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Electronic/Dance - Released April 3, 2020 | 4AD

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Having described it as “A quest for comfort, the search for a resting place”, it almost sounds like Canadian duo Purity Ring are searching for a place to die in their new album, but the title Womb, is instead more of an invitation to stay safe at home and enjoy the life we’ve been given. Megan James and Corin Roddick came out of the shadows in 2012 following the release of their album, Shrine, and have since been endorsed by the likes of Jon Hopkins and Danny Brown. Their artistic approach hasn’t changed all that much and their synthetic pop is still blossoming and finding its fullness and depth in this third studio album which may even surpass the work of their fellow compatriot Grimes, who has a similar style. Roddick’s production is as compelling as ever here and James, with her vocals sounding less and less human, is an expert in making catchy choruses. The duo from Edmonton have released a whole load of potential hits, (notably the ballad rubyinsides, built on layers upon layers of synthesizers, as well as the future pop in sinew and the single stardew), and shown great skill in this album. An amniotic haven that definitely lives up to our expectations. © Smaëm Bouaici/Qobuz
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Electronic/Dance - Released April 3, 2020 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

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Rising from the darkness of the Canadian rave scene at the start of the 2010s, Grimes quickly made her way up the ladder of success. Her synthetic hit Vanessa allowed her to amass a fanbase that was obsessed with her post-teenage voice and elfish look, and at the end of the 2010s, Pitchfork named Oblivion (written following a sexual assault and taken from her 2012 album Vision) the second-best song of the entire decade. It’s this kind of distinction that reminds us that she is an artist that knows exactly how to transcribe emotions into songs, and not just the girlfriend of multi-billionaire Elon Musk. Miss Anthropocene sees Grimes morph into a climate supervillain, a ‘goddess of plastic’ that’s here to take some of the heat off climate change. Musically, Grimes has not drastically changed, with a signature synth-pop sound that borrows from rock on My Name Is Dark, drum’n’bass on the excellent 4ÆM or trip-hop on So Heavy (I Fell Through the Earth), which reminds you of Massive Attack or Transglobal Underground. Well inspired, Grimes continues to hit the mark. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

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Rising from the darkness of the Canadian rave scene at the start of the 2010s, Grimes quickly made her way up the ladder of success. Her synthetic hit Vanessa allowed her to amass a fanbase that was obsessed with her post-teenage voice and elfish look, and at the end of the 2010s, Pitchfork named Oblivion (written following a sexual assault and taken from her 2012 album Vision) the second-best song of the entire decade. It’s this kind of distinction that reminds us that she is an artist that knows exactly how to transcribe emotions into songs, and not just the girlfriend of multi-billionaire Elon Musk. Miss Anthropocene sees Grimes morph into a climate supervillain, a ‘goddess of plastic’ that’s here to take some of the heat off climate change. Musically, Grimes has not drastically changed, with a signature synth-pop sound that borrows from rock on My Name Is Dark, drum’n’bass on the excellent 4ÆM or trip-hop on So Heavy (I Fell Through the Earth), which reminds you of Massive Attack or Transglobal Underground. Well inspired, Grimes continues to hit the mark. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released February 12, 2020 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released January 3, 2020 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released December 13, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released November 29, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released November 15, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released October 31, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released May 10, 2019 | 4AD

On each of her albums, Holly Herndon thoughtfully examines the boundaries between humankind and technology, and how our innovations define us as much as we define them. She began her explorations with the sketches of physical and virtual intimacy that made up 2012's Movement and broadened her scope on 2014's Platform, where her self-surveillance of her everyday online interactions ranged from mundane to unsettling. On 2019's PROTO, she takes another significant step forward. A collaboration with Spawn, an AI that Herndon created with her partner Mat Dryhurst and programmer Jules LaPlace, her third album reflects her own evolution as an artist and thinker as it documents the project's development. As its name suggests, Herndon's neural network was in its infancy when she made PROTO. To train this cutting-edge technology, she connected it with the oldest roots of her music, and music in general: the human voice. Herndon spent her youth singing in church and secular choirs, and a major part of Spawn's education was learning how to interpret soloists and vocal groups. On choral pieces such as "Evening Shades (Live Training)," PROTO offers glimpses into these lessons that reflect not only Herndon's skills as an arranger, but the project's guiding philosophy that human and synthetic voices are more powerful together than on their own. Likewise, the album presents Spawn's growth as a creative consciousness at different stages. On "Birth," a choir surrounds her as her stuttering voice gradually assembles itself; on "Godmother," she creates fascinating, uncanny vocalizations based on song stems from Herndon and footwork producer Jlin. Meanwhile, the way "Crawler" morphs from an electronic-based duet between Herndon and Spawn to an a cappella piece feels as exploratory as creation itself. Since one of the project's primary goals was introducing Spawn to the humanity of music, it's fitting that PROTO is more melodic and spontaneous than Herndon's previous albums. "Alienation" is a strange but stately blend of choral tradition and electronic pop; along with "Eternal," it evokes Björk and Purity Ring while pushing creative technology's boundaries. One of the main reasons the album is so vital-sounding is the interplay between Herndon, Spawn, and their collaborators, a theme that PROTO explores to its fullest. Herndon expresses the theory behind it beautifully on "Extreme Love," a daringly maternal manifesto that suggests our relationship with microbes as a natural precedent for the type of connected intelligence that could occur between people and AI. On "SWIM," she puts this theory into practice, uniting a choir of human and synthetic voices in gorgeous harmony. Elsewhere, Herndon hints that living side by side with AI won't always be simple, whether on the plaintive, heavily processed "Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt" or "Last Gasp," which enmeshes a delicate vocal in grinding electronics. While PROTO could be impressive for its groundbreaking nature alone, Herndon's meditations on the relationship between humans and increasingly sentient technology are moving and filled with a sense of wonder that makes a rewarding coexistence with AI seem more than possible. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Electronic/Dance - Released March 14, 2018 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released October 20, 2017 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released October 20, 2017 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released July 24, 2017 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released April 24, 2017 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released April 7, 2017 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released February 17, 2017 | 4AD

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Excluding a few early, limited releases, No Home of the Mind is the third proper full-length from pianist David Moore's post-minimalist ensemble Bing & Ruth, and their debut for legendary indie label 4AD. While 2010's City Lake was created by 11 musicians, including two vocalists, and featured compositions stretching past the ten-minute mark, No Home continues with the more refined sound of Bing & Ruth's 2014 breakthrough Tomorrow Was the Golden Age. That album featured seven musicians, and No Home is even more stripped-down, as Moore is only joined by clarinetist Jeremy Viner, bassists Jeff Ratner and Greg Chudzik, and tape delay operator Mike Effenberger. Even with a reduced personnel, it doesn't feel as if anything is missing. These pieces seem to drift a bit more than the ones on the previous two albums, but they're still highly focused. On several selections, Moore plays his piano in a cascading style reminiscent of the "continuous music" of Lubomyr Melnyk, with clusters of notes rushing in an ecstatic blur. Opening track "Starwood Choker" and "Form Takes" are both examples of this, and two of the album's highlights. On other tracks, the notes are sparser and more solemn, but the playing style on pieces like "As Much as Possible" still seems to require an enormous amount of discipline in order to master. While Moore's piano often seems to be the lead "voice" of the compositions, the other musicians play a vital role in shaping the moods and atmospheres of the pieces. It makes sense that one of the group members is solely in charge of tape delay, as there's enough of it to warrant a full-time position, and it greatly accentuates the snowy, hazy qualities of the music. While the music is generally calm and reflective, there are several darker moments. "Flat Line/Peak Colour" opens with a sorrowful, rainfall-like piano melody, and gradually seems more concerned and alarmed, eventually getting as doom-filled as this group gets. But even at their most dramatic, Bing & Ruth still can't help but sound effortlessly pretty. As with previous albums, Moore seems to delight in twisting grammar for his titles, which include "The How of It Sped," "To All It," and "What Ash It Flow Up." While he doesn't quite have the self-deprecating humor of Kyle Bobby Dunn, he seems to agree that this sort of music doesn't have to seem so serious or academic, and that there's room for absurdity and playfulness. Melancholy but not overbearingly so, No Home of the Mind is thoroughly entrancing, and another triumph for Bing & Ruth. © Paul Simpson /TiVo

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