Selene, “Blabberbaby” (secondnature)
Seattle techno DJ/producer Kayla Waldorf (formerly performing under the alias Aos) is now going by Selene, and she has a new EP called The Secret Garden Is in Your Mind that shows serious advancement in sound design. As part of the local collective and label secondnature, Selene is a key figure in our city's techno infrastructure. Her latest collection of tracks proves that she's ready to make inroads into the international club circuit's headier realms.
Waldorf says that The Secret Garden “was written during a period of personal creative renaissance. While the past few years have been horribly isolating, I have been reminded that cultivating creativity is an active task and that requires both building an internal, private creative space and an external, communally-built one. There is a lot of noise we must filter through to connect with genuine self-expression, so I have found the metaphor of the secret garden helpful in centering my own creativity.”
Toward that end, the EP traffics in elegant rhythms, spacey atmospheres, and shimmering, complex textures. This music enables mindful escapism and graceful movement in a low-gravity environment. The quasi-electro of “Theory of Mind” is the grittiest piece here, but it too is asteroid-dusted and transportive. “Selene's Secret Garden” revels in a swirl of ambrosial/celestial synths and ASMR-inducing intonations about the healing power of nature (I think); it's an irresistible invitation to bliss.
But the prime cut here is “Blabberbaby,” a percolating, midtempo techno juggernaut adorned with a kaleidoscopic array of timbres that keeps shifting and glinting with every passing second. Despite its sexy bass plunges, it's not quite a peak-time banger, but “Blabberbaby” will have a much longer shelf life than those types of tracks, thanks to Selene's sophisticated arrangements and varied tone palette. If the track sounds this ridiculously rich in headphones on my laptop, then “Blabberbaby” is going to sound amazing on a club system.
Party Dozen, “The Iron Boot” (Temporary Residence)
Sydney, Australia's Party Dozen consist of Kirsty Tickle (sax) and Jonathan Boulet (percussion, sampler), but they sound at least like a quintet. Whatever studio sorcery they're conjuring to manifest this illusion, it's working smashingly. Following two strong, under-the-radar albums for the Oz imprint Grupo (2017's The Living Man and 2020's Pray for Party Dozen), Party Dozen are poised to elevate their profile with an entry next month in the Sub Pop Singles Club, the Fat Hans Gone Mad 7”, and The Real Work full-length, out in July on Temporary Residence. (Thankfully, the latter label is also going to reissue those previous two LPs.)
Party Dozen's music mostly scans as heavy rock, but against great odds, it avoids the threadbare gestures usually associated with this style. In a sense, they toil in the tradition of rough and rugged Aussie groups such as feedtime, Birthday Party, and Liars, but without obviously emulating any of those greats. What distinguishes Tickle and Boulet is that they filter many elements through their survival-of-the-fittest sounds.
Subdued brooders and low-key throbbers such as “Earthly Times” and “Fruits of Labour” evoke a more muscular take on Morphine's rock noir. “Major Beef” comes off like an intriguing crime-thriller score, as Party Dozen ratchet up the tension with nuance. “The Worker” pairs a melismatic sax wail with the most massive bass line this side of a Graham Central Station joint. The reckless yet controlled “Balance” swerves and revs down the expressway to your skull à la Sonic Youth circa Daydream Nation. The heroic rock of “Macca the Mutt,” which features guest vocalist Nick Cave, is not even in the top five songs of this album.
Top honors instead go to “Iron Boot,” which, to quote Les Rallizes Dénudés, is heavier than a death in the family, with a riff as glowering and indestructible as anything the Stooges forged on Fun House. Animated by feral energy, jagged rhythms, momentous dynamics, and spiky timbres, “Iron Boot” kicks more ass than a dozen World Cup winners. It's like a nimbler Earth circa Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version and with a saxophonist whose lungs aspire to Peter Brötzmann-esque boisterousness. As with a lot of the best music ever created, the track makes your life seem way more exciting and meaningful than it actually is.