2011: Patrick Masterson
I was lucky to continue with CHIRP this year and hear a lot of great albums as I did it, from Live at the South Bank and Flight Muzik to 936, Afro Noise Vol. 1, Dedication and more. But the best part for me was the live music I saw this year. Starting with Rambos in January and rolling through Black Milk (on 4/20, no less), Matthew Dear, Mount Kimbie, Gang Gang Dance, one of LCD Soundsystem’s Terminal 5 farewell shows, on to finally seeing The Psychic Paramount live, I think I did OK for an amateur. There were more, I haven’t forgotten, but it’s late on a weekday and there’s work early tomorrow. Things sure are different from a year ago.
I admit it looks suspect to put a compilation that came out just days before we had our deadline here at Dusted, but with all due respect to those that missed my cut (I’m sure you’re heartbroken), I was pumped for the second installment of Bangs & Works and it delivered in subtle differences from the first collection. Last year’s volume was sheer shock tactic, deranged rhythms and sharply chopped vocal loops warped and pitched at will — a welcome punch in the face of dance music’s evolving status quo. This one takes a step back, no longer feeling the need to impress with sheer audacity alone.
This is basically a stand-in for Modern Love at large, one of the Dusted staff’s preferred labels this past year. Passed Me By wasn’t quite on the same level of detail as Demdike Stare’s stuff, but it was at least a match in density. Though short, the mini-LP (and its noteworthy companion We Stay Together) was some seriously oppressive audio, colonial sonic bludgeoning, a lot of which was lost on you with laptop speakers. You suckers know who you are.
There were those who didn’t run. There were those who could take it. What was it? The multi-reedist for Arcade Fire and Bon Iver making wondrous noise a single take at a time at the Hotel2Tango. Where did it go? In ears and in hearts, impossible to forget. It was a vivid dream of beaches guarded wildly by cannon-carrying horses and 14 ways to tie it up, Laurie Anderson in hushed tones together. What was it? Reeds and tongues do no good here. I’m still not sure even now.
The Psychic Paramount emerged from a half-decade haze, swept through 40 minutes of the best rock music of the year on record, clouded stages the country over with vaporizing sound and a smoke machine to make RJ Reynolds envious, then retreated in nubilous air to the anonymity of the city just as quickly. It’s not a record, it’s not a live show, it’s not an “experience” — this is a comet you can’t see. Luminous possession, they walk among us.
I drank orange juice waking up. I drank milk even after the oatmeal. I drank soda even when they called it pop. I drank the beer I owned, the beer I was saving, and the beer that wasn’t mine. I drank to the end of every bottle and toasted sic semper nastiness to John Wilkes Booze and Hot Fighter #1. I drank to these passings and more, muttering high praise for Johan somebody-or-other. I drank to where I was seeing three of everything, white, pink and deep red, it was all caps and I could only hear voices all in mono. I obviously drank the Kool-Aid. I swore I blacked out, or maybe I just swore. Because Dusted staffers are no lightweights and neither are their recommendations.
Good year for rap, or great? There was K.R.I.T. and Curren$y (and Curren$y... and Curren$y) and Watch the Throne and “I’m on One” and Danny Brown and A$AP Rocky and Fear of God (I guess), but more than all of those bar one, there was 808s & Dark Grapes II. Something from Cortázar’s Hopscotch here, I can’t find it now. Leave that. I thought these guys were getting better in the spring, but I wasn’t expecting this by the fall. Forget searching under Tumblr rap tags and follow this crew’s continuing evolution for some real fun (button’s in the top right, if you’re looking).
I hear hard snare hits, handclaps and hovering vocal clips from one-time so bones R&B queens, vacant expanses and pillows with plumes of feathers floating in slow motion for an undergrad’s film project, like exhaling directly into a microphone when you’re wearing headphones for 70 minutes. Not just one for the YouTube rippers, it was for anyone with a pulse and passion for dance music. “This one’s… kind of special.” No kidding. Another girl, another world. He’s finding one.
Guider was good, really good, but I rocked the succinct Live at Echo Canyon far more. I love how taut Disappears sounds; I also must’ve listened to their Suicide cover endlessly there for a few days in March. I’m an unabashed fan of their LPs, but the cassettes/tour CDs better represent how sharp this band can be live. Can’t go wrong unless you’re just not listening. Don’t be that person.
I was originally going to list Eye Contact as one of my favorite records of the year, but who am I kidding, I listened to the whole thing maybe four times. “Glass Jar” is another story — I must have played this song the most this year. Maybe that’s surprising considering it’s 12 minutes long, but its euphoric highs and addicting melody make me think not. “MindKilla” was the flip of this 12” and it’s the only other song I remember from Eye Contact. So, like I was saying: “Glass Jar.”
Another year, another step toward and away, another great Mi Ami record.
About that “bar one” earlier: I hope we’re talking about Black Up in a decade’s time the same way we talk about other landmark hip hop albums. Maybe it’s contemporary futurism will sound quaint in 2019, I guess we’ll find out if we make it that far. Verse-chorus-verse, easy outs and rich jazz loops, straight rhymes or rhymes to begin with, all that boom-bap backpack soul packed in a ship, shot out and off, far off, where rubber band business meets string theory stretching. It’s unsympathetic, darkly ambiguous, Verne-driving soul-diving, endeavors for never. It’s saying awesome things over awesome sounds. And really, isn’t that what hip hop is in any decade?
Pursuit of the formerly anonymous Sandwell District collective was a hobby techno fans reserved for most of 2010, right up to the surreptitious release of Feed-Forward in the final days of the year. It sounds as good now as it did then, but I want to be very clear about this: It’s an entirely different arthropod from the CD of compiled alternate mixes and versions we’re talking about here. Sandwell District is like squaring the circle or the friction of a ball bearing against the inside of a wedding ring, barnacles eroding the hull of a boat, unclean and omnivorous. You can hear it in “Immolare (Function Version)” devouring three separate songs in nine minutes or the half-opened owl eyes of “Blood Tide’s” quiet call or the unspoken tension in “Falling the Same Way” or the simple thrill of not having to track down every test session on YouTube (let’s be honest).
I’m reminded of kindred spirit Pisces Iscariot in ostensibly presenting a b(r)and’s lesser moments, yet because of the looseness of performance and sequence, downplayed attention to detail, and keen self-awareness, they end up being a better argument for the “proper” release’s emotional power. In a year where I never really felt settled, Sandwell District reinforced how a solid answer, a position’s limits, OK or not, yes or no, black or white, could only exist at the perforated edges of a version of “Grey Cut Out.”
By Patrick Masterson