Short Circuits 3 - By Volume

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Short Circuits 3

Tayyab talks about more of 2013's electronic talking points, throwing down on Disclosure, Demdike Stare and Kahn. He also fulfills his hourly quota of Omar Souleyman references. Author: on June 23, 2013
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Demdike Stare – Dyslogy (Modern Love, 2013)

Demdike Stare are known for their world-shattering, nightmarish take on techno, but prove they know how to mix things up on their Testpressing#003 extended play for Modern Love. “Dyslogy” features over three minutes of minutes of droning build up, wherein the slight, crackling sound effects seem like tricks of the mind. As the intro draws to a close, beats form like war drums approaching from below. The droning is ditched for tribalistic, unhinged percussion that strikes as gritty and unclean. The breakbeat progresses with low-end chords dancing between each kick and as the layers gain momentum, they begin to tear and crash in a minute-long comedown, as if the song was being sacrificed to gods of the underworld.

Disclosure – January  ft. Jamie Woon (PMR, 2013)

Balance is key to any sort of collaboration in music, and balanced “January” is not. The tune appears towards the end of Settle, the debut album from Disclosure, who seemingly ignite fireworks in all electronic music discussions these days. Jamie Woon is the guest vocalist, which is something I was excited about – I looked forward to the end of his two-year long silence following Mirrorwriting, which deftly floated across James Blake-like waters with a bit more pop appeal. Disclosure have made it clear by now they’re happy to explore a more popular sound, and the intentions are evident in the uninspiring, formulaic nature of the track. Still, their pristine production methods and clean sound mean that whether the track is enjoyable or not, the quality and craftsmanship remains impressive. Soft, metallic chords are kinked with finger snaps and the less frequent, bassier melodies as Disclosure add to their collection of early-00s garage renditions. Later, there is an isolated moment of ambience, nearly transparent with its lack of depth, before vocals are brought back in to a climax. Apart from that moment, the only other disappointing element of the song’s production is its predictability. It’s so undeniably, counter-intuitively Disclosure, to the point where it loses its own uniqueness and identity.

This is where Jamie Woon comes in. It’s up to the musician to add that extra edge and bring things to life; it’s unfortunate that he falls short of the mark. It sounds as if he only contributed as a vocalist, and the strength of his ability is not well represented here.  He loses himself in the music, his voice falling so fittingly into the groove, riding the track rather than guiding it. The chorus melody isn’t particularly catchy, though Woon paints a pretty picture with his reminiscent, romance-laden words. But it could have been anyone, Woon injecting little personality into a piece so overly-Disclosure already.

Terekke – Amaze (L.I.E.S., 2013)

“Amaze” rounds off Terekke’s entry on the Long Island Electrical Systems imprint (L.I.E.S.) that has helped rejuvenate New York’s underground scene. Tagged as ‘music for the home or the club’, “Amaze” is a bubbling, introspective affair that pauses time for a moment, bringing itself into focus. The layers move like tectonic shifts, ever-present yet ever-moving, occasionally clashing. A barely-understandable vocal loop is panned in and out and across the sound-space backed by an analogue hiss that’s sure to polarise listeners of modern electronic music. Subtlety is the theme of the day here, where a soft kick brings about the climax on a subterranean, soulful piece of work.

Kahn & Neek – Chevy (Bandulu, 2013)

One of Bristol’s finest producers from the past couple of years, Kahn returns with Neek in tow once again for an inflammatory release. Still soaring from the success of their 2012 hit “Backchat”, the pair bring much-needed grime instrumentals to the table in the form of “Chevy”. The combination of claps and wobbles complement the bombastic beat. Using Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as the go-to sample and unique calling card, the production echoes the unpolished and raw roughness that made early-00s grime so iconic. It’s an absolute stomper that compels your head to at least nod, and an intense, fitting new addition to Kahn & Neek’s growing series of collaborations.

Björk – Crystalline (Omar Souleyman Remix) (One Little Indian, 2012)

What happens when the world’s breakthrough ‘dabke’ folk-pop (essentially Syrian techno) champion takes on Iceland’s iconic experimental mainstay, Bjork? The Omar Souleyman Band’s remix of “Crystalline” is a dizzying flurry of synaptic overload that demands to break all self-constructed cultural barriers. The first minute or so plays with simple percussion and Middle East-flavoured rhythms on keyboards and bass, like some sort of primal, tribal ritual around a desert campfire under night sky. The original artist’s vocal performance is maintained after Souleyman foreshadows his forthcoming singing contributions on the next verse. Morphing into a vicious stomp with anthemic riffs running amok across the top, Souleyman sings with chemistry that makes the song feel more like a duet than a remix. Bjork and Souleyman skip between Icelandic, English and Arabic, kinetic and passionate, and I’m taken aback by their both abstract and clear singing technique. The song takes on a life of its own, spitting out rapid-fire percussion on whim, as if a summoned spirit possesses the musicians and channels the urgency and flair found in the performance.

Despite its free-roaming nature, what cements the song into hall-of-fame status is the restraint used, specifically with vocals. It’s the Omar Souleyman band, the Omar Souleyman show, yet Souleyman acknowledges the language barrier, which perhaps influences the notion that his voice is just another instrument. The weighting between percussion, keys and vocals is carefully structured, a testament to Souleyman’s balancing wisdom. Soon to release an album produced by electronic loop hero Four Tet, Souleyman continues to set further trails ablaze, letting his music do the talking.

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