Tag Archive: Errors


Wow, this year has been an exceptional musically and its been so difficult to narrow down these Top Ten Releases of the Year..so far and Honourable Mentions. Aside from the releases in this feature I’ve been enjoying releases by Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahms, Blockhead, Quakers, Andrew Bird, Errors, Black Bananas, Air, Islet, and Laurel Halo.

Honourable Mentions

Ital – “Hive Mind” (Planet Mu)

Ital’s debut album makes for an interesting listening experience, though this is dance music, it’s unlike to set many dance floors alight. However, this doesn’t make it the album a failure; in fact its inverting of house and techno music structures is a thrilling and disorienting experience. Though by no means a direct comparison its seems that Ital is attempting something similar to Axel Willner aka The Field though Willner inverts the structures of techno, Ital disrupts and stretches them to their limits. Another indirect reference point is that of Cabaret Voltaire’s 80’s era music (and founder Richard H. Kirk’s work as part of Sweet Exorcist, recently anthologised by Warp Records) this seems to a constant in the drum and the influence crops up most obvious on ‘First Wave’ with added disorienting rhythms and synths. The most obvious direct influence outside of dance music is the kosmiche musick of Cluster, Harmonia and to a less extent Tangerine Dream, in fact ‘Floridian Void’ (the highlight of the album) sounds a little like a dark techno take on fellow American kosmiche musick enthusiast Emeralds. I feel sure that the debate about ‘Hive Mind’ will continue throughout the year as it could well turn to be one of those albums the confounds and confuses as much as it thrills and provokes thoughtful analysis.

Clark – “Iradelphic” (Warp)

“Iradelphic” occupies similar sonic territory as the music put out by the Ghost Box label, especially the most recent album by The Belbury Poly, so it seems appropriate that Ghost Box co-founder Julian House produced the artwork for the album. The album combines folk elements such as acoustic guitars, double bass, acoustic drums and strings with synth drones, arpeggios, electronic drums and percussion and psychedelic effects. The icing on the cake is the vocals of Martina Topley-Bird who provides vocals on ‘Broken Kite Footage’, ‘The Pining Part 2’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Open’. The album divides itself into two song types of track more song based and more drone based soundtrack music/palette cleansers and Clark switches effortlessly between the two showing his diversity as an artist. Another string to his bow is that even the song based material features unexpected twists and turns to keep the listener on their toes. With “Iradelphic” Clark confirms himself as deserving of a place among Warp’s most vaulted artists, his varied career to date has rarely seen a drop in quality, he is the equal of Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada.

Forward Strategy Group – “Labour Division” (Perc Trax)

“Labour Division” is the debut album by U.K. techno duo Forward Strategy Group following a series of EP’s that have garnered much attention on the techno underground. The album begins with a tension building intro track ‘Indent’ before this really get going on the electro tinged ‘Mandate’ with its arpeggiated, tough bass synth underpinning delay heavy synth FX’s and minimal drums and hi-hats, a real techno juggernaut. From then on scene is set and the duo switch from the disjointed industrial rhythms of ‘Mandate’ and ‘Elegant Mistakes’ (which fits perfectly into Perc Trax current developments) and out and out techno thumpers all filled with tense and taut atmosphere, found sound and influences of 80’s electronic music and experimental post-punk sounds. Tension only lets up on ‘Nihil Novi’ a lighter and more spacious track that features noises that cut through the drums sound and like a steam train. Though “Labour Division” serves first and foremost as functional techno album with plenty of tracks that will be spun in DJ sets, there is also enough experimental sound design and percussion sounds and patterns that it sometimes recalls peers Factory Floor and Carter Tutti Void live electronic mutations. “Labour Division” is an album through and through, properly paced and conceptually put together not like a majority of techno albums that are either an extension of a DJ set or DJ tools. Like their label boss Perc and his own album “Wicker and Steel” Forward Strategy Group are leading the way in innovative techno music.

El-P – “Cancer for the Cure” (Fat Possum)

In some ways this 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” & “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. “Cancer For The Cure” runs Killer Mike’s (El-P produced) “R.A.P. Music” and Thee Satisfaction’s “awenaturalE” close for best hip-hop album of year..so far!!!

Symmetry – “Themes for an Imaginary Film” (Republic of Music)

On ‘Themes for an Imaginary Film” Symmetry aka Johnny Jewel and cohort Nat Walker (of Chromatics and Desire) cover a huge range of emotional and musical ground utilising banks of synths, drum machines, guitar, piano, orchestral percussion, Bassoon, Cello and Viola. Despite the vast array of moods and instruments on show the duo create a cohesive and impressive album that wastes non of its 2 hour running time. Though some of material and sounds used recall Johnny Jewel’s many other projects there much evidence of his application of more compositional techniques found film scores and he weaves this into this ambitious album with aplomb. From the song titles to some the sounds selected the album screams film score however this no mere pastiche, more a humble doffing of the cap to the many great score composers that have gone before. In addition to this is the fantastic sound design which ranges from lush, warm and beautiful through to cold, spiky and dissonant, Symmetry and their equipment can feel you with dread, put a smile on your face and everything in between. “Themes for an Imaginary Film” is an amazing achievement that could have so easily failed to live in to its ambition but instead goes above and beyond simply being a tribute to soundtrack music as it captivates and thrills the listener in equal measure. Two hours of instrumental music (with the exception of the last track) won’t be for everyone but it’ll be worth it for those who stick with this incredible album.

Top Ten Releases of the Year… so far 2012

10.       Mirrroring – “Foreign Body”  (Kranky)

Mirrroring is a collaboration that was bound to happen sooner or later between Liz Harris aka Grouper and Jesy Fortino aka Tiny Vipers whose individual styles are so obviously complimentary it was only a matter of time before they worked together. “Foreign Body” is the breathtakingly beautiful result of said collaboration and brings together the transparent drones of Harris’s songs with the picked acoustic guitars and soft vocals of Fortino. Their sound is both gentle and yet thoroughly engaging, it may be lighter than much drone music but it isn’t light-weight. The dynamics employed across the whole album are one of the most striking things about it and demonstrate these are skilled artists able to exercise control while never strangling the life and emotion from a musical idea. The two best examples of this are ‘Cliffs’ which builds to a peak at the halfway stage before repeating an even better version of the song for its second half and ‘Mine’ which starts with a simple drone and acoustic guitar combination builds to a peak and then gradually twists itself into ever more complex shapes. It’s difficult to find the words to describe this astonishing album; it has to be heard to be believed.

9.         Thee Satisfaction – “awe naturalE” (Sub Pop)

In “awE naturalE” Thee Satisfaction have delivered an energetic album filled tracks that both provide amply bounce 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 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 soulful vocals, jazzy tunes and an expressive emotional palette makes an engaging and entertaining listen. The half an hour run time demands that the album be played again immediately and is the album is equal satisfying and reveals more of its charms with each repeat listen. Never out staying their welcome and yet able to go distance on the longer tracks Thee Satisfaction will be a welcome addition to your music collection.

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8.         Peter Broderick – “http://www.itstartshere.com” (Bella Union)

This album picks up where Broderick left off with his last solo release “Music for Confluence” and features the same basic instrumentation acoustic/electric guitar, piano and violin. However, there are subtle and not so subtle ways this album manages to differentiate its self from “Music for Confluence”, firstly this isn’t a film soundtrack and thus allows Broderick more freedom of expression. The most obvious ways this freedom is expressed is the album brighter and sometimes more upbeat sound and the fact that Broderick’s lead vocals (which sometimes sound a little like Arthur Russell) dominate whereas only backing vocals were present on “Music for Confluence”. In fact the album features a lot more melodic materials full stop and married with Broderick’s expert use of harmony, reverb and others effects to create atmosphere it makes for much more dynamic material. Throughout the album Broderick successfully tightrope walks between accessibility and pushing the listener beyond their expectations. He achieves this not only with his melodic work and use of effects but also unpredictable song structures on ‘With The Notes on Fire’ (like two songs in one), ‘Colin’ (which initially sounds like the rest of the album before the introduction of percussion pushes the song in a new direction) and ‘Asleep’ and its use of crowd source readings of the lyrics from around the world that disorient and delight in equal measure. “Music for Confluence” is a great album and “http://www.itstartshere.com” is its equal and perfect companion piece.

7.         Blondes – “Blondes” (RVNG INTL)

Blondes self titled debut album sees the duo marrying together modern dance music influenced by the likes of The Field, Gui Boratto and other Kompakt techno alumni and modern Ambient and hynagogic pop acts such as Laurel Halo, Teengirl Fantasy and Rene Hell amongst others. Blondes manage to fuse these two opposites together in way that plays to the strengths of both, you never feel the dance elements are getting bogged down by the atmospherics or that the atmospherics are dominated by the dance elements. The duo encompass a range of emotions across the album from the brighter tracks like ‘Gold’ and ‘Amber’ to the dark and subdued ‘Pleasure via drowned Kraftwerkian synth work on ‘Business’ and foggy tension of ‘Water’. One of the album’s strength is that despite the amount of recycling there is (every second track is a re-versioning of the previous track) the variety on show is impressive as is the duo’s ability to keep the listener engaged and excited by these same/similar elements. Repeat listens reveal more and more detail and that music is underpinned by a subtle influence from the classical minimalism of Steve Reich and Meredith Monk (who the duo sample on ‘Lover’). All in all a great debut album that promises plenty for the future.

6.         Ekoplekz – “Westerleigh Works EP” (Perc Trax)

This EP has been talked about/marketed as Ekoplekz’s first venture into dance floor territory and listening to it you can hear why. However, Ekplekz still keeps his trademark sounds front and centre but the EP uses space more effectively and percussive sounds and deep bass provide the forward motion need. Of the three originals ‘Ekoplatz’ sounds most like his previous material while being underpinned by techno bass and percussion, the other two ‘Narco Samba’ and ‘Xylem Teardrops’ fill more stripped and danceable, while Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire) remix of ‘Ekoplatz’ follows a similar template but adds electronic woodblocks, more structural dynamics and some of Kirk’s own idiosyncratic dub sounds. A highly recommended release for those into the darker side of dance music.

5.         Drokk – “Music Inspired by Mega City One” (Invada Records)

This album uses just one synth as its primary mode of composition but Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and BBC composer Ben Salisbury manage to make limitation the mother of invention creating everything from intense drone heavy soundscapes to arpeggio led tracks via more delicate and reflective moments. In many ways the album bears comparison with this year’s other imaginary soundtrack album “Themes for an Imaginary Film” by Symmetry and though it’s not as ambitious as Symmetry’s album its equally as satisfying a listen. Drawing on many classic synth soundtrack staples such as John Carpenter, Vangelis, Walter/Wendy Carlos and with hints of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and other T.V. music from the 70’s and 80’s. However, repeat plays reveal this isn’t an album that merely imitates and pays homage but reaches the same heights as those great synth soundtrack composers, the album throbs with the tension of a Carpenter score, while Vangelis arpeggios abound and experimental sounds that the Radiophonic Workshop and Walter/Wendy Carlos are thrown in at the appropriate moment and to keep the listener guessing. If Symmetry’s album is the Hollywood blockbuster then “Drokk…” is a homemade marvel and all the better for it.

4.         Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music” (William’s Street)

Killer Mike and El-P’s collaborative 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 off or 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” is the first landmark hip-hop release of 2012 and I’m optimistic this can be a very good year for the genre as a whole.

3.         Orcas – “Orcas” (Morr Music)

The debut album from this Seattle duo (Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) and Benoit Pioulard’s (aka Thomas Meluch) leaves me lost for words, one of those albums that difficult to describe without selling it short. However, I will endeavour to paint a picture of this heartbreakingly beautiful music. The dominate sounds are plaintive piano, twanging to ethereal guitars and vocals and various crackles, hums and heavily processed electronic sounds. These simple elements are manipulated to create different textures, atmospheres and emotions across nine tracks. Though the duo have created a sound of their own there are some influences/inspirations suggested by the music including Peter Broderick & Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie’s soundtrack work, the noise abstract pop of Broadcast (who are covered on the album) and indirectly reminds me of the latest Oneohtrix Point Never album “Replica”. All this is held together by the song writing touches that are subtly weaved throughout the album helping this album raise above more generic ambient and experimental music releases.

2.         King Felix – “Spring EP” (Liberation Technologies)

The “Spring EP” picks up where Laurel Halo left off with the “Hour Logic EP” last summer, though she has some tricks up her sleeve and the music is a lot harder to pin down. Here the rhythms wiggle and squirm restless and constantly shifting not settling into a smooth groove, this is one of the things that makes the EP so exciting you’re never quite sure what’s coming next. The first three tracks are all a variation on the same theme, Halo is so inventive within this limitation that the listener is never bored by the central theme. I’m not an expert on techno but it seems to me that Halo has carved out her own style while referencing the glory years of early Nineties Detroit techno. The other crucial difference between this EP and “Hour Logic” is that whereas many of the tracks on the previous EP sound submerged beneath water this is Halo least veiled work to date; she lets the tracks reveal themselves and breathe, all the elements able to exhibit themselves equally. The “Spring EP” is a fantastic addition to Halo’s discography.

1.         Julia Holter – “Ekstasis” (RVNG ITNL)

The first thing that marks “Ekstasis” out from both last year’s excellent “Tragedy” and her peers music is the brightness of its sound, gone is the shadowy and foggy atmosphere’s replaced by a sharp and incisive production job to revival today’s most intelligent pop stars. While it’s true that Holter’s not going to be the next million selling pop star this album’s production positions this music as “pop” and the abundance of hooks and melodies only reinforces this point. Then there’s the effortless feel of a lot of the music, despite many of the tracks being over 6 minutes in length. There’s no feeling of over indulgence even when a saxophone rears its head on ‘Four Gardens’ and ‘This Is Ekstasis’ everything here earns its place and makes sense within the context of the songs. It would be tempting to compare Holter to her many contemporaries within the hypnogogic pop genre especially her friend and collaborator Nite Jewel. Though her use of delay and reverb create similar feelings/images the musical and lyrical content aims instead to transport the listener further back than the 1980s and into the ancient world which Holter is so interested in. With “Ekstasis” Holter has created her own sound world that seems to subtly reference pre-existing sounds/genres and rhythms without ever sounding directly like anything you’ve previously heard. An artist who can switch with ease between different sounds and sections without breaking a sweat or alienating the listener, Holter is an artist with a bright and long future ahead of her.

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January was a surprisingly busy month with the music industry stopping only to catch its breath over Christmas and New Year before getting back into the swing of things straight away. Annoyingly there’s has been a lot of confusion over two of the albums we recommended so we’ve not been able to pass comment on Harmonious Thelonious “Listens” and Loop of Your Heart’s ” And Never Ending Nights”.

Biggest Disappointment of the Month

Matthew Dear – “Headcage EP” (Ghostly International)

Matthew Dear’s “Headcage” EP is not so much a disappointment as a mixed bag that doesn’t quite achieve its aims though overall Dear comes out on top. The title track sets the tone with the influence of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell’s Fourth Music and modern synth music artists Oneohtrix Point Never and Laurel Halo. In fact ‘Headcage’ reminds me of ‘Head’ by Laurel Halo only 95% of mix hasn’t been drowned in reverb. The biggest disappointment is ‘In The Middle (I Met You There) feat. Johnny Pierce the song starts well enough with Dear’s pitched vocals and moody synths but when the music drops and Pierce’s vocals come in it’s a big letdown from then on. Things pick up a little with ‘Street Song’ the lead synth melody recalling Oneohtrix Point Never and Dear producing some pleasing tricks with his vocals, however these ideas aren’t developed fully and the song peters out. Finally ‘Around A Fountain’ reaches the heights of the title track with heavily compressed percussion, sighing backing vocals and Dear’s processed lead vocals dominating the intro before the lead vocal enters and gives the track a central focus, this is glues the track together. The track recalls similar influences to the others and Talking Heads. Though not firing on all cylinders on this EP it still feels like Dear will probably deliver on his new album “Beams” due later this year.

Oliveray – “Wonders” (Erased Tapes)

The début album by Oliveray (aka Peter Broderick and Nils Frahms) switches between vocal lead folk songs and ambient instrumentals, though even the folk tracks are grounded in ambience. Multi instrumentalist Broderick’s guitar/violin compliment Frahms vocals and piano even when Broderick push into harder or more abstract sounds. Though I prefer the instrumentals (Frahms voice is still growing on me) their cover of ‘Harmonics’ by Efterklang and album closer ‘Dreamer’ both hit the spot. Of the ambient pieces organic opener ‘Growing Waterwings’, the effects heavy ambience of ‘Piano in the Pond’ and the desolate twanging guitar and soft reverbed piano of ‘Hiding Hydiration’ stand out. Though this album doesn’t match Broderick’s recent solo album “Music For Confluence” (or A Winged Victory for the Sullen self titled début which also featured Broderick) it’s well worth investigation. I’ve only scratched the surface of both these artists vast back catalogues and so this may well turn to be one of the finest efforts of their repetitive careers to date and the album does feel like a grower.

Ekoplekz – “Westerleigh Works EP” (Perc Trax)

This EP has been talked about/marketed as Ekoplekz’s first venture into dance floor territory and listening to it you can hear why. However, Ekplekz still keeps his trademark sounds front and centre but the EP uses space more effectively and percussive sounds and deep bass provide the forward motion need. Of the three originals ‘Ekoplatz’ sounds most like his previous material while being underpinned by techno bass and percussion, the other two ‘Narco Samba’ and ‘Xylem Teardrops’ fill more stripped and danceable, while Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire) remix of ‘Ekoplatz’ follows a similar template but adds electronic woodblocks, more structural dynamics and some of Kirk’s own idiosyncratic dub sounds. A highly recommended release for those into the darker side of dance music.

Early Contender for Debut Album of the Year

Islet – “Illuminted People”

Islet’s “Illuminated People is a confident and self-assured debut album from an ambitious band fusing together influences that seem to range from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Fuck Buttons via the Boredoms, shoegaze and folk music. The opening one-two punch of ‘Libra Man’ and ‘This Fortune’ perfectly demonstrate the band ability to bring together these influences to forge their own sound and also that their not just about the sonics but the tunes too. The briefly slacken the pace of the intro of ‘Entwined Pines’ before the drums double up and the tension builds before dropping to a Cocteau Twins style verse before post-punk guitars and synth grind away for the second of the song. ‘What We Done Wrong’ repeats the same trick but with male and female vocals play off each other. Islet show they can do subtle and simple on the folk-y ‘We Bow’ and soft vocals and feedback of  ‘A Warrior Who Longs to Grow Herbs’. The album gets even more eclectic in its second half with two post-rock style songs in ‘Filia’ and ‘Funicular’, the drum machine and tropical sounding synths of ‘Shores’ and the album closer ‘A Bear On Its Own’  with its creepy stabby synth outro, stuttering organ and duelling male and female vocals. My only really complaint is that one of the male vocalist struggles to make his notes in a way that grates other than that this is an impressive and memorable debut album from a band who could have a bright future.

Top Release of the Month

Errors – “Have Some Faith In Magic” (Rock Action)

Errors have been steadily evolving their own sound since their début EP back in 2006 and new album “Have Some Faith In Magic” is no different. What’s interesting about this album is how it seems to refer more modern influences such as James Ferraro and the chillwave/hypnagogic pop acts he has inspired so the newly introduced vocals come coated in reverb and sometimes other effects and there’s a simmering quality and multi coloured feel to the music. In addition this the band fine melodic and structural sense is not only still in place but has moved on another step, enough that they attract attention outside of their cult fan base. Particularly potent tunes include the single ‘Pleasure Palaces’ and its dance floor grooves which remind me of Washed Out and Blondes, the spritely soul inspired rhythms of ‘Barton Spring’ and ‘Blank Media’’s one of the simplest songs the band have written, which they pull off with aplomb. Elsewhere there’s almost rock guitar on opener ‘Tusk’ which also introduces one of the albums dominate sounds that of the twinkling arpeggio, however the songs are so varied that this recurring sound doesn’t grate. I had high hopes for this album after hearing ‘Magna Encarta’ and ‘Earthscore’ and Errors have met them and overcome the problems commonly associated with making a bigger leap in the evolution of a bands sound. They’ve written music that not only moves them forward but also seems primed for the bigger stages they’ll play on this year, after one play it feels this album and band can only get better.

Recommendations – February

Marcel Dettmann – “Landscape” out now (Music Man Records)

Released on the same label as his “Conducted” mix and following on from the “Translation” EP, the key feature of ‘Landscape’ is a muted melody that swells and deflates under Dettmann’s trademark thudding and scraping drums, providing a pivotal building-to-peak-time track for a DJ to throw in a set. A remix from the upcoming Answer Code Request pushes ‘Landscape’ into the pure peak time territory that the original teases the listener with.

Harmonious Thelonious – “Listens” out now (Italic)

Italic will release the follow-up to 2010’s Congotronics influenced ‘Talking’ with an new album that we at Sonic Fiction hope continues this artist’s unique combination of “American minimalism vs. African drumming vs. European sequencing”.

Blondes – “Blondes” 6th February (RVNG Itnl)

The début album from one of our favourite new acts on Sonic Fiction on RVNG Itnl who are shaping up to be the label of year (can’t wait for Julia Holter and the Sun Araw/The Congos collaboration albums later this year). The album collects together the duo’s pureistic and all analogue 12″ singles from last year plus a extra disc of remixes featuring the likes of Laurel Halo, Rene Hell and Teengirl Fantasy among others. Despite this pureistic approach this isn’t dance music by numbers and seems to incoraparate some influences from ambient music and the kosmische music of Cluster and their current peers such as Halo and Hell. Stream Blondes album here.

Loops Of Your Heart – ‘And Never Ending Nights’ 13th February (Magazine Records)

After his career ascension with “Looping State Of Mind”, The Field (Axel Willner) has created the side project Loops Of Your Heart. “And Never Ending Nights” is immersed in German influence and celebrates the country’s tradition of musical restraint that is exemplified in kosmiche musik names such as Cluster and Harmonia. The sampled voices of children speaking German on the lead track “Neukölln”, named after the Berlin district.

Peter Broderick – “http://www.itstartshear.com” 20th February 2012 (Bella Union)

Broderick’s new solo album is called “http://www.itstartshear.com” because though he has no problem with people downloading his music, Broderick sees the problems with pieces of information and artwork that can go missing and complete the experience. So he’s set-up a website where everything to do with the album can be accessed by anyone whatever format they’ve bought/got the album in.

Produced by Nils Frahm (Broderick’s partner in Oliveray) at his Durton Studio in Berlin and Broderick says “it is my first project on which the sonic timbre of the songs was treated equally as important as the music itself. I have been in awe of the sound on the many records coming out of Nils’ studio over the last couple years, so I thank him deeply for helping me to explore a richer, wider sonic landscape.”

Ital – “Hive Mind” 20th February (Planet Mu)

The début album from Daniel Martin-McCormick under his Ital guise is an album that early reviews and pre-release track suggest stretches the definition of dance music. Made up of five longform tracks that build upon last year 12″ releases on 100% Silk and takes his dirty, dubby and psychedelic sound further out. Tracks like ‘Floridian Void’ seem to bring together sounds from Martin-McCormick’s entire career thus far from the solo synth based noise project Sex Worker, through the brutal dance-punk of Mi Ami and with the D-I-Y attitude of his first band the hardcore punks Black Eyes. This is dance music in structure but not by design.

Sleigh Bells – ‘Reign of Terror’ 20th February (Mom & Pop)

The second album from Sleigh Bells promise more of the noisy pop of their début “Treats” but with a darker more gothic edge added to the overall tone. The main changes seems to be that pre-release tracks “Born to Lose” and “Comeback Kid” is that though the tracks are less in-your-face than before they still possessed extraordinary power. Meanwhile the Alexis Krauss’ vocals have become more ethereal adding a new creepy edge to the music.

Olafur Arnalds – “Another Happy Day OST”  27th February (Erased Tapes)

Like label mate Nils Frahms Olafur Arnalds is a young modern classical pianist with a prolific output. This latest release provides the soundtrack for Sam Levinson’s “Another Happy Day” starring Ellen Barkin and Demi Moore and features the beautiful and delicate ‘Poland’.

Belbury Poly – “The Belbury Tales” 27th February (Ghost Box)

The fourth album from Belbury Poly (aka Ghost Box co-founder Jim Jupp) is a heavily influenced by 1970’s folk-prog acts such as Caravan though in a recent FACT interview Jupp said he hadn’t made a prog album per se but that “While the sound and feel of British prog is an influence on The Belbury Tales, it’s only one element. It’s not a prog rock album, I don’t think; it has just as much to do with TV soundtracks, library music, kosmische and psychedelic rock.” The four clips that are available to stream via Soundcloud certainly fit this description. FACT say the album fits into the Belbury Poly and Ghost Box aesthetic but with a more organic and live feel thanks to the contributions of guest musicians Christopher Budd (bass and electric guitar) and Jim Musgrave (drums) a first for a Belbury Poly release. Jupp also adds zithers, melodica, ocarina and sampled vocals to the mix. The clips leave the listen intrigued but we’ll have to wait to find out what the whole album sounds like.

Prologue

After a great 2011 in which our views went through the roof and we got many more comments, I hope Sonic Fiction can continue to build on this. I hope that this is the year we finally get a constant dialogue going between us and our readers. From the outset I wanted to provoke debate and have been conscious to try to encourage this in my posts. It’s really encouraging to read and respond to positive comments and I hope the comments section and our Twitter feed become places where debates and conversations around Sonic Fiction’s content and music in general can be had. I will also try where possible to post more often, though this may come more through tweets rather than full posts. In addition to this our electronic music columnist Vier and I will both be recommending albums as well as singles, EPs, mixes, mixtapes and anything else we feel is worth your attention and readily available.

Thank you to everyone who reads the blog and thank you to all the commentors and followers.

Liam Flanagan (Sonic Fiction Editor)

Recommendations

Ekoplekz – “Westerleigh Works EP” out now (Perc Trax)

Ekoplekz was one of my favourite discoveries of last year even though it took me forever to get round to listening to him and I didn’t mention him on Sonic Fiction. This new EP is a bit of departure as it is his first release designed for the dance floor and features a remix from one of his heroes, Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire). Expect the usual analogue noisiness but with a four to the floor backing.

Oliveray – “Wonders” out now (Erased Tapes)

As 2011 wound down I bought A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s eponymous debut album and it got a lot of spins in late November and December. Included with the CD was a code that could be used to download a free Erased Tapes sampler. So I download this and automatically had several new artists to check out. Oliveray is a collaboration between two of the Erased Tapes artists, new classical pianist Nils Frahm and multi instrumentalist Peter Broderick. If these two artists’ catalogues are anything to go by this could be a jewel in the label’s crown for 2012.

Matthew Dear – “Headcage EP” 16th January

(Ghostly International)

Ahead of his new album “Beams” due later in 2012, Dear will release a four track EP. For the first time Dear isn’t the producer, instead that is handled by Van Rivers and The Subliminal Kid (Fever Ray, Glasser, Blonde Redhead) and on ‘In The Middle’ he hands vocal duties to Johnny Pierce of The Drums. Reviews suggest that this EP both picks up where Dear left off with “Black City” (2010) and folds current influences such as Oneohtrix Point Never, Laurel Halo and Autre Ne Veut into his dark techno pop mix. Find out if Sonic Fiction agrees next month.

Amadou & Miriam – “Dougou Badia EP” 23rd January (Nonesuch)

A new digital only EP from the Malian Tuareg legends that precedes their new album “Folila”  out on 26th March. The title track which features Santigold and Nick Zinner(Yeah Yeah Yeahs) can be heard here.

Errors – “We Have Some Faith In Magic” 30th January (Rock Action)

One of our favourite bands at Sonic Fiction are back with a new album. The first single ‘Earthscore’ is a three part epic. It starts off almost cinematic with big synth swells and pounding tom toms all topped off with reverb heavy vocal sighs, then it breaks down into a four to the floor rhythm, bubbling arpeggios and a typical Errors guitar and synth melodies. Then the guitar line descends giving way to an almost breakbeat style rhythm and new theremin style lead synth before finally clattering to a close. Though this is a lot to take in the first couple of plays it soon becomes clear this is a continuation of Errors’ evolution and that they’ve taken a leap forward that promises much for this album and their future. Lets hope they get the attention they deserve. Listen to ‘Earthscore’ here.

Harmonious Thelonious – ‘Listens’ 30th January (Italic Records)

Italic will release the follow-up to 2010′s Congotronics influenced ‘Talking’ with an new album that we at Sonic Fiction hope continues this artist’s unique combination of “American minimalism vs. African drumming vs. European sequencing”.

Loops Of Your Heart – “And Never Ending Nights” 30th January (Magazine Records)

After his career ascension with “Looping State Of Mind”, The Field (Axel Willner) has created the side project Loops Of Your Heart. The first single ‘Neukölln’ trades The Field’s emotive sound for a more apparent krautrock/kosmiche musik style and points to the direction “And Never Ending Nights” will take.

Still to come this month on Sonic Fiction:

Next week – 2012 through my (biased) eyes: Catch Up #1 – a look back at some album that were released in November and thus excluded from our Albums of the Year and have now been throughly disgested.

Later this month – Classics Critiqued: Basic Channel: BCD by Vier.

New Artists

Unbalance

From Omsk, Russia, producer and DJ Unbalance was first introduced to me with his ‘The Russian Technothon’ mix, which incorporated tracks from Ben Klock, Norman Nodge, Marcel Dettmann, Lucy, O/V/R and DVS1 (also in this Sounds of 2012). Inspired greatly by Basic Channel and the Berlin sound, he has released three moist dub-techno untitled 12”s – Unbalance – Unbalance#1, a fourth is due soon, and several tracks on the Ukrainian Indeks Music and Sonntag Morgen. Describing his style as, “techno with different shades of moods, from deep atmospheric dub sound to pushy and aggressive groove, forcing [you] to feel different emotions [while] remaining in the framework of this techno music.”

DVS1

Though not a new artist, 2012 should see Minneapolis native DVS1 break through to wider acclaim like his mentor Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann. His DJ sets at Berghain have seen him mess with the Berlin sound by playing attention grabbing, mischievous techno. Signed to Klock’s Klockworks label, his popular ‘Floating’, ‘Running’ and ‘Searching’ tracks have also displayed his playfulness and the influence of house and techno on his work. Hopefully this year will see the release of a mix on Ostgut Ton and more EPs.

Conrad Van Orton

Conrad Van Orton (a character’s name taken from David Fincher’s ‘The Game’) is a producer from Rome who creates broken and dirty dub techno. His work, like doom-filled ‘Matyr’, has been released on the Italian label Sonntag Morgen and his own imprint CRS Recordings, the name of which is again from ‘The Game’.

Voices From The Lake

Duo Donato Dozzy and Neel release their album on the 31st Jan after their evocative EP “Silent Drop”. Signed to Prologue, a small German label, the two Italians use Voices From The Lake to explore ambient techno and their EP is filled with organic textures and fluid, hypnotic rhythms. Their self-titled album, which recreates and refines their live performance at a festival in the mountains of Japan, looks to expand and enhance this.

Voices from The Lake Feat. Donato Dozzy & Neel – Silent Drop EP

Items & Things

With news last year that Magda, Troy Pierce and Marc Houle had left Minus to dedicate more time to their rebooted Items & Things label and promising releases so far from Madato, Danny Benedettini, party-starters Click Box and Houle’s new album “Undercover” due in March (his first to not be released on Minus), 2012 will see the label grow stronger and continue to sign and release music from talent they love.

Young Hunting

Though not strictly a new act, they self-released their debut album “Attachment In A Children and The Subsequent Condition” in 2010, the Edinburgh duo (not to be confused with the L.A. band of the same name) have just released their first 12” “Night of the Burning”, due for digital release on the 23rd January, on Blackest Ever Black. The duo have landed favourable comparisons to industrial legends Coil, slot beautifully into the label’s gothic aesthetic alongside their peers Raime and share textual, atmospheric and rhythmic similarities with Shackleton. “Night of the Burning” shows great potential for this duo and the label promise more material is on the way.

Oliver Tank

Oliver Tank brings together the disparate worlds of electronica and classical instruments such as the violin in a subtle and inviting way. Many artists spring to mind while listening to Tank’s music including Boards of Canada and Apparat though none truly manage to describe what he is actually achieving. He also shows a taste for pop with his excellent cover of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Beautiful’ and injects real emotion into his combination of ‘serious’ genres. With all this going for him, Tank has a bright future ahead. Oliver Tank’s debut EP “Dreams” is out now via Bandcamp.

A$AP Rocky

The hype around A$AP Rocky has been building for quite some time and he’s graduated to a new level of fame since the release of his critically acclaimed mixtape “LiveLoveA$AP” in November. Since then A$AP Rocky has signed a record deal that will see him release a deluxe version of “LiveLoveA$AP” featuring production from up and coming producers Clams Casino, Spaceghostpurrp and Ty Beats and others with a debut album due later in 2012. With the attention he’s been getting and the team of ‘cloud rap’ star producers he is working with, A$AP Rocky will be dominating the headlines this year.

Doldrums

21 year old producer Airick Woodhead from Montreal creates a unique blend of contrasting genres and sounds that combines “Bollywood strings, electronic smears, strangulated samples, and rickety breakbeats” into a delightfully twisted charming racket. His debut EP on No Pain In Pop followed the release of his remix of ‘Chase The Tear’ by Portishead as its official b-side and features six brilliant nuggets of genre hopping genius. As his label notes, “his music is a reaction to the overhyping and plasticity of modern youth culture. Doldrums’ music reflects this societal change on a personal level, as a member of the last generation to remember life pre-internet and 24 hour status updates. His androgynous voice comes across mid-panic attack, floating in a sea of chopped up samples, disembodied vocals and tribal percussion.  Spearing between electro-hallucinogenic freak outs and languid nostalgia, his tracks somehow manage to elevate classic pop melodies above a sample saturated sound collage.”

Gabriel Bruce

The lugubrious voice of Gabriel Bruce is the first thing that strikes about his music and sounds like Matthew Dear on his “Black City” album or Nick Cave is his tender moments. Repeat listens reveal a skilled musician and arranger who can combine and balance the subtle and the hard hitting on his beautiful debut single ‘Sleep Paralysis’. This also featured a 50 page book on the subject written by Bruce. As the year continues let’s hope we hear more from this very promising new artist.

New Albums

For a full list of upcoming music releases check out our New Music releases page.

Matthew Dear – “Beams” – Described as “a turn towards the light”, following Dear’s 2010 album “Black City”, “Beams” has had a teaser in the shape of the “Headcage” EP, which mixes Dear’s low-register voice with upbeat rhythms. The album should be out in the spring.

The Knife – “title tba” – Typically for The Knife, their announcement that they were working on a new album was spare of detail so nothing else is known but, after waiting six years since “Silent Shout” was released, a new album should be released this year.

Loops Of Your Heart – “And Never Ending Nights” (30th Jan) After his career ascension with ‘”Looping State Of Mind”, The Field (Axel Willner) has created the side project Loops Of Your Heart. The first single ‘Neukölln’ trades The Field’s emotive sound for a more apparent krautrock/kosmiche musik style and points to the direction “And Never Ending Nights” will take.

Orcas – Orcas (Feb) – Rafael Anton Irisarri ( The Sight Below) has formed a new duo with Benoit Pioulard called Orcas. With an album due out in February, the artists combine traditional song writing with ambient music production. Included on “Orcas” will be their cover of Broadcast’s ‘Until Then’:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – tbc – No news on other than Karen O announcing the trio have been working on new music for release in 2012.

Errors – “Have Some Faith in Magic” (30th Jan) – The Scottish electro-post-rock band return, stream 1st single ‘Earthscore’ here. A big favourite here on Sonic Fiction hopefully this will be the year they break through properly and get their just rewards.

Julia Holter – “Ekstasis” (March 2012) – The second album from found sound artist Holter has become much antipated after her debut “Tragedy” did well in the end of year polls, will be interesting to see how see develops her unique sound.

Madvillain – (2012) – In a recent interview with Reverb Stones Throw’s Record head honcho Peanut Butter Wolf said the new album from Madlib and MF Doom is  “three-quarters done”, so hopefully this much anticapated album will be released at some point in 2012.

Congotronics vs Rockers (2012) – After watching the project’s rehearsals and performances unfold via the Congotronics vs Rockers blog the promise of an album of new material by the project is an exciting prospect.

The Avalanches (2012) – a recent tweet by Modular Records promised a new record by these Aussie sampler manglers as they finally follow-up to 2001’s “Since I Left You” album.

Spotify playlist:

Sonic Fiction’s Sound of 2012

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.

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