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White Noise: September 2012

Friday, 28 September 2012

Maddslinky – Compuphonic

Label: Broadwalk

In a scene where there are too many next-big-things to count, and where the teenage upstart always bears the brunt of internet hype, it’s refreshing to know that there are a few producers who have been doing it for a long time in style and show no sign of slowing down. The consistently on-point Zed Bias made his name pushing the boundaries of London’s 2step sound over ten years ago, and much like sometime-label mate Boddika, has shown a strong ability to move with the times and carve out the future of dance music more than a decade after he started.


So it is that Bias, aka Dave Jones, resurrects his bouncier Maddslinky alias to offer the second release on Julio Bashmore’s nascent Broadwalk imprint, whose first release you might remember hearing at every club everywhere this summer. Compuphonic is an unusually straight track for Jones in terms of percussion, with a simple 4/4 paving the way for moody synthwork in the intro.  Don’t get fooled though, this track uses simplicity to its advantage, with a huge three-note bassline dominating the sound, along with ravey vocal cries and bright synth bleeps adding texture. It’s hard to listen to without moving, and I’ve already heard this one set the crowds to boiling at festivals across the summer.

On the flipside Compufonique (Part Deux) is an (apparently French) rework of the A-side that adds iridescent synths and brighter melodic accents particularly towards the close, but remains largely the same as the original. It’s hard to criticize Maddslinky for a lack of variation here when he so clearly knows what he’s doing; both tracks are undeniable stormers that are sure to light up dancefloors for the rest of the year. And with another, much darker, release out on Digital Soundboy this week, let’s just hope no one asks him to slow down.


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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The xx – Coexist

 Label: Young Turks

Few groups in recent music history are such clear examples of the questionable touch of the hype machine as The xx. Their superb self-titled debut seemingly came out of nowhere, ascending the ladder of UK music fame from underground to indie to radio play in a matter of months. The reason for this, thankfully, was the quality of the record, and their acclaim was wholly justified. The LP came out as a startlingly confident and original combination of electronic production and breathy, sensual vocals (courtesy of twin leads Oliver Sims and Romi Madley-Croft), but more than anything it impressed with the cohesion of its vision; a surprisingly complete debut.


The group cannily bided their time to perfect their sophomore release, with producer Jamie xx going on to create a name for himself in the dance sphere, and it led to questions of where they could go after such a meteoric debut. It is the way with these groups that the audience could have expected either a refinement on the original or a radical departure, and with Coexist, The xx have clearly opted for the former.

Obviously their spare approach to production, where every note counts, cannot be as exciting and refreshing the second time around, but the group have done an admirable job of polishing their sound. The songs on Coexist are even more stripped down and minimal, while the sonics of production wunderkind Jamie Smith are more on show; the drums hit harder and faster, and on Reunion they even herald the return of the steel drums that served Jamie xx so well on last year’s superb Far Nearer single. Coexist feels a great deal smaller and more intimate than their debut, which is both a blessing and a curse. This is mostly due to the closeness and naked vulnerability of the vocals, nowhere more clear than on standout opener Angels. Here Madley-Croft’s faltering voice feels uncomfortably close, emoting with a quiet force that turns fairly average lyrics into a powerful and heartbreaking plea.


The one thing that seems lost from the group’s debut is the sense of fun and playfulness that occasionally rose its head above the dripping sensuality; the back-and-forth mind games of Basic Space and the less melancholy vibes of pop-centric Islands and Crystallised are nowhere to be found. The tracks here still work, often remarkably well, but as a result the downtrodden nature of the LP can feel like it lacks variation, and the less punchy tunes have a tendency of blurring together on first listen.

There are still more than a handful of spectacular tracks here, but tellingly these are the tunes where the band tries something a little different. Second track Chained is another early highlight; a canned beat clicking with satisfying force under taut bass strumming and a series of the duo’s most infectious earworm vocal refrains. Later Missing starts off as fairly unremarkable; spacious and deeply atmospheric but no different from the majority of the tunes here. Then a sharp drum pattern clicks into place before a heart-in-mouth pause, after which the track returns with searing strings onto an emotional widescreen, a rare unexpected moment on an album which doesn’t quite offer enough of them. And it pays off; the listener is drawn deeply into the narcotic sounds and when Madley-Croft asks ‘are we all we could be’, it feels a profound moment of self-doubt rather than a generic turn of phrase.

 Swept Away

None of these tunes really get it wrong, and with repeated spins there’s a lot to like across the short runtime of Coexist. Yet on these moments where the effect is truly spectacular one is forced to ask if the group hasn’t quite risked enough on this sophomore release. Nowhere is this more clear than on stellar penultimate track Swept Away; where the heady mixture of elements is augmented by a detailed percussive field and a forceful 4/4 that drives those icy guitar lines and some of the most impassioned singing found on the record. Why couldn’t we have seen more over experimenting with the formula on Coexist, when the group clearly have the skills to make it work?

Most listeners will find there is a lot to love on Coexist; it’s an immersive and hypnotic concoction that draws you into the sensual, melancholic world of the group. Compared to its predecessor it’s more intimate but ultimately also more limited, as about half of the album seems to keep to a fairly fixed formula. It’s hard to criticize the band that much for offering another 38 minutes of exactly what they do best, because the powerful effect of their sound still stands unrivalled in the contemporary music sphere. Let’s just hope that in the sketches of progress to be found on this LP is the promise for real change in the future.


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Monday, 24 September 2012

Dusk + Blackdown – Dasaflex

Label: Keysound

It’s surprising, given how long Dusk (Dan Frampton) and Blackdown (excellent UK dance chronicler Martin Clark) have been involved in the UK dance scene that their joint output has come thus far to just over a single LP. Admittedly the pair have had a lot on their plates; Blackdown writes eloquently on the contemporary dance scene while the pair also run the excellent Keysound label, home to superb recent LPs courtesy of LHF, Sully and Damu. Their debut, Margins Music, proved a conceptual and innovative dissection of the dance scene circa 2008, and with Dasaflex the pair appear to cast a similar net. Here they once more offer an impressively varied assessment of current trends, but unlike on their debut the duo seem to hesitate to push its boundaries.

High Road

Dasaflex starts strong and mostly continues that way but offers few surprises. After the spacious and atmospheric opener Lonely Moon (Android Heartbreak), the pair begin to hop between clearly delineated genres fluently and proficiently but all too often fail to offer anything that feels that new. As a result, the tunes that sound a little different are, unsurprisingly, the best. The singular standout High Road, most likely a Burial collaboration (have you heard those beats) showcases canned 2step beats that flex under deep atmospherics and an inspired 4-note melodic progression that stylishly dominates the latter half of the track. Elsewhere the pair are most on form at their most experimental; the wonderfully weird R In Zero G is a Blackdown solo piece that combines rapid percussive twitches with mind-fraying melodic interruptions, while Dusk’s closer Fraction, which calls to mind Keysound labelmate Double Helix of LHF, is all noir synths and breakneck garage rhythms that get the pulse racing.


That’s not to say that all the less experimental tracks on here are bad, either. Specifically title track Dasaflex is a powerful slab of UK Funky, replete with bouncing beats and a wandering bassline which is complimented perfectly by a melodic series of vocal snippets. Yet many of the other tunes can feel overlong and fail to hold attention throughout their runtime, with tunes like ballsy rave-referencing number Wicked Vibez and the bland Next Generation proving loud but instantly forgettable.

The London sound is very much here and Dasaflex is still a worthwhile album in that respect, but all too often it feels as if the pair are paying tribute to the dance canon rather than pushing it forward. Ultimately it appears that the duo are looking more into the present than the future and the LP suffers as a result; it lacks the conceptual cohesion of their debut and doesn’t quite offer enough memorable tracks to make it worth repeated listens.


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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Guest Mix: Dark and Dirty

Moth comes round with another guest mix for White Noise. Tracklist on this one is killer, featuring a lot of our favourite bass, techno and house bangers.


Akkord – The Drums
Tom Demac – Critical Distance Pt. 2
Midland & Pariah – Untitled 2
A Made Up Sound – Take The Plunge (Beat Mix)
Trikk – Jointly
Blawan – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?
Benjamin Damage – Swarm
Head High – Rave (Dirt Mix)
Boddika & Joy O – Dun Dun
Breach – Fatherless VIP
Darling Farah – Bruised
Pangaea – Hex
Sully – The Loot
Bok Bok – Silo Pass
Ghost – The Club
Genius – Waiting
Visionist – Come In
Dusk + Blackdown + – High Road 

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Friday, 21 September 2012

T. Williams – Pain & Love

 Label: PMR

Located at the heart of the UK’s genre-melding house scene, T. Williams’ releases over the past few years have marked him as one of the most talented and sophisticated producers around, consistently offering tracks that hit hard on the dancefloor while rarely aping the styles of those around him. So it will come as no surprise that Pain & Love, his PMR debut, is a stylish and brutal cross-section of the scene, offering four tight deviations of the UK house spectrum while dipping his fingers into the tropes of garage, funky and rnb.

Opener Moving Fast is the dancefloor killer here, all needle-sharp synth stabs and earworm vocals that compliment rough garage beats to create a jumpy monster that’s already being played out extensively in the clubs. Never one to repeat his successes, he offers a refreshing range of sounds across the EP. Can’t Get Enough is quintessential T. Williams, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. More low key than the opener, this is a sensual burner that drifts on bouncy bass snips with sharp hi-hats and snares. Himal’s vocals add a great hook, and the subtle introduction to the second drop is a particularly satisfying moment, the whole track dropping away momentarily before rebuilding in stylish fashion, speeding up the hard-as-nails kick drum to the mix for the breakdown.

All this leads abruptly into B-side banger Quote On Quote Bass, where a venomous bass crush reigns supreme over synth squiggles, sure to get the bodies moving. You’d be forgiven for thinking at this point that T. Williams has a taste for the rougher side of UK dance, and you’d be mostly correct. But Williams pulls out a canny showstopper for gorgeous final track Think Of You, where Tendai’s strong RnB vocals hold attention over soft keys and the strong groove supplied by snappy drum patterns. The final track has a special quality that will ensure heavy play over the end of the year, occupying that special place where a dance track nears the anthemic, and closing out an impressive and varied EP that shows T. Williams is as on form as ever.


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