Favorite 30 Albums of 2012 (So Far)
Revisiting the first half of an already amazing year of music

Like last year, we’re marking the midway point with a list of our favorite albums of the year so far. This year, we expanded the list from 25 to 30, but it still felt like we didn’t have enough room to showcase what we’re excited about. (Some of the artists who just barely missed the list: Diamond Terrifier, Fiona Apple, Shackleton, Japandroids, Ahnnu, DJ/PURPLE/IMAGE, Chromatics, Grouper, and Mi Ami.) We didn’t have full-length reviews for several entries, so look out for new blurbs on Macintosh Plus, Killer Mike, Ian Martin, and Heat Wave. The rest of the blurbs are snippets from our published reviews, so be sure to click through to read the entire piece. Without further ado, here’s our Blunt sandwich.


Dean Blunt And Inga Copeland
Black Is Beautiful

[Hyperdub]

“Repeating, recycling, recontextualizing, appropriating; these are common methods for contemporary art, but Blunt and Copeland conceal the guideposts that would allow us to locate a thread of continuity, a symbolic system that would permit access to specificity. What they provide instead is sensation, whether through hauntingly familiar melodies, the accretion of sonic detail, or the sub-bass frequencies that rumble beneath many of the most arresting moments on the album. But this sensation is not ‘pure’ or abstract; it is deeply and inexorably tied to a sense of history, memory, failure, and melancholy. This is the sensation described by Walter Benjamin in relation to the allegorical text, in which ‘the observer is confronted with the facies hippocratica of history as a petrified, primordial landscape… Allegories are, in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things.’ This is the same phenomenon described by Craig Owens in relation to postmodern art, in which the work of art becomes an allegory for its own illegibility, for the failure of meaning itself. In this sense, the ‘black’ of the title is not racial blackness, but the blackness of the void, the ‘abyss’ of occultism. And that void, evoked by the dark, inchoate pop of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland, is indeed beautiful.” [Full Review]

• Hyperdub: http://www.hyperdub.net

Mount Eerie
Clear Moon

[P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.]

“On Clear Moon, Elverum comes across less the heroic Viking and more like a lost boatman of suburbia. He’s given up the barren wastes of fire and ice for the more humdrum but no less existential threats of everyday life in the Pacific Northwest. Most notably, Elverum — “struggling sideways” — can no longer maintain a distinction between human life and natural life. He’s relinquished the romantic agon of his earlier work and instead stalks a surreal boundary-land that is neither fallen nor pristine. Throughout, he confronts the messiness of his relation to nature and the very unnaturalness, the sheer artificiality of his work of as an artist. ‘Dark smoke fills the air,’ he sings on the first track, ‘Some from the fire in my house/ Some from me driving around.” The world of Clear Moon is a world of both ‘mountains and websites,’ a destabilized world, a discontinuous world, for sure, but one world nonetheless; ‘There is no other world,’ Elverum sings wearily, as if finally relinquishing his idealism, ‘and there has never been.’” [Full Review]

• P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd. : http://www.pwelverumandsun.com

Macintosh Plus
Floral Shoppe

[Beer On The Rug]

It took pop music nearly a century to catch up to the idea of the found art object, and now that it has, the audio landscape is getting stranger by the minute. Sampling, looping, time-stretching, and pitch-bending bits of found sound is a familiar bag of tricks by now, but a new breed of mysterious pop appropriators (Computer Dreams, Mediafired, INTERNET CLUB, et al.) are taking ‘screw’ methods several steps beyond, into hypnotic virtual realms populated by liquid crystal simulacra operating as archetypes of an emerging internet unconscious. The debut by Macintosh Plus was released on cassette earlier this year, the work of the same unknown quantity responsible for releases by Laserdisc Visions and 情報デスクVIRTUAL. Floral Shoppe is one of the best single documents of the vaporwave scene yet, a series of estranged but soulful manipulations of found audio that carefully constructs its own meditative headspace through the careful accretion of defamiliarized memory triggers. The epic “リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピ” performs a sonic sexual reassignment on Diana Ross, a transmutation that undercuts nostalgia, locating an invisible register of becoming-post-human in the musical mundane.

• Macintosh Plus: http://newdreamsltd.tumblr.com
• Beer On The Rug: http://beerontherug.com

Aaron Dilloway
Modern Jester

[Hanson]

Modern Jester was three years in the making, and the perseverance is audible in the final result. The double LP is released through Dilloway’s own Hanson Records, which, in its 18 years of operation, has provided an outlet for noise makers like Kevin Drumm, Hair Police, and Dilloway’s previous band Wolf Eyes. It is, admittedly, a comprehensive representation of his course thus far, but the amalgamation of Dilloway’s diverse temperament presents something untried and, for want of a better way to put it, pretty fucking violent. Through artful tape loop experiments, Aaron Dilloway plays the modern jester: a modern-day enactment of the historic entertaining fool, who (according to the Royal Shakespeare Company) ‘served not simply to amuse but to criticize;’ by way of a confounding disposition, he violates what has come to be expected, ironically, of noise.” [Full Review]

• Hanson: http://hansonrecords.net

DJ Rashad
TEKLIFE Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi

[Lit City Trax]

“Unlike the equally robust Da Mind of Traxman, ‘the erotic lit of footwork’ (Pearson, B; TMT: 2012), DJ Rashad’s TEKLIFE Vol. 1: Welcome To The Chi doesn’t present a singular vision of what footwork should be. Instead, it feels like a State of the Union address from one of the genre’s central figures, a restless tyro goblinoid Dillaesthesis, ranging across what seems like the sum of footwork’s possibilities, from booty house tracks like ‘Twitter’ (‘She on my Twitter/ I’m gonna hit her’) and ‘My Way Home’ to future blueprints like ‘iPod,’ ‘Fly Spray,’ and ‘Over Ya Head.’ These last tracks, maniac oscillations between tension and release, are particularly attention-grabbing: the seed of something like a ‘hardwork’ style, perhaps; an integral pond-hopping encounter between house and hard dance that resembles techno’s earlier transatlantic encounter with Italo. It’s here that footwork overlaps with the ravery weirdness of poststep electronix; it’s here where lessons will be learned; it’s here where the magic secrets are stored.” [Full Review]

• DJ Rashad: http://soundcloud.com/djrashadteklife
• Lit City Trax: http://litcitytrax.com

Killer Mike
R.A.P. Music

[Williams Street]

Killer Mike inhabits the talented circle of Atlanta rappers that includes Outkast and Young Jeezy (he was notably featured on “Snappin’ and Trappin,” from the former’s legendary Stankonia LP). Despite his no-bullshit attitude, his politically sharp lyrics, and an old-school flow that rivals many of his peers, the veteran MC hasn’t received the recognition he deserves. But with R.A.P. Music, his latest and strongest effort to date, Killer Mike is finally taking the spotlight, dismantling the tried-and-true clichés of Southern trap rap in the process. “Welcome to Atlanta — up your jewelry, motherfucker!” he sneers on snarly opener “Big Beast,” mocking not just the insipid Jermaine Dupris song we all thought we forgot in middle school, but rap’s popification as a whole. Armed with some furious, minimalistic production from El-P, some stellar guest features, and a whole lot of vitriol, R.A.P. Music isn’t just a great rap album — it’s an assault on the mediocre, Top 40-pandering incarnation of “hip-hop” that’s kept true artistry in the dark for too long.

• Killer Mike: http://www.myspace.com/grindtimeonline
• Williams Street: http://www.adultswim.com/music/index.html

Daughn Gibson
All Hell

[White Denim]

“Popular country music prides itself on reproducing tradition; its lack of innovation and inability to evolve with shifting trends is one of its virtues, both musically and ideologically. From Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, Sr. to Keith Urban and Jason Aldean, not much has changed. Sure, there are electric guitars, pre-ripped jeans, and hair-stylists now, and Miranda Lambert packs stadiums with revenge-songs about setting her lovers’ trailers on fire, but the basic songwriting themes and instrumentation have not evolved with the times. And this is what makes All Hell so refreshing and special: It wipes away the dust and brings fresh ideas into the room. Finally, a musician whose record collection, or iTunes library, sounds as if it could contain albums by Cash, Conway Twitty, Elvis, Balam Acab, The Caretaker, Portishead, and Washed Out created music that synthesizes these diverse influences. It was only a matter of time before fans of country music got their hands on samplers and began integrating contemporary techniques and sounds from other music communities into traditional country music. Daughn Gibson’s All Hell proclaims that the time is now.” [Full Review]

• Daughn Gibson: http://www.daughngibson.com
• White Denim: http://www.whitedenimmusic.com

Ian Martin
Mechanical Rain

[Further]

There’s an eerie scene at the start of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. Coasting along the Los Angeles freeway, Oedipa Maas recalls the first time she opened a transistor radio and saw a printed circuit. Suddenly, the broad blank face of the postmodern world fell away, exposing its technological mystery in a revelation that, for Oedipa at least, trembled, religiously, just past her understanding. That’s what it feels like to listen to Ian Martin’s Mechanical Rain. Martin’s a Rotterdam DJ with a penchant for Italo-disco and techno-funk, but you wouldn’t know it from the minimalist noir that marks his new album. Using nothing more than two vintage synths (no drum machines, please), he’s left the dance floor to chart the strange sonic innards of a claustrophobically familiar world, all the hums and drups and hisses of the vents behind the vents of your apartment complex or office cubicle. I would call it ambient, if it weren’t so damn cinematic; I would call it industrial, if it weren’t so cosmic; I would call it grim, if I didn’t feel like I could dance to it. Anyway you slice it, though, these six tracks will carry your ears to the brink of techno-paranoid ecstasy and leave you, like Pynchon’s Oedipa, craving more.

• Further: https://twitter.com/#!/furtherrecords

Heat Wave
Fukd In Tha Game

[Heat Rave]

Fukd In Tha Game, flung into the public domain on January 1, is Alex Gray’s umpteenth release in the last 18 months or so, and it’s easily one of the most seductively assembled. On a whim, I reckon that Gray’s ‘Fukd’ relates to the addiction he has to his beguiling craft, ‘Tha Game.’ The artist has found his niche and is exploiting it here profusely — in this instance, across 17 tracks of manipulated, sample-heavy appropriations that blooms and folds beautifully all over itself. Gray’s technique is as tender and fluid as the music is incoherent and slap-dash, tiptoeing and galloping brilliantly across genres that shift more frequently than the artist himself (Gray has since retired his Heat Wave project and is now known under the equally brilliant DJ/PURPLE/IMAGE moniker). For all the haphazardry and contemplation that this artist yields, Fukd In Tha Game is among his most significant to date, a testament to the limitless boundaries of imagination concerning music in the digital age and the exhilarating experiences it can induce, no matter how addictive.

• Heat Rave: http://heatrave.com

Earth
Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II

[Southern Lord]

“After ‘Father Midnight’ and ‘Hell’s Winter,’ the deeper magic and Aslan’s breath — a cough of hope in a fatalist wheeze. There is something dreadful about the beauty of this dawn, the inevitability of its cycle suggesting the daunting physicality of Ted Hughes’ Iron Man on the march, as if dread were, in fact, a condition of the beautiful, whose details can only be examined or demonstrated in the shade of anxiety’s big pink parasol. Fear circumscribes the world, drawing the earth towards it, submitting its sign to the siphon squeeze of the pars totalis. If Earth have taken their furthest steps yet from the cloistered encampment of doom, tapering at the edges of electric folk, it is only in order to discover what they already knew: that dread is the condition of sensitivity wherein the beauty of details is magnified. In this sense, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II represents a spilling-forth from the citadel, an eldritch ritual of fire and shadow performed in the shelter of hallucinogenic crags. The Earth machine feeds on form to stabilize its torpor. Its hibernation is a site of constant, slow-motion chewing: a continuum of crushing and grinding, a ruminant dread, a stoner Unicron.” [Full Review]

• Earth: http://thronesanddominions.com
• Southern Lord: http://www.southernlord.com

[pagebreak]


Keiji Haino / Jim O’Rourke / Oren Ambarchi
Imikuzushi

[Black Truffle]

“The initial impression created by Imikuzushi, the most recent collaboration of the Justice League (or perhaps Crime Syndicate) of experimental music that is Jim O’Rourke, Keiji Haino, and Oren Ambarchi, is one of mass and solidity, as we’re dropped in medias res into a full noise-rock wallop. Especially viz-à-viz 2010’s Tima Formosa, which even at its most oblique possessed a certain airy headspace to it, it seems for that initial jarring moment as though that vaporousness has sublimed into something solid and irreducible. Awareness of the sunn 0))) connection (Stephen O’Malley, an old friend, actually did the cover design here) only strengthens the illusion. Sure, it sounds a hell of a lot closer to those guys than it does to, say, O’Rourke’s pop dime museum The Visitor, but we shouldn’t let that momentary impression of inhuman hugeness distract us from a record on which these three greats have transformed themselves into something like a more razor-edged, rhythmically unmoored Can.” [Full Review]

• Keiji Haino: http://www.fushitsusha.com
• Jim O’Rourke: http://bit.ly/OZhCrU
• Oren Ambarchi: http://www.orenambarchi.com
• Black Truffle: http://www.blacktrufflerecords.com

BEBETUNE$
inhale C-4 $$$$$

[Self-Released]

“The cover image for inhale C-4 $$$$$ includes photographs of a bizarre publicity stunt in which six living Chucky dolls invaded Times Square to promote the DVD release of the 1988 horror film Child’s Play. The cover serves a dual purpose as an homage to an early mixtape by DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia, who pioneered a dark style of hip-hop with lyrical content fraught with references to Satan and serial killers. There are elements in Ferraro’s impressionistic take on hip-hop that are irreducibly dark and paranoid, a digital unease aggravated by multiple references to unhinged technological proliferation: ‘NERO CEA$SAR/ANTI CHRIST,’ reptilian societies and GTA suicides, ‘P.O.W.E.R.’ and ‘M A D N E $ $,’ tweeting the Armageddon using Siri voice commands, Hipstamatic photos, and T-Pain apps. It’s an extra-geographical, overly-rich slipstream of signs, omens, and synchronicities that point to nothing other than themselves, a kaleidoscopic information overload that sprawls out into a post-human event horizon. Ferraro’s project is focused on that eschaton point; if not the end of the world, then definitely the end of a certain kind of innocence. That end is evoked with a giddy horror on inhale C-4 $$$$$, turning what should have been Ferraro’s most accessible project to date into a relentlessly off-putting and occasionally terrifying mind-picture of a 21st-century apocalypse in the process of uploading.” [Full Review]

• BEBETUNE$: https://twitter.com/#!/JFerraro_zip
inhale C-4 $$$$$ (download): http://www.mediafire.com/?bqhva25brrt9ig8

White Suns
Sinews

[Load]

“On Sinews, White Suns inhibit the space where the opposing ends of their musical sympathies — the unstudied discontent of noise-rock and punk, and the abject physical precision of prog and jazz — fight and push heavily against one another until a forceful balance is crafted. In other words, there’s nothing that suggests one sonic approach is winning over the other on Sinews, which is an incredibly impressive feat for such a young band, let alone for any band trying to reconcile seemingly contradictory concerns. The music on Sinews oozes an untapped aggression befitting the most unhinged of the noise rock scene: the tribal bludgeon of Sword Heaven, the grinding ferocity of Burmese, the unstable hardcore of Black Dice’s early years. Opener ‘Fire Sermon’ encapsulates White Suns’ demanding approach optimally. Guitarists Kevin Barry and Rick Visser use their instruments with the intent of generating the most piercing feedback possible over the brunt of the track, the vociferous tones scheming an unnerving tension against Dana Matthiessen’s percussive false-starts. The masterful build and eventual release here proves to be a stunning asset for the band as applied elsewhere throughout the course of Sinews, and when four minutes into “Sermon” the song begins to, in the most exhilarating possible manner, recall ‘Ace Of Spades’ as rendered by Discharge, White Suns’ plain admiration for the confrontation of classic rock and punk adds an extra notch of emphasis on the absolute abandon at the band’s core.” [Full Review]

• White Suns: http://whitesuns.bandcamp.com
• Load: http://loadrecords.com

Actress
R.I.P

[Honest Jon’s]

“With the title of R.I.P, Actress invites imagery of decomposing recordings. Previous LP Splazsh seemed constructed out of the materials underfoot when waiting outside the club: a waterlogged collage of train tickets, cigarette butts, and club flyers — techno recordings as assembled by Kurt Schwitters. As opposed to the collages of Splazsh, this album is more like the Merzbau, a highly personal construction in space. For Heidegger, art creates a temple in which the teasing truth can both hide and come into view: ‘The building encloses the figure of the god, and in this concealment lets it stand out into the holy precinct of the open portico. By means of the temple, the god is present in the temple.’ Actress muses in an interview with Self-Titled, that ‘I make my music in a space which is thinking about all the sounds I’ve heard over the years and that’s it, really.’ On R.I.P, Actress evokes the space of his recording with an old dub trope; much of the sounds from this album seem to come from a distant source, booming up concrete stairs and across the face of alley puddles. The beats from ‘Shadow from Tartartus’ and ‘Marble Plexus’ sound to be coming from inside a club while you wait outside — the vertiginous sounds within reduced to buzzing, distorted bass and the distant thud of a kick drum. All of the euphoria is happening somewhere else. Actress has said that this album was inspired by Paradise Lost, and R.I.P indeed evokes a Jardin of Eden, but it also reminds us that Eden is securely locked.” [Full Review]

• Actress: https://twitter.com/#!/ctress_a
• Honest Jon’s: http://www.honestjons.com

Traxman
Da Mind of Traxman

[Planet Mu]

“Ferguson has been producing music for decades. He released ghetto house tracks back in the 1990s and was around to cut footwork’s umbilical cord. That personal history is deeply embedded in Da Mind of Traxman, most explicitly in the acid synths of the more-house-than-footwork ‘1988.’ But Da Mind of Traxman’s samples trace footwork’s connections more widely and even farther back, to soul, funk, and disco. In deep-crate-digging footwork, it’s not surprising to hear samples from any era or genre. But unlike of his peers, Traxman leaves much of what he takes intact — at least enough to suggest a mood, a group of instruments, some signs of age. It’s a minute distinction, but an important one: instead of eliminating signifiers or slashing them from their signified like most footwork, Ferguson piles them on and stitches them together. Sure, the vocals in tracks like ‘Callin All Freaks’ are cut and repeated until words become pure sound, but throughout the album, there are vibrant microcosms — textures, musical phrases — that maintain just enough context to be laden with cultural reference points. Which is all to say, this album’s richly-detailed world might be the erotic lit of footwork — or at least will have appeal outside literal dance circles and metaphorical kinks. But Da Mind of Traxman is definitely not rose petals, scented candles, and warm massage oil: in the absence of footwork’s usual aggression (I mean, there’s a song named ‘Chilllll’), the album’s rhythmic explosions just seem all the more impressive for how nonchalant they are about their own insane complexity. And for footwork fans used to something more rough? Just think of this as really great aftercare.” [Full Review]

• Traxman: http://soundcloud.com/traxman
• Planet Mu: http://www.planet.mu

Dolphins Into The Future
Canto Arquipélago

[Underwater Peoples]

Canto Arquipélago has a unity of vision, as well as an immediacy and vividness, that makes it unique in the Dolphins catalog, which tends toward the nebulous and impressionistic. The multiple nods to the aesthetics of vintage new-age musicians — such as Iasos and Steven Halpern — who were the touchstones for …On Sea-Faring Isolation are mostly absent this outing, along with the persistently formless, meditative structures of The Music Of Belief. Among the field recordings of waves, wind, birds, and insects, there are playful rhythms and open-ended melodic structures on Canto, giving the album a vitality and momentum that previous releases only hinted at. Martens creates his synth patches with care, metonymically selecting a synaesthetic palette of aerated bell tones, watery piano, and drums that sound as if they are constructed from organic materials. As usual, Martens bathes the synthesizer tones in layers of tape saturation but leaves his environmental recordings virtually untouched, lending the whole album a distinctly photographic dimension, with some elements remaining in sharp focus while others drift into unintelligibility. Taken as a whole, the album washes over like a particularly abstract version of Eden’s Island or Taboo, with the cocktail jazz subbed out for acousmatic tape music.” [Full Review]

• Dolphins Into The Future: http://cetaceannationcommunications.blogspot.com
• Underwater Peoples: http://underwaterpeoples.com

El-P
Cancer 4 Cure

[Fat Possum]

Cancer 4 Cure is as hard and vital as anything El-P has ever released, and that’s no light praise. The production might not quite reach the glorious heights graced by Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein (2001), but it exhibits a gritty savagery and restless experimental spirit that is never less than thrilling — and sometimes astonishing. The percussion on tracks like ‘True Story’ skitters, pops, and even falls off completely, only to be refolded into beats even more jagged and unhinged. And El’s synths are wielded alternately like power tools and firearms, except on ‘Drones Over BKLYN,’ where they come drunkenly together to evoke a dystopian future made frightfully present: urban sci-fi for 2012’s socially conscious rap fan. A ‘fresh start on a new world,’ indeed. Meanwhile, the eight-minute closer, ‘$4 Vic/FTL (Me And You),’ is every bit as ambitious and convoluted as its title, and would be a daring last act for any record; the fact that it feels fitting and justified here is a testament to the true breadth and scope of the sonic vision on display throughout Cancer 4 Cure.” [Full Review]

• El-P: http://www.definitivejux.net
• Fat Possum: http://www.fatpossum.com

Graham Lambkin
Amateur Doubles

[Kye]

“According to the liners, Amateur Doubles was recorded in a Honda Civic, providing ‘a perfect snapshot of life on the open road.’ […] These ‘dangerous, tedious, pointless and timeless’ improvisations are split into two tracks, each comprising a side of the LP. We hear playful children and sneezes; claustrophobic breathing and alerting honks; meandering, soothing synthesizers; car doors opening and closing; a car’s ignition. What’s heard even sounds like it was recorded in an automobile. In fact, it’s plausible that the sounds were performed while Lambkin was operating his Civic, shuffling selections from his vast archive of cassettes in and out of his tape deck (in actuality, he sampled the CDs 3000 Miles Away by Philippe Grancher and Pôle by Philippe Besombes and Jean-Louis Rizet). Needless to say, much of the album is pervaded by the roadside ambiance of passing truck horns and whizzing cars, possibly seepage from Lambkin’s open window. Only a few minutes into the second side, […] we are lulled into a stupor by Lambkin’s gorgeous loops. And once we reach that transcendental state, during which we forget whence we came — and think ‘Oh crap, did I just pass a cop?’ — the car suddenly stalls, its ignition cuts out, and the music halts. Lambkin directs a child to get out of car and the preceding sample returns, but only for a moment, as it sputters away into silence. Lambkin quickly engages the ignition again and a new loop enters, returning us to our open-road bliss.” [Full Review]

• Kye: http://kyerecords.blogspot.com

The Men
Open Your Heart

[Sacred Bones]

“If you had told me six months ago that the follow-up to Leave Home would jettison The Men’s harsher noise rock leanings in favor of an acoustic ballad and some slide guitars, my heart would have sunk. But honestly, there’s not a thing about this album that I would have liked to see done any differently. The songwriting is stronger; it maintains the distinctive qualities of their previous efforts but drills down closer to the essential core of who they are as a band beneath all of their indie rock hero worship. The apparent effortlessness with which they put it together (and in such a short time!) only makes it that much more remarkable. And those are really the things that matter here, not whether The Men’s embrace of the guitar is some kind of intrinsic indictment of the current musical climate dominated by synth or whether their widespread critical acclaim will spark a resurgence of guitar-driven music. The Men make the kind of loud guitar music that they like to listen to, and it’s no surprise that a lot of other people feel the same way. The Men aren’t out to redeem or revitalize guitar-driven rock music; they’re too busy being really awesome at it.” [Full Review]

• Sacred Bones: http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com

Locrian & Mamiffer
Bless Them That Curse You

[Profound Lore]

“Our losses, both ego and worldly, separated insofar as they can be, are the sources of our creative giving. Undone, all we have left to do is remake the world. Is it unsurprising, then, that at the beginning of Bless Them That Curse You, an album scarred by loss, the first words screamed into the storm of its becoming world are ‘[Acts] of creation!’ (Let there be lightning!) The body struck is rewritten, but the body remains; and the present, without negotiating with the past, dies. It is therefore also unsurprising that divergent mythologies (Alchemic, Christian, Greek) are utilized as sources for personal and aesthetic reinvention and redemption. In ‘Amaranthine’ (a word containing both healing and eternality), Hannum, buried, screams of ‘[exhuming] our ancestry.’ Wordless, the four instrumentals at the center of the album work into that negotiation, that digging, working up through the negative spaces of the pile, the wombs and graves alike, the manifestation of revealed pain, toward finding something otherwise and open. They are like prayers uttered to a possibility. They call back to themselves, finally, in answers, however fragile.” [Full Review]

• Locrian: http://lndofdecay.blogspot.com
• Mamiffer: http://mamiffer.tumblr.com
• Profound Lore: http://profoundlorerecords.com

[pagebreak]


Laurel Halo
Quarantine

[Hyperdub]

“[In] spite of the interview in FACT, it’s hard to hear Quarantine as a ‘painfully human’ record. Everything about it seems to point precisely in the opposite direction, toward a merging of man and machine. Posthumanism is nothing new in music, of course. Halo is totally indebted in this respect to a tradition that extends back through footwork and dubstep to Chicago and Detroit and on to Krawftwerk’s Düsseldorf. And in this sense, her recent move to Hyperdub makes total sense: a common heritage in cybotron. At the same time, though, Quarantine feels like something new flickering into being, some strange new cyborg in the process of being birthed: a frankenstein of pop, noise, ambient, industrial, and a ‘hypnagogic’ continuum that takes in the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Actress, Dean Blunt, and Inga Copeland, the new New Age and Not Not Fun. I’m going to go out on a limb and call this an ‘important’ record: new territory being trod. Halo’s soundworld is deeply mediated by technology, media, and memory, but it refuses to be reducible to any of these things. It is neither nostalgic (in the way that some H-pop, chillwave, and most folk is, for instance) nor hopeful (like a lot of rave), nor, for that matter, especially fatalistic (Factory Floor, Throbbing Gristle). Instead, it’s conflicted, ambivalent, complex. It knows that this is the situation in which we find ourselves and sets out to explore it sonically. We are, after all, all cyborgs now.” [Full Review]

• Laurel Halo: http://www.laurelhalo.com
• Hyperdub: http://www.hyperdub.net

The Caretaker
Patience (After Sebald)

[History Always Favours The Winners]

Sketch for a short history of the gramophone, to be read repeatedly before bedtime: Isolated lights… • Reading and writing; storing and scanning; recording and replaying; speaking and listening. More so than the printing press or the player piano, it was Edison’s gramophone that first combined the dual motion indispensable to any universal machine. • Memories haunt them • It is, in principle, always the same stylus that engraves and traces, the same stylus that began as a tuning fork, modded to record its own vibrations: a pig’s bristle, attached to one of the tongues, etching frequency curves into sooty glass. • Dog days drawing • In 1923, Moholy-Nagy writes of transforming the gramophone “from an instrument of reproduction into an instrument of production, generating acoustic phenomena without any previous acoustic existence by scratching the necessary marks onto the record” (der Sturm no. 7, “Neue Gestaltung in der Musik. Möglichkeiten des Gramophons”). • Being, lost forever “If we imagine one hand writing upon the surface of the Mystic Writing-Pad while another periodically raises its covering sheet from the wax slab, we shall have a concrete representation of the way in which I tried to picture the functioning of the perceptual apparatus of our mind.” –FreudDeep and dark hours • Humans are forgetful and gods are hard of hearing: Nietzsche’s theory of poetry. Poetry began as a solution to a technological problem: the limits of memory; the demands of ritual. Poetry’s answer was repetition (Greece) or rhyme (Europe). • The point of decline • “Let us start with three tape recorders in the Garden of Eden. Tape recorder one is Adam. Tape recorder two is Eve. Tape recorder three is God, who deteriorated after Hiroshima into the Ugly American. Or, to return to our primeval scene: tape recorder one is the male ape in a helpless sexual frenzy as the virus strangles him. Tape recorder two is the cooing female ape who straddles him. Tape recorder three is DEATH.” –Burroughs…Invisible, to some extent… • RIP Freddy Kittler [Review]

• History Always Favours The Winners: http://brainwashed.com/vvm

Grimes - Visions

Grimes
Visions

[Arbutus]

“Part of the reason that Visions comes off as an ‘important’ album, despite in some ways converging on plenty of RIYL baggage and the selfsimilar black hole of pop itself, is that it’s constructed using different tools. Like, other TMT staffers made the connection to late Gang Gang Dance, which I can see, but no way is Grimes so hamfistedly “everything time;” no way is Grimes inviting you to that sort of globalized, post-cultural rave. I think, instead, of Burial, and all the untapped potential of what I guess dubstep used to be — vocal grotesques as a means to confront the impenetrably dark, lonely space between people. Grimes seems to be taking those expansive and unfurled tropes of examination-worthy acts like Burial and Grouper (think of those hypnotic clusters that emerge in the latter when all instincts are indulged simultaneously) and re(-)coiling them into something that resembles pop music but is also consistently unique and fascinating.” [Full Review]

• Grimes: http://claireboucher.carbonmade.com
• Arbutus: http://www.arbutusrecords.com

Demdike Stare
Elemental

[Modern Love]

Elemental has an existential portentousness. The rhythms on the album mostly emerge as dead thumps, often literally coming across as the sounds of dead weight falling: samples of heavy chains dropping or sticks striking lifelessly onto drum membrane. This dread is expressed through the dissonant textures of late modernism: Ominous orchestral samples moan in the background of ‘Violetta,’ alongside prepared piano and looped static. ‘Dauerline’ juxtaposes a cello’s sampled, eternal groan with slashes of metallic noise. ‘Erosion of Mediocrity’ produces relentless intensity with an industrial orchestra à la the Young Gods: Furious percussion, distant foghorn blasts, squalls of violin, and unidentifiable apocalyptic screeches careen through an ocean of echo. Tension builds and builds across momentary pauses, roaring back each time with more power than ever, and yet Demdike Stare summon this fin de siècle symphonic bombast without ever building to a crescendo. Instead, their songs subside into echo, as in ‘Falling Off the Edge,’ in which a sampled choir amasses sound the way a black hole consumes stars.” [Full Review]

• Demdike Stare: http://www.myspace.com/pookawig
• Modern Love: http://www.modern-love.co.uk

Death Grips
The Money Store

[Epic]

“The ‘experimental hip-hop band’ self-released Exmilitary last year, and the album deservedly featured in our Favorite 50 Albums of 2011 list. The stark minimalism of ‘Guillotine’ was an illustration of Death Grips’ ability to muster brimming intensity in even the emptiest of sonic arrangements. The Money Store maintains this degree, even augments it at times. ‘Punk Weight,’ for example, sets out with a frantic Eastern tone, before collapsing — presumably from said weight of punk — into a heavily distorted low-end barrage of percussion. Despite a continuation with regards to intensity, The Money Store presents a significant and generally positive progression in the band’s sound. Opener ‘Get Got’ immediately indicates a more soulful inclination, MC Ride’s voice tender and cool above the overdriven electronics. The album advances with a string of hefty offerings; ‘The Fever,’ ‘Lost Boys,’ ‘Black Jack,’ ‘Hustle Bones,’ ‘I’ve Seen Footage,’ and ‘Double Helix’ are all contenders for best track. In fact, it’s seemingly impossible to discern a weak number from the 13-song set.” [Full Review]

• Death Grips: http://thirdworlds.net
• Epic: http://www.epicrecords.com

Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet The Congos
Icon Give Thank

[RVNG Intl.]

“[For] lovers of dub reggae and (subdued) psychedelic skronk, Icon Give Thank is the stuff of dreams: spaced-out, echo-y dub mantras that feel both like artifacts caked in years of fuzzy magnetic degradation and products of our contemporary moment of sludgy, electronic droning. Of course, there are likely purists who hold The Congos’ Perry-produced Heart of the Congos among a small number of canonical monuments to reggae splendor and eccentricity, and to them, this may seem a few steps too far from anything resembling classical pop song structure. However, even for fans of that earlier era, the ones who found the extended dub mix the material of divine contemplation, this new collaboration will resonate profoundly. As with earlier Sun Araw work, repetition is a key component. Most tracks are built upon combinations of simple, repeating musical phrases that create a soundscape within which The Congos’ harmony-laden vocals can drift and sway. […] [The] album (along with the essential corresponding film, Icon Eye) stands as a rather moving document of the profundity of the cross-cultural and cross-generational conversation that goes on throughout all popular culture, and given the niche audiences for both Sun Araw and The Congos, this project offers a view on a very rarely explored conversation at that.” [Full Review]

• Sun Araw: http://sunaraw.com
• M. Geddes Gengras: http://mgeddesgengras1.bandcamp.com
• RVNG Intl.: http://igetrvng.com

Motion Sickness Of Time Travel
Motion Sickness Of Time Travel

[Spectrum Spools]

Motion Sickness Of Time Travel presents four snapshots of the artist in the process of revealing herself to herself. In a certain sense, it’s exactly like every MSOTT release that has come before: impressionistic, enigmatic, lovely, and deeply psychedelic. In another sense, it’s hard not to see this as a definitive statement. It’s the first self-titled album, the longest yet, and arrives housed in a gorgeous, collaged double-gatefold sleeve. Musically, the album is more confident and varied, with an increased dynamic range that peels away some of the muddy layers of saturation intrinsic to the cassette medium. Happily, it’s still an MSOTT album, a series of longform meditations on love, whether love of self, love of another, or love of the universe.” [Full Review]

• Motion Sickness Of Time Travel: http://motionsicknessoftimetravel.blogspot.com
• Spectrum Spools: http://editionsmego.com/releases/spectrum-spools

Chris Corsano
Cut

[Hot Cars Warp]

“Over 19 tracks, Corsano rarely edges over the five-minute mark (one piece on Cut is nearly seven minutes, but the rest are brief) in approaching drums, metal objects, saxophone parts, gongs, cymbals, and woodblocks with sticks, bows, and breath. Although he’s constructed his language with very specific and personal intentions, I’m reminded of the liner notes that Swiss percussionist Pierre Favre added to his 1969 Drum Conversation LP (Calig): ‘This record is a musical portrait of myself. It expresses my mood on the day I made the recording… This record is not a test, nor a brilliant showpiece. It is simply a conversation that I should like to have with you.’ Of course, the conversation is not only with the listener, but implicitly with the instrument; alongside Favre, Milford Graves, Tatsuya Nakatani, Masahiko Togashi, and others, Corsano seeks to expand his work as a ‘drummer’ or even ‘percussionist’ into a broader ‘instrumentalist.’ Graves and Favre are the only above-mentioned musicians who come out of the jazz tradition at its most basic. While Corsano isn’t a ‘jazz’ player per se, his work certainly stands alongside musicians like these. The music in some ways ceases to be about the drums as we normally think of them, instead being a personally expressive vehicle that can mass rhythms or present a variety of singing and scraping tones. With a recording that moves between a variety of palettes as Cut does, there is a danger of it becoming a clinical exploration, but it’s here that Corsano remains deftly attuned to emotion and curiosity.” [Full Review]

• Chris Corsano: http://www.cor-sano.com
• Hot Cars Warp: http://www.cor-sano.com/merch.html

Belbury Poly
The Belbury Tales

[Ghost Box]

“All the standard reference points are still there, as is Jupp’s characteristic playfulness, melodicism, and attention to detail. The effect has simply been amplified. The contributions from Jim Musgrave on drums and Christopher Budd on bass and electric guitar help a lot in this respect. Musically, everything is sharper, more detailed, richer, fuller, in higher resolution. And the vocal tracks are all exquisite. From the sheer strangeness of ‘Cantalus’ through the naivety of ‘Green Grass Grows’ to the earthy, rural beauty of ‘The Geography,’ it’s these tracks most of all that mark this out as a ‘folk’ record. It’s not that vocals have never featured before, of course. But on tracks like ‘Caermaen’ from 2004’s The Willows or ‘Wetlandv from The Owl’s Map, previously the vocals were always heavily treated and distant-sounding — shadowy, undecidable. On ‘Caermaen,’ for instance, Jupp took the vocals from a 1908 cylinder recording of a tune called ‘Bold William Taylor’ and ‘changed the speed and pitch and reconstructed it to make a different melody with unintelligible lyrics.’ On The Belbury Tales, all the samples are given more space. They’re foregrounded, present: they don’t sound like samples. And even if everything’s been given a new and strange electronic context, therefore, there’s an implied continuity with the live folk tradition.” [TMT Review]

• Belbury Poly: http://jimjupp.blogspot.com.au
• Ghost Box: http://www.ghostbox.co.uk

Dean Blunt
The Narcissist II

[Self-Released]

“If Hype Williams’ music fetishizes the drift in the context of the body, then The Narcissist II, a self-released solo mixtape by Blunt (stream here, download here), acts as a particularly noteworthy foil. For all the evasive dodge-balling — reflected also in their shrouded identities and multiple truth-tellings (Who exactly are Rory Gibb, Roy Nnawuchi, Karen Glass, Denna Glass, Bo Khat Eternal Troof Family Band, and Paradise Sisters?) — the moments of what one might call ‘song’ are framed by a story about abuse and infidelity told through scattered audio clips. Paranoia. Suspense. Rage. Violence. It’s all narcissistic stuff. But tethering the floating, impotent sounds of unstable synths, chink’d rhythms, and brilliant off-tune karaoke-ing (courtesy of Dean, except for a Julee Cruise-sampled track that features Copeland) to such a clear narrative encourages a functional reading: a hierarchy in sound materializes, where the tension-creating becomes complementary rather than an end unto itself. The result is a sort of dragging panic, a grotesque scrawl of ‘deconstructed’ R&B whose impact is muddied with just the right amount of commentary and absurdism.” [Full Review]

• Dean Blunt: http://www.youtube.com/pollyjacobsen

  

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