For more insight into the people behind Electronic Beats—the ones who voted for our Releases of the Year—we asked our contributors for a list of their own devising and a few words about their year.
Lisa Blanning‘s Top Five Favorite Recommendations
1. Average Joe’s DJ mix of only Steve Gurley tracks (h/t @csshsh)
2. James Ferraro’s set from Primavera Sound 2012 (h/t A.J. Samuels)
3. Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (h/t Kodwo Eshun, circa 2009)
4. Adam Kotsko’s Awkwardness (h/t Mark Fisher) OR Speculations on Anonymous Materials at Fridericianum, Kassel (h/t @DnlKlr)
5. Dolphin Beach Restaurant, New Smyrna Beach, Florida (h/t Wes Snowden)
If I spent 2012 in an almost constant state of flux, 2013 helped me get my bearings. I landed in Berlin in late January—just in time for CTM and Kendrick Lamar—started working at EB in February, and almost immediately found the club I was looking for (which got here shortly before I did). I like this city. People seem to like music here—even old, white ladies at museums who compliment you on a DJ set that included Rihanna & Future (I know she heard it; she gave me what I had thought was a funny look while it was playing, but I guess she liked it). 2013 probably saw me conduct the best (and most diverse) interviews of my journalistic career—that’s gotta be a good thing. A swim in the Adriatic crossed one more item off my bucket-list, but trouble retaining the German language means another will have to wait. Something for next year, then.
Nevermind Margaret Thatcher, remember that time in 2013 when Google Reader copped it? The withdrawal of the internet’s favorite RSS tool became a metaphor for my own struggle to track the myriad developments across every specialist genre that seemed worthy of attention. I employed half-baked listening strategies in which I narrowed my focus down to the Internet undergound, malevolent techno, and, for respite, Radio 4. However, it came to nothing when ostensibly traditional bands like Savages and Fat White Family were making music that was, in their own way, just as vital. Aside from music, it’s been, um, interesting to observe terms like “intersectionality” make their messy debuts in the mainstream (remember cis-gate?) and the remarkable rise and fall of the slogan beanie. Now, excuse me while I see out the rest of the year lying in a darkened room, listening to Grayson Perry’s Reith lectures on iPlayer.
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)
Max Dax‘s Top Five Mixed Media
1. Claude Lanzmann – The Last of the Unjust
2. Artur Beifuss – Branding Terror: The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations
3. Bob Dylan Live in Berlin at Tempodrom, October 25, 2013
4. Boardwalk Empire: Season 3 (HBO)
5. Skopik & Lohn Restaurant, Vienna
More than anybody else, Primal Scream seem to have it wrapped up in 2013, at least for me. It all started when they released their album More Light in May. A powerhouse of an album that can be seen as one of this year’s best rock albums it featured—among others—songs written by Jeffrey Lee Pierce, instrumental contributions by The Sun Ra Arkestra, and lyrical influences from the French situationist Guy Debord. But more than anything else, the album convinced me by its lack of macho rock attitude. Take a track like “2013” that accuses present-day hipster culture of being politically neutral. It actually was a great moment—when I was invited to DJ after Tricky’s concert at Berghain—to end my set by playing “2013” in front of the exact people the track is addressing… Then again, who am I to judge? I rushed away from the DJ booth to join the people on the dancefloor. And Primal Scream’s concert in late November at Bi Nuu club in Kreuzberg rocked it, despite being far too small compared to the insane ticket demand. Prior to the show, they blasted the audience with hours of punk and rave played at maximum volume. Their message was clear: not only can we compete with the absolute best of T. Rex, Massive Attack, Elvis Costello, and The Stooges, we will be even louder! Which happened to be exactly the case. They played stripped down to the bone versions of their biggest hits, including raw renditions of “Come Together”, “Country Girl”, and “Swastika Eyes” at a volume that made your ears bleed. Many people couldn’t stand it. I actually felt myself thrown back into the nineties, i.e. the last time I really experienced gigs that took no prisoners. After the show, I met Bobby Gillespie. It was a pleasure to hear how much he liked our interview—for the exact reasons why he wrote “2013”. It was the perfect afterwit (and the perfect ending of a great year) that it turned out Gillespie hadn’t sent copies of his album to the Sun Ra Arkestra in Philadelphia yet—because he had forgotten to ask for an address. I was able to help out, as I had met the Arkestra’s band leader Marshall Allen in September in the old Sun Ra studio commune in Philadelphia. It had actually been Bobby who had planted the idea of meeting Allen into my head when we were having our interview. I guess how everything turned out in the end is what you’d call a closed circle.
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: Diamond Version – I-IV (Mute)
Angus Finlayson‘s Top Five Adventure Time Episodes of 2013
1. “All Your Fault”
2. “B-Mo Lost”
3. “Jake Suit”
4. “Too Old”
5. “Time Sandwich”
About this time last year I decided that, come January, I would have a crack at doing this music journalism thing full time. In the year since, I have expended enough hot air to fill a blimp the size of Peckham and eaten my body weight in baked beans. I feel tremendously lucky to be able to do it and hugely grateful to my various editors (this one included) for tolerating my adverbs. My advice to anybody wanting to do the same, since you’re asking, is that, in the scheme of things, it’s not that hard. Just start work at a set time each day and try not to get into arguments on the internet (unless absolutely necessary). Otherwise, Freerotation was without hyperbole one of the best weekends of my life, Objekt & Call Super played this in an Amsterdam warehouse, and I finally got around to watching Twin Peaks (I know).
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: Galcher Lustwerk – 100% Galcher Mix (Blowing Up the Workshop)
Mark Fisher‘s Top Five Cultural Milestones of the Year
1. Russell Brand’s The Messiah Compljex / Russell Brand on Newsnight
2. Breaking Bad
3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
4. Federico Campagna’s The Last Night: Anti-Work, Atheism, Adventure (Zer0 books)
5. John Akomfrah’s The Stuart Hall Project
The best thing about 2013, initially, was that it wasn’t 2012. The great year of reaction and restoration was over. 2013 was the year when there were signs that the UK was starting to wake up from the somnambulant, hedonic, depressive haze that has hung over it for most of the 21st century culture. The People’s Assembly saw the biggest left-wing meetings since the 1980s. Russell Brand’s forensic destruction of Jeremy Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight was an electrifying indication that we were in new times. By the end of the year, I was starting to feel that we were on the brink of something massive. There was a sense of coalescence and resumption, as if the energies and currents that had been blocked by capitalist realism were welling up again. New culture started springing up everywhere, miraculous as blooms emerging from under permafrost.
Adam Harper‘s Top Five Fancy Breakfasts of 2013
1. The Subbacultcha België crew lay on “The Adam Harper” (waffles, bacon, maple syrup and sliced banana), Ghent, June 4th.
2. Numerous breakfasts at Jimmy T’s, particularly feat. pumpkin pancakes and extra bacon, 501 East Capitol Street, Washington DC, January-March.
3. Pancakes, fruit and ‘Nilbog’ milk provided by my conference host make a great way to start a day of popular music analysis papers, Liverpool, July 2nd.
4. The full English with Earl Grey tea at Wagamama, eliciting a very, very rare moment of nationalist sentiment (especially the smell of grilled tomato, alien to the US breakfast), Heathrow Airport Terminal Five, London, January 30th.
5. Numerous breakfasts at The Bite, the beleagueredly beating, brown-sauce-slathered heart of the suburban dream, 6 Milestone Way Precinct, Emmer Green, Reading, April-July.
2013 stood out as one of the most exciting years in underground music I think I’ve seen, really seeming to mark the beginning of an aesthetic sea-change that had been hinted at in 2012. The warm, cutesy archaism that had dominated for so many years was swiftly displaced by icy digital weirdness and, in general, an anxious, emergent modernity. As much as I’ve liked music that frames and deconstructs the past, a new futurism was long overdue. Few moments distilled all this as luridly as James Ferraro’s post-NYC Hell live show, which I caught on November 12th—a crowd dressed in black and strange sportswear lit up in flashing blue as Ferraro dropped packages of future on us. And while all this was going on, the world at large became unquestionably grimmer place—surveillance, nationalism, hatred, war, global warming. It’s going down fast, and the time for complacency and nostalgia is over.
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: 18+ – MIXTAP3 (eighteenpl.us)
Daniel Jones‘ Five Favorite Happenings of 2013
1. Toured Japan, which I consider one of the best things I’ve ever done
2. Got my first tattoos: “93” on the right-hand index finger (representing both Thelemic philosophy and my love for the work of David Tibet) and double brass Hierophant’s Crosses, one with a serpent and both of which are frequently mistaken for Psychic TV crosses
3. Formed production company/underground magazine UnReaL with my two best friends
4. Started making music and performing live again, ensuring a steady supply of bruises and chipped teeth (for myself and for the audience)
5. Got really into Adventure Time and referencing Seinfeld on everything, including my CV, which doesn’t open as many doors as I thought it would
Realistically, my listening habits fall in to two categories in the last 300-odd days: “Prurient” and “Not-Prurient”. This was the year I discovered that techno could actually hold my attention, although almost every related release in that genre leans closer to noise than dance. House music is still universally awful, and if you disagree that tingling you feel is me brushing my freakishly long fingernails against the nape of your neck. As far as releases that didn’t make me want to hurl myself into a very deep hole, I’d list the new LPs from Chelsea Wolfe, Forest Swords, Lustmord, Julia Holter, and Austra among my favorites. But at the end of the year I think of as “Garbage Year”, the only thing on my mind is waving goodbye to many months of mental and spiritual exhaustion. After all, the changing of a single number is incredibly significa— *slumps down in chair as black bile pours from mouth*
Steph Kretowicz‘s Favorite Visual Art for 2013
Music and visual culture has become increasingly indistinguishable for me. CTM and transmediale earlier this year made the distant geographical split between the East Berlin-centered live music program and ‘everything else’ at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a cause for frustration, leading me to make up for the loss (art to music) by skipping Unsound 2013 and staying home in London for the Frieze week fringe events in October. Musicians making art and artists making music, the blurry line between sight and sonics being one the most dynamic areas in creativity for 2013. London artists and production duo Goth Tech project, Heatsick’s album-as-artwork RE-ENGINEERING, and the slew of cherry-picked artists informing Oneohtrix Point Never –including Takeshi Murakami, Nate Boyce, and Jon Rafman –are vital examples, as well as Jesse Kanda’s “Water Me” for FKA twigs and Gatekeeper’s “Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven”. More please.
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: Tirzah – I’m Not Dancing EP (Greco Roman)
Michael Lutz‘s Top Five Encounters With Recognitional Relevance
1. Moskow: Hans-Christian Ströbele & Edward Snowden (advance in knowledge: brains are superior to hard-drives.)
2. London, Wembley Stadium: Borussia Dortmund & Bayern Munich in 2013’s Champions League Final (advance in knowledge: you can’t buy the buyer.)
3. San Francisco: William Ross Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts & the FBI (advance in knowledge: cyber police work is shiftless.)
4. EB Office, Berlin: Emil Schult & Diamond Version aka Alva Noto & Olaf Bender (advance in knowledge: There’s certain ways of anticipating evolution in art. Just do your homework.)
5. Empyrean: Lou Reed & his creator (advance in knowledge: Be thankful ’cause it’ll get worse!)
2013 was kind of a calm year in pop; no big innovations, no measured regressions. Most of the stuff just happened. I paid a lot of attention to retrospective takes on music i.e. Jimi Tenor & Nicole Willis’ insanely deep retreat into the bowels of New York house. An anti-milestone, and thus my album of the year. Besides music and art I found most remarkable that the age of superinformation has finally arrived. Data just transformed into some weird kind of uncontrollable, yet power-conscious entity, embarrassing one government at a time. For me as an apocalypticist, that’s great news.
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: Cola & Jimmu – Enigmnatic (Herakles)
A.J. Samuels‘ Top 5 music-related scenes in The Sopranos (R.I.P. James Gandolfini)
Having watched every episode of every season of The Sopranos at least a half-dozen times over the past twelve years, James Gandolfini’s death was an almost embarrassingly emotional affair for me. David Chase’s and Lil Steven’s sound tracking included much schlock but also more well visualized pop songs than most music videos in recent memory (only film and TV still seem to have a budget for it). Chase famously compared Gandolfini to Mozart. I don’t listen to Mozart, but Tony Soprano’s character was nuanced and rhythmic and masterful, and unsurprisingly many of the show’s greatest musical moments revolve around him. These songs have oddly proved to have a lingering influence on my own musical endeavors if only because I spent so much time re-watching the show. It’s hard to pick a top five out of at least two dozen outstanding musical moments, but here goes nothing:
5. Time Zone featuring John Lydon – “World Destruction”: Opening of Season Four, Tony walks down his driveway to fetch the paper in The Sopranos’ first post 9/11 episode.
4. Bruce Springsteen – “Statetrooper”: Ominous end to Season One with Tony, Carmela, and the kids taking refuge from a storm in the new Vesuvio. Springsteen’s words of escape and regret infuses what should be a touching moment of family and friendship with classic Chasean ambivalence.
3. The Rolling Stones – “Thru and Thru”: This highly underrated Stones song off Voodoo Lounge with Keith Richards singing lead concludes Season Two. Shots of Meadow’s high school graduation party are interspersed with oddly poetic mafia money making schemes: adult video booths, gambling, “pump and dump” stock fraud, waste management.
2. TIE! Journey – “Don’t Stop Believing” vs Fred Neil – “Dolphins”: What was once an overplayed FM pop rock ear-glazer becomes the profound question-mark at the end of the greatest television show ever made. Journey should hand all their royalties over to David Chase. OR: Fred Neil accompanies Christopher’s beautiful nod through the Feast of Elzéar.
1. The Kinks – “Living on a Thin Line”: Season Three tends to showcase Bada Bing’s darker side. This late Kinks song is played throughout Episode Six (“University”), and for me will be forever connected with the fate of the poor stripper who had the terrible luck of becoming Ralph Cifaretto’s goomah.
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: NRSB-11 – Commodified (WeMe)
Ruth Saxelby‘s Five Books That Shook Up My Perspective in 2013
1. Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard 1967-2008 by Simon Sellars & Dan O’Hara
2. Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson
3. The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
4. The Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame
5. The Dead by James Joyce
2013 was a big year on a personal level for many reasons, not least the USA’s Defense of Marriage Act getting torn to pieces on June 26th. I watched the news in New York with my British best friend and her American wife and we all cried because what came with the long-overdue legal recognition of their marriage was the promise of a green card and the end of uncertainty over their future. There was also a month-long trip to Sofia in Bulgaria, a country going through its own political and cultural upheaval. I was there for selfish reasons, though: I switched off the Internet and concentrated long enough to finally complete a short story. That time away was pivotal, setting in motion a series of transformative experiences for which I am very grateful. Finally, at the end of November I said a sad but proud goodbye to DummyMag.com after almost five years on the editorial staff. Here’s to more awakenings in 2014.
Jannik Schäfer‘s Events of the Year
1. The Snowden leaks
2. The re-election of Angela Merkel and the forming of very concerning ‘large coalition’
3. The Gezi Park protests in Turkey
4. The emergence of Bitcoin
5. Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill signing on for Pierre Omidyar’s 250+ million journalist project
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: Jonwayne – Rap Album One (Stones Throw)
D. Strauss‘ Notes on a Year in Which My Life Hasn’t Changed (So Far)
The confluence between amnesiac internet/real estate bubble, the celebrity uncanny (pax Kanye/Gaga), and the way Snowden’s NSA revelations have convinced millions of Keyboard Kommandos that the government cares about them in a way their mothers never did has manifested a narcissism unseen since the court of Louis XVI. Only it’s a generously progressive narcissism available to all; its metastization is artistically potent, even as it renders the grand gesture more symptom than success. Never before have so many insignificant individuals been convinced that the [Fill in The Blank] government was concerned with their day-to-day. Never before have so many celebrities been convinced that their nudity and taste in architecture will sate the children of Africa. And, in Berlin, never have so many “corporations” been built upon shared desks constructed out of Tinkertoys. Which, one might add, are endlessly entertaining as long as you don’t try to live in what one’s built.
Accepting nomadism as a way of life, moving between various countries and eschewing the concept of home as a set place. Always in search for music, but increasingly affected by the surrounding conditions, which here, in the East, have been rife with corruption scandals, protests, rises in nationalism and poverty. Is this symptomatic of the ailments of world at large at the moment, or just how it has panned out here after the revolutions of ’89—lingering in a state of permanent transition? Without wanting to sound like a first-grade Marxist, the correlation between music/arts and the context it is born in is not so straightforward; we are all tuned into the global creative reservoir, in the end… I have been fortunate to meet many amazing people doing amazing things this year and realize it yet again as I write this on a snowy day in central Bucharest.
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: Lumigraph – Nautically Inclined (Opal Tapes)
André Vida‘s Top Five Inspirations of 2013
The most mind altering moment of 2013 was sitting in a packed Eritrean Club in Dubai, with an incredible band, dancers, hookah tables, surrounded by people moving and laughing. The singers were absolutely mindblowing and after each song, while the dancers were changing costumes, the band would start grooving and a new singer in jeans and a t-shirt would walk up to the stage and deliver their own jaw-dropping renditions from the song cycle. To sit in a room full of such unassuming geniuses was utterly humbling and inspiring. Since then, I have the feeling that every room I enter possesses this potential and have been wondering what kind of format or shared social structure would allow us to share in each other’s unique brilliance. A mobile talk show? Let’s figure this out for 2014!
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: Sendam Rawkustra – Greatest Hit’s! Who’s MAD? (Tasman Records)
Steven Warwick‘s/Heatsick’s Five Mesmerizing Moments
1. The Whole Earth Catalogue at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
2. Reflections From Damaged Life: An Exhibition on Psychedelia at Raven Row, London
3. Isa Genzken films at Delphi Filmpalast, Berlin
4. Mark Fell at Berghain / CTM, Berlin
5. Lotic at Panorama Bar, Berlin
It’s pretty impossible to talk about 2013 without mentioning the passing away of my dearest friend Jesse Garcia in January. It left an indelible mark on the whole year, an absence which on many occasions would result in situations of wanting to call him or meet him to tell him about something and then realizing that I couldn’t. He was/is a constant source of inspiration and I always think of him when I see, hear, or experience something, as it would often be related to something he was interested in. I can at least find some solace in that we managed to record a track together and I convinced him into making a video for me that I use as a visual accompaniment for my live set. There are many projects in the works, including an exhibition of his work next year and also a party for him. His influence on myself and his circle of friends will never be forgotten and I’ll continue to remember him whilst moving forward. R.I.P.
First item on their top ten that didn’t make our Releases of the Year: DJ Sotofett Feat. Madteo - There’s Gotta Be A Way (Wania)
To see Electronic Beats’ Top Ten Releases of 2013, click here. Stay tuned for the results of our Readers’ Poll.
As voted by our staff and contributors, we bring you our top ten records of the year just gone. Illustration by Inka Gerbert.
While our Readers’ Poll is something you might have seen before, Electronic Beats is proud to present, for the first time, our very own records of the year, compiled from the opinions of our team of writers. The spec was simple: each contributor was asked to list their top ten releases of 2013—it could be any format, physical or download, consist of many or few individual tracks, come from a label or be self-released, free or paid, but it had to have been first made available in 2013. While individual criteria probably varied (Do you choose the records you played the most? The work you thought had the greatest artistic merit? The ones that contained your favorite songs?), consensus was hard to find (that’s why it’s only a top ten!), and invariably something was forgotten, the ones left standing not only make for a great collection of records, but also reflect some of the most exciting movements of the year. As it should.
While futuristic dance labels like Fade To Mind and its older sibling Night Slugs have put out some of the most genre-shaping releases in the last few years, there’s a metallic coldness present in much of it that sometimes cries out to be married with an emotion-rich voice. Enter Kelela—whose presence on FTM label head Kingdom’s recent Vertical XL was the most memorable moment on the EP. Though her debut mixtape Cut 4 Me boasts impressive productions by just about every name on the LA label’s roster, they wisely give her R&B-influenced vocals room to soar. The need to mine old house tracks for soulful voices is over. There’s a new Queen of Dance in town.
2. FKA twigs – EP2 (Young Turks)
Ultimately, EP2 is a marriage between the hypermodern, deliciously abstract, liquid crush of productions from the Venezuelan, formerly-NYC-now-London-based Arca and the intensely intimate, sorrowful, and yearning vocals of the English-via-Jamaican/Spanish-descent artist Formerly Known As twigs. Whether it’s the sense of claustrophobic isolation that hangs over each of the four tracks here, or the elements of trip-hop that seep through the room-rattling bass, or the tension of not entirely knowing when twigs’ vocals will emerge with demure fragility or brash power, the music—and the arresting videos that accompanied it—impacted the 2013 underground in a very big way.
Rashad Harden has continually challenged the boundaries of footwork, making it more accessible to a wider audience… yet he’s always remained true to the roots behind it, even as he seeks to expand them. He’s never been afraid of experimentation; that’s what makes him such a driving force. If anything could bring the Chicago-born genre to more uninitiated ears, it’s Double Cup. With a meatier selection of samples, smoother flow, and diverse beats—which range from the sister genre of jungle to even touching on trance—Double Cup is not only a strong case for genre mutation and a landmark album in underground dance music, it’s also a vibrant, irresistable listen.
As was apparent in both their new live show and our interview with them earlier this year, Karin Dreijer Andersson and her brother Olof have little interest in the crowd-pleasing pop phenomenon. What interests them is the phenomenon behind pop: the dissection of the modern spectacle and the ability to challenge everything you would expect. Thus the title of their fourth album is appropriately revealing and rather cheeky, even if the audience doesn’t always catch the wink. Across two discs, The Knife dissect attention spans, patriarchal attitudes, the idea of themselves as a pop band, and their audiences’ listening habits—while never losing sight of what made them so eye-and-ear-grabbing in the first place: the ability to turn out immensely satisfying songs, in whatever form they might emerge.
While Nothing Was the Same was always destined to be platinum-seller, it was one of the only major rap records in a year full of them to actually fulfill expectations. Its quiet ambition saw the rapper/singer present an unusual pop music complexity, incorporating FM-dial earworms, unintuitively funky rap aggression (albeit Drake style), and lingering croons into a cohesive whole that spoke to both the mainstream and the underground… again. While he couldn’t do it without his key producer and engineer, Noah “40” Shebib, together the pair have achieved an adventurous and fully-formed aesthetic, spanning both the British producers they admire (such as Jamie xx or Sampha) and the rap greats they aspire to.
Just when you’d gotten used to Hyperdub wrongfooting you with unexpected sounds (British dance music? Think again), they go and release this sweet stunner of graceful pop R&B. As an unknown Canadian, Lanza’s album definitely received an additional boost from the involvement of Junior Boys‘ Jeremy Greenspan (who co-produced and co-wrote it); his fingerprints are all over its clean electronic sound and dance pulse. But whereas pop immediacy was something familiar to Junior Boys, in Pull My Hair Back the songwriting feels more sophisticated, while still effortlessly natural and touched with swing—like Lanza’s own playing on the keys. Add the perfectly pitched vocals and this was one unusually accomplished, and utterly charming, debut.
Whereas some of Fade to Mind’s output has a tendency to bristle with anticipation of the cold, machine-augmented future, Vertical XL, by FTM guiding force Kingdom, made explicit a more subtle and pop-aligned impulse. Yes, there’s heart and blood here, even if it sloshes with liquid chrome. And while attention is justly drawn to the release’s sublime future-R&B setpiece with Kelela “Bank Head”, there’s a wealth of less obvious moments of brilliance: from the ersatz pizzicatos of “Zip Line” or the suspended bob and weave of “OG Master”—landing its killer blow in a squeal of synth. A dispatch from a vital label, sure, but so easy to love, too.
While Halo’s last album Quarantine highlighted her vocals and an abstract songwriting, Chance of Rain expands upon the analogue techno of her last two EPs for Hyperdub. What made the former feel so immediately ear-grabbing was the warmth smeared over and into the tracks; here, she engages with power. Now those neo-classical piano flourishes are framed by chunks of digitally-digested tek-beats and with it, the promise of club music’s release lurking just at the edges of the ‘floor. Laurel has expressed disinterest in being tagged as techno before and, if anything, Chance of Rain proves that traditional terms and genre-tags need not apply.
So it turns out that Kevin Shields wasn’t lying about that new album being “three-fourths done”; he was just being reeeeeally leisurely about it. If you’re going to space your album releases out by two decades, they better damn well be good, and m b v is very good. It’s not a leap forward in sound by any means; the first half feels like a continuation of Loveless, the second a deconstruction of the first. That’s exactly what makes m b v so perfect—it connects the groups’ comforting past to their turbulent present, and proves that, twenty-two years after they changed the face indie rock, they can strut back in and make our heads spin again.
Whatever you might think of Kanye as a person, it’s hard to deny what an overwhelming cultural phenomenon he is. Yeezus is Kanye’s real dark, twisted fantasy: an industrial punk-tinged, glitch-friendly, and minimalist record packed with esoteric samples and politically-charged lyrics. The result is an incredible record seething with anger and passion (and, yes, a sizable amount of ego) that sounds more like something conceived by a mid-era Wax Trax group rather than one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. As brilliant as the album is, it’s also weird as hell that it exists at all. We like that. ~
Stay tuned for more of our year-end features, including our writers’ reflections and readers’ poll.