'Mas Amable', our record of the year 2020.
Call it deep reggaeton, avant-dembow, whatever; Mas Amable was easily our most rinsed record of the year, a sidewinding trip through slippery, mutable 90/180bpm metrics for lovers of rhythm and sound of all shapes and colours.
Following the reticulated deep house-paced hybrids of his acclaimed 2017 debut, 'Mas Amable' displays a serpentine guile that surely lives up to Brian Piñeyro’s moniker. Through 50 minutes, he dangles the dance by a fine conceptual thread that ties a constant rhythmic skeleton to subtly shifting tonal and textural variables. We start from shoreside ambience and lush field recordings, into hip-gripping dembow permutations and tripped-out vocals, elegantly and rudely shifting the pressure gauge from a gentle propulsive sway to darker steppers and wavey, whistling melodies, before neuro D&B stabs light up the dance and it all fades out on a deep blue reggaeton tip.
Like a mutable organism imperceptibly transforming before our eyes, ‘Mas Amable’ is both effortless and unfathomable, a heady trip through liquid, morphing tressilo drums and junglist markers that, at their peak, provide ample space for LA Warman’s vocal narration, imbuing proceedings with an eerie prescience and an existentially weary message. It all makes for a unique and richly immersive experience that we said back in April would rank among the definitive records of 2020. And at the end of this brutal, relentless year... here we are.
Pontiac Streator’s debut solo 2LP lands on Motion Ward featuring appearances form Ulla & Mister Water Wet, following a run of collabs with Ulla on West Mineral, and with Exael as ‘Micro Incubus’ earlier this year.
Is there a name for this stuff yet? The West Mineral/Experiences/Motion Ward aesthetic is a kinda modern counterpart to the Chain Reaction nucleus splintering out into refracted and interconnected directions at the turn of the century, most immediately with Pole and his Scape label in Germany, but then further afield with Vladislav Delay’s Huume and Kit Clayton’s brilliant and mad Orthlorng Musork, as well as more experimental labels like Tonschacht - all of which had roots in that fizzing dub sound. The West Mineral axis - as we shall call it for a mo - is similarly ephemeral and evolving; but at its heart is a smudged and zonked vibe that’s perhaps a key signifier of our time.
On ‘Triz’, Pontiac Streator imagines a metamorphic landscape that shifts and pulls with weighty pressure amid a backdrop of humid, amorphous atmospheres - most notably on the uon-esque shuffle of ‘Triz Cohors pt. 3’, and the cave-like echos of ‘Lamp Fest’. By no means a gloomy affair though, a tender sense of optimism radiates throughout - with light shining through the cracks on the almost balearic ’Trizlang Gem (featuring Ulla) and the dampened chimes of ‘Angelus Spit (featuring Mister Water Wet), eventually culminating in the rekkid's most hopeful moment, the blissful ‘Transier Unt’.
Pure smoke this one.
Killer vinyl debut of chromatic dembow bubblers and downbeat illbient from NYC’s Blazer Sound System on Andy Lyster’s Youth label.
Comprising Zebrablood (formerly of psych freaks Excepter) and Rainstick, the Blazer Sound System duo were brought to Youth’s attention by what Andrew Lyster calls their “must check” monthly NTS show, where BSS mash together a broad mixture of styles loosely landing between psych, dub, avant-techno and current road music. Their vinyl now cements their reputation and sound in 10”s of hard black plastic that sits neatly beside Youth’s FUMU and Georgia releases.
Uptown Rainstick catches a wave of ribboning chromatic arps, sirens and dembow dancehall bumps that sound like a n NYC block party on mushies - big for the DJ Python heads - alongside Zebrablood’s ‘Whatcomesup96’ cut that patently sounds like a vintage Spectre or Kaman Leung neck snapper. Downtown, on ‘Destorto’ Zebrablood makes the vibe like a haunted carnival with choking levels of dank bass spun out with scudding reggaeton synflutes, and ‘Draco Beat’ returns to that late ’90s dancehall/hip hop crossover sound with rudest results.
One of 2020’s few saving graces, CS + Kreme hypnotically expand upon the styles of their AOTY ’Snoopy’ in two durational beauties for TTT
Conrad Standish’s serpentine bass work and Sam Karmel’s slanted electronics lay the foundations for two sumptuous works involving vital input from Judith Hamann (Cello) and Dan Luscombe (Lap Steel Guitar), book-ending a year in which their debut album ’Snoopy’ became a sort of downbeat life-raft for many listeners.
‘April Fools’ Day’ is a steeply hypnotic 16 minute piece where CS’ coiled bass guitar and Kreme’s reticulated 808 synch with swirling cello and lap steel strings into a psychedelic Raga, surely invoking comparisons with Coil via Terry Riley to our minds, and most beautifully primed to extend the rare pleasures of their album. ‘Bugged’ follows with a dustier trip into deep psyche-soul country, saddling up 11mins of strolling bass stoked with alien fireside vocals and lolling early ‘90s chill-out room vibes in abundance.
Key neo-ambient label Motion Ward invite Russia’s Air Krew for an absorbingly gauzy, dreamy album bound with bittersweet new age and experimental electronic energies - think The Durutti Column, Jefre Cantu-Ledsma, Emeralds, early 0PN and Soviet cinema music...
Air Crew is a collaboration between St.Petersburg/Moscow’s Sergey Podluzhniy, Lena Tsibizova and Piper Spray, who make their fully fledged debut here after tape comp turns with wannamarchi.club and Athens’ Radio.syg.ma. While couched in shoegazy terms, there’s also clear influence from classical chamber music and cold kosmiche synth to their romantically sore style on ‘Discuss and come back’, which oscillates between styles, often subliminally so in the course of a single track.
Soused in tape fuzz and swirling harmonic richness from front to back, you can really feel the touch of multiple, familiar hands coming together in a way that feels absent from solo recordings and nourishes other needs, like when they vibe out on the opiated dream-pop of ‘Second Heart Failure’ and the bleached lushness of ‘Without Pastoral’, while the cold DMT blast of ‘Dictionary’ and chilly chamber strokes of ‘Thank you for a fish’ burble with a human quality, and they prove crafty off-dancefloor smarts like a zonked Andy Stott in the gyring stepper ‘Types of crickets’, and floppy brittle bones swoon to ‘Sorry but I still love this track’.