Catching up with the 2016’s – Part I

March 23, 2017

Grant – Cranks (Mörk/Lobster Theremin)

Hello faithul readers. I know, I know, I’m an absolute turd. You’ve been waiting over a year for this and that is entirely unacceptable. Excuse #1? I’m a lazy bag of shit. Excuse #2? Honestly, I got a bit tired of writing about music, but that doesn’t mean I slowed down on my audible consumption. Excuse #3? I’m working on a longer piece of writing, and so when I had snippets of time to write in between work and life, I chose that instead. Please forgive me.

So then, in a half-assed attempt to resuscitate this dying slice of digitalia, I shall write about one album each week that I really loved from last year, in my exciting new feature entitled “Catching up with the 2016’s”.

Which swiftly brings me to anonymous producer Grant’s second long-player Cranks. Highlighting a blend of 90’s UK dance music and lo-fi house, with a healthy dose of mood and atmospherics, Grant has released one of the strongest electronic albums of 2016. He’s very adept at quickly building up a song’s inherent pulse and rhythm, and then stripping it all away into a sort of pensive ambiance, before bringing the beat back into the mix again.

Grant immediately draws you into his world from the opening track “Mainstream Belief” and keeps you immersed until he finishes with the excellent “Frame Of Mind”. I feel like I’ve heard all the underlying synth lines, 808 licks, and female vocal hooks before in various drunken hazes of the past, and the effect it creates is one of introspection and nostalgia. This is closed-eyed dance music, where the hazy memories the music evokes is a big part of why it’s so damn effective.

Many of the songs more subdued moments create the same wistful feeling I had when listening to Endtroducing when I was in my early twenties. None of the music on Cranks really sounds like DJ Shadow, but during the quieter moments, my mind keeps returning to him. The closest reference point would be the mid-point of “Mutual Slump” on Endtroducing, when Shadow takes the beat away, allows the song to breathe and his listener to reflect, as the woman says: “I saw Xanadu and all I wanted to was rollerskate”, and then he kicks that beat back in and you’re like “Awwww yeah…”

Grant’s works in a similiar fashion (see “The Limit”), and it’s the restraint and patience that he consistently reveals in his music that makes it so good. That’s not to say that I think the 4/4 moments aren’t equally as strong, I’m just happy he’s skilled at playing to both parts of my psyche — the one stoned and lying on the couch, as well as, the one eternally on the dance floor.

The vocal sample Grant uses at the very start of the album sums it all up perfectly: “Dance music’s not just dance music anymore, it’s got a head now, you can sit down and listen to a lot of good creative albums … but you can still go out and dance and have some fun …” Check and check!

And man, ya gotta love that album cover! Expect more great music from Grant in 2017! See ya next week.

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2015

December 20, 2015

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Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. The long-awaited, seventh annual INAUDIBLE best of 2015 listy list! I hope you enjoy it!

BEST EP’s, SINGLES and 12″s of 2015

(click album cover to sample a track)

Palms Trax - In Gold

Palms Trax – In Gold

Route 8 - This Raw Feeling

Route 8 – This Raw Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palms Trax and Route 8 are two young producers that have been making huge strides in the techno scene over the last few years thanks to consistently awesome releases on Lobster Theremin, Dekmantel, and Nous Records. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016!

Pender Street Steppers

Pender Street Steppers

Jack J - Thirstin'

Jack J – Thirstin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver, BC is having a major moment right now and these two Mood Hut heroes are leading the way with their quality spliffed-out stompers that play just as well on the couch as they do on the dance floor. Check ’em, son.

Junktion- Monologue

Junktion – Monologue

Andrés - Believin'

Andrés – Believin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junktion is a relative newcomer from the Netherlands, and Andrés is a 20 year veteran from Detroit, but both of them got that deep soulful groove thang on point. These aren’t just club tracks, they’re proper songs to get the party started and keep you in the moment all night…

Art Crime - Obsession

Art Crime – Obsession

Various - Workshop 21

Various – Workshop 21

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although very different, both of these albums pack an emotional wallop. Art Crime makes you wanna lose yourself on a black as pitch dance floor, while Workshop 21 highlights four different artists and four different moods, and in doing so has crafted one of its finest releases. Left of centre house jams!

Green Kingdom - Vapor Sequences

The Green Kingdom

Lnrdcroy - Unthank 008

Lnrdcroy – UNTHANK008

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Kingdom never fails to disappoint with his take on hushed dub-tinged ambience, while Lnrdcroy returned with three tracks to remind me why I loved Much Less Normal last year. Yet another young and talented Vancouver artist to keep your ears on…

 

Thundercat

Thundercat – The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam

When I first heard Thundercat’s “Them Changes”, I played it six times in a row. It had an Isley Brothers sample that was infectious as hell and a Steely Dan vibe that I just couldn’t resist. It was summer and the sun was shining through the kitchen window and with each listen I turned up the volume a little more.

Yet, when I finally started to focus on the lyrics I realized that although the song was as bright as that July sun, there was something more sombre under the surface. And to be sure, the album is actually about grief and mourning and an attempt at catharsis for Thundercat. The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam actually sounds more like a post-rock record than funk or soul or hip-hop, but all I can say is that it’s Thundercat’s strongest statement to date…

 

HONORABLE AUDIBLES

Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dog – Bush (Columbia Records)

Does Snoop just keep getting smoother and cooler with age? With the help of Pharrell, I’d say the answer is hells to the yes.

Bush was conceived as a tribute to the funk and R&B of the 1970’s that has always inspired Snoop’s music, yet it is so much more than that – it places Snoop back up on the West Coast pedestal he briefly left for his turn as a Lion. And even though he didn’t sound half bad on his Rasta tip, it’s the G-Funk vibe that’s his real wheelhouse.

Bush is a feel good album from start to finish and shows that Snoop and Pharrell can still drop it like it’s hot.

Snoop Dog: “This City

Deerhunter

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD Records)

Deerhunter returned this autumn with Fading Frontier, a subdued yet more pleasant album than their 2013 effort Monomania. Yet even though it’s the band’s catchiest album to date, with great hooks and choruses, I feel like it falls short of their earlier releases.

Deerhunter have always outdone themselves with each album, and this feels more like a revisiting of Halcyon Digest rather than a reinventing of. That said, I’ve still listened to it tons of times and find Cox and Pundt’s guitar work fantastic, I was just hoping for a little more…

Deerhunter: “Carrion

Bersarin Quartett

Bersarin Quartett – III (Denovali Records)

Thomas Bücker resurfaced this year with the third album under his Bersarin Quartett guise and offers up another collection of rich neo-classical ambience. Bersarin Quartett’s music is minimal but it’s also really emotive, and he’s a natural at exploring textures, mood, and atmosphere in an abstract way. Yet with III we find him at his most cinematic with some of these tracks actually reminding me a bit of J. Swinscoe himself, albeit at his most quiet.

All three Bersarin Quartett releases are excellent and Bücker’s music should be enjoyed by more listeners. Check it.

Bersarin Quartett: “Ver Flossen Ist Das Gold Der Tage

 

INAUDIBLE’S TOP 11 ALBUMS OF 2015

Flo Po - Elaenia

11. Floating Points – Elaenia (Pluto Records)

In my very first end of year list in 2009, I dubbed Sam Shepherd my “Fave New Artist”. Fast forward seven years, and he’s finally released his full-length debut album, Elaenia. And in many respects a debut it is, as it offers up a much different Flo Po than the house boogie hero I was championing back in 2009.

Shepherd flirted with jazz and orchestral arrangements a few years ago with his Floating Points Ensemble project, but now that vision is truly realized, and with Elaenia we have a full-blown production of mature nu-jazz numbers recorded with a live band.

These tracks go from swirling to quiet to jazzy to funk with synths holding the whole thing together – in fact, it’s not until the last track (where a John McEntire-esque drum beat blasts its way through six minutes) that the album really lights up, building to a wild climax and ending right in the middle of it. It’s a jarring way to end the record, but it leaves this listener wanting to hear where he’ll go next…

Floating Points: “Silhouettes (I, II & III)

 

DJ Richard

10. DJ Richard – Grind (Dial Records)

Judging from earlier releases on his White Material label, I figured Grind was going to be a noisy and scrappy affair, yet DJ Richard’s jump to Dial Records for his first full-length shows him turning down the grit a bit for more melody and the results are excellent. Grind is analogue in feel, melancholy in mood, and rough around the edges, yet it’s still elegant.

DJ Richard’s style is all his own, with tracks like “Nighthawk” and “Bane” being great examples of how he can work stuttering drums and several different synth lines at once, and have the effect be both harsh and enveloping, depending on his listener’s mood. Bottom line: he’s definitely one to watch in the years to come.

DJ Richard: “Vampire Dub

 

Jamie XX

9. Jamie xx – In Colour (Young Turks)

“I go to loud places to search for someone to be quiet with…”

That lyric has been drifting in and out of my head since the beginning of summer, when Jamie xx’s long-awaited solo album In Colour dropped to great acclaim. It’s been pretty much lauded by everyone, and even though it took me a few spins, it was Jamie’s skill at tapping into nostalgia that completely won me over. He’s put out some great jams leading up to this, slowly honing his skills as a first-rate producer, and In Colour is the culmination of the last six years, gathering up elements of everything he’s done – moody ballads, floor-filling bangers, and off-kilter collaborations with vocalists – and jamming them all into a tight bright package.

In some respects, even album cover wise, this record reminds me of Caribou’s Our Love from last year, as it mines the same wistful aural territory. And what’s nice is that it offers a couple tracks that might as well be songs by the xx, with Romy singing on “Loud Places” and “See Saw” which are both excellent, and Oliver staying moody and chill on “Stranger in a Room”. And how can I leave out “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”? The smashing yet unlikely collab with Popcaan and Young Thug. That track has gotten me fired up and feeling fine many a time since I first heard it and will continue to do so well into 2016.

In Colour is an album you can play at the height of the party or walking home from work on a Monday evening in the rain, and in both settings it plays out just as smooove.

Big tings still ahead for this bloke!

 

Project Pablo

8. Project Pablo – I Want To Believe (1080p)

Montreal via Vancouver producer, Patrick Holland, makes hazy funky soulful house under the moniker Project Pablo, and like his contemporaries Pender Street Steppers, he stepped up his game in 2015. With the cassette version of “I Want To Believe”, Holland has released a collection of songs that are deep and groovy and filled with an innate sense of fun.

This album was a slow burner and didn’t fully grab me from the start, yet with each successive listen it only continued to sound better and better … and here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016!

Project Pablo: “Movin’ Out

 

Kurt Vile

7. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador Records)

Philly’s everyman Kurt Vile is at his most Kurt Vilest with his latest long player b’lieve i’m goin down… showcasing a perfect mix of lo-fi rock and roll and Americana. The beauty has always been in the subtlety and strength of his songwriting, yet here he’s toned down the rock just a bit, showing a little more restraint than on Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze. Vile’s lyrics are dark and lonesome and occasionally funny, delivered in a laconic style that’s all his own. He tends to drag out words or syllables providing the perfect counterpart to his skilled finger-plucking or guitar strums.

The album starts off on a high note with the fantastic “Pretty Pimpin”, in which Vile contemplates his existence in front of the bathroom mirror, however, for me it’s the slower more meditative tracks that highlight his finger-plucking skills that are the big winners for me, like “All in a Daze Work”, which shows him at his most patient – just a dude completely lost in the moment of playing his guitar.

What’s a bit different is that there’s a bit more banjo and a lot more piano on display in these tracks, the best example being “Lost My Head There”, which has a great outro with a vibraphone flourish and the occasional “Wooh!” from KV. Not a huge departure here, but that ain’t a bad thing at all…

 

DJ Koze

6. DJ Koze – DJ Kicks (!K7 Records)

I’m pretty sure DJ Koze and I would get along. I’ve always been a fan of his style both as a music producer and label head, so it makes sense that I’d like a DJ Kicks mix of his as well – I just never thought I’d dig it so much.

It’s definitely more for home listening than the club, but it has a steady trajectory to keep your head bobbing. Koze kicks things off with a Dilla-inspired original “I Haven’t Been Everywhere But It’s On My List” before sliding into some great obscure hip hop tracks and then a slowed down mid-section featuring the classic “Tears In The Typing Pool” from Broadcast and a spoken word piece from William Shatner that is oddly powerful. It isn’t until the last five songs where Koze really heats it up and provides a selection of perfectly mixed house numbers, nailing the vibe with penultimate track, “Surrender” by Portable.

What a beautiful song. What a beautiful playlist. DJ Koze just keeps getting better with time. Check this mix please and thank you.

 

Tame Impala

5. Tame Impala – Currents (Interscope Records)

Kevin Parker has come a long way from down under in the last half decade or so since his band Tame Impala started making waves with the still excellent Innerspeaker. No longer is he just that long-haired barefoot Aussie stoner dude who sounds like John Lennon and riffs like Tony Iommi . . . well I guess he still is, but he’s also become a veritable production artist not unlike George Martin.

The first single to be released off of Currents was the 8-minute psych-rock jam “Let it Happen”, and I dug it upon first listen, however, the first time I listened to the album all the way through, I remember thinking “where’s the fuzz, yo?” And so my initial reaction was that it definitely sounded good but I wasn’t totally feeling it.

Fast forward two or three weeks later and cue up four king cans of beer, a joint, and some headphones. I was typing away on my laptop working on a story when “Eventually” came on, and everything immediately clicked – I stopped typing and stared at the screen like a doe-eyed deer about to get hit by a truck. The production! Holy shit! Everything sounded so crisp and alive! How did I miss this before? And of course, once I had heard it like that, I couldn’t unhear it, and I was officially obsessed and listened to the album on repeat for weeks.

The best part of the songs is the little flourishes Parker is so adept at adding, like the chiming synth line at the end of “Eventually” or the soft Fender Rhodes tinkle in “The Less I Know The Better” or the vocal delay in the chorus of “The Moment” that really make the songs stand out. Great album!

 

Cascade

4. William Basinski – Cascade (Temporary Residence)

The prolific William Basinski has made a career out of decaying audio tape – a fitting foil for our accelerated times and the proliferation of all things digital. And by now I think it’s safe to say his name belongs up there next to Eno and Budd as one of the finest ambient artists ever.

It’s been over fifteen years since The Disintegration Loops, and it’s arguably still his finest piece of music to date. I can put that record on at any time and be immediately lost, an hour can go by in the twitch of an eye, or can feel drawn out like the setting sun on the horizon. It’s timeless.

With “Cascade”, Basinski offers up about twenty seconds of piano and loops it for 40 minutes. That’s it. It sounds too simple to be effective, but as the loop repeats itself endlessly it morphs into something more murky and broken as the tape loop slowly decays, and in doing so creates a feeling of calmness and peace in the listener.

This is my top morning album of the year by far. Sometimes I play it twice in a row and have to stop myself from hitting play again.

Scrolling through the comments section on YouTube, two comments stuck out in between the “Beautifuls!” and “Profounds”. The first was: “It’s so odd to think that these works are simply just tape looping and decaying, with textures added over top, but this seemingly simple art form has the power to bring you to tears and think deeply on the past.”

And the second: “I was listening to this for 10 minutes before I even actually noticed I was listening to it and then I was like HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THIS?” My thoughts indeed, my thoughts indeed.

William Basinski: “Cascade

 

Freddie-Gibbs

3. Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt (ESGN Records)

Gangsta Gibbs keeps up the hot streak he started by teaming with Madlib last year for the fantastic Pinata and released three records in 2015. Earlier in the year he put out two EP’s, The Tonight Show and the hot as fire Pronto, before releasing the unexpected full-length Shadow of a Doubt in early November. And since it’s dropped, I’ve listened to it at least once a day. I wake up with the hooks and rhymes in my head and can’t seem to get enough.

Unlike DJ Koze, who I honestly think I could be buds with, I’m not sure the same thing would apply with Freddie Gibbs. I imagine him taking one look at me, smirking, and thinking to himself “who’s this phony silver foxin’ ass nigga?” before turning around and never acknowledging me again. He drops the n-word so many times during Shadow of a Doubt, I figure he would have to use it when he saw me, even though I’m whiter than Marshall Mathers.

But if he’d turn around again, I’d tell him the reason why I’m so drawn to his shit is because he’s a storyteller who just so happens to be a rapper who just so happens to sound like no one else in the game right now. On Shadow of a Doubt, all the songs tell some sort of story, either about his drug-dealing past, a pill habit, or the deepened sense of purpose he’s felt since the birth of his daughter in April. So even though I can’t really relate, I can totally relate, you know what I mean?

He makes his listeners feel his struggle regardless if they’re young kids on the corner in Gary, Indiana, or some white Canadian dude in his mid-thirties bumping Freddie in his kitchen while he and his girlfriend make dinner. They’re ain’t a shadow of a doubt that Freddy Corleone is one of the freshest voices in hip hop in 2015.

Essential tracks: “Fuckin’ Up The Count”, “10 Times” and “Packages

 

To Pimp A Butterfly

2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Top Dawg)

How do you know if you’ve really made the big time? By getting eleven Grammy nominations for your sophomore record? Or having the President of the United States say that one of your songs is his personal favourite of the year? Or being in the top three of virtually every end of year list being written in 2015 (including even this highly respected blog)?

Yes and oui and si, I’d say.

Kendrick Lamar returned this year trying to outdo the accolades bestowed on his last album good kid, m.A.A.d city, and pretty much blew the roof off of everything with To Pimp A Butterfly. A fusion of old school and new school, funk and soul, R&B and jazz, a swirling collaboration with so many artists from Snoop to Bilal to Fly Lo to Thundercat to Boi-1da, Pharrell, Kamasi Washington, the ghost of 2Pac and more.

At the centre of it all is Kendrick, sounding more determined than ever to highlight what it’s like to be black in 2015 in America. Yet even though he may be on top of his game, it seems like Kendrick still be climbin’, and searching for guidance, trying to figure out where exactly he fits in the world around him, both as music superstar and lil homey from Compton. Unlike Kanye who has called himself “Walt Disney, Shakespeare, Nike and Google”, all in the same breath, there’s a humbleness to Kendrick’s personality that’s refreshing. And while Drake is dancing around, waiting for some girl to call him on his cell phone, Kendrick’s figuring out how to be a better person out in the world and a better rapper in the industry.

During the song “Momma”, Kendrick repeats the line “I know everything”, in between telling us what that everything is: Compton, morality, street shit, wisdom, karma, history, bullshit, highs and lows, loyalty, clothes, hoes, money, generosity, until he goes home and sits at the kitchen table with him Momma and realizes he doesn’t know a goddamn thing.

Earlier on the album, during “Institutionalized”, Kendrick reminds himself of some great advice his Grandma gave him when he was young: “Shit don’t change until you get up and wash yo’ ass, nigga!”

It seems to me like Kendrick knows that real change starts from within and with To Pimp A Butterfly he’s trying his damnedest to promote this idea and act on it and let everyone know that hopefully everything’s gonna be “Alright”.

To Pimp A Butterfly is a challenging listen to be sure but ultimately a very rewarding one.

Kendrick Lamar: “Untitled” (from The Colbert Report)

 

sufjan

1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)

Stripping away the bells and whistles, the orchestration, the back-up singers, the electronics, the gimmicks, and the technicolor spectacle, Sufjan Stevens returned this year with just his guitar, a piano, and his voice, and released Carrie & Lowell, the best album of his career.

We all know the album’s premise by now, it’s titled after his mother and step-dad. In 2012, Sufjan’s mother died of cancer and although their relationship was strained (she left when he was young), she’s still his family, and this album focuses on how Sufjan coped with the aftermath of those early years, and the emptiness his mother’s death left in him.

In the last two years, I’ve had two friends lose a parent, and I’ve watched them struggle to make sense of life without them. They’ve grieved in their own ways, some healthy some not, and because of their losses, I can’t help but think of my own parents and my girlfriend’s parents and the fact that we ain’t getting any younger … and it’s scary and makes me want to press pause or somehow go back in time, because I don’t want it to ever happen. Carrie & Lowell has a similiarly sobering effect, and by looking inside himself, Sufjan is able to really connect with his listeners.

So as soon as I found out he was touring I immediately bought tickets for the show. I’ve seen him before and knew it would be stupid to miss him. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at the date, only to realize later that the show was on the same weekend we were going to be at a wedding in Yosemite National Park. I was surprised at how upset I was about having to miss the show. But Yosemite … damn, what a special place.

On our last morning there, I had to go pick up some things at the bride’s cottage, which was a 45-minute drive through the Yosemite valley. I put on Carrie & Lowell as I drove through the park, the early morning sun glinting off the Half Dome and El Capitan, and every view worthy of Ansel Adams’ camera.

I barely made it through opening track “Death With Dignity” before the tears came. And there was a lot of them. And I couldn’t stop. But they weren’t sad, they were joyous and oddly powerful. Two tracks later in “All Of Me Wants All Of You”, Sufjan sings “Landscape changed my point of view”, and as he said that I cheered. I put my arm out the window and pumped my fist in the air. I laughed through my tears. I realized it was a perfect spring day. I realized how much I loved the people in my life. I looked around at the dense forest and the giant rocks and shivered …

It was the closest thing to a spiritual experience I have ever had, and so that is why Sufjan Stevens tops my list for 2015.

Carrie & Lowell is an album of memories and stories. It’s covered in the dust of a turbulent family life and how one man, one child, learned to deal with it all. It may well be our first insight into the real Sufjan. It’s heavy, but so very beautiful.

Sufjan Stevens: “Blue Bucket of Gold

yosemite

Yes! I made it to the finish line! Thanks for reading! Have a fantastic 2016, my friends!

Love,

ml

YP#3 – Art Crime

November 19, 2015

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For the long-awaited third installment of INAUDIBLE’S Young Producers feature we head way north to Russia to rep an artist recording under the super cool moniker Art Crime. In terms of biographical detail, pretty much all we have to go on with Art Crime is the bio from his WT Records debut, which identifies him as a “Russian producer based in Moscow that offers a full range of musical emotions for the dancefloor”.

Fortunately, all the real info you need is in his music: intensely emotive house tracks that have a bittersweet edge you can almost taste. The good folks at Resident Advisor have labelled his productions “piano house”, as most of his tracks are moored to the melody of the keys — and this formula works every damn time.

His debut “Never Look Back” was released in 2014 on WT Records and its buoyant lead single “Release” was one of my fave dance tunes of last year. In 2015 he’s put out another EP courtesy of Phonica Records called “Obsession”, which is a touch darker but no less alluring. It’s house music that goes for the head bob and the heart throb and so far, this mysterious Russian is winning big time.

Check it!

YP#2 – Route 8

September 17, 2015

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On the decks for the second installment of Young Producers is my man ROUTE 8…

Singlehandedly putting Budapest on the techno map, Gergely Szilveszter Horváth, who signs his productions as Route 8, creates spacey house and techno music that taps into a strong sense of nostalgia. Most of his jams are of the eyes closed, head bobbin’, foot tappin’ variety and play out just as well on the dancefloor as they do on the couch, even if his vibe is decidedly chill.

Horváth’s first releases came out courtesy of local Hungary, Budapest label, Farbwechsel, which gained him the attention of one of my current fave presses, Lobster Theremin, where he’s dropped his Dry Thoughts EP in 2014, and the even peppier This Raw Feeling EP that came out this spring. He’s also put out the more introspective and dubby Eleda EP on Berlin based Nous Records, another emerging label that has only released class act music from young and upcoming producers.

Route 8 records all of his tracks live and says that his live gigs are the main influence on his songwriting at the moment, and in an interview with Leisure Collective from 2014 he stated that when he first started playing shows he was always shocked when he saw people dancing to his music, but now it’s become his mission to get asses movin’ on the dancefloor as he tours around Europe and perfects his craft as a DJ and producer.

Horváth’s trajectory is only on the up and up and his music as Route 8 is definitely worth checking out. Peace. See ya next week.

YP#1 – Palms Trax

September 3, 2015

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Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know … a deplorable output so far on INAUDIBLE this year. “What gives, man?” you may be wondering. Couldn’t tell ya, really. I just didn’t feel like writing about music for the last few months. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening. In fact, I’ve been even more tuned in than ever…

So what I’m going to do to start things back up is a nouveau feature entitled Young Producers, or YP for short, in which I rep a fresh and exciting young musician each week. The criteria is simple: s/he must be no older than 25 and have yet to release a full-length album.

It’s bonkers how many amazing new talents are coming up in the scene and following in the footsteps of the legends that came before them. It’s a really great thing for electronic music.

—————————–
YP#1 – PALMS TRAX

First up on the decks then is my man Jay Donaldson aka Palms Trax. This young DJ and producer is based in Berlin and has released three excellent EP’s, Equation in 2013 and Forever in 2014, courtesy of Lobster Theremin, and most recently he put out the bangin’ In Gold on Dekmantel.

Palms Trax’s style seems rooted in Detroit house and techno, with warm pads and uber-melodic synths being his signature. Smooth drum patterns with a 4/4 thump, high hat clicks, and hand claps (my fave) round out his sound and ready it for the dance floor. He reminds me of Kassem Mosse when he’s at his most melodic, while some of his synth lines (most notably on In Gold) are reminiscent of some early Plastikman 909 licks.

And it’s all so good. With Equation and Forever, Palms Trax found his groove and with In Gold he just keeps raising the stakes even higher – the beats hit harder, the melodies are groovier, and his songwriting is stronger. His tracks almost play out like pop songs in their construction, as he doesn’t just build off a loop, but has proper hooks and changes in his tracks, which makes for a dynamic listening experience.

He also has a radio show called Cooking With Palms Trax on Berlin Community Radio where he plays his favourite jams from his extensive record collection. Check him out ASAP if you haven’t already! Cheers. See ya next week.

APHEX TWIN – Surfing on Soundclouds

February 12, 2015

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It was a quiet decade for Richard D. James in the years leading up to the release of SYRO, his first real album under the Aphex Twin moniker since 2001. Sure, there was some awesome Analord records and releases as The Tuss, but nothing as formative and influential and moving as his earlier work on Warp Records.

And by then a whole legion of biters and imitators, armed with synths and tech and gear were all trying to make music that sounded just like his (or his labelmates Boards of Canada). There was a complete oversaturation of what was then called IDM or leftfield electronica, so much so that I can see why James might have decided it best to just sit back and let his earlier releases do the talking for him, because records like Selected Ambient Works vol. 2, and I Care Because You Do, and The Richard D. James Album mark a moment in time and sound, a moment in musical history, and for that reason alone they will never sound flat or feel dated.

James was the harbinger of lush analogue sounds and swirls and bleeps and bloops and beats and bass. And so, as his “sound” became ubiquitous in the electronic world in the early 2000’s, it became easy to forget the music that inspired this new generation of musicians.

Then, finally, as if rewarding us on our good behaviour over his decade-long silence he dropped SYRO, a frantic, gorgeously produced album of all that Aphex Twin does right. And I love it, I really do, but a part of me was always like, “Yeah it’s fuckin’ good and stuff, and it sounds unbelievable in headphones, but I can’t help but feel a little let down for some reason … I don’t know what I was hoping for or expecting, I just wanted more.”

Flash forward to the first weeks of 2015: And he releases Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP, an experimental and very different collection of tracks from SYRO, yet oddly alluring and enjoyable, because let’s face it, it’s more new music from Aphex Twin!

But now we’re getting to the good part, guys…

On January 27th, 2015 (my birthday), a mysterious user on Soundcloud begins uploading pretty much a song an hour, and doesn’t stop until there’s a 110 tracks on the site. By then, the interwebs had literally exploded with theories and comments and ideas (see: WATMM), yet the general consensus was that if this music was fake Aphex Twin then we would rather not hear what real is, because it was so goddamn fucking good!

The music he dumped on Soundcloud (now being called “Surfing on Soundclouds”), is like listening to all of James’ earlier masterpieces, but in an alternate reality or Bizzaro world. It is just unbelievable that music of this caliber has remained dormant and forgotten on old cassettes and DAT’s and broken hard-drives for decades.

Spanning 30 odd years, the collection (now at 155 songs in total) is already the best music released in 2015, and arguably the finest music of James’ career. It is moving and nostalgic and sweeping and gorgeous and merciless. It is Aphex Twin.

Thank you and thank you again, sir! Because this is a real treat. Check it!

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2014

December 11, 2014

radio-knobs

Well, here we go again, friends! Welcome to INAUDIBLE’s sixth annual end of year list! For this edition my list will be a bit streamlined, but you’ll still be sure to find some choice selections.

Click on the album covers and titles to sample a track. Enjoy!

TOP 12 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

alvvays_album

12. Alvvays – Alvvays (Polyvinyl)

Molly Rankin et al came of age this year with the release of Alvvays’ debut self-titled album. A record that harkens back to the lo-fi East Coast rock of the 90’s (Eric’s Trip, Hardship Post, Thrush Hermit) with a touch of Camera Obscura thrown in for good pop measure.

The best thing about this album is that it’s hooky as all hell, every song has something that makes it special – a catchy guitar lick, a subtle synth flourish, or Rankin’s endearing vocals. Check it.

Sisyphus-Album-Cover

11. Sisyphus – Sisyphus (Asthmatic Kitty)

Sisyphus is the unlikely trio of indie king Sufjan Stevens, rapper Serengeti, and soundsmith Son Lux. They released a handul of singles and an EP last year under the alias S/S/S before fully realizing their aesthetic as Sisyphus. It’s an odd mishmash of each aritst’s talents, and finds Sufjan at his most playful as he sings alongside the irreverent lyricism of Serengeti.

At his best, Serengeti sounds like MF Doom, yet at times I find his non sequitir rhymes seem almost superfluous. The album most effectively showcases Son Lux’s growth as a top-rate producer with an ear for off-kilter melodies and dynamic beats. Sisyphus is not easy to digest, yet after a few spins it reveals itself as an album with a lot to offer its listener.

road

10. Road Hog – D.W.B. (Lustwerk Music)

Road Hog is the alias of house revivalist and all around cool dude Galcher Lustwerk, who made a name for himself last year with his excellent Blowing Up The Workshop mix, as well as the equally smooth Nu Day EP that came out in early 2014, but it’s with his Road Hog moniker where he seems to really nail it.

The theme of D.W.B. is music to listen to while driving, and Lustwerk subtly crafts a propulsive set of tracks that will remind listeners of late 90’s Detroit heroes Theo Parrish, Carl Craig, Theorem, and more. While his music as Galcher Lustwerk uses vocals to anchor his songs, Road Hog is pure instrumental techno that’ll get your ass moving and your head bobbing. So smooove.

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9. Yagya – Sleepygirls (Delsin Records)

My ears first heard Icelandic producer Yagya in 2009 when he released his highly influential Rigning LP. I consider this album a highpoint in ambient dub techno, and so I was pleasantly surprised to find he had put out a new album this year entitled Sleepygirls.

Five years on and Yagya’s M.O. hasn’t changed a bit – we still get the buttery smooth yet subdued bass and 4/4 beats of before, but he has also added female vocals singing God knows what in Icelandic, but sounding amazing doing so. Also, the album flows as one continuous hour-long mix, expertly shifting from Deepchord style dub techno to downtempo moments to ethereal ambience, and further reveals Yagya as a master of the genre.

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8. Wild Beasts – Present Tense (Domino Records)

I dismissed Wild Beasts for years, thinking they were too artsy or that the falsetto vocals were too grating, until I finally actually listened to Smother. That record quickly became my favourite album of 2011 that I didn’t get into until 2012, and ever since then Wild Beasts have held a special spot on my list of revered ‘rock’ bands.

With each album they put out they seem to get a bit more subdued and minimal, while becoming better songwriters in the process, and the case is no different here with Present Tense. It is a much different beast than Smother and Two Dancers – it is spare and elegant where their earlier albums could at times be showy, cocky even.

Present Tense is undoubtedly their quietest and most emotional, and with the addition of prominent synth arrangements, it is also the band’s most electronic. Wild Beasts are one of the more interesting and compelling British bands out there, and they continue to outdo themselves. Check it.

Atlas

7. Real Estate – Atlas (Domino Records)

New Jersey quartet Real Estate returned this year with their third album Atlas, a much tighter and fulfilling record than their 2011 album Days. It’s an album that displays what a difference a few more years on tour can do when it comes to becoming a more dynamic band. The tempo of the album remains pretty much the same throughout, all the songs languidly jive to the same introspective clip, but this creates a tranquil, hypnotic effect one can use to let thoughts drift about the halcyon days of youth.

The tracks on Atlas are no great departure from the band’s earlier sound, but they’ve filled out their melodies even further, and have somehow really managed to tap into a sensation of nostalgia, which is definitely part of the album’s success.

Their live show at Il Motore (RIP) in Montreal in support of this record was much better than their tour for Days, which was mostly due to Matt Mondanile’s showmanship on guitar – at times it seemed his Ducktails “sound” was definitely bleeding into the Real Estate set, but that just made the show more vibrant. Keep it coming, boys.

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6. Andy Stott – Faith in Strangers (Modern Love)

I’ve loved Andy Stott since Merciless came out in 2006, and still consider that collection of tracks to be some of the best techno out there, even if it was slightly derivative. Yet, when Stott began experimenting with murky dub and jungle I started to tune out a bit. With 2012’s Luxury Problems, I liked the direction he was moving towards and the addition of vocals from Alison Skidmore, but the record failed to truly captivate me … but the wait is over for that, because with Faith in Strangers Stott has captured my complete attention. It is the most fully formed and wholly unique record in his discography, weaving between moments of cavernous beats and spooky ambience, and an uneasy balance of beauty and menace, which is just a lot of dumb words to try to describe something that needs to be heard to be experienced.

Violence” is arguably the best electronic song of the year. It feels old and new, dark and foreboding, and airy and light all at the same time. Let’s hope Stott continues on this upward trajectory, and for the love of God is he ever going to play MUTEK in Montreal? C’mon, book the guy already!

Syro

5. Aphex Twin – SYRO (Warp Records)

Holy shit! New Aphex Twin everybody! The Grand Puba of electronica returned this year with a release under his AFX moniker and has appeased the masses (for now). What else can I really say? There’s some amazing tracks on this album and I am very interested to see what Richard D. James will do next as he seems to be in an uncharacteristic “I wanna share!” mood as of late. Let’s hope it lasts.

My one qualm about the excellent SYRO is that the tracks are old. There’s nothing brand new here, but it’s definitely enough to tide us over until real new Aphex Twin drops in the next year or two. Keep sharing, sir!

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4. Leon Vynehall – Music For The Uninvited (3024 Records)

I was drawn to Brighton producer Leon Vynehall’s Music For The Uninvited from the first seconds of the Zelda inspired “Inside the Deku Tree”, with its punctuated string arrangement that threatens to blossom into life but tantalizingly doesn’t. It’s an effort in restraint that pays off big time as the next three tracks kick up to dance floor tempo and beyond, effectively displaying some of the finest house bangers of the year. “Be Brave, Clench Fists” hinges on an even sweeter orchestral loop than “Deku” and builds warm synths and a nice 4/4 beat around it to great success, while later tracks “Christ Air” and “St. Sinclair” close the album on a more introspective note.

Vynehall is definitely a producer to keep your ears on, and Music For The Uninvited is some of the most eclectic and rewarding electronic music you will hear this year.

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3. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Piñata (Madlib Invazion)

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib have both been in the hip hop scene for way more than a minute now, and although they seem to come from different sides of the rap game (Madlib operating on the jazz-funk side of things, with Gibbs working the straight-up thug angle) their unlikely collaboration is a fresh set of smooth beats and tight rhymes.

Gibbs’ sharp lyricism and technically precise flow on each track compliment the soulful and extravagant production from Madlib. People were waiting to see how these two would compliment each other, and the result is arguably just as good as the now classic Madvillian.

Gibbs has always sounded great as a featured guest on other rapper’s albums, but here he steps up to the spotlight and is able to maintain and sustain for Piñata’s seventeen tracks. Guests like Danny Brown, Raekwon, Scarface, and Earl Sweatshirt all help make this record one that all fans of hip hop can dig. Ya dig?

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2. Caribou – Our Love (Merge Records)

Dan Snaith has never been content to lock down a sound or remain in any one genre for very long. In his decade long career as Manitoba/Caribou/Daphni we’ve seen him shift from pastoral electronica to psychedelic pop to krautrock to house music and the dance floor. In a lot of ways, Snaith’s musical trajectory is very similar to Kieran Hebden’s Four Tet project, as both of these artists have slowly moved from cerebral IDM to more visceral and straight forward dance music that still remains somewhat off-kilter.

The strength of Our Love is how Snaith is able to make us feel the emotions he wants us to feel like love and wonder and nostalgia and even bliss. Sounds cheesy right? But his songwriting is so self-assured and personal here, he makes it easy for his listeners to happily float off on his vibe and occasionally wanna get up and dance too. Great stuff!

Run-the-Jewels-RTJ2

1. Killer Mike and El-P – Run The Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal Records)

Run them jewels fast, run them run them jewels fast, fuck the slo-mo!

Building off the hype and momentum of their debut collaboration as Run The Jewels, El-P and Killer Mike returned this year and dropped an even tighter and more enjoyable set of songs with Run The Jewels 2. Their debut was number four on my Best of 2013 list, and just like last year I had this album on repeat while jogging and exercising, trying my damnedest to learn Killer Mike’s tongue-twisting rhymes and bopping along to El-P’s post-apocalyptic production which is even more percussive, abrasive, and dynamic than before.

RTJ2 is straight-up fight music and the best part is El and Mike make it seem completely effortless. The rhymes and beats come second nature to two artists who’ve been in the game for twenty years and are finally both getting the musical cred they deserve with the Run The Jewels project. And as with their debut, it’s clear they havin’ hella fun making this music.

I hate the fact that P-fork also picked this album as their number one, but at least they selected an album that challenges its listeners both sonically and thematically. As seems to be the case quite often for my number one pick, I’ve chosen Run The Jewels 2 as my favourite album of 2014, because it looks way forward to the future but also has its feet firmly planted in the past. It tapped into my mind and my gut and made me FEEL, goddammit. It’s old skoool fuckin’ with new skoool and its done with class, tact, intelligence, style, and vulgar bravado! Way to go Jamie and Mike. Ch-check it!

Yes! We made it to the mafuckin’ end!

HONORABLE AUDIBLES

There’s always more great music that I just don’t have the time to write about, but please click on the album covers to sample a track of some of my other 2014 faves!

Palms Trax - Equation EP

Palms Trax – Equation EP

Art Crime - Never Look Back

Art Crime – Never Look Back

Cloudface - Untitled

Cloudface – Untitled

Route 8 - Dry Thoughts EP

Route 8 – Dry Thoughts EP

Kassem Mosse - Workshop 19

Kassem Mosse – Workshop 19

Jack J - Looking Forward To You

Jack J – Looking Forward To You

Terekke - Terekke EP

Terekke – Terekke EP

Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband

Little Dragon

Lnrdcroy - Much Less Normal

Lnrdcroy – Much Less Normal

Lawrence - A Day in the Life

Lawrence – A Day in the Life

Fave Video of the Year

bobby-womack

    R.I.P. Bobby Womack (1944-2014)

VISIT THE ARCHIVES

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2013
INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2012
INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2011
INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2010
INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2009

Big love to all of you for 2015 and beyond!

xo ml.

Anna Leventhal – Sweet Affliction

August 17, 2014

SweetAffliction-CoverWeb

Montreal based and Journey Prize nominated writer, Anna Leventhal, released her first collection of short stories, Sweet Affliction, earlier this spring and has crafted a subtle yet powerful debut. Most of the stories are set in her adopted city, yet as the book’s cover reveals, it is a Montreal flipped on its tête – one in which Moving Day is mandatory and sanctioned by the province, one in which Hasidic Jews socially interact with their non-Orthodox neighbours, one in which the Hippodrome is the set of a twisted reality show where illegal immigrants vie for citizenship, and one in which her characters feel justified in doing the wrong things for the right reasons.

Yet regardless of these creative tweaks to setting, Leventhal’s stories are all about her characters. She is skilled in character development, seemingly revealing so much about her protagonists, yet in reality giving her readers jussst enough to make them empathize and see and feel what her characters are feeling. A few stories are loosely connected by characters, giving us snippets of their lives from undergrad days living in a crowded house in Mile End to everyone grown up and dealing with issues like adultery, multiple sclerosis, academia, and donating sperm to a friend.

Leventhal is definitely not afraid to write about difficult subject matter, as cancer and terminal illness seem to be a motif that runs through several of these stories (“Wellspring”, “A Goddamn Fucking Cake”, and the title story). What’s more, she’s not afraid to put her characters in difficult situations as well – taking a pregnancy test at a wedding (“Gravity”), mourning the loss of a pet (“Horseman, Pass By), being exposed of date rape at a Passover Seder (“Maitland”), working at a rub and tug on Ste-Catherine Street (“A Favour”), and the list goes on.

This is a collection to be read slowly, and one that will stick with its readers after they’re done. With fifteen stories there’s lots to like here, with only a few that feel as if they don’t quite hold up in an otherwise strong collection. As a minor complaint, I find the endings of a few of the stories a bit lacking of a strong image or sense of cohesion, yet other stories like “Helga Volga” or “Horseman, Pass By” do a fine job of hitting the point finale on the head. And in the end, I had the same feeling that the narrator of “Wellspring” couldn’t seem to get rid of when I was reading Sweet Affliction – one of zzzzmmmmmmmmmm – joy.

Check out this book now.

Sean Michaels – Us Conductors

July 1, 2014

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Montreal based writer Sean Michaels has been writing about music for over a decade on his popular and influential blog Said The Gramophone, so it only seems fitting that music be the muse for his debut novel Us Conductors.

In Us Conductors, Michaels takes the life of Russian scientist and inventor of the theremin, Lev Sergeyevich Termen, and does some major inventing of his own. Using the blueprints of Lev’s life as his starting point, Michaels skillfully builds him up to near epic proportions, until this ‘invented’ Termen takes on a life of his own and becomes real. 

At the novel’s outset, Termen arrives in Fitzgerald’s New York, and is swept up in the glitz, glamour, and decadence of the last years of the Roaring Twenties. Yet, all the while he must remain faithful to Mother Russia, as he is on a mission to showcase the greatness of his country and promote his fascinating new musical instrument, the theremin. Termen is a man obsessed with scientific advancement, yet his preoccupation wavers when he meets Clara Rockmore, his one true love. At the novel’s heart, amid the bustling city, the music, and the shadow of Russia, is Termen’s unflinching love for Clara.

The tale is told from Termen’s perspective and he writes the entire story for her and her alone. In this way we get to know the many sides of Lev Termen. As scientist and inventor. As spy and murderer. As traitor and prisoner. As lover and lovelorn. And even as kung-fu master.

Michaels’ prose is exacting yet poetic. He writes his best narrative in pithy sentences stacked neatly on top of each other, his descriptions written with the exactitude one would expect of an observant scientist. But it is love which propels the story, and Termen’s obsession with Clara seems to only grow in intensity after she rejects him and he hears her play his theremin for the first time. Clara’s skill is unrivalled. Nonpareil. Which leaves the reader to ponder if in the end Termen truly loves her for her or because she’s the finest conductor of his marvelous invention?

The second part of the novel switches gears a bit, yet is no less satisfying, as Termen returns to a post-Lenin Russia and spends some time in the Gulag. One can’t help wonder if Michaels was reading a lot of Solzhenitsyn for inspiration here, but this section is well crafted, inventive, and the scenes are written with stark clarity.

Since Michaels is a proud Montrealer, several subtle nods to la belle ville can be found throughout. Termen and Clara visit clubs with names like Nouveau Palais and The Green Room (RIP) for dancing. A character has the name of ex-Montreal musician and “it” girl, Grimes, and one of Termen’s fellow prisoners shares his name with the Habs resident Russian defenceman, Andrei Markov. In fact, he even goes so far as to have Lev Termen envision his one true love playing the theremin in Quebec. He writes: “I imagined you played the theremin in Canada, on tour, in a city where they speak French. They said to you: “Bravo, bravo!” and “Enchanté,” and you marveled that somewhere so close could be so different.”

Michaels takes his readers far and wide in his first novel Us Conductors, and is sure to receive many a “bravo!” of his own in the coming year as more readers get tuned in to his debut. Check it.

Craig Davidson – Cataract City (Doubleday)

February 10, 2014

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For Rover Arts

Craig Davidson’s third novel, the gritty Cataract City, deserves all the praise it has received since its release last summer, including a short-list nomination for the Giller Prize. Davidson is usually described as a guy’s writer – rough around the edges, blue collar, rugged – and to be sure, phrases such as “unremittingly masculine” and “testosterone-soaked” have been used to describe his propulsive prose, but he also does a great job of creating authentic characters worthy of our sympathy.

The fact that Davidson took steroids to research his boxing novel, The Fighter, does indeed add to that manly vibe. But beyond his subject-matter, Davidson likes to entertain us in the same way that an action flick does, by keeping us on the edge of our seats. And with Cataract City, we see Davidson using his favourite tropes – boxing, greyhound racing, dog fighting, basketball, the Niagara setting, and strained male relationships – in his attempt to flesh out the novel’s main character, the city itself.

The novel deals with two childhood friends, Duncan (Dunk) Diggs and Owen (Owe) Stuckey. They’re kidnapped when they’re twelve years old and taken out into the woods, but their kidnapper dies and the two boys are left to find their way out of the Niagara forest on their own. They wander for three days, but manage to survive. The boys grow up but the incident changes them forever. Owe manages to get out of Cataract City and later becomes a cop, while Dunk never leaves, landing a job at the local factory (The Bisk), and exploring the darker side of his city – bare-knuckle boxing, dog fights, and smuggling, to name just a few. Through it all, Duncan remains remarkably grounded, but that doesn’t stop him from getting into trouble and being sent to prison.

Davidson’s prose is cinematic, tense and fast-paced. Cataract City demands to be read as fast as you can absorb each of its vivid scenes. The boys’ wilderness ordeal gets the book rolling at a fast clip, throwing in all sorts of obstacles along the way. This section is reminiscent of Stephen King’s novella, “The Body”, with its coming-of-age in the woods plot line. Davidson even has Duncan say “Sincerely,” just like Vern in King’s novella – a sly little nod to his inspiration perhaps?

The novel doesn’t slow there, as it sets up the events leading to Dunk`s eight-year prison stint. There is violence, blood, and revenge, both petty and not so petty. At times, Davidson’s book felt very much like a David Adams Richards novel, as Cataract City questions that blurry distinction between right and wrong. It also has a sort of big bad enemy, which Richards is fond of using. Cataract City is not a perfect novel, but it is an intense read that entertains with bravado, while also serving up very human characters. Davidson has hit his stride here, and serves up a strong story about the meaning of friendship and the ties that bind.