The new year has got everyone digging into archives, uploading rare tapes and curating off-dancefloor faves for moments of introspection. So this month’s best mixes and radio sets are in that mode, including offbeat easy listening and ambient IDM, and a dancefloor challenge live and direct from Nowadays in Queens. Plus, tunnelling house with Club Chow, witchy melodies from a Maricas associate, and a look back at one of London’s coolest club nights.
But, before you scroll down, two bonus picks first: a celebration of Sade through 80 minutes of remixes and reworkings of her smooth ‘80s soul, and an hour of wacky soundtracks from The Sims, many of them composed by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.
Club Chow – Radio Buttons 107
A balanced diet of glossy house and grubby breaks
Berlin queer party Buttons continues its on-point mix series with a session from Chicago fixture Kevin Chow, a Taiwanese-American DJ often to be found at local spots Steamworks and Berlin Nightclub. Fans of Shanti Celeste will enjoy Club Chow’s selection of tunnelling house and dressed-up breaks – glossy enough to keep you twirling but grubby enough to get you sweating. Extra praise for the epic Madonna moment – you’ll hear the Vogue sample on Epitome of Hype’s ’91 house gem Ladies With An Attitude, which is manoeuvred into modern jungle by BOBBY.
Erol Alkan – Trash Special
Dance punk distortion from a great London clubnight
Still keeping kids dancing after all these years, the masterful Erol Alkan gets reflective in his first NTS show of 2021, dusting off some old favourites to remind us what it was all about in the first place: Trash. Twenty years ago, Trash was probably the coolest club night in London – a weekly Monday night affair for which heavily hairsprayed punters would queue around the corner to rub shoulders with the likes of Karen O and Peaches. Beyond the fashion, one of the main attractions was Alkan’s eclectic approach to the decks. While one corner of dance music had gone off in pursuit of progressive wiggliness, Alkan got his kicks from instant rock ‘n’ roll and half-fried circuitry from the 70s to the 00s. It’s dance-punk as it was always intended: distorted moves from The Chap and Buzzcocks, half-cut thrash from Royal Trux and Liars, and the wild contortions of James White & the Blacks and Add N to (X).
Akanbi – Nowadays Live and Direct 013
Agility and flair from a bass-loving NYC DJ
This knotty live session recorded at NYC’s Nowadays is for the dancers who like a challenge. Groovy Groovy resident Akanbi worked his magic at the Queens nightclub on one of the first nights back after a long winter of club closures, and you can feel the anticipation and thought that went into these UK-influenced selections. From a delirious raga opening, he moves with agility from silky Afrohouse into unrelenting drum trax, and from Timbaland flips to blasted 2‑step.
Skee Mask B2B Simo Cell for TEMƎT Music
From slow-mo sleaze to footwork steez
Recorded live at the Trempo music venue in Nantes, northwest France, this B2B from 2019 was originally available as a tape, long ago sold out. Kindly, TEMƎT Music boss Simo Cell has uploaded his historic artefact for all to enjoy: two 45-minute extracts from a set that originally stretched over seven hours, pairing the Nantes local with Ilian Tape’s star player, Skee Mask. The first side is dark as a moonless night, creeping through Belgian chug, Manchester punk and industrial sleaze. The second side shows another side of their craft entirely, accelerating into face-melt jungle, breathless juke flips and no-limits hardcore with an emphasis on modern Midwest geniuses like Traxman, RP Boo, DJ Rashad and Nate.
Piezo – qwertamine Mix for C-
Trippy electronics for the ultimate screen break
You know how sitting in the backseat for too long can make you carsick? Apparently, spending too long scrolling can make you “cybersick” – an actual thing that’s like motion sickness for the chronically online. So step away from the blue light for an hour and submerge yourself in this marbled pool of weird electronics selected by Milan-based bass architect Piezo. His “qwertamine” concept makes this the trippiest mix of the month, a mindbath that promotes relaxation and four-dimensional daydreams at once. Working through garbled Japanophone ASMR, hypnotic tabla beats, freaky polyrhythms and what sounds like a glitched-out game of ping-pong falling through the metaverse, this is one for the heads and the audiophiles.
Bella Sarris – Maricas Mix 034
Juicy peaktime energy for the weekend warmup
Underground spotters will have noticed the growing reputation of Maricas, by all accounts Barcelona’s premier polysexual party – or “my pervy, loving home,” as DJ Bella Sarris describes it. This mix is inspired by Sarris’ first visit to Berlin in four years, including a stack of new records bought in the technocity and played out in her hometown of Stockholm recently. If you’re looking for juicy peak time energy for your weekend warm-up or P.B. training session, it’s all here – witchy melodies, hard-boiled basslines and drums that smack like Tyson Fury. Highlights include Negroni Nails’ Collision, the sound of a sentient rave hoover launching a pop career, and a darkroom moment (and a cameo by Terry Wogan!) from electro newcomer Sedef Adasi.
Physical Therapy presents Car Culture on NTS Radio
Personal jams from an easy listening king
The new year is a time for taking a long hard look at yourself and asking, can I do any better this time round? No pressure, though. Here’s a soundtrack for journaling, resolution-writing and other kinds of wafty solo introspection from NYC’s Physical Therapy, who successfully branched out from raucous club cuts into quirky easy listening during the pandemic with his Car Culture alias. Two tender moments with Jimi Hendrix bookend the session, which features nuggets of relationship advice and ‘manifesting’ tips between all kinds of pop oddities: a symphonic cover of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, melancholy bedsit-pop from Everything But The Girl, and epic balearica from Tears For Fears.