Electronic-Dance

You're Dead! (CD)

Flying Lotus’ fifth album is as strikingly original as anything he’s put out while also becoming streamlined. Of course, to the uninitiated, it’s still pretty nuts. “Theme” builds on droning orchestration before exploding into a jazzy interlude that sets the tone for the next few tracks. “Tesla” shuffles and pings back and forth like its titular Tesla coil, while “Cold Dead’s” dense and mind-bending harmonies excite while lush horns and synths relieve the sensesHere’s where You’re Dead gets fun. “Never Catch Me” finds a hopped-up Kendrick Lamar spitting rhymes as quickly as they’ll come over FlyLo’ head-spinning twists and turns. Captain Murphy and Snoop Dogg jump in for a fun 8-bit spin on FlyLo’s sound in “Dead Man’s Tetris.” On “Coronus, the Terminator,” FlyLo sets the stage with backwards instrumentation and rain while Singer Niki Randa’s breathy voice helps create a futuristic Quiet Storm track. Angel Deradoorian continues the spell on the mystical “Siren Song,” and  “Turtles” sounds like it would soundtrack a hip wildlife special, with its echoing bird calls and cascading bassline. Now here’s where it gets insane again, as Thundercat asks, “Can you feel the walls are closing in?” through Radiohead-level paranoia and ominous melodies on “Descent Into Madness,” which leads into the true madness of “The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep,” with a creepy-ass vocal by Captain Murphy. But it’s all good by the time we get to the end, and we feel like we’ve truly been on a journey. By balancing his headier material with pop-oriented moments, Flying Lotus takes us on a one-of-a-kind trip with You’re Dead.

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Clark (CD)

Chris Clark has been releasing impressive music under his surname throughout the 2000s, so it’s a curious thing that he gives his latest album the self-titled treatment. Oftentimes, that move can be construed as a redirection of sound, or a renewed bid for attention. In Clark’s case, it signifies perhaps his strongest work to date. Beginning with the throbbing “Winter Linn” and moving into the high-minded, melodic “Unfurla,” Clark immediately hits hard and keeps you engaged for the duration of its 47 minutes. From “Unfurla’s” horror movie synth stabs, the creeping “Banjo” and the stormy “Sodium Trimmers” to the scenic “Strength Through Fragility,” whose piano lines seem to wash into the sea, Clark incorporates a variety of highly evocative sounds. His ability to weave these sounds into the mix while keeping his work eminently listenable is part of what makes it so special. As you dig further into Clark, more dynamic pieces like “The Grit in the Pearl” and the extended and simply marvelous “There’s a Distance in You” grip you with their dynamism. Though he’s not reinventing the wheel soundwise, Clark is an incredibly strong album that does re-establish Clark as a singular talent in the world of electronica.

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Down To Earth (CD)

With the help of some ace vocalists, Aussie producer duo Flight Facilities have a seductively cool debut album on their hands. Singer/songwriter Emma Louise sells the soft and sensual “Two Bodies.” “Comedy Bang Bang’s” Reggie Watts proves a soulful crooner on the groovy “Sunshine.” The whistling, beat-driven “Stand Still” leaves you doing anything but, while singer/producer Stee Downes helps the duo remake adult contemporary synth-funk on “Hold Me Down.” The non-vocal tracks are just as sweet, with found recordings serving to add a dose of drama to the duo’s silky synth sounds. Flight Facilities could go further to distinguish themselves, but what they do, they do very well. And songs like “Crave You” have a lot of personality—pop singer Giselle pines away, “Why can’t you want me like the other boys do? They stare at me, while I stare at you,” over the duo’s jazz-inspired production. Consistently engaging and immaculately made, it’s a project that ultimately soars.

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LP1 (CD)

Beautiful and talented U.K. singer/dancer FKA Twigs’ first full-length album is here to explode some minds. Her voice transports you to a world where reality and imagination is blurred to the point of pure ecstasy. Her style of unique ethereal R&B with a little bit of trip-hop is like a breath of fresh air with a cherry on top. - Nick@Nite, San Francisco my friend chris sent me a link last year and i was intrigued. minimal and eccentric, this record is so textured and effortless. it doesn't feel manufactured or forced, and the eerie wash of abstract sound comes alive with the whispery vocals. it is sensual and compelling and… rich.

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Jungle (CD)

On their self-titled debut, U.K. duo Jungle craft low-key, immediately likeable and unexpectedly soulful electro-pop in the mold of The Beta Band, Miike Snow and Hot Chip. On songs like “The Heat,” scattered city sounds like children playing or police sirens, taken together with bright synthesizers and classic R&B songwriting, feel like a stroll through a city park, colors and sounds bleeding into one another. “Busy Earnin,’” which presents updated Philly soul through the eyes of British knob twiddlers, has the feel of a socially uplifting AM radio classic, while “Time” is hazy slice of synth-funk that feels inspired, taking familiar influences but building out their own sound. It’s the rare act that can pull off this sort of thing without seeming superficial or disingenuous—Jungle make it work by including quieter passages like “Smoking Pixels,” an contemplative instrumental recalling prog-pop of the past like 10cc or Godley & Cream. And songs like “Julia” can’t help but feel cinematic with their implied street drama and spacey synths, soundtracking some imagined sci-fi cop movie. With their solid debut LP, Jungle capture an updated cosmopolitan sound that should land them on every cool movie, TV show and festival show bill from here to across the pond.

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Syro (CD)

In a rare double-blessing, the last two years have given us not only a new album by My Bloody Valentine but another artist iconic of the ’90s, Aphex Twin. Syro plays as a collection of just about everything Richard Davis James does best, fusing jungle beats to gorgeous ambient tapestries on stunning opener “Minipops 67 [120.2][Source Field Mix],” taking us through dense synth explorations on tracks like the 10-minute “Xmas_Evet10 [120][Thanaton3 Mix]” and vibing off hip-hop and synth funk on “Produk 29 [101].” Vocals appear now and then (from James and his family), offering skewed, incomprehensible chatter that adds to the liveliness of “Produk 29 [101]” and giving “Minipops 67 [120.2][Source Field Mix]” its grabbing human element, pulling you into the rest of the album. Though he used some 138 pieces of equipment and shifted his set up every few minutes while recording Syro, that seems to have had an energizing effect on James, and the result is a sharp, if varied piece of work that hangs together beautifully, flowing from scenic but heady pieces like “4 Bit 9d Api+E+6 [126.26]” to hard-hitting bass tracks such as “180db_ [130].” There aren’t many shocking moments on Syro like, say, “Come to Daddy’s” shrieking wail, nor does it push listeners to their extreme limit like the challenging Drukqs did, but accessibility doesn’t mar Syro. Rather, even despite their straight-off-the-hard-drive titles, tracks like “Papat4 [155][Pineal Mix]” are really breathtaking pieces of music, designed for immersion rather than to filter listeners out. Just like m b v, we had no right to expect Syro would be this good, much less that it would be released at all, which makes it all the better. Simply put, it’s one of the most instantly enjoyable collections of music James has ever released.

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Awake (CD)

Instrumental music from San Francisco-based designer and musician Scott Hansen centering around his dreamy, palm-muted guitar-lace. While Tycho has previously been Hansen's solo outfit, for Awake he worked with guitarist/bassist Zac Brown and drummer Rory O'Connor. Whiffs of Durutti Column filter down through a tropical cloud cover and hit the beach as something more akin to Vampire Weekend's guitar ideas, all wrapped in a filling stew of ambient synth swirls and whooshes, and usually anchored by some propulsive, simple, danceable-if-you're-interested drums of a variety more indie rock than club. Exceedingly pleasant music.

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Wonder Where We Land (CD)

SBTRKT is modern music's demagogue. Is he electro weirdness? R&B bedroom jams? Dancey club hits ready to get turned up at midnight? He's everything and it's why he has such an audience! Three years since his debut album, he returns to unleash a new series of jams that are ready to chew you up with cathartic lyrics and music sculpted by syrupy-thick bass lines, electronic ambiance and vocalists like A$AP Ferg who can keep up with the intense beats.

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In Return (CD)

The smooth vibrations of ODESZA are fuzzy and softer than ever with their sophomore triumph, In Return. With never a dull moment, ODESZA creates a sonic ether of syncopated, African style percussion, chiptune arpeggios and and minimal synth flare, turning something a lesser artist would filter into derivative dance hits. The unique blend of wild sounds turn each track into a Technicolor pastiche of electronic bliss.

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