Thursday, 1 November 2012

Column: Texas' Dance Underground

 
After a short hiatus while both Dummy and myself changed our circumstances, the column is back, this time looking at the underground dance scene flourishing in Texas (click here to read). There's some great music going on there and a few very high-quality releases that are free to download, so check it out.

With elements of ballroom culture, UK Funky and Latin American infusions, Adam Harper considers the rising influence of Texas’ vital underground dance music.

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American underground pop dollars feel higher against their UK counterparts now than I can ever remember them being, especially when it comes to dance music. Even some of the greatest releases to have come from the UK scene in the past year – Kuedo’s ‘Severant’, Jam City’s ‘Classical Curves’, Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s ‘Black is Beautiful’ – have had a distinctly American flavour. Scratcha DVA, Cooly G, Actress, LV, Dusk + Blackdown and newcomer Evian Christ have been flying the flag for the UK impressively this year, but the sounds of juke/footwork, ballroom/vogue house, cloud rap, so-called ‘trap’, the NYC art/progressive network, seapunk (yep – listen to Coral Records before you snort derisively) as well as classic Chicago, Detroit and Miami seem to be setting the agenda right now.

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Dubbel Dutch turns out to be the tip of a respectably sized iceberg. There are two whole labels producing music of a broadly similar stripe in Texas: #Feelings, based in Austin, and Freshmore, based 160 miles down the road in Houston. Though it only has three releases so far, #Feelings is one of Bandcamp’s many hidden gems. With effortless glamour and wicked camp, the label combines a stridently embodied theme of hard-dancing gay male subculture and desire with the surreal digital future faddishness of the twenty-first century.

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For futurism with little compromise, the label’s strongest offering is undoubtedly the ‘More Than Friends’ EP by Lōtic, a DJ-producer formerly of Austin but now based in Berlin. Lōtic’s music is particularly exciting, its energy and immediacy improbably but undeniably of a piece with its startling imagination. What’s more, the EP is free. He specializes in cold and pared-down hi-fi textures, ringing with titanium and cybernetic flex, and wraps his inscrutable future house in ambient effects that reverberate for eons.

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Texas’s culture is often heavily influenced by its proximity to Mexico, south of the border, and dance music is no exception. Perhaps the most influential sound to have come out of Mexico in recent years is tribal guarachero (often abbreviated to ‘3ball’) which mixes goofy synths with traditional Latin American cumbia-like folk rhythms (a fascinating, subtle groove balanced partway between a duple and a triple rhythm).

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Based in the Rio Grande Valley in the far south of Texas, Arms&Suites (Matthew Crossman) is yet more proof that Bandcamp artists don’t get the coverage they deserve.

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