New Releases : January 2023
Chris Korda's Return to the Dancefloor(?), Freak N' Tweak, Tasteful T[ech House] & True-School Detroit Electro
Another roundup of records from the month that was. If you enjoy these musical musings please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Chris Korda - More Than Four [Chapelle XIV Music]
Techno, House, Experimental
Before we get into it, let’s set the scene. Chris Korda – a cultural titan, a once-in-a-generation renaissance woman. Musically, her classical training and fluency in polymeter composition have introduced an entirely new plane of sophistication to what is fundamentally a simplistic style of music. Add to her musical CV 30 years of trojan-horseing the politics of climate change - the most dire threat to humanity since nuclear holocaust - into fun, frenzied and functional bombs danced to the world over. Personally, she declined her inheritance at a young age (her father was editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster. Her grandfather, great aunt and great uncle also have their own Wikipedia pages). Professionally, Chris was a programmer on the team that invented the 3D printer and has written no less than thirteen pieces of her own software including Polymeter, the open source MIDI sequencer she uses to produce. Then there’s the lasting impact of The Church of Euthanasia, a string of art exhibits and lectures – the list goes on. It’s all astonishing, inspiring, and a bit intimidating. Chris stands as a timely and needed reminder of the massive impact a single human can have.
Neato vid of More Than Four’s title track as programmed in Polymeter:
Cut to her most recent LP, More Than Four. The thesis of the record is polymeter composition not only functions well on the dancefloor but can improve on the “bore” that is the 4/4 time signature. From the title track:
“Four is a bore. Why not more? More than four, on the dancefloor.”
The veracity of this claim was proven with groundbreaking singles and albums on International DJ Gigolo twenty-plus years ago. Six Billion Human’s Can’t Be Wrong, Man of the Future and tracks like “Buy” certainly proved polymeter (albeit of a simpler variety) could work on the dancefloor. Unfortunately, More Than Four fails to convince that complex polymeter is a viable mode of writing functional dance music.
Of the ten tracks on wax and fourteen released digitally, maybe two are floor-friendly. “Virtue Signal” is the reason I had high hopes for the LP as dance music in the vein of her Gigolo LPs. It’s open-filter trance stabs and booming sub-bass slides “signal” dumb, big-room bomb while complex polymeter slips in confounding rhythms and structure to make the track feel like a hilarious piss-take. Despite the megamind juxtaposition, the track works. I would love to see this dropped on an EDM or nü-Trance-friendly floor and watch expressions of ecstasy slowly morph into bewilderment as the track unfurls.
Unfortunately the rest (with the possible exception of “Kasita Mondo”) are just too rhythmically wonky, discordant or neg-vibes to dance to. I love a message track – especially the no-holds-barred Korda variety – but many of the lyrics are downer recapitulations of the what appeared on 2020’s Apologize to the Future. The exception is “Moonchego”, a warm and spacey, good-natured ambientish journey that employs Korda’s goofy wit to inform us the Moon is cheese, or, more directly, space travel won’t save us from boiling in the environmental hot pot that’s currently on the burner.
Sadly there’s not much else here for me. Many of the tracks reuse the same set of drum sounds, bass patches and somber, minor-key themes. There’s also a reoccurring dystopian horn synth that I find irksome. I preordered this in July with the giddy expectations of another raucous, black comedy dance LP akin to Man of the Future or 6 Billion Humans, but Four is More has much more in common with Apologize to the Future, a mini-LP I enjoy but never wished for more of.
Rudolf C – Globular EP [Pleasure Club]
Rudolf C has been on my radar in a big way since last spring’s turbo-swinging EP, Totally Refracted, came out on The Sound of Limousine. His always-shifting, techy productions have the tweaky muscle of Reptant to endear him to Techno heads and enough melody to situate him amongst purveyors or fluorescent Tech House like DJ Life (whose Accelerator EP he lent a stellar remix) and Gene on Earth. It’s only last year I came to know Rudolf for his productions but his label with Shedbug, Salt Mines, has been on the vanguard of Australia’s own blend of future-forward music since 2015. Roza Terenzi’s Mood EP on Salt Mines remains my platonic ideal of the Down-Under sound. Side note: If anyone can provide a psycho- / socio- / anthropological hypothesis as to why Australia has, by far, the highest global GTP (Good Techno Producers) per capita since 2018, I would gladly hear it.
Rudolf’s recent productions have leaned toward lightspeed-steppin Tech House, but Globular has him proudly flying a pounding, electroid freak flag to great effect. Weighty low end elements meet interchanging layers of bleeps, bloops and zaps to make rolling, advanced Techno / Electro hybrids that bring to mind latter-day RAC (Structures LP to be precise) and Atom™’s more levity-laced, floor-oriented moments.
Longtime Pleasure Club associate N-Gynn delivers a banging remix of “Globular” that’s full of American sleaze courtesy of iconic samples from NYC Ballroom classic “Get Huh” by The Ride Committee (aka the god, Louie Balo). Add aforementioned tweaky synths and a 303 line and the result is something like a neon neo-Acid House or an update of Frankie Bones’ Atmosphere Records’ NYC-Rave-meets-Bleep formula. It’s supremely fun and functional and may be the showstopper on an already-stellar EP. It’s all very exciting stuff and has me thirsting for me more from both producers. Fortunately, Rudy has a remix of fellow Aussies, Boo-Boo, Mace & Nutcase’s forthcoming reissue of 1997’s “Digital Rubber” and N-Gynn’s remix for Laudrup is in stores now.
Spandrel - Spandrel 001 / 002 [Spandrel]
I don’t care what discogs or Shyam say, I refuse to title this one “Spandrel - Spandrel [Spandrel]”. That name also obscures the fact that this is the special edition LP version of Spandrel 001 & 002 bundled together. It sold out before I sat down to write this but the 001 12” is in stores now, with 002 following before summer. Anyways, my sweet fingers had spilt gallons of digital ink on this before it even dropped. I’ve chatted with Shyam through every stage of its production, advised on the tracklists, praised it in another review and wrote the info sheet – which I will reproduce here to save me from conjuring up any new words.
Hot-steppin’, tuff-swingin’, synth’d-up advances in tech house and garage are the chef’s special from Spandrel sonic kitchen. Born from Shyam Anand’s 15 years as studio-rat, DJ and global dance music hustler, Spandrel sees the man forge a new vision and sound for whichever dancefloor you find yourself skankin’. Cracking snares, razor-sharp hats, tech house and speed garage basslines and his own unique fx’d synth mastery create a cauldron of driving, yet cerebral, space-age audio hors d'oeuvres, entrees and come-down digestifs. Written as an album, released as two EPs, Spandrel 1 & 2 are to be consumed as sustenance for both the mind and body.
Seriously, it’s great. Your favorite DJs have been playing it for months and now you can too. The best part: it’s just the beginning. 003 - 005 are in the works and the hype has already got big dawg labels scratching at Shyam’s door. Cop 001 from your fav retailer and keep ‘em peeled for 002. And of course: Maximum boost to Shyam for seeing this one through the gauntlet that is self-releasing a record these days and blessing us with the fruits of his labor. Congrats king <3
Jessbeats - Decoding Numbers [Electrostatic]
A few weeks ago I randomly punched ‘www.submerge.us’ into The Net in the off-chance Underground Resistance’s online retailer had returned after ten years offline. To my great surprise it had and I shared my stokedness in this PT post. Of all the great records they had on offer, Decoding Numbers had me most excited. Jessbeats is Jesse Anderson, whose only other record credit (if Discogs can be believed) is for writing Metroplex’s Television / Frequency Express with Aux 88’s Keith Tucker way back in 1990.
Given Jesse’s longtime bona fides, it’s shouldn’t surprise that this record is no frills, true-school Detroit Electro – a sound often imitated but never quite nailed by anybody outside the D. Decoding Numbers takes its cues from the body-poppin’, DJ & dancer-oriented strain of the genre pioneered by the Metroplex and Direct Beat camps which he’s associated with. The stark abstraction and experimentalism of Drexciya, Ultradyne and other far-out acts are eschewed in favor of straight-ahead dancefloor efficiency. The title track is the A1 banger – a stream of synthetic spoken digits, filterless lead melody and the vox sample “Can you translate the code?”.
“Lightz” is an incredible update on the dystopian vision of Cybotron’s “Alleys of Your Mind” and Model 500’s “No UFOs”. It’s lyrics are a conscious nod to both tracks and the enduring fact that Detroit – once the world capital of hi-tech, industrial manufacturing – has been left behind in the race to the future under the post-70’s neo-lib world order.
“Looking up at the sky / It makes me wonder why
There are satellites in space / But why not this place?
Is there something we don’t know? / Is there something they don’t show?
Is this all in my mind? / Or are they leaving us behind?”
A chopped sample of The Twilight Zone theme accompanies “is this all in my mind”, adding to the track’s justified paranoia. “Lightz” is not only a sincere, spot-on tribute to the groundbreaking 80’s electro mentioned above but a worthy successor and a needed reminder that not much has changed in the past 40 years. Millions of people in America’s blighted urban centers and former industrial zones are still being left behind.
Support Jesse, Aux 88’s Electrostatic imprint and UR directly by purchasing this one from Submerge.
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