Thursday, 23 November 2017


The ten ton, no ten-thousand ton, crush of the kicks here, like the engine room of a huge vessel as it hums cyclopean across the stars, is the glorious intensity that lies at the foundation of 'Rockaway' by Floridian musicmaker Hotwax. It is this slow-down techno rumble that perforates the stillness of the air, the blank pugilism of it summoning hard trebles as well as full-body bass for a robust beat. It's the simplest backdrop to a swishing of mists that rain down like veils—vocals that cut across your hearing and drip down like oil in water, fathomless reverb like galactic ghosts in this tract of minimalism.

These are provided by Steffaloo, a prominent voice in chillwave, whose simple harmonies resonate and vibrate to give extra texture to the already grainy phantasm of her tone as it reaches out across the dark of the track. Alongside this, simple synth clouds bop and gleam softly, a tangle of silken fibres that threads through the void. Ornaments orbit the beat: panning abrasive shakers, decayed metallic cowbell, shuffling hi-hats, handclaps followed by veils of fog. The atmosphere is a sunken one, where the heaviness of the water weighs huge and choking, and where the prettiness of life glistens and sparkles in the winnowing waves above.

  • πŸ”” The quite wonderful Steffaloo-featuring 'Rockaway' is taken from Hotwax's debut album Communicator out now on 2060 Records. You can download it free-of-charge, or $7 for a cassette, from Bandcamp.

Hotwax Internet Presence ☟
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Wednesday, 22 November 2017


'Touching' by South African producer Tyler purportedly inhabits the world of Wave, an environment like domed gardens on a terraforming planet, palm fronds jostling against plexiglass in artificial breezes: artificial, harsh, but deep and thriving with life. The musicmaker arrived to the scene just over a year ago, courtesy of a friend who suggested he listen to the Plastician's now-defunct show—citing that "the slower tempo allowed for a more emotive journey," he ditched his previous dustup outputting moniker Melodik and blasted off into space for this, his first ever release.

And space is what it is. With the reverse synth sounds, tinged with Middle Eastern elasticity in its slow aching melody, it sounds very much like a cosmic version of the theme for Shifting Sand Land from Super Mario 64; whilst the twisting scattered glitter mingles with the warbling modulated waves of cold synth for that air of elsewhere mystery, the bass below rumbles with ascending melody, slow and steady, pushing the music upwards for a determined feel, more like the Mario 64 Bowser Road theme in feeling: big, impending doom, otherworldiness, but ultimately gritted-teeth pushing forward. And then we have more textured flute sounds into the bargain, enriching the track with body as the beat ticks and rattles, a rolling of clacking fills and trills.

This is scene-setting stuff—the wild expanse of it, the far-flung exotic nature of it as the spacey synths mix with closer-to-home melodies of Eastern persuasion, familiar but altered in form, silicon sands reaching out to a black horizon that glows where the void meets the sharp dunes of the desert, human vocal samples ghostly and faded like the memories and paranoia of explorers bound never to set foot on Earth again.

Tyler Internet Presence ☟
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Tuesday, 21 November 2017


From the first glitching funk of Alive In Screen by netlabel DESKPOP associate Nelward, the rattling fuzzed-out chiptune, is an indication of what's to come. It's theatrical, it's marinated in videogame sensibilities and grilled over coals of groove, summoned by textured bristling beats and found-sound lusciousness. What hits you next in opener 'brain dance' is the melodic motif in its intro: big guitars play this sweeping chromatic introductory statement, grandeur and compartmentalised mystique, as we go swaying into the track's thick synth chords, velcro beats, and more importantly somewhat the space between these sounds that itself is a motif in this otherwise brightly maximalist collection of tracks.

That same melodic motif appears later in the track, wordlessly, floatily, by featured singer Paige Williams. It also pops up as the soapy squeaky clean synth hook in EP single 'apple shampoo', slightly altered, more uptempo, but noticeably there. Later we find it at work in final track 'toy world', a Mario Galaxy-themed environment with a collage of percussion—drip-droplets, insectoid hi-hats, clattering wood, water streaming, marimba. Here the motif is minimally orchestral at the beginning, and in the slow-jam lounge of the second half it appears throughout, the lobby of a space hotel, glorious muzak. This instrumental ends things on a calm note, wrapping up the motif with a neat bow in a drifting, unhurried manner that gives the impression of infinitely floating.

To a lesser extent we see this utilisation of this motif in 'seafoam breeze', where the Prince-meets-playground-rhyhmes of Nelward's vocal sings "easy as 1-2-3", that same melody echoing throughout. Similarly 'the wild firmament' seems to follow that similar pattern of notes, though on a scale that it would only be recognisable to your conscious mind sped-up. This track is a heavenly interlude that sweeps in million mile waves of gentle soft synth, augmented with carefree idling whistles and occasional trills of bopping synth. Tropical, like an afternoon nap on a beach; waking up sunburnt.

'seafoam breeze', in more than just its title, has this upbeat sunny nature that summons tropicalia more than other tracks; and with its glistening lances of synth and warm vocal hook in the chorus, 'apple shampoo' ("…the only kind I've ever used") is similar, though it feels more bathroom based: like a carefree, idealised showertime, it summons suds on shining white tiles, a steaming showerhead, ending in a flurry of lather as the beat double-times and we end up in a neat outro of bubbling percussion.

We did mention Prince. Aside from this tropical-ness, there is groove infused in much of Alive In Screen, but more than this there is a combo of guitar shredding and flamboyant, often sensual vocals, the combination of which really does summon the late great pop maestro himself. 'the minus world', named for the Mario Bros. glitch, begins sounding similar to the creeping urgency of the Mysterious Forest theme from Zelda: Link's Awakening, but goes on with Prince-esque vocals ("Thought I was done before I even began!") a similarity heightened by panting in/exhalations, mingling with its 8-bit neo-noir heist atmosphere, complete with metal guitar bridge and noodling. Again, in melody and emphasis – "You're a strawman, alright / sticks and stones won't break your bones / cause you're a strawman! Alright / la, la-la, la-la…" – the hook in 'strawman' excels in its reminiscence; in fact the whole song, its deep wobbly bass carving a sunken nocturnal groove, gloopy and sludgy with its swing rhythm, the luxury noir with crystalline chimes and atonal chords that effuse pure mystery, it's similar, it's Prince in a SNES cartridge.

Taking compositional cues from both the complexity of classically inspired videogame music and the relative simplicity of pop grooves and hooks, Nelward has incorporated two disparate worlds into one cohesive collection, crunchy textured beats punctuating all the way. Lyrically, it's fun—he speaks of "oatmeal for dinner" in 'Brain Dance', is concerned about his "eggs and toast" in 'apple shampoo' (let alone that song's chorus), and begins 'the minus world' with a line about being in the zone where buffalos roam, amongst other delightful lines, aligning with carefree throughout. There is a clear influence from videogames, owing to chiptune sensibilities – most noticeably in the bitcrushed beat of 'the minus world' – and the general feel, such as the vibe of 'the wild firmament' (see Cosmic Cove Galaxy theme from Super Mario Galaxy 2), the cinematic intro to 'Brain Dance', scene-setting flavours throughout; even the name, Alive In Screen, suggests this.

More than that, the title summarises: in its entirety, Nelward's EP is the interests of a person with their mind rooted in imagination (…In Screen), but which does not stop at introspection and branches into reality (Alive…) with guitars 'n' groove and the vocals of a real-life person aplenty, these two sides joined not only with comprehensive composition and construction, but with that persistent motif bookended by the first and last track. It threads through for seamless relation between each track, and in its repetition and refraining it creates a sense of instant classic, something to be remembered, the grail of pop.

  • πŸ”” Nelward's Alive In Screen EP is released tomorrow, 22nd November, courtesy of DESKPOP. You can pre-order, and order tomorrow and thenceforth, from Bandcamp for a paltry $4—or more if you choose using this hyperlink.
  • πŸ”” Accompanying Alive In Screen is the created by artist brainfoam. The bubbly lo-fi saturation and pastel flavours of the artwork match with the carefree and imaginative feeling in the EP—not to mention the Saved By The Bell abstract shapes highlighting the friendly, accessible nature of the music. Features a pre-banana Nelward, which makes sense given the mention of food in some of the lyrics; dressed normally, only as somebody who can write a song about the type of shampoo they use in the shower should be.

Nelward Internet Presence ☟

Friday, 17 November 2017


October saw the release of 'Mindmaze', a track by London-based producer and DJ E.M.M.A. It's an unexpected cocktail of two colliding eras of dance: courtly, medieval, harpischord-based whimsy of the past vs. the electronic beats and high-energy of sweaty dancehall. The tract of lutes 'n' flutes that appeared in the track was lifted from Mindmaze, a dungeon crawler-slash-educational quiz featured on childhood-forming Encarta '95. Why Mindmaze though? "God knows to be honest," the producer speaks to us via email. "I made it in 2014, I can remember sitting down and thinking this Mindmaze theme would sound great as a UK funky type beat, but I can't remember why Mindmaze popped into my consciousness 20 years after the fact. It was just something I vividly remember engaging with as a child."

Perhaps it is the polyphonic complexity of baroque music, fugues and counterpoints – something that finds its way into things like videogame soundtracks, and only fractionally in underground, internet morsels and dance music – which simply sounds good against a beat that no Renaissance composer could have imagined. Indeed it's not E.M.M.A's first scrape with utilising the centuries-old form. "Some of my melodies – particularly on [her 2013 album] Blue Gardens – turned out to be baroque and I think maybe doing a homage to the most baroque tune I could think of kinda just seemed like a good direction to go in," she explains. "I've always been obsessed with what Encarta 95 provided us with before the world wide web came on the scene. I'm not sure why this ends up influencing my music, but we are where we are."

There is a nostalgia in E.M.M.A's music, too, with the sonic referencing in 'Mindmaze' following tracks like the 2012 'Dream Phone', referring to the '90s boardgame of the same name. She brings the humdrum of childhood memories, TV commercials and PC encyclopedias, storming into the adulthood of our modern age with hard minimal beats.

Alongside her own musicmaking, E.M.M.A founded Producergirls, an initiative encouraging women to get into producing, hoping to address the gender imbalance in the music industry. The free DIY workshops began in early 2016 and, thanks to a recent, successful Kickstarter campaign, will spread outside the current London base to cities across the UK. With this to look forward to in the future, for now the producer takes some time out to navigate the mindmaze of the lazy interview.


w h o   a r e   y o u ?   w h e r e   a r e   y o u   f r o m ?   w h a t   d o   y o u   d o ?
I was born in Liverpool and lived near Chester before moving to Brighton and London, where I've been for about 7 years. I produce electronic music and DJ, have an NTS radio show with Aimee Cliff called Angel Food. I started the nationwide Producergirls workshop series with Ikonika, Dexplicit, P Jam and Nightwave to encourage more women to try out electronic music production and to see if we can make the industry more gender balanced. 

h o w   d i d   y o u   s t a r t   c r e a t i n g   m u s i c ?

My friend Paul showed me FL Studio in around 2007 and was very encouraging of my earliest creations. A few of my friends were producers and I wanted a piece of the action.

h o w   w o u l d   y o u   d e s c r i b e   y o u r   s o u n d ?

Colourful, whatever the opposite of passive is. Active. I try and make it provoke some sort of dialogue with the listener. Maybe like a musical conversation. In terms of nuts and bolts, it's mostly synth orientated and set in a different imagined world a lot of the time. It varies from track to track.

i s   t h e r e   a   p e r f e c t   t i m e   a n d   p l a c e   f o r   l i s t e n i n g   t o   y o u r   m u s i c ?

At the risk of sounding like a clichΓ©, the middle of the night I think! That's when I make it.

I've always been obsessed with what Encarta 95 provided us with before the world wide web came on the scene
w h a t   i n s p i r e s   y o u   m o s t   w h e n   m a k i n g   a   t r a c k ?
Nature and our relationship to the universe and different times—past, present and future. But then again it depends on the song. I wrote 'Magna Kanye' because something Kanye said about making music really inspired me at a time when I wasn't really doing much, but Aimee and I decided to start Angel Food. I needed a tune for radio which was reflective of the battles I've had in this game. 

w h a t   i s   y o u r   m o s t   m e m o r a b l e   m u s i c a l   e x p e r i e n c e ?

When my first 12" came out on Wavey Tones in 2012. My close friends Tom and Letty started the label to release my music. I remember hearing it being mastered in a studio not far from my house at the time and then holding a copy of the test press in my hands. It just made me see London in a completely different way too, and it was when I started to think that I might actually be a real musician. 

w h a t   a r e   y o u r   f a v o u r i t e   t h r e e   s o n g s   a t   t h e   m o m e n t ?

The Horrors – Ghost

Nightwave – Limelight 

Xao – Karrakis

w h o   d o   y o u   m o s t   a d m i r e   i n   t h e   m u s i c   w o r l d ?

Suzanne Ciani, who I saw at Cafe OTO last week. The OG pioneer of the modular synth.

i n   y o u r   o p i n i o n ,   w h a t   i s   t h e   f u t u r e   o f   m u s i c ?

In terms of the industry, it's smashing up privilege, dismantling self-interested structures, opening up access and reclaiming the art from the gatekeepers so that the industry is what it should be: welcoming to all, with skills shared for free.

w h a t ' s   t h e   f u t u r e   o f   y o u r   m u s i c   –   w h a t   d o   y o u   h o p e   t o   d o   n e x t ?

I'm working on another album.

w h a t   i s   m o s t   i m p o r t a n t   t o   y o u ?



  • πŸ”” Feel free to purchase E.M.M.A's's Mindmaze / Pumpkin Emoji 12", out now physically and digitally courtesy of Coyote Records. Various options for purchase are available via this exact hyperlink.

E.M.M.A Internet Presence ☟

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Wednesday, 15 November 2017


This song has a very easy way of draping itself around your head and enveloping you in its softness, in its blanket of silken sound that is evident from the very first depth-charge sub-gloop bass, synthetic yet with this deep organic tenderness, a classic feel, that seems as though it could be a plucked double bass. And adding further softness to 'Never Not', Jessi Lee spins aching vocals, whisper-crooning from far-off, taut and quavering with memories, or as the producer-singer herself calls them, "those ghostly things that stay with us."

"And even though they're still there, we can move forward and look back on those things from afar as lessons learned fondly."

The NYC-based musicmaker takes us through the song via email. "'Never Not' is about love that endures even after it has been lost," she explains. "[It's] a dreamy experimental take on deconstructing a '50s style doo-wop ballad."

Self-admittedly more a producer than a singer, Jessi Lee tells us that this song – a minimalist exercise in experimental yet familiar styles – is quite personal to her: "I felt like I really had to be the one to vocalize it," she says, "and honestly use this music as a device to come to terms with my own love lost. It was very cathartic to say the least."

The twirling modern imaginary ballroom of 'Never Not' is realised in a video directed by Frankie Leroux>, which uses Coney Island as the backdrop—"a location personal to the story behind the song," says Jessi Lee; "Everything was very deliberately placed," she continues, "from the setting sun to using Coney Island as a character itself."

The slow steps of the bass underpin the fabric of the song, this intense rumble, these notes each one a cloud of pastel fog slo-mo exploded from thin air. Simple drum machine aesthetics make up the rest of the beat, an electronic tom keeping gloriously slow time. Chords like a mist sweep their way through. Ticking percussion peeps out at the chorus, warm and dreamy, it embraces you, the illustration of closeness.

Equally, it is distance, the miasma of feelings that float in the air after a relationship ends, a sultry sashay of tragic proportions, a slow dance till the lights go out.

  • πŸ”” 'Never Not' is taken from Jessi Lee's Deep Rest EP.
  • πŸ”” Jessi Lee plays saxophone in The Love Experiment and also is a sometime writer and performer with future soul duo, Broken Luxury.

Jessi Lee Internet Presence ☟
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