Our Favorite Albums of 2014.5

Actress: Ghettoville [Werkdiscs]

When I interviewed Actress for The FADER this year, he described Ghettoville to me as a concept album about being homeless but having a laptop with musical software on it. He even suggested that he made the album in the hopes of imparting a piece of life advice to his listeners: “If there is one sort of profound moral, it’s just to consider other people a bit more. If you’re doing alright, and you’ve got a decent job and you get paid, and you’ve got a home to go to, and you’ve got friends that you can chill out with and have a drink with and be warm or whatever, then that’s amazing. But the stark reality is that there's people out there who just don’t have that.” I was surprised. How could an album as abstract and even willfully difficult as Actress’ fourth full-length have a "meaning," let alone a moral? As I began to spend more time with with the record, though, the London producer’s words began to make sense; in fact, I think they illuminated all the cryptic doomsday proclamations that preceded the record’s arrival (you know, that stuff he wrote about Ghettoville being Actress’ last record, “R.I.P Music 2014," etc.). Ghettoville, in all it’s sketch-like, crooked, sputtering, weirdly clipped, off-rhythm goodness, felt like a bombed-out incarnation of dance music itself, battered and emaciated but determined to keep trucking along.

In the same interview I mentioned above, Actress also called the album his attempt to “crash the market,” which I think is a pretty bad-ass ambition to have when you are seemingly poised on the end of verge of a mainstream breakthrough. If Ghettoville is partly a conceptual reckoning with the failures of capitalist society to look after its denizens, and partly a musical reckoning with the intersection of capitalism and music, then it’s pretty admirable for its political intentions alone. That said, there’s also some pretty striking moments of beauty herein, such as the damaged but unwaveringly soulful vocal loop on “Don’t.” Within the context of the record’s conflicted relationship to pop, it feels pretty political too, but also touchingly reassuring: “Don’t stop the music.” --Emilie Friedlander

The Body & Thou: Released From Love [Vinyl Rites]

After two stellar albums in 2013, The Body kicked off 2014 with two stellar-- albeit very different-- collaborative releases. I Shall Die Here pits the band against The Haxan Cloak, resulting in some soul-crushing, bass-heavy music that emphasizes The Body's previously-displayed industrial tendencies. But Released From Love, their collaboration with Louisiana doom heroes Thou, is even better, highlighting The Body's ability to fuse tried-and-true doom metal with noise, southern rock, and contemplative folk (see: an awesome Vic Chestnutt cover), staying sad and complex and brutally loud all the while. Throughout the record's four tracks, Bryan Funck, Thou's singer, provides a sinister-but-human foil to Chip King's otherworldly screams, and the two rhythm sections work together to create dirge-like backing tracks that are dense but not overly so. In other words, The Body and Thou teaming up sounds like one amazing, impossibly heavy band and not two acts jamming on top of one another. That such disparate The Body collaborations, recorded around the same time, can work so well is a testament to Chip King and Lee Butler's skills as musicians and their sound's mutability. And Released From Love is a testament too to just how fucking awesome and underappreciated (at least up north) Thou is. Like The Body, Thou is a brutal metal band steeped in many other styles, a group intent on breaking generic ground and forging new modes of expression. --Joe Bucciero

Container: Adhesive [Mute]

As Ren Schofield gets his elbows deeper in a Unit 731-style vivisection of noise music, we learn that chaos is his modus operandi as Container. The objectives are simple: fuck up sound, make it fun. In a nutshell, Adhesive is his most fucked up and fun yet. If typical dance music production is akin to painting a wall in layers-- prime with a sample, lay down the drums for the first coat, thicken with bass and pads-- Schofield's method is more like tossing paint into an oscillating fan. Each of the four tracks on Adhesive is bound by a groove, but the elements that really make your ass shake are triggered in enrapturing succession, inducing the old 23 skidoo. Sure, Container's everything-in-the-red timbres get you amped, and it's his keen sense of rational thought-dismantling disorder that keeps you jacked. Adhesive stands as the singular heavy music release of the year so far because it short-circuits the thinking part of your brain where so much experimental music thrives, instead firing neurons in whichever cluster of grey matter makes you feel like you just punched a cop in front of a cheering crowd. --Mike Sugarman

copeland: Because I'm Worth It [self-released]

What’s so fascinating about Inga Copeland’s official debut, LP Because I’m Worth It, is the self-assurance with which she leaves behind both her ill-fated (artistic) liaison with Hype Williams-accomplice Dean Blunt and her previous efforts as a solo artist. When the London-based musician released her 12” Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going early last year, many saw it as foreshadowing her proper debut full-length. But despite the EP’s zeitgeisty outline, the prospect looked rather dull: with Martyn and Scratcha DVA featured prominently as producers, Copeland’s post-HW future appeared to be on the brink of being reduced to the role of female vocalist, putting on display a uniquely languid and wistful voice that had carried some of the most memorable Hype Williams songs while undermining the rest of her talents. Fortunately, Because I’m Worth It takes another direction entirely.

Instead, arriving only a few months after Hype Williams' breakup, it expresses a confident self-actualization. Sure enough, most reviews still focus on that one collaboration with a famous (male) producer, but for all its snotty brilliance, the Actress feature “Advice to Young Girls” is hardly the most remarkable thing about the album. It’s the complete absence of vocals on half of the eight tracks that most boldly testifies to Copeland’s newfound autonomy. Mostly gone are the mournful pop miniatures that marked her earlier output. Where she uses her voice, the lyrics are wittier than ever, laconic observations and musings about life in her adopted “city of sorrows,” aptly sarcastic yet never bitter. Clocking in at under 30 minutes, the album is all too short, but with this intrepid statement, Copeland’s future looks more promising than ever. --Henning Lahmann

Fennesz: Bécs [Editions Mego]

When I came around to Fennesz' now-seminal 2001 album, Endless Summer, it was surrounded by a particular type of chatter that it was the electronic album for the electro-illiterate. For me, it was a masterful mix of processed guitars and swirling distortion ideal for someone who was still cutting her teeth on punk and indie rock. More than anything else, Endless Summer was endlessly interesting, with new textures bubbling to the surface upon each listen. It was abstract and intricate and, when it wanted to be, beautiful.

This year Fennesz announced a conceptual follow-up to Endless Summer. The resulting album, Bécs, takes cues from the mountainous drones of his previous full-length, 2008's Black Sea, and the beach-combing pop mechanisms of that fateful summer in 2001. As a result, Bécs is as full-bodied and textured as ever, employing his usual dosage of droning noise and delicate effects best filtered through headphones. Bécs is Fessesz's most guitar-driven work yet, with pieces like the ten-minute "Liminality" led by melodic fingerpicking and climactic chordal swells. "Paroles," the album closer, is a lilting guitar piece that in typical Fennesz fashion is dusted with creaking electronic effects. While Bécs is certainly reminiscent of Endless Summer, it is also heavy with thirteen years of experience. Airy electroacoustics make room for the dark, cosmic compositions like “Pallas Athene” and “Sav.” Still, both Bécs and its predecessor maintain a sort of dreamy nostalgia. In the case of the former, this is in part exemplified by the album’s title, the Hungarian word for Vienna, his hometown. The most telling title-- the one that serves as a stand-in for the whole album-- is “Liminality.” The word suggests a period of transition, an ambiguity within the moment of process. If Endless Summer is the origin, it is thrilling to think that Bécs is far from the end. We just peered in mid-process. --Julia Selinger

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Piñata [Madlib Invazion]

Imagine you’re a cat like Freddie Gibbs. After a decade of being a god of the underground, you're given the opportunity to sift through eight CDs worth of beats from a storied producer who needs no introduction: Madlib. Maybe a little scary, right? Madlib’s pedigree has become as intimidating as his very record collection, but Gibbs went in with a clear vision: surreal modern-day Blaxploitation flick. No bullshit, no posturing. just day-to-day gangsta recollections. Gibbs' dream about a piñata spilling cocaine after a hard day of slinging helped provide him with vision for the album. Mining Madlib's beat CDs is an approach that has had variable returns for MCs in the past. There are snoozers like Talib Kweli's Liberation but then there are gems like Percee P's Perseverance and Strong Arm Steady's In Search of Stoney Jackson. And Madvillainy doesn’t seem to count in that narrative because, you know, Doom.

On the note of Madvillainy, this is the best pairing of Madlib and an MC since that 2004 milestone, all for the same reasons but different dividends. Gibbs picked out the cuts he liked-- buttery, degraded soul flips-- and proceeded to own them. Combining different spices, Gibbs enhances his years-cultivated flow while avoiding traps like bogging down the record with interludes or tonal shifts. All Gibbs needed was one intro, sixteen cuts and a solid hour to do his thing. What’s especially remarkable is that the album doesn’t feel too long or redundant. This is the most confident and darkest Gibbs has ever sounded, and like Madvillainy before it, Piñata exists in its own vaccum. It's two old heads making an updated, relevant version of what they do best. 2014 is a stand-out year for rap, but no one could have predicted the year’s first classic would not come from from Chicago or Atlanta, but Gary and Los Angeles. --Brad Stabler

Good Willsmith: The Honeymoon Workbook [Umor Rex]

Evolution has become high art in the face of rhetoric suggesting otherwise. Though the fruition of scientific study and societal advancement, we have those who fear the grandiose and chose destruction of idea rather than unity of principles. Punk defined rock and roll as something to be destroyed--- something that had outlived its usefulness-- while those against the anti-establishment clung greatly to what they knew, fearful of what we could become under the guidance of anarchy. The Honeymoon Workbook is both evolution and the punk of our now. Repurposing the foundation of known musics merely as a reference point, the latest from Good Willsmith plasters a Malcolm McLaren attitude to electronic music just to watch it crumble as a new monolith to an alternate pop culture arises from its writhing experimentation. Those strange moments in which Good Willsmith bends reality only to find that the warped point of view is in fact the missing link, those are never ending. We have gone too long without challenging ourselves to grow, focusing unnecessary energy on those desperately holding onto the artifacts of yore. It's time to let them live in their ill constructed good ol' days. All forms of music are decaying, not in need of touch ups of concept but the wrecking ball of progress. Hand the controls to The Honeymoon Workbook and do not look back. --Justin Spicer

Jerry Paper: Feels Emotions [Patient Sounds Intl.]

Featuring Lucas Nathan’s face covered with pie and attached to a purple-suited, computer generated body, the artwork to Jerry Paper’s LP, Feels Emotions, provides an apt metaphor for his music: mediated by machine and immersed in tragi-comedy. For all the whimsy of the wacky background story inside the album’s liner notes, Nathan’s songs are all relatable, centering around a simultaneous longing for connection and escape in a confusing and indifferent world. Tracks like “Today Was a Bad Day” chart a series of misfortunes ranging from the mundane to the absurd, all of which lead Nathan to conclude that he is “living a slapstick nightmare.” His straightforward lyrics are given life by his inventive synth arrangements, which draw from kitschy lounge music to create a surreal and sedated vibe. This aesthetic is matched by Nathan’s strong songwriting, which is sophisticated while remaining melodic and hooky. The desire to escape the crushing banality and uncontainable emotion of everyday life permeates Feels Emotions. For Nathan, music is the key in the pursuit of transcendence, however futile that pursuit is acknowledged to be throughout the record. Album closer “Feed Me Sweet Sounds,” which features a rare acoustic guitar appearance as well as some deflated-sounding synth fanfare, finds Nathan declaring that “I belong on Earth, here with pop songs.” For all the frustrations the album voices with expressing emotions, Nathan’s take on the pop song is wonderfully articulate. --Miguel Gallego

Kassem Mosse: Workshop 19 [Workshop]

Gunnar Wendel (aka Kassem Mosse) has made a firm decision to explore the convergence of old technologies-- utilized in new and illustrious fashions-- with the body, as medium for the machine. Tethered together by a worn and anxious thread, Wendel’s debut record Workshop 19 sees him exploring the depths of his established, strung-out style. The web of anonymity woven through a series of untitled and vinyl-side labeled tracks carries an air of mechanical, procedural distance. If anything, this album was made for and about expanding the self through improvisation and technical parameters. An imagery of a dingy, drug-laden apartment is conjured from the Dada-esque Fender Rhodes jams heard throughout, making for a meeting ground between the corporeal and the spiritual. Swept in the knackered narcotics of Korg M1 oscillations, deeply circuitous percussion and vaporous vocalizations Workshop 19 sees Wendel performing intensely body-oriented and sexualized compositions which collectively give way to an introspective sublime. Weeding through the discarded junk of oversaturated genres-- the regional-ideations house and the technical modes of techno-- and flipping their mechanics in a fashion not unlike R. Stevie Moore, Workshop 19 is an unassuming record that sees Wendel expand well past genre histories and prescribed genre usages. --Deforrest Brown

Moodymann: Moodymann [KDJ]

A self-titled album released on what’s sort of a self-titled label (KDJ are his initials: Kenny Dixon Jr.), Moodymann is, both on its surface and deeper down, Kenny Dixon Jr.’s most personal long-player. It is concerned with himself, with his identity as a musician and as a human being, and chiefly, it seems, with his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Dixon is not one of Detroit techno’s “big three” originators, but he has nevertheless been a vital part of the scene for twenty years now, with his music soundtracking many a club and his recognizable likeness emblazoning many a T-shirt. On this most recent album, released to not-enough fanfare, Dixon waxes both crude and poetic, both textually and musically, about Detroit, its musical history, and its culture in general over the course of twenty-seven fluidly mixed tracks (of radically varying length). As steeped as the individual pieces are in real-deal techno, Dixon spreads his legs even further than usual, stylistically speaking, incorporating heavy doses of jazz, R&B, spoken-word, house, and more. There are stories of sex, music, gangs, the Motor City, and Dixon’s life-- some told by self-assured narrators bent on making you laugh and cry at the same time, some told by Dixon singing his own lyrics (quite well, I might add), and some told just through the music, which often balances the entire sonic history of Detroit on a thin line flanked by genuine reverence and smirking satire. With Dixon Irreverent and totally in control, Moodymann is a defining document for his career, techno, and Detroit. --Joe Bucciero

Moth Cock: Twofer Tuesday [Hausu Mountain]

Moth Cock might be able to finagle some public arts funding if they tout Twofer Tuesday as the bridge between New Orleans jazz and Black Dice. It's a Gummo-grade tribute to a version of middle America that blossoms amidst its own entropy. Doug Gent and Patrick Modugno apply a consummately noise-bro attitude to hip-hop, but skew neither harsh nor boom-bap. On both wind instruments and electronics, the two shred in a way that must keep their childhood music teachers up at night, pacing the kitchen. And then what do you make of the album's title, an allusion to classic rock gimmickery? At least on New York's Q104.3, “Twofer Tuesday” refers to a weekly programming block featuring two, count 'em two, songs in a row by each band played. On a purely logical level, Twofer Tuesday would be a less absurd endeavor if it were recorded at a high school football game where some recent dropout spiked the marching band's Gatorade cooler with Robitussin. Thanks to baffling structure and an ever-present mid-tempo lilt, I'm tempted to lovingly peg the Cock Boys as deviants or perverts, but I learned that my casual use of such terms inspired member Patrick Modugno to shave his mustache last year. Ok, maybe I exercised some poor judgement by implying that they're convicted pederasts. But c'mon, if enough teens started listening to the Moth Cock, it's not unfathomable that today's concerned mothers would have conniption fits on par with those raising metal heads during the height of the Reagan-era Satanism scare. For real though, wake me when we live in the America where all the cool teens are jamming Twofer Tuesday. --Mike Sugarman

Pure X: Angel [Fat Possum]

Pure X has always had a knack in shining a light on the deepest, darkest corners of the mind. From You're In It Now's nihilistic anthem "Don't Want To Live, Don't Want To Die," to the emotional rawness of Crawling Up the Stairs' confrontational "Someone Else," the band's consistently found ways to totally bum people out to cathartic ends. Aesthetically, Angel picks up from where Crawling's smooth first single, "Things In My Head" left off. In lieu of the straight-forward hooks and ooh-based choruses we heard on Pleasure's "Dream Over" and "Easy," X takes a comparatively understated road here. But despite its easy listenin' aesthetic and Bee Gees-esque quivers, Angel's soft rock sound is juxtaposed by X's signature introspective lyrics, rendering it as dark and evocative as the albums that came before it. Themes of delusional, unrequited love and a disconnectedness from reality appear in standouts like "Starlight" and "Fly Away With Me Woman," even giving "Every Breath You Take" a run for its money in the creepiness department. However it's "Heaven" that really steals the spotlight as the album's centerpiece. Ambiguous, and perhaps their most depressing work yet, the song could just as likely be about choosing a life of optimism as it could be about suicide. Or heroin, even. But knowing Pure X, it's very likely they're looking to evoke the disorienting sweetness of everything all at once. --Ric Leichtung

Randall McClellan: The Healing Music of Rana [Sun Ark Records]

Can we forget about American primitivism for a second, and start talking about American minimalism? Just kidding, Joe (but really, dude). No, a few months ago I dragged my partner into Tribeca to spend some time lounging around on the carpets of La Monte Young’s Dream House, in which sustained sine waves from a custom Rayna synth drone on for ~10 hours a day. The experience was intensely meditative, and after a couple hours, when we eventually decided we’d had enough, we emerged dazed and renewed. I imagine sitting in on one of Randall McClellan’s performances in the early '80s, a number of which comprise his reissue box-set The Healing Music of Rana, must have produced a very similar effect.

Healing Music first appeared online late last year in installments on Bandcamp, and if you heard about them then, it was most likely through J.D. Emmanuel’s Facebook feed. J.D., a master American minimalist who’s seen a fair share of his own work reissued recently, helped Randall McClellan compile the music from various performances previously released on private presses. The sounds within are blissful, subtly shifting pieces of synth and vocal workouts, created with a couple Moogs stacked atop each other for simultaneous play and a reel-to-reel set-up that enables tape loops to build and slowly disintegrate as new melodies are played over them. Informed by North Indian vocal music and ragas, as well as Eastern and sacred thought-- the principals of which are outlined in his (highly recommended) book-- McClellan aims to guide us through meditation and healing with his music. It’s a sentiment shared by other minimalists like Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and J.D., and one that produces a kind of stunning calm unheard anywhere else. --Ian Pearson

Ricky Eat Acid: Three Love Songs [Orchid Tapes]

The first song I heard off of Ricky Eat Acid’s Three Love Songs, released earlier this year by the tiny Brooklyn label Orchid Tapes, was the infectious “In my dreams we’re almost touching,” a pure dance track that samples Drake, ebbing and flowing in classic house fashion. It didn’t properly prime me for the rest of the album, which I’d expected to take on a similar sound. Instead, Maryland’s Ricky Eat Acid-- the recording alias of Sam Ray, who is also involved in indie pop groups Julia Brown and Starry Cat-- uses his first proper full-length to take listeners through a diversified palette of sounds: a spoken-word intro, melodic ambience, seven minutes of dreamy synths, beats borrowing from UK dubstep, moments of silence. Ray’s stylistic tinkering is a testament to how the Internet has eroded former notions of genre and thus made it possible for musicians to approach composition via a guiding mood or narrative alone. Notably, the track titles on Three Love Songs are wordy and evocative (i.e. “Outside your house; the lights went out & there was nothing”) and work almost like captions in that they ground the music to a place, a time, a memory. There is a nostalgia throughout for a kind of intangible personal experience, one which finds articulation through the mash-up of conventional dance, poetical lyrics, and meditative noise. Music in 2014 may be in danger of simply recycling old ideas, but Ricky Eat Acid's experimentation points decidedly toward the future. --Beth Tolmach

Taso: Teklife Till Tha Next Life Vol. 1 [Teklife]

I don’t know who is doing what and where on Teklife Til Tha Next Life Vol. 1, just as I didn't know who was doing what and where on Double Cup. But you don’t really need to. More than anything, Taso’s aim is repping the squad, the Teklife family, and leaning hard into what the crew has pulled off well in the past. Next Life dropped with little word earlier this year. I remember finding it right after Mike posted it to Facebook, hitting play on the train, and, after getting smacked upside the head by the first tune, thinking, “where the hell has this been?”

Artists have been sneaking Next Life’s tunes into Teklife and Hyperdub parties like secret weapons since the second half of 2013. Footwork heads have had these tunes sail into their craniums like sonic booms-- the flips of “C.R.E.A.M.” and “SpottieOttie” especially-- and part of Next Life’s appeal lies in how it feels like an unloading of fan favorites. It also seems to point to footwork’s direction for the rest of 2014. You would be remiss to not talk about Rashad’s passing and Double Cup’s relationship to this EP, and it’s no accident that both Rashad and Spinn feature prominently here, forming the same trio that was behind much of that masterpiece. Next Life makes Double Cup look and sound even better than before. In turn, Taso’s work here, solo and in collaboration with Rashad and Spinn, is the most invigorated the Teklife sound has gotten. Once those Amen breaks start tripping over each other on “Passin’ Me By,” Next Life’s keeper status is cemented. --Brad Stabler

Tonstartssbandht: Overseas [Company / Arbutus]

Tonstartssbandht feels like a once-in-a-lifetime band the first time you see them. And, well, also the second, and third time, and so on. But the first time you don't really understand what the fuck is going on with these two dudes making messy, ratty psych music while they shout back and forth at each other until said shouting turns into these gorgeous harmonies. The brothers White consistently demand that every single alive person in the room turn present, wholly conscious for this and only this experience. You only feel compelled to talk to other people about how good this is; phones only come out to snap a pic of Andy Boay falling over. The two are monomaniacally focused on rocking out, and this passion spreads. Charisma-wise, they're on par with popularly elected dictators. So yeah, thank god these guys put together a live album, Overseas.

"Ok, but what's so great about Tonstartssbandht outside of the live thing?" asks the hypothetical bozo who dislikes live music. We exist in a moment when indie rock progresses according to a series of trends in laser-focus nostalgia which imbue specific structures and aesthetics on the very macrogenre that used to be the sonic and spiritual embodiment of freedom, exploration, of the individual's ability to be part of something greater. Tonstartssbandht, with little need for the trends and localized nostalgia, utilizes rock's history-- they'll tribute its origins with some Carter Family, its outer limits with some Amen Düül II, its populism with some 60s AM nugget, textbook classic rock with some Stones-- in order to prove the multitudes contained by rock, and suggest, farther, what can be contained. They stake new territory by mangling traditional structures and implementing contemporary experimental electronic techniques-- better on display with their solo work as Eola and Andy Boay-- packaging it all in ecstasy. Not the stuff that hits for a few hours and leaves you low, but the real deal ecstatic which spreads in public spaces and lingers when you wake up the next day. For someone like me who once lost all hope in new rock music-- seeking refuge in noise, hip hop, Tuareg psych, etc.-- Tonstartssbandht seems like the messengers, the one true hope for a genre that is impossible to stop loving, no matter how awful it can be. Rock and roll will never die, or some such shit. --Mike Sugarman

Traxman: Da Mind of Traxman Vol. 2 [Planet Mu]

Corky Strong is one of Teklife's most ballsy, outspoken DJs, and in a lot of ways, Da Mind of Traxman Vol. 2 feels a lot like business as usual for the incredibly prolific footwork pioneer. Strong typically drops multiple tracks every week, if not every day, via multiple Soundcloud accounts, so one can only imagine how much material there was to go through for this collection. Just like the very good Vol. 1, Vol. 2 was curated by Mike Paradinas, the same mind behind the Bangs and Works compilations that introduced the world to footwork notables RP Boo, DJ Clent, DJ Nate, and the late DJ Rashad. And while Paradinas' ear was definitely needed to sift through and select the best cuts, the sense sets in while listening to the record that Strong's curatorial ear is as forward-thinking as Paradinas'. Traxman takes samples from Eurhythmics and Pantera that feel stale and Girl Talk-y on an ideological level, looks the other way at what'd be appropriate for a progressive DJ in 2014 to draw from, and turns them into rebellious, impeccably tasteful choices that work in ways you'd refuse to believe. It's major successes like "Let It Roll Geto," "Your Just Moving," and the now-poignant and bittersweet "Ever and Always" that charm the hardest as they show how Traxman is just too creative and talented to respect things as petty as musical boundaries. --Ric Leichtung

Various Artists: Meili Xueshan I&II [Hi-Hi-Whoopee]

Back in early February, Japanese blog Hi-Hi-Whoopee released Meili Xueshan I&II for free with few theatrics. The whole compilation emerged as a simple Tumblr post with links to Mediafire downloads for both "sides" of the album and descriptions in Japanese for all of the featured artists. After an initial read-through of the tracklist, the nonchalant manner of release suddenly seemed puzzling. The sheer breadth and excellence of the musicians featured on the release is absolutely staggering. Representing a veritable who's who of forward-thinking electronic producers and experimentalists, Meili Xueshan I&II is an incredibly comprehensive collection of the more important voices in the game right now: D/P/I, foodman, Giant Claw, M. Sage, Seth Graham, C V L T S, Ahnnu, 18+, and more appear here side-by-side.

What's more, it offers consistently superb selections from everyone involved, big and small names alike. It's no surprise that the cuts by Giant Claw, Ahnnu, and M. Sage stand up to the sterling quality of those artists' larger oeuvres. But some of the tracks that have become my favorites are by artists that I'd never heard of before. Take Angel 1's “12.27.13,” which starts off with some 0PN-esque deconstructivism before building up to an overwhelmingly ecstatic climax replete with gorgeous synth pads, breakbeats, and Kendrick Lamar samples. According to Wikipedia, Meili Xue Shan is a mountain range in southern China. It makes sense that this is the compilation's namesake; the music here is as uniformly awe-inspiring and unrelentingly beautiful as a grandiose mountain vista should be. --Sean Delanty

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