“No -- that can’t be new.”
It’s a familiar refrain for anyone who hears Lone’s music for the first time. The UK producer, now in his mid-thirties, has been releasing music for over a decade, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he let his earliest, raviest proclivities spill forth.
The first music Cutler fell for was early-’90s UK hardcore, the breakbeat-driven music that would become drum and bass. “I think its influence is felt in everything I’ve ever done as a result,” he said in 2010, adding that the era’s “euphoric, lush sound . . . was apparent in late ’80s, early ’90s electronic music, I think, due to primitive studio set ups and having to work around having, like, a second's worth of sampling time. I find music made around those limitations totally beautiful.”
“Retro” just means old, but “classic” means something better, and that’s the feel of Lone’s music: rich and lived in, comfortable with every cranny of late-’80s house and techno -- particularly the glossy stuff by British acts like 808 State and Orbital, not to mention all that hardcore.
Lone may be best known for delivering the sharpest remix by far of the many Radiohead ordered up in 2011 for The King of Limbs, transforming “Feral” into a colorful samba-infused skank. His own albums, like Emerald Fantasy Tracks (2010), Galaxy Garden (2012), and Levitate (2016), shimmer with a lightly psychedelic edge, like if plastic could both warp and glisten in the sun. They’re also loaded with melodies that, whether you’re a clubber or not, demand to be heard repeatedly.
That wistful tunefulness is front and center on Lone’s Feel My Bicep Mixtape 69 (February 9, 2017). He opens it with Plaid’s “Spudink,” a mid-tempo groover from 1997 -- crisp, dry, and pretty as a Christmas-tree ornament -- and follows its loping, rubber-bandy bass line and endlessly messed-with hi-hats where they lead for 52 untiring minutes.
Which isn’t to say the mix just lays back. There’s plenty of good tension here, such as the transition from the lo-fi clonk of Steven B.C.’s “Functionz” into the grinding bass and muddy videogame f/x of Ozel AB’s “Allejo” around the 15-minute mark. Both of those tracks are pretty retro and/or classic-sounding themselves (the former is a gloss on stripped-down Chicago “jack trax” like Steve Poindexter’s immortal “Work That Muthafucker”), a fitting match for the DJ’s own studio habits.
The latter are also part of the set: As is habit with many producer-DJs in the podcast age, Lone includes some yet-unreleased material of his own, though he doesn’t say where. I doubt the track I’m most taken with is his, though. It enters at about 27:30 and blends together a shuffling beat, a horn-and-string fanfare from an R&B record, and what sounds like a glimmering little Fender Rhodes riff. That kind of admixture was commonplace in UK hardcore and later in two-step garage, but here it rides a straight house beat. If this makes it sound like a spot-the-influence game rather than a breathing piece of music, that’s my fault, not the music’s.
Each week, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set -- often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily -- and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.