Every week or thereabouts, Mutant Dance Moves takes you to the shadowy corners of the dancefloor and the fringes of contemporary electronic music, where new strains and dance moves are evolving.
Almost since the start, body-moving dance music has drawn inspiration from bodies of water. The disco remix itself was birthed after producer Tom Moulton was lured out to the pines and sandy shore pleasures of Fire Island in the early ‘70s, laboring over a nonstop dance mixtape to keep the party going for the gay patrons of clubs like The Sandpiper and The Botel after a day sunning in the Great South Bay. And dance music producer Arthur Russell, in releasing tracks under names like Indian Ocean and Killer Whale, used to listen to his latest songs on a Walkman as he rode the Staten Island Ferry through the bay where the Hudson and East Rivers converged, as if to make sure his music mimicked the rhythmic yet ever-changing nature of the waves. No wonder his 1986 single “Let’s Go Swimming” continues to inspire dark dancefloors, while also sounding brilliant poolside at midday. And the daytime frolics in the Mediterranean Sea give way to the body-swaying in Ibiza by night. But time beside the seaside can be meditative as well, and three of the more intriguing electronic records to come out this year all find a muse down in the depths of big bodies of water.
Croatian techno producer Petar Dundov recently released his album, titled Ideas From the Pond, as a massive three 12” box set (each track sprawls between the nine to fifteen-minute mark). At the forefront of the Eastern European electronic music scene since the late ‘90s, Dundov has lent his remixing talents to the likes of John Digweed, Ewan Pearson and Dominik Eulberg over the years, while his own work has gotten remixes from Echospace and fellow synth-maestro Gavin Russom. The gurgling modular synths of “Silent Visitor” has arpeggiations right from the classic productions of Gino Soccio intermixed with hand percussion and a pulse that rises and falls ever so gently. The melody underpinning “Together” could hail from Boards of Canada’s Music has the Right to Children, but the expert entrance of drum machine that appears midway through its 10 minutes takes it to a wholly other headspace. And the epic “Distant Shores” brings to mind the sprawling soundscapes of Lindstrøm’s Where You Go, I Go Too were he looking out over the Adriatic Sea rather than being snowed in up in Norway.
Nearly every month, the British production duo of Jon Tye and Pete Fowler announce that they are, “untying the yacht (to) take her out into smooth ‘70s AOR, spaced disco, cosmic groovers, deck-shoegaze and marina drone,” for their DJ sets at London’s Big Chill Bar. Nevermind that it’s a little over a mile inland from the Thames River: the music that Tye and Fowler make as Seahawks suggest “a yacht of the mind,” effortlessly navigating the different genre streams. “Pete and I started working together when we discovered we had a mutual love of yacht rock,” admits Tye via email. “It’s fair to say we’re pretty much obsessed with the sea. Our next release is called Aquadisco and our label’s called Ocean Moon.” Fowler used to build boats on the Isles of Scilly and while he now lives in London, Tye is but 15 minutes away from the beach in Cornwall. “I’m right by Millbrook Lake, so the water is always on my mind,” he says, attaching a lovely shot of the lake with the sun reflecting off its surface for my benefit.
Seahawks’ newest release is the contemplative and subtly psychedelic Tender Abyss, pressed up on luminous blue vinyl in a limited edition, and it offers similarly dreamy and murky miniatures, much like last year’s acclaimed Science of the Sea album from Jürgen Müller.Yet it also reflects the temperamental nature that bodies of water can also have. Blissful tracks like “Immer Shimmer” (which appears in three very different guises) have an undercurrent of white noise buzzing beneath their sparkling synth surfaces while “Aquarium Sunset” has as much fuzz on it as any Emeralds track. Placid one moment, turbulent the next, then back to gorgeous, it’s a lovely trip to take.
It was when Italian techno producers Donato Dozzy and Neel were invited to Japan’s revered and near-mythical Labyrinth Festival, which takes place in a wooded mountainside in Niigata near the Sea of Japan, in 2011 that their full-length album as Voices From the Lake began to come together. The two had collaborated in the past, mostly making astonishingly-detailed techno throbs and body-erasing ambient tracks, and Dozzy is revered in Italian producer circles for his expert craftsmanship on dark yet meticulous trance-inducing productions.
But something mystical must have happened during VftL’s set at Labyrinth, as the album they finished and released earlier this year as Voices From the Lake is a watermark of ambient techno, sure to end up on many year-end lists (it’ll be on this one for sure). The pleasures of the album feel almost subliminal. The beats are less like something from a club and something more likely to rise out of your own body’s biorhythms. Great unfathomable spaces appear within the music, yet to try and label the origins of such sounds becomes a slippery one. The heartbeat throb of “Manuvex” sends ripples out around it, to where one can almost detect crickets and frogs and other alien tones rippling at the very edges of the track. Slowly these miniscule, ornately detailed sounds — I detect undertones of bells, static and human choirs — cohere towards the big build of “S.T. VFTL Rework,” as transportive a minimal techno track as anything these ears have encountered since Pantha du Prince’s similarly astounding This Bliss. Perfect for nightswimming rather than clubgoing, so detailed and richly rewarding is this album that each time I immerse myself in the depths of Voices From the Lake, it never feel like I’m stepping into the same water twice.