Skin (CD)

The mega success of Flume's first album set the expectations high. But Harley Streten avoided the sophomore slump by upping the ante on all his contemporaries. Picking up on all sorts of cues from electronic glitchiness, dub, trap music, house, and even psych, Skin is the perfect combination of all sorts of flavors and the result is an epic album bursting with style. And that doesn't even scratch the list of guest artists: Beck, Vince Staples, Tove Lo, Little Dragon, AlunaGeorge, Vic Mensa, and even Raekwon. Things get glitchy and the music distorts on-and-off while layers of synths swirl and discombobulate. After hearing and Shazam-ing a track by Tove Lo at a Los Angeles bar, he created "Say It" with her voice unique voice in mind. The track has all the makings for a classic anthem, but the bizarre, popping programmed loops and drums fizzle, giving it the type of depth most radio/streaming pop hits lack. "Wall Fuck" takes a few tips from the experimental, with in-your-face bizzaro synth sounding like a deconstructed dubstep track. The rhythm is there, but the song continuously hiccups and the drops are off so much that it could almost disorient you before it cascades into a dramatic and screechy finish. The ending track, "Tiny Cities," which creates a chorus using only loops of Beck's voice, is beautifully dramatic with soft sonic layers and features some of Beck's best singing in years. The four year wait for his next album was worth it. This is the album electronic artists will be trying to copy for years.

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Mayday (CD)

Alexander Ridha's Boys Noize project isn't easy listening. Initially attempting to premiere his album at a Berlin May Day protest, police squads showed up and broke up the concert amidst political rioting. But a month since then, Boys Noize's own Mayday is here. In a world of milquetoast electronica and gentle rhythms, Mayday is the musical equivalent of getting smashed in the face. The drippy bass spills out and distorts manically as Boys Noize's fierce sound rips your head off and puts it in a paint mixer. Pulling producer "Benga" out to give it the strange dubstep rhythms of his own productions, "Dynamite" is the nightmare version of house. The disco beat and dramatic R&B singing of house is there, but everything is grungier and grimier with sludgy, gooey synths pouring all over you. "Birthday," his collaboration with mega producer Hudson Mohawke and rapper Spank Rock, takes what sounds like a rhythm ready for a number one single and inflates it to the point it could almost explode. Distorted vocals, voice samples, and blasting synths spin around Spank Rock's catchy mantra. "Midnight" is post-industrial with its fuzzy mechanical drums that sound like they are playing out of a tape deck. The short loops and endless vocal samples are enough to disorient you completely as your mind turns into mush and you lose yourself in the rhythm. This is dance music that grabs you and never gives you a second to rest. You'll be beat at the end, but you'll also never want it to stop.

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Hopelessness (CD)

Just as the artist formerly known as Antony has chosen to go by the name ANOHNI in her personal and professional life, Hopelessness, her debut sans the Johnsons, dramatically refashions the artist’s sound world. With production by Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke, ANOHNI takes her socially conscious lyrics to the world of experimental synth-pop. “Let me be the one, the one that you choose from above,” she sings darkly in “Drone Bomb Me,” one of many politically pointed songs on the album. Similarly, she takes on the role of the victim on the sparkling, Kate Bush-inspired “Execution,” which refers to its titular act as “an American dream.” Over the pounding drums and synth-orchestral pomp of “4 Degrees,” ANOHNI decries the environmental atrocities we’ve enacted with the blackest of black humor (“I wanna burn the sky, I wanna burn the breeze/I wanna see the animals die in the trees”). “I know you love me, ‘cause you’re always watching me,” she sings on the stunning “Watch Me,” an indictment of PRISM and America’s obsession with surveillance. As its title suggests, the album can run dour, as on bleak pieces like “Obama,” which is daring but feels a little on the nose, lyrically. Luckily, Hopelessness balances its dire subject matter with spectacular, pop-minded production that retains touches of the chamber-pop style on which ANOHNI built her musical stature. And on experimental pieces like the electro-jazz of “Violent Man,” her music also has never been more vibrant. Though not exactly full of sunshine and rainbows, by turning a bright light on the things we’d rather ignore, Hopelessness finds triumph.

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Material (LP)

The latest from Davey Havok and Jade Puget’s electronic alter ego, Blaqk Audio. Produced and recorded by Puget, this is Blaqk Audio’s third release following 2012's Bright Black Heaven. Though best known for their work with AFI, Blaqk Audio’s love of electronic music runs deep.

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Potential (CD)

Brooklyn producer James Hinton aka The Range scours YouTube for obscure samples of people singing and around them builds stunning tapestries of dubstep, jungle, and ambient music. Brilliant and very much of the moment.

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Days Gone By (CD)
Organic instrumentation mixed with smoky R&B house beats. Read more
Aa (CD)

Baauer’s long awaited debut album sets out to change contemporary American dance music. Aa is a record that could only be made by a kid born in New York inspired by rap and dance music culture, traveling the globe sampling and processing found sounds.

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Full Circle (CD)

Seemingly, all manner of ’90s nostalgia already has come up. But HÆLOS find a new place in the hallowed decade to mine, and they come up with gold on their debut record for Matador. Stringing together bits of trip hop and crossover new age (think Enigma), Full Circle forges a unique blend out of forgotten sounds that sounds utterly contemporary — imagine The xx if they were more concerned with upbeat grooves than breathy dramatics. The immediate thing that hits you about tracks like “Pray” are those delicious, turn-of-the-’90s house-inspired beats, but Lotti Benardout’s reverbed, soulful cry and Arthur Delaney and Dom Goldsmith’s hushed whispers keep you around. HÆLOS are preternaturally adept at layering sounds together, like the dueling vocal harmonies of “Earth Not Above” and warbling synths in the title track. But they also temper that with space to let the songs breathe, like the heart-stopping breaks in “Dust.” Full Circle is completely enchanting and easily stands strong beyond its influences. Sexiest album of 2016? It’s not too early to call it.

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Me (CD)
Honduran-American electro-pop artist Lorely Rodriguez exists in the mystery space between FKA Twigs, Lorde and Austra, combining fierce experimentalism with a powerful voice, hooks and beats. Read more
Collaborative Works (CD)

2015 might as well be renamed the "Year of Nils Frahm." He's released a new album of solo works (aptly titled Solo), original music for the German, single-take arthouse thriller, Victoria, and even a curated LateNightTales mix tape that runs the gamut from strange to ethereal to groovy vibes. Now the ultra-prolific neo-classical composer, in conjunction with Olafur Arnalds, a prince of delicate beats, brings us the deeply rewarding ambient album, Collabrative Works. With one disc of previously released EPs and 7”s and a new disc of works the two improvised in a sudden burst of creativity while gathering to promote their work, there’s plenty of textures to explore, from ethereal pieces of fluctuating synth waves to deep bass-driven pulses. Using the strengths of each individual musician, the sustained and melancholic beauty illuminates like a forgotten satellite in the atmosphere. Reaching a point of Cagean sublime beauty, Collaborative Works is the true spiritual successor to the ambient sounds of Harold Budd and Brian Eno. Feels as cozy as a warm blanket.

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