2011: Daniel Martin-McCormick
Cooly slides in at the end with this Sade-infused number, filling out her sound with just the right amount of washy pads and synth stabs. I was loving her early output, especially "Weekend Fly," where skeletal drums and floaty vocal loops suggested a fusion of the Neptune’s best Clipse productions, the U.K.’s perennial skitter and R&B a cappellas. "Landscapes" takes that template and fleshes it out with an awesome bassline, cosmic drones, earth/stoner mama lyrics and a propulsive housey vibe that energizes the song mid-way. When she goes into the harmonized "free… free…free" part after the first round of verses, it is so great. I’ve yet to hear the album (due out next year), but if it’s anything like this, it’ll be a monster.
The zillion Hype Williams records that poured forth this year were all pretty awesome, giving (ahem) hypnogogic music a much-needed edge. Although sorta funny and always collapsing, they are also subtly terrifying transmissions, skipping down dark portals of psychic detritus and druggy paranoia. Live, though, shit gets real. I was expecting some queasy illbient or something, but instead they offered up a punishingly-loud, weird-fi take on trip hop and jungle that was equal parts disorienting and captivating. Lost in a sea of fog and strobe lights, the members appeared as specters, impossible to focus on for too long without having your eyes freak out. Flanked by a sign language interpreter and a kid on a stairmaster, the whole enterprise was designed to confuse, and would have been pretty annoying if the music wasn’t so powerful. Pristine sub bass was matched with snare hits that sounded ripped off YouTube, and while the music grew more and more violent, the vocals remained sublime and chill. I guess Sade is a thing this year cuz she got covered. Overall, it was as if their music had snapped to attention from its languid stupor, no less weird or confrontational but now sinuous and very much alive.
Did you notice it, too? There was a lot of great, very dark electronic music this year. I am sure there’s a ton of dark music every year, but what made this year’s crop so striking was how unique and exciting it was. Shackleton seems like the grandaddy of these new kids on the block, with his jumpy, ambient dread showing up everywhere you look. Demdike Stare’s Tryptych picks up where he left off with the Middle Eastern samples and extrapolates it into the stratosphere. Everything here is drifting, ominous, and perfectly placed. As winter settles in, I highly encourage revisiting this one, especially on long walks in the freezing ice.
Andy Stott came on strong this year with Passed Me By and We Stay Together. I haven’t yet picked up the latter, but by all accounts it pairs well with the former, which beautifully marries Gas’ thick, dominating drones, Shackleton’s sub bass creep and Wolf Eyes’ crusty sludge. If not a masterpiece, it’s a raw and highly engaging steamroller of an album. When little R&B samples eventually cut through the grime, it’s like hearing Burial’s legion of followers chewed up and spat out by something much realer, larger and more powerful.
The Raime EP on buzzy, poorly named label Blackest Ever Black leans the most toward straight dub techno, but slows it down and throws in some "this shouldn’t’ work but it does" polyphonic chant samples and a lot of wide open space. Actually, it only leans toward dub techno because it’s dubby and it sounds generally techno-ish, but Raime doesn’t obey any particular set of genre conventions, often skipping on the four-on-the-floor kick and completely bypassing the "deep" chord. I was waiting for a night train somewhere in between Manchester and Glasgow, outside in the freezing cold with not too many people hanging around, and I threw this on. Felt like someone was gonna come stab me.
I suppose this could fit in with the last three, especially since Regis has remixed Raime and all that, but SD feels more their own thing. Less dark, more cold and exacting, Feed-Forward felt to many like a techno master class and also an "oh, shit" moment. "Falling the Same Way" is definitely the pick for me, and I wish it was three times as long, but every track delivers the goods on this one, and picking one over the other is a little arbitrary as they all flow together in one icy movement.
I’m sure you’ve heard about this already, so I’ll just say it’s great. Lovers rock reinvented for the noise cassette generation. It’s a beaut.
Why do I like this song so much? Cuz it’s perfect, that’s why. This was a funny one, a song I listened to more than anything else, that I couldn’t play for any of my friends without getting a confused look, that appeared on an album I didn’t enjoy at all (but was still great)… a total indie-pop number through and through, which I fell in love with despite myself. I recommend checking it out if you feel like feeling good and also a little bit bad. Damn, it’s so good I’m gonna listen to it right now.
So much awesome cosmic swirl here. I feel like Derrick May doesn’t get enough rep, even though everyone knows he’s the shit. Laurel is the first person in a while I’ve heard that seems to be interpreting his stab-heavy, energized proto trance, filtering it through a highly conceptualized futurist mindscape. It’s so good, especially the opening jam. Live, too, she’s great, everything stretched out and star-gazing as fuck.
Dope Jams July Party
Yow! The best DJ set I ever heard? Yes it was! I know it’s a little obnoxious putting live shit on here because of the absence of time machines etc, but they do them every month. Come on down! I had read about Mancuso disco parties and immediately got bummed out because I would never get to experience anything like that… and then I walked into tiny lil’ Dope Jams, with blazing hot sound, fog making everything invisible, and the most bonkers disco you and I will never own on vinyl or even mp3, and it was a veritable dream come true. Trying to describe the caliber of the music and mixing would be dumb, but suffice it to say that they played all those weird, abstract house numbers you fall in love with and wanna play out but then when you do play them, people get bummed. Except when the DJams crew played them, people started screaming.
Colin Steston - New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation)
The Friend Zone:
Magic Touch - I Can Feel The Heat 12” (100% Silk)
By Daniel Martin-McCormick