Featuring Blackhaine’s evocative sonic portraits of post-Brexit life, Rainbow Chan’s balladic electronic pop, and JPEGMAFIA’s supercharged beats
In recent weeks on Dazed, we’ve been covering PinkPantheress, BTS super producer Adora, aya, and Blawan. We’ve looked at the history of 80s and 90s raves in Coventry, and covered an album made from the sound waves of people’s orgasms. Depending on where you are in the world right now, you might be out of lockdown and dancing, or returning to restrictions. These are still challenging times. Despite the sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken uncertainties that colour the day-to-day realities of many, music continues to function as a shared communal space and a source of collective solace.
The pandemic’s economic impact has hugely affected the arts, with those already struggling financially being hit the hardest. Regardless of the difficulty setting of the moment, as always, new and under-discussed talents from the worlds of underground music continue to use community and craft to find a way. For the final edition of our quarterly roundup for 2021, we’re continuing to reflect and acknowledge musicians, artists, producers and DJs from across the globe, all with strong communities, real visions, and important statements to make. Here are ten essential Q4 releases, all available on Bandcamp.
BLACKHAINE, AND SALFORD FALLS APART
WHO: The Manchester choreographer and musician stretching UK drill into industrial shapes.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Across And Salford Falls Apart’s five songs, Tom Heyes aka Blackhaine and his collaborators Rainy Miller and Croww paints an evocative sonic portrait of post-Brexit life across England’s North West. Rendered through a rich intermingling of the conventions of drill, noise, industrial, punk and donk, Blackhaine’s stark suburban depictions unfold with a cinematic and literary bent, while never slipping away from the immediacy of the material conditions they consider. Alongside his musical output, Blackhaine also draws from traditional Japanese butoh dance to create equally ripping video and performance choreography for himself and the likes of Mykki Blanco, Flohio, and even Kanye West.
FOR FANS OF: Space Afrika, Death Grips, Joy Division.
WHO: The South London producer and DJ exploring the slipstreams between UK Funky, Gqom, and Amapiano.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: After previously recording and DJing as Bamz, South London musician Fiyahdred’s new Anyway EP signifies their artistic rebirth. Building on the syncopated rhythmic shuffle and bassline bounce of their past releases through Future Bounce and Club Djembe, and collaborations with Scratcha DVA, the five tracks on Anyway remain firmly focused on the dancefloor, but with newly invigorated hooks and earworm melodies that linger long after the EP has stopped playing. ‘Tumpin’, in particular, feels like the sort of club track that deserves - in a similar vein to Miss Dynamite’s UK garage and bassline moments – a real shot at chart success.
FOR FANS OF: Karen Nyame KG, Nikki Nair, Ill Blu.
RAINBOW CHAN, STANLEY
WHO: The Sydney vocalist, producer and multi-disciplinary artist paying homage to her birthplace, Hong Kong.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: When Rainbow Chan, the balladic electronic pop artist who also produces abstract club music as Chunyin, started working on her new album, the past was her muse. During the writing process, she drew from memories of listening to East Asian pop singers like Teresa Teng, Momoe Yamaguchi and Faye Wong on her grandmother’s mixtapes, while also folding in the influence of experimentalists like Mica Levi and Yellow Magic Orchestra. The result was a vivid audio love letter to the Hong Kong she spent time in during the years before the pandemic. Draped in digital blues, Stanley sees Chan transmuting loss and grief into a beautiful remembrance.
FOR FANS OF: Yellow Magic Orchestra, Jessy Lanza, Tirzah.
WHO: The internet-based noise rapper and producer with the force of a tornado.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: When Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks aka JPEGmafia released his fourth album LP! on October 22 (his birthday) it arrived in two versions, online (available on streaming services) and Offline (YouTube, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp). Today, we’re talking about the offline version. Featuring extra tracks and alternative track versions, it’s an explosive statement record from an uncompromising rapper and producer who has been making music since he was twelve years old. Matching precise, energised rhymes with equally supercharged beats, a dizzying array of samples, and an equally dizzying array of pop culture references, LP! (offline) is a record of our times and for our times.
WHO: Modern psychedelic folk and dream pop’s Hi-Vis wearing superstar.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: For those who are already in her fold, a new album release from Astoria, Oregon’s Liz Harris aka Grouper is always a major event. For those who aren’t, it’s a chance for discovery. Made up of a collection of material she has recorded over the last fifteen years, Shade operates around two opposite poles: sparely adorned acoustic folk songs and hazy, experimental dream-pop. Across its nine songs, she transforms love songs into transmissions between realms, never quite showing her hand, and always leaving us wondering what more. The more she reveals, the deeper the sense of mystery beneath the veil.
FOR FANS OF: HTRK, Laura Nyro, Vashti Bunyan.
ERIS DREW, QUIVERING IN TIME
WHO: The High Priestess of the Motherbeat.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Released through T4T LUV NRG, the label she runs with her partner Octa Octa, Quivering In Time is the first album from the well-loved American DJ and producer Eris Drew. Recorded in rural New Hampshire, Drew’s studio process saw her layering vinyl samples, keyboards, percussion and hypnotic guitar tones into a sound that mirrors the eclectic, but emotionally cohesive energy of her in-demand DJ sets. Ducking and weaving through various strands of house - breakbeat, piano, hip-house - Quivering In Time condenses forty years of dance music history into nine open-ended tracks that point towards the potential for a glorious, golden future.
FOR FANS OF: Andrew Weatherall, ANZ, Roza Terenzi.
WHO: The Newark based producer, DJ, rapper and singer with a bigger vision for Jersey Club.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Over the last decade, Cherise Gary, aka UNIIQU3, has gone from organising high school dance parties at YMCAs and in backyards throughout Newark to becoming one of the most significant talents in the second wave of Jersey Club music. Across her Heartbeats EP, Gary draws from the richness of her engagement with this music and the cultures surroundings, summoning up a heady concoction of dreamy synthesisers, dynamic club rhythms and a perfectly poised intermingling of RnB and rap. And while these six songs hit the hips, with their themes of “self-love, heartbreak, intimacy and lust”, they’ve aimed at the heart as well.
FOR FANS OF: ANZ, DJ Manny, LSDXOXO.
FIRE-TOOLZ, ETERNAL HOME
WHO: The longstanding Chicago multi-instrumentalist and producer retooling jazz, prog, IDM and alt-rock into an expansive epic.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: With Eternal Home, her new album under her Fire-Toolz alias, Angel Marcloid dishes out a masterclass in controlled chaos. Emotionally indebted to the progressive rock of bands like Rush and Dream Theater, Marcloid takes the sprawling scale they work on and retools it for the attention spans and hyperlinked connectivity of the modern internet era. One moment, she’s taking us on a cruise through the sleek sounds of smooth jazz, the next, navigating a wall of noise, and at all times, finding the day-glo pop potential in the smooth and the rough. Explosive, high contrast sounds that perfectly match the listless ennui and asymmetrical chaos of 2021.
WHO: A Bolivian-Belgian percussionist and producer crafting open-eared digital cumbias.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: As a music-maker, Bart Van Obbergen Pérez, aka Susobrino, crafts sounds that mix sturdy, electronic frames with vivid, live instrumentation. However, where one might use piano, guitar or horns, Pérez uses folkloric Bolivian instruments like the Guitalele, Zampoña, Quenacho and Tbilat. Similarly, alongside more conventional Western musical structures, he colours his songs with Afro-Latin rhythms, creating a compelling fusion that pays homage to his family roots and his present-day life in Brussels, Belgium. Pérez has styled his recent Pocualeíto EP as soundtrack music, but not in the cinematic sense. Instead, he posits it as a soundtrack to life itself. And with music like this in the world, what an exciting life it is.
FOR FANS OF: Dengue Dengue Dengue, Captain Planet, Nicola Cruz.
CCCVVV, CURRICULUM VITAE
WHO: The Brussels-based duo of classical harp player Clara Vellin and producer/DJ soFa elsewhere.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Equal parts wide-eyed and melancholic, this is one of those albums that scratches several itches simultaneously. Crafted during the first covid-lockdown, Curriculum Vitae is a gorgeous suite of intimate, playful and borderless avant-pop songs imbued with the spirits of 60s French chanson and a billowing synthesiser psychedelica. Open-eared listeners and composers, as Clara Vellin and soFa elsewhere aka CCCVVV were crafting these songs, shades of kosmische, post-punk, ethereal wave, slo-mo disco, and even a liminal cover of ‘Some Velvet Morning’ by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood drifted into the retrofuturistic proceedings. Sadness and joy served up in equal measures.
FOR FANS OF: The Limiñanas, Mary Lattimore, Art of Noise.