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Deep Voices #70
All bangers, no clangers
After the last Deep Voices’ became an unexpected meditation on death (sorry), I thought this time it would be fun to…not do that. This edition is all great electronic music from 2023. There’s techno, house, jungle, cruise, and maybe dub techno? I’m not sure what to call some of this stuff. What do know is it’s all killer, no filler. All bangers, no clangers. All fire, no quagmire. Notes on select tracks below, but first an announcement:
Hello from my first day as a professional writer! Last Friday was my last day at Vice; I’ll be working full time on a memoir-ish thing (imagine Eat Pray Love but Jewish, grieving, and with more Rollins Band) and writing Deep Voices weekly. So after three years, I’m turning on payments for Deep Voices. Subscribing to Deep Voices means supporting my writing and the work I take to bring you these playlists, essays, and notes. I won’t be paywalling any of the writing or regular playlists, but I will be giving subscribers access to two Spotify playlists I use to make Deep Voices: what I call my “scratch pad,” which contains any song I think could be good for a playlist in the future (currently 877 songs and 65 hours) and my ongoing best songs of the year playlist that I cull down to make the annual Deep Voices best songs of the year playlist. Everyone else has to wait until December. Not you! If you have any questions about subscriptions or things you’d like to see in order to subscribe, please comment or email me. Thank you!
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I went to Berlin a week ago to visit a friend and when there, made a stop at Hard Wax, the legendary techno record store in Kreuzberg. It was exciting! It’s a small shop up a few flights of stairs with several rows of records, all organized alphabetically by record label. I was hoping to buy a copy of Wata Igarashi’s album and went straight to the K labels, assuming they would have a section for Kompakt, the longrunning German electronic label that released it. But there was no Kompakt section. I was surprised. Is Kompakt not cool? Even if Kompakt is uncool, I figured I’d at least find Igarashi’s album there, a Kompakt singleton, filed under the section various K labels. No dice. I stood there imagining there was some Hard Wax vs Kompakt beef that everyone knew about that I was somehow ignorant of. Should I be kicked out of Hard Wax for being desirous of a Kompakt LP? Das ist verboten! But I want you all to be proud that I got up the nerve to ask the clerk who did a search and confirmed they were not carrying it. He was very nice about it.
I left with two records: Head High’s “Break Away” 12″ and Yetsuby’s Water Flash 12″, both of which have a track featured on this edition of Deep Voices. Head High is a German artist also known as Shed. Shed is a more clinical techno project than Head High, which is more loosey goosey, focused on house, though he’s also played with jungle drums, and even a touch of disco. “Break Away” is a joy. It starts off with UK garage drums, gives way to house keys, before it becomes basically a fully Balearic anthem complete with cowbell. Fantastic!
Like Head High, Yetsuby, who is one half of the Korean duo Salamanda, is ebullient on “Water Flash.” It’s all digital, but it is a close enough facsimile to qualify as a part of my favorite micro-genre: flute house (see perfect example “D to the A Train” by Boof aka Maurice Fulton). The little splish splash sounds are playful, the bass keeps it funky. The whole thing is extremely tidily produced. An immaculate track that is definitely a favorite of the year. I’ve been listening to the whole EP on repeat; the last track slows everything down. It’s not ambient but it’s much more wide open and meditative. The title is in Korean and I just looked it up on Google Translate. It’s great. “물먹는하마,” or “Hippopotamus Drinking Water.”
Can Tim Reaper do no wrong? Difficult to pick any one song from the master of jungle, but I loved how “The Orbit” has sweeps of tabla and crashes of cymbals. The amen break, playing pretty much constantly on every jungle song, even takes a little…break and we get a beatless passage towards the end of the song. Genius of Time, though not quite as prolific as Tim Reaper, are just as consistent. The duo’s productions are meticulous and “CS70 House” (a reference to the synthesizer it was composed on) is a mid-pace stepper with handclaps. Play this at any wedding, at any club, on any subway during showtime. It’s useful, clever, sweet music by professionals. I often like when people play around in the sandbox but they and Reaper are true craftsmen and their handiwork is undeniable.
I’ve written before about the power of Pavel Milaykov aka Buttechno, but this guy is having a massive run in 2023. Though his breakthrough records have been in techno and its offshoots, he’s recently explored other realms of experimental music. Blue, a duo album with singer Yana Pavlova, is one of my favorites, and I wrote about that record’s coolness in Deep Voices #64. In July he released another duo album with a vocalist, singer Tris. Instead of smoky rock (though some guitar does appear), this album is straight up dance jams. The song titles are great. “XTC Kicked In,” “My Hair Funk,” and the song I included here, the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin “DnB Jan.” I assume that’s either a drum n bass song they made in January or a typo of “jam.” Works either way. At this point I will listen to anything this guy does. Duet with a Norwegian saxophonist? Check. Minimal techno EP? Check. Sprawling techno with shoegazey guitar? Yep, checking. I especially like his other, other new project, Pmxper, another duo with a vocalist, Perila. It sounds more like Sonic Youth than Goldie. Buttechno: a real man for all people. Specifically me.
I do not speak Yoruba, so the content of this TikTok is unfortunately lost on me. A small child who appears fairly flustered pleads with someone, his mother perhaps, for something. To me, it seems somewhat upsetting, watching a kid cry, but it can’t be too bad because multiple DJs in the Nigerian cruise music scene have sampled the audio. I prefer YK Mule’s, which is titled “Shefepamini Fine Fish Pie.” The song’s art on streaming services is a screen shot of the kid crying. Can someone explain to me what is going on here?
Or maybe don’t?! The song is catchy and weird and maybe it’s better a mystery. Is a there a reason for me to know why a man drawls out “Fine fish pie!” across the beat? Is it a lament that the fish pie is only acceptable? Or is there punctuation needed, a frustrated acceptance of fish pie ala, “Fine! Fish pie.” Fish pie again?! Mom!
Deeply enthused one evening, I texted a link to this song to a friend who more historically is a folk and rock music fan. “I realize this may not be your thing,” I said. But she had to hear it. And it does appear “Fine Fish Pie” is for everyone. “Absolute bop,” she said. “Am I not human?”