Posts Tagged ‘warp records’

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

——————————————————————————————

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

——————————————————————————————

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.

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

April 30, 2013

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Yep it’s finally happening: Boards of Canada have announced they will release their fourth full-length album courtesy of Warp Records – eight long years after the wistful The Campfire Headphase in 2005. After spending the last week transmitting codes on special 12″s, YouTube videos, warped audio clips, and even on TV, Michael Sandison’s and Marcus Eoin’s cryptic message ended up being a grainy clip of VHS static and synth drones, which arrived the same day as the details of its 17-track Tomorrow’s Harvest LP. The forthcoming album is now available for pre-order via Bleep, and official release date is June 10th.

Judging by the music on the clip and the names of the tracks, this looks like it’s going to be a dark and foreboding album. Anticipation begins…

TRACKLIST
01 Gemini
02 Reach For The Dead
03 White Cyclosa
04 Jacquard Causeway
05 Telepath
06 Cold Earth
07 Transmisiones Ferox
08 Sick Times
09 Collapse
10 Palace Posy
11 Split Your Infinities
12 Uritual
13 Nothing Is Real
14 Sundown
15 New Seeds
16 Come To Dust
17 Semena Mertvykh

Grizzly Bear at L’Olympia in Montreal

September 29, 2012

23 September 2012

Warp Records recording artist and indie-rock darlings Grizzly Bear, returned to Montreal after five years to close out the POP Montreal Festival in style, and played to a jam-crammed and delighted crowd at The Olympia Theatre. Showcasing tracks from their brand new album Shields, interspersed with hits from their acclaimed earlier work, the Brooklyn quartet revealed why they are one of the most revered bands in the “indie” world – playing their challenging compositions with ease, switching instruments mid-song when needed, and delivering strong and near pitch-perfect vocal performances throughout.

Their stage show was simple yet effective – the band set up in a line on stage and with the help of excellent lighting as a backdrop (18 jellyfish-like lanterns flashing and moving in sync with the music), they created a fitting mood for the duration of their hour-long set.

As they began with “Speak in Rounds” from Shields, I was immediately pulled in, but started having a strange sensation that it sounded almost too good, that there would be no variation from recorded material to live performance, and that I could simply close my eyes and not be able to tell the difference between the two. However, as the lanterns slowly rose from the subterranean depths of the murky sea, and they played Shields opener “Sleeping Ute”, varying the tempo a bit and adding an extra vocal hook I began to truly get sucked in, and by the time they started “Yet Again”, I was one of the converts, not caring that I was a little too far back from the stage than I liked and couldn’t quite feel the sound reverberating through my body. It didn’t matter, Grizzly Bear came to perform and did so like true professionals.

Highlights for me included “Shift”, which was perfectly rendered live, “Foreground”, which with the help of sombre lighting was incredibly powerful, “While You Wait For The Others”, and “Ready, Able”, which are two of my faves from “Veckatimest”, “Gun-Shy”, which the more I listen to is becoming a fave on Shields, and of course the closing track “Sun in Your Eyes“, an eight-minute opus that has hints of theatre and prog and is arguably the band’s best example to date of their overall sound. Just great.

As I’ve said before here on INAUDIBLE, any time a Warp Records artist comes to play in your town, you are wise not to miss them, because you can be assured it’s gonna be tops. Check out Shields if you haven’t yet, as it will surely be on countless end of year lists, including mine. Peace.

SET LIST
1. Speak in Rounds
2. Adelma
3. Sleeping Ute
4. Cheerleader
5. Lullabye
6. Yet Again
7. Little Brother
8. Shift
9. Gun-Shy
10. Ready, Able
11. A Simple Answer
12. Foreground
13. While You Wait For The Others
14. Two Weeks
15. Half Gate
16. Sun In Your Eyes
–Encore–
17. Knife
18. On A Neck, On A Spit

* photo courtesy of Mateusz Garbulinski (from their show at Massey Hall in Toronto)

Bibio – Mind Bokeh (Warp)

April 6, 2011

For Juno Records

When Ambivalence Avenue came out in 2009, I quipped that this was a new and invigorated Bibio — Bibio 2.0 — an artist finally stepping out of the BoC meets folktronica shadow that both propelled and pigeonholed his sound. Ambivalence was exciting, fresh, and a solid leap forward for UK producer Steven Wilkinson.

Now, Wilkinson has returned, hot off the heels of his lauded breakout album on Warp, with Mind Bokeh. The new album carries much the same tone as Ambivalence, combining playful vintage melodies and summer-fuelled beats — but it also sees him venturing even further out of his folky-comfort zone and pushing into new sonic territory. Wilkinson’s vocals are more prominent in the mix this time around, and with “Take off your Shirt”, he tries his hand at Phoenix-style pop, using a chunky riff and cheesy lyrics with the hopes of creating a summer banger. And to be sure, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the album, yet what may initially sound jarring ends up being a decent track after a few listens. “K for Kelson”, on the other hand, is a definite winner, seeing Wilkinson try his ear at “tropical robot pop”, and crafting an infectious poolside hit.

Other tracks see him revisiting the styles that became his trademark on Ambivalence Avenue. “Light Sleep” for example works the funk vibe in similar fashion to “Jealous of Roses”, and “More Excuses” sounds like an extension to “All the Flowers”. “Artists’ Valley”, works a crunchy Fly Lo beat and a smooth bass line outro, that’s perfect for bobbing your head during more ‘chilled out’ moments. The title track is a wandering blurry soundscape, reminiscent of BoC, and closer “Saint Christopher” may indeed be the album’s best track, featuring a light 4/4 beat and high-hat shuffle driving three interweaving guitar lines for six beautiful minutes. It’s brilliant production and a great outro to the album, and perhaps a sign of even further sonic evolutions.

The term ‘bokeh’ comes from the Japanese and has to do with staring at the out of focus areas in a photographic image; Wilkinson attempts to do this with your ears and mind, and for the most part, he succeeds. With Mind Bokeh we see Wilkinson reworking the best moments of Ambivalence Avenue and trying out a few new styles as well. It’s not a full leap forward, but Bibio 2.5 has got it going on.

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp Records)

May 3, 2010

For Juno Records

Warp Records genre-bending producer extraordinaire, Flying Lotus (née Steven Ellison), returns with the follow up to his highly successful and oft imitated Los Angeles with Cosmogramma — arguably the most anticipated electronic album of 2010. And from the opening seconds of first track “Clock Catcher”, it quickly becomes evident that Fly Lo is working on a whole new level of ‘next shit’ here. This may throw some listeners for a loop at first, however, after a couple of listens you’ll begin to understand exactly why Fly Lo has described the album as his “space opera”.

The obvious stylistic difference with Cosmogramma is that it adopts a jazzier feel to it, rather than the fragmented hip-hop of Los Angeles and 1983. Its closest reference point seems to be the stuff a later Miles and Trane would have made if they had access to the technology. The album is definitively out there, and will no doubt be just as railed against as highly lauded by the critics because of this. But for this listener, it’s a fantastically heady album with amazing beats, funked-out basslines (at times reminiscent of Squarepusher), and smooth jazz breaks, and overall it comes across as a much more personal recording for Ellison, as he attempts to tap into his family’s rich musical roots.

Fly Lo is nephew to Alice Coltrane, wife of John, and a highly accomplished jazz musician in her own right (check her out if you never have), and Auntie Alice’s influence is in the forefront here, as he samples her playing the harp, and her son Ravi playing the saxophone throughout. His collab with Thom Yorke is fine, and will no doubt be deemed a highlight, yet tracks like “Zodiac S**t”, “MmmHmm”, “Do The Astral Plane”, and “Recoiled” are major hitters on the record, and all so very different stylistically, you just gotta hear it to believe it. The album ends with “Galaxy in Janaki”, his most hip-hop track on the album, yet instead of it being a dark and ominous closer, it features a swirling symphony, frenetic bass, and seems charged with a bright optimism for the future evolution of his sound. Next shit indeed.

Check it.

Trans Am at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto

April 22, 2010

21 April 2010

Thrill Jockey’s post-rock synth trio, Trans Am, played to a full house at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on Wednesday night, and goddamn it was LOUD. My ears they still be a buzzin’. Live shows at The Horseshoe always tend to be a bit on the louder side, but Trans Am had it right cranked — to the point where it’s so loud it makes no difference even if you have your ears plugged. But I guess a little aural degradation is the price you gotta pay to live like a rock star.

I love Trans Am. But I haven’t listened to any of their albums since Red Line came out in 2000. They’re one of those bands from my youth that hold a very special and revered place in my heart. However, over the years the trio started getting weird and inconsistent, and although I liked the robot and electronic angles they were embracing, there were just so many other musicians who were making similar sounds and doing it better, and so I abandoned Trans Am for close to a decade. But when I heard they were on tour, some friends and I decided to go for nostalgia’s sake, and as an excuse to drink on a Wednesday, so we bought tickets and showed up and were pretty much blown away by their show. It was deep, dark, moody, tight, heavy, trippy, aggressive, poppy, and 100 percent relevant. In short, Trans Am still kick ass.

Drummer Sebastian Thomson was an absolute machine, banging hell out of his kit, shirtless (as always) and spitting and swearing in between tracks. Best quote from him when the crowd requested “Futureworld”: “NO. We play what we want, when we want.” Haha. Fucking rock stars. And true to his word, they didn’t play it, but it didn’t matter, their set still rocked.

Philip Manley was stellar on guitar, effortlessly playing big fat riffs and soft delayed chords to the delight of the crowd. And frontman Nathan Means is always a large presence on stage, and not just because he’s 6 foot 5. He gets right into it, all smiles and occasional looks of innocent wonder, as if while he’s playing the song he’s surprised that it’s actually his band he’s hearing. Plus he loves him some vocoder and did a sweet job playing the part of the robot last night. ‘Twas a tight set and a great one. Go see Trans Am if they play in your town.

Warp Records up and comers Nice Nice was second on the bill and also played a fun and hectic, sample heavy set, that was pretty damn loud and awesome in its own right. Check out their debut album Extra Wow at your local record store. I missed the opener’s Jonas Reinhardt because I had to work late, but all in all it was a great midweek concert to help usher in the weekend.

Loved it.

Hudson Mohawke at Wrongbar in Toronto

March 27, 2010

25 March 2010

Ross Birchard aka Hud Mo played to a wild and packed house at Wrongbar Thursday night. Returning to Toronto after two years for his proper Hogtown ‘debut’, the young producer (who recently released his full-length Butter on Warp), had the crowd acting as if they were at a rock concert. People were crowd surfing, moshing, jumping up on stage, and just going ape shit as he ripped through tracks from his last few releases. It was a great vibe and Hud Mo seemed totally excited at the capacity crowd’s reaction as he threw down his bass heavy crunked beats and “wonky” sounds. To be honest, I find Butter hard to listen to all the way through. It’s a really eclectic mix of almost too many things slapped together, however, it totally worked live, and I was glad I was able to catch this upstart musician at a small venue, cuz he’s about to blow right the fuck up.

A big props has to go out to local promoter and DJ mymanhenri who has helped bring some great talent to Toronto: Flying Lotus, Falty DL, Nosaj Thing, Mayer Hawthorne, Joker, DâM-FunK, and Hudson Mo are just some of the artists he’s helped usher in over the last year. He’s becoming known as a tastemaker around town and deserves all the cred he can get. Please keep it up my man! Good times all around.

Peace.