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.
Taking reference from the rave energy that has passed through decades of UK dance music and combining influences from harder, noisy, industrial tropes that carry a similar raw approach, Ploy (Timedance, Hessle) delivers his debut LP "Unlit Signals" for L.I.E.S. Records.
"Across these eight tracks we move through contained intensity and stifling darkness met with flashes of light and space, reflective of the darker pockets of the grubby dance floors of which this record is aimed at. This body of work represents the space Ploy has found himself occupying over the past couple of years, an injection of dishevelled closing hours delirium, applied across a spectrum of bpm.
Rhythmically taking influence from elements of broken beats, soundsystem music and organic percussion as opposed to a straighter Techno template, 'Unlit Signals' captures the visceral energy that is much needed and often missing in genres at the forefront of the dance music world.Moreso this LP is reflective of the grim state of current social climates, and the artist's experiences looking for the darker, introspective ends when hitting the nightclubs. Heads down as opposed to hands up, Unlit Signals puts forth an ominous sonic dread that works the system with texture, low end and militant drum play.
Similar to previous Ploy releases it's nomadic in terms of styles and never really slots into one category easily, which ends up being the true beauty of "Unlit Signals".
Mysterious “married outlaws” Low Budget Aliens firm up a killer sort of (I)DeMaterialised spin on drill, jungle, footwork and ruff bass sound for D. Tiffany and uon’s XPQ? label
‘Junk DNA’ spells out a dead crafty sound in orbit somewhere between early Actress, the ambient dance mutations of Ghostride The Drift and Skee Mask’s nervy rufige. It’s smudged regurgitations are pretty much bang on the pulse for contemporary music’s up-in-the-air flux of styles in a way that feels like it could go in any of ten directions at once.
‘CRASh LANDING’ kicks it off with a sort of radioactive rendering of drill, and ‘Hazardous Waste Pump’ turns up the gas on a slowfast jungle tip, teeing up a weightless flex shared wrth the centrifugal footworking dynamics of ’FE Ignot’ and what sounds like a vaporised 33EMYBW in ‘HOME SICK!’, while ‘BOWSERS HIGHT COURT’ leans into X-files breakcore, and the deadly one-two of ‘Service Mode 2’ and ‘LEVEL 1 2 3 4’ whip D&B and 150bpm beat science into wilder, experimental dancefloor thrills.
Hessle Audio juice three bare boned, tracky DJ tools from Manchester’s First Lady of the rave (FLOTR?) following shots for Chow Down and Finn’s 2 B Real
‘Loos In Twos’ was last spotted on Anz’ ’Spring/Summer Dubs 2019’ set and rolls out on sort of Darqwan-meets-DJ Plead tip with a balance of bashy break-step and defter Mahraganat-like hustle shot thru with rave stabs. ‘Gary Mission’ follows with corkscrewing delays on a martial kick/snare hustle underlined with swooping subs, and she turns the screws on a belly-tightening hustle with the sparring drum hits and gasps-for-percussion of ’Stepper’.
Romantic Kizomba lilt from DJ Lycox (Tia Maria Produções), stepping out on his first Príncipe session since 2017 with a strong set for the lovers...
Tending to the slower, more melodic and atmospheric side of the Angolan-Lisbon club equation, ‘Kizas do Ly’ arrives earlier than expected with a payload of sultry rhythms and wavey, dusky vibes that offer a warm glow of hope in testing times.
In four instrumental strokes DJ Lycox lets his fingers sing on the keys with with almost baroque-tight counterpoint between his strolling bass and quizzical top lines in ‘Jam’, while ‘Red Lights’ pulls steel drums, glassy percussion and elegant strings into a swaying style calling to mind a slow smudge of reggaeton and Kwaito tropes done by James Ferraro. ‘Babygirl’ follows on a soft focus, dry-iced flex like Palmistry meets Jan Hammer on a deserted Caribbean beach, and ‘Hábitos’ follows with a more lusting tussle of congas, strings and see-sawing bass bound for lights-up moments on the ‘floor.
A gorgeous, properly influential ambient drift classic resurfaces for a 20 year reissue complete with a new extended piece evoking gauzy nostalgia for late ‘90s/early ‘00s styles.
The glimmering iridescent dub electronics of’Summer’ bobs up from 2000 in the wake of a reissue for the reclusive Scottish artist’s lush debut album ‘Do You Ever Regret Pantomime?’ (2001). There’s a legion of people out there for whom this was really one of the most definitive and influential records of the era, originally surfacing via Vertical Form and creating a sort of bridge between the foundational Chain Reaction template and the wave of atmospheric, Detroit-indebted UK Techno typified by the Likemind label, Stasis, Irdial etc.
Newly remastered to taste, the original stretches out to the horizon with a groove and lilt that feels something like a re-wired take on ‘E2-E4’ overseen by Mark Fell and Terre Thaemlitz. It’s just inarguably lush, uplifting gear.
‘Fragile Root’ is exclusive to this release, and, although we’re not sure if it’s new-new, or old-new; either way it’s a perfect example of Ambient sculpting at its slinky and melancholic best, strongly recalling Plaid’s ‘Anything’ (the best ever Plaid track, right?) as well as the new wave of UK based producers at the time orbiting around labels like DeFocus, Headspace etc. A throwback - but weirdly a strongly comforting one.