NETVERK – January 2013

Your monthly guide to the world of netlabels and netaudio, this month featuring new chillwave, hip-hop, techno, dubstep and indie from Flying Lotus' alter-ego Captain Murphy, Cities Aviv, Ingen, Patscan, Kemper Norton, HLI, Hot Sugar, Rusko and more!

Blog by Bram E. Gieben | 09 Jan 2013

Welcome back to NETVERK for 2013! Netverk provides a monthly guide to free, self-released and independent music, unsigned and untroubled by commercialism, major-label interference and conformist notions of genre. We want to support emerging artists from across the musical spectrum, and hopefully shine a light on new talents you may not have stumbled across yet. This month we've got a ton of stuff by unheard and unsigned artists, alongside some free and under-the-radar releases from the better-known likes of Rusko and Flying Lotus. Your chariot to the internet awaits....

The beats on Cities Aviv's mixtape for Mishka NYC nod to '80s synthpop and electro in a similar way to how Burial nods to 2-step and garage - they are often muted, distant, as though being played in a large warehouse somewhere in the vicinity. The vocals, too, are often occulted or made strange by layers of reverb and decay, giving the whole tape a haunted, broken-down, washed-out feel. With a guest appearance by Maria Minerva of 100% Silk / Not Not Fun and production by Cities Aviv and a host of accomplices (including the mysterious RPLDGHOSTS, whose I Drank Up All The Clouds is a highlight) it's a muted, understated journey with some dark corners and a cryptic lyrical bent. Grab a free copy here.

With praise from the Darkfloor crew and a whole host of other influential blogs, and a solid 2012 release on Acroplane, techno producer Patscan comes highly recommended. Returning to the excellent Digital Distortions, his Stum Futter EP showcases both sides of this versatile producer's talent. The title track capably wields uptempo breakbeat and funk-laced electro-bass, while Swoosh delves deeper into dark, claustrophobic post-dubstep territory. The spaced-out glitch-house of Mad-Tek's remix is a nice contrast, as is the Spandex remix, which deconstructs Swoosh as melancholic breakbeat workout. The EP will set you back £3.

Another artist who has released on Digital Distortions (as reviewed in the magazine) is Edinburgh's Ingen. He honed his productions playing live sets of dark-edged, dub-laced techno in clubs, and has recently been putting out a whole slew of superb tracks on a variety of labels. His latest EP, Griefection, comes via Edinburgh's Fixate Records, and features two dark and edgy, understated bassbin-rumblers.

Returning to the sun-drenched, electronic shoegaze territory of last month's column, we discovered this rather lovely self-titled EP by Southend-on-Sea's FEMALE. With FX-drenched vocals and treated, looped guitar over narcotic, minimalist beats, this is an exquisite EP of introverted, studied synth-pop. Opener Perfect Human is the standout track. Grab the EP on a pay-what-you-want basis. FEMALE is also a video artist - check out the video for Aubrey Plaza below.

Kemper Norton's description of his music as 'slurtronic coastal folk' has a certain self-effacing ring to it, but it doesn't do justice to the lush, hauntological beauty of tracks like 22.8.99, a highlight from his two new EPs, Carn 1 and Carn 2. Featured as a live performer by Brighton's seminal club The Outer Church, and championed on podcasts for years by writer Warren Ellis, Norton's spectral, stately productions unfold with a casual, elegant grace that belies their complex arrangement. Composed of field recordings, traditional instruments and electronic noise, they blur and blend the organic and the technological to the point of indistinction, and then separate them out again, exposing the fragile bones of each. An important artist, whose work will appeal to fans of Ghost Box and Pye Corner Audio. The EPs will cost you £4 each.

An artist without a specific release out at the moment, but who we've got our eye on thanks to the Aural Sects crew on Twitter, is TWOS. Staying in similar sonic territory - reference points; shoegaze, ambient and trip-hop - occupied by the likes of Stumbleine and Balam Acab, TWOS' dreamy compositions feature delicately picked guitar, sun-faded vocals and side-chained, found-sound beats, with the delicate compositions sometimes breaking down into walls of feedback and noise. The latest TWOS track Beautiful (She) is nothing short of exquisite - definitely an artist to watch in 2013. There are a whole bunch of free tracks up on TWOS Soundcloud page. Just as we went to press, TWOS released a debut EP on Aural Sects - a lot of the tracks have been available via TWOS' Soundcloud page, but the AS crew have a FLAC option. The EP - Feel - is free to download.

Speaking of Aural Sects, they've remained busy over the festive period, with a slew of new EPs on offer. One sound they are helping to corner the market in is a kind of updated '80s goth-electro-disco, with hints of industrial and techno thrown in. We've already championed Manchester's fantastic VS//YOUTHCLUB in this column - if you liked them, you'll love Psychic Rites. The whole of their self-titled EP is superb, but the standout track is the Sisters of Mercy-meets-Italo Disco insta-classic What Limit. 

UK rapper Joey Prolapse released an EP of tracks back in September, some of which have previously seen the light of day as single tracks. He's also cropped up on a bunch of Mr Loop tracks under the name Yosh. With a delightfully weird, freeform storytelling style, Prolapse takes on a range of subjects, from supermarket stoner paranoia, in the fantastically odd Death by Convenience (which features the hilarious image of "fresh cuts from a spherical cow") to surveillance culture (on Nothing But A Number) and extraordinary rendition and torture on the wickedly infectious Black Bags and Cable Ties (below). The EP - entitled Unexpected Item in Bagging Area - is available on a pay-what-you-want basis. After the track there's a short video of Joey Prolapse talking about his love of hip-hop as an artform.

Blogged by Mishka, Vice and The 405 on its release, one mixtape that has been blowing minds across the world is the fantastic Midi Murder by multi-intsrumentalist producer Hot Sugar. Featuring guest appearances from Das Racist alum Heems, his pal Big Baby Ghandi, and Mishka debutantes Lakutis and Haleek Maul, it's an incredibly strong release from NYC's Nick Koenig, who has previously collaborated with The Roots, and who released his debut album Moon Money on Ninja Tune last year. The EP is free from Scion AV. Check out the free video for the rather tasty 56K, featuring Heems rapping about Gmail ("I'm a G / I'm a male / Feels so real"), below. 

The Omniglyph EP by HLI is the debut outing from Elai Immortal and Sensei C, two lyricists with roots in the hip-hop and grime scenes. It's a star-packed affair, with guest verses from UK hip-hop legend Juice Aleem, and remixes from Thavius Beck, Mike Ladd's Infesticons, and Kashmere. Displaying a tight control of lyrical content and rhythmic flow, and with beats that push the boundaries of grime, hip-hop and UK bass, it's an enticing teaser for their full-length album, currently in production. Buy the mp3s from Amazon, and check the EP trailer below.

We featured French hip-hop crew Chill Bump in an earlier Netverk column, and now they're back with a new EP of silver age-flavoured hip-hop jams guaranteed to put a smile on your face. In particular, the procrastinator's anthem Just A Sample is devilishly pleasing, with a heavy electronic bass riding sampled guitar notes and a laidback, effortlessly cool flow from rapper Miscellaneous. The EP - The Loop - is available on a pay-what-you-want basis. Check out their back catalogue when you're bagging yourself a copy.

For a music column dedicated to new and emerging music from the internet, we've been surprisingly slow on the uptake when it comes to Captain Murphy. His Duality mixtape dropped in 2012, a heady and thrilling fusion of Madlib-style scuffed breaks and beats and alternately helium and cough syrup-addled vocals, featuring low-down dirty lyricisim in the vein of Odd Future. In December, it was revealed that Captain Murphy was in fact an alter-ego for LA superproducer Flying Lotus, and that Duality was his debut as a rapper, the result of years of attempts to get his lyrical persona signed.

The speculation over the good Captain's identity caused a miniature wave of blog hype, and since the mask came off, FlyLo has been rocking shows and enjoying almost universal praise for the album, which features production from a host of Brainfeeder and Californian hip-hop talent, including Teebs, Jeremiah Jae, Samiyam, and Madlib himself. Okay, so it's not much of an expansion on the Madlib blueprint established on the Lord Quas albums - if anything, its an  arguably inferior, if loving, tribute to those albums. But if you've been after something in the same vein, Captain Murphy will fill a Quas-shaped hole in your life, and obviously Madlib approves. The album also includes a rather fantastic bootleg version of TNGHT's Bugg'n, with Murphy on vocals. Grab the album and the instrumentals from the Captain Murphy site, free, and stream standout, Alan Moore and Chris Nolan-referencing track The Killing Joke below.

Here's an album we came across stumbling drunkenly through Soundcloud one night - Invaders by FRUITS is an insane, wonky, glitched-out work which begins by reconfiguring Wu-Tang Clan into rabid, funk-filled 8-bit madness on Rawcoon (below), and then lurches giddily from post-dubstep to electro and back to heavy glitch. With no single track clocking in above two minutes, it's a thrillingly inventive listen for such a short album. We expect big things from FRUITS in the future. Grab the album from their Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis.

Our final hip-hop shout-out goes to p.WRECKS, also mentioned in an earlier column. His new track on Soundcloud is a perfect example of the kind of minimalistic, crepuscular, abstract hip-hop we love best, and is the first fruit of a new collaboration with producer Uhmbrellah, called Blanket Fortress. Check out his latest album, Luggage Checked To Nowhere, over on Bandcamp.

While we're rounding up the hip-hop, we should definitely draw your attention to the return of Plague Language head honcho, Guelph's favourite son Noah 23, who returns to the fray with a barnstorming 17-track album, Wingfoot, featuring beats by K-the-i??, Party Trash and a whole host of others. Reports are that 23's retirement, announced last year, was a sabbatical - he'll be back later in the year with more new tracks. For now, wrap your forebrain around this, with Party Trash on the panels. Get the album on a pay-what-you-want basis.

Dubstep don Rusko didn't exactly start out credible, although he was always a lot of fun, melding jump-up basslines with sampled Cockney gangster patter and strident horn blasts. Now he's an internationally-renowned superproducer, with production credits for the likes of Britney Spears. Last month, he dropped the Kapow EP for free via his website. It's well-produced, and an object lesson in the kind of pop-sampling, main-room dubstep that is now inescapable on mainstream radio, in advertising and on the dancefloors of a million shit nightclubs.

To be brutally honest, it sound horiffically unimaginative, and panders to the worst kind of commercial tastes, with the vomit-inducing, chipmunk vocals of the imaginatively-titled Yeah a particular lowlight. While TNGHT have cleverly re-tooled dubstep as minimal, sparse, stadium hip-hop, Rusko is still beavering away at the lowbrow, outdated, brostep template, content to stand still as long as he's making money. Booyakasha has a certain charm, but with the underground / online dance community currently backing slowly away from main-room dubstep in the wake of the horrific violence done to it by the likes of Skrillex, this EP feels more like a throwback than a progression. 

A quick nod to bloggers Scottish Fiction, who have been curating monthly Bandcamp compilations of up-and-coming Scottish bands, with an emphasis on indie and folk, and the odd dash of electronica. Skipping over their charity Christmas comp, it's well worth checking out their November collection, which has tracks from Discopolis, Randolph's Leap and Satellite Dub. It's completely free. Keep up to date with their releases over at their rather excellent blog.

Another quick nod to Mexican proto-goth electronic post-punkers Sixties Guns, a band we mentioned in a previous column - they recently released a rather awesome video for their track Wrapped Limbz, and even more recently, new track Lights. Check them both out below - a new EP is in the works. You'll need a pair of old-school 3D glasses to watch Wrapped Limbz in its full glory! Their EP gets a proper release in February via their Soundcloud page.

Sixties Guns - wrapped limbz (3D Official video) from Elias Carranco on Vimeo.

A final shout-out to Glasgow-based dark electronic producer Voltergeist, who has returned to the fray with the rather excellent White Witch. We look forward to hearing more from him in 2013.

We'll leave you with a mixtape from two of our current favourites, dreamy electronic shoegazers Owsey and Stumbleine - 50 minutes of grogeousness, for stream and download. See you next month for another trawl through the gutters of netaudio, looking for the future stars!

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