The Bug & Dis Fig – In Blue

Just before the lockdown in early March, Kevin Martin moved from Berlin to Brussels. After ten years in the capital of Germany, he and his family were in for a change. For Martin, used to super-diverse Brixton, Berlin turned out to be a bit too mono-cultural.

Last month we spoke about his move for cultural magazine Gonzo (circus). Read the January/February issue (only in print) if you want to know more. His dancehall sound system and regular night Pressure remain at Gretchen, a club located in Berlin’s Kreuzberg area. Due to the covid-19 measurements, Martin still has to find out if Brussels is ready for his dancehall madness.

Before moving, Martin recorded a couple of albums. Last year he released Wrecked, as Zonal and together with long-time collaborator Justin Broadrick. Sedatives, a solo album under his own name Kevin Richard Martin, came out just a couple of months ago. I’ll link to the albums below.

Although US-born Felicia Chen aka Dis Fig lives in Berlin, she and Martin recorded In Blue without meeting each other in the studio. Last year, Dis Fig released Purge, a dark, rough, in times bombastic, industrial, experimental noise album on which Chen uses her voice mostly as an instrument.

The skeleton for In Blue dates back to 2018 when Martin recorded songs for a radio show. Early on in his explorations in music, he fell in love with dub and dancehall. Most of his recent projects are excursions to the borders of those genres. As The Bug, he combines a more studio scientific approach to dub and dancehall with a deep emotional longing for the dance floor. Both are equally important, although they seem to be extremes.

On the album In Blue, Chen uses her voice much more in a songlike vocal structure. Her vocals are thin, high-pitched and ghost-like, giving the deep fuzzy and noisy basslines the necessary counterbalance. Without them, the minimal dancehall rhythms, stripped from all melody and warmth would sound too rough and alienating.

Martin mixed the album in his new home studio in Brussels during the lockdown, and that makes it easy to interpret In Blue as a claustrophobic reaction to the isolation and loneliness fueled by the hopeless situation of being confined in your own home. In the last song ‘End In Blue’, the only thing left is the airy vocals of Chen on repetition. Martin and Chen refer to the sound of this album as ‘Tunnel Sound’: a foggy, melancholic meltdown of narco-dancehall, zoned soul and dread drenched, electronic dub. 

The result is as beautiful as it is scary.

In Blue by The Bug & Dis Fig is released by Hyperdub.

Additional links
Wrecked by Zonal is on Bandcamp.
Sedatives by Kevin Richard Martin is on Bandcamp.
Purge by Dis Fig is on Bandcamp.


Immediate Proximity – 2334

Imagine the coronavirus is here to stay and we don’t find a cure. In fact, it is mutating rapidly. We need to stay inside and keep a meter-and-a-half distance. After a few years, there are violent protests against the government enforcing the rules and we drift into a totalitarian state with killer drones roaming the streets.

I’m just imagining here, right.

Well, if we need a soundtrack for that future, 2334 will do just fine. It’s cold, metallic, dark and rough. With song titles like ‘Skynet Skanner’ and ‘Broken Ether’, it also hints to less attractive futures. When lived, because imagining those futures is part of the way we deal with uncertainty.

2334 is the debut by Immediate Proximity, the first musical collaboration between Diana Napirelly and Niels Luinenburg. We know Luinenburg as Delta Funktionen. He currently lives in Berlin and is resident at Tresor where he curates the ‘Let’s Watch UFOs’ nights. Napirelly is a dj based in Saint Petersburg. Both worked for over a year on 2334 in Luinenburg’s Berlin studio.

There are a lot of references to earlier work by Delta Funktionen, but Immediate Proximity lacks Luinenburg’s more playful, glitchy side. There is no escaping the directness of 2334. It’s a full-force kick in the stomach. Maybe that’s why the duo uses visual esthetics associated with 80s sci-fi to go with the album. It takes the edges of just a little bit.

The same playfulness is present in the way both producers describe their music: sci-fi tribalism. Hints to the core of techno culture (the tribe) and the lost future (sci-fi).

Musically, there is no escaping the machinery: this is as minimalistic as it gets. The beats punch like metal through glass, leaving no alternative than to go forward. The few tracks without beats are even more terrifying: steel-cold ambient for industrial wastelands. Opener ‘The Apocalyptic Cult’, driven by a dry sluggish beat, leads the way.

2334 forces you to submit to the cold and repetitive techno machine. In a way, it could be seen as a metaphor for the corona virus.

There is no escape, only submission.

Let’s hope 2334 will never become the soundtrack of our society. Meanwhile it is very pleasant to imagine it does.

Submit and enjoy.

2334 by Immediate Proximity is released by a Radio Matrix.

ambient classical

Jan Wagner – Kapitel

The early days of spring combined with solitude are perfectly expressed by Kapitel, the second album by Jan Wagner. Wagner lives and works in Berlin. He produced releases on the Berghain Ost Gut record label in the Faust Studio Scheer. In 2018 he released Nummern, a beautiful album full of ambient based on piano improvisations. This second one isn’t that different. Wagner is doing what he does best.

That is finding the beautiful spots in-between: piano chords that blend into a lingering sound, the sounds of the mechanics of the piano. Even surrounding sounds in the studio. That way of working gives his music a feel that is so familiar in ambient and a lot of electronic music. Harmony and even melody fade in a blur of non-distinctive sounds. The result is beautiful.

Wagner combines his skill as a pianist and musician with his experience as an electronic music producer. Using his piano improvisations as a basis to build new sound structures. On Kapitel this approach leads to stunning ambient that opens up space for the listener to fill in. Like in ‘Kapital 27’, one of the longest tracks on the album, where dominant piano chords are drowned in a pool of ecstatic sounds that keep building up.

Music that makes you blissfully happy while being lonely.

Kapitel by Jan Wagner is released on Quiet Love Label.


Oval – Scis

For nearly thirty years Markus Popp aka Oval is using external processes like glitch, software, hardware and AI to compose electronic music with.

Since his move from Cologne to Berlin, Popp seems to be even more open for generative influences, taking a step back from the production process. After the lovely Popp album releases in 2016 that was influenced by club music, he turned back to his software and more nerdy stuff, gave workshops in algorithmic production and did a solo exhibition in London. Now he is back with new music.

The results are a new album Scis and ep Eksploio, both filled with electronic experiments that partly go back to the open and experimental periods of Oval in the late nineties and early 2000s. From dreamy to rough, playful to rigid. It’s all on there and laced with that sound that is so typical for Oval, no other non-Oval would be able to do that. Welcome back Markus!

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Scis by Oval is released on Thrill Jockey Records.