Drexciya is an enigma of an act that left behind some of the greatest and strangest techno and electro music ever recorded. From the debut album Neptune’s Lair, here’s the first song I heard, the tune that hooked me and opened up an entire new world of sound.
I’d never known the outer reaches of techno until I listened to Andraean Sand Dunes.
It’s a pure exploration of genre constructs littering the ocean floor, an aquatic adventure full of energetic machine-funk pulses and glistening columns of light reaching down from the surface. This is techno for adventuring, the kind of track that makes me want to kick open my front door and run through the night, rather than dance at all. In other words, it’s more My Kind Of Thing.
While the production itself springs from the sounds and structures of classic electro, the music leans hard into futuristic Detroit techno, with a cascading synth repetition begging hypnosis rather than hip shaking. The bass line is as funky as this kind of music gets, but it’s sunk into an atmospheric wash of melody, dropping out for moments of pure untethered synthesizer flight. Head nodding never felt so aerodynamic.
Despite my years-long love of Drexicya, I have never previously written about them on this blog. The mysterious duo of James Stinson and Gerald Donald may have dissolved after Stinson’s untimely death in 2002, but their legacy has only grown over the years. After a host of single and b-side collections were issued, their original album label Tresor began repressing the classic trio of full-lengths on vinyl. This is important, because it means that I was finally able to pick up a copy of Neptune’s Lair and own a piece of techno’s weirdest mythology. It’s not just an important and brilliant album; it’s incredibly easy to get into and enjoy. You can find a copy via Discogs or even on Amazon, though the latter’s price is outrageous.
Oneohtrix Point Never has returned with a massive new album you can call G.O.D. It peels up the corner tiles of a thousand realities over 45 minutes, blooming micro-worlds of sound and immediately dissolving in head-on collisions.
For the first time in years, OPN – real name Daniel Lopatin – hasn’t completely restructured his sound, yet I’m feeling the same sense of dizzying vertigo that he’s made a career out of conjuring. In a real sense, the strongest component of his appeal has always been that daring sense of surprise, the act of an artist venturing over the edge of the known music world and bringing back sounds that I’ve never even anticipated, much less heard. More than a style, it’s an idea, a philosophy. In the wrong hands, it can become a cheap trick. This is something far more substantial.
On a weekend in August of 2015, I discovered Maggot Brain. I may have been 44 years late, but I’m just now realizing the depth and power that Funkadelic were capable of.
I’ve been on a funk kick, spurred on by the incredible new Dam-Funk album, and stumbled up on the evocative cover of Maggot Brain, with a woman’s head planted in the dirt, face frozen mid-scream.
It’s deeply unnerving, an iconic image that immediately sears into the memory. It fits the music completely.
This is hard to explain, but I promise that Elysia Crampton has recorded some of the most ecstatic and staggering music you’ll hear all year. There’s a deep spiritual undercurrent to her new album that elevates it far beyond mere conceptual music. This connects to my heart, my head, and my gut, rendering me speechless.
The album is only 30 minutes, but covers a galaxy of feeling that I’m feeling unprepared to describe this morning. Just listen if you want to hear something startling and beautiful.
I had a conversation with a friend today about Christian music and why it mostly bothers the hell out of me. (ha) I realized it’s that sense of overt politeness, the way it’s crafted – an official Christian musician seems to have all rough edges sanded off, as pious as a politician tries to look – that takes away any depth and feeling in the lyrics or music itself. It lacks almost anything that I could normally grasp as enjoyable.
Then I thought, you know what? I love a lot of artists who are either Christian themselves, make music about Christ-like ideals, or simply use the forms of traditional Christian music as a foundation for their own thing. Spiritualized does the latter, employing the language of early blues and gospel to speak directly to my soul.
Here’s the band playing a timeless live staple, Walking With Jesus.
So suddenly Flying Saucer Attack appears again, nearly 15 years after last contact, with a set of unnamed instrumentals. It’s gorgeous, droning guitar music that makes no apologies for its obliqueness and doesn’t try to reach out to the uninitiated.
This slab of ashen dream is ready and waiting for anyone interested.
Watch this right now. Just do it. You don’t need to thank me.
If you want to see an artist at the peak of his powers absolutely nailing the zeitgeist, click play.
Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp A Butterfly just a couple months ago, and it’s already one of my favorite albums of all time.
The brazen mixture of politically, socially, and psychologically aware lyrics with an incredibly nuanced and evolved delivery; the dark and deeply funky production, shot through with an entire jazz band’s worth of all-star live players; the live-wire theatricality of the entire endeavor… all of these parts coalesce as Lamar’s ambition and talent meet in in the stratosphere.
It’s both incredibly audacious and earnest to a fault. The album feels embarrassingly personal at times, the rapper spilling his demons in a drunken crying jag. At the same time, everything’s wrapped in a sense of universal struggle, the intrinsic knowledge that we’re all in this together. There’s no wonder that it’s proven as divisive as it is beloved.