album of the year 2012
The Paranormal Soul
Clone Jack For Daze Series
Fantastic new album release from Danny Wolfers under his ever reliable Legowelt guise. Returning to the bosom of one of his familiars, Clone, 'The Paranormal Soul' is an exemplary collection of dance tracks that operate far more than just a homage the the heady, bygone era of house and techno from just before the turn of the millennia.
‘Paranormal Soul’ is the sum of Wolfers moving from the more conceptual style of some of his previous works. It concerns itself with mood and the more primal basics of dance music; less a budget homage to cheap, exploitation films of the 80s and retro-futuristic pastiche that we heard on his releases for labels such as Bunker and his own Strange Life label.
Opening with the dreamy, Detroit-style techno tribute of 'Danger in the Air' the album shuffles deftly between the styles of break-beat house / hardcore ('Rave Till Dawn (Edit)'), acid-house ('I Only Move for U' and 'A Cold Winters Day'). ‘Paranormal Soul’ may reference some music from a treasured era, but this is Legowelt at his most candid and most accomplished. Essential.
Motor: Nighttime World 3
Detroit’s finest, the legendary minimal master Robert Hood presents ‘Motor: Nighttime World 3’, arguably some of his best material in a long while. Returning to the project he first started with Austria’s Cheap label back in 1995 and subsequently continued in 2000 on M-Plant, Hood blends his trademark minimal techno manipulations with jazz inflections and smoke-lit downbeat pathways. He shakes up his timeworn approach further with snapshots of rhythm that don’t rely heavily on the 4/4 and instead on occasion opts for more arresting hip-hop flourishes. But don’t let that put the techno heads off, it’s still Hood through and through and is pretty much as sublime as it gets..
Expectations for each Grizzly Bear album are raised with each release, given their exemplary production quality. The quartet’s latest “Shields, doesn’t fail the linage of their ability to deliver another batch of sophisticatedly written and performed tunes. The primer single release 'Yet Again' gave us the sense of how urgent songs from this album may be; where glimmering harmonies and jagged guitar phrases assist the typically etheral Grizzly Bear lyrics. A gorgeously atmospheric release that boasts an abundance of melody and emotion.
Satisfied with his percussive and kraut-leaning releases as Caribou, Dan Snaith shape-shifted into his Daphni guise to explore the dark depths of the club. Released on his homegrown imprint of the same name, Snaith’s debut solo LP sees him carving out nine cuts of dancefloor patter. Brimming with fresh ideas, ‘Jiaolong’ is undeniably the work of a producer no longer content with standing at the sidelines of the DJ booth. After famously slating ‘the mind-numbing predictability of the EDM barfsplosion’, it’s no surprise that the full-length aims to work with the vast parameters of dance music to surprise and delight the listener. ‘Jiaolong’ communicates an innovative and liberating sonic experience through the mouth of Snaith’s very own self-built modular synthesiser. Stand out track ‘Ye Ye’ twists and turns, growling its way through the undergrowth of the club; ‘Springs’ bounces playfully all over the place while ‘Yes, I Know’ builds into a Theo Parrish-esque horn-laden stomper.
Following the brusque, yet bodacious 'Hard Islands' EP of 2009, Nathan Fake reflects a more nostalgic theme with the wistfully titled, 'Steam Days'. Working it's way through various rhythmic and melodic moods, 'Steam Days' employs frenetic, Aphex-like composition on tracks such as 'Glow Hole', 'World of Spectrum' and the opening, 'Paean'. Casual, loosened drum sequences reveal "one-take, live home recordings" on the likes of the previous single release 'Iceni Strings' and the dark, brooding kick of 'Neketo' takes us back to the familiar realms of 'Hard Islands'; closing with the triumphant coda of ' Warble Epics'. An essential, accomplished addition to Mr Fake's already brilliant discography.
Until The Quiet Comes
Flying Lotus’ fourth full length album finally arrives marking the exciting evolution of his collage hopping sound, taking in everything from jazz, blues, hip hop and dubstep. Featuring an all star cast that counts Erykah Badu, Thom Yorke, Niki Randa, Laura Darlington and Thundercat amongst others, with the help of his Brainfeeder label Steven Ellison’s sound has officially come into a world all of his own. With ‘Until The Quiet Comes’, Ellison winds his way through dizzying shards of snaking sound – harps, guitars, snares, bells and unrelenting pounding bass, in suitably grandiose fashion, yet all the while details remain astute, minute and completely uncluttered. Brilliant from start to finish.
Lonely At The Top
Werkdiscs / Ninja Tune
Transmitting from Werk Discs / Ninja Tune, the label of the mighty Darren Cunningham (better known as Actress) -is this highly-anticipated full-length release from Lukid. Bearing in mind the label-head's work himself, Lukid could not have found a better home for his genre-defying palette. Hard to pin down the album to any clear narrative, the album travels around from the melancholic downbeat wizardry of 'USSR' to beautiful beatless tracks such as 'Snow Theme' and 'Tomorrow' right through to the skipping, more dancey efforts of the title track ' Lonely At The Top'. A brilliant album that keeps rewarding with every single listen...
Honest Jon's Records
Following on from ‘Splazsh’ - Darren Cunningham’s second album – we’d have thought that he would have been hard done by to surpass the sheer brilliance that made his 2010 album a contemporary classic. Yet with ‘R.I.P.’, Cunningham seems to continue where ‘Splazsh’ left off, finding himself hovering in that indefinable space of electronic innovation that Actress calls home. In contrast to ‘Splazsh’ there seems to be little regard left for the more functional facets of dance music. It’s the most freeform and abstract material we’ve seen from the producer - flickerings of structure only rear their head in fleeting moments, nods to the dance floor do occasionally manifest, such as on ‘Marble Plexus’ with its constant rhythmic backbone, yet even still, they come intercepted by intangible binary forms and a sense of severity that doesn’t quite translate. It simultaneously appeals to the body, whilst drilling deep into unexplored cerebral cavities. It all starts to make more sense when Cunningham explains that it is a concept album - of sorts - born from John Milton’s classic ‘Paradise Lost’ poem, and from which Cunningham has extracted themes of death, loss and erosion. A conceptual arc that when put into sonic form sounds adrift in deep-space, gone astray with dreamlike ambience, submerged techno and crystallised neo-classicism. His narrative has clarity too – hinting at paradise in ‘Holy Water’, a track that sounds alive - liquid crystalline droplets spitting their way out of their confinement - and hinting at destruction with the magically entrapped beast that the monstrous ‘Shadow From Tartarus’ sounds so evocative of.
Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin
Software / Mexican Summer
Reigning ambient patriarchs Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never present the first edition of the SSTUDIOS (Software Studio Series), a new venture from Software Recordings showcasing collaborative works in the electronic field. ‘Instrumental Tourist’ pans out like a cinematic soundtrack, working at a leisurely pace that gives the listener time to contemplate Hecker and Lopatin’s movements. The duo stitch together sonic fragments in a playful manner and in ‘GRM Blue II’ the sounds of a dial-up modem implicate the ear in a battle between discordance and nostalgia. Hecker and Lopatin transcend their respective visions to create a new language of sound built around their self-designed sound palette – one where two different artistic forces are obvious to the ear but nonetheless working in unison.
Big and brash psychedelic rockers Tame Impala stomp back onto Modular following smash-hit debut album ‘Innerspeaker’. Through their twelve swirling tracks we’re directly transported on a magical mystery tour back to the 60s. The Aussie five-piece’s blend of experimental structures and colourful polyrhythms generates a thick cloud of heavy nostalgia - on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ we’re practically confronted by the ghost of John Lennon himself. The FX-laden vocals alongside stampeding synths of ‘Elephant’ and gratuitously low-slung hits of ‘Feels Like We’re Only Going Backwards’ are highlights of the Tame Impala palette. Despite a clear link with the past, ‘Lonerism’ doesn’t feel so much as an attempt to tap into a 60s psych sound as much as offer it a new lease of life.