Favourite Five || November

Ploy - Unruly EP [Hemlock Recordings]

It’s more of the same from Ploy and Hemlock Recordings, a same characterised by intensely dark, heavy and atmospheric music production. Although the producer and label are by no means standing still, as seen by their most recent release ‘Unruly’.

Following the appropriately titled ‘Intrigued By The Drum’ (Ploy’s July Timedance release) the producer returns to Hemlock to delve deep into music appropriate for some of the shortest, darkest days of the year. We’ve heard Ploy in this mood before, on Hessle Audio, with the Midland-essential-mix-gracing ‘Move Yourself’. Disregarding the usual ebb and flow of electronic music and in favour of incessant tracks which move and change while never letting up, it’s far from the rinse and repeat formula so often seen in electronic music.

‘Unruly’ goes deeper and darker than ‘Move Yourself’. ‘Garys’ and ‘Unruly’ are two heavy, intense and driving tracks that never let up, while Ploy plays with abstract percussion and the offbeat atmospheric additives that characterise many of Hemlock’s releases. 

Despite, this he allows himself the space for the aptly named ‘After Hours’, an emotive, ambient work out that sets the EP apart, while firmly aligning Ploy with the group of producers who bounce around labels like Timedance, Hessle Audio and Hemlock, marrying techno with what be, arguably, described as the front end of the 21st century’s answer to modern classical music.  

While I’m not keen to categorise producers, Ploy is one of a number of young artists, associated with UK labels, who are making some of the most forward thinking music around. And with Call Super’s ‘Arpo’ released earlier this month, there is a hope on the horizon for some truly exceptional LPs. ‘Unruly’ is another exceptional EP, forward looking and an expansion on his previous releases, the young Australian can surely only continue in this vein. 

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Various Artists - Spirits [Crosstown Rebels]

Spirits is the first in a new annual compilation series on Crosstown Rebels. Label founder Damian Lazarus has compiled what he describes as “a fresh psychedelic journey into the mind”, aiming to bring together a collection of new artists from both his imprints. From deep house to tech house to techno the eleven tracks on the emotive compilation flow seamlessly.  The release features tracks by artists like dubspeeka, Robbie Akbal, Pale Blue, Audiojack, among others.

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Verb T & Pitch 92 - Good Evening [High Focus]

When High Focus announced that one of the label’s founders and UK Hip-hop OG, Verb T, would be teaming up with the talented producer Pitch 92, formerly of the Mouse Outfit, fans of the scene were both excited and trepidatious. The prospect of the legendary Verbs and explosive new talent Pitch 92 collaborating created a lot of pressure for the result to be as exceptional as the pair’s individual careers up until that point. 

Happily, the sixteen track album is an instant classic. 

Featuring most of the High Focus family, and some other dons of the genre, established and upcoming, the record brings Hip-hop heads exactly what they have come to love about the High Focus style- slick verses over imaginative, tight beats.

Each track is short, averaging 3 minutes long, and the album listens like a mix-tape. It is incredibly varied, packed with vocal and instrumental samples and adding elements of jazz, dub, grime and R&B into the ad hoc melting pot of the UK Hip-hop sound. Verses from Rye Shabby, Moreone, Black Josh, Ocean Wisdom, King Kashmere, BVA, Sparkz, DRS, Jehst and Fliptrix are scattered throughout.

As has been Verb’s style in the past, the album is both light-hearted and heavily political, touching on issues of mental health, drug abuse, artificial intelligence, relationships, failure, consumerism and friendships. Since 2011, when he started High Focus with Fliptrix, Leafdog and BVA, Verb T has grown and matured with the label, and the raw talent that inspired its inception six years ago has been steadily honed and nurtured into a measured tight flow, overflowing with ingenious wordplay and smart rhymes. Good Evening exemplifies this, and is bolstered by Pitch 92’s bold and playful production. The common trait of the tracks is a no frills, upfront texture that doesn’t hide behind overproduction. Some tracks follow a traditional song structure, with pithy, catchy choruses, and some have a more unstructured feel, with the instrumental just a backdrop to show off lyrical talent. Some are subversive, most are wryly funny, and verses are often written in a sort of stream of consciousness, allowing the words to touch on heavy topics without seeming grandiose or preachy. 

Although there are no dud tracks on the album, a rare achievement, my favourites are ‘Mates Rates’ and ‘They Say’. ‘Mates Rates’, featuring Rye Shabby, Moreone and Black Josh, feels very old school- just a rough repetitive instrumental with artists spitting bars over the top. The ominous, drum heavy beat, looping with simple minor chords and a straightforward baseline, leaves space around the verse, letting each rapper’s individual style- their accent, their intonation, their personality- express itself. Black Josh’s verse is a highlight- his Mancunian accent licks around his lyrics, leaving you breathless. ‘They Say’, which features DRS, is a smooth and smoke-like track, with a whimsical chorus which warms your heart.  The whole album is a joy to listen to, and deeply fortifying. Another banger from the seemingly invincible High Focus.

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Crump – Ice and Spheres EP [Idle Hands]

Bristol based, Idle Hands continue to fly the flag for local up and coming talent and the next artist to add to the list is Crump. Previously releasing some snappy House cuts on Extended Play and Banoffee Pies, the West Country beat-smith has outdone himself with a 12” that truly makes his mark.

In keeping with the Idle Hands thread, both tracks contain an obvious dub-weighted presence. The A-side is a 2-step shuffler with warm, low blowing dub like synths. The track is peppered with subtle spacey samples, distant spooky vocals and other sonic sounds that lurk behind the scenes, altogether creating an eerie number that can cut through any mix. On the flip side, ‘Mechanisms’ maintains a steady 4/4 rhythm and minimal framework, with a broken beat drum pattern and well-lit chords that swing in and out of the picture. With this, the track leans more to the house end of the spectrum and completes the release with a brighter, more up-beat presence.

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Kiwi - Marmora's Theme EP [17 Steps]

Euro-Cosmic Italo-Donk - we’ve perused Beatport recently and that certainly isn’t a genre - but if it was, then burgeoning London producer Kiwi’s latest offering - ‘Marmora’s Theme’ EP would most certainly fit the bill. 

First leaving the masses transfixed as a staple of Hunee’s sets over the summer, the title track and spellbinding accomplices on the rest of the EP have finally arrived. Tingling piano with a pervasive melody sets this one apart throughout. Paired with a Tuff City Kids remix and the incessant low-slung chug of ‘OTH’ all on the side for the basement hours - this is a surefire staple to add to the collection. With releases already on Optimo Music, Correspondent, Futureboogie, and now 17 Steps; Kiwi has well and truly arrived. One of the picks of the year this.

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Selected by Hugo B, Barney C, Dora T, Brook P & Marcus P