“On an album, you want loads of detail for people listening at home,” Bicep's Andy Ferguson said in a press release for the Belfast duo’s second LP, Isles. While Bicep presciently forecast popular dance music’s return to rave years ago, it’s less likely the guys knew that home would be the only place where people could listen to their new project upon its release.
Whether through clairvoyance or luck, Isles meets the moment. It’s intricate, moody, nostalgic, introspective and emotional, with melodies (“Atlas”) that swirl somewhere between euphoria and melancholy and fidgety synths and percussion (“Fir,” “Sundial”) that bypass the feet in favor of cerebral stimulation. The star of the album (out via Ninja Tune) is its vocals, whose sample origins span the globe from Malawi to Bulgaria to Bollywood, alongside original contributions from the UK’s Clara La San. Every contribution is united in its atmospheric unease: a looming, almost transcendent presence that makes Isles seem materialized from another dimension entirely. -- KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ
Artbat & Dino Lenny, "Fading"
Track ID requests spiked when Ukrainian duo Artbat -- a mashup of duo's Artur and Batish - first dropped a hypnotic and never before heard tech house cut while performing from the top of Sugarloaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro during their Cercle performance in March of 2019. Nearly two years later, the song is out and we know its name: "Fading." A collaboration with Italian producer Dino Lenny, the song is an eight-minute mood-fest, with spare synths serving as a foundation for lyrics about everything being faded that themselves fade away to make way for a powerful build and slow burn release. The long-awaited track is out via Tale Of Us' Afterlife label. -- KATIE BAIN
Logic1000, You’ve Got the Whole Night to Go
The title of Logic1000’s EP, You’ve Got the Whole Night to Go, sounds like a mantra you’d offer a friend (or yourself) before going out, lest the desire to party too hard, too quickly, leads to a premature exit and gnarly hangover.
Here, the rising Berlin-based producer condenses hours of a club night into four tracks across 18 minutes. Opener “Like My Way” sets the pace with a syrupy house groove; its successor, “I Won’t Forget,” raises the tension with sharp snares and moody breakbeats. The EP reaches its peak on the trippy “Medium” -- a whirlwind of acid-laced, stuttering and fleeting synth lines, and the soundtrack behind blurry selfies you don’t remember taking -- and finishes on a happy plateau on “Her,” which is just weird and groovy enough to keep the party going until you’re ready to head home, hit the hay, and do it all over again tomorrow. -- K.R.
Fontaine D.C., “A Hero's Death” (Soulwax Remix)
Life has been pretty, pretty tough these last 10 months, five years or forever. The never-ending trials of COVID-19 has everyone feeling all types of down, but sometimes, a song comes along that reminds you that “life ain't always empty.” Irish post-punk revivalists Fontaine D.C. struck a deep chord with their 2020 LP title track “A Hero's Death.” The droning, guitar-driven jam delivers thoughtful lyrics like a series of mantras, and there's truth and exultation in this genuine advice.
Belgian dance-rock duo Soulwax heard the tune and couldn't resist. “Whatever the part of the brain is that sparks the idea for a remix when you hear a great song,” they wrote on Instagram, “even though it doesn't always work, it was definitely fully functional when we heard [this].” Nominated for Best Remixed Recording at last year's Grammys, the duo here bring a solid beat and muted disco-funk flourishes, brightening the silver-lining anthem with all the stuff we love about what Soulwax can do. The digital version is streaming now, but stay sharp, because there's a limited, 1,000-copy run of hand-stamped, one-sided vinyl coming Feb. 12. – KAT BEIN
Nina Las Vegas, “Busy” (Bayli Remix)
We already liked “Busy” when Nina Las Vegas dropped the single in October of 2020. The sweltering beat drips down your back like smoky warehouse sweat, pushing your heart beat and your body forward toward whatever the heck kind of future we've got in store these days. It's inspiring, to say the least, but even more so now that Bed-Stuy-born singer-songwriter Bayli added about 10 layers of lyrical attitude. With a background in alt-R&D, Bayli's no stranger to killer beats and funky bass lines, but this powerful pairing takes our brain to the next level. It's the roller-rink cyber banger of our dreams. If you need us, we'll be “Busy” listening to it for the next 200 hours. – K. BEIN