Rather than operate as a music news source, Electronic Beats operates as a music information source. We want to share with you; we want you to know what we’re hearing, what’s reverberating our cochleas and sending broader vibrations throughout our bodies, and by extension our audio-addled souls. Down with that? Welcome to Editors’ Choice.
Lisa Blanning (Online Editor)
James Ferraro & Triad God – “Swarovski”
This new track from one of the underground’s most intriguing figures with a relative newcomer (but Hippos in Tanks associate) is a mix of metallophone futurism, Auto-Tune croon, overseas otherness, and a healthy dose of what the fuck. Fantastic.
Louise Brailey (Deputy Online Editor)
Visuals – “Slow Down”
I don’t know about you but I like the idea that Nicolas Jaar is using his label to champion music that sounds like The Bravery went on a Kompakt binge. It’s produced by Darkside so it’s got cool cachet too. Ace!
Moritz Gayard (Online Duty Editor)
Funkineven NTS Apron Show
Every last Wednesday from nine to ten p.m. Funkineven presents his always inspiring Apron Show on the UK radio station NTS. This month he delivered an epic mix, teasing his 12-inch return to Eglo Records which drops the end of this month.
Daniel Jones (Contributing Editor)
Ballet School – “Crush”
Berlin-via-Belfast beauties Ballet School always tug at my corroded heartstrings in a way that only bittersweet, shoegaze-tinged pop music can. With the November skies set to ‘gray drizzle’, it seems the perfect time for it. Their new EP Boys Again is one of the loveliest releases of the season, and this single comes with an accompanying video on Noisey that should leave you swooning even harder than you were before to Rosalind Blair’s voice.
xorzyzt – Thanatopsis Ecstasis
My black magick brother Brandon Rosenbluth did this excellently dark mix for Psychic Mule in July, but I’m feeling it more now. Heavy names like Locrian, Tim Hecker, Sunn O))), Coil, Wolves In The Throne Room and Roly Porter abound here, so light a candle or two to keep the dark at bay.
A.J. Samuels (Senior Print Editor)
STL – At Disconnected Moments
Stefan Laubner, aka STL, kicks off his upcoming LP with a Scuba dub built around the sounds of someone blowing lines off his laptop. Or is it a synth? Out January 2014 on Smallville.
Read previous editions of Editors’ Choice here.
In this edition of his monthly column, Adam Harper—the premier writer on emergent, underground music—examines the new album by one of experimental pop’s most capricious players. Illustration by Inka Gerbert.
Up there, there’s Drake and Kanye, raging and weeping in their gloomy fortresses. Down here, under the dust, sirens and steaming vents, under the sidewalk and the rattling subway, under the dripping pipes and skeletons, here’s our James Ferraro, standing guard over a kingdom of rats.
The opening of NYC, Hell 3:00 AM, an electronic voice saying the word “money” on repeat, is about as tired and aggressive as Ferraro—or rather, what he’s been known for—can get. It’d be depressing if it wasn’t so funny, and funny if it wasn’t so depressing—no more winking and jestering, no more dressing it up, no stirring currency symbols and consumer propaganda into the slush. The other electronic voices scattered throughout the album are just as stark, rotted down to their predictable, empty cores. MTV, Pepsi, capitalism, violence, digitally compressed sex, yeah. He and others say it over and over again, everybody ‘gets’ it, everybody agrees that yeah, contemporary living is messed up and worrying and we’ll have that acted out and tamed, everybody pretends, but we’ll go through it all anyway. Sorry we ran out of milk, but here’s your shot of James Ferraro, now fuck off.
That exhaustion is everywhere in the album, and it feels disquietingly honest for it. Because ultimately NYC, Hell 3:00 AM isn’t really about all that. I wonder if people are going to approach this album too much in the context of Far Side Virtual, because since that landmark album Ferraro has been positioned as—and expected to be—the pop art clown. If they’re intent on hearing this Ferraro in NYC, Hell 3:00 AM, all they’ll hear is a brooding but limp version of FSV, and to a certain extent this seems part of the point. But NYC Hell resonates in different ways and for different reasons—an observation less surprising when you consider that Ferraro has been putting out releases for nearly a decade, each one generating its own unique world, and each its own emotionalization of that world. Probably one of the most versatile artists of his generation, this ongoing creative process has now taken Ferraro well beyond hypnagogic pop of 2009 and the vaporwave he was briefly at a tangent to in 2011.
But Ferraro might never have been closer to his contemporaries than on NYC, Hell 3:00 AM—this is much the same zone as Oneohtrix Point Never‘s Replica, Julia Holter‘s Tragedy, How To Dress Well, Laurel Halo‘s Quarantine, Pharmakon’s Abandon, Dean Blunt, 18+, the more upsetting of Will Burnett’s albums, and others. And because of this, the release might not initially shine as brightly with originality and purpose as his previous longplayers did in their times, but listen on and let the sentiment seep in and you might find there’s something more than a surface here, something that feels like vertigo.
Rather than being amazed, dazzled and possessed, NYC, Hell 3:00 AM weighs you down like a ghoul on your back and a concrete block chained to your legs. Far from presenting a particular concept—you don’t know what it’s about, can’t put your finger on a unifying reference or a commentary, can’t quite make the ends meet—the album’s power is in its dragging you into darkness. It’s like a flashlight shone into a pool in an otherwise lightless cavern, illuminating a few motes in a dull greyish beam that fades several feet later, leaving little impression of how far down it goes. Ferraro has been increasingly moving away from tangible concepts by degrees since Sushi. Now there’s this, a mystery you feel pressing you down before you comprehend it, resigning you to truths that are greater and more modern than mimicry, something you can pour yourself into.
And in this case, what a profound dejection there is in the lumbering, fatigued rhythms and dark randomness, not just echoing but frequently outweighing the gothicism of the past year’s biggest miserablist hypes (Kanye, Drake, How To Dress Well, Blunt). In this context, NYC, Hell 3:00 AM is not so much predictable as inevitable. Like terrorism, surveillance, government shutdowns, global warming.
It’s immediately evident that something different to yesterday’s Ferraro is going on when you hear the opening timbres. The orchestral sounds, a midnight philharmonic of strings and parping winds, greet you as a ragtag band of ancient holy troglodytes, and for the album’s duration they stand around in the background, hooded in robes, a sublime, often monastic emotion in them, sagging, sighing, wheezing. Maybe they’re the beings who have long occupied these caves before, who have long understood these inevitabilities and can sombrely carry our debilitated bodies into the subterranean lake, the old weird religion whose gnarled arms we can fall into.
The other sounds are metallic but rusty, sleek but dilapidated. Ringing and chiming metallophone colors have been used throughout underground music recently and in a futurist spirit, but here they’re the exposed ribs of century-old skyscrapers stripped for parts, or unfinished skyscrapers, or collapsed ones. They’re also the enervating glockenspiel of helpless immaturity, and the weirdly transfigured, oppressive Big Ben of a New Year’s Eve spent on codeine. Then there are the sounds that are like dirty walls, peeling fire hydrants, and billowing smoke. They involve the playing of complex continuous samples at different pitches, using them as notes to make up tonal contrasts and riffs, a technique that’s often been used by OPN, and Ferraro uses it to make melodies out of junk, kipple, and escaping air.
Yet he isn’t so much creating these sounds as they’re bothering him, eavesdropping on him, hemming him in, and scuttling up next to him. Sometimes they’re scaffolding through which we glimpse him, scraps of gently flapping tarpaulin hanging from it. Sometimes they bunch together, or glitch and spin like non-player characters, masking each other rather than comprising an orderly, pristine electronic habitat. As they perform, the speckled, downcast members of Ferraro’s arcane backing band don’t make eye contact with each other or anyone else, but somehow their disunity settles, like silt.
In such a shadowy sonic environment, it’s the gestures that come through first. The urgent but numbed scrubbing of hands and forearms in slow motion of “QR JR”, a ritual intermittently pierced by clock chimes and anxiety. The thin, suspended vocal of “Beautiful Jon K”, a human monument. In “Upper East Side Pussy”, a monastic refrain rolled like a carpet and pushed up the stairs as if after the occupant of a home has passed away. The elegant downward-panning organ of “Close Ups”, eventually propping itself up on a glimmer of positivity after seven long bars—one of the album’s sturdier structures, a bed for Ferraro’s uncomfortably prone voice. And everywhere, beleaguered motion and grooves like a sluggish river.
One of the first things that struck me about New York City when I visited it recently is that actually it’s not quite the sparkling playground of modernity and glamor that it seemed like when I was a kid watching films and TV. Manhattan is a twentieth-century urban environment—dank, crowded and scratched up, wearing a five o’clock shadow. Scruffy little eateries flying old colors, stone tunnels and unromantic stairwells seemed to me slightly more representative of the city than the handful of garish video billboards bolted onto elder structures at some intersections. I suppose the New York City of my dreams has relocated to China somewhere. Today the city seems to be becoming its own more ancient and grizzled thing, a London or, especially, a Berlin: long hounded and gashed by the bitterest international conflicts and left with a humbling, melancholic dignity, even with the brightest culture scurrying through its arteries. And as last year’s storm hinted, New York’s future will have more to do with the weather than sudden, direct attacks—flooded subways, flooded streets and, one day, the lower floors of the city’s postcard architectures irreversibly inundated.
NYC, Hell 3:00 AM is not just what happens to a city, but what happens to the public façade, the lungs, the muscles, and the mind, too. Having been one of the leading figures to mesmerize us with ambivalent projections onto the future, he now supplies us with the most beautifully and troublingly convincing account of it. ~
James Ferraro’s NYC, Hell 3:00 AM is out now on Hippos in Tanks. Adam Harper is the Rouge’s Foam blogger and author of Infinite Music: Imagining the Next Millennium of Human Music-Making. To read more editions of Pattern Recognition, click here.
Rather than operate as a music news source, Electronic Beats operates as a music information source. We want to share with you; we want you to know what we’re hearing, what’s reverberating through our cochleas and sending broader vibrations throughout our bodies, and by extension our audio-addled souls. Down with that? Welcome to Editor’s Choice.
Lisa Blanning (Online Editor)
James Ferraro – Cold
Another somewhat baffling, but compelling free album from Ferraro (which you can download in its entirety here). It’s still in the vein of all of his post-Far Side Virtual work, meaning it draws most heavily from commercial R&B and hip-hop—my favorite of his phases.
Kode9 –”Xingfu Lu”
The Hyperdub boss is consistently on the cutting edge of dance music. His new single is another example of that.
Louise Brailey (Deputy Online Editor)
Mr. Beatnick – “Savannah”
Taken from Savannah, the third EP of Mr. Beatnick’s Synthetes trilogy, “Symbiosis” displays the same lightness of touch that characterised “Synthetes”. Like that record, this features a string sample immeshed within the body temperature house textures.
Balam Acab – “La La La”
Cheesy as hell, this sketch suggests Balam Acab is still pursuing his Disneyfied strain of witch house. Stop laughing! Do you now how much tenacity that takes in 2013?
Moritz Gayard (Online Duty Editor)
Mark E – “Fake Bitches”
Taken from the compilation House Slippers, from Friends of Friends’ sister label Young Adult, here’s Mark E’s stompin’ “Fake Bitches” track. Made for the dancefloors.
The Knife – “A Tooth For An Eye” (Cooly G remix)
Cooly G’s rework of the latest The Knife single “A Tooth For An Eye” has only just had its premiere at Dummy. It also has a pretty dope accompanying video.
Daniel Jones (Contributing Editor)
OVRJYD – “Mirror”
A heaping helping of chilly and cheese, this weeded-out bass track with pitched-up and chopped-up Justin Timberlake vocals might be a bit corny, but it’s still quite lovely. Maybe I’m just on a high vocals kick…
Yo Gotti feat. Teezy, Young Piff and Sandor – “Blow” (Trill Scott Heron Future Screw)
…Which wouldn’t explain the other track I’ve been playing all week, this blurred-out bleak-hop edit from Trill Scott Heron. The foundation-rattling bass and snares on this one go hard, though I’ve been using it as relief after powernoise binges.
When Hype Williams first emerged around 2009, it was in a sludgy, tangled mass of lo-fidelity and submerged vocals—a melding of dub, disjointed hip-hop and industrial experimentalism that almost seemed to defy the idea of genre as much as it did actual music. Since then the duo of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland have wandered through various aspects of sound with variable aspects of listenability, but it’s their individual efforts that I’ve found the most rewarding. If the Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going teaser EP is any indication, Copeland’s debut solo LP could be her strongest work to date.
“So Far So Clean” is built on a bubbling, farting cauldron of synths with Incantatrix Inga looming over all before sweeping down on a rising wail of chants and percussion at the track’s halfway point. It’s easily the most ‘expected’ of the tracks, echoing early experiments and making for an almost soothing (if such a word can be applied here) opener—you think you know what you’re in for, which makes the lead-in track “Speak” so surprising. Allegedly produced by Scratcha DVA, it’s a shockingly straightforward and dancey cut with a shimmering, reversed beat; if I didn’t know otherwise, I’d think it was a Nite Jewel B-side. It doesn’t quite work to Copeland’s strengths, and I’m not even sure I actually like it, but it’s a curious and interesting experiment in a non-experimental format nonetheless.
The slinky tribal percussion that kicks off “A&E” (this one definitely produced by Martyn) counterpoints Copeland’s sensually scratchy vocals nicely, and I’m reminded what a pleasure it is to really hear her. Too often, lo-fi production is used as a flimsy Walmart mask to hide low talent: a cop-out Hype Williams have been accused of, but that’s not the case here. “A&E” especially puts the evidence in hand (and ear) that this is a unique and captivating voice. There’s something of trip-hop’s spacey, laid-back and morose sexuality here as well, which was unexpected but somehow fitting with Copeland’s style. I’d be curious to see how such a thing might drip into the mainline consciousness; we’ve reformatted and reconceptualized so many other genres, after all. Despite its B-side status, this one is A-grade material, balancing between the extremes of the previous tracks to find the perfect medium of luscious beauty with hints of tripped-out weirdness. Because this EP exists mainly as a teaser for the full-length, I’m looking forward to see how that balance is maintained in a longer format. Whatever the case, I doubt I’ll be bored.
The Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going EP is out now via Copeland and Blunt’s World Music imprint.
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.