Electronic-Dance

Take Her Up To Monto (CD)

Weird pop visionary Roisin Murphy returns with an innovative, surprising new LP with echoes of Brian Eno and Giorgio Moroder style production. Ever the chameleon, the Irish diva’s vocal stylings alternate between disco diva, ‘80s soul singer, unforgiving ice queen, and coy cabaret songstress. The album skips between genres, propelled forward at times by icy, stabbing synths, sometimes by spacey atmospherics, twinkling keys, and bossa nova beats. Murphy proves once again that she is the master of smart, ever-evolving dance music.

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Cheetah EP [Foil Stamp Sticker] (CD)

Cheetah, the latest EP from Aphex Twin, amps up slowly. Named after a discontinued and apparently unloved early ‘90s synth (synth fans online seem to consider it at best mystifying and at worse, unusable), Richard D. James’ latest release is icy, industrial, pulsating, and evocative. The first tracks are minimalistic, more focused on rhythm than sound palettes, with washes of color and moody atmospherics gradually seeping into the mix. As the EP progresses, it takes on acid vibes and ’80s soundtrack style, with wistful flutes and dark, longing synth tones lending to its sense of ephemerality. Once Cheetah has reached its bouncy final track, things have gotten as close to a dance floor jam as anything you’ll find on an Aphex Twin release.

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The Mountain Will Fall (CD)

On The Mountain Will Fall, DJ Shadow’s first album in five years, the groundbreaking hip-hop/electronica producer proves he’s still one of the most forward-thinking artists in the game. The atmospheric, instrumental title track opens the album with dreamy, futuristic vibes before launching into the funk-inflected “Nobody Speak,” which features Run the Jewels. German ambient/modern classical composer and producer Nils Frahm makes an appearance on “Bergschrund,” where spaced out washes of sound meet hyperactive textures and beats. The LP finds Shadow pushing the limits even further on his own original compositions, but of course half the fun is guest appearances from the previously mentioned artists, as well as avant grade electro dude Bleep Bloop, bass-heavy experimentalist G. Jones, and bright young UK jazz trumpeter Matthew Halsall.

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Unlimited (CD)

Bassnectar has been living high since the success of 2011's Divergent Spectrum. His melodic style of EDM has been filling massive venues, and it's easy to see why. Tracks build on steady rhythms which are slowly layered over polyrhythmic drums that go all over the place. One moment you are listening to New Age atmospherics right out of Jean Michel Jarre, glitch effects a la Aphex Twin, and wild dub drops and swirls that channel Skrillex. He builds a certain kind of song structure and it's shown off on the mellower and more outer spacey Unlimited. There's an amount of air the songs are given to breathe before they cascade into frenetic jams that get your blood pumping and your legs moving. And to keep the mood fresh, he brought in a huge team of collaborators and mix makers: The Glitch Mob, Hallo, Levitate, G. Jones, Gnar Gnar, and Lucid, all of whom bring their unique style to shake things up. "Level Up" is the perfect example of minds meeting. Bassnectar's collaboration with Levitate is one of the fiercer tracks that has a no holds barred aggressive attitude that perfectly combines EDM and trap with weird, weird elements of Bollywood rhythms. The optimistic and futuristic "Unlimited Combinations" is another beast that feels lighter and less intense with waves of positivity radiating from the track. Bassnectar himself said he constructed each song to have "multiple versions and special hidden meaning, and alternate endings" and you can hear it in just how delicately assembled the blasts of sound are. As spiritual as EDM gets.

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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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