Electronic music makers often get cast as loners or eggheads, sequestered away in their home studios, not interacting with outsiders, the legend built up by the cloistered personas of Derrick May and Aphex Twin. But in the past month, a handful of collaborative releases have surfaced in the dance music world, ranging from interactions between up-and-comers to artistic dialogues taking place across generation gaps, finding even established producers like minimal techno maestro Ricardo Villalobos and Detroit’s Theo Parrish opening themselves up to new ideas and partners.
Peter Gordon & Factory Floor
While still anticipating their debut album later this fall, UK trio Factory Floor has already dropped a few singles on DFA. But the young trio of Dominic Butler, Gabriel Gurnsey and Nikki Colk loves to work with their forebearers as well. In the past year, they’ve collaborated with the likes of Mark Stewart and industrial heavyweights Chris & Cosey on the bracing album Transverse.
Now Factory Floor finds themselves in a transatlantic collaboration with composer Peter Gordon, who wedded the wholly distinct sounds of 1970s NYC downtown, disco and minimalism, into an ecstatic whole with his Love of Life Orchestra (his compilation on DFA is a must-have). Stemming from a fan email Nikki Colk sent to Gordon, Beachcombing features both parties on the same page. Analog components gurgle and swell about wordless vocals and time-lagged sax lines, the sound of primitive 1970s space music combining with modern sensibilities into a hypnotic hybrid.
Vera & Villalobos
For his first decade of releases, Chilean-born German-based producer Ricardo Villalobos was renowned for his idiosyncratic, organic minimal productions, their polyrhythmic pulses almost intuited. But over the past few years, he now trends towards collaboration, his tracks exploring the spaces between people, be it with Max Loderbauer on their deconstruction of the ECM catalog or else with former Chilean pop act, Los Updates. Now comes Villalobos’s collaborative track with fellow producer and DJ Vera Heindel. It makes sense, considering that the two have taken to DJing as a duo at Germany’s Robert Johnson club. I’d be lying if I knew where Vera ended and Villalobos began, as their hiccupping, minimalistic sensibilities twine together in a sumptuous manner across the sprawling 23 minutes of “Rambutan.” It may not travel far in that timeframe, but Villalobos has always been better at conjuring warm whirlpools than white water rapids.
Theo Parrish & Tony Allen
Put to tape while both Parrish and Allen were involved with the Red Bull Music Academy in London, this is a pairing for the ages. Parrish’s own programming has always favored booming kicks and an unfettered sense of rhythm. So working with the multi-limbed mastery that is Allen’s polyrhythmic drumming makes far more sense than the likes of Damon Albarn or Thom Yorke plugging Allen into their own projects. The first single on the newly-launched Wild Heart label thrills with real chemistry between Parrish and Allen. Theo’s soul chords and Zimbabwean-by-way-of-London singer Eska Mtungwazi’s raw diva vocals make this a track that touches on Africa, modern soul and deep Detroit house at once.
Stellar OM Source & Kassem Mosse
We profiled Christelle Guardi earlier this year on the occasion of her EP No Image, which found the keyboardist/ producer emerging from her new age chrysalis to return to the music that powered her teenage years: acid and house. So that her new album, Joy One Mile, fully engages with electronic music is one of the summer’s pulse-quickening surprises. But this new release is collaborative, as Guardi handed her digital files over to fellow producer Kassem Mosse so that he might work his minimal, avant-garde dancefloor sensibilities to the songs. Mosse’s own productions have held up against some tough competition over the years (sharing split singles with the likes of Joy Orbison), so he’s more than up to the task here. The end results evoke the heyday of what was deemed “intelligent dance music” of the early Warp days. “Par Amour” reminds me of Spartan productions of early freestyle as well as the blurred R&B of Nite Jewel, but Mosse, while unobtrusive, gives the machines a bit more kick. And his remix of “Elite Excel” is as loose, spacious and low-slung as a classic Theo Parrish production.