In the 23 years that he’s been releasing music, Robert Hood’s output is truly remarkable. Though it’s only been four years since his last full-length, the Detroit minimal techno forefather has nonetheless put out seven 12-inch singles and three EPs in the meantime.
His latest LP, Paradygm Shift, which collects some of the aforementioned material, is impressive in that Hood still manages to sound fresh and inventive. Returning to the sleek, hypnotic beats that defined his early work, Hood bridges the gap between the skeletal feel of early techno and the thick production style of modern electronic music. Over nine tracks and 52 minutes, Paradygm Shift finds Hood in an inventive mood, giving each track a distinct personality while giving a nod to techno’s splintered genres. “Idea” works off of a restrained minimal funk beat, while “I Am” and “Solid Thought” blend into each other with a thumping house beat and busy BPMs, while “Pattern 8” adds industrial and noise elements into his techno sound.
Although Hood’s not reinventing the wheel on Paradygm Shift, he is attempting to reinvent his wheelhouse, keeping things interesting both for himself and for listeners. (Dekmantel)
While it took ’90s lo-fi heroes like Lou Barlow and Elliott Smith years to gain a following with their self-released four-track recordings, Alexander Giannascoli — formerly known as Alex G and now going by (Sandy) Alex G — quickly became a big deal among underground indie circles with the help of music streaming site Bandcamp. But it’s also this deft method of distributing his music that’s allowed (Sandy) Alex G to freely experiment with so many varied sounds and genres without wasting precious studio time or vinyl pressing costs.
Perhaps that’s why Rocket, G’s purported foray into “country” music, comes across so damn confident and well conceived. Celebrated since day one for his sharp and inventive melodies, he mumbles his way through album opener “Poison Root” while still managing to craft something engrossing and emotional. But although he manages to throw honky-tonk piano (“Proud”), cascading fiddles (“Bobby”), and autoharp (“Witch”) into the mix, it’s clear that the Philly musician merely treats these sounds as reference points in order to properly delve into his own brand of sonic deconstruction. To prove this point, G fills the middle third of his album with some of his more shapeless but nonetheless excellent material, producing ear-splitting noise pieces (“Brick”), and effects-saturated vocal exercises (“Judge”).
Alex G then ends the 14-track LP with some of his most focused and honest material to date, just to show that he’s not fucking around. Rocket is a true tour de force that cements (Sandy) Alex G snugly in the company of indie rock’s great auteurs. (Domino)
Although the Belleville Three (Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson) are known for inventing Detroit techno, it’s second-waver Carl Craig that’s acted as the genre’s true ambassador, creating the modern electronic music festival (DEMF) alongside his tireless globetrotting touring schedule. So, it would make sense that when it came time for Craig to release a career-spanning collection, he would choose to include musicians from around the world to help re-shape his best-known tracks.
Born from a live performance at Paris’ La Cité de la musique, Craig recorded Versus as a collaboration with Les Siècles orchestra (lead by French conductor François Xavier-Roth) along with German producer Moritz von Oswald and Luxembourgian experimental pianist Francesco Tristano. Released nine years later, the 14 track LP is part live document, part remix album and part new release, as many of Craig’s compositions are given a fresh makeover.
After a trio of sullen ambient mood-pieces, including the orchestra-led 2004 single “Darkness,” Versus truly kicks into gear when Craig and his guests raucously reshape his immortal hit “Sandstorms,” which finds the Detroit and German musicians interweaving their spacey electronics with Tristano’s resourceful piano and Les Siècles’ brooding accents. Although Craig’s bigger tracks are covered — “At Les,” “Desire” and “Domina” among them — he also fills the 65-minute LP with lesser-known fare like “Barcelona Trist” and “Technology” to help give the performance a precise shape and narrative.
Although Versus is certainly not a place for casual Craig fans to start, nor is it designed for the dance floor crowd, it’s an achievement that appropriately showcases one of Detroit’s finest exports. (Planet E)
Although Wolfgang Voigt has put out countless albums under countless monikers over the last three decades, it’s safe to say that his work as Gas has gained him the most attention (and possibly more attention than anything on his eminent record label, Kompakt). Blending sometimes-spacious, sometimes-dense minimal techno that helped define the microhouse genre, Voigt (as Gas) put out four game-changing albums in five years, the last being the undisputed masterwork Pop in 2000.
Seventeen years later, Voigt has resurrected his beloved nom de plume for his latest, the fittingly titled Narkopop. Collecting ten dawdling and druggy tracks across over 75 minutes, album number five from the Cologne artist is nothing short of extraordinary in its ability to sound both exploratory and focused, a true rarity for minimal electronic music. Although many of the album’s tracks still feature building and cascading drone movements, Voigt focuses more heavily on texture, reverberation and layers, allowing tracks to flow together brilliantly, even when he fluctuates pace and space from moment to moment. At one point, Voigt is riding upon feathery looping electronic blips; the next sequence, he’s pushing through throbbing, claustrophobic mood movements, right before injecting the a stunning chamber suite, only to disappear then reappear in a slightly different form.
Not only is Gas’ Narkopop a top candidate for best microhouse album of 2017, it may also be the best drone album and the best classical album — and possibly just the best album you’ll hear this year, period. (Kompakt)
As co-keyboardist, co-vocalist and co-founder of Hot Chip, Joe Goddard has been responsible for bringing in a tangible house and pop music aesthetic to his British band’s celebrated blend of emo indietronica. With his second solo LP, Electric Lines (and first since 2009’s Harvest Festival), Goddard dives head-first into these sounds — albeit without taking the temperature of dance music’s current atmosphere first.
Although there are some strong tracks featured here — including the earnest, R&B-influenced “Home” (featuring Michigan up-and-coming vocalist Daniel Wilson), the wistful, proggy slow-burner “Children of the Sun” and the gentle, polyrhythmic “Truth Is Light” — most of this 10-track LP comes off rather patchy and passé. For example, UK electro musician Jess Mills delivers a killer performance on album opener, “Ordinary Madness” and closer “Music Is the Answer,” but Goddard’s production and melody lines come off much too breezy to match her vocal passion and finesse.
As Goddard wildly leaps across multiple genres, it becomes clear that je sounds most comfortable and confident (and therefore, best) when his songs resemble his work in Hot Chip, as on “Lose Your Love” and the title track. On Electric Lines, Joe Goddard shoots for something eclectic and exciting, but settles for something sporadically enjoyable at best. (Greco-Roman)
If you were to compare the music of Scottt Catolico to that of a visual artist, his style would best be described as mixed media. On his third LP, the Vancouver-via-Winnipeg producer shows off his penchant for blending sonic textures alongside a left-field manner of delivering melody and rhythm.
Although Catolico delivers 14 tracks in just over an hour on his album, Mass3acre never seems to drag or run short on ideas, even when it evidently does (as apparent throughout the shrewdly reclaimed beats of “You Waiting for Those Drapes to Hang Themselves?”). While Scottt works off of no-frills, repetitive electro-movements (“Placebo Jesus,” “Attila the Hun, He’s Out to Get You” and “Eye Luv This Song”), he adds stimulating musical drops, accents and vocal samples that keep these tracks feeling buoyant. It helps that Catolico is also attracted to so many different eras of electronic music; he brazenly cops the bright piano sound from ’90s-era ambient house on “Ketamine Lotion,” the skeletal backbeats from ’80s post-disco on “It’s the One That Says Bad Mother Fucker” and the warm synth sound of ’90s pop on “It’s Gonna Be Great.” Almost a dozen guests help shape the album’s feel, but Catolico mostly utilizes their contributions as vocal samples or spoken word interludes.
On Mass3acre, Catolico scours his influences, instruments and boundless imagination to come up with a unified sum that’s much greater than its parts. (Catolico Film & Sound)
In 2016, Fujiya & Miyagi released two four-song, limited run 12-inch EPs that found the Brighton, England quartet exploring some of their most inspired and well-conceived songs since their breakthrough sophomore LP, Transparent Things, a decade earlier.
For their new self-titled LP, Fujiya & Miyagi have combined both EPs, along with songs from a third 12-inch that was, puzzlingly, put out the exact same day. But no matter which format you choose to consume these 11 tracks, it’s clear that the quartet have crafted a clear and uniform vision for their new(ish) material. Working off of the dance-y Krautrock sound they’ve been known to favour, Fujiya & Miyagi keep things fresh and resourceful here with tracks like the groove-centric “Serotonin Rushes,” the punk-y “Outstripping (The Speed of Light)” and the pulsating, disco-indebted “Impossible Objects of Desire.” Yet it’s tracks like the spoken word, self-referential/-explanatory “Extended Dance Mix,” the motoric instrumental “Synthetic Symphonies” and the heavy guitar snarler “R.S.I.” that earn this collection repeat listens.
It’s true that Fujiya & Miyagi have a particular formula, and they seem to follow it on their self-titled LP, but they’ve managed to figure out when to use this formula to satiate listeners and when to tweak it to make listeners salivate. (Impossible Objects of Desire)