January 2014

So the first month of 2014 has flown past. Traditionally, January is a slow month for new music, but there was plenty of exciting new music out in recent weeks. I’ve made a short summary of my purchases below.

Actress – Ghettoville

This is rumoured to be Darren Cunningham’s final album under the Actress guise. What a shame that would be. On Ghettoville Actress returns to his grittier dance roots, a bit of a divergence from the previous two esotheric albums Splazsh and especially R.I.P. But if you enjoyed Hazyville as much as I did, you’ll certainly enjoys this one as well.

A lot of the tracks benefit (though many reviewers see this different from me) from low-fi production, invoking that abandoned Detroit feeling. Placed on top of the beat-driven structures is a layer of dusty noise not for the faint hearted. Tempo-wise there is a lot of variety here, more so than on earlier mentioned Hazyville. Opener Forgiven is a down-tempo trip-hop experience that could place you in a mescaline induced hallucinatory Mexican desert. A menacing opener.
Street Corps gets down to business and has a deep dubby sub bass. This track is all about those subtle atmospherics Actress has managed to incorporate into his music. It is a perfect marriage between the past and present. Half-stepped Contagious ventures into industrial territory whilst Birdcage brings a wonderful melody over a knackered house beat. Towers does the 4×4 thing but at the same time has an enormous dub undercurrent. This all just to give you an idea of the variety here.

The album is getting  a lot more slack than it deserves. Sure, Ghettoville loses focus towards the end but the first half is so great. It’s a step back after the incredible R.I.P perhaps. I like the more focused, realistic approach personally. Highlight has to be the neon-lit “Gaze” which sounds like it could have come off of one of the recent Young Echo tapes. I think this is a fitting end to Cunningham’s “death/rebirth” related trilogy. It sees him revisiting his Hazyville era production with perhaps a new (negative?) look on things. I sincerely hope he continues to make music: underrated future classic that will certainly make my end of year list.

Mondkopf – Hadès
The second full album that has really caught my ear is the new Mondkopf album out on experimental techno label In Paradisum, who surprised last year already with an awesome EP by Low Jack.

I didn’t like this French producers early output: it was too electro oriented, lacking in variation and depth. His output since 2012 however, has steadily improved: it’s become bolder, thicker, spacier, straying away from traditional electro/techno structures and incorporating heavy industrial aesthetics and thick layers of atmosphere. Hadès was the next logical step in that evolution. The bass is heavier than ever, the percussion pounding and layers of synths and atmospherics make for some beautiful gothic and haunting pieces. But the best thing is there is even more  space on this album.
Recommended pieces are “Eternal Dust”, “Cause And Cure” and closer “Hadès III”.

Rainer Veil – New Brutalism
The best release of the new year has to be the new Rainer Veil EP out on modern love. It builds on their previous EP merging early 90’s UK Hardcore with contemporary influences. This records ‘tells the story of many nights out in the underground experiencing epic nostalgic highs and crushing comedown lows. Thus this duo obviously is operating in the same waters as say Burial, Lee Gamble, Vessel, Wife… if you dig that, you’ll love this. Perhaps it is even more rooted than any of the others in that early Nineties style. Coincidently I just got this a week before seeing DJ Trax and Nucleus in Antwerp, talk about a throw-back weekend. On a side note: Mala (Martin Lawrence, Digital Mystikz) was among the ravers, good to see him about again in Antwerp.

Container – Adhesive
The new Container EP has to be the best bit of techno out in the new year. This is brutal stuff really, not just pounding 4×4 beats either, this is heavy on many levels. Mindfuck techno with challenging rhythms.

Honourable mentions go out to AnD for his new EP Kundalini: techno at its core, AnD is not afraid to mix things up with breakbeats and grime influences (from his past in Dubstep). A varied EP moving away from traditional techno structures.

Check it out!

Greets,
J.

The best of 2013 part III – Best singles

Finally, here’s part III. Some of the best tracks of electronic (dance) music taken from various singles and EP’s. They’re in alphabetical order and links have been provided when available.

Alight – Iridis (local action) link
Amit – Acid Trip (tempa) link
Anno Stamm – Purple Clouds (all city) link
Appleblim – Fluorescent (apple pips) link
Armour – Skylark (tectonic) link
Basic Soul Unit – Untoward (nonplus) link
Black Rain – Data River (blackest ever black) link
Blue Daisy – An Emperor and his Son (hoya hoya) link
Burial – Rival Dealer (hyperdub) link
Clams Casino – Freeze (tri angle) link
Cut Hands – Belladona Theme (blackest ever black) link
Darkstar – You Don’t Need a Weatherman / Zomby remix) link
Djrum – Blue on Blue (Voodoo) (2nd drop) link
Eliphino – I Don’t Care (hypercolour) link
Emmanuel – Logic Instance (arts) link
Etch – Scattah (keysound) link
Function – Psychic Warfare / Vatican Shadow remix (Ostgut-ton) link
Happa – 13.05.13 (boomkat editions) link
Hodge – Monster (well rounded) link
Ital – Pulsed (workshop) link
IVVVO – Darkness in my Soul (public information) link
IVVVO – Pure Morning (fourth wave) /
Jam City – Garlands (night slugs) link
Jonas Kopp – Throbbing (arts) link
Kahn ft. Flowdan – Badman City (black box) link
Karma – Smear Dub (system music) link
Kerridge – Waiting For Love – B1 (downwards) link
Kevin McPhee – Version One (nakedlunch) link
Kode9 – Xingfu Lu (hyperdub) link
Kowton – Shuffle Good / Andy Stott remix (boomkat editions) link
Kowton – TFB / Karenn remix (all caps) link
Lorn – Debris (ninja tune) link
Low Jack – Don’t U Know (in paradisum) link
Lucy & Silent Servant – Dormancy Survivors (mote-evolver) link
Lucy – Slaves March (bleep) link
Machinedrum – Eyesdontlie (ninja tune) link
Machinedrum – Gold (/) link  
Mala – Changes / Harmonimix (deep medi) link
Mark Pritchard – Ghosts (warp) link
Miles – Infinite Jest (modern love) link
Moiré – Rolx (rush hour) /
Mumdance & Logos – Truth (keysound) /
Najem Sworb – Some (clone basement series) link
Nguzunguzu – Mecha (fade to mind) link
Pangaea – Razz (hadal) link
Pearson Sound – Starburst (hessle audio) link
Quest – Visitors (deep medi) link
Rainer Veil – Struck (modern love) link
Randomer – Bring (hemlock) link
Rhythmic Theory – Legacy of the Lost (idle hands) link
Samuel L. Session – Rhodes Island (arts) link
Shed – The Dirt (fifty weapons) link
South London Ordnance – Floating World (aery metals) link
Special Request – Wall to Wall (houndstooth) link
Stingray313 – NKKK4_2 (nakedlunch) link
Tessela – Nancy’s Pantry (r&s) link
The Bug ft. Flowdan – Louder (ninja tune) /
These Hidden Hands – Hidden / Old Apparatus remix (hidden hundred) link
VIVEK – Asteroids (system music) link
Vessel – Misery is a Communicable Disease (liberation technologies) link
Violet Poison – Osiris Antichrist (bed of nails) link
Visionist – I’m Fine (lit city trax) link
Visionist – M (ramp recordings) link
Zhou – Locust Dub (punch drunk) link

Undoubtedly I missed a lot of things either by forgetting to mention them or by simply not knowing of their existence. Feel free to help me with the latter part.

Here’s hoping for another excellent musical year 2014. The first big album will hit the stores already in a few days. I’ll try and put up a review next week. I’m talking of course about the last album in the Actress trilogy: Ghettoville.

Kind regards,

J.

The best of 2013 part II – Top 15 Albums

#15 : Egyptrixx – A/B ‘Till Infinity (night slugs)
This Canadian producer expands the glorious Night Slugs catalogue with his second album for the UK label. This album literally melts all those neon UK funky elements into a base of liquid nitrogen, indestructible and ready to take on any form. It is  comprised of a lot of funky elements: chords, synths, toms, 808 bass…but it is a dark album, make no mistake about that. It fits right in with the recent output of label mates Logos (see part I) and Kingdom, but also is not unlike some other albums found in this list (Oneohtrix, Zomby…) in its glitchy nature and occasional outburts of heavy bass.
Check out A C C R and Bad Boy on youtube.

#14 : Shifted – Under a Single Banner (bed of nails)
I mentioned before in part I that the darker post-techno sounds were definitely one of the more interesting trends to emerge during 2013. Alexander Lewis (aka Shifted) second full album is a prime example of this. Behind its techno foundations lurk darker and more brooding environments. The music takes elements from dark ambient (Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement,…) and dub (Andy Stott) and mixes those with the analytic razor sharp techno produced by some of Berlin’s bigger names (Ben Klock, Dettman…).
Check out Burning Tyres and Wash over me on youtube.

#13 : Misty Conditions – D’zzz (planet mu)
This is a fun album certainly made more enjoyable if you’ve smoked loads of weed. Misty Conditions is a collaborative project between artists Burnkane and Shitmat. You can clearly discern each influence: tempo and structure can be matched to Burnkane while the over driven bass and lo-fi production tick Shitmat’s boxes. This is an album made purely for the sound systems. It mixes breaks with downtempo and footwork and throughout the album, a massive sub bass is always present. It’s good to have some fun albums in the top 15!
Check out Dank and Dusco on youtube.

#12 : Akkord – Akkord (houndstooth)
Akkord have been on the forefront of the bass genre for the last two years. They have been top of the game as far as percussion goes for a while now. They tackle all sorts of tempo’s (jungle, d&b, dubstep, techno…) and do it well. Where they had been lacking for me on their previous EP’s, in my opinion, was depth particularly in the sub bass department. All this gets rectified on their debut LP for Rob Booth’s Houndstooth label though.  Bass music aficionados of all tempo’s will find something to love here. The variations in tempo do not detract from this sonically consistent album.
Check out Folded Edge and Channel  Drift on youtube.

#11 : Zomby – With Love (4AD)
Let’s start of by saying that a double CD probably wasn’t the best idea: there’s way too much superfluous material here. If you take the best tracks from both discs though, you can conjure up a fine  third album by the London Producer. He still has the odd hardcore/jungle track (lo-fi production included) in there and There are some very beautiful UK funky tracks on here as well. His venture into trap territory is a mixed success though: about five of the tracks sound exactly the same. Too much material here for sure, but if you filter through and just keep the right stuff, there are plenty of gems to be heard.
Check out Memories and 777 on youtube.

#10 : Transitional – Dark Matter Comunnion (avalanche recordings)
I doubt many will know this one. I admit it is perhaps a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine as I own this band’s entire back catalogue so far. Yes they are a band, but this is a purely electronic ambient album. They’ve used processed guitars which add a gnarly bass and some thick layers of noise though. The album, though inherently rather sombre, does have some heartbreakingly beautiful – almost mesmerizing moments. If you like long hypnotic ambient tracks with droney passages but also some elements of melody check this one out. I could not find any full songs online but samples can be heard on the Avalanche recordings website. Last I checked it was a ‘pay what you want’ download album as well: top class and DIY to the bone.

#09 : Ensemble Economique – The Fevor Logic LP (not not fun)
This one will be alien for many as well, but I absolutely love this album. I grew up on the shoegaze of bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Jesu, Death In Vegas…and electronic producer Brian Pyle has introduced many influences of those bands into his new electronic album The Fever Logic LP.  It also utilises drum machines for percussion, one of the best instruments ever invented. The vocals might scare some people off though. Pyle mixes eerie dreamlike synths with gothic ambiance and beautiful melodies. It won’t be for everyone but I think this might be the album I listened to the most during 2013. It’s also by far his best solo work to date.
Check out Walking Into The Light on youtube (my most played track of 2013).

#08 : Vatican Shadow – It Stands to Conceal (hospital productions)
Compilation album released in January 2013 compiling some of Vatican Shadows out of print limited edition EP’s and singles. Must have for fans and collectors and a good starting point to discover his immense back catalogue.
Check out Lebanon 2 on youtube.

#07 : Special Request – Soul Music (houndstooth)
More goodness from the Houndstooth label. Special Request (aka Paul Woolford) goes back to his jungle/hardcore roots on the exciting Houndstooth label (label of the year perhaps?).  This is pure 90’s nostalgia brought into the 21st century with top notch production methods. All those who fell in love with jungle, drum & bass and hardcore should check this one out. Heavy breaks, heavy beats and heavy bass. There’s the occasional foray into contemporary tech/house as well which Paul has been visiting under his other monnikers lately. Top shelf warehouse sounds.
Check out Soundboy Killer and Body Armour on youtube

#06 : Prurient – Through The Window (blackest ever black)
Dominic Fernow is a man of many faces and projects. I like almost all of them. Prurient was probably his harshest most inaccessible one (even I find some of his work too much to handle). That changed in the beginning of 2013 when he released this album of gothic dark industrial techno. Hard hiting sure, but accessible nonetheless. It’s a bit short to really qualify as an album in my opinion (only three – long – tracks), even then it still is one of the best EP’s of the year. Especially the last track ‘You Show Great Spirit’ will feature in many end of year lists I figure.
Check it out on youtube here.

#05 : SHXCXCHCXSH – STRGTHS (avian)
Avian emerged in 2013 as the leading techno label for me. Their finest album was STRGHTS by…you know what I’m not going to bother typing that again. This new Swedish arrival has brought inspiration from his winter landscapes it appears. His techno is at its hardest and darkest, going beyond the boarders into another dimension. There’s so much texture, so much depth here…this is far more than a conventional 4×4 album. Check out the ten ton heavy opening track, which is more like industrial meets dub, like Vessel did on his debut album last year. There’s also an excellent remix EP for this album which is a worthy addition.
Check out PCTSTSS and LTTWLF on youtube.

#04 : Samuel Kerridge – A Fallen Empire (downwards)
Much in the same vein as the album above, Berlin based Kerridge too explores the darker fringes of bass music (not just techno) stepping even further outside the box. This too is a dark beast of an album which sidesteps into industrial. The bass is monstrous at times but there are scarce moments of danceable beats as well. The percussion is bone rattling and there are walls of sound, hypnotic downard spirals of ambiance…another one for the braver heads but very rewarding indeed.
Check out the album here.

#03 : Forest Swords – Engravings (tri angle)
There’s room for beautiful up-beat albums in the top 5 as well fortunately. ‘Engravings’ is the debut LP for Forest Swords for the Tri Angle label, a source of quality for the past couple of years. His style has remained largely the same: staggering R&B/downtempo/break-beats meet shoegaze vibes induced with a lot of ‘Morricone’-like guitar doodling. He’s added more manipulated vocal passages along with a dub foundation (yes, more bass!). The hooks on this album are terrific. Engravings does slow down a bit in the second half, the only factor that perhaps prevents it from taking the top spot in the list.
Check out the full album here.

#02 : Vatican Shadow – Remember Your Black Day (hospital productions)
I realise there’s a lot of darker heavy music in my top 15 this time. As I said before, perhaps it was one of those trends of 2013. Perhaps my own mindset became a bit darker? Who knows? Remember Your Black Day by Vatican Shadow too isn’t exactly the happiest album either. It is perhaps Fernow’s best produced album to date: it sounds great and utilises modern recording techniques: no more mixing on cassette tapes. Contrary to some of his previous work, this one did take some time to grow on me: he’s not added a lot of melody and what little there is was fuelled by melancholy and sadness. The sound is sterile and well thought over, not just random mixing of noise with an eerie synth buried somewhere in the back.
Especially the second half of the album is relentless with pummelling beats and harsh rhythms. This really is one for the Modern Love/Blackest Ever Black/Type fans. There’s also a great addendum EP (When You were Crawling) which features some excellent more dance floor oriented mixes (co-produced by Silent Servant who you’ll see more of in part III).
Check out Remember Your Black Day  and Tonight Saddam Walks Amidst Ruins on youtube.

#01: Roly Porter – Life Cycle of a Massive Star (subtext)
Simply the most beautiful album of 2013, period. This is a celestial soundtrack to the forging of our world. The audio to an epic movie of space exploration. The experience that perhaps ‘Gravity’ should have been. It’s not too lengthy yet sitting through this feels like watching an aeon go by. It’s a cyclical album (what’s in a title) that is so cohesive and carefully plotted. There’s plenty of harsh noise and gritty bass for the lovers, but the emphasis is on slowly building, spiralling and restrained melodies. Purchase this and listen to it all the way through…I plead you! Ironacally, an almost beatless album takes the best electronic album of the year award here on Late Night Endings! It has been an atypical year for sure.
Check out Birth on youtube.

That’s it folks. Hope you enjoyed the read but more importantly, some of the samples added. A varied and I guess atypical top 15. In part III, online somewhere during the weekend, I’ll discuss some of my favourite tracks from various singles and EP’s released in 2013. The emphasis there will be a lot more on dance floor tracks: there’ll be plenty of UK bass, dubstep, Techno, House, Funky and experimental tracks in that list.
The single and EP formats still prove to be the best for dance music so it seems: it is incredibly difficult to create a cohesive, consistent and at the same time  innovating electronic album that contains a narrative, a theme or a structure. That’s why Life Cycle of a Massive star for me deservingly gets the top vote here.

Cheers,

J.

SHXCXCHCXSH – STRGTHS

The Best of 2013 Part I – Best Albums Honourable Mentions

Finally after half a year of absence, I got round to compiling the best electronic music of 2013 in a three part feature. Today I present the first instalment in the series:
In this feature, we look at the honourable mentions in terms of full albums of 2013. All these are certainly worth checking out, though not all are complete and undivided successes. These albums showcase promise and tackle their own spectrum of the electronic music field.
Later in the week, we look at the 15 best albums of 2013 in a separate feature. In the final part which is looking like a weekend update, I’ll post some of my favourite tracks of the year taken from various singles, EP’s and free releases (basically all the stuff that couldn’t be found on any of the albums below).

Hope you enjoy the read and apologies for not providing any links, with youtube, mixcloud, soundcloud and many other sites available, listening to these albums shouldn’t be more than a few clicks away. As always I encourage everyone to buy what they like and support these artists. None of them are rich superstars, they are musicians doing what they like and making music for the underground.

I appreciate any feedback at all, other recommendations and links to stuff that I like but might have missed!

Cheers,

J.

Honourable album mentions of 2013

Young Echo – Nexus
The highly anticipated debut album from the Bristol collective, arguably some of the most talented individuals in the UK,  turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for me. Needlessly complex and too abstract I fear it is not the sum of its parts. It’s often too floaty and quirky and lacks a substantial side to it. It also lacks stand-out tracks for that matter. There are certainly hints of potential though. For now some of the members individual output over-classes this album though.

Swindle – Long live the Jazz
Good dubstep has again been few and far between this year. Perhaps this is positive as it shows the genre is slowly returning to its underground roots  and the excess baggage is being dropped along the way. One constant will remain however: Deep Medi is still the place to be for the genre  with a host new releases in 2013. Swindle’s jazzy approach is unique: the tracks feature a lot of horns (even a bass guitar) but the funky sounds are oddly contrasted with a lot of midrange material ( and sharp synths). If this was supposed to give the album a grime feel, it didn’t work that well. This album suffers from an identity crisis for me: it tries to get too dance floor oriented and loses itself a bit along the way.

The Field – Cupid’s Head
The new Field album simply doesn’t live up to its predecessor (Looping State of Mind – 2011). Cupid’s Head presents more glitchy and melodic drawn out techno pieces. It is pretty consistent and certainly warrants a listen but simply never quite reaches the highs that Looping State of Mind provided.

Ikonika – Aerotropolis
Off the back of an amazing Hyperdub EP in 2012, Ikonika’s new album Aerotropolis was another disappointment for me. Notwithstanding, it has its moments of grandeur: ‘Completion V3’ is one of the better tracks I’ve heard this year and ‘Manchego’ is sure to set some club floors on fire. But there’s simply too much material on here that I could  frankly live without. As ever, Ikonika remains best on her short-players.

Tim Hecker – Virgins
Tim Hecker has not made a bland album yet. Virgins sees him increasing the discordance, noise and overall confusion but at the same time he introduces more instruments than ever before.  The album swells and then deflates again with some beautiful scattered piano playing. There are noticeably more snares on this album than on his previous work too. Overall, I found Virgins to be too much of a mixed baggage and I still prefer the previous three albums over this one. Virgins best moments are when it is at its most quiet and timid.

Function – Incubation
For an all-round good album that displays a variety of different styles within the electronic sub genre that is techno, Incubation is a good starter. It has some acid influences, some soothing dubtechno  and a few heavy rollers.  The standard here is pretty high but Incubation just lacks those stand-out moments that lift an album from good to great. It’s fairly accessible and doesn’t venture too far off-world thus is ideal stuff for a night out dancing.

The Haxan Cloak – Excavation 
With winter approaching fast, I’m rediscovering this gem from early on in the year. This album truly is scary. I couldn’t leisurely put it on but in the correct (mind)setting, listening to this becomes an experience and that’s what music is all about. Furthermore, there really are  some dense and interesting structures (‘Consumed’ or ‘Miste’ for example) that contrast with the quiet tenser moments very well. A talented artist without a shadow of a doubt.

Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
I can’t say I approve of Mount Kimbie’s new live direction. They’ve become just another band really but it sounds like they haven’t decided whether the vocals should be the most prominent feature or not.  They have crafted some marvellous instrumentals here. Unfortunately overly-complex compositions and the adding of needless vocal elements undo a lot of that hard work. It’s hard not to hear the potential of tracks like ‘Blood and Form’ or ‘Break Well’ but both lose their impact towards the end in clouds of confusion. Some interesting songs here but perhaps they should get back to the drawing board concerning the vocals.

Slava – Raw Solutions
I guarantee many will have overlooked this one. Slava isn’t the most advertised artist out there but he can make a tune. His take on footwork on Raw Solutions goes down especially well with me. He’s always had a knack for melodies and the up-tempo tracks complement this. No real stand-outs but overall energetic quality guaranteed.

Juicy Jay – Stay Trippy
Guilty pleasure number 1: Juicy Jay’s Stay Trippy! This is Atlanta hiphop/trap but with a large enough wink to itself and the genre that it stays fun and entertaining. Get some drank, get yourself some loud and have a few laughs to some big superficial bass beats.

Moderat – II
I think ‘Bad Kingdom’ is one of the best pure pop tracks I’ve heard all year. Yes this is a radio friendly album (and I’m frankly surprised that I haven’t heard any stuff off this album on Studio Brussels yet). . I’ll just call it what it is: nothing innovating or mind-blowing but a very solid electronic pop album that does what it intends to do (kinda like a good summer blockbuster: you won’t remember it in three years time but it was fun at the moment).  My grief with the album comes when I compare it with the self-titled effort from a couple years ago, which in hindsight was a beast of an album.

Lustmord – The Word As Power
One of the more ethereal, almost esoteric ambient albums of the year. It focuses a lot on vocal sounds transformed into ambient pieces, with contributions from celebrated artists like Jarboe (Swans, Neurosis, J2…), Maynard James Keenan (Tool) and others. Its long drawn out pieces won’t be for everyone. If you’re looking to meditate though, put this on and drift to a different place.

Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
The problem with this new Oneohtrix album is the same as on the previous album: the tracks lack consistency. Heavenly melodic tracks are disintegrated by needless barrages of glitchy beats, chopped vocals and sometimes really childish synths. It is part of his style I suppose but that never worked for me. ‘Boring Angels’, ‘Americans’, ‘Inside World’…they all contain good passages but also useless bits that distract from the flow of the album. The most consistent track of this bunch has to be the moody and minimal ‘Cryo’. I think Oneohtrix is at his best when he practices restraint.

DJ Rashad – Double Cups
Rashad proves himself the king of footwork once again. After some mediocre EP’s for Hyperdub this year, Double Cups totally sees him redeeming himself with plenty of soulful and catchy Chicagoan vibes. Ghettotekz running it.

Mika Vainio – Kilo
Very aggressive and industrial beat-driven album by Vainio. It’s more electronic than a lot of his previous work taking in influences from industrial techno, dubstep, dub and power electronics. It’s rumbling and rattling sounds have a certain raw energy to them. It lacks any form of melodic outbursts but is just right for a darker mindset.

Logos – Cold Mission
Though very well received by most critics, I was quite disappointed with Logos’ debut album for the Keysound label (one of the last truly consistent UK bass music labels still standing from the golden dubstep era). It has some pretty cool ‘combinations’ on display: Eski/grime meets futuristic soundscapes meets that whole neon Night Slugs sound with a slab of minimalist jungle in between. Sometimes these contaminations work for me but more often they don’t. This one still needs some time to grow on me. In the meantime I’ll keep rinsing the collaborative EP with Mumdance which was an instant hit.

Darkstar – News From Nowhere
Darkstar are arguably top of the class when it comes to the former dubstep collectives turned pop bands. Their previous album North was a (highly successful) transitional album. With News From Nowhere, they’ve fully arrived in bitter sweet pop land. They are by far the best group vocal-wise. Some of the compositions are stunningly beautiful and the melancholy just oozes out of tracks like ‘You Don’t Need A Weatherman’ or ‘Amplified Ease’. It’s all a bit soft and sunny but there are moments of greatness. Also, live they bring their work a lot heavier, denser and more layered (like a pocket version of MBV) than on record. The remix EP’s of this album contain some stunning tracks as well (check out the Zomby remix!).

Recondite – Hinterland
Recondite churns out another couple of fine drifting and melodic acid tracks at  a slowed down pace (almost dub techno). He mixes in some deep house elements in the percussion as well. It’s a fine and consistent album but contains very few surprises and could have done with more highlights such as ‘Leafs’. Fans won’t be disappointed but if you are expecting some pill munching acid, you’re looking in the wrong place. Stunning artwork as well by the way.

Still Corners – Strange Pleasures
I do enjoy my dose of gazey dream-pop. For fans of Beach House (or even Grimes) this is a must listen. It contains some beautiful tracks (‘Going Back to Strange’, ‘Berlin Lovers’) that remind you of innocent youth.  Don’t expect any heavy beats or experimental sounds here though: it is simply pop done right.

Femme En Fourrure – 36-26-36
Great albeit slightly over-stylised house album. The entire thing is oozing with that comedown feeling. The R&B vocals work surprisingly well with the late night house steppers. A welcome introduction to this artist for me.

Machinedrum – Vapor City
Consistent and well balanced album by Machinedrum. Unfortunately it isn’t elevated to something more: it never impacted me the same way that Room(s) did when I first heard that one. The combo of footwork/jungle/electronica still works but what he has gained in ‘complexity’, he might have lost in impact. There’s still a plethora of quality on display: check out single ‘Eyesdontlie’ or ‘Rise N Fall’ for example with their lush R&B vocal snippets. And what about the Jungle/autonomic blasts of ‘Gunshotta’, catered perfectly to the dance floor masses. Other tracks I will however have forgotten completely come February 1st, 2014.

The Weeknd – Kiss Land
Slightly disappointing fourth album by this Canadian R&B meets bass sensation. The title track which was released as a single promised a lot of good stuff. Unfortunately ‘Kiss Land’ proved to be by far the best track on the album. Which isn’t to say there’s no quality on here: the tracks just lack consistency. The first half of the album interchanges genuinely good moments with bland or overlay dramatic moments. The latter half of the album loses focus. The single is a damn good piece of music  though that elevates this one above mediocrity. Surprisingly the duet with  Drake isn’t too bad either.

Snow Ghosts – A Small Murmuration
Snow Ghosts fill in the void left by Various Productions perfectly. It’s dramatic, cinematic, layered and dense music with great atypical deep female vocals. The music complements the singer very well and vice versa. Favourite track for me is the collab with Blue Daisy who put a great EP out this year as well. All-round quality on the forward thinking Houndstooth label.

Benjamin Damage – Heliosphere
Fifty Weapons have to be one of the better labels of these last couple of years and the new Benjamin Damage record is a great addition to their legacy. Incorporating loads of nineties influences (particularly melody wise), he continues to bring a unique and varied take on modern techno. “Laika” is one of the better tracks of the year, keeping the middle ground between Shed, Speedy J and Burial. “Delirium Tremens” is pure energy driven techno and what about the chilled out dubby “End Days” venturing into half-step territory. Did we mention this is a varied album?

Cosmin TRG – Gordian
More material from the above mentioned Fifty Weapons right here. Cosmin TRG further refines his brand of tech-house on his second full album. Though it is perhaps his most ‘minimal’-oriented output to date, the elements are perfectly balanced. Rhythmically speaking he never needed any lessons (see his great first couple of  dubstep records) and he’s taken further steps forward in terms of hooks and melody. Time in Berlin has truly helped him define his own style of techno. Defeated Hearts Club’ is one of the gems of the year.

Senking – Capsize Recovery
Outstanding debut album from Senking who moves further away from the dubstep/breaks territory into the barren ruins of the post-techno sound. Droning bass, industrial effects, bare hints of melody: it ticks perhaps all the boxes of what was ‘good’ in 2013 but when it is done right, it doesn’t matter that it follows a sort of ‘successful’ trend. On this album he creates a paranoid, desolate landscape but there are still enough beats to call this a a varied and modern dance album.

Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Immunity is a consistent and beautiful techno album that feels as though it has a true narrative to it, a rare feat in most albums these days. It interchanges energetic dance floor tracks (though a bit more light-hearted in style than most other techno albums found in this list) in the first half, with deeper retrospective moments in the latter half. I found most people slightly overhyping this one, but to claim it isn’t a damn good album is simply wrong.

Om Unit – Threads
Very colourful album that blends the verges between jungle, hip-hop,  footwork, drum & bass and dubstep. A futuristic voyage that wanders into the high-end BPM spectrum but isn’t afraid to leave some occasional space between the beats. Melody-wise this man needs no lessons: at times they are exotic but oft also timid and introvert. I feel as though beat-wise he could have brought more cards to the table.

Laurel Halo – Chance of Rain
Laurel Halo has cut down on the weirdness and finally produced the substantial album she was always capable of making. Mixing psychedelic elements with meditative beats and hazy melodies, this feels as a complete work of art (with great artwork I might add). After a typical intro track, the beats take to the forefront on ‘Oneiroi’, a first positive that still might alienate a few listeners with its weird percussion. The knackered beat of ‘Serendip’ continues the upward trend on towards the highlight title track. ‘Melt’ throws another ambient curve ball, but the album quickly resumes its great form after. By far the best Halo work yet.

The Stranger – Watching Dead Empires in Decay
The Stranger is another pseudonym of electronic/ambient wizard James Leyland Kirby. He presents a brutal and nihilistic vision of a post-apocalyptic world, with loads of harsh hardware sounds, eerie sci-fi sound scapes and heaps of abrasive percussion. Elements of field recordings still meander through the album. This one is hard piece to digest: it’s heavy and dense and has only a few moments of melodic relief. For those into heavier electronic music, it comes highly recommended though.

Miles – Faint Hearted
Debut release for Miles Whitaker on the epic Modern Love label. All music here is constructed through analogue hardware and it shows as this is by far is heaviest and most abstract release to date. It’s still a brooding piece of intelligent techno though. He has clearly taken some influences on board from label mates Demdike Stare and Andy Stott, all for the better. There’s certainly more ‘noise’ here and the album has a clear dystopian feel to it. Another one for the fans of darker music.

oOoOO – Without Your Love
Another debut album in this list: after two good EP’s of gothic and glitchy house, oOoOO has made a more soothing and digestible album. There are a lot more vocal parts here, both male and female but both are heavily processed. The beats meander between hip-hop, dubstep, breaks and house, there’s a little something for everyone. I regret the fact that he has cut down on the layers a lot, but it does give the album a solemn and minimal feel. Some great melodies at work here.

Tune in for part II which will feature the top 15 albums of the year. A sneak peek perhaps (releases on legendary labels like Night Slugs, Houndstooth, Tri Angle, 4AD and Planet Mu are still to come)

 

Update

Hi all,

New post coming soon! I have compiled a list and have done a little write-up on the best 25 albums of 2013 for me. Also, I’m planning on posting some of my favourite tracks in a separate post + there’s already some exciting new music on the way in 2014. All should be up by Tuesday.

Thanks for the continued interest and apologies for the long bouts of silence…work and all that I suppose🙂
Cheers,

 

J.

2013 : Midway summary – top 25 tracks

With the year already halfway, I figured it was about time to round some things up. I have collected the 25 best electronic music tracks in my bag so far for the year 2013. As per usual you’ll find pretty much all genres represented in the list as I’ve tried to embrace as broad a taste as possible. That way, fans of every genre might ‘benefit’ from this list.
During the next weekend,  I”ll also release a list with the 15 most accomplished albums of 2013 so far. That list in all honesty, is a bit more disappointing. There have been a ton of great singles and EP’s out this year. But in the album department, 2013 has most certainly been underwhelming. The good news is there are still 6 months in store to change this!

I’ve kept the list in alphabetical order.  For a final ranking, check back come year’s end for our annual feature. Also forthcoming is my final Dour Festival preview (which is closing in fast). Look for that to be online during the weekend!

1: The best tracks so far

Alexander Lewis – The Third Room (Blackest Ever Black)

Dark and atmospheric Techno that crosses over into ambient has clearly been one of the underground ‘trends’ of 2013.  The label that was on top of this development was without a doubt Blackest Ever Black. On his industrial and gritty first EP  for the label (A Luminous Veil), Alexander Lewis most remarkable piece was gothic record opener The Third Room.
With loads of looping, distortion and pedal manipulation, this can hardly be called easy listening. But it will speak to fans of both challenging IDM, ambient, noise and industrial. Other great tracks on the EP include the drone dirges of Black Thread  or the over-driven bass in Mirror Fragment. The entire EP comes recommended.
Alexander Lewis – The Third Room

Appleblim – Fluorescent (Apple Pips)

Appleblim continues to drift farther away into post-dubstep territory with every release. On this single (released on his own Apple Pips label), he has kept his love affair with bleepy and hardware influenced future-techno, but clearly incorporates more ‘in-season’ boogie house elements. It makes for a catchy, excellently crafted yet dynamic track. There’s a certain flow to the track that prevents it from getting boring even when clocking in at over 8 minutes.
Appleblim – Fluorescent

Basic Soul Unit – Untoward (Nonplus)

BSU proved they were back in the game near the end of 2012. Fresh off the back of an excellent album, they delegated this track over to the Nonplus label for their album sampler (VA – Think and Change).  Granted, this is very much by the numbers acid techno but damn is this rough? It’s stuttering rhythms only add to its rudeness. Certainly one of the dance floor bangers of 2013 for me and one of the highlights on said compilation.
Basic Soul Unit – Untoward

Deadboy – Nova (Numbers)

After an absence of nearly two years, Deadboy made a grand comeback to the future bass scene.  The entire Blaquewerk EP comes recommended but Nova was clearly the stand-out track.
Granted, it takes obvious cues from the likes of Burial and Zomby with clear hardcore and jungle influences along with mournful vocal samples. Simply stating those names as references though should be enough to get you interested.
Deadboy – Nova

DJ Rashad & DJ SPinn – Broken Heart (Hyperdub)

Just when you think the footwork/juke movement was losing some of its momentum (in part due to the rise in populariy of trap?), two or three great records get put out on European labels. DJ Rashad‘s debut on hyperdub was one of those examples. There is not a bad track on the entire Rollin’ EP but we’ve chosen the soulful Broken Heart (a collaboration with the evenly amazing DJ Spinn) as the stand-out track. On another day I could just as easily go with the dance floor killing title track though.
DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn – Broken Heart

Djrum – Blue on Blue (Voodoo) (2nd drop)
We’ve already reviewed this gorgeous post-dubstep/future bass track here. Just listen to the blissful second half!
Djrum – Blue on Blue (Voodoo)

E.R.P. – Pith (Frustrated Funk)

Regular readers of the blog know that I’m generally not too fond of electro. But when injected with a good dose of funk, structured build-ups and futuristic sounds, even my mind can be changed. ERP did just that on his Pith EP which features three quality and well conceived futuristic electro swingers.  There’s a certain drexciyan air in there too. All tracks are of equal quality to be honest.
E.R.P. – Pith

Elgato – Dunkel Jam (/)

We here ate LNE have always had a weak spot for Elgato. Mainly because he is truly unique: sure the foundations are house music but his stuff is unlike anyone else out there in the post-dubstep landscape. Dunkel Jam is another piece of looped minimalism with a unique vocal loop and plenty of low end.  Released on his own new ELGATO label as a limited white.
Elgato – Dunkel Jam

Ital – Pulsed (Workshop)

Ital prented his most dance floor friendly EP to date. His brand of tech-house veers closer to Berlin than ever before on the Workshop 18 EP. We’ve selected the blissful minimal techno of Pulsed to be included in our list, but all three tracks are great:
Ice Drift takes some cues from former UK Garage greats whereas the final track ‘Slower  Degree of Separation’ mixes technoid soundscapes (not unlike Sigha‘s more ambient work) with extra-terrestrial bass.
Ital – Pulsed

IVVO – Darkness In My Soul (Public Information)

IVVO’s best release to date could arguably the strongest EP I’ve heard all year. There really isn’t a bad track on the Future EP (out as part of a new techno offshoot series on Public Information). The synths on Darkness In My Soul are so ominous: truly a dark atmosphere partly invoked by the excellent artwork as well. But when placed against the euphoric techno beat, the track transforms into another beast all-together.
The rave nostalgia of ‘Before The Death of A Rave‘ is equally deserving of a place in this list. The vicious title track isn’t much worse either: truly an excellent all round EP with a lot of variety but embraced by clearly defined common theme.
IVVVO – Darkness In My Soul

Kahn ft. Flowdan – Badman City (Black Box)

Occasionally, dubsteps steep downward curve still gets halted by the likes of Deep Medi Musik, Tectonic, Tempa or Black Box. Sometimes there are even new talents emerging (Visionist for examplebut generally, the scene seems to be declining further. Thank god for tried and tested names like Kahn (who’s showed more than once that he can do a lot more than dubstep) still dropping bombs like this one from time to time. Arguably the biggest underground anthem in London this year with a strong vocal performance from Flowdan on the mike (who’s also had a great year mind you).
Kahn – Badman City

Kode9 – Xingfu Lu (Hyperdub)

After Planet Mu, Kode9’s hyperdub also picked up on the footwork thing in 2013. Kode9’s latest productions also show some influence from Chicago, mixing it up with Grimey eski beats. XingFu Lu is arguably the best example of the mixture of these styles. Especially the ruthless finale will mash up several floors during the summer! The synths remain utterly sick, in true Kode9 style.
Kode9 – Xingfu Lu

Lucy & Silent Servant – Dormancy Survivors (Mote-Evolver)

Rolling, dark, monotonous techno? Look no further than Mote-Evolver for your daily dose. My favourite release to emerge from their camp this year was the single Dormancy Survivors by Lucy & Silent Servant. This is foundational stuff but the extra dose of noise just adds to the ruthlessness and there’s also an alienating vibe radiating from the track.
Lucy & Silent Servant – Dormancy Survivor

Machinedrum – Eyesdontlie (Ninja Tune)

Machinedrum continues to mature his production style. Yes, the foundations are still ‘playful’ footwork beats and loops. But there’s more substance in this dynamic track. The mood shifts  from gloomy dubstep to ravey euphoria to straight up hardcore mayhem. There’s something fore everyone in this tune!
Machinedrum – Eyesdontlie

Mala – Changes (Harmonimix)

This one was a long time coming. Finally released to the public, anyone should own this and it shows once again how fine a producer James Blake really is. This tune stands in sharp contrast with his new full album which is truly underwhelming. He should get back behind the buttons/computer/hardware more in stead of behind the mike.  Truly a cinematic piece of music, pure drama!
Mala – Changes (Harmonimix)

Mark Pritchard – Ghosts (Warp)

Mark Pritchard brings his take on juke/footwork, again showing the genre is far from dead or becoming stale at least. Ghost is by far the best tune on the EP, but there’s another good track or two on there. The vocoder is awesome and brings a futuristic dimension to the footwork onslaught.
Mark Pritchard – Ghosts

Moiré – Rolx (Rush Hour)

Moiré elaborates on his knackered and stuttering mutation of Detroit techno adding a dose of sunset melodies to the mix. The perfect soundtrack to a fucked up night out. The track ebbs and flows building up before slowly fading out again.
No link Available.

Prurient – You Show Great Spirit (Blackest Ever Black)

Through the Window is actually an album, but since there are only three tracks here, I’d rather consider it an EP. As we said above, BEB have certainly found a new interesting sound: a sort of gothic or shoegaze techno with a haunting vibe to it. Prurient (aka Vatican Shadow) is deffo the best example. His haunting technoir epic You Show Great Spirit has to be one of the strongest tracks of 2013 so far.
Prurient – You Show Great Spirit
Rainer Veil – Struck (Modern Love)

We’ve already discussed Rainer Veil’s debut EP on Modern Love here on the blog at length. I can only say that this EP has held up after months and still contains two or three of the best tracks of the year (Struck – Bala …). Future junglism meets post-rock meets blisful ambience. All great combinations.
Rainer Veil – Struck
Randomer – Need U (/)

Another record we’ve previously discussed on the blog so we can be breef. All round great EP mixing jungle with grime and nasty bass lines. The stand-out track has to be Need U though.
Randomer – Need U

Rhythmic Theory – Legacy Of the Lost (Idle Hands)

Dark house with dubstep deep ends has been making a rise lately: it has been the creative platform for many dubsteppers who have moved on (Loefah and Swamp 81, Kahn, Keysound…) and Bristol couldn’t stay behind. Rhythmic Theory’s dark and futuristic roller is a straight up assault. Look for influential lable/record shop Idle Hands to lead the way.
Rhythmic Theory – Legacy Of The Lost

Shampoo Boy – Loch (Blackest Ever Black)

More harsh and haunting ambience from the boys over at BEB. Okay,  I agree: this track is a bit of self indulgence here. Frankly I understand if you don’t like this one: it’s pretty harsh dark ambient with layers of noise and granted, it is about as far out as I’m willing to venture on this blog. It’s hardly even electronic music (let alone dance music). But I like the depressing vibes of Loch very much. Very cinematic, very bleak and grim. If you can handle the surface noise. The rest of the EP is of lesser quality.
No link available

The Bug – Louder (Ninja Tune)
The Bug ventures back to dubstep one more time with loyal partner in crime Flowdan on the vocal duties. Dark and simple but effective dubstep beats with some killer bars on top. The other half of the EP sees Kevin Martin experiment with trap music, to surprisingly good effect as well!
The Bug – Louder

The Weeknd – Kiss Land (/)

The Weeknd’s new single is awesome. You’re either going to love it or hate it but I still sense progression in both the beats and the vocals. Great popR&B  music with bass music and hiphop twists to hit.
The Weeknd – Kiss Land

V.I.V.E.K. – Asteroids (System)

This is dubstep, old school style. Unfortunately a bit played out by this time as this dubplate has been in circulation for over a year.
VIVEK – Asteroids

As usual, thanks for reading. I hope you picked up something you might have missed! I welcome all sorts of feedback: recommendations, critiques, remarks…all feedback is good feedback! Enjoy the music and more from me in a couple of days.

Oh, and I’ll take some time tomorrow to get rid of some of the horrible spelling/grammar errors too :)  !

May: Cool releases

Well it has been silent here for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been really busy but finally got round to copping some new tunes. Here’s what I really liked this month!

Kaiju ft. Flowdan – Hunter

Usually I’m not too big on that Dungeon sound. It certainly has its merits in a big sound system environment, bringing the heavy dubstep low ends with a minimal approach. But add a vicious Flowdan to the mix and everything becomes a little bit more interesting.

Granted, the mc’s contribution is a bit limited in this cut. But the delivery as as cold and harsh as ever. And the lyrics are over-the-top great. Like a predator in pursuit of its prey.  Flowdan has a few more big collaborations coming on the new The Bug EP as well, so look forward to that as well.  Of course this is out on Kryptic Minds imprint Osiris Music UK.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnQY3swM4tA

Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth

Mount Kimbie have a new album out as well. For the follow up to 2010’s marvellous ‘Crooks & Lovers’, the duo moved to the WARP label, who recently released similar albums from the likes of Darkstar and The Hundred In the Hands.

They have added a lot of singing to the mix which is something new for them. Honestly, it doesn’t work most of the time. I think Darkstar are far superior at this game. But that doesn’t mean the album does not include some stand-out track!

The slow/minimal build-up in Break Well is very moving.  Made To Stray is a nice and quircky house instrumental (until the mediocre singing starts). So Many Times, So Many Ways has a nice laid back soul meets post-rock vibe to it.  And the densely layered hazy vibe of Lie Near speaks to me as well.
But most of the vocal tracks (bar perhaps the opener Home Recording which is a good pop song) simply don’t deliver. The singing by the artists as well as some of the guest vocalists is annoying and detracts from some of the instrumental creations.

This album certainly is a mixed package going from greatness to mediocrity in the space of a few tracks. But lovers from the acts mentioned above, or the Warp label in general, will get something out of this album.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuSAf5nevl0

 

Randomer – RNMR 01 EP
The new self-released Randomer EP brings a nice dose of dance floor fire to my collection: you simply have to have those in the collection as well.  These are flexing house and hardcore mutations that certainly bring back that nineties vibe, with a modern touch.

The first track combines that typical Chicago sound with ravey touches and deep hardware manipulation. ‘Need U’ delves back to the raves of the nineties mixing up a hardcore beat with hints of some proper 2002 era grime as well. Heavy!
‘Meat & Dancing’ is similar to Blawan productions with heavy and sharp percussion and neo-acid vibes. Lastly, ‘Search it Out’ could be find in some corner of the Night Slugs back catalogue (also taking some cues from 2010 era Untold).

This is exactly the kind self-released/white label package you need in your DJ collection: four dance floor destruction guaranteed tracks mixing it up in terms of style and influence. There’s something for everyone here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8_RMk8d3Q

 

Phon.O – Schn33 / Go

Granted, this isn’t Phon.O’s most revolutionary release to date but it fits right in with Fifty Weapon’s ever expanding catalogue. ‘Schn33’ is about as uplifting as I’ve heard the German producer get. It’s ‘funky’ techno by the numbers (almost edging towards trance at times) but it’s produced very well and works. ‘Go’ is a bit darker and has  more interesting percussion and deeper bass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPFNjV20sao

 

Mala – Changes (Harmonimix)

Finally, this long awaited dubplate received a limited white-label release and I got on this like a hawk. I don’t need to explain why, just listen. Already won best remix of the year in my book. It’s dynamic, it’s powerful, it’s emotional: it’s almost as good as the original track (one of dubstep’s all time classics) but from a completely different angle. Creativity at work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLozoX1RdnM

Finally, a note to my loyal reader Chris. As always, thanks for the comments and continued interest. But I’ve not gotten round to hearing the next Akkord record yet. It’s next on my list I promise. Also, I received a PM with regards to the new Redinho album. As far as I know, this isn’t out yet and I haven’t heard any previews yet. As soon as I do, I’ll of course write about it here. One of the better live/sing acts I’ve seen in the whole bass music theme.

As always, feedback – comments- recommendations : I welcome it all!

Cheers,

J.