2016: First Quarter Favorites 20 picks from the first three months of the year

Future

Purple Reign

[Freebandz]


“I just need my girl/ I just need my girlfriend,” wallows the 32-year-old trapper-cum-multimillionaire rapper on the closing track from his Purple Reign mixtape. While EVOL, the quick strike follow-up album, may have performed better commercially — selling over 100k copies in its first week — and provides more audacious bangers for the would-be clubhoppers of the world, Purple Reign ultimately remains one of Future’s most confessional, intimate works to date. At first, Purple Reign is relatively easy to undersell, but in the months since its release, the tape has transmogrified into something of an all-encompassing grand narrative of Future and practically bookends the emotional-dirty-Sprite-superstar persona he’s carefully built since his messy split from ex-fiancée Ciara. But all the tabloid fodder and narrative tricks would amount to nothing if the actual tunes didn’t hold up, and Purple Reign has ‘em by the boatload. His flow has never sounded more disaffected and sensational (“Salute”), his free-associative lyrics never more bombastic (“No Charge”), never more quotable, and his hooks never more addictive (“Wicked”). What he’s cooking up next is anyone’s guess, but Purple Reign reminds us why Future can get away with a song like “Perky’s Calling” — because he’s the best supervillain rapper out.



Secret Boyfriend

Memory Care Unit

[Blackest Ever Black]


Memory Care Unit: Case File. The vocals don’t even enter until halfway through the second track, almost 15 minutes into the album. That’s the kind of tactic that might get labeled as epic in almost any other case. Chris & Cosey as a solo act. Junk electronics playing beautiful melodies by whatever means necessary. Loner vibes of deep-sea organisms conveyed by a person with pawn-shop synths. Micro blips of “They’re Playing Themselves” echoing drops of water in some cave, host to slimy organisms moving about in the dark. It’s what happens when no one bothers you, and you’re just onto some “your - self” shit. “Stripping at the Nail” and that watery chorus sound on a guitar coming at you like New Order on barbiturates. More vocals (finally), just whispering in this emptiness… possibly meaningless… hard to tell. Effortlessly loops back around to track one after “Memorize Them Well,” so repeat repeat repeat. Maybe the most A L O N E record of 2016 so far.



Dedekindcut

BHM/N3D

[NON]


“This is us then and now and after,” declared Dedekindcut, a.k.a. Lee Bannon, by way of NON, and there’s something demeaning about placing BHM/N3D in a temporal context. Indeed, there are certain facts that can’t be disputed, maintained Juliana Huxtable at the end of last year, and BHM/N3D continued a timeless narrative into the present first quarter, a narrative engrained in the hellish soil of our institutions and rooted in that depicted by Huxtable’s artwork — a nightmarish backdrop, enduring as do masterpieces of Rembrandt or Johannes Vermeer. Incarnating sonic signifiers of black history against piercing cuts of rave, at other times it’s chopped and screwed, mincing its temporal flow, but never breaking a chilling spitting image of familiarity, identity fading into its three dimensions.



Good Willsmith

Things Our Bodies Used to Have

[Umor Rex]


Willsmith may be Good, but if we’re to take their latest at face value, the kids certainly aren’t. Things Our Bodies Used to Have almost plays out as a swirling, cacophonous eulogy to everything these children lose in the transition to adulthood, in the transition to that anarchic state of things where you’re on your own, and people care about you only insofar as they can materially gain from your existence. Its eddied currents of dystopian synth, unhinged guitar, and mournful electronics fuse into a study of bereaved and betrayed youth, seamlessly yet disconcertingly painting this youth as having shed everything that made them unique in order to fit securely into the machine. Yet, however tightly this machine clasps them into place, the free-form post-rock by this Chicago band (which features ex-TMTer Mukqs) repeatedly hints that there’s something radical bubbling under the calmed surface, waiting for the perfect moment to burst out.



Amnesia Scanner & Bill Kouligas

LEXACHAST

[Self-Released]


LEXACHAST utilizes a coded language perversely to tell a hypermodern fiction. Starting with a buzzing, declarative refrain, PAN founder Bill Kouligas and the Amnesia Scanner duo-hivemind-website update a twisted code base of electronic glitch, splicing it with jarring rhythmic if-then statements until it is forced to attack itself and perish in a pleasurable apoplexy. Like glitch art, and the indifferent, ever-evolving website created for the project by artist Harm van den Dorpel, LEXACHAST encodes emotion into uncommitted cultural objects by subjecting them to overclocked and inappropriate performance parameters, ultimately turning them into constructs of purely aesthetic syntax. LEXACHAST’s mutant designs of clipped voice and compressor burn off disharmonic energy in a fricative groove, filling the file with furious waves of artful deletion. Just like with past AS projects, and a good degree of Kouligas’s PAN label output, it’s a fantastically surreal take on the typically positive modulation of modern club music that still carries the torch for its future, a total rewrite plus an update. This executable now reveals the “negative potential” of certain sound sources.

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