Friday, December 31, 2010

End of the year excuse & End of the year list

I know I made a best-of list last year, but I'm not sure I can do so again this year. The truth is the posts on this blog have been analogous to my own finds this year; they were focused on delving deep into certain genres in order to see their influence on modern music. The result of this of this has been that I haven't posted too much music released this year.
Although there are certainly exceptions, BfB has become a de facto electronica blog, which is also a bit of a misrepresentation of my own tastes. While I do clearly listen to a lot of techno/house/electro/etc., I've failed to give an accurate representation of my tastes.

Maybe I should just post more.

So! I'll take this space to post some stuff that I liked but never got around to posting, or would not have fit in with the general theme of the blog. As usual, just ask for any of these.

Subjective Album of the Year

Mark E - Mark E Works 2005 -2009: Selected Tracks & Edits
Mark Evetts' work with the past encapsulates everything the current music scene is about. Techno has always been about looking backwards to create the future, and this aesthetic has arguably taken over pop music as well, most notably with Ariel Pink. Disco is still very much a part of our contemporary music, despite most things not sounding like it. This set of 8 tracks bridges the gap, and shows how much current house owes to disco. The fun, then, is seeing how pop is influenced by underground electronica.

Thought I'd also reference this video, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore by British artist Mark Leckey, which also deals with the concept of memory and evolution in dance music. As any dance music enthusiast will tell you, it's not just about the music, but the community and ideas around it.


Ajilvsga - The Origin of the Chaul

This is pitch black drone from Brad Rose and Wolf Eyes' Nate Young, which is probably the reason it's been so overlooked. I usually go for drone/ambient with interesting textures, whereas this is the exact opposite. It is synaesthetically cold and almost sickeningly desolate, but achieves what most drone albums lack: a sense of emotional attachment. Drone is inherently difficult; both performer and listener must, to truly connect with the music, be able to give their attention to the music for extended periods of time. There is nothing worse than apathetic drone, which is unfortunately what the majority of drone ends up being. Ajilvsga has achieved something spectacular by capturing emotions which one often does not want to hold on to and forcing them into the listener's attention. Characteristic of drone and noise, the atmosphere gradually becomes less uncomfortable, enacting a true response akin to cleansing.

Zs - New Slaves
Here is yet another recommendation to listen to Zs. Those that enjoyed last year's Music of the Modern White should grab this immediately, because it's an extension of that style. To me, this band's evolution is one of the best things in music; they have unfailingly become sharper and sharper in their aggressive avant-gardism while retaining the ability to make their works sound sonically disparate from each other. The world of atonalism/free-improv/electro-acoustic music is not easily approachable, but Zs is probably your best bet. It needs not be said that this is difficult music, but it must be emphasized that it is also rewarding.

Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Kanye I'ma let you finish but etc.
Big Boi's chops as a rapper destroy most of the MCs currently working, with very few exceptions. This album was widely praised in hip-hop circles, but I'm not sure why it never reached the awareness of pop. Big Boi continues the OutKast tradition of fusing unflinching hip-hop craftsmanship with highly experimental production and somehow making accessible pop out of all that. This album is criminally underrated.
That said, a few words about Kanye:
Kanye was hugely important this year. The "film" for Runaway was a true work of art, and elevated pop music in a way that only Lady Gaga had done recently. His work as a producer is much more important, and I'm just waiting for him to team up with an MC that can match his beats (Related: R.I.P. Child Rebel Soldier). My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has too many juvenile mistakes that some have misinterpreted as honesty for it to be truly great.

Ultralyd - Inertiadrome
I like to think of this album as what Meshuggah should have evolved into if they took the fantastic rhythmic interplay they helped pioneer and went somewhere with it. Ultralyd come from the Norwegian jazz scene, which has been producing some of the most innovative music not only within the boundaries of jazz, but everything they can get their hands on. This album is no exception. I'm not saying the jazz slant will be obvious from the start, but the incorporation of noise of the free-jazz sort should be apparent. Anyone that likes rhythms as much as me should give this a listen.


Kayo Dot - Stained Glass

Yet another offering by Toby Driver, my longtime musical idol. Toby's obsession as of late has been to use synths in a classical setting and using wind instruments as synths, to blur the line between the two approaches. Here, he explores the vibraphone's long tones, interplaying them with the cold, electronic sound of the keyboard. His melodic atonalism here is probably the best it has ever been, slowly evolving through the 20 minutes.
Yes, the crescendos of the early albums are gone, but we knew that by Blue Lambency Downward, and he barely even references that style anymore, so the endless comparisons are moot. Blue Lambency was a decisive break, and it was immature, but Toby is clearly sharpening his ideas. After Tartar Lamb II and this, I'm just waiting in anticipation for a full length in this style. Coyote was an interesting take but the goth-rock vibe held it back a bit, at least for me.
Anyone that wants the old albums is missing the experimental nature of Kayo Dot.

Ehnahre - Alpha/Omega

A setting of two W.B. Yeats poems. Black, death, and sludge metal, noise, free jazz, twelve-tone atonalism are all present. This band is one of my favorite rebuttals when people accuse noise or metal of being mindless, because this music is, above all, highly intelligent. Musicianship is easy to find in metal nowadays; YouTube alone will show the abundance of shredders who are more like cannon fodder than musicians. The pacing on this album, the themes, the composition are all masterful to the point that I'm tempted to call these art songs, despite the aesthetic.
They also have an album, Taming the Cannibals, out this year, but I figure this is a better introduction.


Chasing Voices - Acidbathory

This one reminds me of the infamous Villalobos remix in that it takes the current electronica scene and simply corrupts it into an 11-minute track of evil. The genre is, as expected, dubstep, but it's equal parts drone.
I think it was only released on one-sided vinyl in England, so just save yourself the hassle and listen here.

ndf - Since We Last Met
The original track is by Bruno Pronsato. The remix is by Ricardo Villalobos.
Just get this, for real. It's what dreamy dance music should be.
But don't you dare call it chillwave

Happy new years, y'all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reagenz - Playtime

I happened upon this album while browsing for some deep house, the most recent sub-genre that I've immersed myself in. What struck me was the exactness of the sound, more akin to microhouse than the bass heavy drifters that deep house producers usually produce. The deep is definitely here though, as heard in the first track, which floored me in a way that no other techno has in a while, since probably Kris Wadsworth. The groove is just incredible, laid back, perfect headphone music, and driving to this is insanity. The rest of the album holds up, gradually getting more and more low-key until the 24-minute closer, a great ambient track in its own right, and a great counterpoint to the beat-oriented tracks, showing the wide range of this distinctly original sound.

Highly, highly recommended, and worth the download for the first track alone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zs - Arms / Extra Life - Secular Works

What follows is an awkward essay comparing modern composition to techno:

Few modern groups can be compared to Zs. Even those comparisons would have descriptions like "as experimental as" or "striving for", because nothing really sounds like Zs. Zs don't even sound like Zs, from piece to piece (because that's what they are). What connects these 7 tracks is a constant drive to stretch, subvert, or destroy any and all characteristics of rock music from the inside. Side-stepping prog-rock's charred corpse, they work on the model of modern and contemporary composed music to create a sound spartan in structure, relentless, equally abrasive and hypnotic, and astoundingly complex. Working with what is essentially a chamber group, the members use rhythm more than color in novel ways to ensure that the compositions never lose their edge.
So doesn't that sound like techno? No really, just go with it for a sec. Anyone that follows this blog knows my fascination with minimal techno, and mainly because of its, well, sparse atmosphere and repetitive, complex rhythms. So what if Zs don't have a four on the floor? What if there's no synths? What if this whole review doesn't make sense? Check it out.

And how about applying that modern view on monophonic chant?
Yeah, why not.

This is Charlie Looker, ex-Zs but guitarist on Arms, with slightly less challenging music. And by that, I don't mean not challenging.

Secular Works:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Carlo Mombelli & The Prisoners of Strange - I Stared into My Head

Upped by request

I only listened to this by recommendation from someone else, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It's not in the style of what I usually post, but I figure most of what I post is fairly open-minded, so don't let that keep you from listening to it.
I guess the cover is a nice place to start: Weird dream-like African Dada kind of sums up the music. In the broadest sense this would be jazz, but each band member's talent allows this to have the creativity of a RIO album without any of the bullshit that usually covers that territory. The band's willingness to introduce electronics is checked by their musicianship; it all feels organic in the most original kind of way. For example, the first track has Coltrane-like sax wailing over African rhythms, later there's traces of Webern's strings, and it's not clear who or what is making these sounds. In any case, some great new jazz that's passed most people by due to its humble South African origins, so check it out.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Genghis Tron - Dead Mountain Mouth

I don't wanna describe this as cybergrind because the genre generally sucks, so let's just called this really aggressive electronic post-hardcore inspired by Eliot's The Waste Land.

Upped by request.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Basic Channel - BCD-2

Brain exercise: What does the phrase "German Techno" bring to mind? Sparse? Well, spartan is a better word. Harsh? For extended periods, sure. Emotional? Yes, and only so. The techno scene in Berlin that developed in the early 90s was known for its stripped down aesthetic, showing an aggressive side to our emotions rarely expressed in pop music. Disco, the form out of which techno evolved, was for the most part dance music, but Berliners Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald saw through this. Avoiding the funky rhythms of Detroit Techno, they started Basic Channel, both a moniker and a record label that put out a string of records that portray the darker feelings of an urban night. Loneliness and anger were prominent in their early work, but this compilation highlights their later masterpieces, when they turned completely away from any semblance of a melodic line to focus on visceral energy.
They weave bare strands together to form incredible texture; the opening synths of 'Enforcement' form a chord progression that unrelentingly repeats throughout the track (It's thirteen minutes), only to be further squared off by the percussion. New layers enter, and a counterpoint develops made only of repeating figures, all so dry on their own. And yet it's all so human. It has the foreboding of what I imagine to be Berlin at 2 a.m., and is anything but dance music. It is repeating to the point of nausea, but not boredom.
It is the sound of unrest, discontentedness, and the inability to change. Polyrhythmic and robotic, it must be listened to as conceptual music, willfully limited to one palette. BCD-2 captures the state of a nation by focusing acutely on highly personal emotions; it is lonesome and cold.
Despite this, the album has become hugely influential. For one, microhouse such as Bruno Pronsato or Villalobos is largely dependent on Basic Channel's economy of sound. Everything after that resembles it seems to be a way of taking its core and making it more accessible. Its soul, however, comes from its uncompromising nature, and for this reason any album I listen to after this seems too hurried, too varied. In six songs averaging thirteen minutes each, the German duo makes us feel what they feel, ironically through such an unwelcoming medium.
Get lost in this one night and go for a walk. Let it sink in, you might hear silence a different way.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bruno Pronsato - Why Can't We Be Like Us

Upped for CG Pinesworthy and BryFly

Back in the techno vein, I have a fantastic microhouse release from '08. Although it seems to have been looked over by the masses, I suspect the aesthetic has something to do with this; microhouse as a genre can certainly be described by the word "reserved", a descriptor which doesn't bring strong emotional reactions. And it's true, Pronsato's music plods along sparingly, and cool sounds seem to be wasted by appearing only once before another one comes in to push them out. But perhaps the appeal is strangely part of this. Minimal techno is armchair music, and following the trail Pronsato leads us on is certainly enjoyable because of how winding it is, and how much attention is required to notice that it's a trail at all.
There is an inevitable connection to Ricardo Villalobos, someone whom I am not alone in considering the godsend of microhouse, and techno in general. The interesting thing, however, is that this album to me sounds like Villalobo's Thé au Harem d'Archimède, probably one of his weaker efforts. If Bruno Pronsato made an album like Fizheuer Zieheuer, it would most likely fail, because Villalobos is better at slow, monolithic works, while Pronsato can keep things fresh with quick changes.
I wish this whole Villalobos meandering wasn't necessary, but most of the negative criticism I've seen towards this album has been that it's derivative. I would strongly counter this, because in such a stripped down genre, Pronsato is doing a surprising number of innovative things, and certainly owes more to other producers than Villalobos.

PS Perfect driving music

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

This one is up by request, but I am glad someone asked me for it, because although I haven't posted too much of his work on here, I am a huge admirer of Charles Mingus. While enormously respectable as a composer, his work truly shines when one listens to his work specifically as jazz and realizes how far Mingus stretched the idiom. While jazz composition frequently is nothing more than a melody which establishes the framework in which the players improvise, Mingus found ways in which his own vision coexists with the musicians' creation. In his own words, "Each man's own particular style is taken into consideration, both in ensemble and in solos". This leads to an extraordinary connection between all players of the ensemble, one that is hard to find except in smaller, usually bebop and post-bop groups. It also opens up possibilities for "collective improvisation", a phrase Mingus used to describe his work. The important thing about this process is that it is very flexible, and hugely responsive. Mingus' big bands are only marginally connected to, say, Ellington's, because there is always a feeling of suspense from the framework being stretched by the current improvisers.
This is perfectly exemplified by The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, possibly Mingus' crowning achievement in large-scale composition. The motifs return and intermingle like characters, an effect Mingus deliberately worked in, judging by the titles of the movements, yet each phrase is expanded upon by jazz musicians in top form. Thus, the melody is used as a springboard (the fundamental principle of jazz), and Mingus' arrangements form the chordal structure, as well as an undeniably cool atmosphere. Though highly experimental, Mingus' work is just as listenable, and truly must be heard.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Open question:

I wasn't exactly sober when I decided to move to Tumblr, so it's up to you guys:

Continue with this, tumblr, or both?

Friday, July 30, 2010


It's just easier. and the RSS will still be available.

J Cole - The Warm Up

Review to come.
Too busy listening to this.

For example:

For real:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Zs - Arms

If for nothing else, then this album is worth hearing just for the sheer uniqueness. It goes from spartan minimalism to astoundingly intricate writing that would make any New Complexity composer proud. This is technically closest to math rock, but that's like saying Justin Bieber is a male; the comparison is worthless. From the first measures of B is for Burning, you'll hear these guys are on a different level. It's composed music, so treat it as such. Except when singing along to Nobody Wants to Be Had.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Victoria

Uploaded by request, although I still have a guilty pleasure stance towards this album. Modern World, I'll Believe in Anything, It's a Curse, etc. It's too good pop to ignore.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Moth in Flames - Ocean EP

Drone from some kid in Poughkeepsie who lives in my room, I'm told. Pretty secretive guy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mark E - Works 2005-2009

Continuing with my beat-driven electronica binge, I'll give you one of the more experimental and original albums I've heard lately. Mark E takes bare-bones techno and spices it up with disco samples that fade in and out, creating incredible groove in each song. Needless to say, this must be busted out at some point at your next dance party. The interesting thing though, is that this producer is not interesting in short bursts of energy, as most 3 minute house songs are. No, he wants slow burners; anthems for the dancers who are in it for the long run. These stretched out tracks are disco-influenced microhouse, slowly changing and completely funky sounds well suited to armchair or nightclub dancing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Moderat - Moderat

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. There really isn't any reason for this, and I noticed this today and decided I'd make up for it.
So here's one of the coolest electronica albums of 2009: Moderat's self-titled. This group is made up of Modeselektor, a dubstep duo, and Apparat, an IDM bro. While I am completely sick of anything still being made in IDM, when the wankery is curbed, the complexities of the genre can make for challenging and good music. Dubstep, a dark but simplistic style, is perfect for this, and the trio manage to pull it off surprisingly well. Perhaps the most shocking part of the album is how unlike the songs sound to each other while still retaining the shuffle of dubstep and the four on the floor of techno.
For example, compare Slow March, an utterly menacing track that resembles Spaceape from Burial's self-titled pushed to its limits, with the uplifting Porc #2. They're nothing alike, yet there's still that weird connection that gives the album continuity.
If you've heard about dubstep but haven't bothered checking it out, I would highly suggest this album because it's not just some filtered syncopated rhythm with some dark synths like 90% of the producers that have been sucking Burial's dick for the past year. It also has some techno moments (tech-step?), so fans of that Sarah Goldfarb & JHK album I posted a while back should check this out, too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Have a Nice Life - Time of Land

Have a Nice Life first exploded with Deathconsciousness, arguably a contender for best album of 2008. I suggest you check that out, but for those daunted by 1:25:01 long albums, this might be a better introduction. It is their new EP, Time of Land, released physically only on cassette only at their first ever show February 28st at The Stone in New York (and I was there :D). They are releasing it now for free online, and encourage people to share it, so please spread the word.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dial - Dial EP

Upped by request.
Pretty brutal slice of music from New Zealand. I thought it was just a little bit below that Towers album, but it's still good, so don't let that deter you. It's nice and short too, at just under 20 minutes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Siekiera - Nowa Alexsandria

Upped by request.
Polish post-punk, I guess the correct term is coldwave. Extremely dark, almost militaristic.
Quality stuff though.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brand New - Fight Off Your Demons

This man is responsible for me being proud to feel like a 14 year old. The first line of the first track is my most loved lyric in all of music, and everything after is just as good.
I present to you Fight Off Your Demons, also know as the Devil and God demos. For anyone that has heard and fallen in love with The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me like I have, this is essential. Forgive the poor sound quality, these are demosa after all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

J Dilla - Donuts

Upped by request.
You should already have this.


It was fun while it lasted, sorry.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sarah Goldfarb & JHK - Heartbeat City

It might seem unusual, but I've been on a huge electronic music listening spree lately. I listened to Eiffel 65 when I was 9 or 10, but let's not talk about that. Truly, it started when I got Gas' monolithic Nah und Fern about a year ago now. Anyone into drone or ambient owes it to themselves to check that out, because material he released in 2000 sounds better than drone released today. Regardless, a lot of the tracks on that have the characteristic four on the floor bass drum of techno, acting as a heartbeat to the music. I used to hate techno and all its derivatives for the simple reason that it was repetitive, naively believing that the pop music I was listening to wasn't. Needless to say, I embraced repetition as a musical system, and have been gradually getting into techno, specifically Detroit Techno.
For those acquainted with the genre, I know this isn't a fine example of the Detroit sound. I chose this album for several reasons. It's not well known, as it was officially released just two days ago. But more importantly, it seems like the music that is downloaded most off this blog is atmospheric. I'm a huge fan of textures and sounds, and I would much rather get a good sounding album than one with cool melodies. This record is a great example, as it is free (okay, mostly) of the cheesy synths that electronica often uses. Furthermore, it definitely was not designed with the dancefloor in mind, so it is an explicit listening experience.

Anyone that has seen Requiem for a Dream should already have clicked the link.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Zs - The Hard EP

Upped by request. I was not aware we had so many Zs fans around here. This is the Hard EP. In the same vein as Music of the Modern White, but I think it's a little more focused.

Also, anyone that hasn't should check out these two albums:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Zs - Music of the Modern White

This is up by request. This is the download that I got from buying the vinyl. Read my description in the best of 09 list if you haven't heard Zs yet. Highly recommended for any fan of complex music.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem is a Tunisian oud player creating a haunting mix of jazz and Arabic folk music. The oud is basically a fretless Arabic lute, and its sound is very much unique in jazz. I can say without any doubt that Brahem does not play his instrument as a novelty item, but fully implements it as a jazz solo instrument, playing gorgeous melodies tinged with Arabic music but never getting a New Age vibe.
The unusual sound of the record is further augmented by the backing band: piano by Francois Couturier and accordion by Jean-Louis Matinier. The piano is mostly midrange, creating the atmosphere that ECM is famous for. Any fan of ambient should download this, it is a great offering of melancholy, atmospheric jazz that doesn't go the way of Bohren & der Club of Gore.
I'll definitely be checking out more of Brahem.

Friday, January 1, 2010


A four on the floor dominated my life for the later half of this year. If this was by time Gas would be in the lead by hours.

PS tracks from the New Years party scrobbled after the ball dropped still count.

9932 tracks - 27 per day

Brand New - 232
Ricardo Villalobos - 223
Shuttle 358 - 210
Gas - 206
Clipse - 155
Birdie Hilltop - 145
Flying Lotus - 136
J Dilla - 134
Grouper - 127
Wolf Eyes - 121

gonna miss u 09