RAMjams is our streaming weekly roundup of remarkable underground electronic music you might have overlooked.
This week: happy grime, sad J-pop, and new looks for Austra and Wild Beasts.
1. HAF HAF, “Flow Node C”: An unreleased track from the Milan producer’s debut record Notch (stream it in full on Soundcloud). His use of sampling could be polarizing, here: what could be a busted car transmission, a slopped-up off-mic conversation, and some wind noise on a microphone form the nucleus of this track. Its rhythmic foundations have been sheared away to translucence, one possible reason that it was left off the heavier-hitting LP. But like all avant-garde work worth a look, the urgency does not displace absurdity, and your potential alienation is part of its schematics.
2. Vtgnike, “Hi Fashion”: Can the pirate radio revival be pretty? Zomby‘s sound has gradually gotten more black marble after the scuffed warehouse floor that was Where Were U In ’92. Special Request brought a philosophy and a fevered techy’s brain to Soul Music. But “Hi Fashion” brings back clean, crystalline house chords, and the effect is slightly out-of-body. Like, who’s that guy down there having so much fun, and how did he get my bedazzled pacifier?
3. Mumdance, “Springtime”: The new track from London’s Mumdance is probably the first grime track I’ve ever heard that I could imagine irritating someone. It’s what you might hear if Wiley soundtracked a Super Mario Kart level: sweet and wildly bug-eyed like a lizard that’s lost control of his orbits, sending its whining synths and gruff subs spiralling through its own compulsively listenable (for me, anyway) cosmos.
4. Meishi Smile, “Heart” (Uio Loi remix): LUST is like the younger, less jaded sibling to Elite Gymnastics‘ Ruin EPs. There’s a stylistic overlay between the sweetly melancholy progressions, obscured vocals, and energized drums of the two records, though rather than ashen despondency, LUST opts for the energy of an unexpected ninth grade rave. Uio Loi knows a bit about that kind of revival, and so his/her remix of “Heart” hits a sweet spot of the original’s rapturous energy (thanks to a liberal use of four-on-the-floor) while seeming almost calmer. The track’s explosion is transferred from the heart to the body, and it’s fun as hell.
5. Austra, “Hurt Me Now” (DIANA remix): If you spent as much time listening to tropical synth-pop last year as I did, you know DIANA. They know how to make their music sound indispensable from within their field. Their remix of “Hurt Me Now” is more something you’d expect from an after-after hours techno sex party in Berlin than their album Perpetual Surrender. It’s eager to show off its new outfit, loaded almost to the tipping point with PVC percs and other competing rhythms thwacking against bursts of noise and tightly creased melodies.
6. Wild Beasts, “Wanderlust” (Factory Floor remix): Factory Floor’s magic is proven. Dance music as run-on sentence, hyper-quantized in both rhythm and, more disconcertingly, in emotional efficacy. Brought to the breathless synth-pop of Wild Beasts, it bears the mark of their unique singularity. A dusty printer chirps off reams of strange code. Samples are triggered randomly. Drum kits snap erratically like pixels on a malfunctioning screen. If “repetition is the platform for free thinking,” as always, Factory Floor give you plenty of space to grow.
7. Audion, “Sky” (Daniel Avery remix): Sporadically, Drone Logic was acid house as spiritual malaise. These tracks could be played in the club, but for the full picture they demanded to be met one-on-one. For “Sky,” Avery again splits the difference by revisiting the tuneful moans and unique spaciousness that try desperately to meet your eye from within a titanic beat.
8. Mark McGuire, “In Search Of The Miraculous” (CFCF remix): Just by title alone, “In Search Of The Miraculous” is the perfect track for CFCF, who recently weaved a collection of sonic portraits based on the stuff around his desk. His keen observational skills aside, the Montreal producer’s wonder for the mundane is innate, which helps explain the skill with which he navigates McGuire’s original track: its beauty is barely manicured, free from manipulative crescendos and other trappings of post-post-rock electronic music. The electronic guitar is sandpapered and far from mellifluous, and it helps ground the track as the electronics puff out their chests with lungs full of pure atmosphere.