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The Monthly List: August’s Top 10

radio_towers

New music from Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin, Rephlex, and Bruce Gilbert dominated my August listening habits, along with Recollection GRM’s excellent 2LP release of Luc Ferrari’s Presque Rien. 

I managed to write a review of Making A and both of the Electric Dance Music compilations, plus I have reviews of Helm’s Silencer 12″, COH’s Retro-2038, Kevin Drumm’s Earrach, and a series of Mystery Sea discs on the way. Two of those will  show up at Dusted Magazine if all goes as planned, my first two for that publication. I’ll keep publishing at Brainwashed.com as well, and I hope to get a series of short reviews under way, which will be exclusive to this site.

Last but not least, I’m going to return to WZBC this month with a twice monthly show of electro-acoustic, improvised, and generally experimental music. I’ll be on the air every other Sunday for two hours, starting at 6 o’clock Eastern. You can listen in Boston by tuning into 90.3 FM; or you can listen online at WZBC’s website. Just click the large red play button on the left.

Shows will be archived and available for replay for two weeks after the broadcast, at which time they will disappear forever. No permanent download links. That starts this week, Sunday the 15th. I hope you’ll tune in.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.

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Review: “EDM A2” and “EDM B2”

Rephlex is almost definitely behind EDM (Electric Dance Music) A2 and B2, but they’re not owning up to it. Neither disc sports a label, neither comes with liner notes, and except for a few Jodey Kendrick aliases, most of the 13 featured artists are unrecognizable. Alain Kepler, Rob Kidley, and Trevor Dags could be anyone, but with electronic music as hyperactive and acid washed as this, the first anyone that comes to mind is Richard D. James.

Anonymity cuts like a double edged sword, especially for IDM producers or anyone else in the general vicinity. It drummed up a good deal of attention for The Tuss and Steinvord, but the question of authorship can overshadow whether a record is any good or not. Unfortunately, A2 and B2 suffer that fate, if only a little. Nearly every song is exciting and memorable, and there’s plenty of diversity here. Artists like Rob Kidley and J.K. obviously have some bubblebath in their blood, but Kepler, Heidi Lord, and Trevor Dags pull both records though smears of ambience and clubby pastiches that break away from the braindance bill. The familiar throb of drum ‘n’ bass shows up too, followed by the quiet sizzle of micro-sculpted dance and the analog hum of droning waves. Not everything inspires dance, but the title feels appropriate nonetheless.

va-EDM_B2That variety makes it hard to believe that one person could be behind every song, but both discs play more like albums than compilations, and they flow into each other as if they were one album assembled by one hand. A2 begins with a solid beat and keeps it going for more than half the album. Abrupt samples and distorted fragments cut in and out of the mix, and multi-threaded melodies criss-cross each other in jumbled chunks, but always in service of a syncopated rhythm. The songs also stick close to a four and a half minute limit, leaving an impression just by their blur of their movement. Repeat plays help to solidify the impact.

In the last 12 minutes, the music mellows into a series of relatively low-key ambient shorts. That leads naturally into B2, which proceeds at a more relaxed pace. These songs rely less on glitches and more on instrumental color. A few are just electric sketches, others are longer, more hypnotic tracks, but they caress more than punch. The artists blend beat with atmosphere and toy with acoustic samples, and J.K. tosses a fragment of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue into the mix on a song called “Man Hunt 1”; I can almost hear him laughing behind it. By the time Heidi Lord kicks the second half of B2 into full gear, everything’s very cool, blue, and chilled out. The record is still playful, but it loses much of its dance-y flavor and drifts into more ambient, psychedelic territory. It ends in a much different place than where it began, but the shift is gradual enough to keep the records linked up.

Maybe old man A-F-X shows up somewhere in the middle, or maybe that’s what Rephlex wants you to believe. Either way, it’s a frustrating game. Whether or not he’s releasing music is less interesting than the music itself. Does Heidi Lord have another record out there somewhere? Has TX81Z—aggravatingly named after a Yamaha synthesizer—produced anything else as trippy as “Googol?” Is Jodey Kendrick secretly one of the best electronic producers out there and the sole man behind this series? For now, nobody knows.

EDM A2 and EDM B2 are available from places like Forced Exposure and Boomkat
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com