With new releases by Rui Ho, DJ Swisha, Vanessa Worm, and more
Three quarters of the way through the year, and things have not let up one iota. In every country, the unprecedented has become precedented, and we’ve all had enough. Nevertheless, amidst bushfires, explosions, locust swarms, floods, racist killings by law enforcement, and infuriating political climates, people everywhere continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement and chant enough is enough, while demanding police and prison abolition and sweeping social reform. Despite the difficulty setting right now – the economic damage of the pandemic has hugely affected the arts, with those already struggling financially being hit the hardest – new and under-discussed talents in the world of underground music are still finding a way. For the third edition of our quarterly roundup for 2020, we’re continuing to acknowledge the lower-profile musicians, artists, and producers with strong communities, real visions, and important statements to make. Here are 10 essential Q3 releases, all available on Bandcamp.
BORED LORD, WEAPON OF SOUND
WHO: The Memphis-born, Oakland-based producer and DJ finding the sweet spot between underground dance music and pure chart pop.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Club Chai affiliate Bored Lord’s Weapon of Sound EP is a fierce amalgamation of breakbeat-oriented dance music in the mode of 90s classic UK jungle and breakbeat hardcore. In the past, Bored Lord has made an artform out of retooling pop, rock, and R&B classics from the likes of Nirvana, Dido, and Kylie Minogue into uptempo rave edits, and that same strident energy runs through Weapon of Sound’s five songs. Bassy, percussive and propulsive, this is the sound of freedom.
FOR FANS OF: LSDXOXO, Jasmine Infiniti, Kush Jones
DJ SWISHA, NOTHING BUT NET
WHO: A stylish Philadelphia/New York producer and DJ with a sharp fits, and an even sharper club sensibility.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Juke Bounce Werk’s Small Forward pulls up from deep with his new EP, Nothing but Net. Released through A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs esteemed Fool’s Gold label, Nothing but Net sees him interpreting regional US dance genres like Jersey Club and Chicago Footwork with his own flair. We might not have clubs right now, but we can still groove to the body music in our hearts. Amazingly, the legendary Philly MC Bahamadia contributes a rap on the track “Crypto”. This is how you connect the past with the present.
FOR FANS OF: DJ Earl, DJ Tameil, AceMoMA
KATYA YONDER, MULTIPLY INTENTIONS
WHO: The Russian multi-instrumentalist and polyglot making ambient and city pop songs that connect the dots between cultures.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Having spent most of her life living on the border of Europe and Asia, Katya Yonder is fascinated by the richness of history in both continents, and how they intersect. This interest comes through clearly across her fourth full-length album, Multiply Dimensions. Like her fellow countrywoman Kate NV, Yonder has a close affinity with Japanese music and art, and through interpolating ambient, dream pop and Azerbaijan folk music with Russian and Japanese traditions, unlocks the back channels that connect culture. There’s something for every season on Multiply Dimensions.
FOR FANS OF: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Kate NV
LILA TIRANDO A VIOLETA, LIMERENCIA
WHO: The Uruguayan vaporwave survivor remaking the folk rhythms of South America as club electronica.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Over the last five years, Lila Tirando A Violeta has quietly released somewhere close to 20 projects across a range of internet generation labels including Dream Catalogue, Triangle City Records, and now Mexico’s storied NAAFI imprint/collective. Heavily collaborative, her intimate Limerencia record sees her working with EL PLVYBXY, Lighght, PRJCTN, and NAAFI’s Nick León. Over eight songs, she reframes the music of her childhood and background within the cyberpunk anime, pure pop, and alternative dance songs that are close to her heart as well.
FOR FANS OF: Doon Kanda, DJ Python, object blue
LIL ASAF, SAWA SAWA
WHO: Amman, Jordan producer and DJ Bashar Suleiman’s fierce, expressive and affecting noise rap alias.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: If you like your beats rough, ruptured and unapologetic, and your raps equally explosive, Lil Asaf’s Sawa Sawa EP could be the catharsis you’re looking for. Mostly produced by Beirut-born, Berlin-based artist Khadije, Sawa Sawa’s five tracks take the hard-edged beatscape style that connects the Bomb Squad, Antipop Consortium, and the Bug and, in the same tradition, pushes it as close to short circuiting as possible. Complemented by Lil Asaf’s gruffly melancholic delivery, Sawa Sawa lives up to the English translation of the phrase – together together, indeed.
FOR FANS OF: GAIKA, Slikback, Shabazz Palaces
LIGHGHT, SORRY I CAN’T GO OUT TONIGHT, I’M TOO BUSY GOING IN
WHO: The Cork-based composer and producer bringing off-kilter humor and equally off-kilter rhythms to Ireland’s electronic music scene.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Lighght has had a few runs as one of the funniest people in underground electronic music Twitter, which doesn’t really matter, but it also sort of does, cause a touch of wry humor can really make a song crackle or pop. Sorry I Can’t Go Out Tonight, I’m Too Busy Going In collects up four action packed electronica cuts with breakneck energy, rich atmospherics and rather absurd titles. I can’t lie, hearing this stuff in the club would be the one, but right now, settling for a braindance with Lighght is A-OK!
FOR FANS OF: Air Max ‘97, ANZ, Hype Williams
WHO: A London composer and producer working at the intersection of sound and visual art.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: In general, the idea of lockdown art, in general, isn’t necessarily the most appealing concept, but not every producer is patten. Following on from 2019’s masterful Flex project, Glow sees patten dialing down the space aged drum machines and rhythmic abstraction, instead using swirling synth sounds to craft filmic atmospheres for empty streets and the small, calm hours before dawn. In recent years, patten has created audiovisual installations in London, and Glow would suit one of them very nicely.
FOR FANS OF: Oneohtrix Point Never, Laurel Halo, Darkstar
RUI HO, LOV3 & L1GHT
WHO: The Berlin-based Chinese DJ, producer and vocalist rethinking pop in a global club style.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Between its glossy synths, waist-winding rhythms and evocative auto-tuned vocals, Rui Ho’s Lov3 & L1ght album feels like a trip straight into the depths of a virtual reality utopia. In her cyberspace paradise, cross-genre club music and hypnotic Chinese melodies serve as markers for a society where free from discrimination and prejudice, anyone can find the love we all deserve. But of course, if you’re gonna have bliss, you also want to hear about the journey to Rui Ho’s beautiful silicon gardens, and we get plenty of doses of reggaeton, rave and ambient music along the way.
FOR FANS OF: SOPHIE, Lorraine James, Eartheater
THEY HATE CHANGE, 666 CENTRAL AVENUE
WHO: Tampa Bay’s most dynamic and inventive new hip-hop duo.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: As producer-rappers Andre and Vonne get busy, They Hate Change’s 666 Central Avenue quickly reveals itself as a masterclass in chemistry and eclecticism. Channelling what they’ve described as a “Progressive Floridian” energy, They Hate Change match up Miami Booty Bass loops, changing breakbeat grooves, and nimble raps that recall the magic back and forth of Bun B and Pimp C (RIP) of UGK. Open-eared with their samples and collaborators, “Day Ones” features a ghostly vocal from Doom Trip Records artist Pale Spring.
FOR FANS OF: Outkast, clipping., JPEGMAFIA
VANESSA WORM, VANESSA 77
WHO: The spell-blinding New Zealand vocalist and producer giving post-punk and psych-folk a breakbeat twist.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Vanessa Worm’s early EP and single releases through JD Twitch’s Optimo Music imprint showed a lot of promise, but Vanessa 77, her glorious debut album ramps things up to the next level. Unfolding with the logic of a dream, Vanessa 77’s ten songs map out a soundworld where proto-house, jungle and krautrock rub against elegant guitar folk, freaked-out Lynchian soundscapes and moments of New Zealand gothic new wave. When audiences are able to gather again, it should make for quite the live show.
FOR FANS OF: ESG, X-Ray Spex, Kelly Lee Owens