Albums

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Ambient - Released July 4, 2011 | Warp Records

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Drums Between the Bells is a collaboration by producer Brian Eno and poet Rick Holland. It was recorded just after Eno finished work on 2010's Small Craft on a Milk Sea, his debut for Warp, and it followed on the release schedule less than a year later. In that sense, the timing was good for such a risky project. Music and poetry are often difficult companions, and combining them is best left to experts; fortunately, Eno is just such an expert. Although Holland is an obscure poet, he first came to Eno’s notice back in the late ‘90s (through a university project), and his poetry is very good. Although his words and thoughts are impressionistic, his themes are easier to peg: urban living, science, and the intersection of philosophy and biology. The music is almost entirely Eno’s own, with only a few tracks featuring guest credits -- much less so than his previous album. While scattered moments here prove that percussion is still not his strong suit, the production is inviting, innovative, and a larger contributor to the general excellence of the record than the poetry. Eno draws mostly on ambient music for these productions, and only occasionally processes the vocals. One other characteristic, aside from Eno and Holland, makes this an unlikely success: there are a total of nine voices heard here (Holland only recites on one track). The decision to vary the speaking participants helps distinguish each piece, and gives the album just the hint of variety it needs. ~ John Bush
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Dance - Released November 21, 2011 | Defected Records

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House - Released May 22, 2012 | Spectral Sound

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Electro - Released May 14, 2012 | Wichita Recordings

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Unpatterns comes across as a reaction to Simian Mobile Disco's previous two full-length releases. Temporary Pleasure (2009) featured a series of guest vocalists over productions that were largely busy and bright. Delicacies (2010) compiled alternately nutty and stern tracks that resembled a soundclash between the Perlon and 240 Volts labels circa 2003. Unpatterns, comparatively, is leaner and more insular. Save for a discreet appearance from Jamie Lidell on the jacking "Put Your Hands Together," the few voices that are heard are sampled, distressed, and sometimes made to sound inhuman. The half-blissful/half-anguished "Your Love Ain't Fair" recalls Sepalcure's smudged U.K. garage take on bass music. "Seraphim," the closest to a diva track with the looped "Why can't you be where I want you to be?," is downcast house with a brilliantly wrenching rhythm and taut acid wriggles. The closing "Pareidolia" is one of the duo's most remarkable achievements to date. It pairs reverberant, dripping-wet percussion flecks with hot synthesizer flashes that reach an almost numbing level of intensity before settling into a heavy groove. Just as that groove reaches full stride, it's wiped out by a sustained corrosive synthesizer note. In terms of popularity, the album is not likely to rival Attack Decay Sustain Release. It's not as novel, either, but it's exceptionally crafted. ~ Andy Kellman
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Techno - Released May 7, 2012 | InFiné

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Techno - Released May 7, 2012 | Get the Curse Music

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Dance - Released April 23, 2012 | Fabric Worldwide

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This might be more of a coup for the Fabric label than it is for Levon Vincent -- a venerated house DJ and producer active for a decade through his More Music NY, Deconstruct, and Novel Sound labels. Seven of these 15 selections are Vincent's own, and they include recent and new material. The other productions come from some of the man's peers: Joey Anderson, Jus-Ed, JM De Frias, DJ Qu, Deconstruct partner Anthony Parasole, and Black Jazz Consortium (of one, namely Fred Peterkin). The mixing is measured, devoid of flash and protracted beat matching, but it's never jarring -- an ideal approach to exhibiting contemporary house and techno that is physical and pared down yet superbly contoured. During the latter half, there's a 28-minute progression that kills just about any stretch of similar length from the other exalted Fabric mixes. In terms of shrewd gear shifting and striking content, not much contends with "Fear" (wielding a meaty dread-funk bassline), "Double-Jointed Sex Freak, Pt. 2" (an undulating mutation of Berlin dub), Anderson's "Hydrine" (a stealth spell caster), Parasole's "Tyson" (a cyclone of stuttering hi-hats, growling bass, and stern EBM synthesizer lines), and "The End" (lean, deep dub techno). The original version of 2011 knockout "Impression of a Rainstorm" would have made for an astounding, dramatic conclusion to the mix. Vincent instead installs a relatively jacking sequel/variant as the setup for a BJC ambient piano ballad, which finishes it off in sci-fi lullaby fashion. Vincent's resistance to peaks and easy theatrics, combined with some singular productions, makes Fabric 63 one for the ages. ~ Andy Kellman
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Electro - Released April 23, 2012 | Freerange Records

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Electro - Released April 1, 2012 | Ed Banger Records

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Dance - Released March 26, 2012 | Soma

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House - Released January 30, 2012 | Southern Fried Records

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The 2 Bears are Joe Goddard (best known as one-fifth of Hot Chip, but also an active solo artist, producer, and remixer) and Raf Daddy (Raphael Rundell, one of Goddard's cronies in the Greco-Roman Soundsystem DJ squad). Their full-length debut, following (and culling the highlights from) several EPs, is, first of all, a first-rate party record: a fun, frisky, freewheeling romp through several decades of dance music sounds and styles emanating from London, Jamaica (and the Caribbean in general), Chicago, and Detroit, among other places. But it's also something a good deal rarer and more profound: a tremendously heartfelt celebration of music as a force for transformation, togetherness, love, and personal expression. That may sound like so many tired-out House Nation tropes and ostensibly anthemic dancefloor platitudes, but it's a message refocused here through a highly personable delivery -- the deep-voiced Raf Daddy's good-naturedly grizzly pronouncements juxtaposed against Goddard's honeyed hooks and bridges (interestingly, the inverse of his typical vocal interplay with Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor) -- enlivened with plenty of humor (check the thumping, drily droll "Bear Hug"), and tempered by a refreshing frankness: the way "Work" flips the house music commonplace "you gotta work!" as both a dancefloor injunction and a treatise on real-world economic striving (including some choice thoughts on the labor of music-making itself); the way the title track's advice to independent-minded listeners ("you've got to follow your own mind and ears") also works more broadly as a message of self-discovery and acceptance. It's there in the words -- the exhortation to "give the music all your loving"; the recurrent catch phrase "music for days and days and days," and perhaps most movingly, "Heart of the Congos" -- the account of one man's personal history with the titular 1977 dub reggae classic, "the sound that keeps us on the ground" (a tale set, naturally enough, to a pumping 2-step garage beat, dotted with talkbox asides and reverb-soaked horn spliffs). But you can also just feel it in the grooves, which are not only unfailingly generous, good-humored, and warm, but also richly colorful, detail-oriented, and steeped in musical history: they're grounded in house but draw from garage, techno, Euro-disco, dancehall, '80s pop, soul, and more with the kind of open-eared, genre-blind mentality that yields winning curiosities like the breezy, country & western calypso-blues of "Time in Mind." With palate-cleansing breathers like that song (a singalong-ready ditty about the prison of a guilty conscience) and the sunny, tropical-tinged chill-out opener "The Birds & the Bees" spaced out among the steady supply of prime-time bangers (the best being the flawless, through-mixed opening string of "Be Strong," "Bear Hug," and "Work," though the closing trio, leading up to the gloriously exultant organs and steel drums of "Church," is nearly as unstoppable), Be Strong is perfectly sequenced for listening as well as dancing. Though you should really be doing both. Either way, you're in exceptionally good hands -- er, make that paws. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
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U&I

Electro - Released January 13, 2012 | Warp Records

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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 December 5, 2011 | Fabric Worldwide

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Techno - Released November 21, 2011 | Border Community

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Techno - Released November 14, 2011 | Fabric Worldwide

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Electro - Released November 11, 2011 | Ed Banger Records

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Electro - Released October 31, 2011 | 4AD

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After a dozen-plus 12” singles and EPs on revered underground dance labels like Tectonic and Hyperdub, and the Joker-centric Kapsize, Liam McLean lands on 4AD, where he seizes the full-length format. Prior to The Vision, McLean amassed a body of bloody-minded output that toggled between immense and ominous, from modern electronic funk (“Purple City,” recorded with fellow Bristolian Ginz) to sparse and booming hip-hop (“Snake Eater”). His best moment was 2009’s “Psychedelic Runway,” a widescreen combination of prowling beats, lancing synthesizers, and numerous horror-theme elements seemingly constructed for the purpose of devouring any pop radio playlist. While it required only slight modifications to his approach -- brighter tones and simpler arrangements, allowing room for singers and MCs -- it’s still surprising that much of The Vision sounds like an effort to assimilate into commercial airwaves. The vocal collaborations are, for the most part, a muddled experiment. This is especially true during the latter half, involving a variety of rapped verses and sung hooks that sound more like distractions than enhancements. The title track, however, is pulled off brilliantly due to a vocalist -- the soul-rooted Jessie Ware -- commanding and skilled enough to navigate one of McLean’s most vibrant and dynamic productions. Otherwise, the most effective tracks are the instrumentals: “Milky Way,” “My Trance Girl,” and the 2010 A-side “Tron.” Each one carries swashbuckling synthesizer lines so heavy that they can be felt, through a decent sound system, in the chest. ~ Andy Kellman
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Techno - Released October 17, 2011 | Fabric Worldwide

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John Peel reportedly dubbed Dave Clarke "the Baron of Techno," but his stylistic range is quite a bit broader than that. On his contribution to the now-venerable Fabric series, Clarke manages the impressive feat of ranging all over the place while maintaining a unifying thematic mood throughout, and that mood is dark -- if you're looking for happy-face glow-sticks-and-pacifiers techno, you'll want to go elsewhere. On Fabric 60, Clarke shows a strong tendency toward gothic-tinged minor-key chord environments (Raudive's "Shiver"), foreboding and often indecipherable spoken word vocals (Cristiano Balducci's "Pride," "I.D.F.D.F.I." by Ray 7 and Malik Alston), and relentless machine beats often colored by rather grim and even Teutonic atmospherics (note in particular the fun but rather chilling "Aufstand" by Gesaffelstein). Tommy Four Seven's "Armed 3" is constructed out of a muttering groove punctuated by a thudding house beat and snare hits that sound like rifle shots, while the Heuristic Audio remix of Sync24's "We Rock Non-Stop" harks back (unsurprisingly, given its title) to the sounds and beats of vintage hip-hop. Some tracks bustle and grumble while other jerk and quiver with glitchy rhythmic elaboration, and all of it is interesting, even if at times the relentlessness of some of the beats makes for a better dancing than listening experience. ~ Rick Anderson
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Electro - Released October 10, 2011 | InFiné

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Electro - Released October 10, 2011 | Folistar

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Genre

Electro in the magazine