Amoeblog


Beats, Chimera and Life in 2009 by Cas

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 31, 2009 05:48pm | Post a Comment
2009 was an odd year of music listening for me. Unfortunately, my preferred method of absorbing new music (whilst walking around the city) was thwarted by the demise of my iPod. After my computer speakers bit the dust in the wake of the iPod disaster, I was practically denied access to my most comfortable listening spaces. Thus, a lot fell through the cracks for me. At the same time, 2009 was the year I made an effort to wrap my head around dubstep, a genre that had been exciting just as much as it was often confounding in previous years. I can’t say I necessarily understand the genre much better, probably because it’s so ill-defined and constantly shifting. But I at least got a better sense of the elements of the genre I like and the ones I could do without. With a few exceptions, my Best of Electronica 2009 list is loaded with artists and releases that were bright lights in a pretty murky atmosphere of heavy beats and bass.


Telepathe – Dance Mother

Telepathe – Dance Mother

The self-conscious hipster affectations of this Brooklyn based electro-pop duo practically dictate that I should hate them on sight. But Telepathe (pronounced “telepathy”) members Busy Gangnes and Melissa Livaudais, with production assistance from TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, make music that is as casually beguiling as their facade is tiresomely forced. That may be a backhanded compliment, but I dare you to look at the intentionally horrible 80’s choreography and ugly sweaters on display in the video for lead off track “So Fine” without rolling your eyes or groaning at least once. I suggest chucking the visuals and making your way through the album’s mix of synth textures, propulsive beats, shoegazy guitars, and detached schoolgirl chanting and singing that I found undeniably infectious.


 
Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

Bibio put out two albums of new material in 2009. The first, Vignetting the Compost, was a collection of gauzy, brittle, folk-tinged electronica that sounded as if it was being broadcast from the bottom of a well. Great stuff to be sure. But on his second ’09 effort, Ambivalence Avenue, released a mere 4 months later on the Warp label, Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) remixed his formula to grand effect. The hazy, psychedelic folk textures remained but he augmented them with brighter production, languid vocal turns, funk guitar lines reminiscent of Sly & The Family Stone, and wonky hip-hop beats that wouldn’t sound out of place on records by label mate Flying Lotus or J Dilla. In short...brilliant! 


"Ambivalence Avenue"


Floating Points – “K&G Beat” / “Love Me Like This (Nonsense Dub)”

Floating Points – “K&G Beat” / “Love Me Like This (Nonsense Dub)”

Floating Points garnered lots of buzz in 2009 and it was largely on the strength of these two songs. Planet Mu released Floating Points’ “J&W Beat” 12” with “K&G Beat” as the b-side. Of those two excellent 2-step/broken beat numbers, it’s the former’s bubbling synths, shuffling beats, ethereal vocal snippets and spacey atmospherics that make for a slightly stronger affair. Released about 3 months prior on R2, “Love Me Like This (Nonsense Dub)” is a buttery, deep house cut that bumps ascending synth lines against soulful live piano tinkling for that analog warmth, all of it punctuated by a steady 4/4 beat and skittering percussion. With both of these releases, Floating Points proves intent on creating music that works just as well between your ears as it would on the dance floor. 


"K&G Beat"


“Love Me Like This (Nonsense Dub)”

Blasta – The Incredible Adventures Of Kenzolika & Quetzalcoatl Among The Air Castles

Blasta – The Incredible Adventures Of Kenzolika & Quetzalcoatl Among The Air Castles

This album was surprisingly divisive amongst the folks I’ve played it for. While we could all agree that the album title was pretty ridiculous, there was no consensus on this Saint Petersburg, Russia-based producer’s atmospheric, jazzy, bass heavy mix of dubstep, garage/2-step, and downtempo breaks. It totally worked for me, the clincher being Blasta’s immense attention to melody that permeates the varied tunes. My co-worker likened him to LTJ Bukem in this regard and that’s a fair comparison, especially considering Blasta’s history as a drum n’ bass producer. It may have proven to be primed for debate but I found this album repeatedly listenable and enjoyable.


"Syrup Feeling (Blasta Raspberry Syrup Remix)"


FaltyDL – "Love Is A Liability" / "To London" 12” / Bravery EP

FaltyDL – "Love Is A Liability" / "To London" 12” / Bravery EP

While FaltyDL’s blend of dubstep and garage/2-step infused techno is clearly of the now, something about this NYC producer’s 2009 output made me really nostalgic for the boom years (late 90’s/early 00’s) of electronica. It’s not that FaltyDL (a.k.a. Andrew Lustman) got me wistful by hitting me with familiar ideas so much as his production aesthetic (funky breaks, soulful vocal samples, playful synth melodies) recontextualizes the familiar in ways that were so rewarding, I almost forgot that I was listening to the future. FaltyDL scored a trifecta of releases in one year that simply killed! Keep your ears open for this dude.


"Love Is A Liability" (Album Preview)


Fat Freddy’s Drop – Dr. Boondigga & The Big BW

fat freddy's drop

For real...what goes on in New Zealand? Fat Freddy’s Drop is basically an island approved, seven-piece band with tentacles dropping elements of soul, roots reggae, dub, jazz, house and electronica into a thoroughly spliffed out mix. Word is they’re even sicker live, which means I’m still kicking myself for missing their Amoeba instore. S’ok...just another reason for me to hop a plane to New Zealand.




Bop – Clear Your Mind

Bop – Clear Your Mind


The second producer on my list who hails from Saint Petersburg, Russia (need I ask what goes on there?) offers music that is decidedly more melancholic, cold and spacious than homeboy Blasta’s busy, uptempo joints. I always kinda hated the “IDM” genre tag but that’s more or less the territory that Bop is operating in. Minimal techno, ambient melodies, and glitchy, spare drum n’ bass patterns blanket you with frost sans the bite. This is a beautiful album that really sneaks up on you upon repeated listens. Give it the time it deserves.


"Clear Your Mind"


Instra:mental – “Watching You”

instra:mental watching you

This is a super creamy drum n’ bass slow-burner featuring soulful, breathy vocals by dBridge. The b-side on this 12”, “Tramma,” is also quite nice. But, seriously, it’s the lovely stuff in “Watching You” that makes it all worthwhile.


"Watching You"


Hyperdub – 5:5 Years of Hyperdub

Hyperdub – 5:5 Years of Hyperdub

The pioneering, seminal, London-based dubstep imprint gets the immediate/retrospective treatment with a 32-track compilation split right down the middle between new and vintage material. Yes, the new Burial song, “Fostercare,” is gorgeous and everything you want and have come to expect from the singular artist. But new songs by King Midas Sound, Darkstar, Black Chow, Zomby, Cooly G and Martyn also round out the first disc with compelling sounds. The second disc consists of previously released material by several of the aforementioned artists as well as label manager Kode 9, Samiyam, The Bug and Joker, giving you a nice overview of the bricks that the Hyperdub powerhouse was built with. You need this!




Luke Vibert – We Hear You

Luke Vibert – We Hear You

This was simultaneously the most “no duh” as well as revelatory release of the year for me. First there was the obvious and expected...Luke Vibert presented yet another album of meticulously produced, vibrant and fun music fueled by his ever-present sense of humor. This album is overflowing with all the signature hip-hop beats, quirky, distorted vocals, electro squelches and cheeky melodic soundscapes that Vibert built his name (and various aliases) on. But the surprises were revealed when he applied those aesthetics to his take on 80’s funk (the Prince sampling banger “Batting for England”), dubstep (“Dive and Lie Wrecked”) and house (“House Stabs”). Vibert has been putting it down since the boom years and has yet to show signs of losing relevancy. Got to give it up for a master.


snippets of "Belief File," "Square Footage," "Pretty Old Acid Music," "Computer Complex," "Arrogance"


Martyn – Great Lengths

Martyn – Great Lengths

Martyn is easily one of the most dynamic artists working within the dubstep idiom. Truthfully, it may not even be fair to lump him into that genre because on Great Lengths, his debut long-player, the Dutch producer makes it clear that he’s got an expansive palette and refuses to be bound by dubstep’s conventions. Martyn takes stabs at Detroit techno, minimal house, dub techno, 2-step, ambient, drum n’ bass and downtempo with results that are at once eclectic and stunningly cohesive. The album is also expertly sequenced and perhaps the only release on this list that I can say has not a single throw away track. And when was the last time you could say that about any album? Martyn is another one to keep your ears piqued for. 


"Great Lengths (Album Preview)"


Kelpe – Cambio Wechsel

Kelpe – Cambio Wechsel

A respectable amount of diversity is also detectable on UK beat-maker Kelpe’s third album for the DC Recordings label. But where Martyn’s songs and ideas sounded expansive and limitless, Kelpe’s tracks are decidedly more confined stylistically, with the producer cherry-picking textures from other genres to give the tunes a little more breadth. Wonky hip-hop beats brush up against sci-fi synths in just about every track with occasional forays into off-kilter jazz, spaghetti-Western soundtracks and 60’s psych-folk for good measure. Both “Moving Picture Three” and “Low Frequency Fumble” suggest what underrated Ninja Tune artist The Clifford Gilberto Rhythm Combination might sound like if his tumbling down the stairs brand of electro jazz was interpreted by any number of the current crop of future bassheads. Solid stuff.


"Eye Candy Bath"


Mary Anne Hobbs – Wild Angels

Mary Anne Hobbs – Wild Angels

This is, quite simply, an excellent one-stop document of just the kind of beat-driven, bass-heavy, hybrid future funk that dominated my ears this year. BBC Radio 1 host Mary Anne Hobbs compiles a tight, transatlantic selection of artists and songs that exemplify some of the best and most promising efforts to define the nebulous dubstep genre and all of its iterations, solidifying her reputation as an evangelist for this sound. Hip-hop, soul, dubstep, grime, folk, techno and shades of just about any rhythmic electronic music subgenre you can think of find representation amongst the 18 tracks by the likes of Hudson Mohawke, Brackles, Architeq, Nosaj Thing, Rustie and Floating Points. Whether you’re familiar with the genre or just starting to explore it, this is definitely a release that gives you more bang for your buck. Not to be missed! 




PANTyRAiD – The Sauce

PANTyRAiD – The Sauce

PANTyRAiD is a team up between Josh (aka Ooah of Glitch Mob) and Marty (aka MartyParty). While the majority of the producers making dubstep seem to be more concerned with getting inside your head by creating dark, brooding and menacing soundscapes, the guys in PANTyRAiD are aiming squarely for your nether regions via the dancefloor. In their own words, they are “crossing over hip hop and dubstep, trip hop and electro, whatever works and causes booty shaking and making out.” From the chocolate-dipped naughty bits on the album cover to the crunky, sexy beats contained within, I’d say they succeeded.


"Beba"


Shackleton – Three EPs

Shackleton – Three EPs

Sam Shackleton released an album of mostly new material on Berlin techno label Perlon that pointed to the more atmospheric, dub techno direction he is heading in, away from the straight-forward, dark dubstep that he is known for via his own, defunct Skull Disco imprint. When in Rome, or Germany, as it were. Highly rhythmic and still very much existing in the shadows, the music here manages to sound claustrophobic and spacious at the same time. Apparently, that’s possible. I’m digging this much more than the Skull Disco stuff he did.


"(No More) Negative Thoughts"

Relevant Tags

2009 List (25), Electronic Music (50), Electro (28), Cas (4), Fat Freddy's Drop (1)