Chris Power's fortnightly column about all things electronic.
FaltyDL - Love is a Liability (Planet Mu) Fully cognizant of this year's achievements by Animal Collective, Sunn O))), Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Fever Ray et. al., I still feel extremely confident in declaring the debut from Drew Lustman, aka FaltyDL, as one of the best albums of the year.
Swallowing everything from avant-garde electronica, 2-step, Sheffield bleep and the rapid-fire funk of Juan Atkins-style Detroit techno, chewing it up and then gobbing it, with force, at a high-voltage electric fence, Love is a Liability (listen here) excels by triggering an emotional response above and beyond simply being jaw-droppingly impressive and sounding like genius at 130bpm.
After the breakbeat-fuelled abstractions and distortions of 'Human Meadow' and the oozing non-verbal vocals of 'Encompass' (disembodied moans and almost Auto-Tuned groans are a leitmotiv of the FaltyDL sound), 'Winter Sole' raises the stakes, it's woodblock and flappy metallic dubstep beat overtaken by a static-coated orchestral sample that rises hazily out of the sound-bed like an alp. This is deeply impressive stuff, and the quality only rises via the soaring pitchbent synths that surge across 'The Shape to Come', the vocal sample acrobatics of 'Our Loss', and the old-school garage melancholy of 'Anxiety' that makes you remember, in the same way Burial often does, that the origin of these urban styles is as much rooted in its producers and consumers mourning their outcast status as in celebrating it.
ES - Kesämaan Lapset (Fonal)
Having contributed the word 'sauna' to the English language, Finland already has kudos aplenty in my book. Even better than its erstwhile lexicographical contributions, however, is the current strength of an alternative music scene featuring luminaries such as Shogun Kunitoki, Eleanoora Rosenholm and Lau Nau. All those artists are on _Fonal, and it's that great label's owner, Sami Sanpakkila, who records as *ES*. Kesämaan Lapset covers an awful lot of sonic territory, from the major-chord analogue spurts of 'Ennen oli huonommin' to the impressively detailed ambient sprawl of Säteet sun sielusta' and the distorted, Jónsi Birgisson-like cries that bloom above the enveloping drone of closer 'Haamut sun sydämestä' (listen).
Somfay - A Catch in Your Voice (Archipel Musique)
If the armchair-favourers among you still have room for more beauty then Somfay's expansive _A Catch in the Voice (listen) has it in spades. Elements of his sound include the warm, wobbly field recording vibe of Boards of Canada ('Elegian Station'), deep church-organ drones ('Folding Ghosts Into Origami Stars'), and a recurring penchant for deconstructing what sound like cheesy, Thai full-moon party trance standards and, as on the 10 utterly transporting minutes of 'Scotia', processing them until they sound like the vaguely recalled sonic memory of an event.
v.a. - Watergate 03 mixed by Konrad Black (Watergate)
Anyone who's been to Berlin club Watergate knows they take their bookings policy seriously, so it's little surprise that _Wagon Repair co-founder Konrad Black is frequently seen behind the decks, and now takes control of their latest mix. From start - where the scything synths of Alex Cortex's 'Nachttariff' give way to the wet low-end gurgles of D.Diggler's 'Silicone' - to finish - Black's own punishing mix of 'Evil Laff' by fellow Canuck Paul Ritch gradually subsiding into the delicate, trebly and nearly beatless echoes of Mathew Jonson's 'Walking on the Hands That Follow Me' - this is a dark, dynamic mix that plays a canny game of restraint and release. Driven like a stake through its heart, Matthew Dear & Seth Troxler's incredible 'Hurt' is the mix's undounted standout track.
Juho Kahilainien - Kuolonkellot EP (Prologue)
On the same dark and minimal techno tip as the Giorgio Gigli release - also on _Prologue - that I was raving about (and to, if you must know) last time, Juho Kahilainen's Kuolonkellot EP (listen) plumbs the depths and comes up with treasure in its fists. 'Kalma' is the more driving of the two cuts here, a rising four-note bassline percolating menacingly beneath gaseous exhalations and twisted electronics. It's the hypnotic title track that impresses most, though, its lachrymose bleeps calling to one another between astringent hi-hats and ghostly chimes.
City Center - City Center (Type)
Leader of experimental indie pop act (one of those rare cases when that description isn't oxymoronic) Saturday Looks Good to Me, in his City Center guise Fred Thomas comes on not unlike the Panda Bear of Person Pitch. If that doesn't already have you hammering 'add to basket' (here, for example), just listen to the shimmering churn of 'Killer Whale' and 'Summer School', or the laidback euphoria of 'Bleed Blood'. Blending catchy pop hooks with drone and found-sound techniques, this is the compressed sound of a thousand perfect summers.
Kris Wadsworth - Mainline EP (Hypercolour)
Part of the new generation of Detroit prodcuers that includes Patrice Scott and Kyle Hall, Kris Wadsworth is making a name for himself with pared-back house records that are so emotionally resonant and cleverly engineered that they'll lay waste to big dark rooms and sweatbox basements alike. Floating a mournful diva vocal over a sustained snippet of the same and a minimal (but not mnml) bass drum, 'Mainline' (listen)very slowly opens up by way of a buzzing bassline and organic snares. By the time the techno-style hi-hats are cracked out in the final section everyone you're playing this to will either be licking the ceiling or dead, no question. Listen out, too, for the digital-only Jimmy Edgar mix, which slows the track down into an opiate beatdown that adds elements to the sound without sacrificing its skeletal aestehtic.
v.a. - Milky Disco 2: Let's Go Freak Out (Lo Recordings)
When the first Milky Disco compilation came out in 2007 nu-disco was still as new as it was, well, nu, and the comp introduced an awful lot of people to what is now a well-established genre. The follow-up proper (there was a 1.5 halfway house, too) offers 22 nu-disco numbers and shows that for the most part the scene is far from moribund. The downside is that the duff tracks are all ten minutes long, but they're far outnumbered by highlights like the icy Euro arpeggiations of Pollyester's 'You Are Amen', the high-class sleaze of Brain Machine's take on Black Devil Disco Club's 'Is Sorrow', and the godlike bubbling horizontalism of Windsurf's dub of Chilled By Nature's 'Otherness'. Listen to the whole rum lot of it here and just see if you don't feel like you're floating inside a giant spinning mirrorball made of smack and lasers.
Nosaj Thing - Drift (Alpha Pup)
Those who can't wait a month for the next Flying Lotus EP could do much worse than check out L.A.'s Nosaj Thing (aka Jason Chung). Far more than a stop-gap solution, Drift (listen) marries glitchy experimentalism with a pronounced melodic gift and some serious bottom end. 'Fog' is what Lemmy Caution would probably be listening to if he was still trolling the streets of Alphaville while 'IOIO' combines an offbeat skanking rhythm with whale-song synths and a slinking melody, and the muffled percussions and scrapes of '2222' lumber around beneath a lulling theremin melody. It's a close run thing but 'Light #1' probably takes the laurels, its heavenly, arching synths and a thoroughly molested tolling bell sample peppered with machine-gun 808 beat patterns. I wish LA had sounded less like hair-metal central and more like this the last time I was there.
Minilogue - Animals The Movie (Cocoon)
Swedish duo Minilogue have always had a bestial element to their music, adorning their sleeves with fantastical creations that collide, say, a deer's head with a penguin's body (which would definitely tear Passion Pit's stag-rabbit to pieces). Their new release is a visual companion to last year's Animals album. It comprises 15 videos, the best of which evoke that 'off my box watching the box' feeling that X-Mix (remember them?) video cassettes (remember them?) used to traffic in, only without the cyborg jesters. Also included is the long-in-the-tooth but peerless 'Hitchiker's Choice', which has clocked up 3,512,567 views on YouTube at time of writing. Why not make it 3,512,568?
Video: Minilogue 'Hitchiker's Choice' (short version)
Joker & Ginz - Purple City/Re-Up (Kapsize)
Anyone acquainted with Bristol's Joker will know he's got a thing for G-funk synths, but on 'Purple City', a collaboration with Ginz (aka 30Hz), this predilection feels more like a full-blown pornographic journey into the heart of the Funkadelic mothership. Humming, buzzing and often flat-out strafing above a clappy, clicking dubstep rhythm, these synthlines generate an intense atmosphere that's celebratory and claustrophobic all at once. On the flip, 'Re-Up' pushes more Asiatic melodies to the fore, the grinding low-end melody juddering on to compellingly queasy effect (listen).
Exercise One - In Cars We Rust (Mobilee)
If the debut album from Berlin duo Exercise One peaks with its first two tracks, that's not to say it isn't very good; more that the retro ambient and trippy house stylings of 'Circeo' and '1994' (currently up on their MySpace) are damn near impossible to beat for sheer serotonin restoration. Other more contemporarily minimal numbers, such as 'Trapdoor' and the demented vibe of 'The Drunken Tinman', will certainly work a floor, but it's the less conventional acid manoeuvres of 'Sleeper' and 'Don't Slip's jerky power that leave more lasting impressions.
differentGear - One More Thing (Crosstown Rebels)
I'm not the sort of Spartan who slams shut the techno-bunker doors at the first hint of a vocal, but it has to be said that the moody and accomplished digital funk of 'One More Thing' is pretty much ruined by a cheesy vocal that insists on repeating 'I am a serial seducer' over and over again. If you started mouthing those words while dancing 'at' someone in a club you'd get a slap, and deservedly so (unless you were on the White Island at Fuck Me I'm Famous, where I imagine most of the punters stalk around muttering how sexy/bad/moneyed they are). Fortunately Arianne 'serial seducer, I am' Schrieber is nowhere to be heard on 'One Thing Less' (listen here), which comprises nearly eight glorious minutes of deep, dark tech-house flow. It's so good you can almost forgive the Police-sampling monstrosity these guys made in 2000. Almost.
Right, I did try and excise these ram-it-in roundups, but there's just too much stuff deserving of a mention this time around to avoid it. So, apologies for the brevity but try not to miss...
...cLOUDDEAD's erstwhile musical mastermind Odd Nosdam's T.I.M.E. Soundtrack (Anticon), written for the Element Skateboards film This Is My Element, which at its best sounds partly like a lost classic from Mo' Wax's mid-90s heyday, and partly like Boards of Canada thrashing about after a seriously invasive funk injection (listen and, hell, maybe even buy here) ... My Favorite Things Vol.2, a compilation celebrating five years of quality output from Tokyo's Mule Musiq offshoot Mule Electronic, featuring gems like the slick, off-kilter funk of Isolée's 'Albacares', Minilogue (again) exploring lush tribalism on 'My Teenager Gang' and, best of all, the urgent bassy minimalism of 'Kanazawa' by Foog (put some of it in your ears here) ... Holger Zilske's album Holz (Playhouse), which moves engagingly from the bloopy menace of opener 'Lichterfelde' (named for a Berlin suburb which, if this aural portrait is in any way accurate, I'm relatively glad to have never made it to) and the tight discoid funk of 'Mes Yeux' through to the Detroity cybernetics of 'Have A Cup of This' and affectingly miserable ballad 'To Them to Me' (listen here) ... the jerky spacejazz, darkcore dubstep and trilling electronic birdsong bleeps and warm-weather pads that make up the three diverse cuts on Gravious's ideas-packed The Futurist EP (Highpoint Lowlife). The lush, summery dubstep of 'World of Tomorrow' (listen) is pick of the bunch for my devalued currency... and lastly La Petite Nicole (écoute), the second album by Montreal trio Torngat (out now on Alien8). Mixing treated guitar, lowing brass, muffled percussion and harsh keys, this is lo-fi post-Godspeed You Black Emperor post-rock that convinces as much on the psych freakout of 'Turtle Eyes and Freak Rabbit' as it does on the shimmering gloaming drone of '6.23 PM'.
So, go buy all of those and see me back here in a bit. Arrivederci.
Chris Power is one half of British Males.