1. Gobby (UNO NYC)
Yup, Gobby is my man. In 2012 the Harlem-based provocateur Gobby released two highly underrated pieces: his Above Ground album in October, and the equally progressive New Hat EP—both through New York’s premium label UNO NYC. This is true colorful outsider techno. Who needs old industrial lads exploring techno, when the future is made by bass kids who grew up with all these production possibilities in their bedroom? Forward forever: don’t sleep on Gobby!
2. Erkin Koray (Mega Müzik)
Just inches behind Gobby comes popular Turkish singer Erkin Koray. Although I live in Neukölln, a lovely area with many Turkish fellas around, it took me until this year to explore these extraordinary skills from decades ago. Now 71 years old, Erkin never stopped bringing his music to the world. You can easily browse the internet for his complete back catalogue, and I tell you, this is a long-lasting voyage with a lot of treasures to be find. Like this video above… Süper.
3. Inga Copeland (World Music Group)
Inga is an enigma. I failed in every single attempt to actually see her live (just because of that unbelievably huge amount of fog—pumped into the Berghain for example). While buddy Dean Blunt serves brilliant distorted sounds, it’s Inga who furnishes the duo with its brilliance. Within the next year both are planning to establish their own imprint, entitled World Music Group and The Wire reports that the imprint intends to issue “most future recordings/works through this channel.” Even with Google or Discogs it is impossible to overview Inga’s full output in 2012. You can try “B.M.W.” from her Faith 12-inch, listen to her guesting on Hyperdub’s monthly Rinse show, check her collaboration with Dean Blunt for ‘The Narcissist” or even instantly download 30 unreleased tracks for free right here.
4. MGUN (Don’t Be Afraid)
Detroit, it is. Thanks to young techno producer MGUN I havent lost my hope that techno is back on track. Detroit’s Manuel Gonzales is most defo the one to watch if you too foster these hopes. Fusing the likes of Underground Resistance with some bloody synth beats, this is all I needed in 2012. After launching his brilliant The Upstairs Apt. EP via the London-based imprint Don’t Be Afraid in October just days ago he dropped his equally well crafted Race EP through Will Bankhead‘s always inspiring Trilogy Tapes. Have a listen above.
5. Shlohmo (Friends of Friends)
Was erlauben Shlohmo? Under-rated electronic music producer Shlohmo dropped one of the most futuristic examples of how the bass should get treated in 2013 on his unbelievable three track EP, Vacation—following up last year’s LP Bad Vibes. Both released via the L.A.-based Friends of Friends imprint. Shlohmo can do no wrong and above you can listen to his killer remix of LOL BOYS’ “Changes”, which is the track for me in 2012. You can explore more Shlohmo remixes for the likes of Burial, Flume, Little Dragon, Toro Y Moi, Aaliyah feat.
6. Torn Hawk (L.I.E.S.)
Video artist Luke Wyatt’s new electronic music venture is called Torn Hawk and his first releases under the L.I.E.S. umbrella is fantastic. Though the folks over at Boomkat labeled this “slow, psychedelic Kraut-ish disco” I would definitely add that Torn Hawk plays marvelously with some pop references, which make his music—along with the VHS-retro music videos—some kind of special which we can’t quite define (although maybe the aesthetic is reminding us of Hippos in Tanks a little). Looks like there’ll be much more to explore in 2013. Rave on, Torn.
7. Holly Herndon (RVNG Intl.)
This is all about the deconstruction of techno and it feels so good—no matter what tome of the day it actually is. Shame that it took until 2012 for the full-length release, realized by the one-and-only Matt from RVNG Intl., who brought us Julia Holter in full glory last year. Speaking of which, most of Holly’s songs are composed entirely of layers of distorted voices, which is analogous to Holter’s method.
8. The-Drum (Mishka)
The-Drum is the production duo made up of Jeremiah Chrome and Brandon Boom. They has been crafting their delectably queasy brand of R&B since late 2010. Since there isn’t much info online, I kindly asked Brandon to give us a short insight of what is hot in 2013:
Boom: “Next thing will be a fresh R&B group called Jody featuring talent/local friends of ours. Four guys, most notably James of The GTW and Cole of Whi’lo with us (The-Drum) on production. We have also started a record label called C R I M E which the first Jody mini-EP will be released on and a full supergroup project. That project features The-Drum (me and Jeremiah), Josh Fox (Valis), Mike Perkins (Mr. 666), Seth Sher (Psychic Steel), and Michael Vallera (CLEARED). We are currently recording that album which draws its influence from kraut, movie soundtracks, library music, and exotic automobiles.”
Cant’t wait, Brandon.
9. CHARLI XCX (IAMSOUND)
I am definetly not a sucker for mixtapes or compilations, but CHARLI XCX‘s Super Ultra Mixtape nicely accompanied me on various Berlin subway rides. The dark pop princess wonderfully mixed a delicious potpourri of covers and layered her vocals over the likes of Baths and How to Dress Well. They’re all pretty great takes that you should definitely check out above.
10. Zebra Katz (Jeffree’s)
This. That. SHIT. Zebra Katz opened my mind to listening to much more hip-hop than I ever thought possible. The above track and video just blow me away with its Yonkers sensibility. And I’m truly loving the heavy bass. For me, this was the collaboration of the year: NYC’s Katz, hot on the heels of his release on Diplo’s Mad Decent label, and Boyfriend one of the rising stars of tropical bass.
During the 20th century, brilliant thinkers mauled the concept of objectivity and left it to die a slow and painful death. You all know the result: even if you read the news, you have to keep in mind that there was a person who wrote it. There is no clean information. There are no plain facts.
So it feels pretty anachronistic when our number one virtual reality, Facebook, states that it “is a community where people use their real identities.“ Looking into the mirror every morning proves that there never is just one identity. We all play different characters whenever we need (or want) to. The only difference is how good we are at it—a fact that almost won Mitt Romney the presidential election this year. And do you remember Amanda Knox, whose memoirs will be out next year under the title Waiting to be Heard?
So here are my favorite characters of 2012, of course with a big focus on the entertainment industry.
Nobody can be as quirky as Lena Dunham for real unless they’re a genetically engineered hybrid of Napoleon Dynamite and Zooey Deschanel. But that’s exactly what I’m talking about: it’s a character, and I love it. Of course there’s another big part to her appeal this year: you couldn’t escape her. Her show Girls aired on HBO in April, she was in the Obama campaign ad Your first time, she was in the opening sketch of the Emmys and a book deal for her first book about “frank and funny advice on everything from sex to eating to traveling to work“ with Random House got her 3.7 million dollars. A book that you will be able to read next year while watching the second season of Girls.
2012 undoubtedly was the year of James Bond. In November alone, you simply couldn’t escape the spy who not once came in from the cold. Fifty years after Sean Connery ordered his first vodka martini, Daniel Craig starred in yet another blockbuster Bond flick. But the more interesting secret agent comes from New York City, though with an even more British name: Sterling Malory Archer. And like Bond, he mostly has to deal with one thing; his mother.
When Prometheus, the most anticipated movie of 2012 came out, the general opinion was that it sucked—and not just sucked, but sucked balls. But most disappointing wasn’t the semi-religious story, but the timing: obviously Ridley Scott had forgotten that a film needs a climax that hits you like a punch in the face. As a result most reviews focused on David, the shady android played by Michael Fassbender. But my favorite character was Janek, the captain of the Prometheus. Idris Elba, who I loved in The Wire and more important, Luther, is the most likeable crewmember and he certainly has the best line, that even gets him laid: “Hey, uh, Vickers. Hey, Vickers. I was wondering… are you a robot?“
Many characters have evolved from the Odd Future posse. First and foremost there’s Tyler the Creator, who became the voice of angry, young, suburban kids because he dares to flip the bird every once in a while, Earl Sweathirt, who got shipped off by his mom, and of course Frank Ocean. Not only is Channel Orange my favorite album of the year, I also believe his coming out made the media hype over this whole ‘queer rap’ thing possible. Not that Frank Ocean is interested in gender politics—he just falls in love with both sexes. Nor is there a real queer rap movement apart from what magazines and blogs make it out to be (like being queer and female is not a genre). Still, I like that this kind of hype helped artists like Le1f and Mykki Blanco be more visible. There is so much more to say about Frank Ocean, but just listen to his music (also the mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra which introduced me to his interpretation of “Fake Plastic Trees”.
Also great: Drizzy being heartbroken.
For me, 2012 was about going out and constantly discovering new things. To be honest, I got a bit tired of blogs and the “posting things first” approach of most of them (except no fear of pop, of course). Everything becomes this blur, like with additive color mixing: when you mix them all you just end up with a white spot, an empty, boring void. Not to be too pessimistic, though, because there is some amazing stuff to be discovered in these niches.
But in general, everything seemed to go towards a more interpersonal look at things. I’m not talking about esoteric bullshit or post-religious weirdness; more about DIY and DIT movements. Artspaces, bars and clubs. The supposed last year on Earth was about showing one’s human side—albeit constantly interwoven and heightened with amazing tracks, mixes and distorted by frequencies from systems that emerge from life’s tendencies, yet which always have the capacity to operate without reference to their original aim. Or just plain copy & paste, who knows.
Without further ado, here is my list:
Cut Hands – Black Mamba
Mark Fell – Sentielle Objectif Actualite
Grouper – Vital
Time Wave Zero – култура није твој пријатељ
Lee Gamble – Plos 97s
Holly Herndon – Car
Jeremy Bible – I’m very uncomfortable most of the time
Ill Winds – Knut
Rihanna – Diamonds (Jerome LOL Edit)
Devilman – Bakan Q
Triad God – ‘Remand’
Schwarz – FEEL YR BODY (KATZ HA)
Vatican Shadow – Church of all images (Regis Version)
Moon Wheel – Brontide
Ela Orleans – Dark Wood
Blue Stork – DORN
Terekke – Asidis
Jason Lescalleet – The Power Of Pussy
Photo by Eunjin Choi
“Long was the year” (Trish Keenan)
1. Kraftwerk – Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (MoMA, New York)
So much has already been said about Kraftwerk’s MoMA performances, but the week of April 10 to 17 was doubtlessly a highlight of 2012 for both pop and art. You could feel the tension in Manhattan grow every day as showtime approached. I was lucky enough to attend the TEE show on April 12, and of course I couldn’t leave without a souvenir:
2. Smallville Records
Hamburg’s Smallville label had a pretty amazing run this year. They’re definately en route to becoming an institution for futuristic deep and tech house, as everything they put out sounds so fresh, vivid and sexy. Salty Days, an LP by all-star team Smallpeople, was what captivated me the most, with “Black Ice” as the true standout.
I also like Smallville’s awesome CI – Stefan Marx’ typography, poster and record cover art.
3. Tortoise – “Hot Coffee”
A shame that I missed the start of Joyful Noise Recordings‘ flexi-disc 7-inch series. But as an avid follower of Tortoise and John McEntire-related stuff in general, I got my hands on their contribution to the series—a repetitive robofunk tune called “Hot Coffee”. It was issued in an edition of 500 and the artwork also kills it.
4. NRSB-11 – “6231-748 3”
This is probably my most visited SoundCloud page this year. “6231-748 3” is part a collaboration between Gerald Donald and DJ Stingray (for whatever reason the stream above is titled “Forensics”, but ignore that). I listened to this for days and days and days until finally the 12-inch arrived in the mail—only 150 clear vinyl copies available exclusively through WéMè Records’ website.
5. The Italic Chair
Industrial design-wise, 2012 comes to a close ends with this exclamation point: The Italic Chair, designed and manufactured by Stefan Schwander aka Harmonious Thelonious aka Antonelli Electr aka A Rocket In Dub. This was “released” by ITALIC Recordings and is probably the first piece of furniture with a proper record label catalogue number (ITA101). I didn’t order this yet but I feel tempted.
Stay safe in 2013!
2012 was the year that I really, really, really wanted to say that men and women in black made better techno—that musicians steeped in industrial music had a more interesting take on all things dark, hard and repetitive.
In fact I did say it, and so did a bunch of other people. But then I took it back because it wasn’t really true… and because standout tech-dustrial ringleader Dominick Fernow is more in camouflage these days. The former Prurient mastermind has consistently released standout twelve-inches and EPs as Vatican Shadow since 2010, though 2012’s September Cell is the pinnacle of his ongoing soundtrack to the War on Terror, with Ghosts of Chechnya hot on its tail. His work is a nod to Detroit and Brussels—cities that spawned important strains of shadowy electronics and operate historically as hubs of American and European military industrial complexes. Strangely, this is the music that made me feel like a giddy teenager. On the other hand, an increasingly prominent Berlin-based label owner with whom I spoke at the recent Cut Hands show told me he couldn’t get excited about Fernow’s romping live performances because he “wasn’t a teenager anymore”. Well, then pass me the pimple cream and give me detention.
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That said, surprisingly few other releases by currently associated artists (Andy Stott, Raime and to a lesser extent, Silent Servant), on often grouped together labels (Blackest Ever Black, Bed of Nails, Hospital Productions, Susan Lawly) got me that excited—with the initial exception of Cut Hand’s Black Mamba. And in the end, that turned out to be a pretty mixed bag, too. The blazing title track was my flower of hope, though it eventually wilted in a drought of equals that was the LP (follow-up to 2011’s Afro Noise I). Live, William Bennett’s Heart of Darkness-y footage of Haitian voodoo rituals didn’t leave as bad a taste in my mouth as it did for some, and as is often the case, parts of the album made more sense at high volume. What bothered me wasn’t the subject matter but the one dimensionality of its representation, both sonically and visually.
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And so I looked elsewhere for artists doing the idiosyncratic four-beat amble (tölt!) through uncharted territory. While much of dubstep trotted along now well-trodden paths (or just beat the dead horse), in-betweeners like Cooly G, aka Merissa Campbell, wholly reinterpreted electronic soul with her emotive, futuristic recombination of UK Funky and quiet storm, resulting in music entirely her own. Playin’ me is equal or superior to anything put out on Hyperdub, ever—and light years beyond certain aloof over-Hyped, art-project-y label mates.
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Equally varied though more out there than Hyperdub was Bill Kouliglas’ Berlin-based PAN imprint, which put out quality records by Heatsick (the not un-Daphne-like Déviation) and Lee Gamble (Dutch Tvashar Plumes, Diversions 1994-1996), as well the brilliant Mika Vainio/Kevin Drumm/Axel Dörner/Lucio Capece collaboration, Venexia. Gamble’s Diversions was the most thought provoking of the bunch, as the past 12 months for me have been packed with conversations about the relevance of sample sources and the concepts/ideologies/histories that instrumental music sometimes purports to convey. Seeing Diversions through the one-sheet prism paid off, with knowledge of Gamble’s intentions to deconstruct his personal Jungle history making the frequencies partially recognizable… or so I liked to think.
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But 2012 had even more explicit electronic concept albums with bigger ideas and bigger payoffs, the most massive being Terre Thaemlitz’s 30+ hour SD card ambient (and house) masterpiece Soulnessless. In 5 cantos, texts in a half dozen languages, an accompanying 90-minute video and DJ Sprinkles remixes thrown in for good measure, Thaemlitz has created an epic poem in the language of multimedia. Conceptually, the album is a Hydra of Marxist critique, taking on music labor’s debased value, Japanese immigration policy, and the adverse effects of world religions—with a special focus on the Catholic Church. The idea that the ubiquitous pop cultural concepts of “soulfulness” and “spirituality” are slapped on any and all forms of heartfelt musical performance as a measure of authenticity is particularly salient—and relevant. Indie-fied black metal, upside-down cross fads and continued new age aesthetics as 2012’s mirror manifestations of this skewed metric? If the shoe fits. Thaemlitz’s anti-religiousness has been kind of a game-changer for me. What game you ask? The game of life.
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On the thoroughly enjoyable non-conceptual tip were a series of electronic, groove-based improv albums all drawing from similarly diverse sound sources. Admittedly, the grouping is a bit of a stretch, but listen to the embeds one after the other and hopefully you’ll find the common denominators. Topping the list was Carter Tutti Void’s Transverse, featuring the live, post-industrial psych-tronics of former Throbbing Gristle members Cosey Fan Tutti and Chris Carter and the maximally innovative guitar sound of Factory Floor’s Nik Void. Following close behind was Moritz von Oswald Trio’s predictably dubbier, ear-bending (though not mind-bending) Fetch, as well as two releases by singular minimal maestro Ricardo Villalobos. The first, Dependent and Happy, picked up where previous albums left off, with his signature hollowed out, percussive tech-house shapeshifted by hallucinatory sample riffage and various mic-recorded percussion. The second, Villalobos and Max Loderbauer’s modular-synth heavy “reshaped and remodeled” version of Conrad Schnitzler’s Zug, more than made up for the pair’s disappointing Re:ECM.
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Clone Record’s 3 Drexciya rereleases were also on constant repeat in the listening trifecta of office, home and brain, as was Gerald Donald’s ultra-deep DJ Stingray collab under the guise of NRSB-11 and fellow Detroit-native Terrence Dixon’s Far From The Future Pt. 2. Though still kicking myself for missing Stingray’s appearance at the Panorama Bar a few months ago, I managed to catch Donald as Arpanet in //:aboutblank, which was outstanding—on par with this year’s other live highlights, including Raster Noton’s 15 year anniversary at the Berghain, the Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio at the Exploratorium (with Paul Lovens and the jaw-droppingly impressive Evan Parker), the Fusion Festival (less about the music), Jennifer Walsh’s captivating vocal schizophrenia at QuietCue, Rotterdam Terror Corps hooliganism at The VIP Room, and 3 unforgettable Kraftwerk performances at MoMA (Radioactivity, Trans Europe Express, Techno Pop). 2012 was kind of Chanukka year round for me, so I can’t trip about not getting a sweater or checks from family members I call far too infrequently.
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* Morning Factory – “Analogue Sleepover” off the Clone Jack For Daze series: More please.
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* Prodigy – H.N.I.C. 3 Mixtape: He should have stuck with Havoc’s production on the proper release, which unfortunately sucked. Mixtape version is pretty good.
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* Cecilia Bartoli – Mission: The Italian mezzo-soprano donned a scary bald wig to promote her album of sacred baroque music by obscure 17th century composer Agostino Steffani, who, paradoxically, was some kind of evil scheming Machiavellian priest/diplomat . This is one of the few times NPR’s All Music Considered managed to convince me, and I don’t really care about opera. Incredible melodies and digging the harpsichord.
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