Tag Archive: Oneohtrix Point Never


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Since 2007 Oneohtrix Point Never has gone from releasing limited edition CDR’s of New Age influenced drone music, then finding critical acclaim with his compilation album “Rifts” (2009) and official debut album “Returnal” (2010) which saw him move into more complex and edited version of his trademark sound. His last album “Replica” saw him take things a step further embracing the micro edits techniques associated with electronica artists such as Autechre, Aphex Twin and Fennesz. This has lead to his first album for Warp Records home to both Autechre and Aphex Twin. I’ll admit that at first I was unsure about why Oneohtrix Point Never had signed for Warp but after hearing ‘Problem Areas’ from the album it became clear that this album belongs in that lineage of artists.

The album starts as it means to go on with seemingly predetermined structures playing out across the track (not something that Oneohtrix is known) and micro details often passing in the blink of an eye. Oddly this feels like Oneohtrix’s most accessible offering to date and he has scaled back on the irriating micro edited rhythmic vocal sampling of “Replica” but the album also feels like a grower not music with an immediate impact. ‘Boring Angel’ opens with huge held synth chords that have a religious church organ vibe. Insistent yet distant wooden percussion is tapped out in the background. More layers of synth/organ enter creating an even more beautiful, immense and dense sound. Around one minute 30 seconds in a synth arpeggio suddenly springs into life, followed by a rhythmic cutting synth sound that is almost like a human vocal that’s been micro edited. Things breakdown to just calm vocal pad and then church organ epicness for the outro of the track it ends abruptly. Its followed by ‘Americans’ a jungle of complex wet with reverb sounds open the track before being adruptly interupted and an arpeggio that sounds like Gamelan music comes in, swiftly followed by a counterpoint melody that sounds like a female voice another that’s sythetic yet wooden. After a chaotic middle section on which its hard to keep track of the sounds flying around your ears, everything does calm, the track breaking down to just lush synth pad for about thirty sounds before the original melodies all steadily reintroduce themselves.


Across the there’s an implied hip-hop influence (in fact, Oneohtrix recently admiteed to being “obsessed” with Nicki Minaj) and this goes some way to explaing why this Onehotrix’s most coherently percussive album to date. The tracks that best represent this stylistic change are ‘He She’, ‘Along’, ‘Cryo’ and ‘Still Life’. Both ‘He She’ and ‘Along’ share oriental melodies that hint at the Minaj obsession and a lot of percussive stab sounds that have used since the mid 80’s when hip-hop producers got their hands on the first samplers. ‘Cryo’ and ‘Still Life’ share the current underground hip-hop scenes love of heavy yet minimal and super slow beats.


One of the album’s highlights is ‘Zebra’ which sees Oneohtrix trying his hand at ambient techno (albeit while never actually letting the track take off) its use of techno like synth, synthetic vocal choir coated in thick and a piano melody make the track like a collaboration with Laurel Halo. The album closes with ‘Chrome Country’ big expressive synth chords open this track, 30 seconds in there joined by female vocals harmonies, synth stabs, a distant piano arpeggio that steadily fades in to become the main melody and a deep bass that falls on the first beat of the bar. The vocal samples take the lead briefly before then playing counterpoint to the piano and a couple of other melodic snippets that fall in and out of the mix. An synth melody gets involved around two minutes 30 seconds before the track breaks down briefly to just pad and strings at 3 mins 10 secs. Then the piano arp plays above then joined shortly after by a grand organ melody and female choir pad before the whole track is faded out.
“R Plus Seven” is Oneohtrix Point Never’s most accessible album to date and yet at the same it feels like a grower. I put this down the fact that its a very technical and structured album that lacks the emotional immediace that so much of his earlier material so brilliant and vivid. This album is a Warp Records and in time with reveal all of its intricate details and maybe some emotional resonances. It’s by no means the worst Oneohtrix Point Never album (for me that’s “Replica”) and has some great tracks across the album. It’s an album that’s worth checking out and spending some time with but it is a different beast to previous Oneohtrix albums.

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Brian Eno – “Another Green World” (Island/E.G. Records, 1975)

This month’s Classics Critiqued choice is many things. Universally recognised as the best album of Brian Eno’s 40 years plus musical career, a stepping stone to the creation of ambient music as we know it today and a modern classic that hasn’t aged in the way many albums released in 1975 have. “Another Green World” links electronic music’s past while looking forward into its future and would go on to be acknowledged by many as highly influential. Though in 1975 Eno had not yet taken the leap fully into the ambient music genre, it seems odd that “Another Green World” is perceived as a ‘song album and not an ambient album’ as only five of its fourteen tracks feature vocals. Geeta Dayal puts this down to the album’s sequencing as the vocal tracks are well spaced and longer than the brief instrumentals between them. In this article I will explore ideas about Eno’s creative process and the making of “Another Green World”, his ideas of exploiting the studio as musical instrument, the perception of Eno as a studio boffin and how he discovered ambient music and his founding concepts.

Before he made “Another Green World” Eno had released two solo albums in 1973 and ’74: “Here Comes the Warm Jets” and “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) respectively. With these albums he attempted to throw off people’s perception of him as the strutting peacock synthesizer operator of his previous band Roxy Music, which he was mostly successful at. He arrived at “Another Green World” with a sound that was hinting at a grey area between his rock music past and his ambient music future. This was the first time Eno had gone into the studio without any demos or songs completed. He used the guiding principle of his cybernetics hero Stafford Beer – “Instead of trying to specify in full detail, you specify it only somewhat. You then ride on the dynamics of the system in the direction you want to go.” All Eno had was the talent of his session musicians, a general concept, ideas for which instruments to use and his ace card: his musical ear and skill with synthesizers and processing sound.

Eno’s style is often described as being painterly but as Geeta Dayal expertly pointed out in her book on “Another Green World”, a filmmaking is a better analogy as Eno “has a knack for identifying and assembling the right mix of people to serve a larger vision, and the ability to coax unexpected performances out of collaborators.” This seems be crucial in both the creation of and our understanding of the album. Eno’s collaborators and engineer Rhett Davis recall Eno in a playful and experimental mood during the album’s creation. His experiments included creating 80 foot tape loops in the control room, breaking off in the middle of recording for a slice of cake, treating pianos with bits of metal under the strings or hammer, recording in stairwells and challenging Phil Collins to drum to a mathematical formula he wrote out, which frustrated Collins no end. Regular collaborator and lead guitarist Robert Fripp believed “The key to Brian, from my view, is his sense of play… Although Eno is considered an intellectual, and clearly he has more than sufficient wit, it’s Brian’s instinctive and intuitive choices that impress me. Instinct puts us in the moment, intellect is slower.”

The recording studio was an essential tool that Eno fully exploited on “Another Green World”. Recording in odd rooms/spaces and using the reverb  within Basing Street studio, a deconsecrated church, had a profound effect on the acoustic atmosphere present on the album as did Eno’s desire to push the limited analogue technology as far as it would go. Harold Budd, a future Eno collaborator, said of his use of the studio as an instrument, “The documentary aspect is part and parcel of most recording studios. You perform something and it’s captured, and it’s recorded and pressed and put out in the world. The part with Eno was just the opposite. You use the studio in order to get the sounds that are going to be captured, you know what I mean? It just put a reversal on it.” Eno himself said “… I strongly believe that recording studios have created a different type of musician and a different way of making music… Now this is obviously a very different way of working from any traditional compositional manner; it’s much more like a painting. So it’s clearly a method that is also available to the non-musician. You don’t have to have traditional technical competence to work that way.” In saying this Eno inadvertently planted the seed of the idea of the modern music ‘producer’ who can be anyone creating music with software and recording hardware in their own home, the completely autonomous non-musician and studio producer who needs no proven ability or experience.

“Another Green World” isn’t an album that has many direct decedents as can be said for most of Eno’s best work; he is a distinct artist who stands alone. However, the album and his other pure ambient albums that soon followed have influenced at least two generations of ambient musicians including Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, The Black Dog, Biosphere, Wolfgang Voigt (Kompakt co-founder) and a new generation that includes Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds, M83, Eluvium and others. The greatest legacy Eno and “Another Green World” have is the ideas behind them, the experiments, the imaginative titles that hint at what’s within, the inspirational devices such as the Oblique Strategies employed when the music itself wasn’t enough to fire the imagination. These ideas and the resulting album have remained central to electronic music for 37 years and I have no doubt they will continue to do so.

Stream “Another Green World” here.

Liam Flanagan (Sonic Fiction Editor)

This post is designed to look again at two albums that I covered back in November that missed the cut for Albums of the Year and two that came out in November but weren’t covered as they hadn’t been recommended.  First up the two I previously covered.

Oneohtrix Point Never – “Replica” (Software/Mexican Summer)

Repeated listens to this album shows up the best and worst things about “Replica”. The edited and micro sampled vocals that annoyed before are more annoying and the impressive use of space, atmosphere and use of percussion is more so. However, the album feels transitional and as other critcs have suggested, “his best work to date”. Daniel Lopatin is just beginning to explore this territory and is still learning how everything works together, particularly the new elements such as the micro sampled vocals and use of percussion. He’s also extended his use of piano on “Replica” and demonstrates a new confidence in this skill, in which he’d only previously dabbled. In an electronic music world being more driven by loop-based compositions Oneohtrix Point Never pushes his composition skills to the limits and usees his tools to their full potential, littering the tracks with unexpected twists and turns. Though I still believe “Returnal” is Lopatin’s finest work, I look forward to seeing how he develops and improves upon the sound of “Replica”, still an album well worth investigation.

Chris Watson – “El Tren Fantasma” (Touch)

“El Tren Fantasma” is one of the hardest albums to describe that I’ve written about for Sonic Fiction. A musique concrete album based on a cross-country train journey on Mexico’s now defunct “Ghost Train” isn’t an easy thing to describe without creating a dry and literal piece of writing. However, I can add a little to what I’ve already said, firstly the more I listen to the album the more it becomes clear that Watson has processed and possibly edited the original field recordings he made. This helps explain way the album feels more musical than the only other Watson album I have heard, the excellent “Stepping Into The Dark” (1996), which literally used pure field recordings to achieve its sound. In my original post I said, “I’d throughly recommend “El Tren Fantasma” as an experience that should be tried at least once, it won’t be for everyone but I think it will surprise many people” and I stand by that now.

Atlas Sound – “Parallax” (4AD)

‘Parallax’ is Bradford Cox’s most consistent and involving album to date. I’ve often found myself off-put by his tendency to hide his vocals and sometimes whole songs behind reverb or lo-fi quality recordings. It was frustrating as you wanted to get closer to the artist and music yet this all changes now with a new found confidence and less reliance on effects, revealing the pop nous I always suspected was buried in Cox’s music. It’s interesting that Cox chose to have Mick Rock photograph him for the cover of “Parallax’ as one of the artists the album most instantly recalls is David Bowie (whom Rock photographed throughout his career), particularly Bowie’s faux rock ‘n’ roll period in the mid ’80s. Album opener ‘The Shakes’ starts with arching feedback, followed by a faded in acoustic guitar and then seconds later the tune kicks in properly. This sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly as Cox balances effects and organic instrumentation brilliantly. For me the highlights are ‘Te Amo’ with its delicate music box synth melody and complementary lo-fi drum sounds, ‘Modern Aquatic Nightsongs’ which reminds me of the Cocteau Twins and ‘Doldrums’ a piano and vocal lead ambient piece with muffled drums and heavily reverbed reversed samples and synths.  With “Parallax” Cox has made a very modern album that also calls on the vintage sounds of rock ‘n’ roll, he’s shown how naked he can make his lonesome music (‘Terra Incognita’) but also that now he can welcome in the listener and let his song writing shine.

A$AP Rocky – “LiveLoveA$AP Mixtape” (RCA/Polo Grounds Music)

I’ll admit to never having got into hip-hop’s mixtape culture but having heard a couple of tracks I was intrigued by A$AP Rocky’s “LongLiveA$AP”. I have found a rapper whose lyrical subject matter isn’t always to my taste but is the one most engaging new rappers I’ve heard for quite a while. Add to this production by some of the best up and coming hip-hop producers including Clams Casino, Spaceghostpurrp, Beautiful Lou and Ty Beats and you’ve got a powerful combination. My only complaint other than the some of the lyrics is that the first half of mixtape relies quite heavily on the same base elements: pitched down vocals and heavy use of reverb but this is only a small problem. The second half is where A$AP changes things up and shows the variety of tracks and vocal styles he can cover from the twanging country guitar and double time beats of ‘Trilla’ to the hollow pads of ‘Leaf’ via the yearning strings of ‘Houston Old Head’. His vocal range expands to almost singing on ‘Kissin’ Pink’ and ‘Houston Old Head’, laid back rapping on ‘Acid Drop’ and sounding subdued on ‘Demons’.  On ‘Leaf’ he demonstrates his greatest lyric put down without insulting the rappers he references. “They say I sound like André/ Mixed with Kanye/ A little bit of Max/ A little bit of Wiz/ A little bit of that/ A little bit of this/ Get off my dick.” A$AP Rocky seems like he’s put together the whole package and can dominate hip-hop in 2012.

For now, me and Sonic Fiction are finished with 2011, on with 2012.

Liam Flanagan (Sonic Fiction Editor)

Spotify playlist:

2012 through my (biased) eyes: Catch #1

Honourable Mentions

Death In Vegas – “Trans Love Energies”

This album came out nowhere back in September and knocked me for six, a great comeback album if ever there was one. Admittedly it’s not always the subtlest of albums, both in terms of wearing its influences on its sleeves and in terms of its sometimes simplistic nature. However, these complaints are minor with Richard Fearless finding a balance between his art-rock and electronic music influences and blending them into a visceral whole. Though it may not be the most original album released this year it’s a joy to listen to and Fearless show he’s still a master of his music domain. His whispered vocals (which sometimes recall Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers) and those of collaborator Kate Stelmanis (Austra) are the icing on the cake. It is well worth getting the 2 CD edition too, which features remixes and instrumental versions of album tracks plus five non-album tracks all of which equal the quality of the album itself.

Spank Rock – “Everything Is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar”

After 5 years Spank Rock returned this year with a second album ‘Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar’. This combines tracks that consolidate what Spank Rock achieved on previous album ‘YoYoYoYoYo’ and while moving into new areas like four-to-floor dance music, grungy distortion and Can sampling single ‘Energy’. Spank Rock also tries out singing on ‘The Dance’, ‘Baby’ (on which he achieves an excellent Prince impersonation) and ‘Energy’ and does so with aplomb. The triple dance floor whammy of ‘The Dance’, ‘#1 Hit’ and ‘Turn It Off’ are the biggest departures but also the greatest successes. During the second half of the album the majority tracks recall ‘YoYoYoYoYo’s’ electro sound but here it’s been expanded and built upon to incorporate tribal vibes, industrial touches, grungy distortion and on ‘Baby’ a phat funk groove. Like on his debut, Spank Rock pushes the envelope of electro hip-hop successfully bringing together disparate elements and combining them as if they should be together. An excellent album full of energy, humour and electro.

DELS – “GOB”

Dels produced an authoritative debut album that balances catchy, memorable tunes with experimentation, unexpected twists and turns and a signature sound on a complete and engaging record. The first half is full of heavy hitting, bouncy electro inspired tracks but the second half to the album covers more serious topics including the recent political problems in the UK, rape and domestic violence. Dels is able to change the pace and the atmosphere to suit these changes in subject and this is proof of an artist with more than one string to his bow and great future ahead of him. Dels is a hip-hop artist with substance to match his unique style.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – “A Winged Victory for the Sullen”

A Winged Victory for the Sullen is a collaboration between Adam Wiltzie of Texan ambient duo Stars of the Lid and contemporary pianist Dustin O’ Halloran and their self titled debut album is where their two styles meet in the middle. The music shifts in and out of focus as the two musicians interact, knowing when to play together and when to let the other have space, when to build a wave of sound and when to leave room between them. One of the remarkable things about the album is how cohesive it sounds, as if the duo had been working together for years and understood each other’s every musical move and how to compliment it. The reason for choosing this album is best summed up by Sam Cleeve of Drowned in Sound “While Wiltzie and O’Halloran both have their obvious contemporaries to draw parallels between (Hammock; Eno/Frahm; Arnalds), this emotive disc balances a hushed intimacy and vast expanse that places it in a unique sonic terrain.”

Toro Y Moi – “Underneath the Pine”

Back in February I described Toro Y Moi’s “Underneath the Pine” in the following way, “from its chiming and droning intro track right through to the last rhythmic charge of ‘Elise’, it does no wrong. A fantastic concoction of ’80s style funk riffs and grooves matched with emotive soundtrack backing and the glorious rush of good pop music, it’s a leap forward from his impressive début ‘Causers of This’” Since then I’ve had more time to contemplate the album and its subtleties, discovering the stylistic similarities to Stereolab (who featured in his mix for The Quietus) and deepening my admiration for the lush atmospherics present in the tracks and the way that the singles ‘New Beat’ and ‘Still Sound’’s infectious upbeat energy contrast with the album’s more thoughtful moments such as ‘Good Hold’ and opener ‘Intro/Chi Chi’. On the surface “Underneath the Pine” is full of simple pleasures but reveals more and more with each new play.

Top Ten Album’s of the Year

10. Battles – “Gloss Drop” (Warp Records)

 As with any Battles release there’s a lot to take in and one listen simply won’t cut it in terms of any real in-depth analysis. The trio made a good first impression proving they can do great things without former member Tyondai Braxton, whom was always seen as a key band member. This is definitely a Battles album yet they’ve shed some of the uptight, over thought jazz-prog that had previously manifested itself in a frustrating way. This is a looser, freer band. Drummer John Stanier is able to make his techno influences much more explicit, this and the Carribbean/Latin/Calypso touches that are littered throughout the album add a new rhythmic interest and lightness of touch that are both great new additions to the Battles sound. This isn’t a band trying to play techno or calypso through; rather they are trying to fold these influences into their already established sound. Another interesting facet of the sound is that on many of the tracks feature ambience and background sounds that evoke grey concrete that is juxtaposed with the lighter and happier calypso influenced melodies and riffs. ‘Gloss Drop’ is a bold statement from band that could have collapsed but has instead shown a new strength.

9. Chancha Via Circuito – “Rio Arriba” (ZZK Records)

This album by an Argentine hip-hop producer Pedro Canale fuses J Dilla-esque beats to traditional Columbian cumbia percussion samples, melodies and vocal samples to create a heady and humid hybrid that recalls walking through the South American jungle after dark. Like all the best hip-hop producers Canale has a deep understanding of the music that he is sampling but doesn’t respect it to the point that it limits his innovation. His music and grooves feel organic but also as if they’ve been subtly subverted in his sampler. “Rio Arriba” isn’t all about the beats. He uses atmosphere to evoke a time and place and is one of the only new hip-hop producers I’ve heard who achieves this to such a high level, you don’t just hear the time and place either but feel the emotions of the singers and the instrumental tracks so brilliantly convey. It’s difficult to properly describe Chancha Via Circuito’s music but with “Rio Arriba” he has created the debut album of the year.

8. The Horrors – “Skying” (XL Records)

I’ll admit to never having been taken by The Horrors and other than the excellent track ‘Sea Within a Sea’ I didn’t see what all fuss was about with their last album “Primary Colours”. However, their new self-produced album “Skying” finds them striking a balance between clear melodic lines and thick, swirling psychedelia. Previously the band sounded muddy with the melody submerged low in the mix. There’s also a new feeling of purpose to tracks like ‘Still Life’, ‘Moving Further Away’ and ‘Endless Blue’. The band combine the motorik rhythms of Neu!, the English psychedelia of late 80s Julian Cope and the power ballad dynamics of Simple Minds (not something I thought I’d ever be recommending) into a punchy pop-rock package. They’ve left behind the restrictions of recreating gothic post-punk sounds and the doom laden, muddy psychedelia of previous albums and have emerged as a band that delivers where once they merely promised.

7. Tune-Yards –“Who Kill” (4AD Records)

Tune-Yards delivers on what was hinted at on her debut album ‘Bird-Brains’. Strong vocal performances and use of vocal layering are ever present as are the hip-hop rhythms that dominated her debut. She also brings a host of surprises, the processing of vocals through a modular synth, pop melodies that pack a punch and a day-glo sound indebted to both African music and dub yet at the same time all of her own. Though the album dips towards the end ‘Doorstop’ and ‘You, Yes You’ show there are yet more directions in which Tune-Yards’ sound can be developed. In addition to this the album reflects its time through its politically engaged lyrics and of protests both personal and local. In a year dominated by protests and political upheaval, “Who Kill” provided a vibrant soundtrack. All-in-all this is a great album from a unique artist.

6. The Field – “Looping State of Mind”  (Kompakt)

This year Axel Willner delivered another great album as The Field and continued to evolve his glacial techno sound. His music is now warmer and more organic (see ‘Arpeggiated Love’ and ‘Burned Out’), while his grooves have become funkier and more human recalling those found on LCD Soundsystem’s “Sound of Silver”. The best way I can think to describe “Looping State of Mind” is LCD Soundsystem grooves matched with the inverted dance structures and Tangerine Dream influenced kosmische music of The Field’s typical productions. A match made in heaven.

5. Tamikrest – “Toumastin”  (Glitterhouse Records)

This is another great Taurag album that throws down the gauntlet to Tinariwen (who’s “Tassili was a massive disappointment). Though there’s a lot of familiarity to the Tamikrest sound these young men find a way of subtlety incorporating new influences into the template. From the funk bass that underpins ‘Tidit’ and ‘Tarhamanine Assinegh’ to the Western rock guitar of ‘Adjan Adaky’ and magnificent closer ‘Dihad Tedoun Itran’ via the regular and clever employment of female vocals as a counterpoint to a very male sound, this shows there is more to Taurag than fans already know. The band masterfully conquers both the more groove based and moody and downbeat material with confidence and ease. This is great album from a band full ideas who’ve possibly yet to reach their full potential.

4. Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2” (Capitol/Grand Royale Records)

With this album the Beastie Boys returned to form creating their best album since “Hello Nasty” (1998). They went back to basics and came up with a collection of short punchy songs full of energy, hooks and humour. Though the album is a thoroughly Beastie Boys creation they do seem to have rebooted their sound, with the help of producer Philippe Zdar, concocting a new synthetic retro-futuristic Beasties sound. The album’s 16 tracks whizz by in a blur and it’s hard to pick out favourites in this heady brew but if pushed I’d go for ‘Make Some Noise’, ‘Non Stop Disco Powerpack’, ‘Too Many Rappers’ feat. Nas, ‘Don’t Play No Game I Can’t Win’ feat Santigold and excellent instrumental ‘Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament’. The only disappointment is that ‘Tadlock’s Glasses’ finishes far too soon.

3 . Mark McGuire – “Get Lost”  (Editions Mego Records)

At first “Get Lost” seemed like business as usual for Emeralds guitarist Mark McGuire, All the typical traits of McGuire’s guitar playing are present especially his fuzzy lead lines and repetitive yet hypnotic delay heavy rhythm patterns and guitar-synth drones aplenty. However, the more I listened to the album, the more it became clear it was almost a direct relative of the collaborative work of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp particularly 1975’s brilliant ‘Evening Star’ album. The colourful washes of sound swirl around the stereo image and immerse you but are perfectly balanced with the melodic lines that weave in and out of them. I didn’t think that McGuire could equal last year’s amazing “Living With Yourself” but with “Get Lost” he’s managed it and combined the best elements from all his previous releases into a cohesive whole.

2. Apparat – “The Devil’s Walk” (Mute Records)

On his new album Apparat displayed a new skill for writing immediate and engaging material, a difficult balance that has been masterfully struck without surrendering any of this enigmatic artist’s mystery. The album doesn’t instantly recall Apparat’s previous solo work and has more in common with the Moderat project he formed with Modeselektor in 2009, specifically the dark gothic atmosphere that pervades throughout. It seems appropriate that Apparat should switch to Mute Records for this release as many of tracks indirectly recall Depeche Mode at their finest and Apparat’s vocal even sounds like Marc Almond (Soft Cell) minus the camp edge. Apparat’s greatest achievement here is combining modern production techniques with strong song writing. His song are now more memorable and emotionally evocative.

1. Gang Gang Dance – “Eye Contact” (4AD Records)

A breathtakingly ambitious album featuring North African guitars, club beats, Indian pop vocals, grime and electro synth bass, and twisted synth arpeggios all working together where they could fail spectacularly. There’s a new found clarity and a massive step-up in the quality of the tunes on ‘Eye Contact’, this is the album Gang Gang Dance have been threatening to make and impresses instantly whereas previous songs were either growers or too awkward to be properly embraced. After a few listens it becomes clear there’s some strong links to “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective (who are both friends and contemporaries of Gang Gang Dance). The use of psychedelic electronics and rhythms rooted in hip-hop are present on both albums. However, Gang Gang Dance add plenty to this and produce their own unique sound, which is an upbeat opposite to the melancholy of Animal Collective. An interest coincidence is that “Merriweather Post Pavilion” was Sonic Fiction’s Album of the Year 2009 and ‘Eye Contact’ takes pole position for this year. From opening 11 minutes epic ‘Glass Jar’ to the closing ‘Thru and Thru’ with its twisting snake charmer like Eastern melody, tribal percussion and clubby beats and synths via the Sade-esque ‘Romance Layers’ beats the heart of exhilarating experimentation meeting the forward rush of club music and the exoticism of traditional music from around the world. As No.1 in my list there is no higher recommendation!

Spotify playlist:

Sonic Fiction Top Ten Album’s of the Year

Observations

Just like last year two words have loomed large for me this year: Ambient and African; and I have continued my exploration of these types of music. I’ve found myself getting deeper into Ambient music both old and new, especially with FACT publishing their 20 Best Ambient albums in the summer with Steve Reich and Pat Metheny’s – “Electric Counterpoint”, Main’s – “Firmament II”, Bobby Beausoleil soundtrack for “Lucifer’s Rising” and “Ambient 3: Day of Radiance” by Brian Eno and Laraaji  amongst my favourites so far. A spate of new releases towards the end of the year that I’ve enjoyed include “Music for Confluence” by Peter Broderick, “Tragedy” by Julia Holter and “Glimmer” by Jacaszek, “El Tren Fantasma” by Chris Watson, “Replica” by Oneohtrix Point Never and “Tragedy and Geometry” by Steve Hauschildt of Emeralds.  On the African side of things I started the year with the purchase of the Congotronics vs. Rockers compilation album, which was swiftly followed by the debut album of the Kasai Allstars and though I wasn’t listening to much African music during the summer I followed the progress of the Congotronics vs Rockers tour via their blog and towards the end of have enjoyed Analog Africa’s “Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso”, a great compilation covering the rich and varied music of this small and obscure country during the ‘70s.

Some releases have taken a little longer to grower on me than others for instance “A Creature I Don’t Know” by Laura Marling narrowly missed out on being part of my Honourable Mentions yet it has slowly but surely grown on me since its September release. I also recently revisited Laurel Halo’s “Hour Logic” EP and went from liking it to loving its infectious energy matched with abundant atmosphere. I’ve also been on and off with a few artists/albums the main culprit being Maria Minerva who I’ve liked and then found dull and then liked and then found dull again. Albums by The Rapture and Megafaun have also failed to fully convince me, though they still could.

Sonic Fiction’s predictions for up and coming new bands/artists for 2011 mostly seemed premature as many of artists with now release their debut albums next year. Still DELs and Balam Acab produced good debut albums and Laurel Halo and Blondes both had a steady stream of releases, maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

Still to come this week Vier’s Album’s of the Year and Observations.

by Liam Flanagan (Sonic Fiction editor)

‘Ersatz G.B.’, The Fall’s 29th album spends most of its time battering the listener around the head with snare drums, heavy bass, guitar and Mark. E Smith mostly incoherent vocals. The rest of the time it takes the opposite approach and doesn’t manage to impress then either with tracks like ‘Happi Song’ and ‘Laptop Dog’ sounding like pale jangly and barely there indie. The one track that does rise to the occasion is ‘Monocard’ which with its Corroded guitar riffs, heavy bass and a synth that goes whistling to resonate reminds me of Mogwai’s excellent ‘Rano Pano’ from earlier in the year. Try harder next time, please Mark E. Smith and co.

Though “Tragedy & Geometry” the new album from Steve Hauschildt doesn’t compete on the same level as his main project Emeralds, it not without its moments and has enough quality tracks and variety to keep most synth enthusiasts happy. Though the base elements (warm pads, twinkling melodies and more arpeggios than you can shake a stick at) remain more or less the same throughout the entirety of the album. There’s a good selection of moods on offer ranging from mellow to happy, dark and edgy to spacey sci-fi lullabies. This album should be enough to keep Emeralds fans going until the band return next year.

It’s difficult to describe Chris Watson’s new album ‘El Tren Fantasma’ and really do it justice thought this review by The Quietus does a pretty good job. Without any musical instruments involved describing what I hear makes it sound boring. “El Tren Fantasma” is far from boring it’s an atmospheric journey full of peaks and troughs, loud and quiet, mellow and unsettling moments. Watson manages to place you in the centre of his journey as venture across Mexican through different terrain taking in all times of day and types of life, a fascinating experience. Before hearing this album I’d only heard Watson’s brilliant “Stepping Into The Dark” album, “El Tren Fantasma” shares the same ability to switch from heavy and dark sounds to light and airy sounds and find different moods and atmosperes to match. However the new album feels more musical, which seems an odd thing to say about two albums completely made of field recordings. But thats what I hear and much of Watson’s work with Cabaret Voltaire blurred the thin line-up between musical and non-musial sound. I’d throughly recommend “El Tren Fantasma” as an experience that should be tried at least once, it won’t be for everyone but I think it will surprise many people.

“Replica” the new album by Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN) is a transitional record that sees Daniel Lopatin attempting something new for him. This album doesn’t contain the slowly evolving and enveloping synth drones of his early work or the dense computer edited sound of ‘Returnal’, it’s heavily focused on vocal snippets and percussive sounds and textures that recall the Fourth World music of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno. At the same time the noise that had previous encroached on the edges of Oneohtrix Point Never sound now plays a much more central role. For reverb soaked synth or piano melody there is either subtle hum or overwhelming thickets of noise to counter act them. This may sound off putting, like Lopatin is sabotaging his own perfectly good tracks, but it never feels this way, he gets the balance right and knows what works when. He creates tension and release, whereas previous he only created one or the other in a single track. This twinned the brevity of many of tracks points to a move towards ‘pop’ music, admittedly its ‘pop’ at its most abstract and it in no-one way represents modern pop music the genre its self but OPN has never attempted to do so much in so little time. Lopatin is no longer allowing sounds to just natural drift and resolve themselves he’s using all his old tricks and elements with new ones that both compliment and contrast with them. The percussion instruments and micro edited percussive vocal sounds give a new purpose to his music and place it firmly in its own unique place. I feel there’s plenty more to be discovered and will revisit it in a one-off post in January next year.

Spotify playlist:

November playlist

Coming up in December on Sonic Fiction:

Sonic Fiction Writer’s Top Ten Album’s of Year and Observations 2011

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