My Electronica Music Review of 2009

Category : Digital Media, Electronica, Minimal House

best_electronicaWhat a great year for electronica it’s been. I’m not going to do a list like everyone else seems to do at this time of the year. This presumes that it’s like a chart with one being better than another. No, I just want to present the music I’ve liked this year in no particular order other than as similar styles and trends. I’ve added music samples below each choice. It’s down to you to check out more of the samples and links below and list them as you wish.

Having said that, however, I must first tell you of the album I have enjoyed listening to most this year. This has to be John Hopkins “Insides” which combines the traditional and classical instrumentations of the fiddle, piano and orchestral strings and cleverly interweaves them with distorted buzzes, bass and beats. On paper it shouldn’t work but it actually creates a truly invigorating and refreshing soundscape.

Having said that I must first tell you of the album I have enjoyed listening to most this year. This has to be Jon Hopkins ‘Insides’ which combines the traditional and classical instrumentations of the fiddle, piano and orchestral strings and cleverly interweaves them with distorted buzzes, bass and beats. On paper it shouldn’t work but it actually creates a truly invigorating and refreshing soundscape.

Here’s a clip of the title track ‘Insides’ live at the ICA in London earlier this year

ochreAlong similar lines is Chris Leary’s Ochre album ‘Like Dust of the Balance’ which also mixes classically traditional strings along with acoustic guitars and a harp. Again this sounds odd when it’s written down but musically it works well.

 

 

 

traffic_jamMeanwhile back on the dance floor there’s an artist I’ve been following with enjoyment for a few years now. Mathew Jonson has been producing some of the most lush and enduring minimal house since the early part of the decade. He hails from Canada, not a place commonly known for its electronic music exportation. As well as releasing music under his own name, Jonson uses the pseudonym Cobblestone Jazz as his collaboration project. In 2007 he released an album ’23 Seconds’ which is well worth checking out and this year he has released the rather wonderful Cobblestone Jazz EP: ‘Traffic Jam’

I’ve already mentioned on this site about the delights of Nathan Fake and earlier this year I reviewed his six track ‘Hard Hands’ EP. Read the review here.

But for those who missed it here’s a track from it again.

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2009 seemed to be the year of the six track EP. One of my favourite tunes comes from the incredibly productive and meticulous (Chris) Clark and the track ‘Growls Garden’. This EP came out in March and was later followed by the album, ‘Totems Flare’ in July. Both were released by Warp Records.

 
 

Again a mention must go to the always consistent, Brazilian, Gui Boratto. His album, ‘Take my Breath Away’, I reviewed on this site too earlier this year.

Read the review here.

Here’s the title track.

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On the more quirky front, the Harmonic 313 album ‘When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence’, is the current project of Mark Pritchard, a seasoned producer and Global Underground collaborator. The album is described as “Detroit-Style” hip-hop and has lots of eclectic noises and computer voices to maintain interest throughout. It’s also a lot of fun.

The Harmonic 313 great website employs a retro video style, colour coded, Flash game. You can win an exclusive track by solving a five level word problem.

I like the way that electronica has continued to get a darker sound this year. Two good examples of this are, firstly, 2562’s album Aerial.

 

 

 

 

And secondly the dubby and bleepy Distance album ‘Repercussions’.

 

 

 

 

While I’m on the subject of darker sounds we mustn’t forget our hyper productive friend Shackleton from Skull Disco who took the Big Chill stage by storm. He released his eclectic ‘Three EPs’ LP in October.

Read and hear more on my Big Chill review.

 

 

Of tracks that stood out Fever Ray’s ‘If I Had a Heart’ is a haunting piece of music with a brilliant video to match. But strangely, unlike many people, I was a little nonplussed with the rest of her album. Too much high pitch singing for me.

Here’s the very fine, filmic, trailer like video of the song.

And to end with here are a couple of tracks that caught my ear.

The background chanting on Anton Pieete & Paul Ritch – ‘The Opera’ makes the whole track stand out from the crowd.

 

Finally Hot Natured Edits’ – ‘Electric Jones’ is just fab dance floor orientated funky fun.

 

 

Hope you like my pick of the year and enjoyed the music samples. I also hope that it has whetted your appetite to explore the selections deeper.

Gui Boratto – Take My Breath Away

Category : Digital Media, Electronica, highlight, Minimal House

guiborattoI remember what a revelation it was the first time I heard Arquipelago, one of Gui Boratto’s early singles. Although the sound of this tune was distinctively sparse his music is not definitively minimal. More importantly Boratto’s recent releases prove his ability to consistently create compelling sounds in an arena where remaining relevant is a hard task.

Now I’m not one who likes the use of vocals in electronic music unless they are heavily distorted. Indeed I tend to skip past anything that resembles a “proper” vocal. They always remind me with horror of the “I want to take you higher!” mindless disco dancer brigade. Gui Boratto is one of the rare exceptions to this rule as he manages to limit the vocals to short and minor components. On the beautifully lush “No Turning Back” Boratto’s wife, Luciana Villanova is given vocal duties. Thankfully these are short and subtly embedded into the track with plinky noises and distorted guitars and survives with no real harm done to the music. I await with anticipation a distorted vocoder vocal remix a la the 2007 “Beautiful Life “Sascha Funke Remix as a more edgy alternative.

“Take My Breath Away” develops themes and samples explored on his first album Chromophobia. On the title track Boratto employs his trademark deep throbbing drone that he so thrillingly utilized on Arquipelago. The rest of the album is liberally sprinkled with bleeps and ambient refrains and a carefully concealed bass line intermittently surfaces to dramatic effect throughout the album. This pays homage in part to New Order’s Peter Hook and shows Boratto’s ability to transcend the electronic musical genre and reach out to a wider music audience. His strength is his consistency and quality tunes and this album delivers on both.

Layo & Bushwacka and Gui Boratto @ The End (My Last Night at “The End”)

Category : Electronica, Minimal House, Politics

the_endThis is a post I wrote way back in August 2008 on a previous blog. I didn’t realise it would be my last night there…..

Ever had one of those nights out clubbing where everything just turns out to be just perfect? Saturday night was one for me. When I noticed a double bill of Layo & Bushwacka and Gui Boratto at The End. I couldn’t resist revisiting a club I’d not been to in ten years.

One of the many highlights of L&B set was their mesmerising new release “Now is the Time” which includes a ‘rap’ from the late Martin Luther King. Intentionally or not it resonates with the 1968 retrospective, being the year of Dr King’s assassination, and the nostalgia that seems to be doing the rounds at the moment. There is also a sense that the similarities of the 68’s politics of the Vietnam War and the Black Civil Rights movement relate to today’s war in Iraq and the potential first black president of the United States in Barack Obama. Politics aside their set was pulsating and either way “Now is the Time” it is set to be a classic.

At 2.30am Gui Boratto appears resplendent in a Brazil scarf and the first hour of his set is taken up with his blend of South American beats and minimal techno. It appears he’s getting a little help from Layo Paskin on the digital “decks”. The words Gui Boratto “live” on the flyer means “appearing live” not “twiddling knobs live” – presumably. I leave the club at 5.30am happy, with sore feet and the night bus home.