A Dusted Review: Don’t Know, Just Walk by Mike Weis (August 11th, 2014)

The idea of America as a “new country” is so ingrained in most minds that it almost becomes easy to forget that it’s only white, “Western” society there that is relatively young. It also shortens the gap between the modern nation’s founding and the most recent century-and-a-half of rapid development, from rural ex-colony into the world’s premier industrial and technological nation of the world.

As such, the mythical, primeval history of what is now the USA only rarely trickles into modern life and culture. While there exists in Europe, notably the UK, a sense that music can be used to reconnect with primordial pre-modern societies and histories, whether real or imagined (sometimes referred to as hauntology), such a scene in the US is harder to pinpoint or even identify, maybe because of its size, or because Europeans only arrived in the 17th century and rather quickly went about reducing the numbers of the native population. Nonetheless, artists trying to probe the ancient hidden reverse under the concrete and bricks do exist in the USA, usually in the Midwest, Deep South or around the Great Lakes, and Mike Weis, drummer for hazy post-rockers Zelienople, has encapsulated this veiled territory with acute beauty on Don’t Know, Just Walk.

The album was created in the wake of Weis’ diagnosis with prostate cancer, and inspired by wooded areas and fields in Michigan and Indiana, where he recorded the delicately-applied field recordings that traverse Don’t Know, Just Walk’s three tracks. The title refers to a form of Korean zen buddhism, and Weis uses that faith’s teachings to muse on death and mortality in a way that is reflective, sombre and ultimately life-affirming.

The three compositions on Don’t Know, Just Walk form a sort of suite, with the track titles even combining to form an enigmatic sentence: “The Temple Bell Stops,” “But The Sound Keeps Coming,” “Out Of The Flowers.” The epic, twenty-minute opener releases the listener into the inner and outer worlds of Mike Weis instantly, as spooky, muted voices intone ominously over a sparse tapestry of electro-acoustic drones and crisp field recordings. The feeling is of being lost deep in a forest at dusk, surrounded by buzzing cicadas, crunching leaves and shades of something altogether more sinister. Weis takes his time to construct his music, slowly adding layers of instruments and electronics until, almost of a sudden, the air is filled with sound. Although percussion is used sparingly, as a drummer Weis not unexpectedly unleashes his kit about four minutes in, again methodically accumulating repetitive kicks and swathes of cymbal crashes until — blended with arch synth noise — they form a seamless ocean of unfettered drone.

At other times, Weis is content to leave wide-open spaces in his music, with only faint interruptions to break a heavy silence. These well-placed shifts in tempo and volume serve to enhance the atmospheric potency of “The Temple Bell Stops”, and a strange form of oneiric psychogeography seeps into the mind’s eye like a ruptured narrative. When Weis returns to the drum kit, first to hammer mercilessly on his cymbals before segueing into gamelan-like tribal percussion, it somehow feels perfectly logical. Mike Weis sucks you into his world entirely on this album, and in one track the spell is cast.

The rest of the album continues the motifs laid out on “The Temple Bell Stops”, with the 18-minute “But The Sound Keeps Coming” acting as a more docile mirror of its predecessor, with an emphasis on field recordings, notably bird calls. The broiling, contradictory emotions and innate darkness of “The Temple Bell Stops” give way to something more peaceful and relaxed, at least at first, before a strange ritual, embodied by more tribal percussion and crackling drones breaks apart the tranquility. The track carries the same sense of mysterious, untamed oddness as the first album by Britain’s The Haxan Cloak, as if this music is being generated in tandem with nature rather than in spite of it. If someone were to soundtrack the awakening of long dormant forest spirits in America’s heartlands, this is probably what it would sound like.

It’s not often that a musical artist will react to personal strife or difficulty by producing something universal, but Mike Weis has achieved just that. By braving his illness stoically and taking off into the wilds, he has reconnected with something arcane and mystical that resonates enduringly in the collective (sub)consciousness.

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A Quietus Interview – Perceptions Of Sublime Simplicity: Thomas Köner Interviewed (April 17th, 2013)

Thomas Köner is a German composer and multimedia artist who has become renowned worldwide for his exploration and recreation in sound of remote, icy landscapes, generally situated geographically within the cold borders of the Arctic Circle. 2012 was a vintage year for Köner, one that saw his first album for Touch, Novaya Zemlya, released to rave reviews, and the reissue on Type of Porter Ricks’ 1996 album Biokinetics, the seminal debut of his dub techno duo with Andy Mellwig. Both albums showcase Köner at his very best, be it deploying abstract drones, whipping wind and crisp noises in thoughtful and evocative ways on Novaya Zemlya; or displaying an acute sensitivity to space and rhythm as one half of Porter Ricks. All of which has made him a perpetually fascinating figure in modern electronic music. The Quietus caught up with Köner to discuss his recent output, the contrast between live music and studio production, and the appeal of desolate, remote landscapes as inspiration for composition.

I saw you perform in Brussels, at the Meakusma event. What did you make of the concert? Were you pleased with how it went?

Thomas Köner: I liked it. I was impressed by the space [Brigittines Chapel]. I had prepared a different set for the night, different music things and some visuals, but when I saw [the venue] I changed it, switched off the lights. It was better in the afternoon, because you got a pitch-black space, without lamps, just tiny rays of sunlight from outside that would seep through the blinds. It was a magic moment.

Did you stay for the club night afterwards?

TK: Yes, I had a look, but didn’t stay longer than midnight.

How do you approach performing live in comparison to recording in the studio? Do you have to set up differently?

TK: Oh yes, they are completely different tasks, like swimming and skating: they’re both related to water but completely different. I don’t really think you can compare them. In classical music, the whole concept is completely disconnected. They’re celebrating (for example) a pianist who has never created a piece of music themselves and is just playing something they’ve found, the score, but still we consider this pianist to be a great artist; whilst the composer, who would have been in a similar situation, writing this music in the studio. They have two jobs that have their own qualities and talents, but I don’t think you can compare them to each other.

Did you perform tracks from your albums at the Brigittines Chapel, or do you only improvise when performing live?

TK: Yes, both [laughs]. I am composer of these things, so whatever I try that I didn’t write before would qualify as improvisation. And the moment you do it again, it probably becomes a pattern. In improvised music, [the musicians] have patterns that had been conceived once and that become like words, words that maybe don’t mean much, but if you shape a very nice sentence, you can even have hope to write a novel! On one level these would be improvisations, but you still have a sense of shape and form, even in things that are completely new. It was a bit different at Brigittines but usually I have two parts, one very known and the other completely unknown even to me. If you have a nice audience, you can test-drive things. You can never be sure that something is interesting for somebody else just by presenting it. It’s a collaborative thing. You want to be providing inspiration and an experience, so feedback is very important to me.

I was intrigued by the fact that, as you mentioned, you performed entirely in the dark. Could you please explain what the idea is behind this?

TK: From my personal experience, it’s a bit tedious to have a visual capacity that is not really in charge of everything. I find it a bit distracting, like in a symphony orchestra when they’re doing funny movements or playing with their ties. I would prefer it if they switched off the lights and let us enjoy the acoustics. Things like vibrations, which are felt. The other approach is to present something visual along with the music, which can also be distracting or counterintuitive. Also, we have a situation where you can hardly find anyone doing contemporary research in sound in a way that you would find satisfying to watch. [In my case, using] a laptop and a little plastic keyboard… You know what I mean.

The most interesting concerts are the ones that have the ability to be a complete failure. My most satisfying musical expression is a collaboration I do with the filmmaker Jürgen Reble and a performance we call ‘Alchemy’, where he projects a film loop and treats the loop with chemical as he’s projecting it. You really see what destructive or transformative changes appear on each film frame. I place a lot of microphones inside the projector and on the sound desk and the whole soundtrack is an amplification of the treatments. If Jürgen were to smash a cup of his liquids on the film and therefore the microphones, all the fuses would probably blow! There’s always a sense of immediate disaster. That’s very inspiring for me, but those are very rare situations.

Novaya Zemlya was one of my favourite albums of 2012. Why did you choose the island of Novaya Zemlya for inspiration?

TK: Some years ago, I was talking with a Russian soldier in Murmansk who had been stationed on Novaya Zemlya. I have a very keen interest in all things Arctic, so I was determined to deliver a topography of this space.

Without giving away too many trade secrets, how did you go about creating the tracks on Novaya Zemlya?

TK: When I’m composing, I don’t use the computer in the way I would in a concert. I do have a lot of instruments in my studio that I play and record and somehow arrange. All the inspiration for how the sound develops is something in the sonic quality of each event which is just extended in a way that becomes a commentary of the sounds that I play in the first place. For this piece, there are analogies to the situation in Novaya Zemlya and Arctic places: the military zone, the destruction… There are several versions of the piece, and the one that became the official one was maybe number five or six. I kept removing bits until it could not be perceivable as a musical flow. It became a sort of vast emptiness.

Where do you think your interest in remote, cold places stems from? How do you achieve the distinctive aesthetics on albums like Permafrost and Novaya Zemlya?

TK: [Laughs] I was probably born with it. I don’t recall getting a letter! I find it rather obvious to have a landscape that is so open yet also so intimate and dangerous and which speaks to your sense of beauty or your perception of sublime simplicity. These are things which you can also search for in music.

Your albums seem at first to be very austere, but further listening reveals layers that are very emotionally resonant. Would you agree? Is this a difficult to maintain that balance?

TK: Absolutely! The difficulty always borders on being completely idiotic, because you can easily perform very interesting things if you use the classical elements of music, as they have been used successfully for centuries, things like harmony and melody and rhythm: all these things that are readily available. Instead, if you refrain from using all those, and just work with leftovers and the spaces you design in-between these leftovers, it’s not a very desirable task, to be honest. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it!

Do you also have, in a way, a desire to recreate the environments of places like the Arctic circle via music? Would the term ‘psychogeography’ apply to what you do?

TK: I think I’m more interested in providing something like a layer that is also part of the environment I find myself in when I’m not in the Arctic. A lot of music lovers are based in urban situations and cities. So, even if you’re travelling in the Arctic, you’re still never there because what constitutes you, as a self, is a model and the environment is apparently created by the brain. It’s a representation in consciousness, a mental image, not an optical image. It’s the same for the sounds and for all the impressions that you could get. In a way it’s not even interesting to go to these places, because what is interesting to have a narrative that unfolds as a part of your life story. It’s all internal, a representation of impressions, which could happen anywhere. The music I do could filter impressions that you have, in your place, something you have created, rather than an illustration of [somewhere else].

Can you see yourself recording an album centred on somewhere geographically different, such as a desert or tropical island? I imagine you’d need to change your aesthetic and use different sounds…

TK: Certainly, yes, sure! Physical temperature is somehow correlated to speed, and speed is related to tempo, in music. In cold places, everything happens slowly. Movements are slowed down compared to things in a boiling volcano. The question for me is always whether it makes sense.

Last year also saw the reissue on Type of Porter Ricks’ Biokinetics, another fantastic album. Have you always been interested in beat-based music?

TK: I have very good memories of that project. We are still doing some things together… I’m very interested in music, and that of course involves beat-based music. I’m still very interested in it, in terms of composition and current discussions of how it’s been evolving. The difference between that and what I showed at Brigittines is that, with a beat-based approach, you are limited in a much stronger sense. You have fewer tools and you can never have empty spaces. It’s part of the service, but you can’t leave things too open for imagination, which I think is interesting for an audience. The beat and rhythm are so simple, in this context, that I always think that it’s the first thing you could abandon. But obviously not, because it’s the first thing that appears and the last thing to go in a club night. It’s kind of a paradoxical situation, but I love it.

I imagine the Porter Ricks tracks involved a very different creative process to your solo material. Would I be right?

TK: Not really! Should it? No, it shouldn’t. There are things that repeat [in beat-based music]. If you use a hi-hat, there are changes in its appearance but it will always repeat as a hi-hat, and there’s an element of luxury to be able to enjoy music [like Novaya Zemlya] that only repeats at a very small level. For Porter Ricks, we had elements that were repetitive, but others that weren’t. It was like buying the easiest ticket to get in and then to do what we’d do anyway.

And you are still working with Andy as Porter Ricks?

TK: It is a process. Andy is busy doing some compositions that he wanted us to do, but we haven’t recorded in a long time. You can’t do everything everywhere.

Finally, do you have any other albums and/or concerts in the pipeline?

TK: Yes… [laughs]

Ooh, is it all a bit of a secret?

TK: No, there should be a new album for Touch. We will continue this exploration we started with Novaya Zemlya, and that should be this year. I’ll continue to do re-releases of my work, as well as a DVD of a piece I did in 2009 for the hundredth anniversary of the Futurist movement. It had a strong visual component. I’m doing more concerts, including London in April, and I’m soundtracking a silent film by Murnau for the Louvre, which will be shown in June. Things like this! Concerts are rather boring. They just happen! I would prefer not to do them, but there are so many interesting things going on around them, and so many things I learn about my music and how it behaves in unexpected situations. And of course there’s the service of doing something that someone might find interesting.

Thomas Köner plays live at the Denovali Swingfest in London this Sunday, 21st April, at the Scala in King’s Cross. For more information and tickets click here.

A Quietus Interview – Supremely Demolished Beats: An Interview With Pete Swanson (November 21st, 2012)

The release of Pete Swanson’s Man With Potential at the end of last year caused quite a stir both within and outside the noise community. Swanson was one half of famed noise duo Yellow Swans, who had achieved considerable critical success with seminal psych-noise albums Psychic Secession, At All Ends and Going Places, before disbanding in 2008.

Compared to their dense layers of hazy, caustic drone, the beat-driven, post-techno assault of Man With Potential was both a surprise and a triumphant evolution. Since then, Pete Swanson has continued to explore this furrow with the Pro Style EP, but has also found time, alongside his studies, to revive his Sarin Smoke project with Tom Carter of Charalambides. Their Vent album is one of this year’s best releases, and proceeds from sales of the album will go to helping Carter with his medical bills following a serious case of pneumonia last year.

The Quietus caught up with Pete via e-mail to discuss Sarin Smoke, his solo career and how he views his music’s evolution.

We should probably start with Sarin Smoke. How is Tom doing? How did the project get together?

Pete Swanson: Tom is on the road to recovery. He’s been back in New York for a few months and his health has been improving slowly. His body went through a lot leading up to and during his hospitalisation last summer so it’ll take some time for him to fully bounce back. But in general, he’s back to playing occasional shows and his energy and enthusiasm are as strong as they’ve ever been.

Tom and I started playing in 2005 or so in Badgerlore, which was the two of us, Rob Fisk and Ben Chasny. We all really enjoyed playing together and experimented a bit with instrumentation and combinations of players since we all had several other projects going on. Tom and I ended up recording an LP for Three Lobed and a one-sided LP for Wholly Other around that time. I hadn’t played guitar with anyone for years at that point, and it was great to play with such a sympathetic musician. Tom and I both left Oakland after recording and before any of our records had been released.

Following the breakup of Yellow Swans, I got back into playing guitar more, and Tom and I were booked on the same bill in Oakland, a few days before the 2010 installment of On Land. Tom’s solo set that night was very different to what he had been doing when we had last played together – with this sort of dying battery, hyper layered, monolithic psychedelia that really jived with what I was doing at the time. We decided to close the show with a collaborative set, which was only the second Sarin Smoke concert. Fast-forward a year and I found out that I was moving to New York for graduate school. With Tom so close geographically, it would’ve been ridiculous for us not to play.

How did you guys go about making Vent? Is it mostly based on guitar?

PS: Vent is entirely guitar. I don’t want to limit the future possibilities of the project, but I’ve always seen the project as a guitar duo that plays psychedelic rock in some form. There are no synthesisers or anything, it’s just densely layered guitar. It’s a relief for me to be in a project where I’m not focusing on routing and wiring and instead can focus on something with such a tactile interface.

Both Tom and I are invested in improvisation and all of our recordings have resulted from the two of us banging out some sonic common-ground in real time. We do have conversations regarding what we think is successful about one improvisation over another and we both will propose potential shifts in direction, but our music happens spontaneously.

Do you find improvisation easy and the best way to record?

PS: One aspect of contemporary music that I really loathe is the focus on perfection in recording. I generally see the processes that have been developed for creating records as promoting a premium on “correctness” and diminishing the emotional potency of the original performance. While I have some preconceived framework for just about everything I do, there is always a strong improvisational element and I always track everything live to stereo. I don’t get hung up on mixing at all, I just track everything live, throw away 99% of everything I record because it’s not up to standard, and then sit on the solid tracks until I’ve got something resembling a release together.

I think it’s very important for musicians to be willing to scrap their work for the sake of the integrity of their discography. So many artists treat their work with such high regard and I see that working against those artists. Just like the pursuit of improvement in recording quality and doing things the “correct” way. I always encourage people to develop their own recording process so they have more control over how their work is presented. Additionally, the quality of the recording is often as important as the content of the recording, and having a unique presentation of sound can be very compelling. So many people make serious mistakes by going into the studio as opposed to just digging deep into their own process and developing their own sound that is appropriate for their own work.

Do you think you’ll get the opportunity to tour with that material?

PS: With Sarin Smoke?  I’m not sure Tom would be up for a grueling schedule like that and I’m extremely busy with grad school. I have enough trouble scheduling tours for my solo work.

How does working with Tom differ from your collaborations with other artists such as Gabriel [Saloman, the other half of Yellow Swans]? Do you approach each collaboration differently?

PS: Every collaboration requires a different approach. If I’m able to work with someone over a longer period of time, I’ll develop a set-up that is appropriate to the dynamic dictated by our shared aesthetic goals

You’ve also this year worked with Mike Shiflet – how did that come about and what was it like?

PS: I’ve known Mike for years. He booked a Yellow Swans show on our first US tour in 2004. We’ve been in touch fairly regularly since then. He wrote me asking about the possibility of a split and it was an easy call. I love where Mike’s taken his music over the last few years.

The whole noise scene from that era seems to remain pretty close-knit, despite aesthetic deviations and geographic shuffling. I’m very appreciative of the fact that I first gained some recognition in such a small and inclusive subculture of people who remain creative and engaged.

You’re considered to be one of the major figures on the American and international noise scenes. How do you feel your music has evolved in that respect? Do you have much involvement with noise music, beyond your own?

PS: I don’t really consider myself to be a “major figure” at all. There’s regard in certain circles, but on the larger scale, very few people are interested in my work…

I’ve always felt like an outsider in any culture I’ve been involved in. When Wolf Eyes, Hair Police, No Fun, etc were going on, I was on the far end of the US in Portland, fairly removed from what was going on in the Midwest and out east. I was very focused on representing noise/experimental music on the West Coast when Yellow Swans was having some degree of success, because hardly anybody else was representing that work. I stopped running a label and putting on shows and mastering stuff for other folks, mainly because of time constraints brought on by my pursuing education and prioritising that over my musical activities. I do still try and help out people whose work I hold in high regard and advocate for artists to get onto bigger labels. I do this sort of thing very rarely, most recently for Bulbs and Justin Meyers.

In general, I’m much less engaged with social music culture than I’ve ever been, and spend a lot more time listening to new music and working on my own sounds. I wish I had more time to be more engaged with music, but I’ve made some pretty serious choices the last few years and I’m resistant to put that all on hold to go play shows and put out tapes again. It would feel like a step backwards for me.

I’m actually constantly alienating people in the noise community with my work as I move forward. Some of my choices have turned off harsh noise folks, drone folks, etc. I can’t be concerned with appealing to any particular micro-audience, and I hope that each of my major release loses a few listeners and gains more. If you’re not turning people off, you’re not progressing.

How would you say your music has evolved, from the early days of Yellow Swans to now?

PS: I don’t believe it has changed very much. I’m still concerned with creating extremely cathartic, physical electronic music. I think the greatest development has been regarding clarity of vision. There’s a lot that hasn’t changed at all.

Yellow Swans were a much-admired and popular duo. Do you miss performing and recording with Gabriel? Were you aware of the impact Yellow Swans had at the time?

PS: I’m still not sure I understand the impact that Yellow Swans had. We were always aesthetically marginal, but had a lot of critical success. That didn’t translate into money or record sales, but it did allow us to travel a lot and to put out a lot of music. Since I hadn’t been playing live much for several years, I didn’t ever really see the impact of Going Places, but since I’ve been touring more and getting back in touch with music-world types, I’ve got a lot of very positive feedback for the work Gabe and I did.

The greatest reward for me has been meeting people like Tom Krell from How To Dress Well and a few of the guys involved with Tri Angle records who are all younger artists who are doing excellent, highly-regarded work that have all voiced appreciation for Yellow Swans. It’s very flattering to see your previous work be assimilated into others’ work. It’s a similar style of influence that groups like the Stooges and Velvet Underground wielded in their time, they were the bands that inspired generations of music. I doubt Yellow Swans will have the same degree of effect, but it’s amazing to me that that work is still relevant to younger people who are just starting their music careers.

I miss Gabe for sure. We had a very close working relationship for seven years. He’s still a good friend and we keep up. I don’t miss working with him though. I’m very happy for my autonomy, and my current life demands make collaborating with someone full-time completely impossible. I don’t think there will ever be a Yellow Swans reunion, but I think that people can scratch that itch via my work or by Gabe’s work. He’s got an LP coming out on Miasmah at the end of November that I think will resonate with some Yellow Swans fans. Hopefully we’ll hear more from him. He works a bit more slowly than I do…

Do you find that your solo releases are informed by both your previous work with Yellow Swans and your collaborations with other artists? I would venture that Going Places seems to have echoes in Man With Potential

PS: There is absolutely continuity between Yellow Swans and my solo work. I spent years developing an instrument (comprised of many elements) and an approach to playing. I don’t think I could fully reject that history at this point. I’m focused on process and constraints for producing my music, and many of the elements that were used throughout Yellow Swans are now used in my solo work. Virtually nothing has changed beyond the primary sound sources. I traded my bandmate for a modular synthesiser.

If you go back through the discography of Yellow Swans, you’ll find several elements recurring in Man With Potential. In certain regards, MWP addresses similar concerns that I was attempting to address in Bring The Neon War Home. Everything I do is part of this trajectory that is informed by my taste, my experiences and the developing processes and playing strategies that I’ve employed. Old fixations pop back up all the time.

Man With Potential received a lot of praise when it was released. Were you prepared for such a reaction?

PS: I had zero expectations for Man With Potential. I recorded the album in December 2010, it came out a year later. Between recording and releasing the record, I moved across the country to start an extremely demanding academic program at Columbia University, so all of the critical success of the record has only recently turned into any feasible opportunities for me to capitalise on. My program has slowed slightly and I can make occasional weekend trips to Europe for festivals, but that’s about the extent of what is possible for me currently. I just have to study on the plane.

It was also a departure from your previous solo material, with a use of beats and synths over guitar drones, almost sounding like techno. Have you always had an interest in techno and other forms of “dance” music? Could you imagine tracks such as ‘Misery Beat’ being played in a club?

PS: I don’t really think Man With Potential is that much a departure. It seems like there is some critical consensus that it is new for me, but there was a long build-up through several of my tape releases until I got to my split LP with Rene Hell and the Challenger tape, which are more direct predecessors to MWP. There were also a lot of beats in Yellow Swans music through the years, but most writers seem to be most familiar with At All Ends and Going Places, which were the least beat-oriented of the records.

If you listen to all of my music, you’ll hear some consistency in sound vocabulary with repetitive melodic patterns, drum machines, frenetic high-end noise. The inception of Yellow Swans was based on a desire to make electronic music that was physical and cathartic. Both Gabe and I came out of an avant-hardcore background and all of our friends were getting into techno and IDM, we both found the music to be intriguing, but not impacting. I connect to a lot of that music now more than I did when I was younger, but I’m also more successful at making electronic music that is aggressive and cathartic.

Listening back, MWP is the record of mine that is most explicitly informed by Chain Reaction.  My current work is maybe more informed by Drexciya. Both are artists/labels that I’ve been interested in since my early twenties. It’s not like I only listen to noise…

I actually recorded the track ‘Pro Style’ with the intention of making a ‘dancefloor’ track. The 12″ is sort of my play on the 12″ form, and I actually would love for it to be played out. I think the same could feasibly happen with ‘Misery Beat’, but the music remains pretty outre despite my attempts to make tracks that are dancefloor-ready.

How did you go about creating the album? Did you have to approach it in different ways to previous material?

PS: I recorded Man With Potential during the same three-week session as I Don’t Rock At All using the exact same approach that I used for Going Places and the vast majority of Yellow Swans material. It was all recorded live to stereo and then edited down to more essentialised forms of the pieces that I was working with. I would set up a particular sound vocabulary for each piece and then I would improvise on that framework for an hour or two. There are no overdubs, no digital treatments. It’s all live, improvised electronics. On I Don’t Rock At All, it was all live, improvised guitar recorded and processed using the exact same methods.

Do you feel the Pro Style EP is a progression on Man With Potential? Is this a sign that you’ve “made your home” in beat-driven music?

There’s no way I’ll be stuck on beat-driven music forever. It’s a form I find interesting right now, and since I’ve been so inactive, it’s taking a bit longer for me to get bored with the approach. Following Man With Potential‘s release, it was made very clear to me that there was interest in seeing this music in a live context, so these EPs I’ve been working on lately, including Pro Style, all result from the process of trying to hash out how to make this music work in a live context. Since the music uses such complicated gear and routing, there’s absolutely no way I could perform a piece consistently, so I had to devise a way of making the music that has a consistent impact and features a similar vocabulary to MWP. It was an interesting challenge, and the recent work I’ve done and the shows I’ve been playing have been a hell of a lot of fun.

So can UK audiences hope to see you perform over here soon? Are you planning any further releases?

PS: I’m currently working on a few UK shows in January. Due to my academic schedule, I can’t really hit the road to the degree that I did previously. My live dates are increasingly rare, so if you want to see me play and I’m coming somewhere in your area, it may be years before I make it back.

I’ve got a few releases in the works. The next thing will be the Punk Authority EP on Software. It’ll come out in March and is basically a mini-album. 32 minutes of supremely demolished beats with more melodic hooks.

A Liminal Review: Biokinetics by Porter Ricks (March 7th, 2012)

My first thought on hearing Biokinetics was quite simply “How the hell did I manage to miss this one?” Yes, it’s that good and, when you consider it was originally recorded in 1996, it should have been a landmark album of its day, and a cornerstone of nineties electronica. And indeed, the EPs and subsequent CD garner a bit of underground interest back then but, being a massive neophyte in terms of techno back then, I contrived to miss it altogether.

Luckily, the wonderful Type label has reissued Biokinetics on both CD and vinyl, meaning I was able to quickly right the wrong and absorb this groundbreaking album before singing its praises here. It’s defined in most columns as ‘dub techno’, perhaps mainly due to its release on Chain Reaction, and the bass is suitably massive on tracks like ‘Nautical Dub’ and ‘Port of Call’, pounding with room-shuddering intensity while rampaging beats drive each piece with frenetic energy. But, in truth, there is little to equate the material on Biokinetics, with its icy synths and futuristic undertones, with actual dub, and it has none of that genre’s earthy calm. Instead, Porter Ricks (a duo made up of Germans Andy Mellwig and Thomas Köener) were essentially blazing a trail into a style that would become more popular in the ensuing years: minimal techno. This is especially apparent on two of the album’s shortest tracks, ‘Biokinetics 1′ and ‘Port of Nuba’, where the components are stripped down to sparse, metronomic beats and stuttering oscillations on sequencers. Although undoubtedly busier and more soulful than, say, Alva Noto or Gas, the emphasis across the album is on repetition and delicateness, as patterns are paired down to their most insistent minimum, and then sustained over durations that, for dance music, are pretty long.

The two twelve-minute opuses that bookend the album are cases in point. On ‘Port Gentil’, a slinky beat is countered by repeated sequencer patterns with only the faintest of adornments from synthesizers and found sounds. The result owes almost as much to ambient music as it does to dancefloor techno or dub, hardly surprising given that Köener is one of the foremost (yet most enigmatic) figures in ambient. The atmosphere on ‘Port Gentil’ is ghostly and ephemeral, and while it certainly has a groove you can dance to, it somehow feels too esoteric for something so primal, while also prefiguring the more overtly psychedelic disco/techno crossovers of Lindstrøm and The Field, especially with its focus on looped motifs and repetition. Closer ‘Nautical Zone’, meanwhile, emerges gradually out of an ozone of synth drone, with shaky rhythms that always feel – perhaps appropriately, given the track’s title – submerged, as if heard underwater. Its a graceful and mystical approach that ties Biokinetics in less with minimal and dub techno than with the oddball electro of Detroit legends Drexciya, something heightened by the frequent references to water.

With so much happening in such an understated way (temporal and atmospheric shifts are undertaken gradually, almost to the point of being imperceptible), Biokinetics can be a strange beast to appreciate. You can easily hear how some of these tracks would rock a club audience, especially the raucous ‘Port of Call’, which feels tailor-made for Berlin’s Berghain super-club. On other tracks, the duo’s often bare bones take on techno feels positively oblique. But in between the lines, the atmosphere on each track primes, and you find yourself honing in on gentle waves of hypnotic drone and ambience. The end result is something not unlike the deeper moments of dubstep (such as Burial or King Midas Sound), a genre that Biokinetics surely anticipates. The haunting melodies under the beats flit around the edges of straight-ahead techno, drawing the album deep into more contemplative, reflective spaces akin to the dark explorations on Köener’s solo album Permafrost (also reissued recently by Type). This exquisite sense of poise and restraint means Biokinetics is not really a dancefloor album. Instead, like the most emotionally-resonant dubstep, it feels more like a soundtrack to the last few dances in the club followed by the bus ride home. It drifts and teases and pulls at the heart-strings, a graceful culmination of the disparate strands of post-modern, slightly alienated, urban music. That it was released back in 1996 makes it all the more remarkable and reinforces the fact that I was surely an idiot to have missed it at the time. Thanks to Type, all those like me can make up for lost time.

A Liminal Review: Consecration of the Whipstain by Indignant Senility (November 15th, 2011)

Indignant Senility is one of the many projects of Portland, Oregon artist Pat Maherr, who initially gained some recognition with his Chopped & Screwed hip-hop experiments Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting and DJ Yo-Yo Dieting. But where those projects displayed a -perhaps involuntarily- amusing, yet definitely progressive deconstruction of the archetypes of modern hip-hop, Indignant Senility is an altogether more unfathomable beast.

Maherr’s first album under the IS moniker was Plays Wagner, on which he took used and over-used LPs of the great German composer’s work and pushed them through a waterfall of effects, resulting in an unsettling drone soup out of which sudden bursts of classical melody were rare rays of light in a torrid catalogue of shadows. Inevitably, such a focus on vinyl drew often unfavourable comparisons with Philip Jeck and The Caretaker, so it’s reassuring to find that on Consecration of the Whipstain (surely a strong contender for the title of most peculiar album title of the year), Maherr has put all that behind him and found his own voice.

If anything, Consecration of the Whipstain sees Indignant Senility tracking back slightly to take in a bit of the DJ Screw attitude (Screw-titude?) that made Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting’s Bubblethug (2010, Weird Forest) such a triumph. The clearest indication of this lies in the murky, incomprehensible vocal snippets that crop up here and there across the album, from the creepy muttered utterances on ‘Waking Extirpation’ to the ghostly choirs that hesitantly punctuate ‘No One (Elapsed)’. Rather ironically, Consecration of the Whipstain seems to hone in on the haunted vibe that characterises the best Caretaker records, whilst simultaneously and completely throwing off the sense of derivation that dogged Plays Wagner. As such, on ‘No One (Elapsed)’ – a truly evocative track title, it must be noted – Maherr’s dense clouds of digital murk recede to make way for elusive swirls of distant strings playing melancholy melodies before disappearing back into the ether. Rather than focus on them, Maherr lets them dissolve, making them truly ghostly. The track packs a potent emotional punch, yet also remains tantalisingly intangible, like memories that refuse to stay in focus.

Despite allowing such nostalgic fare to fade in and out of his album, Pat Maherr is no sentimentalist. Consecration of the Whipstain may have its moments of elegant mystery and impalpable emotion, but when it does surge into focus, it’s one scary beast. Type Records, surely on of the best labels around at the moment, has made a habit lately of releasing material that taps into the dark pits of the world in ways that Ian Curtis or Boyd Rice could only have dreamed of. From Xela’s In Bocca al Lupo to William Fowler Collins’ New Mexican nightmare Perdition Hill Radio, via the icy claustrophobia of Svarte Greiner’s Kappe, Type have given free rein to artists wanting to explore the nocturnal, the histrionic and the funereal with morbid abandon. In this context, Consecration of the Whipstain feels like another chapter in Type’s glorious book of horrors. ‘Color Absolution’, for example, is dominated by a dirge-like organ tone that drifts along underneath Maherr’s fog-like drones, as if the Phantom of the Opera had upped sticks to Oregon, organ and all, and was playing a dismal solo lament from on top of an abandoned building in downtown Portland during a rainstorm. Ok, so that’s a rather contrived image, but it does go some way to conveying the way the music of Indignant Senility can so expertly balance the forlorn and the nocturnal. Towards the end of the track, Maherr comprehensively dispenses with any banal comparisons with hauntology by dumping a hideous (in the best possible sense of the word) lump of crackling noise all over the track, submerging the hesitant melodies under a shovel load of gravelly mulch. When the elegiac strings and ambience return, it’s as if they’ve been definitively perverted, their grace coloured by unavoidable nightmarish hues. If hauntology has seemed a tad saccharine of late, Indignant Senility drags it back into the post-noise underground it emerged from.

So is Consecration of the Whipstain a wondrous slice of “memory music” or a terrifying avalanche of “horror music”, in the vein of the aforementioned Xela or Svarte Greiner? Thankfully, it’s both and neither. For sure, there are moments on Maherr’s latest that will leave you unsettled and even afraid, but at the same time there’s something elegiac in the way long lost tunes seem to fight their way to the surface of the mix, in the same way that the submerged notes of ‘Autumn’ on Gavin Bryars’ Sinking of the Titanic somehow manage to turn that album’s sense of sadness into hope. Consecration of the Whipstain is a strong, unflinching statement by an artist increasingly on top of his game. Whilst it may be a troubling listen, it’s also unerringly moving.

Stream the album on the Type website.

A Liminal Review: Red Horse by Red Horse (November 11th, 2011)

Free improv is a tricky genre to approach and appreciate. At its best, there are few musical styles more exhilarating and unpredictable, but at other times it can be a bit stuffy, with the musicians involved seemingly excessively engaged in mutual navel-gazing. Perhaps part of the problem (and I’m aware that, given the fact that some of the big names of free improv are geniuses like Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Fred Frith and Roger Turner, it’s not a massive problem) is that most of us have little time for music being deconstructed in such a way. Even ears attuned to the just intonation of minimalism like something to hold onto, which is hard if the sax, drums or guitar are rendered almost unapproachable. In the best hands, this isn’t a problem. But there is a thin line between free-form and formless.

As such, the emergence of noise as a credible musical genre has had a truly liberating effect on improvisation. Which is where American duo Red Horse come into the picture. Essentially, what we have here is two powerhouses of free improv pushing the boat of excess out as far as they possibly can, delivering a madcap album on which the intricacies of the duo’s interplay is pitched headlong into the kind of excoriating noise that would make Merzbow clap his hands with joy. Indeed, the first thing I thought of on initially hearing this album, after the inconsequential opener (all 5 tracks are simply numbered: ‘Part 1′, ‘Part 2′, etc), was the great Japanese pioneer’s oft-overlooked jazz drummer homage album Doors Open at 8am. What noise music did was take the formlessness that occasionally blighted free improv and elevated it to an art form, shearing off a lot of the guff at the same time. On Doors Open at 8am, Merzbow took things full circle, stretching further back to reconnect with classic free jazz, and in particular the insane drummers (such as Bennink) that gave the music of Peter Brotzmann, Albert Ayler, Sonny Sharrock and Archie Shepp such a prominent kick.

Red Horse’s skin-pounder Eli Keszler righteously picks up on this quality. His drumming on this, the duo’s second self-titled opus, is something almost overwhelming in its relentless clatter; yet at the same time, he has the sensitivity to pull back and make room for his partner Steve Pyne when the music requires it. Sensitivity and aggression – I think one would be hard put to find two more essential ingredients in the creation of truly transcendental improvised music. Keszler has both in droves. On ‘Part 3′, his thundering is like a tornado, implacable and unrepentant, the kind of rhythmic whirlwind that evokes Klaus Schulze’s drumming on the seminal debut by Ash Ra Tempel, and you’re left wondering if this is a man or an octopus you’re listening to. On the album’s high-water mark, the near-15-minute epic ‘Part 4′, he initially reins in his brutish instincts, instead opting to jiggle bells and other assorted “discreet” percussive instruments whilst Pyne rips morose, inchoate drones from his guitar and other noise devices. As the piece evolves, Keszler’s insistent rhythms, on both drums and percussion, pick up pace, married beautifully to the intangible roar of Pyne through Keszler’s innate sense of melody and elegance.

And Pyne’s role in the gorgeous sonic volcano that is Red Horse cannot be overlooked. The association of just drums and guitar in noise rock is a common one, from Lightning Bolt to Arabrot, but if guitar may be the starting point, with his assortment of self-made instruments, Pyne transcends any sort of “standard” set-up, creating a dense wall of squalls, riffs and roars that Keszler is forced to twist and turn around to maintain the forward momentum. As such, there is a definite tension to this record that, more than anything else, elevates it above mere “improv”. This is the sound -nay, the beautiful cacophony- of two sonic scientists letting rip on their beleaguered gear after a long, tiresome day in the lab.

In such circumstances, it may be unfair to compare Red Horse to regular free improv. There’s something else going on here, something more primeval and brutal. Which is not to undermine the intelligence and subtlety of the music on the record, merely to emphasise that it appears to occur on some sort of other plane. Even when relaxing into drifting industrial ambience, as in the middle section of ‘Part 4′, where the duo allow themselves to amble in a shimmering fug of disconnected feedback, the urgency inherent to their music never abates, as if Keszler and Pyne are poised, coiled like rattlesnakes, ready to pounce and unleash the elements once again. Many bands and artists have tried to take the ethos of free improv and jazz and collide it with the sturm und drang of harsh noise but, that aforementioned album by Merzbow aside, I’ve rarely seen it done so successfully, and with such unfettered punk attitude, as Keszler and Pyne unleash on Red Horse.

Stream the album on the Type website.

From the Vault: 2010 In Review

2010 In Review

I’m a big fan of the www.rateyourmusic.com website, as it’s a great place to discover new music. It also allows one to create lists of album, and below is my top 30 for 2010, a great year.

1
An Ark for the Listener

Philip Jeck

An Ark for the Listener (2010)

Predictably, having been one of the highlights of ATP, and a consistently excellent composer and artist, Philip Jeck delivered an absolute masterpiece, perhaps his greatest work yet on CD. Inspired by poet Gerald Manley Hopkins’ work The Wreck of the Deutschland, an ode to 5 nuns who perished at sea, An Ark for the Listener is a dense, wistful album, where Jeck’s broken down turntable explorations and avant-garde, droning synth melodies create a rich, mysterious and oblique tapestry.

2
Psychical

Ensemble Economique

Psychical (2010)

Dark and cinematic, Ensemble Economique’s exercise in giallo-style horror soundtrack mixed with dub, hip-hop and avant-rock, was one of the most ambitious, challenging and atmospheric H-pop releases of the year. Perhaps it’s the dire economic and socio-political climate, but the influence of horror movies loomed large in 2010, and this was a great example of an intelligent, musical use of this influence.

3
Location Momentum

Eleh

Location Momentum (2010)

Deep listening in the Pauline Oliveros sense of the word, the music of mysterious drone artist Eleh is as hard to pin down, assess and comprehend (in the traditional sense) as the individual who creates it. Anonymity is key to Eleh’s aesthetic, but the core beauty resides in the dense, minimalist and hypnotic nature of the music, as listless wave generators and stripped-down synth lines contort, fill and caress the ether.

4
Liberation Through Hearing

Demdike Stare

Liberation Through Hearing (2010)

The excellent Mancunian duo continued their exploration of arcane and sinister textures and references through hypnotic synth patterns, warped dub and wispy electronica. Liberation Through Hearing is the second installment in a bewitching (the word is apt) trilogy that has cemented Demdike Stare’s position at the forefront of British hauntological music.

5
Going Places

Yellow Swans

Going Places (2010)

Tragically, this is Yellow Swans’ swansong, but it may be their best album to date. Reining in their harshest tendencies, they delivered an expansive, cinematographic masterpiece of noisy drone, its mournful synth lines adding depth to the crunch and grind. The result? An elegiac and haunting addition to the noise canon.

6
Returnal

Oneohtrix Point Never

Returnal (2010)

Much more consistent and unified than previous releases, Returnal is Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin’s arrival on the big stage and he delivers big time. As well as his new-age-tinted excursions into synth-heavy electro-drone, with hints of Tangerine Dream and even Vangelis, which on Returnal are even more compact, yet emotionally-charged, than before, he also opens with a blistering noise-drone freak out that was as astounding as it was unexpected.

7
Waving Goodbye

Sex Worker

Waving Goodbye (2010)

A late addition to my 2010 list was Sex Worker’s fabulous second album, a haunting and disturbing critique in music of the sex trade. Intelligently using sexy, woozy dance tunes, which are then overlaid by raw, aching or deadpan vocals, Sex Worker inteeligently evokes the drama, pain and despair of this modern-day slave trade…

8
Untitled

Hype Williams

Untitled (2010)

Blurring the lines emphatically between hip-hop, art-pop, dance, dubstep and even disco, Hype Williams are a mysterious London-based duo whose eclectic debut is like a weird, half-dreamlike, half-nightmarish trawl through nocturnal streets with the iPod set to shuffle. Hysterically over-the-top, it nonetheless preserves H-pop’s initial spirit of ambiguity and nostalgia, whilst remaining resolutely forward-thinking.

9
Renonce

Vomir

Renonce (2010)

After a decade of genre cross-pollination and soul-searching, noise was returned to its harshest, most abstract form with the emergence of Harsh Noise Walls, and French artist Vomir’s Renonce is the perfect, hour-long demonstration of the sub-genre’s capacity for sonic assault and sensory deprivation. As much a sound/art experiment as it is an album, Renonce is overwhelming, terrifying and, ultimately, hypnotic.

10
Dagger Paths

Forest Swords

Dagger Paths (2010) [EP]

Olde English Spelling Bee emerged in 2010 as one of the record labels for hypnagogic pop, and Dagger Paths was probably the company’s stand-out release. Though short, it perfectly encapsulated Forest Swords’ oblique combination of brittle, nocturnal dub and haunting post-noise atmospherics.

11
Patience

The Dead C

Patience (2010)

The New Zealanders are veterans of the noise/avant-rock scene, and each release of theirs is an event in itself. Patience sees them pushing out into free-form, improvised drone-rock, with extended guitar workouts and monolithic rhythm patterns evoking krautock giants like Ash Ra Tempel, or the unrelenting sub-metal of Skullflower and Les Rallizes Denudes. Pure rock at its best!

12
Music for Real Airports

The Black Dog

Music for Real Airports (2010)

It may be a rather unfair rebuke to Brian Eno’s seminal Music for Airports, but this remains an essential album, a troubling concept album about the soullessness and emotional alienation of airports. The synth melodies are dark, the sound effects cold and subtly jarring. A nightmarish sonic trawl through an airport, between endless queues, unhelpful staff and deserted waiting lounges, its claustrophobic atmosphere was almost unrivaled in UK electronic music last year.

13
Suburban Tours

Rangers

Suburban Tours (2010)

Highly praised, Rangers’ debut is a seminal piece of hypnagogic pop-rock, a reverie depicting sun-bleached suburban eighties’ neighbourhoods, portrayed with a mixture of nostalgia and disgust. Latter day power pop of the Black Star variety is refracted through wobbly vocal effects and subtle inflections of jarring post-noise to create a beguiling and ultimately catchy gem of an album.

14
Love Is a Stream

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

Love Is a Stream (2010)

Shoegaze music is pretty much dead these days, weighted down by the shadow of My Bloody Valentine and the unjustified savaging by critics back in the day. By California-based musician Cantu-Ledesma has updated the genre almost single-handedly here, stripping back the excesses of those 90s bands to focus on the emotions and the drone. Blissful and hazy, Love Is A Stream takes the spirit of shoegaze, but blasts it into the post-noise age.

15
Failing Lights

Failing Lights

Failing Lights (2010)

Mike Connelly of Hair Police and Wolf Eyes released his full official solo debut as Failing Lights in 2010. Reining in the harsh noise of his other projects, he recreates the dank, dusty atmospheres of vintage American horror, overlaying throbbing bass lines and sinister drones with clanking noise effects and whispered, ghostly vocal snippets.

16
On Patrol

Sun Araw

On Patrol (2010)

Sun Araw (Cameron Stallones) has long been at the forefront of the H-Pop scene, and here takes his awkward, wobbly neo-psychedelia into darker territories with On Patrol, with its futuristic neon cover and Blade Runner ambiance. Dense and peculiar, the music on On Patrol features acid-drenched guitars alongside clunky synth patterns and distorted, mashed-up vocals. Dub and psych never sounded this great together.

17
Le Noise

Neil Young

Le Noise (2010)

In the midst of all these youthful explorers of noise and fucked-up pop, Neil Young stood like a statue to the old guard… and delivered an album of noise and fucked-up pop! With help from producer Daniel Lanois, Young created a brief solo album where his aged voice and grungy guitar were double-tracked and looped over themselves to create a ghostly folk-metal orchestra. He still refuses to fade away, but has a way to go before he burns out, by the sound of things.

18
Bloodlines

The North Sea

Bloodlines (2010)

Who would have thought power electronics would be back in 2010? Actually, with noise music getting more and more coverage, even on the Pitchfork website, over the last decade, maybe it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Whatever the case, Bloodlines is a dark, frightening and enveloping canvas of sound, steeped in arcane lore and heathen noise.

19
Porcelain Opera

Rene Hell

Porcelain Opera (2010)

Modernising old-fashioned analogue synth drones was not just the domain of Oneohtrix Point Never, as former noisician Jeff Witscher, aka Rene Hell unleashed his paranoid, icy vision on this fabulous debut. Any of Daniel Lopatin’s warmth and nostalgia are stripped away on Porcelain Opera, replaced by crackling, minimalist drones and shuddering percussion.

20
Plays Wagner

Indignant Senility

Plays Wagner (2010)

Evidently inspired by The Caretaker’s approach to deconstructing old vinyl, Indignant Senility nonetheless created a singular, haunting (and haunted) work, using ancient recordings of works by Richard Wagner and ladling on the effects and the haze to deliver an album of dense, nocturnal drone.

21
Gravitoni

Pan Sonic

Gravitoni (2010)

2010 was a good year for veteran electronic duos, with Autechre and The Chemical Brothers also releasing new (and, in Autechre’s case, well-received) albums. Pan Sonic trumped the lot though with this brilliantly unceremonious swansong album, in which thundering club beats were allied to vicious power electronics, proving that whilst time may have dampened their desire to continue the Pan sonic brand, it did nothing to halt their creative spark.

22
Cosmogramma

Flying Lotus

Cosmogramma (2010)

His Los Angeles album was among the top records of 2008, and Cosmogramma will always pale by comparison. But, despite its boundless ambition that takes in just about any genre imaginable, from free jazz to freak rock to dubstep, it still maintains that typically Flying Lotus talent for scattered, ruthlessly infectious beats and tunes.

23
Causers of This

Toro Y Moi

Causers of This (2010)

“Chillwave” may be one of the dafter genre names I’ve heard of late (alongside “glo-fi”), but for all of acts like Toro Y Moi’s taste for cheesy MOR influences and disco-inflected soft rock, there’s no denying Chaz Bundick’s knack for catchy pop tunes, glorious post-Beach Boys melodic hooks and lush vocal performances.

24
Triangulation

Scuba

Triangulation (2010)

Dubstep is, if I admit it, somewhat on the wane, as new acts embrace garish funk and glow-in-the-dark bleeps and bloops to try and come up with something new. But Scuba reminded all of the glory of vintage garage/dub, effortlessly evoking Burial or Kode 9 whilst retaining a unique new voice with his darkly urban electronica and thumping beats.

25
North

Darkstar

North (2010)

If dubstep was struggling to maintain its voice in a constantly-evolving world, Hyperdub once again showed the way by signing artists that explored fresh and innovative ground. Darkstar are the perfect example, their synth/programming-heavy electronic pop bearing hints of eighties synth-pop, but above all carrying a post-modern, despondent vibe of romantic urban alienation, somewhere between Burial’s nocturnal haze and the bright lights of Human League-esque dance.

26
King Night

Salem

King Night (2010)

Another new genre reared its head in 2010, “witch house”, but, unlike “chillwave”, this is actually remarkably tricky to define, as walls of glorious synth noise (a la M83) are offset by jerky dubstep beats and murky sub-sub-Spaceape vocal murmuring. The mix is uneven at times, but with King Night, Salem announced themselves as a band to watch this decade.

27
Before Today

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

Before Today (2010)

The H-pop craze propelled maverick Californian hippy Ariel Pink straight into the limelight, and he responded with his best album, and his first on a major label and with a backing band. Rather than water down his oddball sound, it enhances it, as glorious pop tunes are jostled and jarred by unusual tempo shifts and bizarre nonsense poetry lyrics.

28
Does It Look Like I'm Here?

Emeralds

Does It Look Like I’m Here? (2010)

They were much better live but Does It Look Like I’m Here is a cracking album, more concise and focused than 2009’s What Happened?, and featuring several breathtaking melodies and passages of lush electronic drone.

29
Presidence

Excepter

Presidence (2010)

Excepter are probably unique, and their music is suitably undefinable. They may be friends of indy faves Animal Collective, but there is something darker and more troubling about Excepter’s sprawling, heavily-improvised post-noise electronica. Presidence is overlong, but worth persisting with.

30
Splazsh

Actress

Splazsh (2010)

Splazsh was The Wire’s album of the year and, whilst I (evidently) won’t go that far, I still think Actress displays here that he is one of Britain’s most forward-thinking, adventurous and inventive producers, his intelligent mixture of just about every post-drum’n’bass dance music pointing the way for the coming years.