Thanks for supporting Amoeba and reading the Amoeba Electronic blog in 2013. Like us on Facebook for daily updates and feel free to hit us up with any requests/feedback. Without further ado, here are our Best LPs of 2013, compiled by Oliver, Matt and Jordan.
20. ADR - Chunky Monkey
Hippos In Tanks
While visual artists have been quick to adapt to the internet's Babel of information, musicians have been slow to comment directly on the vast digital buzz. Hippos In Tanks, as a label, has admirably pushed this conversation forwards while also displaying a fierce devotion to the traditional mediums of CD and vInyl. James Ferraro's "Farside Virtual" (Hippos In Tanks, 2011) was seen as a comment on emerging personality types in the face of rampant technoconsumerism, but in retrospect, can be seen as Ferraro's first step out of the cassette underground into sleeker rnb/hip-hop influenced production Gatekeeper's "Exo" had them abandoning the Carpenter-esque VHS aesthetics of their previous releases, even hiring internet artist Tabor Robak to create a playable game for reach song. The most successful effort in creating a musical analog to endless internet-meme driven communication is ADR's "Chunky Monkey".
The record succeeds first and foremost because Aaron David Ross (1/2 of the Gatekeeper) is a completely badass producer. I woudn't be suprised if legitimate pop production is in his future based off of the seemingly effortless genre tourism on display here. Opener "Casual Friday" places samples of sitcom saxaphones against a loping 303 and eerie processed piano that could be lifted from a Prologue release. "Sumo" seems to be an oblique comment on 90s boom-bap, while "What It Takes" could be lifted from a sinister Sprite commercial. "Stray Dog Strut" could be seen as ADR's reading of Sly and Robbie digidub, but in this tune, the comment on internet culture is palpable. In the midst of innocuous and expertly produced genre-exercises, ADR is prone to interrupt with unsettling samples (e.g. a screaming chorus of roller coaster riders) to fray the edges. The effect has an uncanny resemblance to cruising through life with 15 tabs open.
The record's absolute highlight is "Don't Fret", which plays a gorgeous Art of Noise/Badalamenti influenced pad against a trip-hop inspired beat. At the edge of the track, a sample that sounds like a paper cutter whittles away, creating digital scraps for the next visionary.
19. GB - Within These Machines 2xLP
Gifted and Blessed
Expertly paced full-length statement from Los Angeles' best kept secret. Well, that's not exactly true. FACT and Kyle Hall are fans, but it's obvious from this record that GB is underground because he's developing virtuosic studio skills. So many moods are contained within. Sol sounds like Steve Reich scoring a PBS documentary about hummingbirds. There are a number of tracks that approximate prog through modular experiments. Boogie and library music are also appropriate reference points. But then there is the more evocative, filmic work, such as the unclassifiable Rain Dance and the Carpenter-esque Tesla's Notebook. The album takes a welcome contemplative dip as it winds itself down, with GB burying the most dj friendly track, Made it Through, deep within the 57 minutes of music.
18. Lawrence - Films and Windows CD
Excellent full-length from the remarkably consistent Dial producer. Lawrence's trademark sound mixes Detroit influenced rhythms with crystalline melody and extreme attention to production detail. The combination feels somewhat anachronistic with the modern horde of lo-fi barbarians at the gate. Still, it works as well as it always has. The title track floats detuned synth over a sturdy rhythm before introducing a dueling set of synth/string chords. Similarly, Etoile Du Midi begins with a techno-influenced bassline and then uses an angelic combination of flute/harpsichord to move from body to mind music.
17. Huerco S. - Colonial Patterns LP
16. Jessy Lanza - Pull My Hair Back LP
Stately electropop from the Canadian chanteuse. Her running collaboration with Jeremy Greenspan seems to free the Junior Boys producer to explore odder aspects of his lush production. Against The Wall has driving synth bass but buries the snare and drifts into ethereal synth wobble at points. Lanza shines. She typically chooses to provide hooky, ephemeral counterpart to the chilly base, yet when she flexes her soprano, as she does on the chorus of the album's title track, its apparent she would sit atop an alternate Top 40 for the lonely.
15. Kyle Hall - The Boat Party
Assured full-length debut from the producer whom many expect to carry Detroit's legacy forwards. What's on display here is not a producer buckling under decades of dance music history, rather, a singular talent who began his career taking risks and continues to double-down. KMFH's use of isolators is unparalleled. The first half of this album holds skittering drum tracks, yet remains compelling due to Hall's nuanced filtering and effects work. "Flemmenup" welds the recent footwork fixation onto classic Detroit electro-styles, while "Crushed" shows the producer can cut a sample alongside legends like KDJ and Terrence Parker. "Finnapop" is a Dancemania tribute which ends in a solid 2:30 minutes of spooling noise, emphasizing the experimental nature of Hall's production and listening (Hall enjoys shopping for outre records at Windy and Carl's "Stormy" records). The final track, "Measure 2 Measure" shows Hall effortless skating around a pair of soul samples, juggling insane hi-hats and morphing the soaring female vocal into an endless, abstract delay trail. There is a perfect sloppiness to what Hall does on the record, light years away from marathon Ableton sculpting sessions.
12. Raudive - A System of Objects
10. KWC 92 - Dream of the Walled City OST LP
Brilliant imaginary Soundtrack by Samo DJ Max Stenerudh, which seems to score an imperialist drama. The sounds within are closer to the bamboo drums and razor sharp synths of 80s Japan - music that sounds otherworldly and futuristic 30 years later. One of LIES most adventurous and most musical releases, not much for the non warm-up set dj here, simply a beautiful concept album.
9. Axel Boman - Family Vacation LP
Outstanding full-length statement from the young Swedish producer. The record maintains a melancholic, bittersweet tone reminiscent of classic Kompakt releases, while maintaining the adroit, joyful sample work of Detroit house. The record's first single is the excellent Fantastic Piano, which bears out the Cologne/Detroit connection, yet the album's clever pacing and dynamics include moody Rhodes on Barcelona and the sad carnival music of Animal Lovers. A fulfilling journey.
8. DJ Koze - Amygdala
6. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual CD
5. Donato Dozzy - Plays Bee Mask LP
On first impression, Italian deep techno master Donato Dozzy covering Philly neo-komische upstart Bee Mask doesn't make much sense. The pairing is more obvious when Dozzy's reverent Komische mix for mnml ssgs is taken into consideration. No kick drums, all synths set for transcendence. That said, this is no formless drone record. Vaporware 7 possesses an arpeggiated melodic theme reminiscent of Jurgen Muller's Science of the Sea, while also possessing the universally lauded depth of Dozzy and Neel's Voices from the Lake project.
Vinyl release of the sprawling full-length from Omar-S. The collection of 13 previously unreleased tracks feel suitably epic, the producer flexing his ability to tackle a diversity of styles with a hat tip to the album form. "Be Yoself" emerges as the first in a number of tracks that will be included among past FXHE classics, and has the producer laying thoughtful synth ambience over an massive bass line. "Let It Ride" could be a mission statement for the album - Omar-S is that rare producer who leaves well enough alone, in this instance lacing a tough groove with some virtuosic piano playing for nearly seven minutes. "Helter Shelter" sounds as corroded as a Huerco S. track, while the lack of melody and subtle drums of "Tardigrade's" recall Omar's oft-quoted admonition to lazy djs: "Yeah bitch, that’s all the record do. Yep your lazy ass needs to do some other shit with it."
The title track has Omar-S indulging his sensitive side to stunning effect. A subtle Rhodes chord and brief synth figure bring in a mid-track melodic line of heartbreaking optimism. Closer "It's Money In the D" looks back to the moody piano nostalgia of "Just Ask The Lonely". Another winner.
3. Onoehtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven (CD)
Daniel Lopatin's solo followup to the acclaimed Replica album is a feverish experience. Whereas Replica dealt in moods and atmospheres, at times calling to mind classic Brian Eno records, R Plus Seven jumps around in a surreal fashion—it's less dreamlike in the sense of the descriptor, yet more like an actual dream. The hilariously titled "Boring Angel" starts as demurely as its title might suggest, but its churchlike organ drones give way to Phillip Glass-style arpeggiated synths. "Americans" also calls to mind its namesake—it's at once idealistic, industrious and destructive. It's hard to pull out specific tracks from R Plus Seven since it jumps around so frequently within song, but "Zebra" is a likely highlight of anyone's listening experience, the album's "catchiest" song with a defined synth line leading the way and sparkling piano, cut up voice and ethereal washes cutting in periodically. Sometimes you wish R Plus Seven would congeal into a more cohesive statement—even the equipment and/or sounds Lopatin uses seem all over the map at times—but it doesn't sound random, either. It's more of an elusive quality that his work has that keeps you coming back to listen and figure it out, much like a cryptic dream you can't shake.
2. James Holden - Inheritors (LP)
Amazing new album from the Border Community boss. It's been seven years since Holden's last full-length statement, time the producer has spent immersing himself in krautrock and the american lo-fi underground. The resulting album is loose and heavy on one-take modular synth recordings. The album stands in contrast to a deluge deluge of predictable, compressed dance productions.
That said, Holden's made it clear that this is dance music, of a sort, and when the acoustic drums emerge on "Renata" (conveniently timed at 120 bpm), this assertion rings true. That said, there's nary a kick drum intro on this album, and the pool of influences is much deeper than your average club ready 12". "Inner-City 125" is a more ominous take on The Caretaker's ballroom ambience, "Rannoch Dawn" sounds like the Rune Grammofon camp's take on shambolic Krautrock, while "Seven Stars" sounds like a PBS Mystery! soundtrack obscured by analog extrapolations. Only "Gone Feral" hints at the wooly pastoralism of Holden's previous productions.
A massive set from the Ukranian purveyor of all things deep. As with most Vakula releases, the producer's adroit musicianship sits alongside an preternatural understanding of atmosphere. Jazz Mutants works a fusion bassline and comes off sounding like one of the instrumental asides from Eno's Another Green World. The producer's piano chops are on full display on New Romantic, flexing neoclassical over a loping 303. In My Head sounds like early Theo Parrish and disintegrates into upward modular experiments. The impact of Amsterdam improv journeyman Juju and Jordash is felt, not least on which on the track dedicated to the duo. For Juju and Jordash reimagines the duo's synth based psychedelia as a primetime detective show intro. A remarkably cohesive release in light of the considerable time period covered.
1. Domenico Rosa - Shades Of Swing (Imprints)
2. The Mole - History of Dates EP (Buy) (Perlon)