ACL 2021 ~ Top Ten Electronic

Due to lockdowns and quarantines, most of us have not gone clubbing for years.  Thankfully, electronic artists have kept making music during the pandemic ~ although not all of it for dancing.  They can imagine an alternate universe in which our bodies are moving to their music while mingling with others.  This has made the electronic field the most hopeful of genres, one that draws energy from the past, looks forward to the future and offers encouragement for the present.  The fact that these albums are not being played out has freed composers to be creative, often eschewing beats for long stretches or experimenting with off-kilter rhythms.  In 2021, more than ever, electronic music became music for the ears more than the feet.  This being said, when you hear that funky rhythm, feel free to dance wherever you may be!

bela ~ Guidelines (Éditions Appærent)
Under the somewhat academic name of Guidelines, this EP leads the audience through a musical web of invention and reinvention of both electronic music and the Korean folk genre of Nongak. One does not obviate the other, and the music systematically twists and turns conventional expectations of what electronics do, offering surprising elements to all sorts of potential listeners. As an encounter between two styles of dance music, the album does not produce a straightforward “fusion”, but a thought experiment in which one flows out of the other and vice versa, an identity that is not one but many. One thing is certain: we’ll be paying close attention to bela’s next full-length. (David Murrieta Flores)

Original Review

Havana Swim Club ~ Havana Swim Club (Self-Released)
Frequent readers of this site know that I spend most of my summers at the beach.  This was my Beach Album of 2021 ~ the (burned) disc that spent the most time in my car’s CD player (yes, I still have one!), accompanying me back and forth, conjuring images of surf and sand that became real whenever I arrived.  For those who are landlocked or listening out of season, just close your eyes, let the music play, and imagine the sound of the waves.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Jilk ~ Welcome Lies (Castles in Space Subscription Series)
We can show you the video, but we can’t play you the album.  We realize this may be frustrating!  Welcome Lies is the crown jewel in a very worthwhile subscription series.  Jilk continues to bring intricacy and intelligence to the field, best exemplified in the 13-minute “Lost and Gained,” stuffed with horns, strings and vibraphone atop delicate beats.  If you already like Jilk, take a chance on this one; you won’t be sorry and there’s plenty more where this comes from!  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

KMRU ~ Logue (Injazero)
After a prolific 2020, Joseph Kamaru has enjoyed a comparatively quiet year, building up to a collaboration with Echium and an hour-long remix of Seefeel for Warp Records. Logue is assembled from tracks written between 2017 and 2019, which seems a lifetime ago now, but sees KMRU continue to build a reputation, establishing himself as an ambient producer of real note. It may be, nominally, a catalogue of tracks posted to Bandcamp over a couple of years, but this feels like a proper album, cohesive and well-sequenced. The use of field recordings made in his native Kenya adds an extra layer to KMRU’s ambient work as well, giving them a sense of place and, occasionally, rhythm. It is a confident balance of introspective compositions and the influence of the outside world. (Jeremy Bye)

Original Review

Koreless ~ Agor (Young)
It has taken Lewis Roberts a whole decade to get from debut 12” to his first album proper. Anything worth waiting for takes a little time, and the promise of his earlier releases is fully realised in the grooves of Agor. The beauty of this album is that it sounds pretty much timeless yet you can sense the effort taken to create these incredibly detailed textures and precise rhythms. Crucially, it benefits from not being made in the days of CD-focused electronic albums that would have probably resulted in a bloated runtime. Instead, this is 32 minutes of engaging, catchy electronic music in which every track lands. (Jeremy Bye)

Original Review

Murcof ~ The Alias Sessions (Leaf)
It’s been some 13 years since Murcof last released an album on The Leaf Label, and this is a suitably epic homecoming. We’re still waiting patiently for the ‘O’ and ‘F’ installments of his recorded output, but in the meantime, The Alias Sessions will more than suffice. It is an immense work, running the gamut from abrasive drones, chilling abstract passages to pulsating rhythms and atmospheric field recordings. It’s at times like these when our genre categorisations feel woefully inadequate – but Murcof made his first impression on our ears as an electronic artist, so that’s probably the closest we will get. This album shows a true artistic evolution, drawing on elements that existed on his debut album but are fully realised and more confidently utilised here. (Jeremy Bye)

Original Review

Rắn Cạp Đuôi ~ Ngủ Ngày Ngay Ngày Tận Thế (Sleeping Through the Apocalypse) (Subtext)
To an absurdist title (“Sleeping Through the Apocalypse”) corresponds an equally absurdist sound collage: nothing here makes sense, and yet fits perfectly. A beat bursts into noise; noise segues into melody; electronics sway like instruments; voices unfurl like an indeterminate soundscape; the dreams that come to us as the world ends are joyful reminders that whatever was no longer exists, and whatever will be is simply incomprehensible to us now. Our timezone is nonsense, but that does not signify despair – on the contrary, it points towards the endless potential of play, the freedom of aural games and tricks, the bright and swirling core of life. (David Murrieta Flores)

Original Review

Simona Zamboli ~ Ethernity (Mille Plateaux)
Intricate glitch meets sci-fi industrial on this consistently engaging entry, which surprises at every turn.  The album is packed with deep cuts and club stormers, but it’s best heard as a continuous set ~ a reflection of the composer’s other career as a DJ.  Zamboli pushes compositions into new shapes that seem impossible on paper but sound instinctive when played.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Sonae ~ Summer (laaps)
The musical element of a video installation by Jennifer Trees, Sonae has composed an album that is dense, foreboding, and tightly wound. You don’t need the visuals to feel that something is wrong; that Summer is not sea, sand, and surf but pollution, plastic, and raging wildfires. Working to a theme has focused Sonae’s work to an even greater precision; the sounds of nature haunt the undulating drone, the crisp beat, and muscular basslines. It’s supposed to make you feel uneasy – Summer is not a comfortable listen but it is brilliantly composed. In a way, it’s the feel-bad hit of the Fall. (Jeremy Bye)

Original Review

Ziúr ~ Antifate (PAN)
A complex, sprawling artwork unfolds before you: it is made out of the air that is moved around by people dancing. Antifate is an ethereal labyrinth born from the idea that we are free to choose, our pursuit of it the connective tissue between odd beats, spacey electronics, background drones, and distorted instruments. Wherever you turn as people dance their way through this labyrinth you will feel space shifting, an opening upon which your body will enact its will, your mind trailing far behind while trying to understand the nature of these events. Make no mistake – as abstract as it might sound at first, Ziúr’s music is made for your heart and limbs. (David Murrieta Flores)

Original Review

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