Archive for the ‘electronica’ Category

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2022

January 15, 2023

Hello no one! Hello everyone! It’s time to try this again for the sake of posterity. I mean, how else will I ever remember what the heck I listened to in 2022? Let’s crack on then….

Welcome to the 13th edition of INAUDIBLE’s end of year list!

FAVE 22 ALBUMS OF ’22

(click on album title to sample a track)

William Basinski and Janek Schaefer – … on reflection   (Temporary Residence)

Are you surprised to see a William Basinski album on my list? Somewhere on the internet, someone wrote: “Basinski’s been making music for 30 years now, but somehow managed to put out the best album of his career with this quiet alliance with Janek Schaefer.”

Spanning eight years of long-distance collaboration, Schaefer and Basinski assemble twinkling piano, waking birds, tape hiss and warm drones that play out peacefully for three quarters of an hour, leaving this listener at ease even in dark times.

***

DJ Python – Club Sentimientos, Vol. 2 (Incienso Recordings)

Three tracks, 20 minutes of near perfect IDM/deep reggaeton, or to put it simply, good ol’ fashioned electronica. Brian Piñeyro aka DJ Python aka Luis aka DJ Xanax seems to only get better and better with each release. He’s had a prolific year putting out collabs with Ela Minus, releasing EPs under both Luis and Python monikers, and dropping some killer remixes, mastering the ability to mine emotion out of machines.

Every track on this EP is something to get lost in, but my personal fave is “Club Sentimiental Vol. 3” for those gorgeous synth lines that make you feel like you’re floating above it all for four minutes, above the stress, anxiety, exhaustion, tedium, above the storm, way up above the clouds where there’s only sunshine.

DJ Python is playing in Montreal in February with Anthony Naples and heck yeah I’m excited for the show, it is sure to be a good’n.

***

Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia (Partisan Records)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Brit rock. Bands like Bloc Party and Foals blew me away when I first heard them. Silent Alarm by Bloc Party and Antidotes by Foals still kick ass fifteen (or more!) years later…

Even Oasis. I will never forget the first time I heard “Wonderwall”. I was 16, very stoned, and in the back of Dave Tedesco’s car driving around on a Friday night. The song came on 89X (local radio station) and when that drum kick came in, oh boy, my heart expanded three times its size. Still love that song, and I do not care what anyone says or how overplayed it is or how ridiculous those brothers are or how many open mic night hacks have sullied it’s wonder even further into shit.

I was late to the Fontaines party, not listening to Dogrel when it came out, despite or perhaps in spite of the hyperbolic reviews. But once A Hero’s Death dropped, I was immediately swept into their sound from the opening bass line and that album was a constant in 2021 during jogs and stroller walks with my son, Simon.

The Dublin lads third full-length, Skinty Fia, shows them opening up their sound palette a bit, adding more melody and harmony but still being total punk rock. Some listeners may not like the shift, but it totally works for me, and seeing their live show at Corona in Montreal this spring was just awesome. Their energy was infectious and seemingly limitless. Must be nice to be in your early twenties lol.

Fave track: “I Love You” – it reminds me of high school and a “they almost made it” local band called Soyl.

***

Freddie Gibbs – $oul $old $eparately (Warner)

Yep, another list, another Freddie Gibbs album. The Space Rabbit dropped his major label debut and switched up his one producer format, working with an eclectic mix of musicians and achieved excellent results.

We’ve got Alchemist, Raekwon, Rick Ross, Offset, Kaytranada, Anderson .Paak, and the hugely underrated Scarface. Not to mention Pusha T, James Blake, Musiq Soulchild, DJ Paul, and more still. Yet even though it’s super varied, it flows really well, all tied together with voice messages from (some questionable?) guests. I’ve found myself getting happily lost in its vibe on many occasions, surprised even at how often I wanted to listen to it again and again.

I like Gibbs best when he gets personal (check “Grandma’s Stove”), and with each record he’s showing more and more vulnerability, talking about his actual life rather than just his thug lyfe — but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of that flex on $$$ for all y’all too.

***

DJ Healer – Nothing 2 Loose (all possible worlds)

One of Traumprinz’s many aliases, this album was released in 2018, but I didn’t get into it until this year. High off the quarantine albums under his The Phantasy and DJ Metatron monikers, I decided to go back and give this record a listen, and I’m glad I did, because it is now one of my favourite electronic albums of all time.

No joke. Like up there with SAW2 and Music Has the Right. Nothing 2 Loose is that darn good. Beautifully melancholic, transformative, and able to transport its listener to places they never knew.

“We Are Going Nowhere” is my personal fave, an endlessly hypnotic pulsing heart of a song, goddamn it’s so visceral.

It’s incredible that Traumprinz’s identity is still unknown and that his music is sold only on vinyl and in very limited runs. There’s plenty of myth-making involved and maybe that’s part of the allure, but at the end of the day, he is an artist that has always allowed the music to speak for itself, and I love him for that.

***

RAMZi – Hyphea (Music From Memory)

Montreal based artist Phoebé Guillemot aka RAMZi has been quietly building buzz for half a decade now releasing records on Mood Hut, 1080P, and Rvng Intl. With hyphae, RAMZi pushes her sonic boundaries even further, creating an album full of gentle beats and melodies to get absorbed in.

It is definitely an album I can put on and decide to listen to or not. It can comfortably fade into the background as mood music or open up as so much more for the careful listener. It reminds me of an album by The Irresistible Force on Ninja Tune that I loved from like 25 years ago (dang we getting old now, sheeeeit). It has a similar low-key vibe throughout.

hyphae was recorded between November 2021 and May 2022, and began as an attempt to transcend boredom and frustrations imposed by severe restrictions in Quebec during the pandemic (remember 8 pm lockdown for 6 months anyone?), and is based around sketches she originally made as a score for a documentary about mushrooms called Fun Fungi. I should probably watch it tonight.

I missed her free show at MUTEK this year, but I’m sure I will see her play somewhere in Montreal in 2023.

***

MAVI – Laughing So Hard, It Hurts (Mavi 4 Mayor)

23 year old, North Carolina rapper, MAVI released his second album this year, and it finds him bringing a poetic, intellectual vibe to hip hop, different but not unlike Earl and MIKE, yet perhaps more easily digestible than Earl thanks to a less fractured delivery and smoother beats. Still, the whole album feels covered in a haze of weed smoke, and provides a perfect soundtrack for stoned head-nodding on the couch.

MAVI is a real Renaissance Man, because when he’s not writing rhymes he’s studying Neuroscience at Howard University in DC. I expect his star to only shoot higher in the next few years, and I was bummed to see he’s skipping Montreal on his upcoming tour. Oh well, maybe next time, svp Mav?

Fave track: “High John”

***

Romance – Once Upon A Time (Ecstatic)

Some of the best musical landscapes to get lost in this year, and all thanks to who? The Queen: Céline Dion.

Elusive UK group, Romance, use Céline as their muse, and take her music, slow it down, flip it upside down, pull it apart, grieve its loss, and then painstakingly put it back together again. And in the process, they somehow take the syrupy 90’s ballad format and transform it into a surprisingly emotional modern classical ambient album. Like OPN or Malibu, Romance can eke out all them sad-boy feelings.

Take the first track for example, a patient drone, an occasional reverb heavy piano loop, and Dion’s voice pushed into slightly irregular registers – either just too low or just too high – singing “Have You Ever Been in Love?” Sounds like a recipe for a cheesy disaster, but instead plays out like a Harold Budd slo-mo dream sequence.

The closing track, fittingly titled, “Crying is the Only Thing That Gets Me Through” is the clear show-stopper, working a Stars of the Lid vibe, but the whole album is worth checking out. And apparently, there’s a follow-up album now too.

***

srwn – Saraswatinagar EP (Orion Arm)

There is virtually zero info about srwn online, except that they are a duo from Paris, France. I was tipped to this EP on a music site I frequent, and I liked it from the first track. It has that smooth lo-fi deep house vibe pulsing throughout that I am an eternal fanboy for.

Sample a track: “Wagon Pourpre”

***

Yaya Bey – Remember Your North Star (Big Dada)

Brooklyn musician, Yaya Bey, released my fave album of Badu-style RnB jams of 2022. I was a big fan of Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales last year, and North Star has a similar smooth neo-soul vibe, not to mention, a candid sexuality.

Effortlessly listenable, and perfect for the start of a party or the end of one. I am looking forward to seeing what Bey does next…

Track Sample: “alright”

***

JID – The Forever Story (Dreamville/Interscope)

Atlanta’s JID releases his third proper album, and it plays out like a history lesson of hip hop music. Coming from the ATL, one of rap’s meccas (Outkast, Killer Mike, Migos, Young Thug, Playboi Carti, Future, 21 Savage, just to name a few), JID was my students most rec’d rapper of the year, and it was for that reason that I decided to check him out.

And I’m glad I did, because he’s got bars for days, slick production, and a smooth cadence to his delivery that I enjoy. He’s only going to blow up from here.

Check: “Crack Sandwich”

***

Bibio – BIB10 (Warp Records)

Stephen Wilkinson released his tenth album as Bibio, and offers up a sort of retrospective of the varied styles and genre flips he’s done in his career. The Bibio project has been shape-shifting for almost fifteen years now – from folktronica to glitch hop to yacht rock to ambient drone with many other deviations in between, and with BIB10, we get a smattering of it all.

That isn’t necessary a great thing, as there’s more than a few tracks I have to skip (bad jazz and cheese rock in middle of album) but there’s enough music on this album that I really enjoy. For example, the outro of “Rain and Shine” may be some the prettiest and wistful music of the year, and “Lost Somewhere” was ear-wormed in my head for weeks.

I really enjoyed his last two more pastoral folk leaning albums and so I find those type of tracks the strongest on BIB10. Still he’s one of the most consistent artists on Warp’s roster and never afraid to take chances — thank goodness he’s good enough to pull most of them off.

***

Kenny Beats – Louie (XL Recordings)

In-demand producer, Kenny Beats, has been on the upward trend for five years now, working with Denzel Curry, Vince Staples, Rico Nasty, and more.

This year he dropped his solo debut, Louie, and it’s bursting with smooth soul samples, warm emotions, and fire guests like JPEGMAFIA, Foushée, Dijon, and Benny Sings.

The album is a tribute to Kenny’s father, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the time Kenny was working on the project during the lockdown in 2020. It harkens back to the glory days of instrumental hip-hop albums by legends like Madlib and Dilla, and you can effortlessly listen to it from start to finish, and find yourself dancing in the kitchen while making dinner, and showing the kids how to do the two-step or the cabbage patch or some shit.

Bottom line: soul-heavy jams that are easy fun, and also hit that nostalgia nod for good measure.

Sample Track: “Last Words”

***

Alex Albrecht – A Clearing (Mule Musiq)

I got into Australian musician Alex Albrecht’s album Campfire Stories last year, and enjoyed its classic jazz meets ambient music filtered through the rainforest aesthetic very much, but with A Clearing, Albrecht finds himself directly in my aural wheelhouse.

To quote the label: A Clearing is “Home listening elegant slow House Music”.

To quote some guy on Discogs: “I agree this is some serious magic on here. For context I’m hanging out here at 8:30am on a saturday morning, in my jam-jams and every track is hitting my ear perfectly. Coffee and an enchanted summer morning :)”

Some tracks remind me of long-ago Glasgow legend Pub’s music on the ampoule records imprint.

To quote me: “Immersive ambient jams with a steady pulse and infectious low-register bass swirls. So lovely.”

***

Carmen Villain – Only Love From Now On (Smalltown Supersound)

Norwegian-Mexican artist Carmen Villain makes atmospheric music made up of tapestries of field-recordings, acoustic instruments such as flute, clarinet, piano, and electronics, all culminating into her own distinctive style that combines elements of fourth world, dub and ambient. 

I discovered her last year and listened to Both Lines Will Be Blue and Sketches For Winter IX: Perlita EP constantly. They are both unique ambient albums that seem to still get better with each listen. With Only Love From Now On, Villain has mastered her mélange of styles, and put out the best record of her career thus far. With the help of trumpeter Arve Henriksen, and flutist Johanna Scheie Orellana, this album plays out like a slow, soft, daydream.

Villain showcased the album this year at MUTEK, and there’s only one word to describe the set: sensual. Cloaked in darkness and smoke with minimal visuals behind her and flutist Orellana by her side, Villain created a sumptuous mood that I immediately was swept up in. It was an excellent live show that exceeded my expectations and the highlight of the festival for me. She is definitely on an upward trajectory and an essential electronic artist to check out.

***

Alex G – God Save The Animals (Domino Recordings)

Indie darling Alex G is another artist on the big fat pile of musicians that I never really got into despite all le hype. But as I’ve said before somewhere on this blog, the way I see it, if a good band or artist puts out a good album, I will eventually get into it, and I really don’t care if I’m riding the crest of the hype-wave or not.

I’ve had a rule for the last few years that if an album makes me cry then it is good enough to own on vinyl, and God Save The Animals is on that list. This record caught me instantly to the point where I was listening to it pretty much exclusively for three weeks. I don’t listen to music like that anymore these days. When I was a teenager, and would buy CD’s and only have what I had, I’d listen to the same shit over and over and over, however, with virtually all music available somewhere on the internet, my listening habits have inherently changed. But with GSTA, I was back to my late 90’s on repeat ad infinitum.

The songwriting is so good, and I love how he’s not afraid to weird a song out with pitched or screeched vocals or a wall of distortion or change up a groove right in the middle and start something else.

And the lyrics are also fantastic. “Mission” was the first track to turn on the early morning waterworks on the subway one morning. “Aint gonna right you’re wrong with a stupid love song” followed by an absolutely lovely little guitar solo, oh yeah, that’s the stuff right there.

And then later, “my teacher is a child, with a big smile, no bitterness”, that line is powerful, as 97% of my life is consumed with my two children. And sometimes it’s really fucking hard to be the best Dad I can be without any bitterness, ya know? I love them so much, I am literally tearing up as I type this lol (hey, I’m an emotional sap, aight?), but man alive, it’s been one heck of a hard ass year raising two young kids without any family around to lighten the goddamn load every once in a while. So that line hits me.

And if that wasn’t enough, he does it again in penultimate track “Miracles”, when he sings “You say one day we should have a baby, well, God help me, I love you, I agree…” There’s something so joyful and innocent in his tone about the possibility of starting a family. A future as more than just a couple, but also as parents.

Having children has been without a doubt the greatest most challenging wondrous experiment of my life. I am shocked to realize how much I have learnt about myself in the process, many good things, but also many not so good things. All I know is I am still growing up and evolving myself, and slowly chipping off all the petrified shit that’s been there for way too damn long, and trying to let my children be my teachers, and to look at life wearing their “pure wonder” sunglasses as much as humanly possible.

And somehow, some 29 year-old bedroom producer dude from Philly has given me so much to think about, all thanks to his wonderful songs on God Save The Animals.

That’s what good music is all about isn’t it?

***

Sam Prekop and John McEntire – Sons Of (Thrill Jockey Records)

For ten years now, Sam Prekop has been releasing solo records where he noodles around with synths and tries to make electronic music. And for ten years, I’d give those albums quick skims, feel like he wasn’t quite hitting the mark, wish he’d put out a new Sea and Cake record, and then go listen to a quote-unquote “real electronic musician”. I’m such a hack critic lol.

He got close with Comma from 2020, which had some pretty solid songs on it, but it took until this year (in my humble hack critic opinion) for Prekop to finally release an excellent electronic record. Maybe he needed the help of Johnny Mac to get that percussion tight? Who knows? All I know is that Sons Of fires off on all cylinders, and even though it’s still full of some serious synth noodling, it totally works this time.

One night during the summer, I was staying at my in-laws and was lying outside of the room my son was sleeping in, waiting for him to fall asleep. To bide my time, I popped in my headphones and put this album on. After the first track or so, I dozed off, and woke up 15-20 minutes later and had no idea what on earth I was listening to. I would have never guessed Sam Prekop in a zillion years. In short, Sons Of sounds like nothing either of them have released up to now, and shows two artists who have continued to evolve and innovate for more than 30 years now.

Prekop also released the equally intriguing The Sparrow on German label TAL this year, further showing this listener that he’s found his electronic stride and is on a hot streak.

Also quick side note: I saw John McEntire play with Tortoise as part of POP Montreal this year and man, what a great show. Took me back twenty years but still sounded as fresh as ever.

***

Conway The Machine – God Don’t Make Mistakes (Shady Records)

As I’ve said earlier, I like my thug lyfe with a dose of vulnerability, and shit, if Conway The Machine doesn’t deliver exactly that.

Conway uses this album as catharsis, a platform to grieve, confess, and count his blessings. Take this quick verse from “Stressed” as an example:

And not too long after my cousin hung his self
I never told nobody, but I lost a son myself
Imagine bein’ in the hospital, holdin’ your dead baby
And he look just like you, you tryna keep from goin’ crazy
That’s why I drink a bottle daily
For all the shit I keep bottled in lately

As someone who has personally lived through more than one miscarriage with his partner, that shit hits hard, and is most welcome flanked by heavy boom bap beats. Guests like Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher add flow to the album, but Conway can handle the record all on his own.

Great track: “God Don’t Make Mistakes” — the whole “what if?” idea is done so well here, gives me chills, and Alchemist beat killing it as usual

***

Leafar Legov – Mirror (Giegling)

This album came out in 2020 and I’ve been listening to it steadily ever since. Leafar Legov aka Rafael Vogel is a young producer from Germany, and he is skilled at creating mood using synthy ambience and 4/4 beats.

Mirror was one of my quarantine albums, and it helped me get through those early pandemic days at home with a newborn, and having to teach classes on Zoom during that seemingly endless winter. I remember thinking it was a perfect winter album, because it was dark but also had those moments of warmth and light that made you dream that the spring thaw and a return to some sort of normalcy couldn’t be too far away…

Definite hints of Boards of Canada at times and Kompakt-esque pop ambient and deep house, as well as, 90’s minimal techno. Legov is adept at sustaining a cohesive flow throughout as the album blisses out to a gentle climax.

Mirror is an underrated and understated soon to be classic and highly recommended by yours truly.

***

Cate Le Bon – Pompeii (Mexican Summer)

Yes, it’s true, dream pop heroes Beach House did put out an album in 2022, but for me Cate Le Bon’s Pompeii checks the same feels and does so more effectively.

She first popped up on my radar in 2019 with her production work on Deerhunter’s last album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? and the first four songs on Pompeii are so ear-wormy, I had to take listening breaks because I could not get the songs out of my head. A testament to her powerful songwriting no doubt.

Dreamy art pop with a slanted edge. Check it.

Sample: “French Boys”

***

Lord Of The Isles – Whities 029

Lord of the Isles aka Neil McDonald lives in Scotland, and this EP came out in 2020. My friend Mike sent me a link to the closing track “Inheritance” while I was at the in-laws for an extended stay during the second wave of the pandemic. I remember he wrote something like: “Play it as loud as you can handle”.

I decided to listen while out for a jog, and it definitely is not good exercise music, because it stopped me in my tracks. Ellen Renton’s poetry and wondrous Scottish accent gave me pause. I slowly walked down the sidewalk, looked to the left of me and saw two deer grazing in the sunny afternoon grass (not an uncommon site in their neighborhood but still felt like some kind of omen).

When Renton says, “maybe the sun is knackered too…” I don’t know why, but it gets me every time, and the song’s beat-heavy climax is stunning. Definitely on my need to buy on vinyl list. “Waiting in Arisaig” is also fantastic. On the end of that trip to the in-laws, we were waiting at Dulles airport for our very delayed flight, and I was pushing Simon around in his stroller up and down the anonymous halls, and it was pretty much the perfect soundtrack for the moment.

Whities 029 has been on consistent rotation here for two years now. A unique vibe and an exceptional release that will be heavily sought after and imitated, for its peculiar results and new exploration of the intersection between electronic music and literature.

***

Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (Top Dawg)

It’s been waaaay more than a minute since Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize winning album DAMN. And damn indeed, if every second of it hasn’t weighed down on Kendrick’s shoulders like the weight of all worlds.

Things have changed since DAMN. Pandemic, Artificial Intelligence, war, global political nightmares, conservatism, fake news, idiocracy, hell, even Kanye was still relevant back then (thank goodness Ye’s finally cancelled), and it’s all imploded and exploded in the span of five years.

The world is fucked, no doubt, and even though it may seem on the surface that Kendrick has some sort of Saviour complex, the only person he’s interested in saving with his fifth studio album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is his damn self.

Morale is no easy listen, and I’ll admit to letting myself be swayed by early underwhelming reviews, but this record is an ambitious and anxious beast of a double album. It definitely has some missteps (“Auntie Diaries” anyone?), but its highs are so much stronger than the lows.

Take “We Cry Together” for example. The first time I listened to it, I made it about 30 seconds in before rushing to turn the volume down as I was with my daughter, Sylvia. Definitely not a song to jam out to with a 5 year old, but when I finally had a chance to listen to it in its entirety I was wowed. Yin to Kendrick’s yang, actress Taylour Paige, gives an incredible performance throughout this song, as the duo play out an argument between a dysfunctional couple in a toxic relationship.

Another high, “Mother I Sober” featuring Beth Gibbons, has Kendrick in full Vulnerable Mode, rapping out traumatic moments and mistakes of his life — the whole song playing out like a confession about generational trauma and K’s own addictions and regrets.

As the song builds to its climax, Kendrick’s voice grows louder in the mix, above the swirling strings, and Gibbons’ haunted harmonies, and ends with him shouting: “This is transformation!” Gives me shivers every damn time, and as the song fades out, Whitney (his wife), says she’s proud of him, and then their daughter says: “Thank you Daddy”, and I usually have a few solid seconds of private ugly crying before I can move on.

Flawed but powerful as f, Kendrick shows us he is still the GOAT. And heck yeah, I’ll shed off my Osheaga retirement to see him at the festival in Montreal this summer.

***

HONORABLE AUDIBLES

Big Thief Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Theo ParrishDJ Kicks

Bad BunnyUn Verano Sin Ti

Map.acheSo Oder So

DeepchordFunctional Designs

KokorokoCould We Be More

Andrew Tuttle Fleeting Adventure

Danger Mouse & Black ThoughtCheat Codes

FKA twigs – Capri Songs

BeyoncéRenaissance

UllaHope Sonata

Nala SinephroSpace 1.8

Jeff Parker Forfolks and Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy

***

OK then, holy shit, I finished the list! Happy belated 2023 to all of you. Only good tidings to you and yours. Be vulnerable. Be honest. And keep on listening to good music.

Love ya,

ml

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2020

January 2, 2021

Damn, what a year. I have so much to say but zero energy to say it.

Above everything else this nutso year, music kept me sane.

There was a glut of good stuff, but here are my faves, in no particular order.

And I love you all, in no particular order.

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Freddie Gibbs/ The Alchemist – Alfredo (ESGN)

Another year, another Freddie Gibbs album on my list. Am I that predictable? Or is Gangsta Gibbs that goddamn consistent? You decide. In my opinion, this is absolutely his best collab since Pinata, as he and The Alchemist find some beautiful chemistry. Whereas last year’s Bandana with Madlib was a bit inconsistent, here Gibbs’ flow and Al’s soulful beats just click. Future classic right here.

Pro tip: Alchemist’s collab with Boldy James, The Price of Tea in China, is also a great record from 2020 worthy of many listens too.

Fave track: “Something to Rap About” with Tyler, the Creator

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Auscultation – III (100% Silk)

Joel Shanahan aka Auscultation has put out an album of beautiful 90’s inspired ambient techno, and it took about ten seconds of the opening track for me to be quickly swept into its eerie soothe.

Smooth synths, pulsing basslines, deep house rhythms with “up in dem cloud” soundscapes. This was my morning album for the entire covid spring, and I keep returning to it again and again. Hype.

Check out: “Glowing Hearts in the Rainbow Room

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Caribou – Suddenly (Merge Records)

Dan Snaith’s first Caribou record since 2015 finds him working with all his various strengths and writing a more subdued yet arguably stronger album than Our Love, with the warm and ear-wormy Suddenly.

Flirting with hip-hop, soul, techno, folk, psych and R&B, some critics have said it lacks cohesion, but even so, every song has something about it that makes it special or stand out or subtly get lodged in your head.

Worthy of repeat listens with great songwriting from beginning to end.

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Pure X – Pure X (Fire Talk)

Pure X are rock and roll. They take their sweet time, and they write beautiful songs. Check “Middle America” and/or “Slip Away” for exemplars.

The Austin-based band made their name writing reverb-soaked druggy slow jams, and ten years in they’re still writing those same slow jams — but it seems like maybe now they’re waiting until after they record before they get super stoned, because this is their clearest most focused collection of songs yet.

Great guitars, always solid bass lines, and smooth af vocal melodies. To be honest, I was just happy to see a new album by them, since 2014’s Angel has been a constant play in my living room for 6 years now.

And I hope I’ll get to see them play live again, once the world shifts back to a place where I can actually sway shoulder to shoulder with strangers in a sweaty venue.

I can’t wait to not have to wait for that…sheeit.

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Oddissee – Odd Cure (Outer Note Label)

The humble and always underrated Oddissee released my favourite quarantine album of this most fucked up year.

Oddissee deftly captured the helplessness and hopefulness of our 2020 Quarantine Lyfe with Odd Cure.

And throughout the album, he uniquely displays our anxiety and fears living through a pandemic, as well as, the opportunities we all had to rest, reflect, and reconnect with loved ones during the slow-pace imposed on us by covid. The phone calls to his fam spliced in between tracks are heart-warming and really capture the feel of those initial first wave lockdown days.

The whole album is chock full of soulful beats, flawless production, and some of Odd’s most thoughtful rhymes yet.

PG County represent!

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Ulla – Tumbling Towards a Wall (Experiences Ltd.)

Ulla Straus has recorded in the past under her full name, but here she needs only her prénom with the enchanting Tumbling Towards a Wall — an album that straddles the line of blissful ambient with touches of experimental composition. 

Ulla’s music is sonically diverse, oscillating between piano, strings, field recordings and hazy, soft pads.

Usually I’m one to say that I think most albums sound better through a good pair of headphones, but with Tumbling, I like hearing it on big speakers in an open room, it sounds completely different that way, and more alluring somehow.

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Shinichi Atobe – YES (DDS)

The man, the enigma, the legend, Shinichi Atobe returns with his first batch of songs since 2018’s stellar Heat.

Shinichi serves his techno straight-up, no fuckery, and builds his songs from the bottom up until they are bursting with subtle melody, and with YES he’s at his warmest, overflowing with rich grooves, head-bobbing bass, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention those goddamn beautiful handclaps. He’s also a pro at dropping a heavy piano lick deep into the mix when you least expect it, and it’s always pure class.

I think if I had to pick one absolute fave from 2020, it would have to be YES, as this album accompanied me on many “newborn needs to sleep” walks throughout the summer, and even when I was so goddamn tired I could barely go on, it kept a shimmy in my step, and kept lil Simon a dozin’ on my chest.

YES, INDEED.

Check out: “Lake 2” and (my personal humdinger) “Ocean 1

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Adrianne Lenker – songs/instrumentals (4AD)

The first time I listened to “anything” off this album, I was on (yet another) walk with Simon. It was a chilly, grey October morning, and I couldn’t even make it halfway through before I started to cry. But it felt good, so I put it on repeat, pushing the heavy stroller down the sidewalk and bawling. On the third listen one of my contacts popped out of my eyes, and I thought I should probably stop after that. So I put on the new Deftones to cleanse the palette.

That definitely wasn’t the first (or last) time I could be seen crying while walking around my neighbourhood with my newborn son this year (hey man, second baby + pandemic + sleep deprivation = crying Papa, aight?), but good lord and goddamn, that track is a sure fire doozy.

The rest of the album floats a similar melancholy vibe of pitch-perfect simple break-up songs. Just a woman and her guitar, a few chirping birds, and the creaks of the old wood floor of the cottage she recorded in. So good.

The companion piece, instrumentals, is two songs featuring soft finger-picking, more birdsong, light rainfall, and lots of wind chimes. The second track “mostly chimes”, really feels like you’re sitting on the porch of a weekend cottage, up early with a coffee, and listening to the birds and gentle chimes in the breeze.

Side note: I had also never really listened to Big Thief until this year, but U.F.O.F is also an absolutely amazing record and I highly recommend it.

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KMRU – Peel (Editions Mego)

Kenya based sound artist Joseph Kamaru, aka KMRU put out several albums this year, my favourite one being Peel. It was conceived as a time-restricted experiment in texture, influenced by “experiences travelling in Montreal, as well as being back in Nairobi just before lockdown.” 

The album was recorded in just 48 hours, but its heavy drones feel almost timeless. Kamaru said he is “always happy to have limitations while making music, and Peel is a good example of this.” He gives the impression that more time wouldn’t have yielded any better results. 

The second KMRU album of 2020, landed three weeks after Peel. If you want to hear the breadth of Kamaru’s talents, check out Opaquer. If you want to hear his ability to laser in on a very focused idea and extract from it 75 minutes of special music, choose Peel.

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nthng – hypnotherapy (Lobster Theremin)

Elusive Dutch producer, nthng, released his second album for the great Lobster Theremin imprint, and goes far beyond the deep house he made his name on. Hypnotherapy is a trippy and dark record that spans dub techno, heavy 4/4 beats, hazy ambient and mind-bending trance.

Tracks like “I Just Am” and “Heitt” hit hard with the after midnight dancefloor in mind, while other tracks like “Beautiful Love” and “With You” will veer you more towards the couch, but this album is one that keeps on giving and sounding better the more you listen.

The first time I heard “I Just Am”, I was (you guessed it) on a walk with Simon, and when the beat cracks in at the 3 and a 1/2 minute mark it was so thrilling that I just pushed his stroller into oncoming traffic and started dancing.

I pictured all the Muteks and music festivals and countless special dancefloor and live music moments that did not happen this year and I cursed covid and cussed out corona, and then slowly picked Simon’s mangled stroller up off the curb. Luckily, he was completely unharmed. He smiled at me, blew a raspberry, and we kept on a-walkin the year away…

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Yves Tumor – Heaven To a Tortured Mind (Warp)

In the days before the big covid shift, I bought tickets to see Yves Tumor in April 2020, and was totally stoked to see this new glam version of the artist. I had tickets to see one show a month up until June when lil Si Guy was set to arrive and throw a wrench in our routine. But instead, the ‘rona came and tossed in the whole rusty tool box.

So Heaven To a Tortured Mind became my go to jogging album for all of spring. And while it perhaps doesn’t quite hit the heights that Hands of Love did for me in 2018, I still totally dig Yves’ move from noise freak to weirdo pop star.

It seems like he can get away with anything now.

Like the guitar solo on “Kerosene!”, for example. If you had told me 10 years ago that the best song Warp Records would release in 2020 would have a full-on wank shred of a guitar solo in it, I would have belly laughed and probably farted. But here we are. 2020. You tricky asshole.

Haha, but yeah, I seriously love that song and the video is pretty great too.

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HONORABLE AUDIBLES (click album to sample a track)

Soela – Genuine Silk (Dial Records)

(Dial kicks off their 20th anniversary true to form with Soela’s buttery debut full-length)

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Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED (Loma Vista)

(8 tracks, 18 minutes, hits hard working that classic boom bap throwback style)

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Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide (Rhymesayers)

(Aesop’s most ambitious and joyous clusterfuck of an album, lots to love here)

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White Poppy – Paradise Gardens (Not Not Fun)

(Dreamy, hazy, afternoon daze pop, done right)

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Oneohtrix Point Never – Magic OPN (Warp Records)

(Daniel Lopatin’s most accessible OPN record yet)

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Earth Boys – Earth Tones (Shall Not Fade)

(Dub techno & deep house with tongue-in-cheek vocals and plenty of sax-a-ma-phone)

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Bibio – Sleep On The Wing (Warp Records)

(Bibio keeps up his hot streak and folk tendencies with another lovely collection)

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Sam Prekop – Comma (Thrill Jockey)

(Sea and Cake frontman ventures into techno for this solo album, beautiful rich synths)

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DJ Lostboi and Torus – The Flash (Queeste)

(Float away on DJ Lostboi’s soundclouds, inspiring morning music)

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The Phantasy – Ibiza Pt.I

(Goddamn, this makes me miss the dancefloor! Killer techno and house tunes from the Prince)

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Why Bonnie – Voice Box EP (Fat Possum)

(Indie pop that sounds like 1992 and Tusk era Fleetwood Mac, no complaints here)

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Route 8 – Rewind The Days of Youth (Lobster Theremin)

(Route 8 just keeps on getting better at writing classic house and techno jams)

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Mac Miller – Circles (Warner)

(An artist that was clearly still coming into his own, RIP)

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And an unfortunate last minute RIP to Viktor Vaughn aka MF DOOM aka King Geedorah aka Metal Face Terrorist

Well, shit, here we are. Welcome to 2021 y’all, let’s move on and cautiously, carefully put all the shit piles in the rearview.

Fingers optimistically crossed.

Cheers and love,

ml

INAUDIBLE’S TOP 15 of 2019

December 18, 2019
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Another year, another big fat list! Hello to all, and welcome to INAUDIBLE’s 11th annual end of year list extravaganza!

Without further ado, in stunning alphabetical order!

INAUDIBLE’S FAVE RECORDS OF 2019

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Bibio – Ribbons (Warp Records)

Stephen Wilkinson’s Bibio project has been shape-shifting for a decade now – from folktronica to glitch hop to yacht rock to ambient drone with many other deviations in between. But with Ribbons, Wilkinson leans heavily on the pastoral folk stylings of his earliest work, while somehow combining almost every genre he’s tipped his hat to in the past ten years. The result is a standout album from an already strong discography.

Some tracks even have an almost Celtic feel to them with subtle fiddles amongst his relaxed finger-picking. While listening to this record, my daughter Sylvia would do an almost mournful jig to “It’s Your Bones” and “Patchouli May”, swaying back and forth to a rhythm she didn’t even know she had yet.

Ribbons is a record that has continually made me wistful throughout 2019, and Bibio has appeared on 5 of 11 of INAUDIBLE’s lists. More please!

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Diiv – Deceiver (Captured Tracks)

Goddamn, when the first three new Diiv singles came out ahead of the full album I could not get enough of them. Zachary Cole Smith et al. had done it again! But this time instead of leeching inspiration from The Cure, mbv, and dream pop jangle, they expertly mined the post-rock underground heroes that ceaselessly played in my 1990’s Shockwave Discman. Versus, Polvo, Seam, Eric’s Trip, June of 44! Even some Sonic Youth and Gish-era Pumpkins thrown in for good measure.

Deceiver hit my nostalgia button harder than any album possibly ever has, and the guitars are perfectly recorded.

Have a listen to “Blankenship” here.

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DJ Python – Derretirse EP (Dekmantel)

Brian Piñeyro aka DJ Python released the excellent Derretirse this year on Dekmantel. I don’t really know what deep reggaeton means, but that’s what everyone is calling this set of lush 110 bpm, Artificial Intelligence era electronica.

Piñeyro skillfully taps into the vibe of so many early IDM records, and creates a mix of beauty, nostalgia, and melancholy. A little Boards of Canada here, a dash of Speedy J, and Autechre to match, yet it still feels very fresh and new, and the bass, oh yeah, it’s deep and heady.

Check it out here!

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Fennesz – Agora (Touch Records)

If I had to pick my overall favourite record in 2019, I think it would have to be Agora. It is by far my most listened to album of the year. It was the soundtrack to my early morning commutes all of last spring and still gets steady rotation.

It’s 4 tracks, all of them about 10 minutes each, and all of them creating their own perfect little sonic mindfucks — but they’re gentle and pleasing. Often when people think of Fennesz, they may think harsh, grating, too experimental, but Agora is smooth, calm, and blissful, featuring rich synthsizers and great guitar distortion.

And guess what? Rich synths and processed guitars is a combination that truly works for this guy right here! One reviewer likened the guitars in “We Trigger The Sun” to the moody chords found on The Cure’s Disintegration — and Agora definitely creates a similar vibe.

I was lucky enough to see Fennesz play during Montreal’s excellent noise festival, Suoni Per Il Popolo, and he had my entire body vibrating and floating around the venue for the duration of his set. It was amazing and intense and the work of a real master of the genre.

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Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana (Keep Cool)

This’ll make it 5 times on INAUDIBLE’s list for Gangsta Gibbs. He and Madlib rejoin forces to try and outdo the heights they set with their 2014 collab, Piñata, and pretty much make good on it. While it may not have the instant classic feel of their first album, Bandana still offers up a one-two punch from the duo.

Madlib is at his most sonically gritty and Gibbs at his most lyrically introspective here. Guest turns from Pusha T, Killer Mike, Yasiin Bey, Anderson .Paak, and Black Thought help add a little extra flow to the album, but the best part is that they all sound like they’re having a damn good time making damn good music. Crime Pays!

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Helado Negro – This Is How You Smile (RVNG Intl)

Robert Carlos Lange has been recording as Helado Negro for close to a decade, but This Is How You Smile is the first record of his I’ve ever listened to. Leaving his experimental predilections behind, Smile is a modern day folk record, echoing Devendra Banhart’s Mala, yet with a uniqueness all its own.

Songs alternate seamlessly from English to Spanish and there’s a playfulness to the whole album that’s had me returning to again and again all year. Tracks like “Fantasma Vega” and “Running” showcase Lange’s strengths as a songwriter, while penultimate track “Two Lucky” shows how a simple guitar lick and great vocals can make a song so meaningful.

I missed him at this year’s Mile Ex End Music Fest, but hope he comes back to town in 2020. Great record!

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Jai Paul – He/Do You Love Her Now (XL Recordings)

These two songs were mined from Jai Paul‘s infamously leaked recording sessions of 2013. They were never heard until now and may be the best songs he’s ever written. It’s hard to compare to the fantastic leaked record now that so much time has passed, but these two songs are sensual slowburn jams that you can play over and over and over.

In fact, my good friend Stew has played “He” over 400 times this year! Give it a listen and decide whether Stew is insane or just has wicked taste in music!

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Kanye West – Jesus is King (Def Jam)

I dunno, maybe it’s because I grew up on Jesus Christ Superstar and going to Midnight mass every Christmas or something, because I think Jesus is King is fire.

Kanye’s whole second baptism might be weirdly dogmatic and a bit ridiculous, and of course, there’s still some cringe-worthy lyrics here — “Chick Fil-A” anyone? But I can dig this new side of Yeezy. Which is surprising since I was oh sooo ready to leave him in the dust after the woefully depressing and disappointing Ye.

Now send me some free Yeezy crocs and let’s walk on water together in 2020.

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Loscil – Equivalents (Kranky)

I’ve seen Scott Morgan perform as Loscil four times now, but nothing could compare to his set at Place-des-Arts as part of this year’s Mutek festival. Huge theatre, huge visuals, massive sound.

Playing tracks off Equivalents, Morgan had the packed crowd in an uneasy meditative trance. The monochromatic visuals pulsed in perfect sync to the music, and the concert effortlessly showed us why he is so critically adored.

This is Loscil’s fourth time on an INAUDIBLE list. And in case Equivalents isn’t enough for 2019, he also just released Lifelike, which is the soundtrack to an Austrian video game, and as with all his music, is just as easy to get lost in.

Loscil is prolific and humble. A true talent. Go buy all of his records right now please.

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Pan American – A Son (Kranky)

Mark Nelson has been making music for 25 years now, both with his revered post-rock group Labradford, and under his Pan American moniker.

As Pan American, Nelson has flirted with ambience, drone, dub and minimal techno, but with his first release in six years, he brings it back full-circle using the guitar as the album’s languid centrepiece, book-ended with a little dulcimer, and featuring his muted yet haunting voice. The result is an emotionally powerful album that creates a quietly somber mood that completely washes over you.

It is definitely his most mature album to date. Songs about trains, family, and fading memories are delivered in Nelson’s whisper-sing style, amidst a spare assembly of unfussy guitar and muted electronics. It’s an album that is sure to be overlooked, but one that should be essential.

Perfect for snowy candlelit nights, lying on the floor with a glass of Scotch. Check it out here.

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Project Pablo – Sofware EP (VMP)

2019 for Patrick Holland aka Project Pablo was one heck of a breakout year! He released three stellar records – Low Wings and Sofware on his own imprint, Verdicchio Music, as well as, the excellent Inside Unsolved on the revered Ghostly label. And if that wasn’t enough, he just dropped his live set from this year’s edition of Mutek. Any one of these releases could be on this list all by itself.

Project Pablo has truly developed a sound all his own, and is making a name for himself as one of Montreal’s finest electronic artists! Go see him live in your city!

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Skee Mask – 808BB and ISS004 (Ilian Tape)

Last year’s excellent Compro is still on rotation over here, and Skee Mask has dropped two excellent EP’s this year to boot.

Ending the 2010’s on a high note, Skee Mask’s two records, 808BB and ISS004 are both victory laps, and subtle showcases that Bryan Müller is just getting fired up.

These tunes show us that he’s ready to start the 2020’s on the dancefloor. “Trackheadz” is a bona fide club banger, while “RZZ” is like a classic Burial track at 140 bpm. But he hasn’t lost any of that heady spliffed-out goodness here either, so if you want you can sink into your couch, close your eyes, and imagine yourself on the dancefloor instead. Both options will work jusssst fine.

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Toro Y Moi – Outer Peace (Carpark Records)

It’s true, I have a man crush on Chaz Bear. How could I not? His smile is just so darn infectious. Almost as infectious as the bass line on “Ordinary Pleasure”.

Toro Y Moi’s discography, like Bibio’s, is restless in its varied style. Chaz has been the harbinger of chillwave, he’s tried out disco, crunchy guitar rock, deep ambience, and more. But with Outer Peace he returns to the lo-fi funk of 2011’s Underneath the Pine, adds a little steady 4/4, and has crafted his sunniest and most fun album to date.

It’s pure summer driving music. Windows down, arm hanging out the window like the tounge of a thirsty dog, sunglasses and infectious smile of your own, as you head bob to them grooooooves. Love it.

Oh and check out the filmed in Montreal video for “New House”.

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Tyler, the Creator – IGOR (Columbia)

Tyler, the Creator showed us he was more than a punk ass kid with 2017’s Flower Boy and he has only continued to grow with IGOR, his strongest collection of music to date. While Tyler has always been chameleonic, on IGOR his restlessness feels like a conscious choice, not merely the jittering impatience of a young star looking to explore new sounds.

This confidence allows him to resist being tied down to any one identity, be it musically or sexually. Young T has grown up and has caused a quiet “Earfquake” with the kaleidoscopic IGOR. Let’s keep it rollin’.

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William Basinski – On Time Out Of Time (Temp Res)

The last song on William Basinski’s cosmic new album, “4(E+D)4(ER=EPR)”, is my most listened to song of 2019, according to the music streaming data makers. And William Basinski’s music has been playing out as a soundtrack to my life for many a moon now.

He’s been on INAUDIBLE’s list 5 times in a decade and will most likely only continue to find his way there. 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, think deeply on the past, and excitedly about the future.

Yes! Made it! Check out these other fine releases below as well!

Love you and thanks for reading (all three of you)!

2020 comin’ y’all! Let’s fly.

HONORABLE AUDIBLES

Danny Brown – U Know What I’m Sayin? (Warp)
Corridor – Junior (Sub Pop)
CFCF – Liquid Colours (BGM Solutions)
Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything…? (4AD)  

JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes… (Universal)
Malibu – One Life (Joyful Noise)
Sandro Perri – Soft Landing (Constellation Records)
Andre Bratten – Pax Americana (Smalltown Supersound)

R.I.P. David Berman (1967-2019)

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2018

December 18, 2018

Hello everyone and welcome to the 10th edition of INAUDIBLE’s end of year to-do list!

For a limited time, check it out in stunning alphabetical order!

INAUDIBLE’s TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2018

1. Amen Dunes – Freedom (Sacred Bones)

I saw Amen Dunes live at Le Ritz in Montreal and the show made me love the album even more. It sounds like the sum of its numerous rock and roll influences, but Freedom, is still unassumingly a style all its own.

Such a great record! “Believe” is one of my favourite songs of the year.

2. Aphex Twin – Collapse EP (Warp Records)

It’s nice to know that even after 100 years, Richard D. James is still an innovator. These songs sound fresh and joyful, and mang oh mang, do they bump in dem headphones.

Check out the “Collapse” video here.

3. bblisss – Various Artists (bblisss records)

Although technically not a 2018 release, this gem was released as a cassette in 2016, and finally pressed to vinyl this year. This is the best ambient compilation I have heard in a long time.

It features gorgeous tracks from Pendant (aka Huerco S.), DJ Paradise (aka uon), and Naemi. It easily rivals the very finest of Kompakt’s long-running Pop Ambient series. This album will be on rotation for years to come.

4. Benoit Pioulard – Slow Spark, Soft Spoke (Dauw Records)

Again, not a 2018 release (it came out in ’17), however, this was the album I played at the hospital while my girlfriend was in labour. It will be forever connected with the birth of my daughter Sylvia, and that absolutely incredible and surreal night (and day! and year!).

Slow Spark is calming and drony and beautiful. Pioulard seems to be able to make lo-fi ambient music with ease and grace, as he also released the equally as chill, Lignin Poise in 2017 too.

5. bvdub – Drowning in Daylight (Apollo Records)

This album is Brock Van Wey‘s 31st full-length! He is beyond prolific. I can’t say I’ve listened to even 1/3 of his output, but Drowining in Daylight has been on consistent rotation since it was released in September. The addition of beats to his ambient soundscapes brings his music to a whole new level.

6. The Internet – Hive Mind (Columbia Records)

Even after a Grammy win, I still think they have one of the worst band names around. Nevertheless, Syd and her crew have re-purposed funk and R&B slow-jams for the kids. I saw them play live at Metropolis in December and the band brought it — Syd smiling and hamming it up for the crowd, and Steve and Patrick were tight as hell on guitar and bass. Really fun show and a great album with some next level low-end bass lines.

Check out da funk right here.

7. The Sea and Cake – Any Day (Thrill Jockey Records)

As I said earlier with AFX, it’s amazing that after 100 years, The Sea and Cake are still releasing consistently fine records. Yes, you definitely know what you’re gonna get with a Sea and Cake record, but it’s surprising how enjoyable their albums always seem (at least to me).

They’ve been one of my fave bands for close to 75 years, so I’m able to just slip into their familiar sound instantaneously. Still, I’d argue that Any Day is their strongest album in a cool decade.

8. Shinichi Atobe – Heat (DDS Records)

Cult legend, Shinichi Atobe does indeed bring the mafuckin’ heat with this collection of stripped down, bare-bones techno. Like Omar S, Atobe serves his techno straight-up, no fuckery, and builds his songs from the bottom up until they are bursting with subtle grooves. This is my fave record to date from this mysterious producer. More hand claps please!

Listen: “So Good So Right 2

9. Skee Mask – Compro (Ilian Tape)

The music nerds are calling this one a future classic, and I think they are absolutely right. Compro’s sound is already timeless and it’s real easy to get swept into its world of beats, glitches, grooves, and low-end bass.

Listen: “50 Euro to Break Boost

10. Yves Tumor – Safe In The Hands Of Love (Warp Records)

No album felt as thrilling upon first few listens, than Yves Tumor’s Safe In The Hands Of Love. I called it emo-thrash-tronica at one point, and think it’s fitting.

It’s punk rock in a world where rock and roll is long dead. It can be gentle and moving at one moment, and then chaotic and challenging the next. “Licking an Orchid” and “Lifetime” are two incredible songs that grow with each listen, and the entire record is chock full of earworms and an (un)healthy wall of fuzzzz.

HONOURABLE AUDIBLES (click album titles to sample a track)

Freddie GibbsFreddie (ESGN Records)
Theory of MovementTheory of Movement (Duke’s)
Anthony NaplesTake Me With You (ANS Records)
LoidisA Parade, In the Place I Sit… (anno Records)
Steve HauschildtDissolvi (Ghostly International)
Galcher Lustwerk200% (Lustwerk Music)

Quick and to the point. Happy 2019 tout le monde! Cheers, ml.

INAUDIBLE’s BEST OF 2017

December 22, 2017

Hello everybody! Welcome to INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF LIST: EDITION #9! Without further ado, let’s get down to the nit and the grit and reveal INAUDIBLE’s favourite musical moments of 2017.

FAVE EP’S, SINGLES, 12’s of 2017

click album cover to sample a track

Grant - No Lights EP

Grant – No Lights EP

See Other - Linda EP

See Other – Linda EP














Lobster Theremin is a fantastic record label. Head Lobster, Asquith, and his team released 30 records in 2017, and Grant and See Other are just two highlights among many. Grant is my favourite house producer of last year, as I love his earlier releases on Mork and Lauren Bacall, and See Other’s propulsive 4/4 beats have continually had me coming back for more. Check ’em.

Ozel AB - Workshop 24

Ozel AB – Workshop 24

D. Tiffany - Blue Dream

D. Tiffany – Blue Dream












 

Ozel AB has also put out music with Lobster Theremin, but 2017 sees him releasing Workshop’s 24th release, and it’s a real good one. Deep, introspective, eyes-closed head boppers for those in the know. While Vancouver’s D. Tiffany keeps up the Van City hype and drops another four solid tracks of eclectic bass-leaden house music.

HONORABLE AUDIBLES OF 2017

click album cover to sample a track

There was a ton of excellent music this year that I enjoyed from all different genres. From hip-hop to rock to ambient, 2017 showcased some great highlights and guilty pleasures…

Lotta Sea Lice

Courtney & Kurt – Lotta Sea Lice

Galcher Lustwerk – Dark Bliss

The opening track on a Kurt Vile album is always fantastic, and it’s no different here with “Over Everything” on Lotta Sea Lice, his fun collab with Courtney Barnett. The two musicians compliment each other really well, and the album is full of straight ahead good ol’ blue collar rock ‘n roll. Kurt and Courtney version 2017! Very easy listening.

Galcher Lustwerk is one of the chillest dudes in techno and although nothing will ever be able to beat his sumptuous 100% Galcher mix from 2013, his much-anticipated proper debut Dark Bliss still offers up a set of deep and trippy house numbers featuring smooth beats and his hypnotic vocals. It’s club music for those favouring their vape pens over their mixed drinks and I be diggin’ it.

Colleen - A Flame

Colleen – A Flame, My Love

Kelly Lee Owens

Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens

I’ve been listening to Colleen since her debut on The Leaf Label in 2003, but seeing her live at last year’s Mutek, made me really see what an accomplished musician she is. Her set had me mesmerized. With A Flame, My Love, A Frequency, she abandons her oft-used viola de gamba for synths, and the result is just as immersive as her earlier work, and shows a musician always willing to embrace the new.

Speaking of new, Kelly Lee Owens was a relative unknown at the start of this year, until she released her debut album on Smalltown Supersound, and she now finds herself on many best of lists. Reminiscent of early Grimes, Owens makes moody electronic music and uses her voice to anchor the listener in. Great stuff.

Bibio - Phantom Brickworks

Bibio – Phantom Brickworks

Bing & Ruth

Bing & Ruth – No Home






 

Bibio has constantly reinvented himself over the course of a decade and a half-dozen records – from lo-fi folktronica, to hip-hop beats, to leftfield and even to yacht rock – and he’s worn each hat well. But with Phantom Brickworks, his first ambient album, the hat’s never fit so damn comfy and snug. The music on this album feels effortless. It’s soothing and haunting and makes for a great vibe to wake up to in the morning or zone out to at night. Well done, sir.

Bing & Ruth aka David Moore has produced my favourite piano-based ambient record of the year. Unlike Bibio’s more languid and improvisational approach, the tracks on No Home Of The Mind feel composed and intellectual, but that doesn’t mean they’re not emotional. The album is modern classical in its execution, and as soon as opener “Starwood Choker” begins, the listener is immediately swept in. Highly rec’d.

Kelela - Take Me Apart

Kelela – Take Me Apart

Vince-Staples-Big-Fish-Theory

Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

Kelela is the low-key Solange for 2017 and with Take Me Apart she further refines the future R&B sound she’s been developing over the last five years. Working with hot ticket producers like Arca, Kingdom, and Jam City, Kelela is in full on sultry mode throughout. Whether the tempo is fast or subdued she keeps the sensual vibe running from start to finish. Insert fire emoji here.

With Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples leans hard on electronic dance music producers like SOPHIE and Flume and successfully crosses genres, popping out club bangers and tracks to bop yer head to while you sink heavy-lidded into the couch and a cloud of smoke. I was a bit surprised at Vince’s corporate sponsorship with a soda company, but in our current hyper-branded culture, why wouldn’t a young musician want to supplement his cash flow and rep the same soft drink as Lebron James?

Mac Demarco - This Old Dog

Mac Demarco – This Old Dog

Nick Hakim - Green Twins

Nick Hakim – Green Twins

At 27, Mac Demarco is already feeling wise and grown up, and it shows on This Old Dog, his most straight-forward and easy listening record to date. Some longtime fans have said they miss the young nutso Mac, with his weird tunings and goofy stage antics, but I like this new old cur. It’s a good look on him and he knows it.

D.C. native, Nick Hakim could easily find himself on a bill with Mac and fit right in. Mixing the stylings of Conan Mocassin and Unknown Mortal Orchestra with a 1970’s soul vibe, Hakim’s debut Green Twins makes good on his earlier EP’s and shows a young musician truly stepping into his own. His live show at Bar Le Ritz in Montreal this April was excellent, and I look forward to further evolutions of his laidback sound.

Gas - Narkopop

Gas – Narkopop

DJ Sports - Modern Species

DJ Sports – Modern Species

Seventeen years after Wolfgang Voigt put out his masterwork Pop, he returns with variations on the same theme avec Narkopop. If someone put a gun to my head and screamed: “Tell me your favourite album of all time, NOW!” and in that moment I blubbered “Pop by Gas”, I could die happy with that choice, as I’ve been listening to it consistently enough over the last fifteen years. So then, a new Gas record is a pretty big deal, and as expected Narkopop is just as visceral as his earlier work, but it walks a much darker path. It’s moody and consuming and worthy of about seventeen years worth of listens. Sounds good to me.

I don’t know a goddamn thing about DJ Sports. All I know is that his name is pretty stupid, and his music is pretty awesome. It’s as if I found an old burnt CD from Uhfska in a box somewhere and discovered a classic electronic album from twenty years ago. Modern Species is a throwback to late 90’s house and jungle, but it also features some very nice beatless moments, and there’s a track that reminds me a lot of Arovane too. Definitely worth a few spins in your Discman.

GUILTY PLEASURES OF 2017

the xx - I See You

The xx – I See You

Drake - More Life

Drake – More Life

The first time I listened to I See You, I thought it was The xx’s flattest record yet, but then their hooks and melodies started to get lodged in the old noggin’ and before I knew it, I was playing “Replica” six times in a row everyday for a fortnight. Jamie xx is a formidable producer and while I still think In Colour is his strongest release to date, apparently there’s still a little space left for some angsty songs about heartache in my life.

Is Drake a good rapper? Negative. Is he a good singer? Not at all. But is he a taste maker? Without a doubt. His ‘playlist’ More Life, features more guests, more genres, more samples, and more producers than you can shake your booty too. And it sure has its share of fun moments. More tune for your head top, indeed.

INAUDIBLE’S TOP NINE ALBUMS OF 2017

9. William Basinski – A Shadow in Time

William Basinski is up there with Wolfgang Voigt in my books as one of ambient music’s living legends. Like Voigt, Basinski’s catalogue has been on consistent rotation in my quiet morning moments for the better part of a decade. But as much as I enjoy his music, I always thought Basinski (not unlike Herr Voigt) was probably a pretentious jerk that took himself way too seriously, but thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions.

I finally saw him live this year at POP Montreal and man, what a cool and down to earth dude! He played the two new pieces from A Shadow in Time to a packed and sweaty audience, and in the end, he slowly faded the music out for a very long time, and as hushed as it got, you could still hear everything perfectly amongst the burps and whispers of the crowd.

William Basinski may be a down to earth guy, but he’s got his eyes clearly fixed on the goddamn stars! I love him.

8. Beach Fossils – Somersault

I was under the impression that the guys in Beach Fossils had moved on to new things, since there hadn’t been a peep from them since 2013’s excellent Clash The Truth. So I was quite happy to see a new record from the Brooklyn band to help kick off the summer.

Less derivative (and douchey) than DIIV, and more varied in their songwriting than Real Estate, the songs on Somersault, reveal the Fossils at their most mature, and provides a suite of emotional and melodic indie rock tunes. The addition of strings and horns throughout the album also helps give their sound a sonic boost. In my opinion, after Real Estate’s rather stale, In Mind, it’s safe to say that Beach Fossils have usurped their place for fave ‘indie’ band.

7. Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice

Gangsta Gibbs rises from the ashes of a drive-by, jail time, and an acquitted rape charge, and returns with You Only Live 2wice, his hardest and most accomplished collection of tracks yet. Gibbs and I couldn’t be more opposite, but I’ve been fascinated with his rhymes and flow for a long time now, and it seems like he just keeps getting better.

Seeing him live at Theatre Fairmount in Montreal this summer was an absolute treat. Like a total pro, he blasted out his complicated raps for well over an hour and didn’t seem to take a breath the entire time. Plus he was humble, quietly thanking his fans for sticking with him through all the muck, before cranking the bass back up to eleven. More Kane, more Gibbs!

6. Fresco & Irisarri – La Equidistancia

For a half decade, Leandro Fresco released one song a year on Kompakt’s annual Pop Ambient compilation, and they were always highlights to my ears. He finally released his first solo album in 2015, and it’s really good, but teaming up with Rafael Anton Irisarri (aka The Sight Below) seems an inspired choice. La Equidistancia is my favourite ambient album of the year, because it creates the perfect soundscape to get lost into while writing, reading, studying, thinking …

The entire album can swirl by in a blip until final track “Un Horizonte en Llamas”, which sounds a lot like Boards of Canada, but also creates the sensation of the clouds lifting and clearing, allowing you to zone back in to your world, and wake up back to your reality. It’s an impressive effect and I doubt it was done on purpose, but it’s some really great stuff all around. Let’s hope they keep this partnership up in 2018.

5. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

Grizzly Bear return after a five-year hiatus with the excellent Painted Ruins, yet another collection of intricate and impressive songs. There was a lot of talk about how a new Grizzly Bear album would fit in the current music streaming landscape? As if our collective attention spans have become so short no one can even listen to an hour’s worth of music from the same band anymore.

My response: a new LP by Grizzly Bear fits just fine thank you very much. Music is music is music. And I for one think a suite of music from one band (aka an album) still works just as goddamn well as it did when Robert Plant was howling about getting his lemon squeezed. Music is timeless. Period. And Grizzly Bear are an excellent example of this.

With Painted Ruins they have written the record they wanted to, and it is an album that rewards with repeat listens, as their compositions are rich, chaotic, melodic, and vocally fantastic. I’ve listened to Painted Ruins countless times and it’s still revealing itself with each spin.

Seeing them play a sold out show at Metropolis this year showcased a band still at the height of their powers and still very relevant in our current music culture.

4. Tyler the Creator – (Scum Fuck) Flower Boy

Tyler the Creator grows up and releases his most cohesive and strongest musical statement to date with Flower Boy. His gravelly voice and penchant for sleek production mixed with infectious samples finally take centre stage, because Tyler decided to let the music speak for itself and himself, allowing listeners to shake off some of his more polarizing moments of the past.

Lead single “Who Dat Boy” is a straight-up banger, and the entire album is chock full of catchy hooks and pleasant earworms throughout. It also acts as somewhat of a cathartic statement for Young T, as he (sort of) claims ties with the LGBTQ community, and attempts to explain his obsession with cars and attention-seeking antics stem from loneliness and boredom. Guests like Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky, Kali Uchs, Jaden Smith, and Lil’ Wayne help round out the vocals and bolster the album’s overall appeal.

Like Vince, Tyler reps consumer culture, but thankfully none of it overshadows what we’re really here for: the tunes. Flower Boy is definitely the hookiest album of the year, and one that I can play while at the gym just as comfortably as when having friends over for dinner. Let’s see where Dat Boy will go next…

3. Four Tet – New Energy

It’s been 16 years since Four Tet aka Kieran Hebden released the groundbreaking Rounds, and in the span of almost twenty years, he’s put out consistently excellent music while never pigeonholing his sound. Over the last seven years or so, Hebden has moved his musical aesthetic from couch to club, and with New Energy he presents all his strengths in one record, from new age chill to dancefloor banger, with all the little ambient nooks and eclectic crannies in between.

Lead single “Two Thousand and Seventeen” is possibly Hebden’s most moving track since “Angel Echoes”. It could easily be an unreleased track from 2003’s Rounds, and is a perfect example of the cyclical nature of electronic music. Unlike any other genre, there’s a timelessness to electronic music, and I predict “Two Thousand and Seventeen” will sound just as heartbreakingly on point in 2022 as it does now.

New Energy works your head, your mind, and your dance moves, as showcased on the top notch track “SW9 9SL”. Hebden is a class act and continues to show he’s one of the most accomplished and varied musicians in the electronic music scene.

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Kung Fu Kenny drops his fourth LP DAMN. with the precision and discipline of a martial artist and leaves all of his contemporaries in the dark.

The production on DAMN. is stripped down and raw in comparison to Butterfly’s intricate live arrangements, and like A Tribe Called Quest’s excellent album from last year, DAMN. is a brilliant combination of the timeless and the modern, the old school and the next-level. And for the most part it bumps HARD.

Does he miss the mark here and there trying to be a bit too radio-friendly? Perhaps. But he more than makes up for it with tracks like “DNA” and “FEAR”. “DNA” has gotta be 2017’s most undeniable fight song, while “FEAR” is probably the most complete song in his discography, the perfect culmination of who Kendrick Lamar is as a rapper and storyteller in 2017. It’s emotional, personal, and a clear standout on an album full of standouts.

But all this talk of Kendrick as the GOAT seems a bit hasty. Let’s wait a bit, no? Let’s see what he does next, and let’s see if after all the nods, and reps, and hype and success of this album, he actually does remain humble.

1. Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

Bet you weren’t expecting this one, eh?

Earlier this year, maybe around March or April, I listened to Come On Die Young for the first time in close to ten years, and I couldn’t believe how perfectly it suited my current mood, as well as, how much I used to fucking love this band. In the early aughts, me and Mogwai were pretty goddamn tight.

The first time I ever heard them I was driving home, listening to Brave New Waves on CBC, and the great Patti Schmidt played “Burn Girl-Prom Queen”, a ten minute slow burn of a song, that had me goose-bumped and chain-smoking, and driving past my house for another spin around the neighborhood.

Perhaps more than any of the ‘revered’ bands from my early twenties, Mogwai were able to envelop me like no other, they knew how to absorb my mind completely, whether they were playing at a sensitive hush or with the angsty urge to make my ears hum and ring. They wrote the music I wanted to make. Soft, loud, dark, introspective and volatile, met with occasional moments of quiet beauty.

But somewhere along the last decade and a half, I tossed Mogwai and their post-rock kin aside for all things electronic. And yet, my musical tastes are somewhat cyclical, and after listening to their newest record “Every Country’s Sun” as a soundtrack to autumn, I was surprised to hear that Mogwai were still on top of their game. And now, instead of just being loud for loud’s sake, their sound grows outwards rather than just up up up. Their guitars sound like synths, their synths like guitars, and the bass and drums are as driving as ever.

Opener “Coolverine” sets the mood immediately, and draws the listener into a set of comfortably claustrophobic tunes that mix electronics with guitars, art-rock with grit, and volume with ambience, all to emotional effect.

I saw them live at The Corona in Montreal in early December and I’m still thinking about the show. It was special for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’d somehow never seen them in all the years I’ve been a fan, secondly, it’s probably going to be my last concert for a while, since I’ll soon be singing lullabies to a newborn instead of bopping my head in a club, thirdly, it was a rather cathartic experience after a tumultuous week at work, and finally, they were absolutely stellar live.

They showcased most of the new album, highlighting how strong the new songs really are, but they also played “Cody”, “Mogwai Fear Satan”, and opened with “Hunted By A Freak” (a personal favourite), which had me fighting back tears as I sat on the balcony in the dark by myself. Earplugs were a necessity, but it wasn’t until the encore where they really aurally assaulted us, and I truly loved every single minute of it.

As I write this, I’m listening to the title track of the new album on vinyl and it’s soundin’ real heavy and real nice, and so for these reasons Mogwai’s ninth LP, “Every Country’s Sun” is INAUDIBLE’s favourite album of 2017.

Yes! I made it to the end!

Thanks for reading, happy 2018 to all y’all! I’m looking forward to all the craziness my 40th year will bring….

Big Love,

ml

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

tumblr_n1vdhegxpq1rd76vjo1_500

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.

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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.