So apparently to help promote the prequel series to Battlestar Galactica, Syfy channel has worked with Pitchfork and XLR8R to curate a far-better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be compilation “inspired” by the new show, Caprica. Rather than toss together a random selection of indie pop hits aimed at moving units, those responsible have created an ostensibly futuristic sounding mixture of left-field beat excursions, austere psychedelia, and blissed out ambience – and released Music For Our Future completely FREE of charge.
That’s right, this sublime collection is just a click away. The best part is that the selection is of such uniformly high quality, containing several tracks unavailable elsewhere, that it would easily warrant a purchase price if they so chose. Thankfully, their commercial impetus for appearing generous is a freewheeling invitation for those of us more into music than television to indulge in something we don’t get every day: an official mixtape that’s not only surprisingly eclectic and deep, but coherent and fluid unlike all but the best of film soundtracks.
Basically comprised of several key satellites orbiting the modern avant electronic landscape with a foot or two firmly in more well known indie territory, this playlist promises to release listeners from the shackles of gravity and set them adrift somewhere outside the oort cloud without a tether in sight. Sliding through warm drones, cold glitch, crushing dub, rapid space grooves and minimal-everything, we’re right on the cusp of anything conceivably fitting for this particular title.
1. Lusine – Gravity
2. Atlas Sound – Walkabout
3. Hudson Mohawke – FUSE
4. White Rainbow – Raw Shanks a Million
5. King Midas Sound – Outta Space (Slow Version)
6. Low Limit – Turf Day
7. Willits and Sakamoto – Toward Water
8. The Field – I Have the Moon, You Have the Internet (Gold Panda Remix)
9. Tyondai Braxton – Uffe’s Woodshop
10. Untold – Luna
11. Nice Nice – See Waves
12. Richard Devine – Matvec Interior (feat. Otto Von Schirach)
13. Peter Kirn – Anaxagoras
[once again, this is completely FREE. so grab it and enjoy]
Shackleton first came to my attention late in 2008 via the sublime mix album Uproot (which I posted here in April), produced by one of my absolute favorite beatmakers, DJ /rupture. Almost exactly one year later, this collection – entitled Three EPs – drops the definitive word thus far on his (already stellar) burgeoning career.
Earthquake-level bass lines slither beneath evasive percussion maneuvers throughout every moment of this disc, providing a cavernous bottom end to support the origami skyscrapers of of sampledelic dexterity, all wrapped in loops of pulsing synth candy. The palpably soupy atmosphere creaks and groans like an old ghost ship refusing to sink, far removed from the climate of foggy London alleys of dubstep to altogether more obscured and claustrophobic (not to mention exotic) environs. Sitar drones ride lines of tablas and salt shaker cymbals, disembodied vocals drift through the mix spectre-like, and a time machine’s load of futuristic effects beam us from deep underwater through the Oort cloud and back. More than anything else, this is music to disappear into, be swallowed up for an hour and dropped out with faint knowledge of where, exactly, the journey took us.
With a darkly romantic night drift more akin to Burial‘s pitch black monster Untrue than anything strictly dubstep and a calculated iciness echoing nothing less than Muslimgauze himself, Shackleton stands neatly alone in his world. This melange, spiced with minimal techno, middle eastern percussion tapestries and a truckload of straight dub effects, is truly a unique proposition – something felt more than heard, a necessary experience for anyone still reading. Don’t be left out. And, if you’re still unconvinced, merely try out There’s A Slow Train Coming, directly below.
23 Skidoo were born skirting the fringes of post punk, industrial, funk and dub, a nearly peerless realm infrequently visited by A Certain Ratio, Throbbing Gristle, and This Heat. Twisting these genre elements through a strangely appealing recombination act was just the beginning of what the band means; it’s a coldly academic observation neglecting the warmly aggressive, primal energy bursting through the sonic capillaries of every piece they wrought. Honestly, the only act I could consider a true musical neighbor are the willfully radical legends The Pop Group. This is a remarkably good thing.
First of all, Seven Songs is 8 tracks long. That’s the first clue about the contents of this enigmatic, quintessential release – like The Pop Group, their modus operandi was grounded in subverting expectations and twisting them into something altogether surprising, thrilling, and a little bit scary. The limitless ingenuity spread across these 32 minutes constantly pulls the rug out from under the listener, encouraging fleet feet and an open mind. Unexpectedness, in this case, means welcome change and otherworldly juxtapositions, with the comfort of a trail guide who – despite a melange of insanity – knows exactly where he’s taking us.
Articulated noise pulls straight into a gutteral dub beat and tribal percussion stabs while the band cuts in and out with all manner of wordless vocal bursts and sheets of guitar noise on first cut Kundalini, laying the foundation for a record every bit as catchy as it is obtuse. Next off we’re treated to a skittering drum kit and funkadelic guitar, touchstones of Sly & Robbie infused dub, and one of the most ‘conventional’ moments of the album before dropping through the trumpet accented drone abyss of Mary’s Operation, leading directly into the asterix of a track 4, Lock Groove, which is aptly titled as anything here. This is also the reason the album is appropriately named – 30 seconds of oscillations do not make a song, thus “7” is indeed correct. But I digress.
Picking up the scattered shards and welding them into a lumbering prehistorical Transformer, New Testament proceeds to stride right into the path of album highlight IY. Kicking off with energetic, get-up-and-dance (or kick ass) percussion and a swaggering muted horn, it’s equally ready-made for epileptic dance fits and barnstorming runs over decaying industrial districts. Building through a propulsive rhythm motorcade to a fevered crescendo, the track sweats out all the clap-happy energy – leaving the album in a whirlpool of dread and ennui. Amping up the atmosphere beyond smoke-machine-and-lights-out darkness, Porno Base nearly defines the word cavernous and sets the stage for quirky closer Quiet Pillage. All cricket-squeak guiro and steel drum swarm, the track gradually shifts toward a subdued ambient pulse and wood flute accents before dissipating entirely, like waking from a disturbing, curiously addictive dream.
Like I said, this exists on its own terms, and anyone half interested should get to know them.
Bows were born after the demise of brilliant post-rock pioneers Long Fin Killie, by lead guitarist and singer Luke Sutherland. A more atmosphere- and beat-driven, nominally trip-hop associated group than its predecessor, Bows bloomed into something equally adventurous and fulfilling as the acclaimed first band. On this album, they flew even higher.
With a foundation in the bleeding edge of UK PostRock, Sutherland and company’s oceanic swells bleed into entirely new territories, amplifying the latent dub tendencies of the former scene while skipping right over the forefront of then-popular Bristol trip-hop sounds into a starbursting heaven of cascading orchestral waterfalls and breathy dreampop vocals courtesy of chanteuse Signe Hoirup Wille-Jorgensen and Sutherland himself. The enigmatic low end throb provides a bedrock for the torrent of acid-bent melodic workouts embedded with a stream of sub-consciousness lyrics and oracular percussion.
Imagine your favorite deep 90’s Bristol album draped in the gauzy atmosphere of A.R. Kane or Cocteau Twins and shot through with terrifying elation and existential anomie. This is light years beyond that image. Leaning away from the club floor and into the fevered minds of blissed out dreamers, it’s the pinnacle of its kind. Perhaps the only one.
Blue Sky Black Death lays down infinitely cinematic left-field instrumental hiphop with their latest album, in the process stretching the very definition of the genre into something altogether more epic and expansive. This LP widens the scope and practically begs for a dystopian sci-fi film to accompany its stately but tweaked out majesty. The duo, comprised of Kingston and Young God, threw down this sonic gauntlet at the feet of every other production wizard and studio sculptor last year and have yet to see a contender pick it up.
Of course, using the term ‘cinematic’ for an album with the word practically in its title may seem lazy, until you’ve spun this at a proper volume. There is no descriptor more apt or quick to pop into mind when listening. This aspect is nothing new in itself; merely raised to an unheard level and played with finesse and a keen ear for detail that lets the music step forward from a long line of atmospheric beat conductors into it’s own wide screen realm.
To put it in relative (and entirely ignorable) terms, this feels as if Dr. Dre were abducted by extraterrestrials and dropped off in a state of the art London studio with no memory of his prior life, accompanied only by his prodigious skills behind the boards and cryptic instructions to make a masterpiece with the resources at hand. All apologies for the seemingly facetious metaphor but if you found yourself nodding at the notion, you’re probably already listening.
Late Night Cinema simply forces a smile at the sheer virtuosity and breadth of vision presented. No song ends the way it began, each track an internal journey presented with a bravado betraying the confidence these guys have in their ability to lay out a fully fleshed out song sans the crutch of vocals or obvious hooks. Utilizing everything from live instrumentation to indecipherable samples to what sounds like a full orchestra, they throw everything which works into the mix and leave no stone unturned in the search for a level of the stratosphere in which to comfortably glide. Plucked strings, fat horns, crunchy bass, snippets of dialogue, rapping, singing, and found sounds work their way into every crevice of the mix. The aural environment is packed to the gills and populated with stylistic genius. Though the nature is sprawling and the landscape expansive, there is simply no wasted space within this record. Every slavishly worked over millisecond of sound feels buffed to a sheen and ready for the close inspection of a jeweler’s eye. Honestly, I can’t recommend this enough.
Gang Gang Dance released their self-titled (and initially vinyl-only) sophomore album in 2004 and quietly set alight their singular brand of cavernous, sample-fluent, tribal psychedelia with this tripped out onslaught of free form beat-laden soundscape exploration.
So, holy shit. I finally got around to listening to this album. An album I should have discovered years ago when I was knocked on my ass by God’s Money. Jesus. I was waiting until I found the real McCoy, and succeeded in my quest. I’m so thankful. This is better than it has any right or percentage of probability to be. Though leagues more free-form than God’s Money or Saint Dymphna, it’s got far more focus and drive than the murkey Revival of the Shittest. 2 tracks totalling 40 minutes wind through movement after movement like a song-based album broken apart and shuffled into a smooth blend by a mad scientist DJ’s hand, giving ample evidence that the masterly flow of the band’s later efforts didn’t materialize out of the wild blue ether.
So truly odd and uniquely rewarding, I’ll leave it up to the listener to understand my enthusiasm and infatuated prose. Just hit play and sit back, resist the urge to skip around on the slow-building opener and make sure to note the point, halfway through the second half, when you’ve completely lost track of time and place. Or don’t.
In memoriam of Charles Bukowski, I had a vodka drink and listened to scandalously good music tonight – then I wrote. This is the one thing item being shared, however. And I mean it. You may feel disoriented, lost, and slightly apprehensive. But in the end you’ll thank me for that final push, what made you take the plunge.
[the album is somewhat of a rarity but one can obtain it via amazon sellers]
Dreams of Water Themes is the stupendous result of a collaboration between Daedelus and Frosty, who christened themselves Adventure Time and cooked up a nautical stew of jazzy undercurrents, waves of turntablism sampledelia swells and clipped vocal crests, cut through with a crackling, frothy breeze.
It’s a unique project in the canon of modern beats, with the title and artwork indicating the type of hefty thematic glue unifying this far-flung enterprise – in other words, it’s one of the more cohesive electronic/hiphop releases floating around. Fans of Daedelus’ opus Denies the Day’s Demise are in for a real treat; this LP hews closer to that record’s heights than any project he’s been involved in before or since. Loosely roiling keys, dizzy horns, vaguely mideastern strings and incisive, impeccably placed spoken samples drive the narrative thrust, while the constantly evolving yet self-referencing palate keeps two feet planted firmly on the deck through the half-hour-plus of churning beat seas. There’s a certain whiff of Since I Left You rising off the whole affair, though it’s more respectful nod than straight homage or borrowed nostalgia; the pair acknowledge their forebears in the turntables-set-sail department without constantly reminding us of that towering landmark. Adventure Time created an ambitious – but consciously playful – musical journey which begs to take listeners out on a freewheeling voyage through the high seas of rhythm exploration.
Desire Lines manages to swallow up everything but the kitchen sink, every touchstone of the artists’ collective sound base, while retaining a densely unified sound and singular feel throughout. The entire trip is anchored by a heavy dub foundation and shrouded in a balaeric beach party ensemble, shot through with airy acoustic and scruffy funk electric guitar. Darkly futuristic keyboard lines weave into and around breathless moments of sunny ecstasy that lift the eargasm potential far above mere dance floor slow burns. Every moment is blessed with a loose, jazzy attitude which belies the group’s disconnection from the club and the more introspective nature of this heady excursion. All of these statements are true, yet merely dance around the compulsively head-nodding appeal of Desire Lines. This is an album to unwind to, whether out on the town or back at home. It’s something you’ll end up listening to alone most often, despite the instantly gratifying beats and approachable nature – any friend with a working set of ears would be thankful for an introduction – it’s just too engrossing a listen when surrendering full attention. One look at the cover art probably gave more of an impression than any of this paragraph, but if you have read this far, take my word that the visuals are certainly representative of the majestically dreamlike beauty captured by this album.
Roots and Wire is a wide-scope ambient dub excursion by Montreal/Berlin based artist Deadbeat.
Infused with the sticky, saturated atmosphere of an equatorial chill-out session, you’d be forgiven for assuming the ‘ambient’ part of the tag implies a sleepy listen. But you’d be wrong – a cornucopia of propulsive beats will get even the most lackadaisical set of hips shaking when the volume is set at a proper level. This is an album residing happily on a dance floor or your headphones. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a long drive at night.
Bookended by two tracks featuring wistful reggae vocals of Tikiman, the space between contains all manner of touchstones from dancehall to minimal techno laid upon a deeply dub underpining. The standout track for me is a an all-out percussion assault named Grounation (Berghain Drum Jack) which reminds me of Gas remixing a Boredoms banger – an exciting revelation. With a structured flow and unified aesthetic, this is made for album listening. Once the last track fades out for the first time, the pervasive impression left is of a massive jewel of dub mastery, each track a different facet shot through with the same brilliant light.