Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 in Music - Personal Bests

(Ideally this article would have been published in another music-related blog which is currently brewing - Intertext. Should hopefully have it up and running in time for the 2014 list..)

2014. Yes, one my top resolutions at the end of 2013 was to sort my musical self out for 2014. I'm glad to report that I did dive back into music and have totally feasted on all the goods it had to offer. It was a great year.

And never have I been better placed geographically to do just that. Was there any place better than London to be in this year? With the jungle renaissance and the exciting rise of eski/neo-grime taking place in and because of this city, I really really doubt it. Apart from maybe Glasgow in 2007, I can't say I've ever been witness to a city that's so buzzing and alive musically (hell, and everything else!) as London is at the moment. 

But that is just one side to (my) 2014 and apart from just a couple of releases drawing from these scenes, the rest of my list is a more mixed affair. And so..

Donato Dozzy - Plays Bee Mask

With dread being high on the adjective list this year, this album stood out for playing along with that vibe yet sounding so incredibly majestic at the same time. Can't think of any other set of tracks that did that this year. Possibly my favourite.

Jam City - Club Constructions Vol. 6

I unjustly gave Jam City the cold shoulder last year, but man did I lap this up this time round. Maybe it's that distant city din that's persistent throughout the tracks or maybe it's those synths that creep up later in the track above, but I found this mini-album's suppressed cinematic edge so compelling. 

Julia Holter - Loud City Song

Maybe the classic and timeless ambitions of this album make this an obvious pick, but the way Holter manages to make sense of a cacophony composed of wide-eyed wonder, minimalist influences, metropolitan jazz vibes and European avant-garde references is truly impressive. They don't make 'em like this much anymore. 

Lapalux - Nostalchic

There are so many levels of sounds and samples in this album that it can sound incredibly stuffy and overwhelming on first listen. Subsequent listens though reveal the tracks to be a really masterfully layered sequence of genuinely soulful and volatile moods, urban styles and beats. A deep album that keeps you coming back.

Forest Swords - Engravings

I guess this had been a long time coming. Would have been shocked had it ended up not making it on this list. If a gnarled and bog-buried rune-carved megalith of prehistoric rock could scream it would sound something like this.

VA - Helical Scans

The whole outsider/murky/haptic house and techno business that dragged its way all throughout 2013 started out as an exciting prospect, with LIES last year and Opal Tapes this year acting as standard bearers for these internet micro-scenes. But as I found out when turning up for Opal Tapes' launch night in mid-2013, there's only so much you can listen to before utterly giving up, declaring the whole thing pointless and heading home. This compilation at least preserves what was great about this scene by keeping the selection varied enough.

Mssingno - Mssingno EP

As mentioned above there was no shortage of quality grime this year. Mssingno's debut stood out by mixing eski's icy depths with some lighter - one could say even playful - touches. It takes something slightly special to make blatant Rihanna and R Kelly samples sounds so damn addictive!

The Focus Group - Elektrik Karousel

The album title pretty much says it all. This is one winding rollercoaster ride through the most British of British psychedelia-themed amusement parks: you only get snatches of fantastical sounds, only snippets of garbled recitations heard only in lost forest glades, and just stolen glimpses of techni-coloured potion laboratories. All throughout the ride though, the tunes never stop sparkling and lights never cease to twinkle..

Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven

This is not a vaporwave record, but both OPN and vaporwave share a similar view on two similar subjects. Vaporwave has (had?) it's eyes firmly set on the faux humanisation of the corporate machine. With R Plus Seven OPN has in turn visualised digital technology taking baby steps at trying to sound human, like a computer trying to befriend a human by speaking a made up language of what it thinks are human language signifiers. Unlike vaporwave's typically sinister probings, R Plus Seven's are often sympathetic to the computer's cause.

 Holden - The Inheritors

Not the easiest of albums to come out this year, The Inheritors is as disorientating and all over the place as it is exhilarating. It is clearly a music lover's album, encompassing everything from krautrock jams to Aphexian noodlings to just plain noise freak outs. A challenging prospect but definitely a grower.

Machinedrum - Vapor City

I left this album till the end for a reason as I'm still in two minds as to how good an album this actually is. It's first half features what is maybe the strongest set of tracks of 2013, but the second half just disintegrates into sameness. Based on it's first half alone though - a deliciously heady mix of BOC progressions, Burial-style street vibes and half jungle/half footwork beats - then this album definitely deserves a mention. That and the fact that the song above ranks top for most played on my ipod this year. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Intertext Project

New music/visual art blog/mag in progress: 

Should be up and running by early 2014.

Let's do it!