Fresh from a weighty contribution to Dekmantel's Selectors series, UK bass champion Joy O is back to hassle Hessle, this time in collaboration with longtime buddy and serious sax man Ben Vince. Combining studio sessions with electronic manipulations of Ben's existing recordings, Joy O shatters the woody sound of the saxophone, weaving tonal meanderings, skronking blasts and raspy trills around a fractal 4/4 framework. With an unconventional house beat, smudged sound design and the endless sax variations, "Transition 2" sounds like some OG Pepe Bradock weirdness, and all the better for it. Meanwhile on the flip, "Systems Align" takes the A-side's sounds into a deeper, darker headspace thanks to subby rumble and the harsher end of Ben's register.
Hessle Audio present the debut full-length album from label co-founder Kevin McAuley, aka Pangaea. "In Drum Play"'s ten tracks cut deep into stripped-back techno structures, yet remain infused with the ravey intensity and rogue experimentalism that has placed his work among both the strangest and most banging dance music to emerge from the UK in the last decade. "In Drum Play" is a product of that feedback loop between the studio and the club, emerging from a desire to write music that mirrored the late night dancefloor environments that McAuley has been DJing in. Crafted around sharpened motifs that burrow simultaneously into mind and body, they rank among his headiest and most forceful music to date. Yet the album remains alive with the subtle diversions and shifts in mood that have always made his music so distinctive. Not only for the dancefloor the record drifts off into increasingly dream-like zones, slowing the tempo to a simmering steppers' groove, creating beautifully tangled musical puzzle boxes that recall the roaming sensibilities of "Amber"-era Autechre and contemporaries like Lee Gamble. Just as intrinsic to Pangaea's aesthetic as his body-shock dancefloor tracks, these form the vital connective tissue of a record that's focused and immediate, yet just as compositionally subtle as ever. All in all it's a fitting debut for a dj and producer who's now being exploring the outer reaches of the dancefloor for the last decade.
The compilation exists as a way to unite the entire Hessle roster, as well as allowing them an avenue to put out work by friends and producers they have been unable to work with so far. On the CD the first disc is all new work plus a second has a selection of choice cuts from the back catalogue (the vinyl version features all new cuts). There’s also work from producers who they feel have shaped the label’s aesthetic, like D1’s "Sub Zero", whose sub bass stabs were a staple of the early DMZ sets back in 2005. Addison Groove's anthem "Footcrab" has done so much to bring the tough tempo of juke to the world’s dancefloors. The subtle pitch-shifting of a looping hip hop vocal and the polyrhythmic patter of rim shots and cymbals on "Fuk Tha 101" are unmistakably his. Bristol’s Peverelist brings us "Sun Dance", whose synth chords bring to mind the dystopian drum & bass of DJ Krust, the track driven forwarded by paper-like hi-hats and cymbals. The spritely chimes and shuffling beat of Elgato’s "Music", whose muted vocal chant was used to such beautiful effect in Kennedy’s recent Fabriclive mix. Untold bring’s detuned chords, jangling glass and a cheeky synth line, breaking down into mutant funky house. Blawan’s "Potchla Vee" reveals some unexpected instrumentation: the skittering of what sounds like the cogs of a clock gives little breathing room to the assault of tribal drums and processed grunts. Pearson Sound's "Stifle" seems to slow things down, with an adenoidal vocal snippet acting as counterfoil to the percussive snap of the drums, delicate EQing and synth washes providing characteristic texture. Pangaea’s own contribution is a rave homage; oscillating between synth stabs and a filtered ragga MC sample, the track is layered with a bouncy acid bassline, creating a phantom jump up effect. Romania’s TRG was Hessle’s first release and here builds on his mutant garage template, with a reverb-soaked drum kit jostling against some analogue pads and a seagull-sounding distorted warble. James Blake, re-edits an earlier Hessle release, bringing the processed vocals to the fore much in the style of his recent album. It’s soul music that’s undecidedly electronic, the vocals screwed and chopped into the background, a virtuoso display of arrangement ordering a lacklustre pair of cowbells, a chorus of shuffles, croaks and pads into an infectious slow burner.
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