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Bars: Get lost in the vibe with this week’s best new tracks, January 27

Jlin, Kelly Lee Owens, Dominowe, Doon Kanda, and Yaeji promise to fill the floor

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Why is the common dichotomy in popular music always ‘rock or pop?’ or ‘rock or rap’? While every genre has its good and batshit artists, these genres are often antiquated by a lack of forward-thinking. If someone were to ask what music sounds like in 2017, the easy answer would be to show them I See You or RTJ3. The right answer would be showing them Chicago house, Detroit house, UK Garage or even the disarming carelessness of dancehall. Even the fertile shores of Durban, South Africa is breeding exciting new sounds, styles and artists. This isn’t about being a music snob, this is about giving credit where credit is due. Electronic music is currently riding on cloud nine (for Melbourne readers, no pun intended). The eternal thump of a club-filling anthem holds truer than ever. Even in times of societal uncertainty, club music and its many, many subgenres provide the perfect escape.

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01. Dominowe - 'Club Killer'

There’s something happening in Durban, South Africa. When the local teenagers blast their Blackberry phones at max volume a sparse, plethora of sounds converge. The ‘gqom’ (pronounced ‘gome’) scene of Durban has been hotly debated among the very few who know it, but it still represents something romantically original. Perhaps no other artist better represents the nervous energy, simmering tension and unflinching youthfulness of the genre than Dominowe. The 19-year-old producer showed a heap of nuance on 2016’s excellent compilation release, The Sounds of Durban Vol. 1. On ‘Club Killer’, he defines this sound. In true gqom style, the track is utterly hook-less. The maximalism of traditional South African house is supplanted by impressionistic structure and an imbalance of focus. Even with music as oft-times bombastic as this, Dominowe proves there is perception in pandemonium.


02. Doon Kanda - ‘axolotl’

Where to begin with ‘axolotl’? For starters, the title reads like the name of an Eastern European smart drug. Then there’s the song itself. The steady beats make me want to get up and dance. And yet the growing distortion and eerie synths make me want to shut the curtains, crawl into bed and deconstruct the Savannah Hypothesis. Most electronic music can influence unnecessary thought. But here, Doon Kanda [real name Jesse Kanda] uses glitch and reverb to mould something otherworldly. ‘axolotl’ is the kind of hum and rattle you hear in your dreams. To get a better sense of what kind of dream this would be, look up ‘Jesse Kanda artwork’. Happy sleeps.


03. Jlin - '‘Nyakinyua Rise’

There’s something so beautiful about chaos. Without sounding like an unadorned misanthrope, the sheer dexterity of sounds mixing and interloping to disrupt order is wondrous. Jlin is a producer from Chicago who revels in this sort of composition. Her latest number, “Nyakinyua Rise” is orthodox Chicago house gone tribal. The combination of abrasive, jittery percussion and samples means Jlin’s latest foray into IDM sounds more like a dance track for those dealing with the effects of ayahuasca while conversing with a large ficus. The recurrent screams and growls are enough to convince anyone from listening to this while under the influence. If you want to appreciate Jlin’s music, you must have your wits about you. Clearly, she does.


04. Kelly Lee Owens - '‘Anxi. [feat. Jenny Hval]’

There’s something disarming about hearing a musician directly speak to you. Not in-person, but in song. Jenny Hval opens ‘Anxi’ with a bizarre monologue. “This is the narrative of reality,” she says. Though layers of reverb make Hval’s aphorisms tough to decipher, it’s the finesse of Kelly Lee Owens that requires the most attention. Her production makes ‘Anxi’ as transfixing as it is accessible. While the first half carries Hval’s puzzling messages, the layered harmonies gradually become thumps and clicks; a neo-romantic ballad gone Berlin. That doesn’t mean the music can’t speak anymore. The final two minutes of Owen’s harmonic vocals are like soothing reassurances cast over ordered chaos.


05. Yaeji - ‘Full of It’

“Distance like ignorance/ Resistance, full of it,” so goes the catchy affirmation of Brooklyn singer/producer, Yaeji. You may think it reads like an arbitrary catch-cry. It’s anything but. ‘Full of It’ comes from an enormous compilation titled Physically Sick, which showcased music from young, promising acts to challenge the “discrimination and demagoguery” of the young year. But what best captures this bottled emotion is Yaeji’s tempered rampage. Her words are drawn out over tapping percussion and dreamy synths. In the blink of an eye, this calm is rolled by furious thumps and bpm. Perhaps this reflects how quickly things go from bad to worse. Perhaps it showcases the breadth of Yaeji’s talent. Whichever way you look at it, ‘Full of It’ is still catchy as fuck.

Listen here.