Search results for dean blunt

Inga Copeland Shares New Track, Announces Tour

Inga Copeland Shares New Track, Announces Tour

From her time as a co-trickster with Dean Blunt in Hype Williams, to her cycling through various aliases for different releases, Inga Copeland has never made easy legibility an artistic priority. Her debut full length, 2014’s Because I’m Worth It, was released as copeland, while a subsequent EP, RELAXIN’ With Lolina saw her take on the name Lolina. Last year, she retained the name Lolina for an album called Live In Paris that was not, actually, recorded live in Paris, however insistent the sinister chant of the titular phrase three minutes in is. Today she has shared a cryptic video for a track called “Fake Bond,” with the video’s still image splitting the difference between her monikers by referring to her as “Inga ‘Lolina’ Copeland.” The track is built around a wobbly electric piano loop that switches between two, unbalanced feeling meters, anchored by a slick, mischievous bass line. Meanwhile, strange, waterlogged sounds interject here and there, as if performing a modernist ballet.

The video still also announces a 2017 tour, featuring a performance in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory this Thursday, April 6. She’ll be performing alongside SADAF and blursome.

Inga Copeland - Fake Bond from Lolina on Vimeo.

Our Favorite Albums of 2016

Our Favorite Albums of 2016

Below are our 21 favorite albums of 2016, presented in alphabetical order. Many thanks to all who read our words and attended our shows this year. If you're interested in keeping up with what we do, sign up for our mailing list on the right side of this webpage, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service [Epic]

I come from the generation when rap started to break into well-to-do suburban neighborhoods. Just before it became a major commercial force in the second part of the ’90s, hip-hop was effectively my generation’s punk rock. Especially growing up in a trailer park, hip-hop made a major impact by voicing a multi-faceted language of disadvantage. The rhythms, content, and aspirations of hip-hop seemed to offer many—especially the confused and apathetic youth—means of expression and engagement. So it’s affirming that all these years later, A Tribe Called Quest, one of the most important groups of that time period, still carry such cache and still speak to and for the confused and enraged—that they’re prescient but also in-step within a new era of hip-hop fan caught up in social media scenes and The Breakfast Club blasts. I can’t dare argue how We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service speaks to and for specific people of different races, genders, or socioeconomic groups, but as a still-struggling adult with children, every beat, idea, and expectation crammed into this great hip-hop group’s last effort (jam-packed with star performances by peers and protégés alike) speaks volumes for those of us who have lost the words to explain where things have gone awry. [Justin Spicer]

Angel Olsen: My Woman [Jagjaguwar]

Angel Olsen’s 2014 LP Burn Your Fire For No Witness ends on an exhale. On “Window,” the record’s slow-burning closer, Olsen asks, “Won’t you open the window sometime? What’s so wrong with the light?” On “Not Gonna Kill You,” the final track on the A-side of her latest full-length, My Woman, a decidedly more upbeat Olsen answers her own question: “I’ll let the light shine in,” she says. Like much of My Woman, the song has a tone both self-possessed and wise, reflecting a palpable shift from the erstwhile delicate, lo-fi Americana on Olsen’s previous releases. In 2016, her vocals feel more lived in, more emboldened by the warmth of experience.

The brilliance of My Woman, then, is Olsen’s ability to balance her newly wizened demeanor with coy fatalism. Following the assertion that she’ll let the light shine in, Olsen drawls the titular coda: “It’s not gonna kill you.” One can’t help but picture the requisite wink upon delivery. Sure enough, My Woman has a sardonic sheen—perhaps best exemplified by “Intern,” the intentionally synth-laden red herring. But once you look behind the candelabra—or, more accurately, under the silver wig Olsen dons in that song’s video—there’s tenderness lurking underneath. It shows up even stronger elsewhere: “Show me the future,” Olsen sings on “Sister.” “Tell me you’ll be there.” It’s as much an earnest plea as a coy provocation. [Julia Selinger]

ANOHNI: Hopelessness [Secretly Canadian]

As I reflect on all the momentous issues covered in Hopelessness—state-sanctioned executions, extrajudicial killings, surveillance, climate change, the rise and fall of the Obama generation’s optimism—I think back to an interview where ANOHNI describes our generation’s ability to forget the collective trauma inflicted by capitalism: “The trauma is so quickly erased,” she told The Creative Independent, “and the new terms for engagement are accepted as an inevitability.” 2016 has been nothing but a continuous cycle of outrage, emotional outpour, and despondency. It has left too many without the energy or tools for meaningful political and social action. What ANOHNI achieves here is a method of bypassing the anxieties of the political situation and concretizing the danger they present and fear they inspire. Our instinct is to feel embarrassed as she repeats the president’s name on “Obama,” addressing him so directly for his faults. In doing so, she opens up a line of dialogue, one that pokes and prods throughout the entirety of Hopelessness. Through it, ANOHNI demonstrates the necessity for directness in our conversations, for opening up to vulnerability and honesty in today’s increasingly inhospitable world. [Ivan Krasnov]

Babyfather: “BBF” Hosted by DJ Escrow [Hyperdub]

Never giving a damn about a coherent or consistent narrative to back up his various projects, Dean Blunt—a.k.a. Babyfather, neither of which is his real name of course—in many ways anticipated the emergent post-truth age. Still, at the end of this strange year, after all the Brexits and “Make America Great Agains,” the overbearing presence of “BBF” Hosted by DJ Escrow’s leitmotif—the sinister iteration of the catchphrase “This Makes Me Proud to Be British”—has left a lingering, bitter aftertaste that its creator couldn’t possibly have foreseen. Yet it’s been with us for almost all of 2016, repeating in much the same tone. To call Blunt a prankster is a misunderstanding. The opposite is true: Blunt’s work has become so overly sincere that it inevitably verges on the absurd. Ever since his earliest works as one half of Hype Williams, his music has never been meant for us to be entertained. He’s laughing at all of us, but despite the state of the world, not because of it. What kind of art are you supposed to create if reality and satire have become congruent? This is what makes “BBF” deeply, inherently political: an album unlistenable in the same way that 2016 was unlivable. [Henning Lahmann]

The Body: No One Deserves Happiness [Thrill Jockey]

Little did anyone know that 2016 would see the release of the greatest pop music-influenced noise-metal record of all time, yet no one should be surprised that it came from the Portland-based duo of heavy experimenters The Body. Despite having a sui generis and inimitable take on the doom-sludge sound, they have remained astonishingly flexible with their choice of collaborations, which has led them ever further away from the realm of metal purism. While fans of extreme brutality have still much in store for them on the No One Deserves Happiness (e.g., the malevolent “For You”), much of the LP triumphs in sounding like “the grossest pop album of all time,” with hints of Beyoncé’s “Jealous” and Kanye West’s “Lost In The World” mixing in with distorted trap beats, a Björkian use of choir, and a Wagnerian use of trombones. Members of Assembly of Light Choir Chrissy Wolpert and Maralie Armstrong take solos on the album and one must say that Armstrong’s presence on “Adamah” could be 2016’s “Great Gig In The Sky” performance of the year. The Body doesn’t get carried away, however: “The Fall and the Guilt” could have easily fit on their 2013 masterpiece Christs, Redeemers, and shows they’re still the most nuanced songwriters in metal. [Isaiah David]

Dedekind Cut: $uccessor [NON / Hospital Productions]

A knowledge of Dedekind Cut, a.k.a. Fred Warmsley's diverse career arc helps to place some of the more serrated alien textures that lurk under the surface of $uccessor’s lush new age experimentalism. What sets the album apart is its ability to intertwine the calming synth washes, choral effects, and pan flutes with pummeling rhythmic interludes and mangled samples, suggestive of drum ’n’ bass. This inclination makes historical sense from an artist who spent the last decade bouncing back and forth between producing mutant jungle under his Lee Bannon moniker and a long string hip-hop instrumentals for rappers ranging from Joey Bada$$ to Inspectah Deck. $uccessor reflects the output of the burgeoning community of artists associated with the NON Worldwide umbrella like N-prolenta and Chino Amobi, both of whom released cacophonous, ambient meditations on identity over the past year. Accompanied by its Deana Lawson cover photo depicting black horse riders, $uccessor infuses a cross-legged, meditative headspace with notions of black identity and street grit in a work that is as elegant as it is mysterious. [Max Parrott]

Elysia Crampton: Demon City [Break World]

Critics have been bending over backwards all year trying to make sense out of the wicked collaborations and artistry that spill across Elysia Crampton's Demon City. If they're not trying to string together as many superlatives into one sentence about how it sounds, then it’s micro-thesis papers on what it means or whether it has to do with Crampton's gender or globe-hopping. Is it the club as science fiction or is it setting a new precedent? What does it mean?

The trick of Demon City isn't that it's about anything that will come after it or before, but that it's a record very much of the now, a conversational piece between like-minded musicians meeting halfway between their unique voices today (NON's Lexxi on “Red Eyez,” the title track with Halcyon Veil boss Rabit, “Dummy Track” between Chino Amobi and Why Be), and Crampton's own blockbuster refinement of the paranormal sound she first put forward proper on the big screen with last year’s American Drift. Demon City feels like a record made among friends, a private conversation about what they'd like to hear and express in the club, before going out and doing just that. Its production is familiar and hollowed out at the same time, playing hide and seek with texture and often swerving away from a Big Moment only to save it for later. That all these voices behind her are coming into their own while Crampton's music gets better and better is humbling and astonishing today. Tomorrow can come later. [Brad Stabler]

Frank Ocean: Blonde [Boys Don’t Cry]

Throughout Blonde, Frank Ocean’s second full-length project of 2016, the artist performs a type of restless cruising. In L.A., you inevitably spend a lot of time on the highway, an endless loop of numbers that takes you from the foothills to the ocean and back. Exit signs, relics of old apartments, past lives float by. Shrouded in delicate arrangements that hang like weed smoke (or nuts, per “Futura Free”), Ocean sings to old lovers and old cars. He goes to Colorado. He yearns for people who are barely there. He crashes the galaxy. He sees the future first, and then lands back on Earth, bones dense as fuck. Blonde is beautiful in its roving plurality—its helium ballads and ghostly cameos whipped into frothy, prismatic choruses. It gently refuses to stay in a lane. As the critic Aria Dean theorizes—citing the Middle Passage, viral images of Black death, memes, and the fugitive nature of Black survival—historically and ontologically, Blackness circulates, troubles boundaries, makes them “a little bent.” Frank Ocean knows insofar as a Black man ever “makes it,” the world will try to own him. Blonde lives in the drift away from this capture, the detours. [Joseph Ocón]

Horse Lords: Interventions [Northern Spy]

Interventions is a classic breakthrough record, refining and broadening Horse Lords' sonic repertoire while also marking the best-sounding release by the group yet. The record offers a mind-expanding tour through the current preoccupations of the underground: foregrounding harsh guitar figures on "Interventions III,"  judiciously deploying loops and samples (the shorter sketches that serve as interludes highlight another key of the breakthrough record: thoughtful sequencing), and continually grounded in the band's ongoing relationship with hypnotic, syncopated polyrhythms. Like fellow travelers 75 Dollar Bill or Rangda, Horse Lords are the fruit borne of an increasingly interconnected and genre-blind subterranean scene, hovering at the midpoint of jazz, noise rock, and that knotty genre "world music." Arriving at a moment of renewed introspection and criticism across the independent music community, the aptly titled Interventions sings out with a vital urgency, a clarion call to renew one's engagement with the scenes that nurture these sounds. Interventions is certainly protest music, but it's also liberation music, and we need a lot more of both now more than ever. [Max Burke]

Jenny Hval: Blood Bitch [Sacred Bones]

Jenny Hval’s somewhat-vampire-themed LP Blood Bitch resonates with the past year in several intervals. The songwriting embodies the ever-flatter borders between genres in independent music: icy black metal, synth-driven dream pop, and the spoken-word librettos of Robert Ashley’s operas get equal time here in terms of reference, all rendered under a cool sonic patina by Hval and her co-producer, the Norwegian noise master Lasse Marhaug. Lyrically, Hval’s totemic references to technological anxiety (“I clutch my phone in my sweaty palm”) and the interplay between desire and violence (“I have big dreams,” she declares, “and blood powers”) speak to the ongoing concerns of 2016 in a poetic, reflexive tone exemplified in the self-deprecating dialogue in “The Great Undressing,” in which Hval and a friend laugh about making an album about bloodsuckers. One of Blood Bitch’s primary preoccupations is the exercise and evasion of power, a concern Hval attributes to two very different filmmakers. That she samples an Adam Curtis documentary to underscore cultural confusion as a political weapon is understandable. That she cites the films of grindhouse hack Jess Franco as an inspiration is less obviously clear, until you understand that, in an era where reality can vault you to the most vaunted position in the world, there’s a revolutionary strategy to staying on the margins. [Lance Higdon]

JJ Doll: JJ Doll [Katorga Works]

They've unfortunately already played their last show, but JJ Doll's self-titled 7" documents a band buoyed by the more classic (for lack of a better term) roots of contemporary New York City hardcore, and who embrace these roots in a way more particular and nuanced than most. Borne from the ashes of former local favorites Ivy—who, after their break up, now share members with Kaleidoscope as well—JJ Doll were an important cultural force, welcoming touring punk bands from the Midwest, down South, and internationally as a gateway to the character of NYC punk indicative of the last near-decade's scene. That description could lend to the idea of JJ Doll as a “band's band” or a local capsule, and although those aren't inherently wrong or bad things, they would be misleading about what’s ultimately one of the best punk releases of the year. [Matt Sullivan]

LVL UP: Return to Love [Domino]

Following 2014's critically acclaimed Hoodwink'd, Brooklyn outfit LVL UP took two years to build their third full-length, Return to Love. The quartet's latest is a massive stride forward in terms of creative ambition, scope, and unabashed feeling. 2016's difficulties sent a lot of people searching for their own discovery of spirituality and reasons to find, or keep, faith. Over 10 tracks of barbed, ’90s-leaning magic, LVL UP not only grapple with questions concerning those themes but provide a new source of inspiration.

On "Hidden Driver," Dave Benton—one of the band's three core songwriters—fuels a surging insistence that never wanes over the course of the record. Bassist and vocalist Nick Corbo's four contributions provide Return to Love with its beating heart and mark an exhilarating new chapter for an already promising talent. Michael Caridi's "Pain" serves as the record's most towering moment, even while returning the narrative to slightly smaller (and far more personal) stakes. Return to Love poses bigger questions in its narrative than the band’s past efforts do, yet they've never sounded more in control. [Steven Spoerl]

Mal Devisa: Kiid [self-released]

In a year when the public has come to rethink the media’s role in personal and political taste-making, Mal Devisa’s Kiid stands out as an uncompromising reflection on our times in its tone and, also, simply, in that its fans have come to love it so organically. Self-released in March, the record comprises ten tracks that range from tender ballads like "Sea Of Limbs" to stomping electronic recitations like “In My Neighborhood.” Kiid brilliantly draws from jazz, hip-hop, folk, and electronic music to create a dynamic batch of musical textures over which the glorious voice of Mal Devisa (real name: Deja Carr) soars. As independent music seems to beg to be contextualized in a scene or movement, Mal Devisa has consciously avoided the social trappings of the music industry, building a following by playing heartfelt shows, making art on her own terms, and being damn good at it. [Mike Kolb]

Mitski: Puberty 2 [Dead Oceans]

The bitter yearning and frustrated rebellion of 2016 has been well documented. Mitski's fourth effort, Puberty 2, deftly catalogues many such moments of bleak desperation and rarely offers relief. She recounts hard decisions, lost love, and dreams crushed by the need to pay rent each month. In a year when the summer seemed it would never end—bitter political quarreling and all—Mitski, too, cries during summertime fireworks. Along the way, her voice shape shifts, representing the contortions needed to reconcile her bitter nostalgia with the disappointing present. At times, she sounds like she is shouting through a phone, at others, as if as if she's in an empty lounge at the end of the world.

But Puberty 2 also serves a hard-nosed, equivocal optimism that fits the restless uncertainty of the past few months. Mitski’s anthemic defiance brims with passion but is short on resolution: “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me / But I do. I think I do.” Gravelly textures of chopped electronic drum beats, abusive strumming of acoustic guitars, and full-throated saxophone add to the album’s feeling that even in principled resistance, everything still turns out a mess. [Robert Szypko]

Pinegrove: Cardinal [Run for Cover]

Pinegrove's second LP Cardinal strikes a nerve, even if it’s impact is hard to articulate. The album is threaded deeply with the rich personal details and wry musings that frontman Evan Stephens Hall shares in his lyrics—and in his emotive and expressive country drawl, and in the intricately woven banjo and slide guitar arrangements. Most of all, it's in the extremely relatable feelings and worries that make up the backbone of the album. When Hall sings, "I should call my parents when I think of them / I should tell my friends when I love them," it's all but impossible not to reflect and realize you should do the same yourself. Cardinal is lovingly crafted and deeply resonant. It's a comfort to experience something so genuinely pure in its intentions in 2016, with much of the world in chaos and our country's future seeming bleak and uncertain. There will always be a place for earnest indie rock records like this one, and Cardinal is a reminder of just how important they can be. [Connor Rush]

Princess Nokia: 1992 [self-released]

A firm believer in DIY, Destiny Frasqueri, a.k.a. Princess Nokia, really did do it herself. Head spinning from the pressure of major label battles, the Bronx rapper revisited her birth year and self-release her first mixtape, 1992. Enlisting an all-star lineup of producers—A-Trak and Lex Luger to name a couple—Princess Nokia lets us glimpse into her difficult childhood and displays the unafraid, calculated recklessness that emerged henceforth. One of her lead singles, “Kitana” is a battle cry against her self-doubts, where she bitingly spits, “I just wanna have fun / And to live without fear.”

Living without fear for Princess Nokia is living without shame, a sentiment that rings clearly through the love of both her physical self and her bloodline. Bursting with pride for her Afro-Puerto Rican and Native Arawak heritage in “Bruja,” she proclaims herself a “black-a-rican” witch, warding off her haters. In “Mine” and “Excellent,” she highlights her hair and skin, which aren’t so readily accepted by others. “Is that your real hair?” she asks, mimicking the questions of strangers. “It’s mine, I bought it,” she retorts. With “melanin heaven sent,” Princess Nokia’s 1992 is knowing your worth and exuding a confidence in spite of all odds. [Meilyn Huq]

serpentwithfeet: Blisters [Tri Angle]

It’s hard to write words these days, knowing full well that no amount of hyperbole or Pynchon-esque similes will come close to encapsulating the bizarre, multi-layered irony of 2016. In the United States, less than half of the voting population achieved a scrappy victory, rejecting the perceived threat of “PC culture” for their own form of “correctness.” Those people most likely would not approve of serpentwithfeet, but it is necessary and life-affirming that challenging artists like serpentwithfeet’s Josiah Wise, who identifies with minority groups increasingly facing marginalization and normalized bigotry, are channeling their stories into unique, exciting music. Wise is a classically trained vocalist, and seconds into his debut release, Blisters, his unadulterated voice stands out as naked and bold in year of heavily-processed musical voices. The complex naturalness on Blisters is like a mountain stream replenishing brutalist desolation. Wise’s interest in the occult, in the ethers, in the sensuality of chastity is a beautiful queerification of what some might otherwise consider “gospel” music. Collaborating with Tri Angle labelmate Haxan Cloak, Wise swims in baroque instrumentation throughout. Harps cascade. Huge swells of strings bolster his velvety vibrato. serpentwithfeet upends some of pop’s tired cliches, and although his songs concern personal relationships and conflicts, they will inevitably stand for much more. [Ross Devlin]

Sheer Mag: III [Static Shock / Wilsuns RC]

2016 has been a year defined by tumult and uncertainty. As the world perilously shifts in unfathomable ways, it’s crucial to find solace in the reaffirming consistencies of life. Thankfully, one small thing that we can always seem to count on is Sheer Mag annually releasing a mind-blowingly phenomenal EP. On their third release in as many years, the Philly punk crew continues their steady climb to the top of the rock world. At this point in their career, they’re comfortable with continuing to refine the formula that’s treated them so well. The blown-out, Thin Lizzy-worshipping guitar work remains front and center. Tina Halladay’s vocals are just as invigorating. However, there’s a newfound sense of urgency in Halladay’s lyrical message that makes this EP an absolutely necessary listen. “All my life I’ve felt the eye of the catcall / We’re striking back baby, and you can find me in the vanguard” she grittily howls on opening cut “Can’t Stop Fighting.” With III, it’s obvious what Sheer Mag came to the party to do: viciously dismantle the patriarchy through the uniting power of a strong voice and an infectiously catchy riff. [Dylan Farrell]

Solange: A Seat at the Table [Saint / Columbia]

A Seat at the Table is an understated affair, full of relaxed, considered grooves which sound intimate and feel so good. Magic abounds in unexpected moments and places—the cascading entrance of Sampha’s vocals after the main hook of “Don’t Touch My Hair” or the bassline of “Cranes in the Sky,” which traces Solange’s vocal acrobatics like spotters carrying a trampoline. The austere palm-muted guitars that open “Don’t You Wait” are the most foreboding musical moment on a record that confronts anti-blackness and her experiences as a black woman with miraculous levity. Here, she addresses the hubris of white cultural gatekeepers who embraced her last record, True, and accused her of “biting the hand that feeds” for expressing her racial politics and exposing the condescending critical assumption that R&B “just got interesting and experimental.” In truth, it has always been. A Seat at the Table undeniably deserves its spot amid this year’s best of lists, AdHoc’s included. But our inclusion of A Seat at the Table—and its embrace by a wider critical tradition that has done both Solange and black music wrong—isn't an appropriate measure of success; look to “F.U.B.U” to see where Solange takes hers. [Miguel Gallego]

Weyes Blood: Front Row Seat to Earth [Mexican Summer]

Though modern American life is frequently a far cry from a battle for survival, it’s not easy. I don’t know if any year can be objectively worse than another, but 2016 saw tragedy heaped upon tragedy, culminating in a cruel twist of fate in early November when, for the first time in as long as I can remember, people “viewed each other strangely, and as strangers,” to quote Truman Capote. Hadn’t we learned from Bush… or, you know, Andrew Jackson? And yet, out of this wretched, ugly year, Natalie Mering birthed something pure and unafraid. I don’t know what place art has in the face of an aggressive government or an army of ignorance, but I know the act of creation is an act of hope and necessity, one with the capacity to salve the sporadic pain of being alive. In all its resplendent orchestration and beauty, Front Row Seat To Earth has been a trusted companion against the darkness, the kind of companion we’ll need in the years to come. [Jordan Reyes]

Yves Tumor: Serpent Music [PAN]

Yves Tumor is distinct in his clear desire not to imitate anyone, instead developing his own stylistic language to express an inner world. On Serpent Music, the result of this process is a work that feels very personal and expressive, and dynamic in its contrasts. At times very beautiful, at others very ugly, at times free-flowing, at others highly constructed: Tumor’s compositional approach and sonic palette are wide-ranging. Beautiful soft loops meet acoustic and electronic sound sources, and the real world is invited in through the use of technical feats and field recordings: a diverse array of screeching feedback, cop sirens, and broken beats. But silence also plays a large role. He communicates much without words and uses complete aural silence to build anticipation and to accentuate a recurring feeling of fragmentation. Listening to everything existing in simultaneity, a larger picture emerges. Yet no matter how abstract the album, the sequencing is so even that if you get lost, upon repeat listens you get the feeling like you’re gently being pulled through a specific sonic environment—a feeling not unlike dreaming. Often the fact that our ears don’t immediately understand what they’re hearing makes us focus and pay closer attention. [Tobias Rochman]

Dean Blunt Shares New Mixtape Featuring Arca

Dean Blunt Shares New Mixtape Featuring Arca via Arianna Power

Dean Blunt has shared a half-hour long mixtape featuring producer and Björk and FKA twigs collaborator Arca. The Hype Williams beatsmith and Arca have previously collaborated on a track from Blunt’s 2013 LP The Redeemer.


Arca’s performing a DJ set at Output on December 3rd with Total Freedom and Shayne. Check out the event and grab tickets

Arca’s new LP Mutant drops Friday, November 20th via Mute Records


RIP Barron Machat, Co-Founder of Hippos In Tanks

RIP Barron Machat, Co-Founder of Hippos In Tanks

Barron Machat, co-founder of Hippos in Tanks, has died. Although the cause of death is still undetermined, the news began to spread early yesterday morning via a series of tweets and Instagram images from Hippos in Tanks' alumni and folks close with Machat, including James Ferraro, Daniel Lopatin, Arca, Laurel Halo, and Tri Angle, among others. Together with label co-founder Travis Woolsey, Machat helped cultivate the careers of Arca, Games/Ford & Lopatin,  Dean Blunt, Inga Copeland, Sleep ∞ Over, James Ferraro, D'eon, and Lauren Halo-- all largely underground producers who went on to experience much larger audiences after working with the label. Machat was 27.

Joanne Robertson: "Hi Watt"

Joanne Robertson:

While Joanne Robertson was already an emerging figure in the British folk underground, it was the ever-evolving trickster and avant provocateur Dean Blunt who brought her into the spotlight, collaborating with her on Stone IslandThe Redeemer, and lately on Black Metalwhere her soft guitar basically builds the tracks and sets the mood. Now the tables have turned, with Robertson releasing her new LP, Black Moon Daysand Blunt assisting Robertson with some truly bedroom beats for a ballad so shy ("Hi Watt"), it's basically shoegaze. Or shoegaze folk, with Joanne staring at her shoes with emotional intensity while plucking on her acoustic guitar.

Black Moon Days is out now on Feeding Tube Records.

Our Favorite Reissues & Compilations of 2014

Our Favorite Reissues & Compilations of 2014

Below are our favorite reissues and compilations from the past year. You can pre-order our year-end zine (Issue #3) here.

Ariel Kalma: An Evolutionary Music (Original Recordings: 1972-1979) [RVNG Intl.]

First off, good on RVNG Intl. for ushering Ariel Kalma into the contemporary public eye. Out of all the labels partaking in the trend of reissuing obscure records by lost/forgotten/recluse geniuses (a trend rigorously outlined in Michael Blair’s and Joe Bucciero’s piece on Mike Cooper), RVNG has presented some of the richest texts this year, and An Evolutionary Music is a peacock’s feather in the label’s proverbial cap. But how the hell did Ariel Kalma fall into obscurity anyway? With his connections to the famous French GRM workshop and a psychically seductive approach to blending minimalism and jazz form, you would think that Kalma would have been able to tap into the avant-garde’s hunger, at the time, for intricate spiritual music. Well, better late than never. As if birthed from the dialectic of Terry Riley and Don Cherry during their collaborative concert in Köln, Germany in 1975, Kalma’s choice of instrumentation-- saxophone, keyboard, tape delay-- beats Bitchin’ Bajas at their own game, four decades in advance, with proto-New Age, proto-Drone music that radiates chilling warmth like the early Spring sunshine. It makes you wonder what lost works of today the RVNG Intl. of four decades from now will unearth. --Mike Sugarman

David First: Electronic Works 1976-1977 [Dais]

1958-59: Vladimir Ussachevsky, Otto Luening, Milton Babbitt, and Roger Sessions found the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, obtaining the custom-built RCA Mark II as their flagship piece of equipment. 1963: Don Buchla and Robert Moog individually invent the first commercial modular synthesizers. 1964-66: The CPEMC obtains a large collection of synths, including a Buchla 100, and becomes a mecca for the world’s greatest minds in electronic music. 1967: Morton Subotnik’s Silver Apples of the Moon, created using a Buchla, becomes the first all-electronic LP commissioned by a record company (Nonesuch). 1970s: Innovations are made in digital computer music, leaving analog synths by the wayside in academic research and composition. Unlike the Moog synth, which became huge among psychedelic pop and rock bands in the late ‘60s and ‘70s because of its keyboard function, the Buchla was destined to be remembered only by those particularly interested in its unique functions and sound possibilities.

1976-1977: David First enrolls in an electronic music class at Princeton, gains unlimited access to their analog equipment, finds the dusty Buchla 100, records several highly original compositions exploring its timbres to reel-to-reel tapes, puts them in a closet somewhere. 1977-present: First has a successful and influential career as a member of No Wave band The Notekillers and as a solo composer of electronic drone music [see album Privacy Issues (droneworks 1996-2009)]. 2014: David First starts the year off with a bang, releasing those previously unreleased (and probably unheard) recordings from his year at Princeton. There’s a wide range of styles here, from the proto-Merzbow sounding “Pulse Piece” to the jazz guitar-inflected “Moody,” all of them worth the 37-year wait. Electronic Works 1976-1977 is a piece of history, and one that sounds shockingly contemporary. --Isaiah David

DJ Moondawg: We Invented the Bop [Not on label]

In the opening seconds of We Invented the Bop, DJ Moondawg sums it up best: “All last year, I gave you a lot of that quality drill music. But that’s not all we do in Chicago, so lemme introduce you to the next shit. We invented the bop!” Bop didn’t start as a “response” to drill or something-- its origins were just a way of dancing, birthing a new style of original trax to go with it, one built for turnup. This is the first proper survey of the style, and the selection includes many of the key tracks from the scene (Sicko Mobb’s “Fiesta,” S.B.E.’s “Killin It,” Lil Chris’ “Bop Like Me”), giving it the nod over Volume 2. --Matt Sullivan


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Our Favorite Albums of 2014

Our Favorite Albums of 2014

This list will appear in this month's edition of the AdHoc zine. Preorder Issue 3 or subscribe.

Actress: Ghettoville [Werkdisks]

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

Andy Stott: Faith in Strangers [Modern Love]

Manchester producer Andy Stott has experimented with various shades of techno over the past decade, but his 2014 record Faith in Strangers breaks away from any single style in lieu of a unified melancholic feel. Stott’s latest has a cinematic quality that makes it difficult to just idly listen to; instead, it's best to enter into and experience viscerally these songs, which are ordered in such a way that you get the sense of having traveled through space, time, memory to get from start to finish. The slow build of opener, “Time Away,” sets the chilly mood that colors the entirety of the album, like on the very next track, “Violence,” which sustains and heightens this tone with its heavy, almost trap-ish industrial beat. This, along with the similar-sounding title track are the climactic moments that stand out amidst the more loosely structured, atmospheric unfolding of Faith in Strangers. The ethereal vocals from Alison Skidmore counterbalance the dark strangeness of the grinding loops and beats that Stott layers together. Soft vocals and machine noise combine especially powerfully on the final track, “Missing,” a simple but haunting piano arrangement that evokes both delicateness and danger, that in filmic language might amount to a shot of a lone person walking through a city at night. --Beth Tolmach

Arca: Xen [Mute]

Xen seemed underwhelming at first because of how counterintuitive it feels to the ongoing narrative behind Arca's ascent. Last year, the producer born Alejandro Ghersi pulled no punches. This was the guy who gave the unwieldy "Hold My Liquor" off Yeezus it's haunting pulse, and sent the now-ubiquitous FKA Twigs to her career-starting launchpad on EP2. &&&&&, etc. You probably know all this already. Which made Xen messing with the program all the more disarming. On this album, Arca's ever-propulsive momentum from last year now moves in start-stops, melodies traded for drop outs and half-awake chords-- the sonic results being an awkward balance between classical, trip-hop, and faded skeletons of flamenco from his childhood.

It's been cited over and over in reviews how fully in control of Xen Ghersi seems to be, and yet the opposite is true. The album sounds like how it was recorded (over the course of six months, mostly improv), unfolding in fits of introspection and spastic release, reflective of the mental state of both the tunesmith and the androgynous alter-ego it's named after. That kind of approach left Xen feeling confused, with little to grab onto as its tunes evaporated one after the other. But if the listener held on, the record deepened and gelled in a powerful way that none of his efforts have done before. It's still just as much of a labyrinth to get through as it was the day it was released, but Xen is all the wiser for letting listeners draw the map to get through it for themselves. Everyone you talk to about it is going to have a different favorite part. --Brad Stabler

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Read Dean Blunt's PDF Poetry

Read Dean Blunt's PDF Poetry

Sent to us in an email. The original is online.

No 3G reception, got parred. THIS right here is a problem,
cos we feel like rockstars. Turn up .
Black Cocaine, I'm with squad in here bunnin purple
comfortably, Leonardo Luxury. The turn up is so real G.
I'm not here to put smiles on peoples faces, I'm here to
SPEND, and blaze all races.

You know all the headlines...dining on MEDIA TAKEOUT.
MOLLY WATER AND Girls kissing in my section...fucking
perfection. I'm prepared to BALL to such a degree that
the complexion of this place will change tonight.
Thirty racks on a black card, nothing ordinary .
You know them ones, walking around after raves,
lean .

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Hyperdub's Decade in 12"s: A Primer

Hyperdub's Decade in 12

Hyperdub, the legendary London-based label headed up by curatorial mastermind Kode9 (aka Steve Goodman), has been known as the pre-eminent purveyor of forward-thinking club for the past decade. Putting out everything from grime-inflected dub to reworks of classic UK funky, they've undergone massive changes in the past 10 years, taking a definitive swerve away from their dark and dystopian origins toward a sleeker sense of retro-future neuroticism. And while no one can doubt the klout of talents that graced early Hyperdub releases (i.e. the sparse minimalism of the recently passed Spaceape, Kode9's penchant for metallic minimalism), it’s refreshing to see a label that progresses instead of staying staunch in its conviction to a given genre. So in honor of a decade of bass Darwinism, AdHoc has compiled a guide to the label's essential 12-inches-- typically less trumpeted than its LPs-- a playlist of some of the most seminal talent to emerge from the depths of Goodman’s.

Kode9: Sine of the Dub/Stalker (2006)

This is O.G. Hyperdub for all you historians out there. The origins of the minimal dub that first brought the likes of Steve Goodman to public consciousness a decade ago. Completely foreboding, nail-bitingly ominous in its minimalism, there’s something threatening about the acute emptiness and Kode9’s generally sociopathic spin on garage. The “shit-your-pants” factor is also definitely not helped by the Spaceape’s spine-tingling rumble, which makes tracks like “Sine” sound like the monotonous campfire story of your dub-drenched nightmares. “Stalker” is equally as terrifying with its unblinking bassbeat and steady, impending creep. But what’s most interesting is to see how gloom-and-doom it is compared to the stuff he’s producing today, which comes in the form of winnowing haze of his Uh/Oh Rinse release or the lumbering anxiety of “Xingfu Lu.”

Ikonika: Please/Simulacrum (2008)

The debut release showcasing the weirdly warped stylings of Ikonika, this one is a woozy club trip that is so off-kilter you feel drunk listening to it. Bright and cartoonish in her wonky leanings, Ikonika was the marked the end of an era completely dominated by the moody and aggressive minimalistic stuff that became associated with Hyperdub. An indication of less morose things to come along with Darkstar from a label originally pinned for its dark, disparate leanings. “Please” is a dynamic, overdramatic take on wacked out cartoon love, the slow whine of her melancholic programming almost comical in its computerized plead to stay. But there’s also a sequel, which comes in the form of “Simulacrum” and its steady trepidation, a sense of adventure akin to plodding through dank, dungeons and fog-drenched forests in an 8-bit video game. A prime example of the playful bent Hyperdub began to adopt post-2008 and a good indication of funkier things to come.

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Dean Blunt: "Trident"

Dean Blunt:

Another year, another handful from Dean Blunt. This time around we hear Blunt zeroing in on the uncanny pop sampling style that peppered The Redeemer in the name of some skewed R&B. The video for "Trident" pulls a curious modal shift, with guitar noodling over crime scene footage abruptly cutting to a consumately YouTube-style video of the track playing against a low quality image of the single's art. As always, Blunt's work is confounding and compelling in ways we hadn't seen coming, and the video is sure to inspire a lot of chatter. Considering the fact that the chatter will likely engage Blunt as a capital-A "Artist," it's funny to consider that "Trident" is a form that the high-brow can assume in music these days.

Black Metal is out November 4 on Rough Trade.

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

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I Shift Position: copeland and the Postmodern Attitude

I Shift Position: copeland and the Postmodern Attitude

I’ve probably started and restarted this piece at least a half dozen times now, each time more unsure of how I should approach it. It’s not the first time Inga Copeland has given me writer’s block. Back in 2009 I started a small press label with my roommate out of our dim studio apartment and reached out to Hype Williams about releasing some material. At the time, Inga and Dean Blunt were making a sparse and heady brand of improvised garage-psych that spoke to my somewhat nihilistic attitude. I didn’t really give a fuck about much besides putting out that tape, and neither did they, and therein lays the reason why it was never officially released.

I’d struggle over two-sentence email replies as they’d change their minds about the format, or what songs were to be included, or even what the title would be (at one point, it was, yr budget on my neck, yr spouse on my dick). There were a lot of exchanges about the j-card art, which was ultimately left blank on blue cardstock. After all the back and forth, we eventually stopped responding to each other altogether—I think out of mutual exhaustion. I dubbed ten copies for them to give away.

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"Multi-Sensory Branding" and James Ferraro's Elevator Music

Above is a picture of Dubai Dream Tone, one third of James Ferraro’s current exhibition at MoMA PS1, a Queens-based adjunct of the Museum of Modern Art. Of course, a photo (and a bad one, at that) doesn’t do the work justice, seeing as it’s a sound piece. But the picture helps give an idea of the Dubai Dream Tone experience. It’s elevator music, and were it not for its placement in a museum and the fact that James Ferraro made it, most people wouldn’t think twice upon hearing the piece, instead making their way up and down the museum, surrounded by shiny elevator walls and nothing else, waiting until they leave the elevator to take in the actual “art.” Dubai Dream Tone probably doesn’t even register at all for most of PS1’s visitors, its calming nature sounds and robotic narration about current events quietly blending in with the elevator’s sterile environment-- as it should. Elevator music, whether by Ferraro or by whatever anonymous composer, is meant to blend in. It’s often referred to as “muzak,” implying that it’s not “music.” It’s innocuous at best and generally ignored completely. But is it “muzak” when James Ferraro makes it? Is it “music”?

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Perfect Pussy and the Corporate Media: Has Punk Been Co-Opted?

Perfect Pussy and the Corporate Media: Has Punk Been Co-Opted?

In most discussions about the Syracuse hardcore outfit Perfect Pussy there is the inevitable remark about how the band was thrust into the media spotlight in a matter of months, their excellent four-song EP, I have lost all desire for feeling, garnering critical attention from both small blogs and giants like Complex and Rolling Stone. Their sudden success may be an overstated fact at this point, yet, at the same time, it makes one wonder what about the band has prompted such a positive response. Perfect Pussy’s debut album, Say Yes to Love, has received critical acclaim in reviews, many of which either imply or explicitly pronounce that the band is groundbreaking, rebellious, and significant.

Says a review from Pitchfork: “Something about Say Yes to Love… speaks to the forces that make women in our society feel like they must exist in a constant state of perceived inadequacy.” From NME: “As a statement of noisy intent and underground attitude it placed them at the squealier end of Parquet Courts’ ‘zine scene…This is the chaos of protest.” And from Impose: “Perfect Pussy feels almost heroic for expressing the darkest, most vulnerable confessionals in an unabashed manner.” In each of these pieces, Perfect Pussy is framed as a fearless underdog faction whose music stands in opposition to some sort of repressive status quo. In Tiny Mix Tapes’ review of the record, Simon Chandler succinctly points out the absurdity of such praise-heavy reviews: “…Being called ‘maybe the most important punk band to come out of’ Syracuse since whoever is one fine way of polluting the appreciation of music with the tiresome compulsion to recognize ‘importance.’”

Part of what Chandler is critiquing in these reviews is their attempt to convey substance with constructions that are fairly empty, or empty enough to apply to any music. For instance, look at a line from the NME review where the the author writes: "This is the sound of giving no fucks at all. It's blink-and-you'll-miss-it-fury." Magnetic words and phrases like "giving no fucks" and "fury" are inserted into the text, but the subject of the fury is left ambiguous. The result is writing which is full of what Ayn Rand once called "floating abstractions," a use of concepts that lacks an understanding  of what the concept means in reality. These abstractions help faciliatate certain narrative shapes in writing. In Perfect Pussy reviews, that narrative shape is a hugely popular one: the story of triumph over convention or limitation.

Notably missing from many reviews of Say Yes to Love is any contextualization of the band within the long lineage of other feminist-identifying punk acts. Allusions to the album’s feminism seem incomplete without an attempt to place singer Meredith Graves’ politics within a trajectory of socially conscious music. It’s true that it is incredibly difficult to write music criticism that extends beyond simple descriptions and that evades the wording of advertisements. But to accept the role as critic in the first place requires a conviction that music is supposed to be deciphered, contextualized and scrutinized. In the Pitchfork review, Lindsay Zoladz writes, “It’s easy to be overtaken by the primal force of this music but there’s also an incentive to dig deeper.” What “digging deeper” entails is never articulated; instead, the author comments on how Graves lyrics are full of "vivid images" and "bold confessions." On the other hand, in the Tiny Mix Tapes review, the author attempts an interpretation when he says that the lyrics to “Advance Upon the Real” are talking about “spaces that haven’t yet been the appropriated by the surrounding community and redefined to suit its own ends.”

In this effort to look at the critical response to Perfect Pussy's album, it feels dishonest to discuss specific observations about the writing without connecting these observations to larger ideas about how underground culture is now represented in mass media. Perfect Pussy may be the latest band to seem to incarnate the trope of the punk band as heroic underdog, but that trope has been around for a while, and can mean very different things depending on the cultural climate in which it is invoked. Saying that Perfect Pussy are punk rock heroes means something very different today from what it meant twenty years ago. 

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Dean Blunt: "Mersh" Video

Dean Blunt:

Another day, another enigmatic transmission from Dean Blunt. The experimental producer and vocalist-- responsible for two exceptional albums last year-- has just released “Mersh,” a new song and video. The track is built around a rigid, skeletal beat, occasionally punctuated by downcast organ chords and spoken-word incantations by Mr. Blunt himself. Meanwhile, the song's video shows Blunt smoking and hanging out on a couch with a woman wearing sunglasses, bathed in flickering, seizure-inducing red and white lights. You can check out the song and video just below.

The "Mersh" single will soon see a physical release. In addition, the "About" section of the video says "BLACK METAL" / ROUGH TRADE / TBC 2014,” leading some to speculate that Dean Blunt will soon release a full-length album on Rough Trade Records, though this has yet to be confirmed.

Consensus: Ghettoville

Consensus: Ghettoville

If Ghettoville isn't the Actress album we asked for, it is at least the Actress album we deserved. Fans and critics have been validating Darren Cunningham's project of abstracting club music for the majority of his career as Actress. Splazsh's wiley pseudo-bangers excited a select group of people, and RIP's anti-dance études excited a larger group, eliciting proper hype in advance of Ghettoville. There are few other circumstances under which a sane artist could release a 5-LP box set of a brand new album and expect it to sell. Actress' bread and butter is spinning ideas, taking risks, playfully refusing expectations. Why then does everyone seem so confounded?

Ghettoville is a dark, baffling album-- this, at least, is the thesis shared by the album's most positive and the most negative reviews. Everyone acknowledges that it is a difficult record. Those in favor lust for the difficulty, as in the case of Dusted In Exile, whose Mike Shefflied declares the album to be “a purposefully secretive record, a vision quest,” which is “over before you know it.” The Quietus lauds Ghettoville as “a record which exerts a demand upon everyone who listens to it." This demand Joe Kennedy alludes to is a political one, stated on the premise that this album's own chaos mirrors the social unrest in London, such the riots in recent years. Much like a police state, this work demands the action of the individual if control is to be asserted.

In the opposite corner of the ring, Resident Advisor concludes that “Ghettoville doesn't sound like the work of a producer who's no longer able to make wondrous music; there's enough craft and intention here to suggest that, for whatever reason, he just didn't this time.” Pitchfork simply posits that one of the record's more obtuse experiments, “Time,” is “probably a joke, the type of musical prank Cunningham has laced his albums with in the past, but this time performed at our expense.” Harsh. Here too, the reviewers seem to be operating under the assumption that one can read Ghettoville as part of a career narrative that begins with Hazyville. This tale of gradual abstraction appears in almost every review.

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Dean Blunt Shares Skin Fade Mixtape

Dean Blunt Shares Skin Fade Mixtape

Sporting some heavy Hype Williams vibes, Dean Blunt did as he is wont to do and dropped another surprise, context-free mixtape yesterday. Skin Fade features the vocals of his recent collaborative bud, Joanne Robertson, whose in-your-face chanteusery highlights some key changes in Blunt's aesthetic since his partnership with Inga Copeland. Namely, all of the sonic obfuscation-- be it through the lofi production, garbled vocals, or subtle mixing found in Hype Williams work-- has been rejected in the name of the same blunt gloss (eh? ehhh?) that coated The Redeemer and everything since. Unfortunately, no car crash sounds here.

Our Favorite Albums of 2013

Ahnnu: World Music [Leaving Records]

Since his re-emergence in 2011, sample alchemist Ahnnu has been constantly redefining himself across a string of breathing, sometimes chaotic releases. Records like last year’s couch and pro habitat put him justifiably on the map, but World Music, his finest, was the kind of “eureka” moment that illuminated everything that came before. It’s a tight yet seemingly endless 20 minutes, distinguished not just for its tone—focused, serene, expertly blending snippets of vox, tropicalia, and uh, world music—but by how infinitely likable it is. The ingredients for that are all in the details: the crashing synth waves that propel “gala,” the dueling trumpet solos and lounge jazz that balloon a timid asking of “what would I do,” and the way molasses-soaked trap dovetails into a palindromic string section on album closer “Monica/Swept.” Ahnnu’s best moments have always been when he combines sources both lucid and warm, and here he does it twelve times over, resulting in a voyage that feels way too damn short at first, only to lend itself to continued, repeat listening three months later. --Brad Stabler

Alberich: Machine Gun Nest: Cassette Works Volume 0 [Hospital Productions]

If Hospital Records has done nothing else this year, it's clearly pegged the union of American noise and techno to the historical European moment that was power electronics. The label used three vinyl anthologies of Alberich's cassette work to paint the New York artist as the most ardent-- if not faithful-- proponent of that movement. Note his infatuation with the machinations of state power, employing marching beats and dressing like a dystopian cop on stage. Kris Lapke has been deeply embedded in Dominick Fernow's label for a good while now, helping with Fernow's Prurient work and mastering Hospital material for vinyl. As evidenced by the more abstract work on Fortification, Lapke has a strong affinity for noise, yet his love for subtle grooves and stadium-sized tonality betrays a sonic lineage from rock. Machine Gun Nest encapsulates the Alberich project best, with Lapke translating Esplendor Geometrico and Grey Wolves into a more contemporary language, broadly encompassing whatever falls between techno and black metal. This is nightmare music, culled from both sleep and waking consciousness. The other best album on Hospital this year, a reissue of Lussuria's American Babylon, is the better abstract release, but Machine Gun Nest stands out for the possibilities it provides to listeners and musicians alike. --Mike Sugarman

Arca: &&&&& [Hippos In Tanks]

Since the release of Yeezus, it'd be hard to find an article about Arca that doesn't namedrop Kanye. While the 'Ye mention does provide context for the uninitiated, it also legitimizes Arca as a relevant artist that maybe people should pay attention to. But by the time his &&&&& mixtape dropped in July, it became increasingly evident that it was the creative work of Arca and other producers like Evian Christ that ultimately legitimized Yeezus as an album for people who are interested in forward-thinking production. Yeezus doesn't really sound like any other hip-hop album out there, but there really aren't any other producers that push the envelope like Arca does. &&&&& is the place where he truly shines.

There are times when I can't help but feel like I've heard everything worth listening to. Over the years, I've grown to expect little from new music, succumbing to the post-modern suggestion that everything has been done before. But when I listen to something as wildly unpredictable as &&&&&, I can't help but feel like there could be something new around the corner. --Ric Leichtung

Bill Orcutt: A History of Every One [Editions Mego]

More than Orcutt’s other solo records-- all of which are caustically expressive-- A History of Every One is marked by its restraint and, in many cases, its whimsy. The cleaner guitar sound helps, but his playing is likewise cleaner, more deliberate, and a strange brand of tender. The album is comprised of twelve loose interpretations of ubiquitous American songs— enigmatically slotting tunes mythologizing the kitsch heroes of white American culture alongside sorrow songs, surveying and personalizing contradictory iterations of an ill-defined national identity.

Orcutt’s stark, non-linear pairing of guitar and voice makes for an experience that changes its emotional tune with every listen. On cowboy song “Spanish Is The Loving Tongue,” Orcutt leaves plenty of space for his plucks, allowing each demure note to fall in and out of tune with his joyous-yet-pained vocal hum. And then there’s the capitulary gravity and calm of the album’s final track, a cover of Stephen Foster’s “Massa’s In The Cold Cold Ground.” Pure, sparse, and devastatingly beautiful, it’s Orcutt’s idiosyncratic take on a minstrel song, thereby pointing to a major part of historical American culture we often choose to ignore but passively accept on a day-to-day basis. Though Orcutt’s music is obviously more in line with that of, say, Blind Lemon Jefferson than Bing Crosby, he’s worried, it seems, about authenticity-- and whether our listening and his playing are unwittingly informed by the racialized “traditional” music (i.e., “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”) ingrained in the American musical vernacular. What does it mean, then, that we lump all of these songs (“Black Snake Moan,” “White Christmas”) together as part of some grand American tradition? Can anyone play any of these songs? Should anyone? --Joe Bucciero

Body/Head: Coming Apart [Matador]

The specter of Sonic Youth’s disbanding and the marital rupture at its core looms heavily over Kim Gordon’s debut record with fellow Northampton noisnik Bill Nace-- not just because that album is called Coming Apart, which probably couldn’t be a more appropriate title for a breakup record, but also because it’s simply the first thing we’ve heard from her since the breakup. Thing is, every song on Coming Apart also sounds like something broken, like the shattered skeleton of a soul tune that would otherwise be quite comforting to the emotionally down-and-out listener. That’s literally the case with the “Aint” and “Black,” covers of Nina Simone classics “Aint Got No (I Got Life)” and “Black Is The Color (Of My True Love’s Hair)” respectively, but Body/Head’s originals sound equally blown open and distended, as though the sonic building blocks from which they arise (improvised noise guitar, minimal note patterns, aleatoric word salads) were still in the process of deciding whether to cohere into something hummable. Sometimes, things crystallize into something truly awe-inspiring-- such as at the beginning of “Actress,” when Nace’s tidal wave guitar drones seem to speak to something fathomless and pained beneath Gordon’s abstract phrasings (“desire”; “will you make me a star?”), even to fill in the gaps in what language cannot say. Mostly, though, Coming Apart is just a beautiful, beautiful mess, to the point that I feel stupid even asking whether this is a noise album or a rock album, because its warm-blooded, vulnerable humanity is the thing that stands out to me most. --Emilie Friedlander

David Kanaga: DYAD OGST [Software]

A lot albums go unnoticed. Even our readers, who probably listen to an obscene number of records every year, miss things. But it's not due to a lack of access. YouTube by itself probably has more than a lifetime of music to dig in to, not to mention file-sharing, which creates a situation where listeners are subconsciously coerced into a diplomatic decision-making process when they're trying to decide what to consume. Odds are that Kanaga's soundtrack for the game "DYAD" won't reach too many easily, purely because most listeners don't have the same easy access to the game the music was composed for. But the music of DYAD is more than just programme music-- you don't need the context of having played the game to hear that this is an excellent album, though it does enhance it and make you appreciate it way more. The record spans nearly 30 tracks but still stands on its own two legs and possesses the same attention to detail and painstaking production you'd find in the year's best releases. --Ric Leichtung

Dean Blunt: The Redeemer [Hippos In Tanks / World Music]

It’s hard to know why Dean Blunt chose the string prelude to K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” as the opener to The Redeemer, but it clearly sets the album’s theme. Back then, the UK artist would seem to say, things used to be good: “And all my life I’ve prayed for someone like you / And I thank God that I, that I finally found you”. But ever since, they’ve gone downhill. So when the LP ends with wistful piano ballad “Brutal”, all that is left for Blunt to say is that “You have gone away / And I’m still here”. As many critics have pointed out, from start to finish, The Redeemer is an archetypical breakup album; but contrary to the assumptions of some, it does show Blunt at his most sincere and vulnerable yet. Midway into the title track, he even dares to employ Diddy’s famous last words from “Victory,” that most glaring instance of pre-millennial pop-cultural hubris: “It’s all fucked up now”. Apart from such occasional bursts of desperate outrage, however, the suppressed, apologetic aggression that permeated last year’s unsettling The Narcissist II has for the most part disappeared, leaving behind only alienating answering machine interventions and Blunt’s helpless sarcasm. Indeed, what ultimately makes The Redeemer his most powerful work to date is the implied knowledge that if he has any chance for of redemption in the aftermath of this lost relationship which keeps haunting him, he will first have to admit that he’s not yet ready to not give a fuck. So when Blunt croons “You bring out the best in me” on standout track “Papi,” it’s also the recognition that the best did not suffice. It hardly ever does. --Henning Lahmann

DJ Rashad: Double Cup [Hyperdub]

To any consistent Ad Hoc reader, this pick probably seems like a no-brainer. The friends, fam, and staff of AH enjoyed many things in 2012, but the one, truly unanimous joy throughout the year was DJ Rashad’s TEKLIFE VOL. 1: Welcome to the Chi. The Chicago-bred, NYC-trained footwork sound was, even then, far from some recent or regional thing-- but Welcome to the Chi really felt like the style’s coming-out party to the rest of the world. If that Lit City Trax release was the capstone of first-wave footwork, Rashad’s Hyperdub debut serves as the confirmation that there’s still so much more exploring to be done, even while everyone is busy boppin’.

Heavy on collaboration with the promising next class of Teklife (DJ Earl, DJ Phil, DJ Manny, many others), Double Cup seems to stretch out in all directions at once, acutely aware of the times while seemingly not giving a fuck about what time it is. The treated soul samples, the hyper-speed percussive interplay, and the turn-on-a-dime transitions that remind you that he always has the proverbial “real song” waiting up his sleeve are all still there; there’s even an homage to the past on “Feelin,” where he re-flips the same Roy Ayers sample that kicked off the epochal Welcome to the Chi. But things on Double Cup are higher off the ground. The change in tone is best exemplified by the album-closing Earl collab, “I’m Too Hiiiiii,” an unexpectedly bleak but scarily beautiful jungle ballad that feels all too much like the sick thrill of going too far down the rabbit hole. The mutated vocals swerve out of rhythmic control, echoing themselves in multiple registers over shuddering sub-frequencies and frantic drum breaks that, despite their speedy interplay, come off frail and distant by comparison. Though, in ways, it’s as tragic as losing your life to the lifestyle, as many good people did this year, it’s more a testament to how frighteningly talented Rashad is, and a fitting ending to the best electronic record of the year. --Matt Sullivan

Donato Dozzy: Plays Bee Mask [Spectrum Spools]

In hindsight, the miscegenation of electronic music's abstract and dance realms was inevitable. The cynic will point to noise “going disco” as the precise moment when this meld came to a head, but the two were never that far apart. From Scientist to Aphex Twin, from E2-E4 to Pop, the flirtation was always present. 2013, though, was the year that the beat/ambient binary finally collapsed into a beautiful music, one betraying a number of future potentials. While other albums on this list sprang out of this moment, Donato Dozzy's defined and refined this ideal. Across seven remixes of Bee Mask's “Vaporware,” Dozzy articulates questions that have been on the tip of our tongue for years now: when sampling, what separates a remix from a new original? What percussion transforms an ambient piece into an electronic song? If adding a metronomic kick drum makes anything a dance track, what happens when you just add sixteenth-note high hats? All this food for thought is offered, yet Dozzy never force feeds it. And what makes Donato Dozzy Plays Bee Mask exceptional is first and foremost the sound. Sure, the consistency of source material lends lends aesthetic cohesion, but the studiously well-tempered deviation from track to track is more so the work of Dozzy's hand and heart than his mind. This is an album best enjoyed while laying in bed or driving in a car or just drinking some coffee and reading the news. Oh sorry, it's basically good all of the time. --Mike Sugarman

Hair Police: Mercurial Rites [Type]

Mercurial Rites didn’t make quite as big a splash as many of its fellow 2013 “comeback” albums-- a fact that, in my mind, can be partly attributed to it being not only a difficult record, but a noted sonic departure for the group. Though the sparser, more muted approach employed on Mercurial Rites isn’t completely uncharted territory for Hair Police, it’s new for them to stay so spread out over the course of an entire album. That’s not to say, however, that Mercurial Rites is in any way calm or inviting. There’s space between the sharp bursts of feedback, mechanic’s shop clangs, and vocalist Mike Connelly’s stifled cantations-- but that space is pregnant with dread, forcing you to listen closer, perhaps making you hear things that aren’t there. It’s an experience that feels akin to listening to the silence of an old house and hearing “ghosts,” comforted only when you suddenly hear a louder, more tangible sound with a source you can actually locate. Mercurial Rites thrives, though, on never giving you that last part: the comfortable cadence note. And that the atmosphere is more “abandoned factory” than “creaky old house” makes it that much more alienating. Mercurial Rites is, like many of 2013’s notable noise releases, “industrial,” but less in that it takes musical cues from Nitzer Ebb or Ministry and more in that it’s decidedly inhuman. --Joe Bucciero

Huerco S.: Colonial Patterns [Software]

Huerco S. speaks of architecture. He speaks of natural landscapes and organic forms. He speaks of arcology, the study of hypothetical, self-sufficient superstructures. He speaks of all this and more in order to shed some light on his stunning debut, Colonial Patterns-- to provide a point of access into an admittedly dark and fractured work of experimental electronic music. The truth, however, is that the music speaks for itself. From the industrial clatter and dense, synthesized fragmentation of “Quivira” to scorched, half-remembered house anthems like “Ragtime U.S.A. (Warning)” and “Prinzif,” the soundworld Brian Leeds constructs is a defiantly original one. Colonial Patterns is a record of deep, fascinating contradictions, at once esoteric and weirdly accessible, by turns utterly claustrophobic and astonishingly expansive. While it's somewhat restrictive to limit one's engagement with this album to the architectural connections that have been hammered into its surrounding discourse, few other albums in 2013 felt so thoughtfully and lovingly constructed. --Sean Delanty

Julia Holter: Loud City Song [Domino]

Julia Holter's third album was the first she recorded in a professional studio, a fact reflected in its meticulous attention to detail, from those soft, hissing cymbals at the opening of "Maxim's I" to the sound of seagulls on her beautiful cover of "Hello Stranger.” On Loud City Song, it’s the little moments that surprise and satisfy, creating the feeling that she’s guiding the listener through a single dynamic landscape rather than separate sonic moods. Certainly, it’s proof of the ways that pop music and more traditional composition can be successfully melded, with the coexistence of catchy melodies and classically elegant instrumentation mirroring the album’s conceptual tension between old and new forms. Holter has always demonstrated a fascination for the past, and here she focuses on a dated film to make a statement about the present. Based loosely around the 1958 French film Gigi, Loud City Song is an exploration of the disconnect and loneliness experienced in a big city. Paris, which has long served as a backdrop for artists to express their alienation, works as a metaphor for Holter's native LA, where living amongst a large population is more likely to lead to loneliness than to connection. It's a contradiction best explored in album standout "Maxim's I," where Holter invokes the gossipy thoughts of restaurant-goers (recreating a scene from Gigi ) to communicate that dreadful feeling of being both surrounded by a crowd and alone with your thoughts.  --Beth Tolmach

Joanna Gruesome: Weird Sister [Slumberland]

The opening riff of “Anti Parent Cowboy Killers” descends from above, launching us directly into the world of Weird Sister. With what follows, those initial two seconds seem like they might have been a mistake, a snippet of the band energetically warming-up before hitting the “record” button. Alanna McArdle’s voice is beautiful, but her emotional tone and curious words-- in combination with the layers of lo-fi guitars noodling behind her-- inform us that conjuring passive beauty is the last thing on Joanna Gruesome’s to-do list. And sure enough, after the verse, “Anti Parent Cowboy Killers” explodes into something irreverent to the possibility of delicate music, more informed by the tumbling rhythms of hardcore than the soft melodies of guitar pop.

Does this mean that the band can’t make up their mind on a sound? Not a chance. It’s an indication that Joanna Gruesome are unafraid to follow their impulses. The blend of harmony and dissonance on Weird Sister embraces the notion that if you want to make something beautiful, you should, and at the same time you can be loud, harsh, threatening. And if you don’t want to have to decide between male or female vocals, then you can have both (guitarist and songwriter Owen Williams joins McArdle here on a good number of the tracks), even have them sound out unison. And that if you want to explore your aggressive side in a song like “Secret Surprise,” that aggression doesn’t have to be limited to the song’s noisier moments-- “I dream of pulling out your teeth”-- but can carry over into passages of sonic sweetness, too: “I’ve been waiting to crush your fucking skull.” If early-to-mid-2000s indie pop is stuff of the past, along with ‘90s grrrl punk and the hardcore of the ‘80s, the current rise of an act like Joanna Gruesome helps illuminate our present musical moment. This young band is working to show that nostalgia can be a catalyst for something new and that musical trends never have to limit what you can express, or how you should express it. --Madeline Steinberg

Kelela: CUT 4 ME [Fade To Mind]

In a recent interview with Complex, when asked about engaging with underground audiences versus mass-market appeal, L.A. singer Kelela Mizanekristos replied that  “ambiguity is the most comfortable thing, the space between is where I want to live.” Lyrically, CUT 4 ME reveals a similar affinity for contradiction, engaging the grey areas of love and intimacy in the evolution of a relationship, shuttling between heartache, desire, and disappointment. On the production end of the project, one of the more striking things discussed about this release was Kelela’s marriage of confessional R&B with avant-garde beatwork from the Fade to Mind/Night Slugs contingent, and her determination in taking the lead in the composition of each track, in effect changing the power dynamics between DJ and chanteuse. While that’s a topic to consider in determining this mixtape’s significance, I’m honestly more interested in her willingness to inhabit an in-between state within musical genres and to voice conflicting and disparate desires often within the same song, recognizing that they are often so absolutely intertwined, respectively, in being a contemporary artist and in articulating feelings. --Luis Polanco

KMFH: The Boat Party [Wild Oats]

Kyle Hall’s latest, his debut LP and first solo release in two years, is a fucking badass: a chest-beating, fiery sucker that throws Detroit's various traditions into a splicer and extracts only the hardest remains of what’s left. The young musician has subverted his city’s expectations at every turn, preferring to work from the outside in, dotting potential anthemic trots with M60-loaded drums and phasing, distorting, and overblowing his samples. His penchant for relentless assault is by no means a repellant one, and The Boat Party remains one of 2013’s most essential dance records, while doubling up as a statement of intent.

Prior to the Party, Hall often excavated the more melancholic aspects of Detroit techno, taking some of the best work of Theo Parrish and Omar-S and reflecting it onto a funhouse mirror of UK bass and broken dub. While that’s still there on this LP (such as on “Crushed”), Hall’s main mission is to drive a rhythm until it breaks. “Dr. Crunch” dirties a synth line and repeats it infinitely, subtly distorting it while bringing a pounding kick drum deafeningly to the forefront. “Finnapop” flips ghetto tech on its ass, replacing the spoken filth with an equally spiteful and profane musical vocabulary. Either way, Kyle Hall throws himself into each tune with concentrated abandon, letting a no-nonsense mindset push his sounds into the outer limits of what we thought Detroit was capable, all the while giving no quarter for anyone who doubts it. --Brad Stabler

Laurel Halo: Chance of Rain [Hyperdub]

Laurel Halo’s 2012 album Quarantine coolly skidded across an anxious digital plane, one riddled with the detritus of information technology and the fraught nature of connectivity. Halo’s uneasy vocals spoke to that dystopian sci-fi reality, charging it with the perils of dehumanization. On “Tumor” a distant background vocal proclaims, “The signal keeps cutting out but one thing is clear / Nothing grows in my heart, there is no one here.” But Halo is quick to note the contingency of her lyricism, it too being threatened by disconnection. Quarantine closed with a disquieting sentiment: “Words are just words / that you soon forget.”

On Chance of Rain, Halo distances herself from the frailty of language altogether. She has, in fact, voiced her discomfort with singing, instead exhibiting an unabashed preference for crafting dynamic instrumentals and primal beats. In that regard, Chance of Rain is a logical successor to Behind the Green Door, an EP she released earlier this year. Where Quarantine was a hazy, multimedia experiment in post-pop, Chance of Rain is more meat-and-potatoes techno, deeply indebted to the thumping rhythms of Detroit. But to limit Chance of Rain to the techno label would be to disregard the multifaceted grooves and textures that Halo is playing with, from lilting piano (“Dr. Echt”) and ambient choruses of synth (“Melt”) to hard-edged and industrial bangers like “Still/Dromos.” Chance of Rain isn’t an album to snuggle up with, nor does it want to be; it can be a challenging listen, skeletal and unnerving. But as the title suggests, Chance of Rain is an album of contingency. Whether Halo’s tracks are playful or hard-nosed, distant or inviting, we may never know, but embracing those uncertainties and contradictions makes our listening experience all the more rewarding. --Julia Selinger

Migrations In Rust: Two Shadows [NNA Tapes]

Funny year it's been for the Red Light District. The collective of musicians and friends went silent for a few months after Sandy hit their Far Rockaway venue in October 2012. Yet 2013 was the year that Pharmakon released her debut on Sacred Bones, Yellow Tears played for the first time since 2011, John Mannion bought a theremin, and Alberich enjoyed a comprehensive reissue campaign on his friend Dominick Fernow's Hospital Productions label. DJ Dog Dick even got the old venue off the ground again. Jesse Allen-- part of Cathode Terrer Secretion alongside Mannion-- also released his most high profile work yet as Migrations In Rust, enjoying the visibility of releasing vinyl alongside Nate Young on the tautologically cassette-centric NNA Tapes. At first taste, Two Shadows rang as some sort of distended hip-hop project, like the sounds DJ Screw heard as he robotripped over death's curb. But upon closer listen, the album revealed itself to be the definitive, capital-“D” Drone statement of the year, blending the hi-fi ambience of orchestral samples with vocal-crooned climaxes. For all the moments that nod toward hip-hop, there are also those steeped in a bizarre insinuation of a jazz band, such as on “Cradle Under Fern.” As Allen noted in our interview with him, the album took him years to make, which is probably why it sounds like it will take years to reveal its multitudes. Jesse Allen-- effectively a noise musician in all of his other projects-- reveals that noise is not 100% over, just that it was never 100% the point. --Mike Sugarman

My Bloody Valentine: m b v [Self-Released]

Upon m b v’s release, review after review emphasized the utter improbability of the album’s existence. For many of My Blood Valentine’s fans, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that whenever-- if ever at all-- the Loveless follow-up emerged, it would disappoint. But it didn’t. Aesthetically, most of m b v engages in direct conversation with its predecessor, employing that trademark Valentinian musical language of swirling, smeared guitars and hypnotic, breathy vocals. But-- as one might expect from an album over 22 years in the making, I suppose-- most of these songs feel joyously unhurried, reveling in their unique, understated majesty. There are so many moments on this album-- melodies, chord progressions, tiny little musical gestures-- that I feel like I could listen to on loop forever without ever growing bored: the main guitar lead on “only tomorrow,” which seems to be in a perpetual state of simultaneous disintegration and regeneration; the way that Shields' gorgeously simple melody on “who sees you” feels like it could circle around on itself endlessly; or the sublime interplay between the rising synth melody and Shields' relaxed, at times even behind-the-beat “doo doo”'s on “new you.”

And we musn't forget the visceral and intense, tonally distinct final third of the record. There were very few more genuinely thrilling musical WTFs this year than “wonder 2,” which closes the album with an overwhelming onslaught of guitar screeches, airplane engine noises, and drum & bass-inflected rhythms unlike anything the band has put to tape before. I'm too young to have heard Loveless when it was first released. Instead, like many others, I found the album through best-of-the-90s lists and years-old blog posts, and then built a relationship with the record on my own, deeply personal terms. As 2013 draws to a close, then, I feel so lucky to have been able to share in the communal celebration of yet another magnificent My Bloody Valentine album. --Sean Delanty

Oneohtrix Point Never: R Plus Seven [Warp]

Oneohtrix Point Never’s now-infamous video for “Still Life (Betamale)”-- one of the more arresting things I’ve seen this year-- begins with a distant, anonymous female voice that isn’t featured on the album. In a cold, husky tone, she says, “As you look at the screen it is possible to believe you are gazing into eternity […] You can see every detail clearly, but cannot grasp the meaning.” Such are the sobering thoughts that R Plus Seven provokes. Through the album’s bricolage of unsettling loops and swelling synthesizers, Lopatin brings to the forefront any and all fears about the simultaneously inviting and terrifying glow of cyberspace. To a certain degree, these are the same aural building blocks with which Lopatin created 2011’s Replica, but the intent this time is different. While Replica’s layered sounds created some semblance of, dare I say, grooviness, R Plus Seven is a far more jarring affair, its sounds more abruptly juxtaposed.

As a result, OPN’s confrontation with digitalism is all the more confusing. It is something that comforts and engulfs us (“You see the things that were inside you”), sometimes to the point of anxiety (“You cannot find your way out of the maze”). It is simultaneously transient and perennial, disconcerting and pleasant. Ultimately, R Plus Seven is anything we want it to be, be it a commentary on disconnection, a work of heightened emotionalism, or a surreal mélange of syncopations. It’s this dual effect of guided authorship and personal experience that makes R Plus Seven such an enduring listen. In the words of the “Still Life (Betamale)” video itself, “You are convinced it has been created solely for you.” --Julia Selinger

Pure X: Crawling Up The Stairs [Acephale]

It has been repeatedly noted how Pure X's second album differs from the first in its mode of production, its carefully constructed songs recorded over multiple months rather than executed in a single, flawless take. The most significant consequence of this evolution is a more complex emotional palette; Crawling Up The Stairs offers a confusing, beautiful journey through a psychic breakdown and its subsequent, meditative resolve. That this is a record of dualities is immediately evident from the album artwork, which pictures a black snake and white snake intertwined. That unity of dark and light-- and the rejection of false polarities between good and bad, future and past, ignorance and wisdom, is central to the Pure X aesthetic, as is the manipulation of formal elements that are rather ordinary in themselves-- swirling guitar lines, distant-sounding feedback-- but that, combined, speak to a certain, transcendent truth. It’s a truth full of painful yet potentially transformative contrasts, one we can hear coming through on tracks like "I Come From Nowhere," where individual ego balks against the rigid markers of identity. The speaker in "Thousand Year Old Child," meanwhile, knows what is is to grow up while still being stuck in the helpless mindset of a kid.  In "Someone Else," Nate Grace sings, "Come on, break me / Like you've been done yourself / Come on, take me down / Deep into your hell." In Pure X's music, that hellish realm is a necessary stop before surfacing on the other side. --Beth Tolmach


Tony Molina: Dissed and Dismissed [Melters]

Dissed and Dismissed seems, at first glance, to be very much a product of its time, a record heavily immersed in the ‘90s guitar rock references that have experienced a revival in the past few years. But Tony Molina, a veteran of the San Francisco hardcore scene, doesn’t limit his musical vocabulary to the melodic sensibilities of Guided by Voices, Weezer or Teenage Fanclub. Instead, he reaches back further, playing with our reverence for ‘90s alt-rock and the perceived kitsch of their antecedents. After all, Molina probably loves the life-affirming guitar heroics of Thin Lizzy just as much as Rivers Cuomo does. At the same time, Dissed and Dismissed’s taut and infectious, minute-long songs can also feel like an exercise in Ramones-ian pop deconstruction, occupied as much by Molina’s meticulous, baroque guitar arrangements as they are by his vocal hooks. And yet somehow, for all their brevity and structural simplicity, Molina manages to make these songs sound decadent. It’s these juxtapositions-- of minimalism and excess, and of camp and cool-- and the apparent effortlessness with which Molina executes them, that make this an album worth returning to. --Miguel Gallego

Dean Blunt Previews New Song

Dean Blunt Previews New Song

Dean Blunt rarely explains himself, often leaving his music to be delightfully unclear, but this newest video, released to his Youtube channel earlier today, seems almost certainly to be a preview for a project to come. Etched in the lower corner of the 40-second clip comes the message "avail dec 2013, colette paris." The song sample-- which features a hip-hop beat and a repetitive vocal sample that goes "I'll be watching you-- is set to an image of Blunt sitting on a deck, smoking, and wearing a cowboy hat. Next to him is a woman-- who may or may not be Inga Copeland-- donning a Dean Blunt t-shirt. We'll have to wait until next month to see if anything actually surfaces from this teaser. 

Dean Blunt's record, The Redeemer, came out earlier this year on Hippos in Tanks

(Inga) copeland: "Fit"

(Inga) copeland:

With her partnership with Dean Blunt effectively dissolved, Inga Copeland-- which henceforth shall be shortened to copeland-- has struck out on her own into new sonic territory as her former chum continues to drift into the abstract. That's not to say that copeland is going to be immediately accessible from now on, even as her own productions are starting to come more into focus. The latest example is the tidy trip-hop of "Fit," a gorgeous four minute number that casts copeland's vocals drifting into the mix to let her backdrops do most of the heavy lifting. Over a soft, delayed beat, an orbiting set of keyboards taking the tune skyward, as a "Midnight Request Line" sub bass tries in vain to keep the tune tethered to the ground. The instrumental wrongfoots the listener into relaxation, before twinges of melancholy and misplaced paranoia slowly creep in.

"Fit" is streaming below, and copeland's first proper solo tape Higher Powers is still available to download here