Calling a song “catchy” usually means it’s got a springy melody or a big soaring hook, and in hip-hop and EDM right now, a phrase said over and over again until it is crammed into listeners’ heads by force of repetition (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Really though, “catchy” just entails facilitating and, eventually, satisfying anticipatory feelings in a listener: Your ears locate the cool part of a song, whatever it is, and if it returns later on and shifts the song’s dynamic, it qualifies. “Mutant Trax: Volume 1,” a 10-track compilation of avant dance music from around the world curated by Baltimore label Paradise Rhythm, is catchy like that.
These are difficult designer loops rooted in the core elements of vogue and club (with hints of trap’s metallic aggression, the smoothed-out and eerily soft tones of ’90s computer games, and complex percussion of non-Western music) with a few select sounds clawing to the front of the mix and aggressively grabbing hold of your ears: A laser synth noise Kanye would’ve killed for on “Yeezus” from ‘Sojourning’ by Norway’s Morten_HD feels like a rush of seratonin each time it pops up; a “this pussy’ll drive you crazy” vocal sample on Les Yper Sound’s ‘Small White Room’ out of London is grounding, yet erotic; R2-D2 squeaks are a respite from the horrifying howl of disembodied voices and Detroit ghettotech bleep-bloop on ‘Secundz’ from another UK producer named Pitcheno.
Generally, we prefer our city’s labels stay militantly local (and if you agree, check out “Nyx/ Bali,” Paradise Rhythm’s split single from Bmore electro slurrers Jacob Marley and Boogie Madison) but we’re glad this eccentric techno label dove headfirst into the global online underground and located some askew earworms we wouldn’t have heard otherwise.