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.