producer relay a cognitive narrative through three records.

Nova Prospekt is by no means any different in sonic identity, but a simpler arrangement and less-varying progression through the tracks has a more defined dance floor characater in its execution. Versalife’s futurist approach, while honouring the legacy of the likes of Drexciya, uses familiar tropes, re-imagined like an auteur looking towards some science fiction future.

“Exosuit” and its charming bleeping motive; “2A Spacts” and it’s slinky bass line; and the title track’s bouncing toms-as-bass-lines all sound immediately familiar, but as Versalife interprets these in his own unique way and frames these elements in his distinctive alien soundscapes, it retrofits these elements for the next phase of this music.

Ekman, Ola Bergman – Code Two (Propaganda Moscow) 12

From one end of Electro to the other with Propaganda Moscow, where dark atmospheres and body-slamming beats replace the lush adventurous melodies and arrangements of Versalife. Ekman and Ola Bergman, bring it back to a primal level where music is a physical relationship between man and machine and the results are raw expressive moments trapped in a moment.

There are two sides to Ekman; the traditional Electro artist stripped down to its fundamental parts in pursuit of function above form like we heard on his debut LP Primus Motors, and then there’s this Ekman; the bold experimentalist ready to assault the senses with some abrasive sonic deluge aimed at the status quo. He usually reserves this latter part for releases on Trilogy Tapes, but on this occasion, that part of the artist has kicked a hole in the partition that divides these respective sides of his artistic personality. Murky synths cloud the percussive sections where they disappear behind the erratic synth formations screaming at you from sordid depth.

Luckily Ola Bergman is there on the flip as the sage counterpoint to Ekman’s schizophrenic sounds. Bergman however retains that mystique and allure clouding the entire release with drums and stabbing synths appearing out of leaden atmospheres. A more traditional take on the darker side of Electro, Bergman plays on that familiar dichotomy in electro, between melody and function and staccato and legato, but he strips it back to its most corporeal dimensions with two tracks aimed specifically at the DJ and the dance floor.