Albums

£12.49

Electro - Released March 12, 2012 | 4AD

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks - Stereophile: Record To Die For
Though the term "witch house" is often thrown around too loosely (and often derisively), Grimes' wispy vocals and four-on-the-floor beats are probably the closest to what the style would sound like if its name were taken literally. On Visions, Claire Boucher develops the unmistakable sound she forged on Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, where her songs hovered in space one moment and hit the dancefloor in the next. The baby-ghost vocalizing that was so distinctive and divisive there is here as well, and Boucher sounds especially like an alien pop princess on sparkly tracks like "Infinite Love Without Fulfillment," "Genesis," and "Eight," where she's shadowed by robotic backing vocals. While Visions' songs are still largely free from obvious structures -- "Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)" segues into a minor-key passage like a dream turning dark -- Boucher has learned the values of space and control, and gives more focus to her ethereal whimsy. While the glowing, sensuous "Skin" and "Know the Way" are fine examples of 2010s dream pop, unlike many of her contemporaries, Grimes' most danceable songs are her most unique, and allow her to draw on many different influences and sounds. "Be a Body" boasts a surprisingly funky bassline, and on "Circumambient," the song's shadowy R&B leanings are only heightened when Boucher busts out a super-soprano trill that would do Syreeta or Minnie Riperton proud. Similarly, her nods to '80s pop never feel too slavishly indebted to that decade, even when she uses stiff synth string stabs on "Oblivion" or frosty Casios on "Vowels = Space and Time," or lets "Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)" ride on a beat that sounds borrowed from "When Doves Cry." Instead, these retro winks end up bringing out the darkly rhapsodic, kinetic heart of Grimes' music as much as the Asian-tinged melodies, harps, and operatic samples she uses elsewhere. Fresh and surprisingly accessible despite its quirks, Visions is bewitching. ~ Heather Phares
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Electro - Released March 12, 2012 | Bromance

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
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£11.99

Ambient - Released February 27, 2012 | Tricatel

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks - Hi-Res Audio
£7.99
U&I

Electro - Released January 13, 2012 | Warp Records

Distinctions Album du mois Trax - Sélection Les Inrocks
Four years after her stunning comeback Blood, Looms and Blooms, Leila returns with U&I, a set of songs that are as dense and direct as her previous album was elaborate and enveloping. Everything is pruned and streamlined, from her sonic palette to her list of collaborators: instead of a cast of characters that ranged from Terry Hall to her sister, Leila sticks to working with Mt. Sims, who also took the Knife and Planningtorock's music in similarly experimental directions. Coming after the eclectic flourishes of Blood, Looms and Blooms, the rawness of "Activate, Pt. 1"'s thudding electro-punk and murky vocal collages like "In Consideration" are something of a shock, and perhaps even a little disappointing. However, Leila has never pursued a linear career, and her refusal to make the same music from release to release has allowed her far more options than more predictable artists. As U&I unfolds, Leila's partnership with Mt. Sims settles into a more understandable groove: her productions decorate and elaborate on his blunt vocal outbursts and gain urgency from them, particularly on the driving "Welcome to Your Life" and "Colony Collapse Disorder," where buzzing and squealing electronics mimic a frantic hive-mind. "(Disappointed Cloud) Anyway" even nods to Blood, Looms and Blooms' subversive pop instincts in its own way, and on later tracks, Leila's ear for detailed arrangements resurfaces, particularly on instrumentals like "Eight," "Boudica," and the whimsical album closer "Forasmuch," all of which may provide a gateway to the album's charms for fans unsure of what to make of its abrasiveness. Ultimately, U&I's brashness is more intriguing than confounding, with a freshness that reaffirms Leila as a thoughtful and challenging producer. ~ Heather Phares
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Techno - Released November 14, 2011 | InFiné

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£6.39

Electro - Released November 11, 2011 | Ed Banger Records

Distinctions Album du mois Trax - Sélection Les Inrocks
£7.19

Trip Hop - Released October 24, 2011 | Laurent Daumail

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
Alongside DJ Shadow and DJ Krush, Parisian producer Laurent Daumail, aka DJ Cam, was at the forefront of the '90s ambient hip-hop scene, but unlike his peers, has seemed content to spend the best part of the last decade focusing more on various remixes, compilations, and collaborations than any of his own material. Finally returning to the studio, the appropriately titled Seven, his seventh album, which arrives seven years after 2004's Liquid Hip Hop, continues to pursue the intimate chillout sounds of his heyday, as evident on "Love," a gorgeously understated slice of minimalist trip-hop featuring the captivating tones of Massive Attack vocalist Nicolette, the sun-kissed acid jazz of closer "A Loop," and the Bristolian urban soul of "1988." But elsewhere, the Los Angeles-based DJ showcases a newfound cinematic sensibility that prevents the record from becoming merely an "I Love the '90s" affair, as on "Dreamcatcher," which fuses Blade Runner-style synths with skittering breakbeats, sci-fi bleeps, and an anthemic vocal house loop, and the unsettling instrumental title track, which is underpinned by an eerie string section that could have been lifted from a Hitchcock movie. Occasionally, the album fails to avoid descending into coffee-table music territory, such as the languid jazz of opener "California Dreamin" and the meandering new age-inspired "Fontainbleau," both of which wander aimlessly around at a snail's pace without providing anything of note. But while Seven isn't quite worth the seven-year wait, it's a promising comeback suggesting that DJ Cam has the potential to restore his former glories. ~ Jon O'Brien
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Electro - Released October 10, 2011 | InFiné

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Album du mois Trax - Sélection Les Inrocks - Hi-Res Audio
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Electro - Released October 1, 2013 | Mute

Distinctions 5/6 de Magic - Sélection Les Inrocks
When accomplished electronic music producers speak of making proper songs instead of tracks -- most ominously, there’s the one-two punch of “Dance music bores me now” and “I’m getting a band together” -- it’s usually a good time to tune out. While Sascha Ring is guilty of all three and has backed it up with The Devil’s Walk, an album completely divorced from the dancefloor and glitch/IDM, the shift has been gradual, not abrupt, and he happens to be composing some of the most evocative, finely detailed music of his decade-long career. No need to think back to the most organic song on 2007’s Walls, the sapless and malformed “Over and Over,” and prepare for more of the same; these songs, sometimes built on little more than strings, soft keyboard tones, and supple textures, are sturdy and fully developed. All the vocalists fall into place with solemn yet expressive performances, enhancing productions that straddle heartache and ecstasy. It’s the type of album that can be enjoyed on the surface, as pleasant background listening, or as a deeply immersive experience. Anyone who enjoys it should seek the output of Ring collaborator Joshua Eustis' Telefon Tel Aviv, especially 2009’s Immolate Yourself. ~ Andy Kellman
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Ambient - Released September 26, 2011 | Warp Records

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
Plaid's previous two works were soundtracks, one to accompany a feature film (2008's Heaven's Door) and the other a multimedia collaboration with Bob Jaroc (2006's Greedy Baby). Their return to music-making on their own terms after five years isn't the energized affair listeners might expect, though. Their trademarked variety of IDM, which you could call manic-beat/depressive-effects, is in effect and still not sounding much changed from its debut in the late '90s. Here though, they've managed an interesting blend of that style with the free-form structures of film soundtracking, the results of which are intriguing although rarely crucial. Scintilli begins with no beats at all, instead there's ululating wordless vocals over pointillistic keyboards, and next comes a classic Plaid production from the mold. It's only as the album unfolds that further tracks, like the highlight "Unbank," tend more toward a refreshing blend of IDM and film scores. ~ John Bush
£12.49

Electro - Released July 11, 2011 | 4AD

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks - Disque Roi VoxPop
Titled in reference to Zomby’s father, who passed away during its completion, Dedication can be taken simply as another release from the enigmatic producer. From 2007 through 2009, Zomby issued a deeply concentrated yet somewhat whimsical blast of singles and EPs on Ramp, Hyperdub, and Brainmath. He also released an album of breakbeat rave-not-rave on Werk Discs, the label operated by the equally hard to classify producer Actress. His next move, then, could have gone in a number of different directions without being the least bit startling. On the other hand, Dedication is something of an event. After that flurry of activity, Zomby was mostly silent throughout 2010, so there was some suspense, and it intensified once news broke of his contract with 4AD. Furthermore, this is the producer’s most subdued and melodic set of tracks, in addition to his most developed work, despite keeping it as succinct (16 tracks, 35 minutes) as ever. It’s accessible to listeners who cannot be bothered to discern the differences and similarities between dubstep, wonky, and bass, yet it’s all too detailed and moving to be heard as some form of artistic compromise. A handful of the most effective productions are closer to liquid dancehall than his 2008 track of the same name, offering amiable bashment with plinking keyboards over slippery beats. Two of the most emotive Zomby tracks come with the hallucinatory “Natalia’s Song,” featuring softly jutting vocal samples from a female Russian vocalist, and “Basquiat,” a pensive piano-and-string-drone piece. Although it wasn't the intent, they’re more in the spirit of old-school 4AD -- Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, the Hope Blister -- than the majority of the label’s releases across the past ten years. The technicolor pellets over rat-a-tat snares return through “Things Fall Apart,” featuring a disjointed vocal from Panda Bear (the album’s only misstep), and the cycling “Mozaik,” which abruptly cuts off, and ends Dedication, shortly after the three-minute mark. Whether this is a one-off or a bridge to something more substantial, it's satisfying in the present and will likely increase in stature as years pass. ~ Andy Kellman
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Electro - Released June 27, 2011 | Young Turks Recordings

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
The prevalent dubstep sound may still be in its infancy, but it's already produced more essential albums than the 2-step garage scene it originated from, with 2011 U.K. Top Ten efforts from Magnetic Man, Katy B and James Blake joining underground classics from Burial and Skream in the genre's increasingly impressive portfolio. London-based enigma Aaron Jerome, aka the tribal mask-wearing producer/DJ SBTRKT (pronounced subtract), is the latest act to make the leap from FWD club staple to serious album artist with his self-titled debut, whose blend of warbling basslines and syncopated rhythms -- with influences from the world of R&B, Chicago house, old-school garage, and synth pop -- has provided what is, perhaps, dubstep's most genre-straddling effort to date. Signed to the XX's former label, Young Turks, and previously a remixer for the likes of M.I.A., the man of mystery may have some pretty indie credentials, but he's not afraid to embrace his more commercial side, particularly on two of the three female-fronted tracks, "Wildfire," which sees Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano playfully purr over a backdrop of Radio 1-friendly squelchy synths and languid beats, and the unashamedly retro "Pharaohs," whose chopped up acid-house riffs perfectly complement emerging vocalist Roses Gabor's breathless tones. But it's in his more nocturnal offerings that the album is more in keeping with his maverick persona, as he effortlessly glides from twinkling electro to soulful skittering garage and back again on the angelic melodies of "Sanctuary." He soundtracks the end of the night with the woozy synths and spacious rhythms of "Trails of the Past," and reveals a refreshing vulnerability on the Chinese temple blocks, glockenspiels, and ambient electronica of "Hold On," all of which are lavished with the plaintive, honey-layered vocals of Sampha. With such a sense of invention, a few hit-and-miss affairs, such as the self-indulgent knob-twiddling of "Ready Set Loop" and the early noughties Craig David remix feel of "Never Never," are inevitable, but they're the only misfires on a record brimming with energy, vibrancy, and soul. SBTRKT's downtempo, mellow nature means it's a dance album that's unlikely to ever be played in a club, but showing James Blake that sparse, minimal dubstep and well-crafted pop melodies aren't mutually exclusive, it's a daring debut which lives up to the masked man's "next big thing" label. ~ Jon O'Brien
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Electro - Released June 20, 2011 | Para One

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Electro - Released June 6, 2011 | Warp Records

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When Tyondai Braxton left Battles in 2010, three years after Mirrored showed that their music could be as incredibly catchy as it was highly technical, there were concerns that a large part of the band’s playfulness and charisma had departed with him. Fortunately, Gloss Drop proves those worries were unfounded. Though Braxton's shoes are undeniably large ones to fill, John Stanier, Ian Williams, and David Konopka strike out on their own and with some well-chosen collaborators. The tracks with guest singers are Gloss Drop's immediate standouts. As the sometime vocalist on the band’s debut album, Braxton lent a cohesiveness to Battles' excursions, but here the trio picks singers that reflect a particular aspect of their sound that they’ve chosen to express. Matias Aguayo turns in one of the album’s revelatory tracks, “Ice Cream,” which not only matches the playfulness of any of Mirrored's tracks, but adds a summery physicality and sexuality that is completely new. The other is “Sweetie and Shag,” a collaboration with Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino that is a peak for everyone involved, with her wispy vocals adding spun-sugar sweetness and their energy giving the song blood and muscle. Both of these songs sound like pop from another planet, unfettered by conventional structures but still remarkably immediate and catchy. Which is not to say that Gary Numan's work on “My Machines”' high-speed drone-rock or “Sundome,” which features the Boredoms' Yamantaka Eye singing like he’s calling the sun into being, aren’t as inspired -- they are -- but they don’t have the shock of the new that Aguayo and Makino's cameos do. Likewise, Gloss Drop's instrumentals alternate between shoring up Battles’ proven strengths on Mirrored-esque tracks like “Africastle” and “Wall Street,” and departures such as the brief Latin-tinged foray “Dominican Fade” and “Inchworm,” which boasts playful sleigh bells and a melody so kinetic it’s almost visible. On every track, Battles' joy in playing together shines through, whether it’s the minute-long snippet “Toddler” or “White Electric,” one of the album’s biggest showcases for the trio’s pure instrumental prowess. In that regard, Gloss Drop may be more accomplished than the band's debut; even if it’s not quite as much of a powerhouse as Mirrored was, it shows that the trio version of Battles is lean, creative, and surprisingly adaptable. ~ Heather Phares
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Techno - Released June 6, 2011 | Eat Sleep Records

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Techno - Released May 18, 2011 | Fool House

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House - Released May 16, 2011 | XL

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At their best, Friendly Fires crystallize the escapist thrills of summertime, dancing, and parties into a fizzy synergy of indie, dance, post-punk, and dream pop. They do this even more effortlessly on their second album, Pala, recruiting producer Paul Epworth to help them couch their incredibly immediate pop hooks in intriguing sounds. These songs sound far bigger than Friendly Fires', and bolder too, with a more consolidated approach that shows how much more confident the band is here. Previously, it seemed like Friendly Fires were trying on as many styles as possible, but when “Blue Cassette” mixes filter disco softness with kinetic dance rock, it feels completely natural. Even bigger leaps forward arrive with “Hawaiian Air,” a one-way ticket to summer that sets breezy harmonies atop a lilting synth hook that somehow makes the drums sound even bouncier and more impatient to have fun, and on “Hurting,” which melds old-school soul and disco touches into a sexy departure for the band. These songs, along with “Show Me Lights,” grasp the heights that Friendly Fires' debut only glimpsed. Though Pala's songs are almost all climax, they have some subtlety too, like the way a clicking camera drives the beat on the languid title track, or the way “Pull Me Back to Earth” gradually transforms from ethereal dance rock to bubbling soul-pop midway through. Ever the hedonists, Friendly Fires can make a break-up song sound like a celebration, and they don't just fall in and out of love; they chase it (“Chimes”) or drown in its aftermath (“Helpless”). A headlong rush of an album, Pala is accomplished, bold, and very, very danceable; everything Friendly Fires' debut promised and more. ~ Heather Phares
£5.59

Electro - Released April 11, 2011 | Because Music Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection Les Inrocks - 4 étoiles Technikart - Sélection du Mercury Prize
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House - Released February 14, 2011 | Pschent Music

Distinctions 3F de Télérama - Sélection Les Inrocks - The Unusual Suspects
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Dance - Released January 1, 2011 | Polydor Records

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks - 3 étoiles Technikart - Sélection du Mercury Prize
During 2009 and 2010, James Blake issued a clutch of abstract dubstep singles on Hemlock, Hessle Audio, and R&S. Each release increased anticipation for the producer’s next move as he continually shuffled the deck on his bristly, off-center, and generally groove-less tracks, some of which incorporated vocals -- he sampled Kelis and Aaliyah on “CMYK,” for instance -- or his own voice, heavily processed. The Klavierwerke EP, the last in the series, was the most stripped down of the bunch. The day after it was released, Blake uploaded a video for his dramatic cover version of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love,” which indicated that the focus on his voice and sparse backing would continue. Consisting of Blake's pensive vocal, a simple but affecting piano, and recurring beat weighed down by sub-bass, it’s one of the most straightforward tracks on Blake’s brief debut album. The following “Give Me My Month” deviates most from Blake’s vinyl output; it’s a wistful piano-and-voice ballad that has far more in common with Procol Harum than any given contemporary linked to Blake. The rest of the tracks are more like exercises in sound manipulation and reduction than songs. The approach is no fault, but Blake pares it down to such an extent that the material occasionally sounds not just tentative but feeble, fatigued, even, as on “I Never Learnt to Share,” where one creaky line is repeated and treated throughout, placed over swelling synthesizer frequencies and a stamping beat. “The Wilhelm Scream,” one of the album’s highlights, is far more effective, a ballad with a pulse that increases in intensity with skillfully deployed reverb and surging waves of soft noise. ~ Andy Kellman