Roundup, January #4
From blissed out new age techno to Arca updating Laurie Anderson for the post-club landscape, we roundup our favourite releases of the week. In no particular order:
Pussy Riot – PUNISH
Russian feminist punk-anarchist collective Pussy Riot has taken many shapes and forms over the years. From their early days of notoriety screaming punk prayers in the cathedrals of Moscow to storming the FIFA World Cup finals in 2018, the balaclava clad revolutionaries have had an ever expanding roster of members, turning the Pussy Riot brand into a movement. Musically, things have solely been in the hands of Nadya Tolokonnikova, who’s pivoted the collective’s sound away from riot girl punk rock to saturated and stylized hyperpop. Pussy Riot’s latest single, Punish, is probably their most accessible release to date. Co-written by Tove Lo, Punish is a mellow and auto-tune accented synthpop slow burner. It begins the story of Pussy Riot’s next avatar, who in the words of Tolokonnikova is “a super(s)hero character who owns magic superwoman-like qualities & uses these powers to fight sexism,” Weaponizing pop feels like an organic next step in Pussy Riot’s effort to upturn the system on a global scale, making Punish as potent as it is catchy.
Grimes – Shinigami Eyes
The song that has seemingly been endlessly teased by Grimes, leaving fans frothing, is finally here. Originally revealed during a DJ set by Grimes on Discord, there’s much anticipation over this one and ceaselessly demands for her to just release the damn thing. Truthfully, compared to previous single Player of Games, Shinigami Eyes is a bit of a hot mess. But this makes it all the more decadent. Grimes waxes lyrical about death and monsters, her voice filtered into a video game avatar, while a deep funk house beat kicks through cyber futuristic synths. It’s a strange, baudy pastiche of styles, but this kitschiness makes it bizarrely appealing. According to Grimes, this one will not form part of her upcoming album Book 1, but will instead be released as part of an EP called Fairies Cum First prior to the album. According to Grimes, this was “the label executive decision song,” and does not form part of the space opera narrative of Book 1.
Arca, Laurie Anderson – Big Science (Acra Remix)
Arca’s set to have a bloody good year. After the gargantuan and audacious release of her four latest albums, Kick ii – iiiii, the Venezuelan producer and provocateur is now remixing Laurie Anderson for a reissue of Anderson’s 1982 debut album, Big Science. Anderson’s original piece of avant-garde baroque pop was a spoken word piece, recited over a gloomy synth refrain and subtle, woody drum beats that pattered like rain, an ominous minimalist approach that is responsible for Fever Ray. For her take on Big Science, Arca extends the track from six to ten minutes, pulling each element from it and dissecting it in the first two. The animalistic moan-cum-howl repeats, the drum beats are isolated, and by the time anything of Anderson is heard the track veers into juxtaposing, jagged trip-hop on acid. In pulling Big Science apart to its very DNA and then mutating it, Arca retains the spirit of Anderson’s ambitions while updating the approach for the current moment.
Mayo – Sad Violin Music (EP)
Amsterdam DJ and producer Mayo makes electronic music with the spirit and energy of a punk rocker. She’s unafraid to clash styles, borrowing from techno, jungle, and EMB but probably most significantly, she’s not afraid to be loud. The title of her debut EP, Sad Violin Music, is a bit of a bait and switch. This is not violin music, and it is not sad. Instead, it’s a microcosm of acid drunk formulations of techno, experimental modular sounds and straight up weird bangers. Aura Phase takes a jungle synth riff and isolates it, placing it against a scattering background of indistinct machine sounds and industrial darkwave beats. Dystopian Dialect is like Blawan put through a shredder, a wonky and squelchy techno cut with elements of psytrance alien shrieks that resound from beneath her sludgy synth scape while Human Engineering leans into industrial goth and post-punk. It’s dark, filthy, and downright sexy.
Amotik – Adsath
Berlin based British producer Amotik’s techno may seem stock standard at first glance, but when you peel back the layers and typical sledgehammer regular time stomps, you’ll find a lush and overflowing oasis of colour, tonality and richness. This hypnotic, meditative backbone is something Amotik has built his otherwise straightforward techno on, and it distinguishes his music by adding unexpected layers of sensory pleasure and blissed out new age motifs. On Adsath, the first taste of his upcoming second LP Patanjali, he juxtaposes glowing ambient drones with relentless and erratic techno synths to create something simultaneously soothing and propulsive. Adsath is somewhat mind bending, twisting and morphing the usually austere energy of German techno toward something more immersive, more introspective. Apparently inspired by his grandfather’s yoga ashram, that sort of peacefulness and contemptment is something not usually found in the rush of techno, but the juxtaposition works and leaves you feeling blissed even at your peak.
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