With hip-hop vocal samples and snare/hi-hat rolls aplenty, 20-year old Slam Skillet‘s “Rachis” EP seems to check all the pre-requisites of today’s electronic music production. Yet unlike most music by basement beatmakers, the first track, “Yukon,” begins with a bird-song sample that soon becomes a mainstay of this decidedly avian record. Olivier Messiaen he ain’t, but evolutionary biology major Slam Skillet – also known as Sam Stevens – has found unlikely Ableton inspiration in the outdoors.
“Yukon” continues with a filter sweep that brings in some rhythmic horn jabs and a heavily processed rap hook. With subtle but banging basslines and several funky synths used, the EP gives nod to Com Truise and the more dancefloor-ready sounds of Grenier. “Gemsbok/Chamois” stands out for its laidback Nujabes vibe, credited to the cabasa sound that keep the track shuffling along.
Stevens’ skill is in his ability to joyfully weave common and unexpected elements into a beat that makes you want to sit back, bob your head and watch the world go by. This is music made for headphones and spring days – so start vibing.
James Blake’s first new song in over a year is a gorgeous, grieving, blues-inflected ballad. If you think that description might fit every James Blake song post-CMYK, you’re not far wrong. “Retrograde” exhibits many trademark Blake sounds — the straining vocals over rousing piano chords, catchy melodies, wistful lyrics, all on top of rumbling bass and buzzing synths that kick in halfway through à la “Unluck.” Now, though, Blake’s sound is even more acoustic, substituting the vocal looping tomfoolery of his 2011 self-titled debut with good old fashioned harmonies, and paring down the beats to a kick drum and handclap. James Blake’s forthcoming album, Overgrown, is out April 8 via Republic.
FaltyDL, real name Drew Lustman, makes music as though he were born and bred in the U.K. bass scene. The New Haven, Conn. producer’s third album, Hardcourage, is a perfectly crafted collection of two-step-inspired tracks rippling with hi-hats and reverberating synths.
Hardcourage’s electronic mission is well punctuated with poppy vocals, as on standout track “She Sleeps,” which features the Feeder-esque croonings of Friendly Fires’ frontman Ed Macfarlane. “Straight and Arrow,” the first single from the album released last fall, exhibits a typical house vocal sample moulded into a relentless groove. This song soon melts into the subtle mastery of “Uncea,” which chugs along to a constant tambourine line punctuated with hand claps.
We know very little about Helsinki-based duo Phantom, other than that “Kisses” is an utterly beautiful second single from the pair. With just one EP under their belt, singer Hanna Toivonen and producer Tommi Koskinen found fans in the xx last year, who shared Phantom’s video on their tumblr. Like their British admirers, Phantom ooze whispered vocals over sparse accompaniments and ululating beats. “Kisses” is a promising track–if Phantom can manage to sample Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1″ without making a classical music fan cry, they’re onto a good thing.
There could not be a more promising start to 2013 than a collaboration between Glaswgow-based beatmaker Koreless and producer/singer Sampha. In 2012, Korelessreleased “Lost in Tokyo,” a track of beautifully minimal and melodic 2-step inflected electronica on Jacques Greene’s Vase label (he also guested on Greene’s Concealer EP.) Now he’s teamed up with SBTRKT-affiliate Sampha, forming Short Stories and releasing ”On The Way,” a rippling, crooning tune that marks the perfect musical start to a new year–and to any DJ set. Short Stories’ debut two-track EP will be out on Jan. 28 via Young Turks.