The Latest News From Neptune #6


The last couple of years have seen producers round the world blurring the lines between hip hop, jazz, house and beats (whatever that means) and flinging out joyous, mind-bending new music like Gods chucking stars across the sky. This column trawls the internet to try and make sense of it all. Here is the Latest News from Neptune. 

Various – After School Punks

So I guess this is what the kids are calling Vaporwave. I mean really, I’ve not a clue if that’s the case, but one of the tags underneath the Bandcamp release says Vaporwave and who am I to argue? So, based on this comp, featuring tracks from artists called 3D Blast, ImCoPav, Nultranq, Unknown Caller and other such vaguely internet 2.0ish monikers, I’m a bit partial to this Vaporwave business. The tracks on After School Punks have such a cohesive sound I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were the work of one person with a penchant for different names. This is music built from good-time 80s funk and boogie samples, played through waves of hiss, reverb and tempo distortion. It’s not a million miles from the instrumentals Kindness croons over, in that the music generally sounds like 70s cop show soundtracks and soft focus, nostalgic J-pop being broadcast from the bottom of the ocean. It’s weird and chilled and pretty unsettling, coming fairly close to that interplay between euphoria and nausea you get coming up off a particularly heady bean. Released on a label called VK250 (Bandcamp based, aren’t they always?) reveals artists putting together chopped and screwed versions of Cantaloupe Island on J Sanders’ Shape Drifter album, and hissy synthetics on Gvmbon’s SleepInTheAirport, all currently at pay-what-you-like prices, and well worth checking out.

DJ Apolo Trevent – Hopeless Teenage Years

So now I’m clicking through this Vaporwave tag like a debutante. Is this some name Pitchfork came up with? It sounds like their particular brand of horseplay, but I’m too lazy to Google the terms history, shit just sounds like ambient to me. Weren’t the Orb doing this sort of thing back in 1991? Christ I’m getting old. Still it’s pretty good though, weird floaty headjams of all hues. Some of it is vaguely crusty in it’s wibbly prog synths, but, if I’m honest, I’m enjoying that as well. I’m going to recommend DJ Apolo Trevent’s Hopeless Teenage Years record largely because it has ace track titles; I Need A Gracing Angel To Show Me Love, And I Want No Other But You; All My Senses Go Numb When I Remember Your Deep Brown Eyes; And Finally Morning Came, Another Day Has Passed And I'm Still Empty and so on, and also because it sounds like all the portentous intro’s Juno Reactor used to stick on his comically overblown 90s trance epics, without ever dropping into an actual beat. Enjoyably taken up with it’s own importance, this is end of level music for bong fuelled star fighters.

Beek – Beautiful Endings

Coming in at the sharper end of hazy, Beek’s new EP gives you everything a fan of 31st Century Vogue could hope for. The lead track Newport is the stand out, Beek’s submerged rhythms, aggression filtered down into a menacing sleaze, sitting as a murky bed for his sex pest vocals. This is dance music as it’s meant to be – innovative and complex, alien to outsiders, immense to fans. The snare smash that was such a feature of vogue is used minimally, and with crushing effect on How Many Licks – but there’s not a single higgety-higgety-ha! sample to be heard through the EP; as UK grime producers pick over vogue signifiers of years back, Beek has moved way forward. On closing track Drive he drops down into pure RnB crooning over a beat made from the sparsest of parts – an 808 kick, a groan and a snare slap. The whole is EP is weird, dislocated and spikey, and it sounds like Beek’s been going through some shit breakups – although based on the quality here, his anger is our gain.

Future – Wicked

So whilst I don’t usually post major label business on here, this tune is too sick not to mention. Taken from Future’s heavy (and free) Purple Reign mixtape, this is Future and producer Metro Boomin delivering pure club smashing bad vibes. The strings wail like sirens, the march of the bass and drums is relentless and Future opens by chanting “wicked, wicked, wicked” like he’s some sort of rap Mephistopheles. There’s not a moment wasted, to the point that every single hi hat hit counts for something. I’d love to hear some UK MCs jump on this as it’s as grimey a beat as I’ve heard the South make such Still Tippin – although I doubt anyone is gonna kill it like Future. The speed Future – and other ATL movers such as Young Thug – are churning out mixtapes of album quality is taking the piss out of the whole industry. Too good.  

Slug Christ – Sometimes Even the Moonlight Hurts My Eyes

Sticking in Atlanta – which is the centre of the world rn as far as I care – Slug Christ has bought a new EP out, and it’s typically awkward, existential trap for Martians. I saw Slugga play in New York over the weekend – by 'saw him play', I mean I saw him perform one track which pushed the venue into complete madness. I could have done with a few more, but fuck it, better to kill it and go than outstay your welcome. Anyway, the point is, he hasn’t died yet – not something that was a given a few months back when, according to his twitter timeline anyway, his battles with personal demons were threatening to spill over. Instead he seems to be throwing himself into making sick music, which can only be a good thing. Production is coming from EVK95, aka Lil Diamond, part of the 808 Mafia family – as such, whilst the beats are still full of strange, sparkly space synths, they also have a tighter bottom end than some of Sluggas other releases – basically the tracks knock hard. Slug’s not everyone’s cup of tea – although whoever thought that stream-of-consciousness freak rap was, but once you get into him, he’s got you good – Sometimes Even the Moonlight Hurts My Eyes seems as good a jump on point as any.