Tag Archive: Big Boi


1.       Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music” (Williams Street)

Killer-Mike-R.A.P.-Music

Killer Mike and El-P’s collaborative album is called “R.A.P. Music” with good reason; it does everything that a modern hip-hop album should. The album has a consistency rarely present on guest and producer heavy albums while it manages to cover a lot of sonic and emotional territory without anything feeling put on. The music veers from huge sounding synthetic bangers (‘‘Big Beast’, ‘Southern Fried’ and ‘R.A.P. Music’) to emotive epics (‘Ghetto Gospel’, ‘Reagan’ and ‘Anywhere But Here’) via Southern rap flavoured tracks (‘Willie Burke Sherwood’, ‘Untitled’ and ‘Jo Jo’s Chillin’) and Killer Mike’s flow is just as diverse ranging from the enunciated words of ‘Reagan’ to the super speedy ‘Southern Fried’ and every point in between. What “R.A.P. Music” shows is that when hip-hop is stripped down to its core and rebuilt from button up, in addition to this despite his confident persona it’s clear that Killer Mike isn’t an egotist. He tells stories about other people in his life and discuss wider political issues, the lyrical themes that have been central to hip-hop since 1982 but feel so rare in 2012. “R.A.P. Music” was the first landmark hip-hop release of 2012, a great year for the genre as a whole.

2.       Nas – “Life Is Good” (Mercury)

Nas returns with the superb new album “Life Is Good” a top hip-hop release in a year packed full of high quality hip-hop releases. Though the album doesn’t quite reach the heights of hip-hop classic “Illmatic” the quality rarely drops over the albums 14 tracks (18 on the deluxe edition). Nas balance’s a selection of solo joints complimented by well chosen collaborations with the likes of Large Professor, Amy Winehouse, Mary J. Blige and Anthony Hamilton amongst others. He also strikes a balance between hard hitting hip-hop tracks e.g. ‘The Don’, ‘Summer on Smash’ and ‘Accident Murderers’ with lighter summer jams e.g. ‘You Wouldn’t Understand’ and ‘Reach Out’ and jazz inflected tracks e.g. ‘Cherry Wine’ and ‘Stay’. Strings and piano are the dominate instruments and compliment the mature subject matter about the recent events in Nas’ life and his new found optimism. The cinematic scope of “Life Is Good” is stunning with Nas demonstrating that he has the gravity to compete with other blockbusting rappers like Jay-Z whose similar productions can sometimes sound hollow and overblown. The album rarely lets up its relentless pace but this no bad thing and none of the tracks out stay their welcome. On his most personal album to date Nas doesn’t pull any punches is his brutally honest tales of his own past and present, matching the vivid production of No I.D. and Salaam Remi (best known as Amy Winehouse’s producer on “Back to Black”) every step of the way!

3.       Flying Lotus – “Until the Quiet Comes” (Warp)  

The much anticipated “Until the Quiet Comes” starts as it means to go on with subtle shuffling beats of ‘All In’ with bells and chimes that lead the way harmonically and melodically. These elements become the glue that holds together this elemental, organic and sophisticated release from the highly regard Flying Lotus. For much of his career he has balanced ghetto fabulous beats, drum ‘n’ bass/UK Bass music undertow with his families’ roots in jazz and spiritual music and this continues on “Until the Quiet Comes”. However, it’s the cool jazz and calm spiritual music that is the dominate force whereas previously it had played second fiddle to the glitches, electronic breaks and huge bass rumble of the current music scene. Not that the modern glitches and deep penetrating bass lines and beats are absent, they just play a subtler supporting role with the exception of the ‘Sultan’s Request’ and its thick, brittle digital sounding synth bass, which gets twice as heavy in the second half of the track. The album also sees Flying Lotus utilising vocal samples and guest vocalists much more effectively, a particularly good example is Thom Yorke’s contribution to ‘Electric Candyman’ in which Yorke’s vocals are expertly and sparingly used, whereas they appeared anonymous on “…and the world laughs with you” from “Cosmogramma” (2010). “Until the Quiet Comes” initially feels like it might greater longevity than “Cosmogramma”, which though it really hit home on the first couple listens, its impact dulled over time. It was also a busy and demanding listen, whereas space is utilised throughout “Until the Quiet Comes”, which allows the listener to “fixate on any one sound and extract feeling from it.” Time will tell if this feeling becomes reality but one thing’s for sure Flying Lotus has delivered a more than worthy follow up to what often viewed as his masterpiece.

4.       Kid Koala – “12 Bit Blues” (Ninja Tune)

The latest album from the prolific Kid Koala takes a basic concept, expands on it and executes it to perfection. That concept is an album built around samples from old blues records put together using his trusty turntables and newly acquired Emu SP 1200 sampler. When I heard about this concept my initial thoughts were that this might be an overly dour album but Kid Koala proves me wrong with an album packed with hip-hop bangers that blow the cobwebs away!! Chirping synth and a vocal sample that says “the kids in rare form tonight” kick off the album before stride piano and boom-bap hip-hip beats enter to start off ‘1 bit blues’ properly, these elements turn out one of running themes throughout the album. But Kid Koala keeps the interest going with blistering guitar riff, analogue synth swiggles, sci-fi effects and a huge array of expertly deployed vocal samples. The highlights on the album range from the aforementioned opener, ‘4 bit blues’ where a down tempo hip-hop beat backs pitched down slurring vocal samples, heavy bass, brass and stride piano, ‘7 bit blues’ with its head nodding beat raucous guitar licks and subtle scratching and ‘8 bit blues (Chicago to NY to LA)’ with its expertly scratched vocal samples, neck breaking hip-hop beats and huge horns stabs. Kid Koala’s major achievement with “12 Bit Blues” is marrying modern sound elements such as the synths and the SP 1200 sampler beats with samples that date from close to a hundred years ago. As usual Kid Koala uses his turntables subtle to make the samples his own and add a modern rhythmic edge to his tracks. “12 Bit Blues” is a superb album that matches his career high “Carpel Tunnel Syndrome” and “Some of my Best Friends are DJs” track for track!!!

5.       Thee Satisfaction – “awE natural” (Sub Pop)

In “awE naturalE” Thee Satisfaction have delivered an energetic album filled tracks that both provide amply bounce that’s need for a hip-hop jam but also manages to subtly subvert both traditional methods of creating sounds and challenge the overly simplistic ‘soulful’ vocals used so liberally in hip-hop music. It’s refreshing to hear an act pushing the limits of hip-hop while still managing to make music that moves your body. The fact that these tracks are stuffed to the gills with affecting vocals, jazzy tunes and an expressive emotional palette makes an engaging and entertaining listen. From the opening disorienting swirl of ‘Awe’ to the fast moving finale of ‘Naturale’ via album highlights ‘Earthseed’ with its dark and dank atmopsherics and vocal the curve their way through notes, ‘Queens’ seductive and slippery groove and ‘Enchantess’ a darker twist on ‘Queens’ with pitched down vocals and a guest rap from Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces. The half an hour run time demands that the album be played again immediately and is the album is equally satisfying and reveals more of its charms with each repeat listen. Thee Satisfaction never out staying their welcome and yet able to go distance on the longer tracks, if you like original, warm music with depth and attitude “awE naturalE” will be a welcome addition to your music collection.

6.       Blockhead – “Interludes After Midnight” (Ninja Tune)

I was quick to praise Blockhead’s last album “The Music Scene” (2010) but was quick to fell out of love with it on return visits. “Interludes After Midnight” promises to be an album that I enjoy for a lot longer as repeats listening has reaped greater rewards. The album consolidates everything that Blockhead has achieved in his solo career to date but crucially also learns lessons from “The Music Scene” and achieves it ambitious aims where that album had failed. In the end “The Music Scene” felt like Blockhead was just getting to know his new software Ableton Live but the album actually feels ‘live’ and can’t be directly attributed to the sounds or techniques of any particular software. Regular fans of the Ninja Tune labels output will instantly warm to this music and bares comparison to Bonobo’s solo work and “Sound Mirrors” by label head honchos Coldcut, as well as 70’s T.V. and soundtrack music, particular Bernard Herrman’s “Taxi Driver” score. The arrangements on “Interludes After Midnight” are inventive throughout a classic example being ‘Never Forget Your Token’ which starts out with electric piano and oddly pitched male vocals but ends with a twisted electric guitar unrecognizable from its first half. These arrangements could be jarring but instead feel completely natural as Blockhead’s well thought out concepts and production nous holds everything together. It’s rare to find a beat maker as distinct as Blockhead and he deserves far greater recognition and praise than he currently receives. All-in-all a superb instrumental hip-hop album; where ambition is matched by the quality of each track from top to bottom.

7.       El-P – “Cancer 4 Cure” (Fat Possum) 

In some ways “Cancer 4 Cure” is business as usual for El-P, all the usual signifiers are in place, his lurching, crushing beats, massive dirty synth bass-lines, stuttering vocal samples, stabbing instrument samples. However, one that’s no bad thing and two I believe this is an artist who subtly evolves his sound with each new release. The first difference that jumps out at me is that whereas in the past there were only hints of film music influences on El-P’s production’s “Cancer For The Cure” makes this explicit with a majority of the tracks shot through with a dystopian atmosphere akin to John Carpenter’s soundtracks to “Escape From New York” and “Assault on Precinct 13”. Further to this the album repositions El-P as “a real hip-hop focused musician rather than a beatmaker”; the musicality is turned up to ten and so this already heavy music makes an even greater impact. The album also features a couple of El-P’s most minimal and spacious tracks to date in ‘Stay Down’, ‘Sign Here’ and ‘The Jig Is Up’, in addition to this melodic vocals feature on ‘For My Upstairs Neighbor’, ‘Oh Hail No’  and ‘Works Every Time’. The album feels more thematically together than “I’ll Sleep When Your Dead” (which was great album) and this makes the album feel like it’ll maintain it impact over a longer time.

8.       Oh No – “OhNoMite” (Traffic)

Oh No’s “OhNoMite”’s overall sound and approach harks back to classic 90’s hip-hop sound though the source material is entirely made up of samples from Rudy Ray Moore’s audio achieves drawing heavily on the soundtrack to Blaxploitation film “Dolemite” from which the album takes its title. As a result of this the album is pack full of funk loops, smoky jazz chords and swinging tough hip-hop beats that get your head nodding. The album is stuffed with guest appears but doesn’t suffer from attention deficit disorder, each MC contributing high quality raps that fit into the album overall theme. The old skool styling’s of album don’t get in the way of enjoying it, in fact it’s a major part of “OhNoMite”’s appeal. One of the stand-out elements of the album is the fantastic array of analogue synth sounds that feature throughout; it’s also a sound that doesn’t always bed in well in straight hip-hop tracks, in my opinion and Oh No’s production’s successful ingrate them with thrilling results. This is a thoroughly brilliant and refreshing hip-hop record that will appeal to fans of Madlib, The Alchemist and filthy funk 90s classic hip-hop.

9.  Big Boi – “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” (Mercury)

“Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” is an ambitious and highly emotive album, one that fuses together 80’s funk, new wave and ambient synth textures with Big Boi’s trademark Dirty South hip-hop style. It is in short Big Boi’s pop album and rivals fellow OutKast member Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” as the finest pop entry in their respective back catalogues. This is the album that I thought I’d be hearing from Andre 3000 when he got around to making his debut solo album but Big Boi has beaten him to the punch. I’d go as far that is the most emotional raw and broad hip-hop since Kanye West released “808s and Heartbreak” (2008). It’s difficult to single out highlights on an album where quality level never drops from start to finish, this could be an overcooked and busy affair with seventeen tracks and many more collaborators but Big Boi and his opulent backing tracks gel with everything single contributor. Whether it’s the swarming strings of ‘The Thickets’, the 100% electro fest that is ‘Thom Pettie’ or the lush 80’s funk come-on’s of closer ‘She Said Ok’ it all just works even when it shouldn’t. Big Boi recently proclaimed his love of Kate Bush’s music and this influence runs through the whole album informing its lush synthetic and acoustic textures and arrangements. Prince is another 80’s pop star whose influence is a regular feature on the album and it’s no bad thing even on the out-and-out cheese fests of ‘Raspberries’, ‘Descending’ and ‘She Said Ok’, the influence is always present on 80’s funk numbers ‘Apple of my Eye’ and ‘Higher Res’. I didn’t think I’d be writing this but with “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” Big Boi might have just trumped his debut solo album“Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty” (2010).

10.     Doseone – “G Is For Deep” (anticon.)

The long awaited new solo album by cLOUDDEAD co-founder Doseone is one of the finest releases by any member of that trio since their self titled debut album in 2001. It picks up where the last Subtle (a spin off project from Doseone and Jel of cLOUDDEAD) left off but with a much greater emphasis on space and pop hooks. Throughout Doseone strikes a balance between chip tune elements, deep probing electro beats and strong melodic content. The releases of cLOUDDEAD and their related projects have always used ambience in conjunction with beats and rapping but here it feels more like Doseone is tapping into a rich vein of dream-pop that recalls the Cocteau Twins in their 80’s pomp. The new found space and melodic clarity make for a more immediate listening experience though there are still enough twists and turns to keep long time fans interested, I’m sure some will see this as a compromise but this genuinely feels like a natural evolution for a unique artist.

Kirsty’s reviews

Disappointment of the month

Monoloc – Drift (CLR)

“Drift”’s arrangement recalls late ‘90s crossover dance/rock acts like The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy or Death In Vegas whose rock audience-friendly albums were divided into ‘we’re trying hard to be deep and meaningful’ tracks filled with soulful vocals or film dialogue, minor key mid-tempo ‘emotional’ pieces and tacky wave-your-hands-in-the-air bangers; all amounting to the aural equivalent of weak tea. Similarly “Drift” suffers from pathetic tameness too when it should be injecting listeners with Red Bull and vodka, the choice of drink for anyone who wants to dance for 60 hours while being pummelled by techno. Its alternation between minor and major keys, use of monotone vocals and pacing does nothing to shake off these unflattering comparisons and very little justifies “Drift”’s 52 minute length. Techno tracks like ‘Try’ and ‘About’ should thump and grind but the production on “Drift” has oddly sucked the air out; bass drums are squashed, synths sound meek and the compression has flattened all tone and colour. ‘It’s Mine’ featuring Daniel Wilde and the two other vocal tracks take their cue from “Violator” era Depeche Mode. It’s pretty convincing despite being flat and one-dimensional. Their classic singles, like ‘Personal Jesus’ or ‘Enjoy The Silence’, sit in a rock-pop-industrial techno triangle, which ‘It’s Mine’ tries to emulate but unlike ‘Personal Jesus’ it simply isn’t a good, catchy song that people will be able to sing 20 years from now. Elsewhere ‘Try’ screams of unadventurous filler for a DJ set and someone who uses gospel vocals in a dance track has to come up with a fresh take; ‘Pblc’ isn’t this song. Listeners who want exciting, vibrant techno ought to drop “Drift” and spin Shed’s “The Killer” or anything on the Prologue and Ostgut Ton labels.

Marcel Dettmann – Range (Ostgut Ton)

In this last year Marcel Dettmann has received criticism for a lack of musical range but the ‘Range’ EP shows that though the scale of his material is narrow his resolute, glorious techno still contains many shades within their concrete canvas; 50 shades of grey so to speak. Swirling atmospherics introduce the EP’s title track as an unsettling drum pattern ploughs through sullen, foreboding terrain. The pulsing bass drum on ‘Iso’ only just holds the track together as a dense assortment of spiky and hissing sounds ring out and dissipate above cavernous and unsettling held chords. It feels like it’s on the brink of collapse and reaching out from the depths of this instability comes ‘Push’’s barely discernible pitched down voice intoning variations on the track’s title above a rhythmic dry-hump made up of deep bass thuds, whooshing hats and skittering percussion; a standout. Final track ‘Allies’, which was an important inclusion in Ben Klock’s recent, wonderful “Fabric 66”, is an excellent example of Dettmann’s skill. Essentially a single harmonically-rich chord repeats infinitely while razorblade hi-hats and jacking snares alter every single bar. As with most of his unforgiving slabs of techno, he builds and builds the pressure to almost uncomfortable levels without gifting the listener with any real sense of climax or release. Like Dettmann’s previous EPs “Translation” and “Landscape”, “Range” will still be a favourite on dancefloors twelve months from now.

Release of the month

Sigha – Living With Ghosts (Hotflush)

After a bundle of 12”s for Scuba’s Hotflush label Berlin-based, UK-born DJ and producer Sigha (James Shaw) delivers his debut album “Living With Ghosts”. The album’s twelve perfectly balanced techno and ambient productions fuse his love of classic techno with the genre’s contemporary sound that is owned by Germany’s capital and over the course of “Living With Ghosts” Sigha shifts between brooding subterranean techno soundscapes and fluid emotive strokes. Album opener ‘Mirror’ slowly introduces the listener to the show with an unhurried sketch of quietly grinding austere noise until the second track ‘Ascension’ kicks in with a throbbing techno beat that almost suffocates its undulating synth. The addition of subtle changes to the rhythm and percussion in the final third takes the track close to breakbeat territory. For the last 30 seconds the drums suddenly drop out to a soft drone that acts as a palette cleanser; refreshing the listener for ‘Puritan’’s 6:40 minutes of a wonderfully unrelenting, thudding 4/4 groove and gossamer synths. A highlight is ‘Scene Couple’, its wet licks of acid rise and swells with force yet feel restrained and intricately textured; a track that will be killer on dancefloors for months to come. Sigha cleverly uses two tracks, ‘Suspension’ and ‘Delicate’, to allow the listener to come up for air, making it even more potent when they are thrown into the techno waves again. Their carefully weaved layers envelop in silky ambience; adding an extra stunning dimension to the release. Hypnotic beats punctuate an enthralling windswept soundscape in the nine minute ʻTranslateʼ. The elegant ‘Aokigahara’ rounds off  the album in a ten minute beatless wall of foggy ambience that swathes and soothes the listener. Like this summer’s “The Killer” by Shed, “Living With Ghosts” is a techno record that contains countless moments of experimentation, depth, subtlety and exhilaration across a format that can be the downfall for many producers who are used to delivering 12”s.“Living With Ghosts”, with its commitment to the motifs of UK and Berlin techno, is a skilfully paced, cohesive, complex and compelling album.

Liam’s reviews

Offshore – “Bakehaus” (Big Dada)

The debut mini album from Glaswegian beat maker Offshore starts as it means to go on with ‘Breeze’s ascending synth melody and twitching hi-hat pattern taking centre stage before the main beat drops it’s the simple musicality of this intro track that marks this release and Offshore himself out from the current electronic music crowd.  The trend continues with the surging synth bass of the house-like ‘Fraser’ though again there’s Offshore’s unique twist as he’s add his own synthetic guitar parts and plinking piano to stunning effect.  The next two tracks ‘Life’s Too’ and ‘Venom’ ratchet up the melodic elements and we hear for the first time the child-like playfulness that runs through Offshore’s music. Melody continues to dominate on the excellent ‘Downer’ with its Peter and the Wolf-like string melody and on ‘Black Bun’ with its pedal steel melody and suitable woody sounding beats. Melody isn’t the only thing that Offshore excels at as he keeps the listener on their toes with a selection of beats that runs from the classic (‘Back Wynd’s electro hip-hop beat) to modern dance beats (‘Venom’). On ‘Long Now’ and album closer ‘Downer 2’ Offshore shows his gentler side and adds yet more diversity to this impressive release. The future looks bright for Offshore who already looks like he could overtake his more famous contemporaries Rustie and Hudson Mohawke.

Container – “LP” (2) (Spectrum Spools)

Container’s second album is more a refinement of the sound of his first album than a greater department from his debut. Both albums overall sounds subscribed to the model of analogue driven noise-techno that Container was pioneering just a year ago. The difference between the materials on the two releases is subtle. While the new album isn’t a ferocious as his debut it shows that Container is far from a one trick pony with the broken and busted up breakbeat of ‘Paralyzed’ being one of the highlights of album. In fact, it’s only brilliant closer ‘Refract’ that sticks rigidly to the techno grid, the others allowed to be more rhythmical free. The creepy and twisted vocal samples that were used on the first album’s ‘Protrusion’ and ‘Rattler’ are a dominant and expertly utilised across the whole of “LP 2”. Though “LP 2” maybe slighter than its predecessor but from the opening bippty-boppity drums of ‘Dripping’ via Acid arpeggio and four to the floor bass drum of ‘Perforate’ right through to the blur of electronic drums and descending synth effects of ‘Refract’  it has enough noisy energy to satisfy fans of both noise music and techno.

Zombie Zombie – “Rituels D’Un Nouveau Monde” (Versatile)

“Rituels D’Un Nouveau Monde” is the second full length album by French electro duo Zombie Zombie, the album sees the duo consolidating and refining the sound established on their debut album “Land of Renegades” (2009) and their mini album of John Carpenter reinterpretations “Zombie Zombie plays…” (2010). The album is bookended by the cinematic electro of ‘The Wisdom Of Stones (Do You Believe In..?)’ and ‘Black Paradise’ which offset clanky electronic drums with acoustic drums and percussion and atmospherics and synth sounds that could only be influenced by the aforementioned Carpenter. ‘Illuminations’ takes on a four to the floor rhythm though this is still offset by percussion and synthesizers that could be included on a classic film score. ‘Rocket #9’ continues to ups the dancefloor ante going up out with catchy vocal refrain and acid inspired synth lines before a saxophone takes the track to its delirious climax. ‘Watch The World From A Plane’ begins with a lone synth melody growing in complexity until it reaches analogue synth nirvana part way through and stays there until its conclusion. “Rituels D’Un Nouveau Monde” demonstrates that Zombie Zombie continue to develop with each new release refining and improving their potent formula and even throwing in the odd surprise e.g. the saxophone on ‘Illuminations’ and ‘ Rocket #9’. All lovers of electro and synth based soundtrack music should definitely check this out.

Nils Frahm – “Screws” (Erased Tapes)

On his new album “Screws” Nils Frahm has turned an accident that resulted in a damaged thumb for the experimental pianist into a triumph. He ended up with four screws inside his thumb and dealt with it the only way he knew how to, by playing his piano. The result is nine intimate piano pieces, so intimate in fact that you can hear Frahms shifting position on his stool and the bits of metal that rattle around in his prepared piano. It’s as if you’re in the room with him while he plays these minimal and yet emotional varied pieces. The album opens with ‘You’ which manages to somehow to sound both bright and poignant at the same time, like the sound of cautious optimism. ‘Do’ changes things up with a sparser arrangement and more bass notes before ‘Re’ turns things on their head with its lilting melody floats through the air as if barely touched by human hands and recalls Tchaikovsky. ‘Mi’ is a harder and dissonant piece that features long overtones and mismatched notes. ‘Fa’ is sad and pensive, while ‘Sol’ takes things a step further feeling both dark and desolate. The lightness returns with ‘La’ which gentle bass undertow gives the track gravity and purpose at the same time. ‘Si’ contrasts heavy chords with a light and air melody complimented by a stately feel. Finally the albums concludes with ‘Me’ with its steady stream of notes regular interrupted by extended pauses, the silence is almost deafening even in these minimalist music surroundings. With “Screws” Frahms adds another stunning album to an already impressive and expressive back catalogue. For emotive music of the highest order look no further.

Holly Herndon – “Movement” (RVNG INTL)

“Movement” is the excellent debut album from Holly Herndon an artist whose been compared to Laurel Halo. While there are similarities between the two (they both produce experimental and techno music based around heavily processed vocals) Herndon is no copyist as this album proves. While Halo usually coats her vocals in luxurious reverb and reaches for a warm sound, Herndon prefers to create mostly abstract layers of vocals. Abstract to the point where it’s hard to tell what’s Herndon’s vocal and what’s a synth sound, Herndon also focus on harder and colder more digitalized sounds. Opener ‘Terminal’ is a case in point it’s hissing and snorting slivers of sound send a shiver down the spine while as drawing the listener in. With ‘Fade’ the album switches into its twitchy techno mode, its unpredictable drum machine pattern, slippery synth bass and warped arpeggio help it stand out from the crowd. ‘Breathe’ returns us to the experimental sound of ‘Terminal’ centring on Herndon’s nervous inhaling and exhaling, shaky effects and an occasional synth chord, it’s highly effective and “exquisitely horrifying”. ‘Movement’ is another twitchy techno number with reverse vocals and a shifting rhythm pattern that’s simultaneously exciting and disorienting for the listener. The album’s sparse finale ‘Dilato’ uses a slow synth pad (or is it heavily processed vocals) and Herndon’s lead vocal to create an effect that recalls a Muslim prayer, though there’s a subtle digital feel to the track.

Hello Skinny – “Hello Skinny” (Slowfoot)

The eponymous debut album from Hello Skinny aka Tom Skinner is one of this year best debut albums and effortlessly blends genres and acoustic and electronic sounds. The album explores a very modern form of psychedelic music folding into its mix dub bass and FX, jazz saxophone, clarinet and drums, splash of colourful synth and electronic beats that owe a debt to both hip-hop and the more organic end of electronica. This blend is presented from the off with opener ‘Aquarius’ which is based around an electronic rhythm track, bubbling synth bass and a sonar synth effects before later in the track there joined by acoustic jazz drums and dub delay. The title track takes things down a notch with a downtempo feel complimented by a submerged dub bass and a clarinet melody that recalls Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and in the second half of the track there’s a great twisted saxophone solo the first of a few spread across the album. The album continues in a similar vein throughout switching between more upbeat material similar to ‘Aquarius’ and more downtempo and reflective tracks similar to the title track. ‘Me and My Lady’ is the one exception to this rule playing out like a classic cowboy film theme or a dub version of one of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Upsetter’s cowboy themed reggae tracks. “Hello Skinny” is an understated but engaging and enthralling listen, can’t wait to hear what Skinner comes up with next.

Peaking Lights – “Lucifer In Dub” (Weird World)

“Lucifer In Dub” does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a dub album of Peaking Lights “Lucifer” album which has been a Sonic Fiction favourite this year. “Lucifer In Dub” acts very much as a flip side to “Lucifer” whereas the parent album reduced the amount of dub effects to a zero and pushed the dub bass lines right back in the mix, this album pushes all that to the fore and adds a healthy amount of dirt to the previous clean pop production. The album opens with ‘Cosmick Dub’ which revolves around a rolling bass guitar riff, heavy electronic drums and organ covered in lashings of dub delay. Then there’s the tropical sounding melody of the delightful ‘My Heart Dubs 4 U’ and album highlight ‘Beautiful Dub’ where a guitar riff, organ chords and female vocals float high above tough dub bass and electronic drums to stunning effect. The band changes tack on ‘Live Dub’ with its pounding synth bass line, swan diving guitar that sounds like a police car siren and double time beats. The use of double time beats is repeated on closer ‘Midnight Dub’ and I’m not totally convinced it, though it does show a potential new direction which Peaking Lights can experiment with and refine. Overall, “Lucifer In Dub” is a superb addition to the Peaking Lights back catalogue and in time could prove to be their best album yet.

Big Boi – “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” (Mercury)

“Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” is an ambitious and highly emotive album, one that fuses together 80’s funk, new wave and ambient synth textures with Big Boi’s trademark Dirty South hip-hop style. It is in short Big Boi’s pop album and rivals fellow OutKast member Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” as the finest pop entry in their respective back catalogues. This is the album that I thought I’d be hearing from Andre 3000 when he got around to making his debut solo album but Big Boi has beaten him to the punch. I’d go as far that is the most emotional raw and broad hip-hop since Kanye West released “808s and Heartbreak” (2008). It’s difficult to single out highlights on an album where quality level never drops from start to finish, this could be an overcooked and busy affair with seventeen tracks and many more collaborators but Big Boi and his opulent backing tracks gel with everything single contributor. Whether it’s the swarming strings of ‘The Thickets’, the 100% electro fest that is ‘Thom Pettie’ or the lush 80’s funk come-on’s of closer ‘She Said Ok’ it all just works even when it shouldn’t. Big Boi recently proclaimed his love of Kate Bush’s music and this influence runs through the whole album informing its lush synthetic and acoustic textures and arrangements. Prince is another 80’s pop star whose influence is a regular feature on the album and it’s no bad thing even on the out-and-out cheese fests of ‘Raspberries’, ‘Descending’ and ‘She Said Ok’, the influence is always present on 80’s funk numbers ‘Apple of my Eye’ and ‘Higher Res’. I didn’t think I’d be writing this but with “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” Big Boi might have just trumped his debut solo album“Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty” (2010).

Top Release of the Month

Raime – “Quarter Turns on the Living Line” (Blackest Ever Black)

CS470505-01A-BIG

On their debut album “Quarter Turns on the Living Line” Raime have thrown down the gauntlet to all artists currently working on electronic and experimental music, “up your game before it’s too late.” Though it wasn’t the duo’s intention the album sounds like the soundtrack to an unreleased film, subtly referencing John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” score or repositioning Ennio Morricone’s work to an industrial post-apocalyptic world. The duo expand on the critically acclaimed 12”s by adding emotional depth and a more organic sound via the use of field recordings, foley samples and acoustic instrumentation such as guitar, violins and cellos. Whereas the 12”s focused strongly on the duo’s jungle and industrial influences they broaden their range here to include post-rock, the doom metal of Sunn O))) and Earth and of course those previously mentioned soundtracks. The duo also manage to maintain a balance between the dark, heavy sounds and lighter, brighter sounds; another progression from the earlier 12”s. Raime have produced one of the debut albums of year, one that leaves many more established acts in the shade. Long may these soundscapes shapers continue to reign supreme.

Kirsty’s Recommendations

2nd November

Monoloc – Drift (CLR)

Born and raised in Frankfurt, Monoloc started his production career in 2001 and by 2010 he had been snapped up by Chris Liebing’s CLR label. Two years later he is preparing to release his debut album “Drift” in November. According to the press release, the CLR family was instrumental in shaping the sound of the record: Chris Liebing assisted in the mixing process, Brian Sanhaji, a label affiliate, mastered the album and Daniel Wilde, another CLR signee, lends vocals on three of the “Drifts”‘s tracks. Listeners should expect grooving, atmospherically rich pieces of techno with dreamy, retro-inspired touches.

13th November

Ital – Dream On (Planet Mu)

His second album this year, Ital’s “Dream On” will be released on Planet Mu. The Brooklyn-based artist has over the past two years reinvented himself as a house and tech2no producer with a steady stream of EPs on labels like Not Not Fun and its clubbier subsidiary, 100% Silk. As with his five-track debut “Hive Mind” from earlier this year, “Dream On”‘s track list is skimpier than is normally expected from a full-length—seven tracks this time—though it’s reportedly “much more substantial” than “Hive Mind”.

19th November

Sigha – Living With Ghosts (Hotflush Recordings)

Sigha is an English techno artist with a soft spot for swathes of ambient textures. Inspired, in part, by his recent relocation to Berlin his debut album “Living With Ghosts” will be out on Scuba’s Hotflush Recordings, the same label that released his debut EP in 2009 and most of his records since then. “Living With Ghosts” shows his understated approach to techno continuing to develop while mixed in with swathes of enveloping ambience. Stream Sigha’s track ‘Self Improvement’ to get a taste of what to expect:

Liam’s Recommendations

5th November 2012

Offshore – “Bakehaus” (Big Dada)

The debut album from Offshore aka Ewan Robertson comes with much expectation after the producer has built a reputation as the successor to fellow Scottish electronic music producer Rustie and Hudson Mohawke. Robertson stands apart from his contemporaries by both uses a wider range of emotional triggers and taking from genres outside of electronic music such as post-punk and hip-hop. This mini album is well worth through investigation.

12th November 2012

Hello Skinny – “Hello Skinny” (Slow Foot)

Hello Skinny is a new project from Matthew Herbert and Mulatu Astatke drummer Tom Skinner. His debut album is bring released this October on Slowfoot Records and he has track on the new Brownswood compilation from Giles Peterson’s label of the same name. Hello Skinny mixes up live instrumentation with samples and genres such as jazz, dub and hip-hop into a heady brew. Check out Hello Skinny’s “Smash & Grab” mixtape here for a taste of what’s to come.

Holly Herndon – “Movement” (RVNG INTL)

The debut album from Herndon sits somewhere between the world of Berlin techno (she was a DJ in the German capital for five years) and experimental music Mills College (a liberal arts college in California). Herndon separates herself from other artists in these respective fields with her extensive use of her own heavily processed vocals, these often become so abstract its hard to tell what’s a synth sound and what’s Herndon’s voice. Herndon is a perfectly fit for RVNG INTL who also straddle the experimental music and dance music worlds.

19th November

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons to Die” (Soul Temple)

“Twelve Reasons to Die” is the result of an unlikely collaboration between producer and film score composer Adrian Younge (most famous for his work on the brilliant blaxploitation homage “Black Dynamite) and Wu Tang Clan MC Ghostface Killah. The album is executive produced by RZA (Wu Tang Clan) and comes with a comic book written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon of Ashcan Press.

19th November 2012

Raime – “Quarter Turns Over A Living Line” (Blackest Ever Black)

After the release of critically acclaimed 12″s and an EP Raime are preparing to release their debut album featuring seven brand new tracks, the sees the band moving away from sampled based music to an approach dominated by live instrumentation and heavy processing. Their dark sound combines elements from jungle, industrial and gothic post-punk music and this album promises to be truly bewitching.

26th November 2012

Container – “LP” (Spectrum Spools)

Container follows up last year’s impressive noise-techno album “LP” with another album also entitled “LP”. Spectrum Spools press release says the album keeps “… the classic Container sound..in tact” but “this album offers a look into a previously closed door in the Container sound world. LP, like its predecessor LP, is recorded in mono and its cuts right down the middle of your skull, and doesn’t float around in imaginary room, these new tracks are immediate and heavy.” Sounds like a release we’ll be enjoying on Sonic Fiction.

Zombie Zombie – “Rituels D’un Nouveau Monde” (Versatile)

French horror film music obsessives Zombie Zombie return with their second album of original material. First single “Rocket Number Nine” is electro par excellence  and promises great things for the album. 

3rd December

Nils Frahm – “Screws” (Erased Tapes)

The new album from experimental pianist Nils Frahm came about through an unfortunate accident that saw him fall from a bunk bed and break his thumb. Four screws were surgically placed inside his thumb leaving him with 9 playing fingers. Frahm decided to deal with this injury the only way he knew how by playing his piano and this resulted in the 9 intimate piano tracks that make up “Screws”.

10th December 2012

Big Boi – “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours”

Big Boi is excitedly tweeting about progress on this new album and its seems that the follow up his great 2010 album “Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” isn’t far away. He recently said it features collaborations with UKG, Kid Cudi and man of the moment Big K.R.I.T. Check out first single “Gossip” here and view the artwork here.

17th December 2012

Missy Elliott – ‘The Block Party’

After overcoming her health problems Timbaland now claims that this album could finally be released in 2012. In meantime Missy Elliott has announced the release of two new singles ‘9th Inning’ and ‘Triple Threat’ this coming weekend (Saturday 1st September & Sunday 2nd September), this is the surest sign yet that “The Block Party” is finally on its way!!!

Liam’s Albums of the Year 2010

I think its been a very strong year for music overall and a step up from 2009, though there’s been some high-profile disappointments e.g. Four Tet, MIA, Maximum Balloon etc the real musical landscape seems in a very health state and I think our review of the year bears this out. We’ve both tried to consider what and who has defined the year as well as our own tastes.

1. Oneohtrix Point Never – ‘Returnal’ (Editions Mego)

In any other year this wouldn’t have been anywhere near my Albums of the Year list but discovering Ambient music and  ‘Returnal’ itselfs excellence plus Oneohtrix’s dominance of year make this one un missable album.

2. Gorillaz – ‘Plastic Beach’ (EMI)

In terms of song based albums this was incredibly strong from the word go. Add to this the concept behind the album, its environmental message and the incendiary return of Bobby Womack. ‘Plastic Beach’ hangs together while cover an incredible range of musical genres including classical, Oriental, hip-hop, grime, electro, pop and rock to name but a few.

3. El Guincho – ‘Pop Negro’ (Young Turks)

El Guincho stepped his music up several gears on this his second album. Taking in Spanish pop, hip-hop, South American music and 80’s heartthrob Luther Vandross. This gave the album its unique sound combining crisp, heavy but danceable rhythms with a glossy production resulting in an album that always puts a smile on your face.

4. Konono No.1 – ‘Assume Crash Position’ (Crammed Discs)

This is another summer blockbuster, this time from Congo. Five years on from their début Konono No.1 returned and seemed to have completely flipped their formula on its head. Instead of the persistent distorted thumb pianos occupying the top of the mix they changed places with waves of reverb drenched sound that had previously hidden beneath them. This changed the sound dramatically creating a more relaxed atmosphere.

5. Mark McGuire – ‘Living with Yourself’ (Editions Mego)

2010 was a busy year for Mark McGuire as well as releasing Emeralds critically acclaimed ‘Does It Look Like I’m Here?’ he produced this his first properly distributed solo release. There’s a lot more space in this than Emeralds latest and ambience and melody share equal billing on this great guitar record.

6. Flying Lotus – ‘Cosmogramma’ (Warp)

With ‘Cosmogramma’ FlyLo has transcended any of the generic tags applied to his music. Yes there are snatches of hip-hop, jazz, chiptune, funk and soundtrack music sometimes all at once but the sound can never be pinned down. It may not quite live up to the hype that preceded it but its ambition takes it close.

7. Big Boi – ‘Sir Luscious Left Foot…’ (Def Jam)

I wasn’t a big fan of ‘Speakerboxx’ Big Boi’s side of the OutKast’s 2003 double album. But ‘Sir Luscious Left Foot…’ is completely different album stuffed full of phat, funky beats that could only come from a member of Atlanata’s finest.

8. Sun Araw – ‘On Patrol’ (Not Not Fun)

18 months ago I hadn’t even heard of Sun Araw, but since hearing his music for the first time this spring I’ve been pretty much addicted. This latest album brings new depth to his dub-infected beats and shimmering wah-wah freak outs. The atmosphere and noises go to the next level and I await his next full length journey with bated breath.

9. Lindstrom and Christabelle– ‘Real Life is No Cool’ (Smalltown Supersound)

Lindstrom took a break from his usual cosmic disco dabbling to create a credible pop record with irrepressible Christabelle. Despite its catchiness and production gloss Lindstrom still provides surprises and twists not traditionally found in pop. The highlight of this outstanding collection is the Dr. Dre aping ‘Lovesick’.

10. Matthew Dear – ‘Black City’ (Ghostly International)

Matthew Dear returned this year with a concept album that hung together brilliantly and restored the faith of those critics who’d deemed his earlier effort ‘Asa Breed’ erratic. The conceptual arch of the record made a real difference and makes for a darker but no less thrilling experience.

11. Hot Chip – ‘One Life Stand’ (EMI/DFA)

In some ways Hot Chip are their own worst enemies and this would have charted higher if it had more of the unpredictability of ‘Made In The Dark’. Having said that this record strikes a balance between warm and sweet and sentimental and sickly. Not an easy achievement by any means.

12. Errors – ‘Come Down with Me’ (Rock Action)

When this album I heard about this album I didn’t get that excited but as the release drew nearer I revisited their début and realised it was much better and warmer than I remembered. I had feared Errors would become a forgotten second tier post-rock band but instead they stepped up a gear with an album packed with highlights. Go see them live and buy the album you won’t regret it!!

13. Jamie Lidell – ‘Compass’ (Warp)

This album was definitely a grower at first half the material failed to make an impact on me; however repeat listening has paid dividends. Lidell has returned to his schizoid genre and mood hopping and this album benefits massively, from dust ball hip-hop of ‘The Ring’, the super deep bass of ‘She Needs Me’ and the desolate beauty of the title track.

14. The Black Dog – ‘Real Music for Airports’ (Soma)

Another great ambient album in that’s had a few (Oneohtrix, Emeralds etc), this time taking on the inventor and king of ambient music Eno himself and succeeding. Created using field recordings made in airports combined with synths, bass and beats The Black Dog blew Eno’s utopian ideal out of the water.

15. Baths – ‘Cerulean’ (Anticon)

I’ll admit that I’ve not been taken with Chillwave as it swept all before it in last year or so. Though Bath début album touches on similar sounds and ideas I believe (as do some journalists) that he isn’t a part of the genre. Baths cover everything from ambient instrumentals through to tracks featuring his angelic vocals and everything in between, his beat slip and slide with the elastic and liquid music that plays around them.

16. These New Puritans – ‘Hidden’ (Domino/Angular)

These New Puritans showed up a lot of their fellow ‘innovative’ indie bands this year by delivering this combination of medieval sounding brass and woodwinds, children’s choir and dancehall beats. It could have been a disaster but instead band leader Jack Barnett’s proved he is a great composer of ground breaking music.

17. Evan Caminiti – ‘West Winds’ (Three Lobed)

Since the end of last year and hearing Sunn O)))’s I’ve discovered more and more drone/doom metal music including Earth, Zaimph and Caminiti’s other project Barn Owl. This album is best of this year’s release and features seven of incredibly provocative pieces including one of my favourite tracks of this year ‘Glowing Sky’.

18. Janelle Monae – ‘The Archandroid’ (Bad Boy/Atlantic)

Like Flying Lotus Monae attempted to produce an ambitious sci-fi concept album and overall she succeeds, however during the second half of the album elements don’t gel as well and the last track could do with  being half as long. There are still many great moments but for now Monae shows the potential to become a truly great artist.

19. Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Twisted Fantasy’ (Mercury)

This album would have easily been in my  Top Ten if it had only been released a couple of months earlier the lack of time to listen to and digest this means it just straps in because of its ambition and this point what seems to be a high proportion of great tracks.

20. Sleigh Bells – ‘Treats’ (Columbia)

When I first heard Sleigh Bells demos I’ll admit that I wasn’t 100% sure what all the fuss was about, I loved ‘Infinity Guitars’ but other than that they didn’t inspire. However, they’ve proved me wrong with this début album that blends cute pop vocals and melodies with crunching guitars and huge beats. A refreshing slap in the face from a band with a lot of potential to expand!!

Honourable mentions:

LCD Soundsystem – ‘This is Happening’

Caribou – ‘Swim’

Holy Fuck – ‘Latin’

Tobacco – ‘Maniac Meat’

Pocahaunted – ‘Make It Real’

Review of the Year – Observations

Two words seem to have loomed large for me musical this year Ambient and African. Both These types music that were almost completely new to me at the start of the year. Ambient music has actually helped change my perception of what music can be, I’d often dismissed it in the past as it wasn’t attention grabbing enough but I was missing the point. Though I still actively listen to it, I also use it while I work to help me focus (Brian Eno’s ‘Ambient#4: On Land’ is particularly good for this). Ambient has changed the way I choose what music to listen to and judge whether its good or not, I can appreciate subtlety much more.

Meanwhile I’ve gone from only having heard Konono No.1 and Amadou & Miriam to hearing King Sunny Ade, Tinariwen, Tony Allen, Fela Kuti, Mulatu Astake and compilations featuring Afrobeat, Funk and traditional music from Ghana, Nigeria, Benin and Togo. I’ve been most impressed by ‘African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds from Benin & Togo 70s’ (Analog Africa) which is pretty much as the title suggests, only don’t be expecting an African Hawkwind.

Finally I’ve noticed there’s been a massive increase in quality remix albums, it had seemed that they’d been completed derided and I couldn’t remember the last good/great one I heard. This year has been a bumper year, Health ‘Disco2’ is the pick of bunch 24 great and varied electronic remixes that putting the originals in brand new contexts. We were also treated to remix albums of Caribou (‘Swim Remixes’), Gonjasufi (‘The Califph’s Tea Party’), Errors (Celebrity Come Down With Me’), Bear In Heaven (Best Rest Forth Mouth’), the latest instalment in RVNG Records Frkwys series of remixes and collaborations that saw Juan Atkins, Hans-Joachim Irmer (Faust) and Gibby Hayes (Butthole Surfers) remixed (admittedly awful) psychedelic rock band Psychic Ills to stunning effect.

Vier’s Albums of the Year

20. The Knife, MT. Sims and Planningtorock – Tomorrow, In A Year (Brille): This was never going to be easy. The Knife don’t do easy. The first disk fights the listener at every step. It is confrontational, violent and refuses respite. It beats you into the place of  Charles Darwin, consumed by nervous excitement and anxiety as you walk on alien territory. The second disk offers some humanising introspection and displays The Knife’s (and their collaborators) powerful song writing ability to turn even routine biological observations into heartbreaking poetry. Tomorrow, In A Year isn’t enjoyable, it isn’t supposed to be. Much like Darwin’s vocation, you don’t have to like it or understand it but you must respect it and its objective.

19. Walls – Walls (Kompakt): Haunting and emotive, Walls’ blend of distant thumps and skewed vocals make a compelling, slow-grower.

18. Jatoma – Jatoma (Kompakt): A late entry to the list has given Jatoma a low position nonetheless the cloaked threesome’s debut deserves to be listened to. The sparkly, modulating synths and exacting drums hark back to Cluster and Kraftwerk and on the straighter dance tracks ‘Durian’ and ‘Bou’ the influence of The Field is channelled into gauzy loops and arpeggios.  This and Walls fit Kompakt perfectly and point the way to the next era of the Cologne label.

17. Washed Out – Life Of Leisure (Mexican Summer): This debut is the sound of summer nostalgia. Revealed by the cover’s lilac dream, warm washes of synths and the sighs and lilts of Ernest Greene’s drenched voice.

16. Caribou – Swim (City Slang): Opening with seasick standout ‘Odessa’, Swim is steady and deceptively dark. The accomplished production places an interesting stereo field on the tracks, giving the instruments and rhythms a side-to-side, rocking feel, which works impressively well both at home and in clubs – something few dance albums have fully mastered.

15. Holy Fuck – Latin (Young Turks): The four-piece adeptly construct tracks that are direct yet reveal deeper layers and sounds on repeat, demonstrating that as well as effected soundscapes they can make confident songs.

14. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA): Of all the albums on the list This Is Happening was the most troublesome. When it hits it proves James Murphy is an incredible composer, lyricist and singer (tender crooning replaces the snot) and it proves LCD are an incendiary unit. So their third album should be top 3 but, but… when it doesn’t hit its pastiche-y, uninspired and, worst of all, irritating, because it could be fucking great if only those influences, which were previously sown together with love and affection, were not so glaringly obvious now. The total of their sum parts made LCD exciting yet for This… it is as if Murphy collected those sum parts then went missing but, but… even if for One Touch, Dance Yrself Clean and I Can Change alone it still deserves a place in the top 20.

13. Marc Houle – Drift (M-nus): The Techno Priest delivers an intense lecture in experimental techno as Drift travels from the suffocating winter darkness to the onset of spring. As the ice recedes Houle’s mood has lightened: the tracks develop playfully, analogue synths are tweaked and melodies shine. An eloquent representation of December’s freeze.

12. Black Dog – Music For Real Airports: Composed of field recordings and recalling Autechre and Plastikman, Music For Real Airports recreates an alienating environment where disconnected bleeps, beats and deep bass drums meet brittle hi-hats and ambient atmospherics that oppose Eno’s 1978 utopia.

11. El Guincho – Pop Negro (Young Turks): In direct contrast to Drift, Pop Negro is an aural Um Bongo – refreshing, bright yellow and highly addictive. El Guincho sings in his native, both joyous and yearning, Spanish, while intricate compositions of bouncing melodies, 808 claps and Latin pop are so full of life you bounce back to summer, Um Bongo in hand.

10. Harmonious Thelonious – Talking (Italic): German techno, Minimalism and African percussion are not the most obvious partners but Talking combines these influences with ease. The producer’s debut is a trance-inducing collection of hypnotic rhythmic patterns and danceable voodoo atmospheres. Its pulse is driven by African rhythms and European electronics that create a challenging, playful and deeply idiosyncratic record.

9. Zola Jesus – Stridulum II (Souterrain Transmissions): After sitting on the boundaries of my usual taste I checked out this release after she gained support from Fever Ray, with whom she shares a kinship of producing cathartic and oppressive yet seductive reassurances you want to selfishly take for yourself.

8. Magda – From The Fallen Page (M-nus): After the first listen I was disappointed that this wasn’t as varied or as distinctly ‘Magda’ as her much praised mixes are. With repeated listens her debut reveals her personality is more delicately placed alongside tongue-in-cheek glimpses of Italian horror movie sounds, dark atmospherics and awe-inspiring basslines.

7. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal (Editions Mego): For me Returnal brings to mind GAS. Drum-less synthesiser constructs have the air of classical music’s rise and falls and dignified ambience but where GAS is isolation, Lopatin’s creations evoke a dreamy silvery trees and ghostly voices blanketed by a thick fog.

6. Matthew Dear – Black City (Ghostly International): Dear’s third album under his birth name sees him fully immersed in the role of the seamy narrator that Asa Breed hinted at. The thick Talking Heads-indebted productions and bodiless utterances swallow his voice as he recounts strangely alluring tales of desire and sleaze.

5. Konono No.1 – Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs): Similar to other list entries the songs on Assume Crash Position instantly hit, giving out a warm, uplifting feel while endowing an ample amount of depth, breadth and emotional resonance. The Congolese group prove that artists don’t need the best equipment money can buy to create impressive music.

4. Marcel Dettmann – Dettmann (Ostgut Ton): Lovers of deep, warm techno should listen to this Berghain resident’s debut. Dettmann is an effortlessly lean example of present-day techno structured with an elegance that only German artists are achieving.

3. Ellen Allien – Dust (Bpitch Control): It isn’t the perfectly skewed electronic pop of Berlinette but thankfully it’s not the unrelentingly dull Sool. Allien is back doing what she does best. Belying her attention to detail, Dust is a collection of playful and immediate hymns to love, sex and dancing.

2. Pantha du Prince – Black Noise (Rough Trade): With a cover that isn’t what it first appears, the songs within unfurl and open up to reveal a meticulous mix of haunting chimes and clusters of percussion that build into something dark and forceful, giving Hendrik Weber’s Black Noise a sound that always seems to be on the edge of erupting into something devastating.

1. Thomas Fehlmann – Gute Luft (Kompakt): This took the pole position on the ‘Best Album’s Of The Year….So Far’ June piece and it remains there six months on. Though composed as a soundtrack to real-time documentary ‘24 Hour Berlin’, Gute Luft plays like a loving tribute to Fehlmann’s partner Gudrun Gut. Drums shuffle and rebound, claps and basslines thrust hips, synths bathe, sing, slink, embrace and reminisce, creating a perfect example of sensuous and dreamy elegance.

Mixes of note:

  • DJ Kicks: Apparat (!K7) (which features a new track from Telefon Tel Aviv, the first Joshua Eustis has made since Charlie Cooper passed away in 2009)

  • Ben Klock – Berghain Vol. 2 (Ostgut Ton)

  • Marcel Dettmann – Berghain Vol. 4 (Ostgut Ton)

  • V/A – Fünf (Ostgut Ton)

Honourable mentions:

  • Reboot – Shunyata (Cadenza)

  • Efdemin – Chicago (Dial)

  • Greie Gut Fraktion – Baustelle (Monika Enterprise)

Spotify playlist:

Sonic Fiction’s Albums of the Year 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of the Year – Observations

Due to the wealth of Berghain and Ostgut Ton releases I’ve been inspired to listen further to the spiritual forefathers: Basic Channel, GAS and Pole etc., all of whom I missed the first time round, owing to being at primary school. As discussed in my minimal techno piece these artists composed some of the most vital and interesting music of the nineties and are still essential: their material has birthed the recent dub-techno stirrings from Berlin and elsewhere. Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock, the Action Man poster boys of the resurgence in metallic, intense and climatic Berlin-centred techno, have released one effortless album, an EP and a handful of mixes. Listening to these is an education and an exciting preview of what is to come.

After reading the Kosmische Musik book (see below) I listened to Harmonia with Zuckerzeit and Tracks and Traces standing out. I went back to most of Cluster’s catalogue and found Sowiesoso and their 1977 collaboration with Eno to be the best introduction to the genre, though all are worth checking out.

On another note, 2010 has been absolutely dominated by doorstop. For a genre that was spawned from the underground we have witnessed a depressing inevitability in it going mainstream: advert soundtracks and daytime Radio 1 plays, guest spots and interviews (She-devil Fearne Cotton and dullstent! Skills!). It is everywhere, omnipresent, ubiquitous, all-pervading, as such I cannot hear, read or type that word anymore without wanting to burn it . Worst still is that duckstep is so ball-achingly tedious, a fact no one has critically addressed as everyone is falling over themselves praising the most monotonous and lifeless sound that has plagued this year’s musical landscape. Perhaps in 2011 it will go back from whence it came.

Books

Earlier this year I read Krautrock: Cosmic Rock and its Legacy, which is a comprehensively-written collection of the German Kosmische Musik artists. The author and journalists contribute an overview of Germany and the mindset of the generation born during and after WWII to put the work of the artists in a fascinating context. Also on the list was Anna Funder’s Stasiland, a collection of moving stories of those who lived under Communist rule in East Germany interspersed with Funder’s retrospective view (the book was published in 1997) on the regime, the people who upheld it and those who it destroyed and how Leipzig (where the Stasi headquarters were based) and Berlin have dealt with the effects of the Berlin Wall falling and the full extent of the regime being uncovered. Both are entirely worth reading.

June was a month of extremes for my listening and buying habits.

It began with the purchase of two ambient music albums, the first was this year’s ‘Music for Real Airports’ by The Black Dog and the second was my favourite Brian Eno ambient record ‘Ambient 4: On Land’ from 1982. The connection between the two being that The Black Dog album is their own re-imagining of Eno’s critically acclaimed album ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’, which popularised the concept of ambient music. I won’t go into any more detail about the Eno and The Black Dog albums as I will explore ambient music more fully in August.

In the second half of June the swing-o-meter swerved into a noisier place. Again it was something old and something new that caught my attention. The former being Liars’ ‘Drum’s Not Dead’ from 2006, which the more I hear the more I understand why it gained such critical praise and is viewed as an important album for American alternative rock. Liars certainly know when to hit hard and when to allow the audience a breather, something I think I had always missed before. A tribal and troubling atmosphere informs the record and binds together an eclectic collection of songs. The latter was ‘Treats’, the debut album by Sleigh Bells that demands to be played loud. What surprised me most about ‘Treats’ was the variety of styles covered within what seems a limiting set-up and aesthetic the duo have chosen. Hats off to them for producing such an impressive work, and possibly the debut of the year, that lives up to the hype and is a breath of fresh air .

The final week brought another dramatic swing with the previewing of Big Boi’s (OutKast) new solo album, ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’ which is out today. His buoyant sound makes what is arguably the best commercial hip-hop album that been released for a year or two and I believe that it should have followed ‘Speakerboxx/The Love Below’ or could even have been the ‘Speakerboxx’ disc. I had also felt that Big Boi was the less talented OutKast member but he’s proving to be Andre 3000’s equal. The spotlight is on Andre 3000 as we wait for his solo album and the next OutKast album and on this evidence I can’t wait!!

Spotify playlist:

June Playlist

June Playlist

Recommended Releases – July:

Big Boi – ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’ (Mercury) 5th July

Health – ‘Disco 2’ (City Slang) 5th July

Autechre – ‘Move of Ten’ (Warp) 12th July

M.I.A. – ‘MAYA’ (XL) 12th July

Janelle Monáe – ‘The Archandroid’ (Baby Boy/Atlantic) 12th July

School of Seven Bells – ‘Disconnected from Desire’ (Full Time Hobby) 12th July

Tobacco – ‘Maniac Meat’ (Anti-) 12th July *

Walter Gibbons – ‘Jungle Music’ (Strut) 19th July

Propaganda – ‘A Secret Wish (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)’ (Salvo) 19th July

Charanjit Singh – ‘Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat’ (Bombay Connection) 19th July

* Put back two weeks from 26th June

%d bloggers like this: