Lights out, game over. Duma win 2020. Breathtaking by any measure, Kenyan grindcore band Duma’s unparalleled debut of blast beats, sky-clawing synth noise and scarred larynx vocals is one of the mightiest things you’ll hear all year - a huge RIYL Nkisi, Woid, Senyawa...
Duma's self-titled debut is the most incredible injection of life-affirming, outsider energy imaginable in these dark ages; an LP that’s bound to cleave opinion and upend preconceptions of what music from East Africa, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, can be.
Comprising Martin Khanja (Lord Spikeheart) and Sam Karugu, Duma mete out a jaw-dropping extreme sound rooted in Nairobi’s flourishing underground metal scene, where they’ve previously performed in bands Lust of a Dying Breed and Seeds of Datura. Faithful to the name - translating to “Darkness” in Kiyuku - they forge a frankly unprecedented darkside sound, welding trve metal vocals and eschatological synths with the frenetic energy of Central African and breakcore rhythms in transfixing arrangements that just beggar belief.
Certainly we can compare them to other outliers of extreme music - the dark cosmic Congolese energy of Nkisi or the cataclysmic sound of Wold/Black Mecha, and Indonesia’s beastly Senyawa - but basically Duma are, like all the above, in a field of their own. From the psychoactive rush of militant snares and keening synths in ‘Angels and Abysses’ to the doomcore dirge of ‘Pembe 666’ and the exquisite menace of ‘Uganda With Sam’ and the scorching finale ‘The Echoes of The Beyond’ they uncannily reshape the game in their own image with every song, bending conventions and styles with profound sense of iconoclastic freedom and possessed discipline.
When they performed in Berghain at this year's CTM festival, worlds were shattered into a million tiny pieces. They had technical difficulties; their setup wasn't working as planned, so producer Sam Karugu had to improvise, playing backing tracks from an audio player and direct injecting Lord Spike Heart's mic into his laptop. Somehow even with issues that would derail the most professional Berghain vets Duma's set was one of the undisputed highlights of the entire festival, pouring molten lava on the Berlin superclub's sweaty mass of inebriated revelers who created a messy moshpit on the dancefloor.
It took a f*cking pandemic to get them back, but SALEM finally stake their 2nd album a square decade since ‘King Night’ topped lists and pretty much defined the whole witch house thing
The cult Midwest US band, now a duo of Jack Donohue and John Holland, served a high water mark of that era circa 10 years ago, mixing chopped & screwed tekkers with doomy, emosh metal, gothic pop and hardstyle in a way that’s come to heavily influence or at least foreshadow the 2010s decade of soundcloud rappers, industrial mutations, and much more beside. They were regulars on our playlists back then, and ‘Fire In Heaven’ makes a welcome return in a world we couldn’t have predicted, with a pop-tart batch still snagged on saccharine trance hooks and grungy emo riffs, and smashed with medical grade negative-ecstasy numbness.
Chasing up this years killer ‘Stay Down’ mixtape with its unmissable use of Prokofiev-via-Trump, SALEM’s sophomore LP sees them grow older naturally while staying true to what makes them special. Preceding singles ‘Red River’ and ‘Starfall’ were strong indictors of what to expect, but they’re best consumed in syrupy slow flow of the album context, from the frozen face feels of ‘Not Much Of A Life’, thru the embroidered choral noise of ‘Braid’, allowing for some proper emo wallowing in ‘Old Gods’, and saving huge highlights for the gothic US modernism of ‘Sears Tower’ and the title track’s detuned Reese bass.
Perc returns to Perc Trax for his first original release of 2020 and his first full EP since 'Three Tracks To Send To Your Ghost Producer' was released back in March 2019. 'Fire In Negative' includes three tracks adapted from his live set at Reaktor's Unpolished event in Amsterdam earlier of this year, plus another completed directly after that set when the atmosphere and energy of that event was still fresh in his mind.
"Title track and opener 'Fire In Negative' fuses crushing kicks with covert art gallery recordings and the crackling flames of the title, topped off with Ventolin-esque sine tones. Another statement track from Perc, sidestepping the current trend for rave revivalism whilst matching its energy toe to toe.
'E Mono' is a classic Perc drum track, skipping big builds for an unexpected switch in the middle section, whilst 'Snare' goes in the opposite direction, breaking down into two minutes of abrasive feedback before finally kicking back in.
Lastly 'Destroyed By Jazz' takes the direct approach with an ever building triplet noise groove over a rock-solid kick to round off an EP that never takes its eyes off the dance floor."
One of the strongest debut albums we've heard in years, Nazar’s ‘Guerrilla’ is a record about the Angolan civil war that we reckon will come to be one of the defining albums of 2020
Relaying the tragedy and terror of his family’s experience of war, Nazar uses a highly distinctive sound design palette and manacled grasp of what he calls “rough kuduro” rhythms to bring listeners deep into his mindset. While essentially impressionistic, Nazar vividly dramatises the theatre of war in a way that’s perhaps needless to say, authentic; drawing on his parents’ first-hand accounts and his own familiarity of the war’s aftermath, including his Rank General father’s writings and his mother’s oral recollections, to supply a shocking record that doesn’t shirk from the gore and adrenaline, while acknowledging sensations of blissed relief and optimism amid its scrambled con-fusion of feelings.
As previewed in 2018’s remarkable ‘Enclave’ EP, Nazar’s singular sound naturally bears a strong relationship to the Kuduro futurism of artists on Lisbon’s Príncipe label, however his use of cinematic tropes and a visionary style of narrative arrangement distinguishes his sound in its own lane. Setting the scene with the resigned negative ecstasy of ‘Retaliation’, Nazar becomes a physical presence via his vocal duet with Shannen SP, who returns from the ‘Enclave’ EP to supply icy gynoid vox to his blunted rap in ‘Bunker’, before lead single ‘UN Sanctions’ comes off like Klein’s hauntological elegies taken to the club, and the thrilling kuduro skirmish ’Immortal’ gives way to the contrasting, blissed succour of ‘Mother’ at the LP’s heart. But that relief is short-lived as the album’s final section stakes its message brutally clearly in the end scenes, running between his ravenous ‘Arms Deal’ to the schizzy but exactingly disciplined trample of ‘Why’, and the triumphant yet heartbroken denouement in ‘End Of Guerrilla’.
Where Burial somehow bridged a sort of maudlin vibe with still glowing embers of UK dance music in a style that became known as hauntology, Nazar follows to use a similar technique to distill and connote the pathology of war and its aftermath in a way that’s equally vital as a timeless expression of contemporary concerns on how the past plays out in the present day.
Hyperdub wrap up a decade’s worth of Burial singles and EPs to form the uncanniest sort of memory update
Surveying the entirety of his original output for Hyperdub since the seminal couplet of his ‘Burial’ and ‘Untrue’ albums, ‘Tunes 2011-2019’ offers a very handy 2.5 hour catch-up for those who haven’t already gone to the effort of queuing up the files over time in iTunes.
The 17 tunes been sequenced out of joint from the original release schedule and carefully framed for an absorbing listen akin to the film and computer game soundtracks that are often sampled in his work and have long provided a key inspirations to his sound.
They range from grippingly tense, furtive sci-fi noir styles in ‘State Forest’, ‘Beachfires’ and ’Subtemple’, thru to his singularly evocative style of dark garage and heartbreaking vocal arrangements in the slow anomaly ‘NYC’ , taking in low key modern classics of this past decade with the likes of his pure power-up ‘Hiders’, the epic and intricate arrangement of ‘Come Down To Us’, and most recently the dancefloor lighter tune ‘Claustro’ - a.k.a the one to play any daft dufus who still says you can’t dance to Burial.
Collected, they add up to the equivalent of at least 3 albums worth of material, which makes up somewhat for the lack of actual albums in over 12 years now. For anyone who has taken their eye off the ball since ‘Untrue’, this set is just unmissable. And even for longtime disciples, we guarantee you’ll be reminded of bits you didn’t even realise you’d forgotten.
Kenyan wunderkind Slikback and London’s Soda Plains ramp up a strong 3rd volume of PAN’s club-cut split series after turns from M.E.S.H./Tzusing and Toxe/Crystallmess.
Spotlighting two keenly watched artists, PAN’s programming skills are on-point here, pairing Slikback’s slugging militant steppers and mutant sound design with more needling and tense hard drum and garage rave scorchers by Soda Plains.
After rapidly rising to acclaim with EPs for Nyege Nyege Tapes’ Hakuna Kulala sublabel and Svbkvlt since 2018, Slikback turns up pure fire on his half, hammering out the fast-fwd, hardcore, syncopated techno of ‘AKI’ and the bone-crunching dancehall futurism of ‘UZAA’ to follow in the fierce mode of his 2019 splits with Hyph11e.
On the flip side Soda Plains makes the shift from cult concern to rave catalyst with his most striking club tunes to date, racking up the Mahraganat-style snare rolls and nagging drones of ‘Glacier’ on a hot hard drum flex, then cutting loose with see-sawing rave riffs on the rushy, super-rugged London pressure of ‘No Fear’ - a proper rave earworm.