a-void.ca’s best albums of 2014

Click here to listen to the Soundcloud playlist, featuring tracks from each album

WHERE IS T-SWIFT?

Ok, I admit it, I didn’t listen to it. Nor did I get through albums by Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, Keyshia Cole, Calvin Harris, et al and sundry. I also didn’t hear all of Ariel Pink, Foxygen, Swans, TV on the Radio, Leonard Cohen, Julian Casablancas and too many others to count. Don’t even talk to me about jazz or country. (I wouldn’t have much of interest to say.) So WTF *did* I listen to? I’m not even sure how to describe it. Dave-core? Morris-dance? …maybe it’s better if I don’t.

This is the odd post-poptimist desert I feel like I’ve been sent to, via my escape pod hurtling from the full time music-crit grind. The barriers have all fallen – like a lot of right-thinking people, I’m perfectly happy to flip flop from Nicki Minaj to Neil Young to Young Thug in the space of an hour, but what happens when you don’t have time to devote to what might properly be called truly Catholic tastes? Does my embracing of a specialty – electronic music, not even really including the hip-hop that used to be part of my professional bag – mean I’ve re-embraced some of the biases I spent the early 2000s working to shed, like an earnest young Chinese party bureaucrat devouring Marx and Mao, and then giving it up in favour of Day Trading For Dummies?

It’s not a question of openness, I’ve realized, but a question of how you apportion your listening time. For better or for worse, I shoved the stuff that seemed like a long shot into a hard drive folder marked ‘Later’ and threw on another platter of grime, and this is the list that came out.. There was certainly no kind of shortage of amazing electronics to digest; the volume of almost-worthy discs attests to that. (Sorry Tre Mission, SBTRKT, DMX Krew, Shi Wisdom, Mark McGuire, Run The Jewels, Pop Ambient 2015, I could go on.) The LPs that did make the cut seemed not quite dancefloor friendly, except in an abstract sense. Bits and pieces of LV and Joshua Idehen, Caribou, Distal et al slipped into my mixes with scant friction. But the inventiveness I loved often didn’t fit in the space between floor-filling singles, not that I mind. Still, this is a list borne of someone who experienced dance music in 2014 mostly in a bedroom or between headphones. Simon Reynolds’ inveighing against IDM-like anti-dancefloorism aside, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The startling truth is that being kind of lazy, in terms of challenging your sense of what you like, can still be an astonishingly rich listening experience. There was enough originality and delight in my year in albums to make the absence of all that pop and hip-hop I missed feel about as painful as the knowledge that I didn’t eat nearly enough artisanal cheese in the last twelve months – not quite the sting of regret as much as the vague acknowledgement that I may have missed something good, possibly, but it’s not keeping me up at night.

If I had one thing I would ask of dance music in 2015, it would be for the most hypnotic, challenging, arresting, electrifying albums to be a little more melodic. I love the discs I chose, but as a whole I felt like my diet was a smidge on the grey side. Producers like Mumdance and Logos, Peverelist, Objekt and others put out single after single of holy-shit-guys-listen-to-this-ism, but when I put them all in a mix, I ended up taking a bunch out and replacing them with some chooons to break up the monotony. And the grab-bag of albums felt roughly the same, though I didn’t curate this list in a similar way. You can’t turn down a slamming, mesmerizing beat like the ones all over the Next Life comp or the Clap! Clap! record, melody or no. Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.

Mix: Out of office.

fire-sm

Last week, from my studio on the 436th floor of the a-void.ca Communications Complex here in downtown Metropolis, I was distraught at the lack of posts around here. But then I remembered it was still technically summer so I should get off my ass and go drink something, outdoors. In the meantime I made you this mix, which was pretty easy since three of my favourite labels – Kompakt, Poker Flat and Full Pupp – have lately been kicking out the slam-dunk house and disco jams.

Check this out, and keep your eyes peeled for the return of actual writing on this site starting next week…

Click here to download from Mediafire

Deemo – Out of office. by Deemo on Mixcloud

 

1. The Telephones – Lotusland (Sunrise Mix) – Lotusland (Love On The Rocks)
2. Trulz & Robin- Mosemannen – I Takeskogen (Full Pupp)
3. Tobias Thomas & Michael Mayer – Unter Holzern – Kompakt: Total 14 (Kompakt)
4. Audion – Sky – Sky / Motormouth Remixes (Ghostly International)
5. Ali Love – Deep Into The Night (Hercules & Love Affair Remix) – Deep Into The Night (Crosstown Rebels)
6. Oyvind Morken – Gnagsar I Hjernen – Gnagsar I Hjernen (Full Pupp)
7. Nick Monaco – Six Blade Knife Edit – 1978 – 1980 Edits (WL Black)
8. Bohemian Groove – BG Funk (Posthuman Remix) – A Musical Drama (Throne Of Blood)
9. Blond:ish – Birds Eat Birds (original mix) – Wunderkammer (Kompakt)
10. Martin Landsky – Personal Decay – Poker Flat Dubs, Vol. 2 (Poker Flat)
11. Skinnerbox – The Snowflake Arp,- Love Songs for the Broken Hearted Arpeggiator (Treat Your DJ Right)
12. Sparky – Portland (Tuff City Kids TB Mix) – Portland (Tuff City Kids Remixes) (Numbers)
13. Medu – Bronq – Shi-Sei (Dissonant)
14. Wiley – You Know The Words (DEVolution Remix) – You Know The Words (One More Tune)
15. Tobias. – Cursor Item Only (Peter Van Hoesen Remix) – Remixes (Unterton)
16. Randomer- ,Stupid Things I Do (Old School Mix),- Stupid Things I Do (Clone)
17. Paul Kalkbrenner – Das Gezabel (Pan-Pot Remix) – X (Paul Kalkbrenner Music)
18. Caribou – Can’t Do Without You (Extended Mix) – Can’t Do Without You (Extended Mix) (Jiaolong)

Mix: Night Vision

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There are some chuuuuunes in this one. The TARAVAL cut, for starters; Hercules and Love Affair obviously; Tiga & Audion sounding deliciously creepy; and that Vitalic remix is enough to make me completely forget about his not-all-that-great last album. Check the cool wax, as the Beasties would say.

Click here to download from Mediafire

1. Automat – TXF – Automat (Bureau B)
2. Tiga & Audion – Fever (Original mix) – Fever (Remixes) (Turbo)
3. Juju & Jordash – Waldorf Salad – Waldorf Salad/Third Planet from Altair (Dekmantel)
4. Prins Thomas – Labyrint – Prins Thomas III (Full Pupp)
5. Kaytranada – ATM Jam (No label)
6. Gerry Read – Charcoal – Socialize / Charcoal (Fourth Wave)
7. Percussions – KHLHI – KHLHI / Sext (Text)
8. Miajica – Impressions 1.1.3.4 – Space Future Communication EP (New Kanada)
9. Daphni & Owen Pallett – Julia – Julia / Tiberius (Jiaolong)
10. TARAVAL – Gonna Rain – Streetways EP (Text)
11. The WacH feat. IBOWON – It’s Time [Chant] – If 2.0 (Ninja Tune)
12. Hercules and Love Affair – Do You Feel The Same? (Feat. Gustaph) – The Feast Of The Broken Heart (Moshi Moshi)
13. Paul Kalkbrenner – Altes Kamuffel (Vitalic Remix) – Altes Kamuffel (Vitalic Remix) (Paul Kalkbrenner Music)
14. Boddika & Joy Orbison – Tricky’s Team – Tricky’s Team (No label)

 

Night Vision by Deemo on Mixcloud

LPs: Hercules & Love Affair get bitchy, The Horrors take speed + Future, Jakob Skott

herculesloveaffair

Hercules and Love Affair
The Feast of the Broken Heart
Moshi Moshi

I’m trying to think of a more spine-tingling sound than the bit in Hercules and Love Affair’s “That’s Not Me” when a vocal stab from Gustaph launches off into the ionosphere on a rocket made of echo. Nope, can’t do it. The new Hercules album is less an album than a collection of singles; to complain about that is like complaining that a box of doughnuts isn’t a cake. The amazing thing is that they’ve managed to make a set of tunes that are sufficiently weird and different from each other that it doesn’t suffer from the track-y-ness that some dance albums – especially house albums – suffer. “The Light” is thick and intense, with Krystle Warren giving a smouldering performance, while the single “Do You Feel The Same?” rides a perfect bit of moody 303 bass to a pulse-quickening chorus. And if you don’t totally love the throwbackness of the old-movie-dialog-snippets on “5.43 to Freedom” (“shit-kicker! Or a clever girl!… no, she’s a hippie! A communist! Probably a speed freak!”) then you need to explore your inner bitch.

jakobskott

Jakob Skott
Amor Fati
El Paraiso

The number one complaint lobbed at Krautrock/kosmiche-style music is that, with the lack of harmonic and rhythmic invention and the focus on subtle change, it’s boring. The number two complaint about Krautrock/kosmiche-style music is that it’s repetitive, which is another way of saying that it’s boring. This, I’m afraid, is inevitable; arguably, it’s actually the whole point of a certain influential school of minimalism that strives to reach beyond linear structure; in other words, it’s supposed to be boring. Part of why I find Causa Sui drummer Jakob Skott’s Amor Fati so fascinating is that, for an instrumental record that fits firmly in the Kraut school in terms of repetition and harmonic simplicity, it’s still really active, ie. not boring. “Araucaria Fire” has three notes in it and it’s 8 minutes long. And yet, the swirl of distended synth squeals and Skott’s fairly virtuosic drumming are easy to nod along with. Neither is it jam-band-ish, which was my fear; the bits that are active are in the foggy middle-distance, while the most in-your-face bits are the repetitive ones. It’s an amazing formula that feels like a worthy successor to another drummer’s masterpiece, Harald Grosskopf’s Synthesist, if Synthesist had a title track that veered into Sabbath-y doom rock for a few thrilling minutes.

horros-lumi

The Horrors
Luminous
XL/Beggars Group Canada

I have a soft spot for painfully slow music, eg. screwed & chopped music, certain trip-hop (Tricky, Massive Attack, Portished and basically nothing else in that fetid dumpster of a subgenre), this mix, etc. After the hypnotically languid Skying, The Horrors have jacked up the BPMs slightly on Luminous and I have to admit, as arbitrary as it sounds, I’m not as into it. I have been known to complain about such things – the most hate-mail I ever got was for a live review of LCD Soundsystem where I lamented their playing all of Sound of Silver like it was being run through a tape-deck set to high-speed dubbing – but seriously, the absolute brilliance of their syrupy proto-shoegaze textures are somewhat less effective when you can’t linger on them. Though props for the MBV-jacking “Jealous Sun” and the gently loping “So Now You Know.” More to come after I see them live this summer…

future-honest-deluxe-cover

Future
Honest
Epic/Sony

Rappers, stop putting Andre 3000 on your albums. I was thoroughly enjoying Future’s frothy new disc – he even holds his own with Pusha T on “Move That Dope” – until I got to “Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)” and had to listen to it four times to absorb every syllable. Just go listen, I’ll wait. Dre did it to Unk on the “Walk It Out” remix – “see, to me, your white tee, looks more like a nightgown / make your momma proud, take that thing two sizes down.” Now how you gonna be Unk after that? How you gonna wave a chain around and mumble just like every other rapper? Even Future, who admittedly has a pretty good thing going with his plaintive Auto-Tune croak, and who fits into Mike Will Made It’s production snugly like a rim into a tire, sounds like a dumb-ass talking about his money after Dre’s anti-car-fetish screed, ending with “I will ride my fuckin’ bike, or walk.” BURRRRRRN.

Of course, the balance is righted by Kanye’s verse on “I Won,” though when I say “verse” I really mean “horrifying Mad Libs word-association that had to have been written by a not-very-enthused intern.” “You the number one trophy wife / so it’s only right you live the trophy life”  AAAAAAARGHGHGGHHU02u450tf3djqwofhewfefw.!@@$!@#! *kicks monitor over, skulks off*