Hippos In Tanks
While visual artists have been quick to adapt to the internet's Babel of information, musicians have been slow to comment directly on the vast digital buzz. Hippos In Tanks, as a label, has admirably pushed this conversation forwards while also displaying a fierce devotion to the traditional mediums of CD and vInyl. James Ferraro's "Farside Virtual" (Hippos In Tanks, 2011) was seen as a comment on emerging personality types in the face of rampant technoconsumerism, but in retrospect, can be seen as Ferraro's first step out of the cassette underground into sleeker rnb/hip-hop influenced production Gatekeeper's "Exo" had them abandoning the Carpenter-esque VHS aesthetics of their previous releases, even hiring internet artist Tabor Robak to create a playable game for reach song. The most successful effort in creating a musical analog to endless internet-meme driven communication is ADR's "Chunky Monkey".
The record succeeds first and foremost because Aaron David Ross (1/2 of the Gatekeeper) is a completely badass producer. I woudn't be suprised if legitimate pop production is in his future based off of the seemingly effortless genre tourism on display here. Opener "Casual Friday" places samples of sitcom saxaphones against a loping 303 and eerie processed piano that could be lifted from a Prologue release. "Sumo" seems to be an oblique comment on 90s boom-bap, while "What It Takes" could be lifted from a sinister Sprite commercial. "Stray Dog Strut" could be seen as ADR's reading of Sly and Robbie digidub, but in this tune, the comment on internet culture is palpable. In the midst of innocuous and expertly produced genre-exercises, ADR is prone to interrupt with unsettling samples (e.g. a screaming chorus of roller coaster riders) to fray the edges. The effect has an uncanny resemblance to cruising through life with 15 tabs open.
The record's absolute highlight is "Don't Fret", which plays a gorgeous Art of Noise/Badalamenti influenced pad against a trip-hop inspired beat. At the edge of the track, a sample that sounds like a paper cutter whittles away, creating digital scraps for the next visionary.
On The Prowl
The OTP/Let's Play House crew and affiliates come correct on the latest installment in the label's "Party Breaks" series. Marcos Cabral is up first, with a boxy proto-house edit that will appeal to fans of Jesse Saunders' "On and On", Sharevari, et al. Kon is up next, emphasizing a beautiful piano progression for a perfect disco funk edit on the level of his brilliant reading of Sylvester from 2012. OTP co-founder Jacques Renault opens the b-side with Love Reaction, which evokes Frankie Knuckles' more lurid tracks. Finally, Woohoo takes things out with "NIghtwalker", a nuanced, slightly cosmic disco/house edit.
Last NIght On Earth
Solid EP from the Irish producer/Bicep affiliate. While the A-side appears to ply the drum swing and vocal cut-ups of the 90s house revival, these tracks are more melancholy than your average Local Talk stomper. Opener, "HI Rollin" gains momentum from a looped vocal sample, yet a rich Crumar-esque string synth sets the track apart. The B-side is slightly more referential to bass music, the deep "Nassau Storm" sounds like early-Kraftwerk reimagined by FWD residents.
The young NYC producer continues his hot streak on this sought-after white label from UK outlet Rubadub. Naples has stated that since his breakout "Mad Disrespect", he's been considerate about which labels he works with and the purpose and feel of reach release. That seems to be the case here - true to white label tradition, this one is meant to put in work. The tracks are built around impossibly catchy loops, joined by the odd melodic progression. The bursts of melody become percussive during a breakdown on "Faceless", and when the kick drops, it becomes apparent the track is Naples' oddball attempt to hit on classic house joy. Limited.
Royal Crown of Sweden
The aforementioned Naples' seems unsatisfied with merely maintaining his own breakneck release pace, and has started a new label, Proibito, to showcase a rising wave of US underground talent. Kansas City producer Huerco S.is the focus of this release (under his Royal Crown of Sweden alias), and he emerges with the tape hiss enhanced dub-house that's made his previous output (through Opal Tapes and Boomkat Editions) so intriguing. "Vättern" sounds like Donato Dozzy reworked by Heiroglyphic Being. L.I.E.S. dudes Steve Summers, Bookworms and Lori Antenes bring the fractured funk for their reworking of "Vnern", which may have come from the same hazy jam sessions that birthed their new Confused House imprint.
Pittsburgh Track Authority
The Pittsburgh Crew puts on their boogie shoes for their new EP on Atlanta's Rotating Souls records. "April Boogie" is a Moog-driven electrofunk jam, featuring boogie legend Craig Peyton (as previously heard on the group's collaboration with Pittsburgh producer Nicerec). The track bears a melodic complexity that's been absent from previous work, and sounds a bit like a dubwise reimagining of the soundtrack to Beverly HIlls Cop. "Revelation" is an ace, atmosphere strutting edit, while the floating drums on the awesome "Moving 2 Hard" bring Can's "Vitamin C" to mind.