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Listening in 2011

Three years ago was the last time I did any kind of “year’s review” of aural nourishment, and I sort of feel the need to do it again. Those 24 hours of music are worth revisiting, and the following may not even count as a “best of,” but it is some of the best music I’ve heard this year, and I listen to an awful lot. Maybe call it a “compendium”? No that sounds too boring. In actuality this list is simply nothing more than a bunch of shit that goes on my iPod and ends up staying there for longer than it takes for me to get bored of it.

And yeah, there’s some strange shit indeed. Although I don’t cover any “pop” here, there’s still a very wide range of music represented, listeners will be hard pressed to find at least something attractive on this list. Click on the album title to find where you can get the release; you’ll find an amazing amount of these are on bandcamp and can be streamed for free. These also aren’t in any particular order, they all stand alone on their own and can’t really be compared to each other as a “top-#” list. So without further a’do…

 

Andy Stott
Passed Me By / We Stay Together
Modern Love

I am so happy the throbbing washing machine multi-textured off-balance-beat dub techno sound has continued strong thanks to this artist. The constantly appearing layers are the most surprising and pleasing parts of these tracks, looping sound combinations you just don’t expect, spanning a wide spectrum. There emerge strange hypnotizing rhythms, thankfully not always percussively so, drawing the ear into a swaying communion.

 

Kangding Ray
OR
Raster-Noton

I like this label, I really do. I can listen to entire albums of strategically placed pitch-shifted static and buzzing and genuinely enjoy it. These tracks, however, have a personality that stands out among all the other click-pop-n-wrinkle hardcore glitch. Check out older albums too, all extremely nice static buzz filled phat bass ear candy with more of an organic character than your typical release from here.

 

Aril Brikha
Palma / Forever Frost
Art of Vengeance

Getting involved in the Chicago house DJ scene made me a huge fawning sucker for that special deep style of dimly lit underground basement club speakers-in-your-ears house. These EPs – on Brikha’s new label, very worth following – provide a longing glimmer of those nights, a sliver of a view into that unending helical mass of filtered 4×4, but with the added flavor of a nicely wrought darker melodic display and just the right amount of unpretentious builds, expertly structured above thick analog basslines.

 

Daniel Menche
Feral
Sub Rosa

Really getting into the subtle noise of this album, a stereophonic treat where tendrils of sound creep into formation, directed by equally interesting shifts in rhythm. I’d certainly call it difficult listening, but more on the down-low engaging side than an all out aural assault, it even works as passive earpaper while I sysadmin. This artist is new to my ears this year, so definitely looking forward to discovering more, and super glad I bumped into this release when I did.

 

The Black Dog
Liber Dogma
Liber Kult (Book 1 Ov 3)
Liber Temple (Book 2 Ov 3)
Liber Nox (Book 3 Ov 3)

Dust Science

It was a great day when Ken Downie teamed up with Dust Science to resurrect The Black Dog in all its weird glory. It’s like a hole was in electronica and nobody ever knew it until new albums and remixes started showing up these past few years, and now here’s a slew of new tracks (colored vinyl if you’re one of the lucky ones!). The label page says the 12″es are meant a continuation of the more darkly ambient Music for Real Airports, but they are definitively more straight-ahead techno. Dogma, on the other hand, is one of my favorite listens of the year, meant as a snapshot of what tBd does live, and the result is a beautifully organic evolving mass of electronic exploration and funky groovability. I never got into this band much pre-Plaid, but what I’ve heard from that era doesn’t touch the production values of what they’re doing now.

 

Shpongle
The God Particle
Twisted

I can’t deny my love of this band and when even a small two-track release appears I’m all ears. So although some of their tracks get way too poppy for my taste, it’s perfect that these are somewhat oldskool, and I especially love the Pink Floyd mimickery (not entirely unlike Download’s “Flight of the Luminous Insects”). I guess there’s a lot I like in tracks like these that remind me of my favorite times as a kid listening to the unfolding of albums like Dark Side of the Moon, and that can’t be a bad thing.

 

Phoenecia
Demissions
Schematic

It’s really special when I find a record that caters more to darker electronica, the type of filtered analog sound with delicate beats and expansive reverberation atmospheres, the kind you’ll often think “man this would sound killer on a big system in the middle of the desert,” complete with crunchy liquid percussion. It’s not all beats though, there are some incredibly intense ambient sections that equally wrap your ears in haunting melodies from the other side of the chasm.

 

Margaret Dygas
Margaret Dygas
Perlon

There is a playfulness in this album that compliments the regular cut-up and deep techno feel I usually get from the label. You know the drill: clean round synth harmonics contrast with crisp lines of shuffly drums and jazz-based samples nestled among the swelling and swaths of ululating drones… sounds typical, yes? Her arrangements are anything but; simple dissonant tonal contrasts propel the tunes beyond a boring four-by-four, and from out of nowhere you’re sifted into head-bobbing syncopation that evolved from surprises you didn’t even realize had happened.

 

Amon Tobin
ISAM (Control Over Nature)
Ninja Tune

Some regular fans were real disappointed, but the people I know who love it probably do so for all the same reasons i do: a poignant lack of sampling other works, intense abstract sound design, at times tableau-like, to-the-point sonic explorations, familiar filtered analog synth kaleidoscopes mixed with ample digital acrobatics and just the right touch of an eerily disturbing off-kilterness. I got the fantastic blue-fabric bound book version from Amoeba in LA, which is this amazing outlay of a miniature insect-like world created by Tessa Farmer (interestingly enough the very day I interviewed at Buzz). I share some heritage with the album too, mastered as it is by my buddy Shawn (aka Twerk) over at AudibleOddities.

 

Logreybeam
Perhaps
Les Enregistrements Variables

When I listen, I keep wanting the solemn hypnotic repetitions to evolve into a live jam of some sort, and I fondly call this melancholy collection ‘shoegaze klezmer’, if for nothing but the acoustic instrumentation. My favorite parts of it are the weirder, more experimentally minded sounds, rhythms and ambience that flow between and around the masterfully arranged conversation between the instruments (all played by the same composer and arranger). This is a record I might expect to find as a solid Tzadik release with some extended soloing, and will hopefully be picked up beyond its homemade short-run life and get some play out as a real ensemble.

 

Matthew Mercer
Pianissimo Possibile
self-released

If you listen to any amount of electro-acoustic music you’re as painfully aware as I of the the glut of piano works. Fortunately idioms those… here broken… gLitsched… expectations frustrated – (just look at the title) – an immensely enjoyable equal footing of structure and form with materials instead of turning into some kind of accompaniment… driven and poignant, thickly colorful expositions.

 

DeepChord
Hash Bar Remnants, Part I & Part II
Soma

Rod Modell has got the knack for delivering a constant stream of floaty reverberating dub, and these installments are no exception. Slightly ambient tracks with lighter drums sit neatly beside heavier beats that could easily be mixed into techno – in fact all two volumes provide a wealth of nice and long dub house tracks for the discerning mixologist (there is even a follow-up release of loops from these records).

 

John Tejada
Parabolas
Kompakt

Usually when I see any remix on something done by Tejada, I get it, but have never been so much into the full albums. This one is the exception, a stellar atmospheric and minimal techno release, not to mention I just love having a Tejada vinyl with the ubiquitous Kompakt circles.

 

Aeroc
R+B=?
Ghostly

Geoff White finally takes off his techno mantle and gives back some even greater tracks from his more smoothly downtempo project. I like his house beats a lot, and the first Aeroc album was excellent, but this one takes all the elements of that goodness and fills in the rest with more of it, generously connecting with samples he uses in more upbeat affairs. Some of the best combinations of weird sounds and more traditional (acoustic) guitar licks out there, with plenty of groove to catch yer hook.

 

~▲†▲~
~▲††▲~
Phantasma Disques

∆AIMON
AMEN / AMEN Remixes
Tundra Dub

When you’re actually searching through the underground for new things instead of just allowing them to pop up, you tend to run into some pretty awesomely strange shit (I mentioned the strange shit, right?). So first of all, I hate this genre title: Witch House (and I know you’re thinking, “RUN’s house!”). The alternatives are maybe not that better… ‘Okkvlt’ is probably what works best for me, but there’s also ‘Zombie Rave’ or the more musicological but equally confusing term ‘drag’… not so easy to tell what they actually describe. To that end, I feel like these releases not only encapsulate a lot of what I’ve heard from this style, but also what has gotten through to me more than other stuff. Orchestral, subtle folk, wide range of analog synth timbres, a rave element dialed down to icey glacial projections, plenty of noise and drone elements scattered throughout. Beyond style really, where a lot of genres meet up to melt together in an underworld of aural sublimity. I especially like the aspects of this genre that seem to be meant to keep it underground, for instance the indecipherable symbols and alternate typefaces for titling make it quite difficult for search engines, and a lot of the cover art are just bizarre and weirdly disturbing collages or suggestive imagery, which of course I find fascinating because the music echoes the same combinatory spirit. Highly contrasting, highly original stuff.

 

Halloween Mixes by DJ Craque

This past weekend we presented ourselves in regalia of the zombie, partying until the early single digits at my good friend Chad’s.

I have played music at his Halloween parties for as long as I’ve lived in California, down in Newport Beach as well as Fullerton. In 2010 the digital world has provided us with methods of being the DJ while joining the party; what follows are the set lists I prepared for the costume extravaganza at Chad’s, each on its separate ipod in different themed rooms:

Weird Spooky Alien Evil Beats

Matterbuss  –  Craque –  Gamma
Into The Lung  –  Fisk Industries –  Analog For Architecture
Rocky (Soft)  –  Byetone –  Death Of A Typographer
Hypnotic  –  T Spigot –  Experiments In The Hypnotic Production Of Crime
Auto Pilot  –  Lusine –  Serial Hodgepodge
Tear Strips Off  –  Tipper –  Surrounded
Blood (Brassica Remix)  –  Fisk Industries –  Magnetic Fisk Remixes
Woodface  –  Funckarma –  Dubstoned EP
Licht  –  Craque –  Density Operator
Radio Bombay  –  Hol Baumann –  Human
Bell Jar  –  Craque –  Jawbone
1  –  Gescom –  Key Nell
Phoenix Rising  –  Bluetech –  Phoenix Rising
We Are The Music Makers  –  Aphex Twin –  Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Old Twisted Trees  –  KiloWatts –  Ground State
When I Leave  –  Biosphere –  Light
Black Sabbath  –  Venetian Snares –  Sabbath Dubs
Crowley  –  Fisk Industries –  Magnetism, That Electricity..
Topless  –  Craque –  Supple
Interfere  –  Craque –  Density Operator
Steppen  –  Landau –  Thepicompromise
Break Charmer  –  Cujo –  Adventures In Foam
Adrift for Days  –  Tipper –  Surrounded
June Second (B)  –  Proswell –  Konami
Pable Cath  –  Funckarma –  Dubstoned EP
Frekvenssi  –  Ø –  Oleva
Dasein  –  Loess –  Wind And Water
UFO Over Trenchtown  –  Eat Static –  New World Dub 01
Orgaslsp  –  Craque –  Gamma
Bayreuth  –  Farben –  Textstar
Spacetime Continuum, Mix 01  –  Muslimgauze –  From The Edge
Dael  –  Autechre –  Tri Repetae
Shoot The Moon  –  Lusine ICL –  Iron City
magnesium  –  ilkae –  light industry+
Tunnels OV Set (Autechre Remix)  –  The Black Dog –  Final Collected Vexations
Zeal  –  Plaid –  Spokes
Contain  –  Plastikman –  Kompilation
Tankraken  –  Autechre –  Quaristice
Organ In The Attic Sings The Blues  –  Deadbeat –  Wild Life Documentaries
Slicktoo Stack  –  Craque –  Metathreading
preyWithMe (b0t23 mix)  –  logreybeam –  rem.rem
Strawberry  –  The Bionaut –  Lubricate Your Living Room
Untrue  –  Burial –  Untrue
untitled (proem remix)  –  logreybeam –  rem.rem
Attalal (Remixed By Biosphere)  –  Download –  Biosystems: The Biosphere Remixes
Kaksoisvinokas \ Twinaskew  –  Pan Sonic –  Gravitoni
Cresent Suns (w/ Slinky Wizard  Jewel)  –  binah
Professional  –  Craque –  Meat Hacker
Hours  –  Hol Baumann –  Human
schoen  –  Loess –  Burrows
Base Metal (Re-mix)  –  Download –  Sidewinder
Lusid Crystalin  –  Craque –  Supple
Electric Funeral  –  Venetian Snares –  Sabbath Dubs
Mo [A.mo.re – Aeroc Mix]  –  Murcof –  Utopia
Blood  –  Fisk Industries –  Magnetism, That Electricity..
Lebensformen  –  Håkan Lidbo –  Clicks + Cuts 4
Blackboard  –  Deru –  Autonomous Addicts
Raygun  –  Zainetica –  Future 740
Handcut Ice Cubes (Phil Western Silent Night Version)  –  Phil Western / Tanya Pea –  Handcut Ice Cubes
S-bahn  –  Ø –  Oleva
What The Night Reveals  –  Bluetech –  Phoenix Rising
Clipper  –  Autechre –  Tri Repetae
V-Proc  –  Autechre –  Draft 7.30
Montreal  –  Autechre –  Amber
beetelguise (Craque Orion Conjecture)  –  logreybeam –  rem.rem
Further  –  Autechre –  Amber
Garbagemx36  –  Autechre –  Garbage
rew(1)  –  Autechre –  Move Of Ten
Ghostwaltz on the third floor  –  Anders Ilar –  Twilight Rainfalls
evac’s false premonition  –  logreybeam –  rem.rem
Room 23  –  Shpongle –  Tales Of The Inexpressible
DMT Original Russian Bootleg  –  Shpongle –  Divine Moments of Truth EP
Shpongle Falls  –  Shpongle –  Are You Shpongled
Catch 22  –  Lackluster –  Container
GAMMA GOBLINS ‘Its Turtles All The Way Down’ Mix  –  OTT –  Hallucinogen In Dub

Ambient Horror and Dimensional Rifts

Daddylonglegs  –  Higher Intelligence Agency & Biosphere –  Birmingham Frequencies
ohm  –  kate carr –  automatic crossing
Copper Doors (Anodized)  –  Craque –  Wind Space Compost
Vainamoisen Uni \ Dream Of Vainamoinen  –  Pan Sonic –  Gravitoni
my bed is my boat  –  Herzog –  the autumn parade ep
ambelio  –  Arovane –  Atol Scrap
For Mark Rothko  –  John Kannenberg –  The Sonics of Art Spaces
First Point Of Aries  –  Deepchord Presents Echospace –  The Coldest Season
Sabina Seat  –  Speedy J –  A Shocking Hobby
Ready Let’s Go  –  Boards Of Canada –  Geogaddi
Sleepdeprivation2  –  The Black Dog –  Music For Real Airports
Notre Dame De L’oubli (For Olivier Messiaen)  –  Naked City Absinthe
Ancient Campfire  –  Biosphere –  Shenzhou
Parallelogram Bin  –  Squarepusher –  Music is Rotted One Note
Endless Park  –  Hol Baumann –  Human
Kausaaliton  –  Ø –  Oleva
Dub Stack  –  Craque –  Metathreading
Ó God Protect Me  –  Ben Frost –  By The Throat
Sleepdeprivation1  –  The Black Dog –  Music For Real Airports
Dub For Cascadia  –  Loscil –  Endless Falls
Nowhere  –  Aidan Baker –  Pendulum
Leo Needs A New Pair Of Shoes  –  Ben Frost –  By The Throat
Ruins  –  Axiom Ambient –  Lost in the Translation
Overand  –  Autechre –  Tri Repetae
Ricycle  –  Craque –  Jawbone
Autsaidnait  –  Tanox –  Astronomia de Balcon
Sanguineo  –  Craque / Zitt –  Bookends
Aquamarine Reprise  –  The Bionaut –  Lubricate Your Living Room
Canon (Part 1)  –  Bill Frisell –  Hal Willner Presents Weird Nightmare: Meditations On Mingus
caliper remote  –  Autechre –  LP5
Rarradar  –  Eye –  Plays
Chain Smoking  –  Bluermutt –  Uncertain Data Packed In Red Boxes
Housesonthehill  –  Biosphere –  Shenzhou
Unien holvit  –  Ø –  Oleva
Man From Deep River part two  –  BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa –  Man From Deep River
Spring/Summer  –  Blamstrain –  Aurora 2
Space  –  Lackluster –  Spaces
Tripside Syndicate  –  The Black Dog –  Final Collected Vexations
Val De Travers  –  Naked City –  Absinthe
Pathleadingtothehighgrass  –  Biosphere –  Shenzhou
Meltwater  –  Higher Intelligence Agency & Biosphere –  Polar Sequences
Plinth  –  The Black Dog –  Final Collected Vexations
Louange Á l’Éternité de Jésus  –  Naked City –  Grand Guignol
Puppetmaster  –  Ghost in the Shell –  Original Soundtrack
Pan-Fried Fern  –  He Can Jog –  MiddleMarch
Supple Network  –  Craque –  Supple
Tlit  –  Craque –  Supple
Gruven  –  Craque –  Gamma
Ocean Of Emptiness  –  Deepchord Presents Echospace –  The Coldest Season
Virtual Crime  –  Ghost in the Shell –  Original Soundtrack
Basscadubmx  –  Autechre –  Basscadet
melve  –  Autechre –  LP5
Mojave  –  Ø –  Oleva
Santa Ana  –  Craque –  Wind Space Compost
Butterfly Bush  –  Craque –  Wind Space Compost
Nightshade  –  Kilowatts –  Undercurrent
Bronchusevenmx24  –  Autechre –  Garbage
Inborn sea flowing  –  aless –  i’mmobile
Semi-Fabulous Witches  –  Ten and Tracer –  Makyo
Noise Garden Stack  –  Craque –  Metathreading
SonDEre-ix  –  Autechre –  Quaristice
Untitled Transient  –  Ben Frost –  By The Throat

2AM Extravaganzic Dance Hour

You’re Only SQL (BCN Mix)  –  The Black Dog –  Final Collected Vexations
Kiu_Kiu  –  Twerk –  Living Vicariously Through Burnt Bread
Windowlicker (Acid Edit)  –  Aphex Twin –  26 Mixes For Cash
Plasticine  –  Plastikman –  Kompilation
Tophapy  –  Plaid –  Booc
Ne Contsom A Coltsom  –  SCSI-9 –  The Line of Nine
Boogie Down Bronx (Gescom Remix)  –  Man Parrish –  Mask 500
Mango Drive  –  Rhythm & Sound –  Rhythm & Sound
Yellow Fingers  –  Håkan Lidbo –  Meta-Matic – EP
Musical Box  –  Wagon Christ –  Tally Ho!
CCTV Nation (Slam Mix)  –  The Black Dog –  Final Collected Vexations
Skinclock (Silicone Soul Mix)  –  The Black Dog –  Final Collected Vexations
808303  –  Richard Devine –  Autonomous Addicts
Doubledip uuh…  –  Pantytec –  Pony Slaystation
minreal  –  Craque –  Hpynagoiga
Tango Acido  –  Losoul –  Getting Even
Roots And Wire  –  Deadbeat –  Roots and Wire
Seventy Four  –  Martyn –  Great Lengths
Vletrmx  –  Autechre –  Warp 10+3 Remixes
Out To Funk  –  Savvas Ysatis –  Select
Chrysanthemum  –  Download –  Effector
Breed  –  L’Usine –  Autonomous Addicts
Raggafuzzer  –  Håkan Lidbo –  Sound Molecules
Windowlicker  –  Aphex Twin –  Warp20
squance  –  Plaid –  Double Figure
Near Dark  –  Burial –  Untrue
Toooly Hooof  –  Download –  III
seeing but not seen  –  Phil Western and Tim Hill –  Dark Features
Sex Deluxe  –  Håkan Lidbo –  Sound Molecules
The Grid  –  Peverelist –  Round Black Ghosts
Trouser Mouse  –  Blamstrain –  Exosphere
Nele  –  Kit Clayton –  Nek Sanalet
Booc  –  Plaid –  Booc
Bike  –  Autechre –  Incunabula
On the Hook  –  Savvas Ysatis –  Select
BBRobot (Senor Frio Remix)  –  Ion Driver –  DDD033
I Wanna be Your STD  –  Jimmy Edgar –  Warp20
Tweak Sauce  –  Tipper –  Autonomous Addicts
Ulysses [Fax Mix]  –  Murcof –  Utopia
he never showed up  –  Phil Western and Tim Hill –  Dark Features
Moth  –  Burial & Four Tet –  Moth / Wolf Cub
Alspacka  –  The Tuss –  Confederation Trough EP
Jarvik Mindstate  –  Peverelist –  Jarvik Mindstate
Sun Step  –  Oxia –  Sun Step EP
Northern Wish  –  Artic Hospital –  Terminal
Cornish Acid  –  Aphex Twin –  Richard D. James Album
Whole Life  –  Oxia –  Sun Step EP
Kamaco  –  Craque –  Jawbone
Channel Two  –  2562 –  Round Black Ghosts
Moongomery  –  Ricardo Villalobos –  Fabric 36 – Ricardo Villalobos
Memoria [Sutekh‘s Trisagion Mix]  –  Murcof –  Utopia
The Dragonfly Who Thought He Was a Mockingbird  –  Akufen –  Appleseed Original Soundtrack
My Head Feels Like A Frisbee  –  Shpongle –  Tales Of The Inexpressible
Epilepsia  –  Dinky –  Anemik
I Love Acid  –  Luke Vibert –  Warp20
My Red Hot Car  –  Squarepusher –  Go Plastic
Uhm  –  Download –  FiXeR
Into the Duster  –  Pantytec –  Pony Slaystation
Pathfinder  –  Savvas Ysatis –  Select
Glacial  –  Dinky –  Anemik

Miss Dinky up close

The call burst across as I was sitting in the datacenter.

“LIHSTEN MAHN!” came the south London accent, and I could barely discern the tones of a minimal dubby Dirk Diggler broken beat track that I used to play all the time back on the turntables we had set up at the office… “IT’S TAHT ‘UN TRAC OO PLAHAY.”

When I walked into this place somewhere in SoHo, there were beams of light being reflected from everywhere around me. In every conceivable surface was plastered thousands of square mirrors, and opposite the back of the bar to the immediate left was the woman herself, Miss Dinky, in the midst of another one of my favorite deep house tracks I was currently dropping back home, very likely Hakan Lidbo or something of that sort.

Naturally this wasn’t even the first time I had heard of her. In fact, living in Chicago at the time I only knew her from the select vinyl releases I picked up downstairs at Reckless Records. Working occasionally in New York meant I could be close to that part of the dance music scene at the same time, so it was an exciting event to actually run into Dinky at a bar-cum-club no larger than your average corner deli.

Recently I’ve been listening to the beats on Anemik and they remind me of that night, grabbing the cab downtown to go where I knew one of my weirdly found idols of techno was spinning that very night in a tiny location nobody else knew about. Actually, it’s a strange coincidence this same friend of mine and I happened upon Deep Dish at a similarly tiny club in Chicago… but that’s for another blog and another glass of chartreuse.

i don’t know how to do anything

at times i get overwhelmed by possibilities. the details drag me down, and i lose sight of the path. what causes this?

for instance, what music do i choose to write? do i use electro-acoustic elements, or do i stick to raw sound design? do these ways of working always produce the same results, even though i cannot hear them? do i limit myself by focusing on a working method that could easily shift into tunnelvision? why is it i think like this in the first place, because i hear opportunities of sound in what others are doing? because, hey, that’s a great sound, why didn’t i think of that?

we artists ask these questions. it takes a lot of self-confidence to go out there and sell yourself, but i’m still not sure what it is i do that makes my music what it is. i certainly try to find unique, DIY, individual ways of doing things, but i turn the corner and find someone building it better. some of the electronics instrument/effects building going on around the electronica community blows me away.

but what makes the music change? how does it develop? we’re moving into a world where musical styles – and listening – is more and more splayed, there are almost as many “genres” as there are individuals making music.

there is still something in the music that grabs the mind. it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what “inspiration” or “genius” a particular piece contains, to different folks these mean completely different things. i usually can’t locate it in my own work, i certainly don’t know where it happens or how to identify it. regardless, it shows up.

so, in a very real way, it doesn’t matter what it is i do, or how i do it, just that it is me doing it, in the most genuine way i can.

New improvisations on SoundCloud

Freely improvised one-takes. Instrumentation includes homebuilt instruments, sampled objects and looping hardware.

This music sharing site is a great tool for posting various non-published tracks, as well as released stuff, and has a nice embeddable player and comment system. Really nice for being able to just slap some stuff up, I have one friend who has recently been doing the same with sessions on his new Serge Modular Creature, and another who posted “in progress” snapshots of a track he is working on.

Feel free to download and remix, just give the proper attribution. 🙂

My best 24 hours of music in 2008

I like to make myself feel as if I’m somehow close to the elusive community of electronic music. My problem, however, is that I am way too interested in multiple facets of music releases to pay attention in any style for very long. I seek out what really turns my ear, the gems of sound that are unique statements of purpose or individuality. Since I desire great pieces of listening, I spend time searching for it, which means I listen to a lot of not so great things too, and that goes double for netlabels. Needless to say I associate my music activities in a very close circle, I do very fringe stuff, really of a limited appeal on the grand scheme of things. My listening is only very more or less fringey than that, but I thought, well hell why not, I listen to all this music I may as well review it (however briefly) and share my twisted sense of what’s good music to the dozen people who bother to look at my blog (and if you do, i thank you for at least being interested). And yes you guessed it, listening to all 24 albums shown here will take you almost exactly 24 hours. So enjoy!

Autistici : Volume Objects : 12K
Subtle explorations of sound relationships and rhythm, blending elements of recognizable instruments and easy going synth gestures with elegantly placed electro-acoustic underpinning. I imagine a conductor with the most supreme control of his sonic elements, swirling around in a glaze.

Various : Favorite Places : Audiobulb
A wonderful concept! Recordings and compositions from favorite places of the included artists, a very personal record, wide in breadth. Equal parts phonography and arranged constructions, in some cases I feel like I become part of that place. Eerie and magical.

Ellen Allien : Sool : BPitch Control
Count this one as a surprise indeed. I’m used to a heavier hand when it comes to bpitch and this gal, so a well-crafted minimal techno album with some actual musical interest was the last thing I expected. The tunes are understated but driven in a way that especially matches the style, engaging but never harsh.

He Can Jog : Middlemarch : Audiobulb
There is a finesse with which HCJ can blend noise and consonance that’s infectious and maybe just a little frightening. He shares the same ranks with other electro-acoustic artists here that like a tasty blend of percussion with their textures, and I think he does it quite excellently with a sparing amount of sugar on top.

Ilkae : Light Industry : Eerik Inpuj Sound
Just one person now, Ilkae has released one heck of an outing that mixes pure abstract expressionism with a smattering of melodies and structures that stick in my ear until I’m humming it when I wake up in the morning. LSK and Magnesium are both choice cuts.

Proswell : Cyclothymia : Eerik Inpuj Sound
Over 65 tracks between 0 and 6 minutes. Inspired miniatures, fully rounded songs, brief brightly colored sketchings; some of the best work he’s done to date. A lot of the songs appeared in a podcast over the course of the year, but it is great to have a full collection of them under one cover. Randomized listening highly recommended.

Various : Format : Fällt
Along the same lines of the miniatures Proswell and Ilkae (and myself, inspired by thus) have done, one of my favorite pieces of this comp is Tonne’s “Paper/Pixels”: a corrugated 71 tracks at only 7 seconds or less apiece, from tiny little beats looped once to bursts of noise or nearly silence. Taylor Deupree and FourColor also stand out on this one, wonderful collection!

Tape : Luminarium : Häpna
Polished construction and structure, with a perfect balance of acoustic and electric. These guys know how to make an ensemble be an ensemble and not just a band trying to add computers. The compositional acumen stands on its own in a collection of poignant, soft melodies and instrumentation that I haven’t quite heard before in this context. Looking forward to more from this gang.

Various : Magnetism, That Electricity… : HighPoint LowLife
All the HPLL artists shine on this comp, but I especially like the dark analog synth contributions of Fink Industries (check out the remixes of his tracks too) and the contrasting bubbly lift of The Marcia Blaine School for Girls. There is such a wide range of styles on here that it’s difficult to describe, but it’s fantastic listening with a tropical forest of influences and approaches.

Anders Ilar : Sworn : Level
Moving to the 4×4 side of things, a flawlessly constructed set of tracks. Haunting would be a good word to describe the melodies and dub feel, but really it’s just good smooth techno with a nice groove and peppered funky.

Various : Terminal : Narita
This does have an Ilar track on it that could have easily been on Sworn, but it features so many other great techno folks that it deserves a place on my list for sure. Not to mention it’s supposedly the very last release from the depths of Merck/Narita. I like working in the garden with this one thumping out to me… Senior Frio, Blamstrain, Arctic Hospital, Brothomstates, Yard, Adam Johnson… grow plants grow!

Byetone : Death of a Typographer : Raster-Noton
I was pleasantly surprised when hearing this mechanical beast roar in my studio. Pure waveforms have become the subject of extreme grooves and almost downright hooky harmonic form. It’s good to hear these guys move on from their surgical masturbation to something more substantial. I’m all for delicate glass soundscapes but you can only have so many before the personality is literally worn thin.

Ø : Oleva : Sähkö
There are times when blocks of sound and imagined landscapes go hand in hand. Just wonderfully alien and funky, stuff that makes your torso vibrate. Contains probably my favorite Pink Floyd cover ever; “set the controls for the heart of the sun” is perfect for brooding, dark-sparked audio.

Various : Round Black Ghosts : ~scape
I have to be honest, the output of this label has been questionable for the past few years, so it’s good to hear this collection of experimentally tinged and dub-inspired dance grooves. Pole stands out of course, but 2562’s “Channel Two” is probably my favorite.

Juxta Phona & OffTheSky : !Escape Kit! : Somnia

Unquestionably the best new thing to come out of Evan Bluetech’s new label. There is a hefty amount of experimentalism balanced out by beats, supported by (of course) a dub atmosphere, but further punctuated by a free jazz influence. Right up my alley, the vibraphone work is especially sublime. Somnia has turned out not to be a hyper-ambient thing like I feared, I’m encouraged by the diversity of their CD’s so far, and I love the beautiful packaging. Some of the only CDs I still buy, in fact.

Brassica : Microvictories : Tartaruga
Another CD I had to buy because of the packaging, Calika recommended this album, calling it the best thing he had heard this year. As you can see I had a hard enough time narrowing things down to 24, so naming something numero uno isn’t really my bag. However, I absolutely love the approach in this music. The same sort of collage-inspired acousmatic blending but with his own unique voice in a way that draws you into what’s happening, and before you know it the album is over. And you get an oragami turtle with it! How awesome is that?

D’incise : Les Restes du Festin : Test Tube

This music reminds me the most of music school, I’m not sure why. I think there is a connection with composers I studied that made a subliminal crossing to the work of d’incise, but it could be the natural fluidity of the sound that works the most like a classical string quartet. I enjoy the fact that he uses less beats but arrives at the same atmosphere as earlier albums, carrying the listener along in what seems to be a storyline that never quite reveals itself.

Fennesz : Black Sea : Touch
Finally a Fennesz I can listen to all the way through without thinking it was on repeat the whole time. There is a lot more diversity in this record than any other, showing a real willingness to develop beyond the distorted-guitar-drone rut. I’ve heard other die-hard Fennesz fans poo-poo this album, so it’s interesting I think it’s more mature than others. It’s similar to how I think Murcof has grown, I’m looking forward to what he’s doing this year as well.

Portishead : Third : Universal Island
Uniquely spectacular in their own way. It thrills me to no end that they employed their own studio recordings for this instead of the sample-based thing. Not that Dummy isn’t the best triphop album ever, but they’ve shown here that the band is really a group with something musical to say, not just push out badass basslines. Beth Gibbons has the most sultry voice ever, I cannot get enough of her inflection.

Autechre : Quaristice : Warp
Say what you will, the “bonus” CD for this album is so much better than the “original version” of the tracks. I think it’s an amazing escape into surreal dancescapes and fractured electro, it’s very mature and non-egotistic Booth’n’Brown just having fun and making some cool ass tunes. The reason people hate these guys for doing things like this is because they won’t drop their expectations and just listen to the sound, and want it all to be like 1997 again.

Flying Lotus : Los Angeles : Warp
What I had always wished Prefuse73 was. And now I no longer have to! Artists who pull out just the right elements of hip hop that I like and pull it threadbare through an electronics sieve are A-OK in my book. It also helps this is not an hour of the same approach to beatcutting and voice splicing over and over again. I concede people are into that. I’m not.

Deadbeat : Roots and Wire : Wagon Repair
If you couldn’t tell there is a definitely swing towards the reggae side of things in my library. Swelling basslines and rim snaps, echoes filtering every which way, the sort of limping I love most. What starts off as a minimalistic break-beaty sort of dancehall album assuredly melts into easy rolling dubhouse. I think it’s the most well put together Deadbeat of any.

Letna : Tisza Meets Dunav : Zymogen
Ah some of the most beautiful drones of the year. Very popular this style, it’s only really successful when done with detail and depth. This album imagines me drifting between layers of impossibly smokey silk.

Jimmy Behan : In the Sudden Distance : Zymogen
A sort of minimal chamberwork, with an unevenness and simplicity that mingles the sound as if it belonged there the whole time. Definitely ambient, but more personal than a pure drone album, with smaller spaces and more intricacy.

Some others worth mentioning:

Implex Grace : Through Luminescent Passages (I & II)
HRSTA : Ghosts Will Come Kiss Our Eyes
Hol Baumann : Human
Fly Pan Am : Ceux Qui Inventent N’Ont Jamis Vecu
Evan Marc + Steve Hillage : Dreamtime Submersible
Electricwest : Divine de Vice
Alva Noto : UNITXT
Wilder Gonzales Agreda : Se Tu Propio Totem
Trivium : Shogun
Tanox : Astronomia de Balcon
Secret Chiefs 3 : Xaphan: Book of Angels Vol. 9
op.cit. : Under the Sweel
naw : vague terrain 10: digital dub
Motionfield : Optical Flow
Model 500 : Starlight remixes
Lone : Lemurian
Various : Dame Citrus