Toni "Ras Het" K
knows more about cool music I've never heard than anyone I've encountered. These are his pages.



It's 2012, and rock is still dead. Last year it was briefly revived by Dum Dum Girls, whose He Gets Me High EP was probably the best rock 'n' roll record since the first Horrors (the garage punk one) album, but then their second album turned out to be a lethargic fuzz-pop record.

That's all right, though, because we had some great soul and funk, for example, right? Such as Adele's 21 and Amy Winehouse's post scriptum Lioness, two records whose best tracks put together would not have amounted to the most embarrassing album ever released on Stax, probably. Mayer Hawthrone's second album was even better than his wonderful first one, though, but I still feel like I'm confessing something quite terrible when I discuss him.

Hip hop? Well, it was a pretty wonderful year for trap rap, with tapes from Waka Flocka Flame, French Montana, Juicy J and Wooh da Kid, but I feel my skills as a reviewer fail me when I try to describe and analyse Lex Luger's post-futuristic beats, Waka Flocka's singular lyrical mania, or even Wooh da Kid's comical aggression: I'll leave all this for the great historians of popular music, because it can't be too many years until the core members of Brick Squad are widely considered the modern equivalent of the classic Miles Davis Quintets.

Instead, let me allow you in on a well-kept hipster secret: The only genuinely great music right now is being made by part-time sushi chefs, tennis coaches and substitute teachers, in their bedrooms, with big bulky synthetisers, and the tunes are mainly about how they wish they had the money to go to the clubs where their music is being played. Generally this music is now called "UK Bass," or occasionally "future bass" or "future garage". It's a very inclusive genre, really: You don't even have to be British! As long as your music shows some hints of UK Garage and has a lot of bass, you're in! Here are some examples:

FaltyDL, You Stand Uncertain (Planet Mu)



New York-based producer FaltyDL's real name is Drew Cyrus Lustman, and I assume only concern about being confused for a shoegaze artist or British ambient producer Lustmord's side project has prevented him from releasing more material under his absolutely fabulous surname. It is perhaps also notable that many of his best tracks sound like cleaned-up UK garage, a genre that at its worst sounded like music intended solely to be played in the cum-stained back rooms of London's sleaziest West End clubs. On You Stand Uncertain, though, the focus is more on aggressive and dissonantly arranged post-dubstep, with additional influences from a broad selection of genres: Chicago's deranged juke/footwork, New York's "handbag house," the experimental drum 'n' bass that the Planet Mu label is better known for, and, obviously, UK garage.

While the term "future garage" is often associated with the album, it is mostly heard in the track tempos and FaltyDL's fondness for packing his tracks with hi-hat shuffle patterns: in terms of mood, dubstep is the more obvious reference point, with all of the record's instrumental tracks (9 out of 12) pushing a cold and detached, yet groovy, sound, only somewhat incidentally danceable. The songs with singers Anneka and Lily MacKenzie combine this with surprisingly sensual vocals, with startling and very effective results.

Emika, Emika (Ninja Tune)



There are a few notable dubstep producers who have aligned their sound more to the icy sound of German techno than the urban grooves of South London: Shackleton and Scuba come to mind, and now Berlin-based producer and vocalist Emika offers another way to blend Central European styles with this most British of musics. The vocals, fading in and out of the mix, and the vague and generic love-song lyrics remind one of Cologne's Kompakt label's poppier output, by artists such as Superpitcher, Matias Aguayo, or occasionally The Field. The slow beats and ludicrous sub-bass interludes hark back to the sound of dubstep in 2006 (if not trip-hop in 1997), but the addition of her unabashedly pretty vocals make this record sound a lot fresher than its constituent parts would suggest.

Jamie Woon, Mirrorwriting (Polydor)



Burial's remix of Woon's "Wayfaring Stranger" gained some hype in 2007, but in the intermediate years Britain's foremost soul-house-garage producer released essentially nothing, with 2010's "Night Air" (included on the album) bringing him back on the map. Perhaps he was honing his craft, and it certainly paid off: Mirrorwriting is an exceptionally beautiful and captivating record, with Woon's blue-eyed soul tinged vocals floating above slow UK garage beats, sounding like the combination is completely natural, despite the obscurity of the very idea. All of Woon's vocals are essentially Marvin Gaye impressions, and for a dweeby white kid from some leafy London suburb, he pulls it off pretty damn well. The funny thing is, Gaye never sung a hook half as good as that of "Street". Seriously. And while The XX only managed to make some passable cuddling music with their synth pop-r&b, and no one but Pitchfork and his own mother liked James Blake's LP, Woon here has pulled off this fairly silly combo with exceptional swagger. I probably wouldn't mind hearing a record where Emika plays Tammi Terrell to Woon's Gaye.

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