2014: Second Quarter Favorites
Our 20 favorite releases from the second quarter of the year

Brood Ma
P O P U L O U S

[Quantum Natives]

P O P U L O U S is the complete critique of idiom signifier succinct to the dynamic dichotomy of purist sonic warfare via flayed pop. Or whatever DeForrest said <3. But why can't we hear Brood Ma's brand of audio battlefield — sonically complete with clip-shitting bullets and HD reload times — in the same way we saw Prodigy as mid-90s BAD? It’s just music, right? I LOVE CHEESY SHIT!! Door opens to the next level of P O P U L O U S, and it’s colored in dream-sheen brightness that makes visions harder to remember; each turn takes you toward the unknown. Become the creature you were meant to be and become. Is this an assassination attempt on pop music as a cultural theory or an outright attack on everybody who thinks I’m playing Brood Ma obnoxiously loud on the beach? Also, don’t forget Brood Ma’s r e P O P U L O U S. It’s quite the post-skyline of Earth’s new world: long metallic pieces jaggedly stretching out and choking at the sunlight. We inevitably kill our babies.

Kemialliset Ystävät
Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa

[Dekorder]

Singular and perplexing, Alas Rattoissaa Virtaa is as difficult to classify as it is enjoyably disorientating to listen to. Weird, lilting melodies drift in and out of the surrounding chaos of layered synths and samples to vegetate into new worlds, rendering woodland visions and quests in bright pixels. Of course, it’s slightly absurd to think of it as some kind of “folk,” but if there’s any remnant of folk left, it’s mainly to be found in these mysterious melodies rather than the arrangements or instrumentation, which invert any folky fixation on the natural for a playful kind of artifice rooted in cut-ups and joyful sonic clutter. This cheerful, almost innocent outlook is allied to and oddly emphasized by an undercurrent of precision and care — Alas Rattoissaa Virtaa is perfectly crafted without pretention or excess, and Kemialliset Ystävät’s assurance in the intimacy of the microcosmic domains they occupy here makes for a curious and beguiling prospect.

Valerio Tricoli
Miseri Lares

[PAN]

After an incredible 2013, it was unclear what new territories were left to be staked out by Bill Kouligas’ exploratory PAN label. With the announcement in January of EPs from artists as diverse as Helm, Bass Clef, Beneath, M.E.S.H., and Black Sites, it became obvious that PAN was keeping its sonic options open. Then there’s Miseri Lares, an album as unmatched in PAN’s catalog as it is in the world of experimental electroacoustic music at large. Recordings rich with tone and spatiality come together in a collage of affect, as Tricoli drags the listener through his “wretched house,” colored with impressions of interiority and captivity. There’s a sense of giving up or handing oneself over to the sound while listening to Miseri Lares, and in this, the bleakness and horror let up for a moment to reveal the sublime dexterity of Tricoli’s method. The beauty here, as Birkut originally noted, is in the ability of the music to call you back into its sinister musk.

Death Grips
niggas on the moon

[Third Worlds]

niggas on the moon is supposed to document three men (and one woman), but if we’re to believe an MC who scrapes his tongue on the rhyme “Used to know who I was/ Fuck if I know who that was” before the first intermission, we can be pretty sure that its crowded mania is less a revelation of personal truth than a denial of that Truth’s possibility. Within its maze, Hill’s drums skitter into a thousand irrational shards, Morin’s fractured samples duplicate themselves incessantly, and Ride’s indelicate soothsaying trips over itself, creating a hall of mirrors where everything and nothing is true all at once. As the three judder through inhuman glitch-hop and depersonalized electro-noise, Burnett gobs out lines like “I’m a bullshitter,” “Just don’t touch me,” and “I take my life any way you can slice it,” tussling with the hot air misspent on the band and warring against a world in which we can be only by being dissected, homogenized, and compartmentalized. And on niggas on the moon, their name became almost prophetic, since the only thing with any hold on their reality was the process of disintegration that reduced them to a train of breathless, fragmented convulsions.

Jason Lescalleet
Much To My Demise

[Kye]

For Much To My Demise, Jason Lescalleet buried tape recordings in the dirt of his backyard. Several months later, he dug them up as source material. In the clipped piano, incomprehensible speech, swollen drones, and rickety loops of these three pieces, we hear the literal sound of the earth’s encroachment on humanity’s handiwork. In the album’s liner notes, Lescalleet asks us to “celebrate its senescence,” which is harder than it sounds. It all seems almost redundant and simplistic laid out like this — of course objects in the physical world crumble. Even so, I felt a little internal resistance to Lescalleet’s request in the liner notes: “discard the paper sleeve that is included in this album.” But Much To My Demise has a way of getting under the skin either way, rendering physically and emotionally what was, at first, just dry, dead fact, because — surprise! — decay does not taper into nothingness. Instead, as Matthew Phillips said in his review, it contorts into “the ghostly sound of inevitability.” And so, after all, I trashed the sleeve.