October 14, 2010

Boards of Canada Geogaddi
IDM, electronic, downtempo, ambient

Geogaddi remains the pinnacle of Boards of Canada’s work, taking the skittish beats and dreamy atmosphere of Music Has the Right to Children and fleshing it out to its most organic, seamless state. Paradoxically, the music here feels both timeless and anchored, in that it powerfully evokes thoughts that seem tied Boards of Canada - Geogaddito a certain place and time, such as childhood adventure and uncertainty (an evocation rendered even more prominent by the assorted samples of children’s speech and laughter scattered across many of the album’s tracks), but it never becomes distinct enough to determine just whose childhood we’re revisiting, leading to a sense of constant displacement that’s central to the album’s impact. The mixture of short and long tracks draws an interesting line between “songs” and “snippets”, infusing Geogaddi with an almost chaptered feel, with the snippets acting as palate cleansers and enabling each of the “proper” songs to have an even greater individual impact on the listener. Each of my personal favourite tracks – “Music is Math”, “Julie and Candy”, “1969”, “Sunshine Recorder”, “The Beach at Redpoint”, “Dawn Chorus” and “You Could Feel the Sky” – are made so much more powerful by the way that they arise seemingly out of nowhere, rather than trailing immediately after other full-length tracks. Music Has the Right to Children positioned Boards of Canada as one of the late-90s most exciting electronic acts. Geogaddi not only surpasses it, but also holds a place as one of the very best electronic albums of the 2000s.




October 4, 2010

Venetian Snares Rossz csillag alatt született
electronic, IDM, drill & bass, breakcore

Canadian electro-wiz Aaron Funk delivers breakneck speed drum & bass with silky, melancholy orchestral arrangements layered over the top. There’s such a tense, sinister vibe about this album that’s quite gripping, as though Funk knows precisely how to power his compositions by feeding off the listener’s growing sense of unease, and then delivers it back to them Venetian Snares - Rossz csillag alatt születettten-fold. He’s displays a fine grasp on how to utilise the emptiness between sounds, allowing the recordings to breathe and spaciously expand to cavernous extents. Funk pulls his influences from a range of times and places, with the classical influences covering a wide range of composers (an area which isn’t my strong point, so apologies for leaving it as vague as that) and the beats recalling mid-to-late nineties Warp artists like µ-Ziq, Squarepusher and Aphex Twin (in particular, this album feels like the natural extension of the classical-meets-jungle promise shown with “Girl/Boy Song”). “Szerencsétlen” opens the album (after a brief introductory track) and feels like its most instantly accessible piece (and is therefore a good one to sample if you want a taste), but I really love “Második galamb” for the creepy spoken-word intro and absolutely bugf*ck-insane second-half.


August 30, 2010

Squarepusher – Go Plastic
IDM, drum & bass

While Music is Rotted One Note would be my pick for the best Squarepusher album, I think Go Plastic might be my favourite, if that makes any sense. It’s one hell of a weird album, a Frankenstein’s monster of breakbeat electronica that shambles its way through 2-step garage-parody (“My Red Hot Car”), Squarepusher - Go Plasticsublimely moving ambiance (“Tommib” – which you might have heard floating by during one of the hotel-room scenes in Lost in Translation), cool-as-ice chillout vibes (“Plaistow Flex Out”), surprisingly emotive D’n’B (“I Wish You Could Talk”) and insane, go-nowhere noodling (the oft-skipped “Greenways Trajectory”, which sounds like a “made up as I went along” monstrosity intended for masochists with 6-second attention spans). It’s arguably Tom Jenkinson’s least cohesive album, so how is such an unfocused wreck worthy of such praise? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt that at least seven of the album’s ten tracks are individually flat-out great, and there’s a certain “deformed charm” about the whole mess, but I’ll tell you the real reason: “Boneville Occident”, “Go! Spastic” and “The Exploding Psychology”, three of the greatest pure electronic songs of the decade. That sort of quality is just impossible to ignore.


August 12, 2010

Amon Tobin – Supermodified
IDM, breakbeat

Many people would simply label this “drum & bass” Amon Tobin - Supermodifiedand avoid the headache they’d get by trying to further categorise Amon Tobin’s work within the many sub-genres of electronic music. Truth be told, Supermodified is really an amalgamation of swing music, found sounds, ambient textures, occasional sci-fi vibes and jazz instrumentation, all combined with the pulse-raising percussion that D&B is known for. What on Earth do you call that, jazzy-cyber-swing & bass? Tobin has been doing this sort of thing since 1997’s Bricolage, and he remains one of electronic music brightest leading lights. Supermodified stands as the best album in his catalogue, striking a perfect balance between catchy, memorable tunes and eccentric, creative touches, with some generous dashes of futurism and nostalgia peppered throughout. Highlights here are numerous, particularly on the album’s first half: “Get Your Snack On” burns up the floor with its propultive rhythms, “Four Ton Mantis” showcases smooth funk with Eastern tinges, “Precursor” is an exercise in jittery lunacy, “Keepin’ it Steel” shows some very creative twists on metallic percussion and the smooth ‘n’ sultry “Slowly”, with its smokey lounge vibes, is just marvelous – in my opinion Tobin’s single finest moment.


July 16, 2010

Autechre – Confield
electronic, IDM

Autechre - ConfieldFor a long time I felt that Autechre were my least favourite of the Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) crowd, with their well regarded 90s output (including the highly lauded Amber and Tri Repeatae) never really grabbing my interest. It was only recently that I bothered to check out their work from the following decade, and it left me asking “why the hell didn’t anyone tell me they got so much better?” Confield is everything I wished those earlier albums were – an electronic album that perfectly harnesses the balance between the mechanical and the organic, leading to the application of descriptors which seem contradictory yet all equally apply. Throughout its nine tracks, Confield somehow finds common ground between the meticulous and the chaotic, the melodic and the avant-garde, the distant and the emotive, the precise and the unpredictable, the discomforting and the inviting, all-together making it an record of very impressive breadth and depth. I regard it as their career highpoint.