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.

Cot-damn Fall ’14 Masterpiece No.2: LV & Josh Idehen

2014_06_09_LV-CD-DPK1-20-21

LV & Josh Idehen
Islands
Keysound
Released Sept. 13 2014

I haven’t heard Routes, the first collaboration between production duo LV and spoken word artist Josh Idehen, so I was fairly unprepared for Islands. It hit me squarely between the eyes – these haunting but totally propulsive and danceable beats with this sharp-eyed raconteur who sounded nothing like the MCs I had heard before. Start with “Imminent,” a nasty little banger anchored with the refrain “likes to hang inna Hackney but / won’t catch him in Mile End cause / if you show face in Mile End cuz / things will likely get violent, cuz” – apparently inspired by a true story.

It could be a grime mc’s standard boast, but it feels more like an outsider noticing a neighbourhood in mid-gentrification. It grabbed me at first because my sister worked in Mile End, which up to that point I associated with the mildly miserable dead end neighbourhood of the Pulp song; after hearing “Imminent” I thought about how two people can walk the same streets and see something completely different.

In the afore-linked interview Idehen mentions he was inspired by The Streets, and that influence is apparent in the affablylazy phraseology of “New Pen,” but aching little fables like the title track and “Out of the Blue” are subtly original in their storytelling. And the beats are similarly both familiar and distinct, bumping and thrusting breaks simmering with dread. If there’s a better MC-led album this year, it’s got to clear one hell of a hurdle.

P.S. Keysound is label of the year, but more on that later…

Mix: Paths

paths

Where did all the boom-bap go? I’m finding myself missing the drums, though it might just be a reaction to the onset of fall. Still, the producers I have hearted from the beginning of this blog, like Mono/Poly, are making great stuff, it just doesn’t happen to have that swing. My kingdom for a fat, lazy break…Rant over – boom-bap or not, there was plenty of awesome to choose from for this mix. Warp is killing it right now, not least because of Syro… more on that later. Also Will Saul continues Aus’ imperial phase – it might be label of the year. And don’t sleep on the Joshua Idehen and LV disc on Keysound. More on that also, also later. Enjoy.

Click here to download from Mediafire

Deemo – Paths by Deemo on Mixcloud

1. Mono/Poly – Alpha & Omega – Golden Skies (Brainfeeder)
2. Dego – Celestian Ditton – Nuts! (Blueberry)
3. Doms & Deykers – Tepper – Fonts For The People (3024)
4. Roman Fluegel – Parade – Happiness Is Happening (Dial)
5. Beneath – WIP – Return To E Remix / WIP (Berceuse Heroique)
6. Dorian Concept – Draft Culture – Joined Ends (Ninja Tune)
7. Airhead – October – October / Macondo (Hemlock)
8. Will Saul – Pedal Power – Pedal Power (Aus Music)
9. Jon Hopkins – We Disappear (Instrumental) – We Disappear (Domino)
10. Bok Bok & Tom Trago – Get Me What You Want – Night Voyage Tool Kit II (Sound Pellegrino)
11. Shackleton – Beat His Command – Deliverance Series No. 1 (Woe To The Septic Heart)
12. The Bug – Mi Lost – Angels & Devils (Ninja Tune)
13. Moleskin – The Fantasy Between Your Lips – Satis House EP (Keysound)
14. Application – Theme From – System Fork (Dust Science)
15. Asa, Sorrow – Untitled – Legendary EP (Kapsize)
16. Joshua Idehen, LV – Imminent – Imminent (Keysound)
17. Pixelord – Polygon Fane – Polygon Fane (Infinite Machine)
18. Rustie – Raptor – Green Language (Warp)
19. Hudson Mohawke – Chimes – Chimes (Warp)
20. Ikonika- Praxis – Position (Hyperdub)
21. Clap! Clap! – Ichnusa – Buck / Ichnusa (Black Acre)

Mixed Sept. 17/2014 by Dave Morris a.k.a. Deemo.