Strobe/Flutter (?)

I was pondering with a mate not so long ago about this ‘development’ that I increasingly heard in 2018 – possibly? or maybe not? of this ‘Strobe’ or ‘Flutter’ style. I hesitate to tag ‘-core’ onto the end of it (‘coz it doesnt have anything near the violence of filterless gauloises Speedcore) and it’s more pulsing and luminescent somehow…almost going beyond discernable beats? I don’t even know if any of this connects in any way to any of the drilling and fracking of the Splitter/Extratone scene? – you’d have to speak to DJ Balli about that. Nevertheless, I saw two disparate name checks of La Peste last year (coming from a Kerridge release blurb and in the PR for that Szare release on Different Circles) so dots are undoubtedly being joined, however feintly, from camp to camp, in surprising new coalitions.

I mean it’s obviously not theta waves, because you can’t hear those! but you feel almost like it’s tapping into some neural, oscillatory, binaural pattern? The drilling is all around us in every day life anyway, from the roadworks in the street outside your window to the hospital (case in point, my poor old Mum recently went through a battery of MRI tests and she messaged me after the first one and said “It sounded just like your music!”).

In fact my mate and I had already chatted about it casually a year or so ago and it was something we were detecting (in bits of 2017 Mumdance sets etc) but there now seems to be enough of a continuum of the device/pattern that, if you were so inclined, you could (almost) make a whole set of it. Which is when you have to ask; is it now evidence of an emerging genre/style? or just a recurring moment, a trope, of studio frustration when faced with the strictures of the orthodox grid of techno and the various production/editing platforms and the cul de sacs you get led up using them. Those of you reading this who have experience of trying to produce your own tracks will surely be familiar with the quick sand feeling of getting bogged down in the micro editing process of the Midi beat grid – and that ‘fuck it’ moment when you you just paint a whole line of 1/32th or 1/64th etc. blocks across the bar to see what happens, in the hope it offers you a stick to grab at. It often gets you out of the hole. A bit like banging an Amen over the top of your struggling composition heh.

Anyway, here’s my selection of tunes from the past year (except the Reeko and die Angel tracks which were 2017). I’m sure it’s only the tip of an iceberg if you dive deeper. Drop me line if you have any others….

Reeko: Engendrado (Avian, 2017)  This tune is pretty mesmeric and fascinating IMHO. Essentially a looped field recording (as far as I can make out) that rises from some kind of primordial soup and turns into full on psychedelic delta/theta/alpha/beta/whatever-suggestive waves of strobing pummel.

Korridor: Opening (Northern Electronics)  A high speed Gysinesque Dreamachine journey into stroboscopic flicker. “Tense minimalist design…an architecture that lets austerity scream.”

Ontal: Vigilante (Horo)  Surely his strongest and best release to date? Absolutely superb dynamic tension. In this case the drilling and rattlesnake percussion seems to free him completely and new territory is definitely found on the other side. (Even perhaps on the first track ‘Ikari’? although it’s not a continuous flutter).

Monotronique: Overdrome (Opal Tapes)  This one’s a bit of a cheap trick. All surface.

Core Beliefs: He Preferred to Kill His Son to Stay Alive (Phormix)  Feed belts of screeching, howling machinery spooling out of control on the production line.

Chevel: The Call (Different Circles)  Softer, cleaner, housier, more ‘designer’ but nonetheless… and bits of the Szare release that followed this one?

Ben Frost: All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated (Mute)  Off the (pointlessly) ‘produced by Steve Albini’ EP. What a pretentious, beardy, hipster dingbat (Frost not Albini). The flutter kicks in around the 4:00 mark.

die Angel: Papyrus (Cosmo Rhythmatic, 2017)  The highbrow ‘arty farty’, electronic festival/noise take on this? I’m sure if you wade through the Mego back catalogue you can find shed loads of this kind of thing?

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TSVI: Inner Worlds (Nervous Horizon)

“Tribal”… you know the schtick. All the arguments against cultural appropriation, ‘exoticism’, ‘beat trafficking’, some even say ‘colonialism’, it’s still (and rightly so) a politically charged debate – and you dip your toes in and sample (or poach) from those ponds at your peril. Or otherwise turn all global smorgasbord DJ Rupture doolally. If you’ve never even heard of Tarraxo or you want to go down this particular interweb rabbit hole there’s a good 2015 artice from The Con here. It’s a warren!

I mean you can read TSVI’s PR blurb yourselves and draw your own conclusions. I think the two tracks released so far are actually a pretty deft bit of clinical, laboratory conditioned, genetic manipulation/crossbreeding. A sort of a Portugese Raw Beat (I wouldn’t dare say of what flavour exactly!) Cold Rush/FFM rave fusion thing? Perhaps? Damn funky though and really powerful sub bass precision thump for the dance floor.

The Maghreban: The Monster VIP (R&S)

Older headz may remember an old Jungle tune on Juice Records from 1995 called ‘The Bomb’ by Ayman? A fine piece of concept Amen darkage using Oppenheimer’s famous Bhagavad-Gita “Now I am become Death” quote…

Well whadda ya know? Turns out this is he, Ayman Rostom, back from a long hiatus and with a new moniker and new vibes, racking up releases since 2014.

This sounds like it could almost be a Jungle tune played on 33rpm? Heavy, syrupy, and psychedelic. “Rave navel-gazing back to his roots”  according to R&S heh.

DROOGS002 / 003

And speaking of Bristol and rave stabbing – leads me nicely onto DROOGS, the rather pointless sub-label of UVB-76. Natty artwork though.

There’s nowt wrong I suppose with some straight down the line, functional, D&B if you’re young and insist on your own own re-boot scene and practitioners to follow. I mean Aspect’s ‘Stand Clear’ is a ‘tune’ of sorts. Possibly. To some? – albeit a tried and tested one. Fuck it. Perhaps I’m the mug here? and it’s not even worth asking the question anymore – why people bother to spend their time creating such facile re-arrangements of such familiar sonic objects? This is Steve Carr/Digital and fam’s (Spirit, Total Science etc) ‘Dubzilla’ (2002) sound and era to a slavish T. Barely a tweak!

Honestly, purchasing these tunes was like a drunken shag with the Ex. You know you shouldn’t. Perversely, for some unknown reason, probably just because it’s easy and you can, you go with it but regret it as soon as the deed is done. The familiar pheromones are in your nose, on your skin again, but it’s too late as you remember all the hurt and pain you caused each other in the past.

Lurka: Heat Mover / Battery (Timedance)

Mr. Benjamin Tregaskes on Batu’s label.

Like a cloud of depression lifting, it feels liberating to get out of the plodding murk and scuzz of ‘Berlin-based’/Industrial/Techno and its ilk. Feels like I’ve been stuck in that swamp for too long – or possibly that I just don’t try hard enough to escape sometimes?

Things are always cleaner and smoother Bristol way though, and funkier too – there’s a good dose of futuristic polished chrome detailing and trim in the vibes without forgetting the sound system end game.

Lurka puts a top swing to the chugging beat here, without any processed cheese and combines it with a heavy subs battery and filtering rave stabbing.

Walton: Black Lotus (Tectonic)

There’s a clinical sheen to this LP – and I mean that in a good way; that feeling (and chemical smell) you sometimes get when you open up some brand new gadget or pair of kicks you’ve had your eye on for ages; the boxfresh, straight from the factory moment. Also a monastic, almost martial art simplicity and restraint to a lot of the beat and bass mongering (that in the wrong hands is just plod, like say Youngsta’s schtick, but here attains the finesse of handcrafted Japanese blades), a deliberate pacing for the subs to really breath and hit lower. ‘Point Blank’, ‘Mad Zapper’ and ‘Angry Drummer’ are my top tunes here.