You better stop, children what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
No but like, seriously, what the fuck was that? It was hella loud, yo
– Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”
There have been a lot of records this year in the burgeoning BANG! BOOM! CRASH! subgenre, where the samples and/or drums are so loud they feel like they’re jumping out of your speaker and hitting you in the face, even at low volume. But the best of them remain undeniably musical, and even catchy. Evian Christ and Bok Bok are tops in this department, through different approaches; the American upstart is relentlessly melodic even with his noisiest bits (a skill he shares with Skrillex, of all people) while the Brit turns even the rawest repetitions into R&B, whether it’s with 80s quiet storm synths or the very Aaliyah-like vocal stylings of Kelela.
Looking down the list, melody is the thing, however subtle. It’s there in Martyn and Four Tet’s twinkling kalimba samples, Toronto’s Jex Opolis’ Zither EP (especially “On The Cliffs” with its stabs of vocal “aaaahs” and gently burbling drums), DMX Krew’s oddly compelling lounge-pop and even H-SIK’s amped-up breakbeat science. I used to think a hummable tune was optional, even quaint, but maybe the years of minimal tech – and the waning of the prog house sound in favour of who knows what in EDM-land – have made it more palatable, if not outright necessary.
You’ve got your grime-oriented and just plain weird producers in there, of course – Mumdance coming with a couple of collaborations (with Logos and Pinch respectively) that make it sound like there’s a vacuum cleaner and/or a rogue mobile phone behind the boards, as well as Phon.o, Lakker and L-Vis 1990 all delivering sides that are more not-there than there. But the tunes predominate, however simple — from Vitalic’s uncharacteristically pop-oriented take on Paul Kalkbrenner’s “Altes Kamuffel” to the chugging grooves from Melchior Productions Ltd., Todd Terje and KHLHI (a.k.a. Four Tet).
*Oh, and in light of the Polaris Music Prize short list announcement, it’s worth remembering that – without taking anything away from Jessy Lanza’s accomplishment – there’s plenty of Hot Canadian Electronic Action happening outside the album sphere. Jex Opolis, Tiga and Hobo on this list, plus Adam Marshall’s New Kanada label (and Graze alias), Guillaume and the Coutu Dumonts, Caribou’s Jiaolong imprint, Lunice, Kaytranada etc. Don’t sleep on the frozen north.
1. Evian Christ – Waterfall (Tri Angle)
2. Bok Bok – Your Charizmatic Self EP (Night Slugs)
3. Martyn – Forgiveness (EP) – (Ninja Tune)
4. Jus Now – Bare Wine (feat. Swappi) / Vodou Riddim (Gutterfunk)
5. Jex Opolis – Zither EP (Good Timin)
6. H-SIK – Sonic Rage / No Promises (Black Acre)
7. Sam Russo – To The Brink / Wanderer (Air London)
8. Jamie XX – Sleep Sound (Young Turks)
9. Mumdance & Logos – Legion / Proto (Tectonic)
10. Alex Coulton – Murda / Break Pressure (Black Acre)
11. Gerry Read – Shrubby (Aus Music)
12. KHLHI – Percussions (Text)
13. Komon and Appleblim – Jupiter EP (Aus Music)
14. Paul Kalkbrenner – Altes Kamuffel (Vitalic Remix) (Paul Kalkbrenner Music)
15. Juju & Jordash – Waldorf Salad/Third Planet from Altair (Dekmantel)
16. DMX Krew – Hot Punch / My Metro (Fresh Up)
17. Pinch & Mumdance – Turbo Mitzi / Whiplash
18. Melchior Productions Ltd – The Return Of The Cosmic Kids (Aspect Music)
19. Lakker – Containing a Thousand (R&S)
20. Todd Terje – Spiral (Full Pupp)
21. L-Vis 1990 – Ballads EP (Night Slugs)
22. Tiga & Audion – Fever (Remixes) (Turbo)
23. Flava D – Home / Hold on VIP
24. phon.o – Cracking Space Pt. 1 (50 Weapons)
25. Hobo – Mind Games (Soundz)