For 2013, I struggled to even come up with 5 impressive releases and the results are quite vanilla. I find as time goes on my interest in my own musical pursuits makes attention to the work of others continually shrink. I didn’t dig deep, but suggestions are always welcome. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Machine Drum – Vapor City
While not reaching the dizzying heights of 2011’s Room(s), Machine Drum has reached an interesting and very accessible amalgamation of the best aspects of modern beat-driven music with Vapor City (somehow a loosely tied concept album that I don’t quite get). Conceptual aspects aside, these tracks exploit the simple premise of wonderfully catchy melodic ideas peppered with tasteful weirdness (vocal snippet manipulations), endorphin-releasing synths and restrained yet technically dazzling (footwork-tinged) breakbeat structures. There’s even a genuinely 80s-sounding hazy slow-jam in the way of “U Still Lie”.
4. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
Leaving behind his (prolific, competent and enjoyable) late 70s/early 80s synth-ambient phase, Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven strides confidently into the refreshingly plastic sounds of the early 90s. This worked especially well when paired live with digital animations by Nate Boyce when I saw him with Tim Hecker at the Walker Art Center in November.
3. Steve Moore – Pangea Ultima
I’ve been a fan of Steve and his band Zombi for several years and despite a couple of lackluster EPs, this full-length from the end of the year stands out as a unique addition to his discography and demonstrates his continual exploration of the genre. On Pangea Ultima Steve strips things down to their bare minimal ingredients – and to great success. This cold refinement highlights interesting and complex polyrhythmic ideas in what I like to imagine an alternate 80s that never came to be.
2. Autechre – Exai
Nothing much to say other than another great record from Autechre which demonstrates their ability to create new permutations of their sound while still retaining their identity.
1. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
After a long silence, BOC is back with their darkest and perhaps most minimal work yet. The guitars have been put away and the distant synth colors are back in full force, albeit more restrained. Works perfectly as a post-apocalyptic soundtrack.