Tirzah pursues the slowest-burning soul feels on Devotion, the London-based singer-songwriter’s humbly singular début album, produced by Mica Levi and providing us with total life affirming summer listening - most probably the record we've listened to most this year so far, and one that lingers on and on...
Since her first solo 12”s and thru frequent collaborations with Mica Levi - including the Taz And May Vids  for DDS - Tirzah has quietly blossomed into one of the UK’s most precious and peculiar artists working at the fringes of experimental pop, post-grime and R&B, and Devotion is set to bring her love to a wider audience.
Plaintive and low key, Devotion presents Tirzah’s vocal in the most evocative light, framed by backdrops of bleary-eyed and bent vibes and the kind of half-finished, permanently work-in-progress production style that's become a calling card of her music and her tight knit crew including Coby Sey, Mica Levi and Brother May.
Album of the year? Aye, quite possibly.
On his ace début album, the hotly tipped London-via-Istanbul producer Sami Baha ropes in some of his favourite MC’s, including 67’s Dimzy, Yung Lean, DJ Nate (yep, him!) and Dawesha & Abanob, for a finely sculpted, spaciously atmospheric set of drill mutations with Planet Mu.
Arriving two years since Baha’s Mavericks EP, his Free For All album is canny outsider/insider perspective on up-to-the-second London styles mixed with personalised electronic swagger and traces of his Turkish roots.
If ya looking for highlights, run check the ice cold splash of Discreet featuring Dimzy of drill dons 67, then the outta-nowhere return of Footwork pioneer DJ Nate, now an MC aka Flexxbabii, on the killer clash of Chi and LDN drill styles in Thugs, or Aliens for a sweeter instrumental turn chiming with aces by Total Freedom.
Moor Mother and DJ Haram roll their first 700 Bliss release into play with the ticking bombs of Spa 700 for Rabit’s Halcyon Veil - following up the label’s mighty Les Fleurs Du Mal LP and MHYSA’s widely acclaimed fantasii album late last year.
Both graduates of the Philadelphia house party scene, Moor Mother and Haram operate on a clearly intuitive and woke level, matching aggressive but agile lyrics and delivery with taut but dextrous fusions of Arabic drums and pumping Jersey bass. After débuting their 700 Bliss alias on the track 29th from Moor Mother’s The Motionless Present , the YY + YY pairing question club music’s fringes with the kind of razor sharp insight and direct yet freaky effect that we’ve come to expect from a Halcyon veil release.
Across the EP strings and drums intersect Moor Mother’s distinctive, urgent vocals and lean jabbing electronic production in a manner ripe for avant clubs, turning up strong highlights in their straight winner Ring The Alarm with its choppy Timbaland-meets-Mutamassik flex, and with a cold militancy on Scully, whilst Cosmic Slop is perhaps the most powerful example of their seething pressure.
Chances are anything you’ll listen to after sitting through this half hour masterpiece will sound a bit lifeless - El Mal Querer is the most vibrant, layered and forward facing album of the year.
Rosalía Vila Tobella is already something of a sensation in her native Spain, but this new album looks certain to propel her into the stratosphere with its immediately accessible but multi-layered fusion of traditional flamenco with the swagger of modern R&B, a kind of minimal pop variant underpinned by what feels like an almost endless succession of clever hooks.
The opening Malamente is the most immediate and hard-hitting of the 11 tracks here, but the album is basically wall-to-wall brilliance, from the subtle, almost Theo-parrish inspired EQ cuts on Que No Salga La Luna to the super fwd juxtaposition of flamenco, auto-tune, pulsing subs and motorbikes revving on De Aquí No Sales to the ultra-ohrwurm Di Mi Nombre. Even the more traditional a cappela tracks edge into deviance - the eerie, layered vocals on A Ningún Hombre closing the album on a nervy, uncompromising note.
El Mal Querer really is a perfectly formed, hyper-modern vision of pop music; structurally daring, endlessly catchy, melancholy, introspective, bursting with charisma and more ideas than any other record we’ve listened to in 2018. Apparently there’s new music in the works from Rosalía with Pharell and Arca, you should keep a v close eye on this one...
‘Another Life’ is Amnesia Scanner’s hyperreal début album for PAN. The Finnish production/design duo’s most significant release locates their EDM/pop voice proper after a string of prism-pushing singles, EPs and mixtapes issued since 2015 by Young Turks and Gum Artefacts
Bending EDM pop with warped sound designer sensibilities and a sci-fi visionary’s lust for post-human possibility, Amnesia Scanner’s music has come to define its era with unflinching form. They embrace the most compelling, even grotesque aspects of hyper-commercial dance-pop with an accelerationist alacrity that’s also shared by the boundary-realigning styles of fellow artists such as Arca and Sophie, who, like AS, started out in the sound designer’s playground of mid-’00s electro and tech-house minimalism, but have evolved into something mutant, transcending and redefining conceptions of humanity in their music.
Informed by a singular perspective on technology and the way it mediates contemporary experience, ’Another Life’ is ostensibly binary in the extreme - you’ll probably either love or hate the upfront garishness and unapologetically cybernetic nature of their music. But on another level, the character of AS’ synthesised voice, known as Oracle, and their warped pop conventions, both inherently play with ultra contemporary ideas of ambiguity in a way that’s symptomatic of a socio-political climate dominated by notions of gender fluidity and fake news. In effect ‘Another Life’ can be heard as an attempt to locate the analog nature of human sensation within computerised systems.
The results are effectively an exaggerated, syncretic synthesis of current Caribbean dance-pop, nu-metal, and trashy electro-punk with all elements turned up to 11 on their virtual amp, presenting a shockingly surface level reflection of contemporary culture that’s revealed a line in the sands of time between listeners of differing generations, and how they read meaning into their music. In other words, AS are the ‘ugly’ sneakers of modern music.
Smerz make their 2nd deposit with Have Fun, following up their head-turning début 12”, Okey , with a collection of subsequent digital releases for XL.
A distant, skewed relation to American avant-R&B, Smerz have become widely regarded for their low key, off-kilter smudge of contemporary R&B memes with shabby chic synths and almost glossolalic vocals.
Have Fun showcases their four previous single tracks for XL, including the rugged rolige of Half Life and the salty swang of their Patricia-sampling No Harm, plus two new songs; the watery emo R&B of Girls, and Bail on Me, which makes neat use of a sample from 1991’s No More Dreams album.
The king of Gqom and Wiley’s favourite DJ, Lwazi Asanda Gwala a.k.a. DJ Lag turns out another four bangers for Goon Club Allstars
Hypnotically minimal and built to demand, the ’Stampit’ EP follows from Lag’s eponymous 2016 debut and a recent, killer remix of Kelela to reassert his claim to the crown of Durban’s virulent rave sound.
It’s perhaps most useful for the super stripped down ‘Drumming’, a ruggedly sturdy drum trak that can be taken as an answer to Griffit Vigo’s ‘Ree’s Vibe’ - a big tune in Lag sets - but the rest of the set is prime, too, just in case you’re wondering.
From the lead-drop drums and skyward flute of ‘3step Culo’ to the plastic UKF-like horns of ‘Let’s Do This’ and the crisp conga rolls on ‘Switz’ this platter is rated 100% deadly.
Manny man Grizzle fuses heat-seeking R&G and below-kelvin Drill styles on his debut missile ‘Quinine’ for the city’s strongest grime label/club night; Chow Down
After previously sharpening his teef in collaboration on the ‘Fallow & Grizzle’ EP, Grizzle works the energy levels from low-key, slunky up to outright ecstatic and back again across 4 original productions.
‘Plasma’ tempers trilling 808s and hyperdiva vox in a wavey R&G burner, while ‘Loosed’ initially goes weightless, then calves off into full sunk subs and reversed loops with a rugged, futurist sort of psychedelic intensity native to UK and US club styles.
However, it’s likely that the title cut, with its ohrwurm motifs and bittersweet, bolshy lean is destined for widest reach, while ‘Gauntlet’ scans glowing new horizons of tranced-out grime with an expert grasp of pressure control.