2009: Cole Goins
This 12” dropped at the beginning of the year, and pretty much set the bar for the rest of ‘09. True, Joker had better singles (“Purple City”), but “Digidesign” was certainly no slouch, showcasing the unparalleled funkiness of his simple, yet perfectly plotted beats. But the real reason why this record received so many spins was the incredible collaboration by 2000F and J Kamata on the B-side. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” built upon Darkstar’s vocoder-driven groove and inserted dubstep’s heaving low-end, crafting what was hands down the most enjoyable and forward-thinking song I heard all year. Honestly though, I could list any of Hyperdub’s releases here in the top 10, and Kode9’s ever-growing stable deserves every bit of the attention gained over its five-year existence. Check the label’s massive fifth-anniversary compilation for proof.
Late to the game on Kurt Vile, I finally picked up his debut, Constant Hitmaker, right after reading all the acclaim it received on a hefty number of 2008 year-end lists. It instantly became a stereo mainstay, and I burrowed deep into the Philadelphia guitarist’s unfurling canon for the rest of the year. Mexican Summer’s reissue of God Is Saying This To You ... emphasized Vile’s 4-track proficiency – the intimate corridor to Childish Prodigy‘s confidence. Both records presented something special, but Childish Prodigy was definitely the masterwork, and solidified Vile’s spot as one of today’s most captivating songwriters.
Honestly, it took me quite a few listens to come around to Mi Ami. Daniel Martin-McCormick’s urgent shrieks can be a bit of an obstacle, but after the music clicked, I was endlessly hooked. No other record this year was as raw and emotive as Watersports, forging cataclysmic funkiness from a mixture of dub, punk, noise and techno. If we’re going by sheer number of plays, this one was probably at the top of the pile for me, and I’m stoked to see what these guys come up with next.
Label: Sonic Oyster, Dekorder and Jagjaguwar
I’ve been a longtime fan of Richard Youngs’ massive discography, but his 2009 output was among his most brilliant yet. I first came across Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits, which was Youngs like I’d never heard him before: a gorgeous, minimal synth-pop record that still maintained a certain timelessness. It instantly became a classic, though a criminally unheard one, due to album’s super-limited release. After that, I sought out Like a Neuron, and was floored by the shift in technique, featuring hyperdelic synths and ecstatic house jams. Then, Under Stellar Stream emerged like a meditative mantra on infinite loop – a difficult presentation of Youngs’ exercises in repetition, but mesmerizing nonetheless. An especially incredible year for a man who continues to redefine himself and his music in such a deeply personal and exploratory way.
Thank goodness for Boomkat’s 14 Tracks: the music distributor’s weekly service seems to have mirrored many of my interests this year, and introduced me to more than a few great acts. Matias Aguayo was one of them, and his sophomore full-length for Kompakt was a definitive highlight of ‘09. The Buenos Aires/Paris-based DJ has an uncanny knack for crafting addictive, vocal-based grooves swimming in psychedelia. But what really sets this record apart is how well it holds up on headphones. Sure, it’s definitely suited for dancefloor raunchiness, but Aguayo’s rhythms are dazzling in their depth, and will definitely reward attentive listening.
It really doesn’t get much smoother than this. Dâm-Funk’s silky cuts were 2009’s biggest breath of fresh air, and following him on Twitter was a constant source of positive vibes. Perhaps a double-record for a sound so well-defined as Dâm-Funk’s was a bit overkill, but the effortless, G-funk genius of Toeachizown cannot be denied. I say keep the funk comin’, Dâm.
The initial release for Of Bonds in General emerged as a limited run of 200 CD-R’s on Karl Bauer’s (a.k.a. Axolotl’s) Loci imprint in the Spring, serving as a pre-issue to the complete LP package by Catsup Plate. Though the latter release has yet to materialize, it didn’t effect how much I enjoyed the tracks themselves. Threading a blissful pulse beneath layers of violin and electronics, Of Bonds in General sounded defiantly new and compelling. Consider me on call for when this LP officially drops.
It was a big year for D.C. hip hop. The city’s ambassador emcee and number one cheerleader, Wale, finally released his long-awaited full-length debut, which is as good as one would expect from the energetic young talent. But the DMV’s real highlight came from D.C. natives Oddisee, XO and YU’s Diamond District ensemble. Oddisee alone has already established himself as a versatile emcee and producer with one foot rooted in hip hop’s Golden Age, but forward-thinking all the same. His unique production techniques laid a fitting foundation for the group’s highly-developed mic skills, pledging allegiance to D.C. with every other breath.
What surprised me the most about this collaboration was how natural it sounded – or, at least as “natural” as harsh electronics paired with squeaking saxophone can sound. The chemistry between the two players on C-Section is remarkable, with Wiese’s erratic laptop bursts mingling masterfully with Parker’s responsive squalls. It’s a difficult record, no doubt, but listening for how the two players intersect and improvise yields new discoveries with each subsequent spin.
All in all, it was a fantastic year for Raster-Noton. Both Alva Noto and SND released spectacular full-lengths, but perhaps the crown jewel of the label’s output was Uwe Schmidt’s return to minimal funktronica under the pseudonym ATOM™. A robot opera of meticulous clicks, cuts and tweaks, the attention to detail on Liedgut is mind-blowing, with recurring themes weaving into the album’s circuitry. Truly an electronic masterpiece.
By Cole Goins