There was a time when a mixtape was clearly defined in opposition to an actual album. It was a free, low-key, interstitial release that enabled the artist in question – usually from the fields of hip-hop and R&B – to work without worrying unduly about the troublesome business of sample clearance. But that definition went out of the window some time ago. These days, entire careers, including that of Chance the Rapper, are founded on releasing only mixtapes. Drake’s mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, meanwhile, seemed indistinguishable from the rest of his oeuvre: like his official album releases, it contained 23,476 tracks, had a running time of five days, spawned hit singles, was sold rather than given away as a download and was released on both CD and vinyl.
“Mixtape” now seems to mean whatever an artist wants it to mean, which brings us to Dev Hynes, AKA Blood Orange, and Angel’s Pulse. The accompanying bumf posits the release as an addendum to 2018’s Negro Swan – a scrapbook of ideas recorded after the release of an album that sounded not unlike a scrapbook of ideas in the first place. Negro Swan’s skittish assemblage of lightly sketched concepts, bursts of found sound and abstract ambience wobbled unsteadily along the line that separates an admirably unquiet brand of artistry from an off-putting lack of focus.
Bonobo has been one of electronic music’s most thoughtful and sophisticated artists for nearly two decades — and the producer born Simon Green also knows how to light a dance floor on fire.
This special dichotomy is encapaulsted on Bonobo’s latest single “Linked,” out Monday (July 1) via the always exceptional Ninja Tune. The song — Bonobo’s first release since the January single “Ibrik” — is a gentle escalation into club-ready sonic rapture built on insistent but soothing beat patterns and delicate vocal flourishes. Consider it your day-to-night sonic segue all summer long.
The track comes amid a summer/fall tour schedule that finds the LA-based artist delivering a series of his Outlier shows. Originated at Brooklyn’s much-beloved and now shuttered club Output, Outlier features Bonobo and an all-star collection of co-bills including Tokimonsta, DJ Harvey, Derrick Carter, Mall Grab and more playing in hand-picked, singular urban settings including Denver’s Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum and Chicago’s Lakefront Green at Theater On The Lake.
Mitchell Street Records proudly presents its second release following the success of Jasper’s James ‘Crypto’ opening the labels account back in late 2018. De School and Red Light Radio resident Elias Mazian takes over both sides of the latest MS record, with two off-kilter electro jams and a twisted remix delivered by Scandinavian upstart Samo DJ.
Jasper and Elias’ musical relationship stretches back a few years after a chance encounter at Amsterdam’s Claire nightclub. The two young DJs instantly hit it off after sharing a DJ booth and were playing b2b minutes after their initial meeting. Following a late-night trip and some home-grown hospitality around Amsterdam. Jasper returned the favour by inviting Elias to join him at Glasgow’s legendary Sub Club alongside another Dutch favourite, Tom Trago, and their friendship was firmly established.
For a number of years Elias has been a regular at Amsterdam’s most respected institutions including De School, Claire and more. His ‘Private Hearts’ show on Red Light Radio is a go to show on the world-famous radio station and shows his eclecticism as a selector. The two original tracks demonstrate his ear for sounds that span genre and time. The EP’s lead track ‘The Right Key’ is rooted in electro but borrows from the electronic palette of Kid A or Aphex, whilst maintaining enough of a dancefloor feel to make it into one of Craig Richard’s DJ sets. Vocoders and a sense of melancholy make for a unique track that anchors around a musical bassline and melodic synth pads.
It’s rare for a producer to have such a high profile with so few releases out. But DJ Haram is a prolific maker of mixes (she’s already done The FADER, DUMMY andTruants), which she fills with edits and originals that fuse East Coast club rhythms with punk electronics and Middle Eastern samples. Over the last few years, we’ve gotten glimpses of what she’s capable of as a producer through mixes and occasional tracks she posts on SoundCloud, as well as her RA-recommended EP from last year with the noise poet Moor Mother, as 700 Bliss. Her Hyperdub debut, an eight-track EP calledGrace, is her first substantial statement as a solo producer, and it sees her honing her unmistakable sound into a dangerously sharp tip.
Some artists are just here to have fun and party. But everything about DJ Haram is deadly serious, from her decisive DJ blends to her tough sound palette and the relentless militancy of her rhythms. Grace is at times so focused and earth-shakingly forceful that it’s a little intimidating. The scariest track, “Interlude,” is actually almost beatless, with a monstrous doomsday synth chugging under a sharp flute sample, and the fact that it never drops makes it that much more tense. Apart from that, her toolkit consists mostly of drum samples, which means that melodic samples and synths are extra effective in the rare moments they do appear.
“Body Count” offsets percussive intensity with a well-placed harp sound, which softens the track just enough to let you breathe. On “Candle Light (700 Bliss Remix),” Moor Mother adds hardcore poetry lines to a booming, claustrophobic beat. “Grace (K.O.D.)” and the instrumental version of “Candle Light” both have pulverizing basslines and ultra sparse rhythms, exactly the kind of tracks you can imagine Hyperdub boss Kode9 being drawn to. She rounds it out with “No Idol (Remix),” which has more of a Jersey club influence than anything else on the EP—it’s mostly just a kick drum, a bed squeak sample, and the same insistent flute sample that crops up on a few tracks. Haram gets a lot of ideas out this limited toolkit, which means she’s working with the right ingredients.