The greatest DJ of all time John Peel played his music before ‘breakcore’ existed as a recognized genre. Thom Yorke of Radiohead once called his music ‘menacing.’ He opened for Radiohead in 2001.
Christoph de Babalon AKA Jan-Christoph Wolter is an electronic music producer from Hamburg, Germany. His discography is exhaustive, but he hasn’t always produced dark, intense breakbeats. According to his profile, he withdrew from the music scene in 2001 to compose music for theater and dance before making a comeback in 2008.
Now back to basics, the 4-track Grim Zenith EP is refreshing as it is melancholic. The track ‘Could We Be?’ kicks off the record with a gloomy breakbeat against the nasty sub bass that bounces around the eardrums. Haunting but poetic. Grab the album on Bandcamp or Boomkat.
I remember buying this random disc in Palo Alto, California while at summer camp in high school. I had probably read a review about it in an issue of URB Magazine, which was one of my primary 90s go-to sources for discovering fresh underground music.
In the CD age, everything was a $14.99 crapshoot. You really never knew what type of sound you were going to hear, let alone if the music was worth the price tag. But I got lucky with Smith & MightyBass is Maternal, 15-tracks that introduced me to the sound of dub while also converging elements of techno, hip-hop, and jungle music. Their music planted the seeds for the Bristol trip-hop explosion from Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky.
I don’t think you’ll find the album on any of the streaming services (here’s the Amazon link for the CD) but if you’re going to start digging, start with the crispy breakbeats on the track ‘Evolve.’
Shugo Tokumaru is a Japanese singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He’s basically a one-man show.
But you don’t need to understand his native Japanese to dig his euphoric melodies, such as the jubilant track ‘Bricolage Music’ which pops and claps in a fidgety rhythm before breaking open to a balearic jam at the two-minute mark.
Yasmine Hamdan is a Parisian-based electronic musician who grew up in war-torn Lebanon. While’s she gained a reputation in the Middle East as an underground artist, her latest solo record Al Jamilat plans to unleash her to a broader audience. The track ‘La Ba’den’ offers dreamy electronic Arab vibes. Compelling stuff.
+ Listen to her interview on the latest Gilles Peterson show.
Liam Bailey is a soul and reggae artist from Nottingham, England. He’s collaborated with drum n bass producers Chase and Status and Shy FX, as well as Amy Winehouse and more recently, Gorillaz.
The reggae-infused track ‘When Will They Learn’ originally released on vinyl in 2011 but got a rerelease in 2013 on Magic Records. An untrained vocalist, Bailey says his raw singing is reminiscent of the sounds of vinyl, something the greatest rock DJ John Peel also echoed.
“I don’t want to compare myself to magic, but imperfections are what make us human.”
Jan Jelinek is a Berlin-based electronic producer. He’s known for his abstract style of moiré in which he reduces beat patterns to a third dimension.
The minimalist track ‘Tendency’ appears on the album Loop – Finding – Jazz – Records, originally released in 2001. So it predates the dub-techno framework later adopted by Burial and the likes of Forest Swords.
Thrupence is Jack Vanzet, a multidisciplinary artist from Melbourne, Australia. In addition to graphic design and illustration expertise — his Instagram account is dope — he makes electronic beats.
After a long series of original mixtapes, he’s crafted a debut album called Ideas of Aesthetics. The nine-track album represents a collection of songs he’s produced over the last six years, including two collaborations with his brother Edward on vocals. “It has become a diary of places I’ve lived and people I’ve met over this time,” says the artist.
‘Forest On The Sun’ and ‘Rinse Repeat’ are my two favorite tracks on the album, mixing elements of soft piano and choppy electronic beats that’ll make you nod your head and smile 😉
Noga Erez is an electronic music producer from Tel Aviv. ‘Off the Radar’ is one of the lead singles from her debut album of the same name.
Noga’s electro-pop vibes will most certainly remind you of MIA’s adventurism. Says the artist, “have this idea of giving people moments of thought and inspiration, and at the same time offering escapism and fun.”
‘Wet Summer’ is his latest groove, set to appear on a mini-LP on the emoji-titled album :~^ (yes, that’s the name!) via Omena Records. Says Wildblood, “Hopefully there’s something for every occasion, the club, cooking dinner, walking the dog… that’s the hope anyway.”
Andy Mac is a Bristol-based electronic music producer. While his past solo projects focused on deep house and broken beat, his most recent release Diving Bird sees him pay respects to Bristol’s dub heritage.
‘Horse Fly Dub’ is one of the standout tracks, conjuring the hazy rhythms of island life at night.
“And with Horse Fly there was a particular rhythm in the drums in some reggae that has always fascinated me because it doesn’t seem to run half time or it runs double time even and I think I was thinking about that a lot. You listen to some of these tracks and it almost sounds like country music, which I think was quite big in Jamaica. Poor and Clean by Gregory Isaacs would be an obvious example for me.”