September late pass: Machinedrum, Jessy Lanza, Traxman

If your September was anywhere as batshit crazy as mine, the flurry of new albums saw a few winners slip through the cracks. Time for another update of Ye Old Late Pass series: September albums edition.

Jessy Lanza

Pull My Hair Back

Drake might be the one with the Aaliyah tattoo but it’s Canadian femme fatales like Rochelle Jordan and now Hamilton, Ontario’s Jessy Lanza who are keeping her spirit alive – and not ripping her off, either. Lanza’s got an airy bedroom voice worthy of the comparison, but her music – co-produced by Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan (a native of nearby Dundas, On) lays those dulcet tones on top of a sheet of bubbly leads and gossamer pads that evoke the dark industrial heart of UK outposts like Sheffield and Manchester. It’s still an R&B record – Lanza’s not-at-all coy lyrics are strictly in love and sex territory – but the aesthetics of tunes like “Fuck Diamond” are pure dance floor. I’m not normally a fan of putting transparently sexy music on when laying down with your special lady but Pull My Hair Back is rhythmic enough that you wouldn’t sink into a Sade coma, and subtle enough that you wouldn’t be cringing while transitioning into cuddling.


Vapor City
Ninja Tune


Travis Stewart’s debut album reminds me of a flip-book animation, where it takes dozens of pages flying past the eye at high speed to show even a slow movement like a wave rolling over. Vapor City is full of garishly chopped samples and trash-compactor breaks chewing through the mesh of your speakers, but the mood is set by the neon rays of synths streaking across the melancholy stereo field. The disc is more soothing than anything with this much beat activity should be; it’s like discovering that sleeping on broken glass is more comfortable than on a mattress. (Do not try this at home. We here at a-void inc cannot be held liable for dumb shit we thought was just a useful metaphor.) At least, that’s how I hear it, as a generally anxious and uneasy person. Your mileage may vary, depending on sanity.


Teklife Vol. 3: The Architek
Lit City Trax 


The first thing that struck me when I heard Traxman‘s new disc – the second I’ve heard, following his Planet Mu full length Da Mind of Traxman, though given his lengthy career, hardly his second release – was how slick it was compared to his fellow footwork/juke producers. Half the time I can’t figure out where the beat is, which is part of the fun, although I can’t even begin to imagine how people dance to it. (I’m probably not listening to it loud enough.) But even when the vocal samples are so frenetically chopped up that they sound like a distress signal being frantically issued in morse code, you can generally figure out where you are. The other thing that struck me when I heard Teklife Vol. 3: The Architek was that whether he’s whipping midnight-love 70s-R&B samples and melancholy strings into a froth (“I’m the Life of the Party”) or beating your ass with sirens and drum machines pitched so low they’ll knock the pictures off the wall (“Manic”), there’s a real ruggedness to the productions, and I think it comes from just how spare they really are. There’s no lack of sophistication in Traxman’s work, far from it, but damn if he doesn’t manage to conjure up a Blade-Runner-y dystopia of grime and smog out of at most two vocal samples, a couple of drum sounds and enough bass to collapse the skulls of small animals. And yes, that is a compliment.

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