A simple needle vibrating in reaction to some minuscule peaks and troughs cut into a thin lacquer disc rotating at 33 ⅓ or45 revolutions per minute; who could have ever thought it could indulge an entire culture? In 2020 as DJs continue to flock to the more accessible and unexacting digital formats (who can blame them) the culture has turned cult, closing ranks with an unwavering dedication bordering on religion of the 12” record.
While DJ music and new releases favour accessibility, and vinyl’s prominence continues to wane in the era of an increasingly informed audience based on the Internet, it takes an obsessive commitment to produce and collect the format today. Contained in the hallowed medium is the last remnants of a culture that defined the DJ for the most part of DJ history, and continues to lure dedicated music heads to new- and previously undiscovered music.
For some it’s the last bastion of taste, unfettered from the indulgence of hype and trend-informed biases, for something individual and personal; an intimate exchange between the listener and the artist. It lives beyond the immediate and encourages more than just a fleeting relationship. A record is for life, and even if it refuses to satiate, it can always fulfil another’s musical experiences.
It occupies our physical and mental spaces, informing personalities and encroaching on our living spaces. It is an indistinguishable part of us without making a sound, and contained within its grooves, is a sonic world that is unique to us and our listening habits. You might find the same music online and somebody else could have the very same record, but it’s impossible to replicate the feeling and the mood when you put a needle on your record and disappear into its sonic recesses on your terms.
There are a few physical places that encourage this relationship with the waning format, but in Oslo we have one of the most dedicated in Filter Musikk and one of the most dedicated enthusiasts in proprietor Roland Lifjell. This is the cut with Filter Musikk.
DJ Qu – Dance To My Ministry EP (HotMix) 10″
A beat shuffled into the obscure realm between strong beats and an industro-leaning track siphoning elements of Techno into House bring something a little different to this quintessential DJ tool from DJ QU. The Italian stalwart channels his extensive experience through this plucky ten inch, providing two very different moods across its two tracks.
While “Soul Thing” will happily float between Techno and House as a mix steps up a gear, it’s “Repeat” with its off-kilter shuffling beat and its peculiar atmosphere that steals the show. The percussion meanders through a swampy texture, sluggishly falling between the chasms of integer beats, while legato synths refuse to move before unexpectedly jerking into the next note. Adding the distorted vocal and the menacing bass line through pivotal points in the track, it takes on a very psychedelic affair as the track seeks to challenge a more progressive dance floor.
Low End Activist – Low End Activism (Sneaker Social Club) 12″
Sneaker Social Club has really picked up some steam in 2019, and even as we write about this new arrival at Filter, they’ve released 7 records since. The label, which focuses on music derived from UK soundsystem culture, thrives in a heady mix of Grime, Garage, Jungle and Drum n Bass. Prioritising the sub frequencies, artists like the formidable Neil Landstrumm, and the incorrigible Appleblim have featured on the labels extensive catalogue, which was slung into overdrive last year.
Patrick Conway goes subterranean as Low End Activist in this release for the label. Moving away from the more traditional US-inspired dance floor he’s cultivated for the likes of Forbidden Planet, Rekids and ESP Institute, Conway takes his sounds to London’ streets on this release. Large, bulging waves of bass undulate through six tracks as ghostly echoes of soundsystem MCs haunt the outer fringes of the tracks. Dub figures float between stark metallic percussive arrangements in a misasmic whirlpool of sound, designed for impressive speaker stacks.
Besides the obvious single of the title track, there’s very little to the EP beyond the immense power of the sound, and in that Low End Activist has created a record to test the limits of UK sound systems.
VA – Acid Virus (Zodiak Commune) 12″
Well, it was 303 day a couple of days back…so it only seems appropriate to have an Acid record here. Zodiak Commune enlists a few underground stars in a nod to the early sounds of Acid Rave. About Blank, Negative Glitch, WaveBndr and Arkanoid all proffer their interpretations of the ever-endearing Acid genre, specifically reaching back into the past when the genre was soundtracking raves across Europe and especially around the M25 in London.
Updating the sound design for contemporary audiences, stoic 303 basslines march through vacuous textures to the beat of dominating 909 kick drums. From the sampled breakbeat of “Papy 303” to the hoover synthesiser blowing through the middle of “Oracle,” the artists involved make sure to honour the roots of the genre, but ultimately avoid kitsch cliches in their modern take on hackneyed themes.
Showcasing the versatility of the 303, the basslines go from bubbling along under the surface to squelching on the melodic line, and even though the machine and the music associated with it is closing in on the realm of a midlife crisis, there is still something primal and urgent about the sounds of a record like like Acid Virus. Happy 303 day!
Mike Schommer – Come Home EP (Greyscale) 12″
Deepchord as artists and a label have played a significant part in the role of dub-Techno in the history of club music. Counting Basic Channel, Luke Slater (L.B Dub Corp) and Shed (Wax) as contemporaries the US group had a hand in establishing the genre, and while Rod Modell and Mike Schommer might have gone their separate ways some ten years back, it’s clear they’ve remained dedicated to this music.
After a decade long hiatus, the other half of Deepchord, Mike Schommer has returned to the fray, with releases for Mosaic, and this soulful record for Greyscale. “Come Home” side-steps the dance floor somewhat for three original tracks that appear more like songs, than tracks. At the centre of the record’s appeal is the wraithlike voice of Milly James, moving through the tracks like a breeze, between the dub-rhythms and entrancing melodic phrases Schommer coaxes from minimal synthesisers.
Much of the excitement for the record comes in the form of a Deepchord remix of “Breathe,” a kind of reunification for Schommer and Rodell. The remix transposes the track to the dance floor, but retains the allure of James’ voice and thrives in the same breathy atmospheres of the original. Together with the original tracks, there’s a lot of crossover appeal between the dance floor and the home stereo. “Breathe” and “Come Home” will continue to haunt the listener long after the record comes to its conclusion.
Benoit B – Caution 9’6″ High (Unthank) 10″
There’s something instinctual that attracts us to the Lindsay Todd’s Firecracker and Unthank labels. From the 10” formats he prefers to the designs and the artists that he attracts to the labels, there’s an indefinable allure to the records, which more than not follows through onto the music.
Benoit B delivers on this occasion with a record that thrives in the unusual, without sacrificing accessibility. A dance record for the informed “Caution 9’6” High” maintains the dominance of a percussive beat, but folds in off-kilter elements that arrive straight out of the BBC radiophonic archives. Using FX as percussion, the record thrives in the uncanny where a metallic swoosh or atonal bang sits happily alongside the familiar sounds of a contemporary dance floor.
While the melodic charm of “Global Go” and the bass excavations of “Cruisin” are immediate and effective, every track brings something unique to this mesmerising release. The quirky percussive pursuit of ”Coconut Groove” (which is just a great title) and the off-kilter beat orchestrations of “Nanga” hold their own appeal. There’s an elusive thread that ties these tracks together through their eccentric sound design, which is what will keep bringing you back to the tracks.