2018: First Quarter Favorites From sheaves of harsh noise & asphalt batida to trap-rap hybridity & obscure Japanese video game music

For each year's first three quarters, we celebrate by sharing a list of our favorite music releases. Unlike our year-end lists, these quarter features are casually compiled, with an aim to spotlight the underdogs and the lesser-heard among the more popular picks. More from this series


Cities Aviv

Raised For A Better View

[Total Works]

[LISTEN · READ]

One could argue that Cities Aviv’s latest album is a paradox. It’s as if, through a careful act of reduction and omission, a highly refined yet raw form of hip-hop has been established. The disjointed beats (if they’re there at all), melancholy samples, reverb-laden synth lines, and abruptness at which the songs begin and end not only complement Gavin Mays’ internal monologue, but seem to mirror it — a purposefully organic unfinishedness. (I am reminded of surrealist painter Joan Miró’s 1925 painting, The Policeman.) As listeners, we’re still there, just listening, only now it feels like we’re doing so from inside the rapper’s head. Vulnerability can hurt — anything coming straight from the heart often does — but rarely is it this effective. “I done showed up in the wrong place/ But my vision in a clearer space.” You’re damn right. Thanks for letting us bear witness to it.


Various Artists

Diggin’ in the Carts

[Hyperdub]

[LISTEN · READ]

Diggin’ in the Carts” is a Red Bull Music Academy doc series and radio show exploring Japanese video game music. Its accompanying Hyperdub compilation is the result of an insane amount of work from Steve Goodman (a.k.a. Kode9) and filmmaker Nick Dwyer. In an interview, Dwyer dropped that to find the Carts gems, he listened to every single 8- and 16-bit soundtrack from Japan that exists. As a result, Carts collects only the truly obscure — you likely won’t even recognize the game to which they belong. The extreme limitations of all video game composition from this era makes this series revelatory, elevating what could be primitive, incidental background scores into gorgeous compositions to be enjoyed in their own right.


Yma

EMBRACE

[Lynn]

[LISTEN]

January is IRL the cruelest month, friends. On the first morning of this new year, cold water blistered down the roofwork outside my window. I watched it pitching sharp shapes earthward as I huddled over my hoard of space heaters. Landlord said to let the faucets go all night. High winds splintered through the crack under the front door. Drops, drips, stutters, buzzes, creaks, croons, and whirs roared up around me. In all this, I heard an echo of ringing electric pianos caught in a shudder, voices scintillating all watery and reflective in winter wind, scratching inhalations. These were the initial sounds of C.E. 2018. These sounds were birthed on the backs of icicles but came at me via Yma’s shockingly soft EMBRACE, released — in full disclosure — by our friends at Lynn.


Profligate

Somewhere Else

[Wharf Cat]

[LISTEN · READ]

A concrete mass poured over us: Somewhere Else came in with the breeze. It bares a fuzzy affect and a propensity for breaking. Meeting me, it calls back to Broadcast’s Tender Buttons, itself a callback to Nico, Kraftwerk, and Stein. Inheriting, biting, sipping. It reaches out toward the melancholy of so many loved ones, pulls each in with vampiric force. It leaves little room for fantasy. Profligate, a musician and a poet, that’s the line, two members lost in the wash. Two figures (barely present) give a vague report on their immediate past. This document brims with melodies and brilliant colors, but it sits still like an uncanny fog: placid, gray, cold, undisturbed, holding its own like static in a vacuum. Somewhere Else is cold like so many, but cozy like few. The sound of circuits wailing against capture, even this wail holds understanding; it meets with the senses and warms from within. I sat with it all winter and fell apart as I watched it unravel, loosely, becoming undone.


Debit

Animus

[N.A.A.F.I]

[LISTEN]

The debut album from Mexico City’s N.A.A.F.I label sounds as though it was commissioned to represent a personalized night tour through an expansive and intimidating metropolis. Delia Beatriz, the New York-based producer behind Debit, somehow kneads a forensic distillation of detached lives lived in between both of those cities, as she mangles disjointed percussion and Latino rhythms with warm synths and beautifully interspersed effects. The resulting tracks allow for a haunting fusion of styles, which not only make Animus a firm favorite of the first quarter, but place Debit high on our list of artists to keep track of in the months to come.

For each year's first three quarters, we celebrate by sharing a list of our favorite music releases. Unlike our year-end lists, these quarter features are casually compiled, with an aim to spotlight the underdogs and the lesser-heard among the more popular picks. More from this series


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