Thursday 31 December 2020

You Are Now Leaving 2020

Well, we made it. Here I am again with the semi-regular tradition of a NYE-adjacent track dump. These are normally supposed to be tunes I'm planning to play at the get-together but that quite obviously isn't happening this year. So instead it's a collection of tunes that I've loved and fallen back in love with over the last year - it's more varied than I expected (though I have nixed most of the Eurobeat out, not because it wouldn't fit but because a lot of the tracks I wanted to include aren't on streaming!).

I don't want this to be too much of a pity party - hell, I've spent the last couple of posts reminiscing about the blog's past, which to be fair is expected given I'm going through and fixing them all up. With all the things going on, I am actually pretty privileged to be able to continue posting these regularly and I want to thank you all for reading. Hopefully some of these tracks have helped you as they have I. In a break from tradtion I'm going to try and write a bit about each one so apologies in advance if this is a bit long in the tooth.

Let's get back to it. This year was a firm kick up my arse to actually sit down and sort a bunch of things out, and of course catch up on a bunch of media I'd been meaning to as well - this is reflected by the bits and pieces from soundtracks you'll see later on in these selections. We run the gamut in between though - kicking off with Carpenter Brut's studio version of the Maniac cover, a crash course in Brut's slasher-style synthwave if you're new to them, and a quality entry in the catalogue if you're a long time fan. A piece from Ghostly's Disco Nouveau compilation that I got back into next, a great compilation themed around modern takes on disco that's also a real who's who of early 00's electronic.

In that same vein DJ Hell's I Want U, a real encapsulation of the slightly seedy electronic that is befitting of the founder of International Deejay Gigolos, down to the Tom Of Finland cover art. Truth be told I think the extended cut is a little long in the tooth, I prefer the video edit mix but I couldn't find that one on Hell's Soundcloud, but I continue to love this smutty brand of electronic that Hell and the Gigolos crew do/did.

Sidewalks and Skeletons next. I've been taking a slow dip in and out of their catalogue over the past year or two, but Drifter remains one of if not my most favourite of theirs. My favourite moments with this one are when it comes up of it's own accord or after a long absence and I get just lost in the absolute power of it. At the risk of repeating myself we have on the flip side HAL, a tune that takes me back to the days of Blog House - I don't mean to beat that comparison to death or anything but it really does, when I discovered this one it'd been a long time since I'd been immersed in that world and it was a delight to be back in there.

HEALTH next - Death Magic is an album I've been meaning to do an in-depth dive on because it's a very important album to me. Very accessible in terms of their catalogue, Death Magic sees HEALTH take a more electronic edge to their trademark Noise Rock sound. There are a lot of varied takes on it too: tracks like Stonefist would be right at home next to electro house (there's even a Boys Noize remix to further that!), to tracks like Life which are almost electropop. I love Jake Duzsik's delivery on this album, and Life gives it plenty of time to shine.

Back on my Cyberpunk kick once again (not that one though, you know the one!). Garoad's soundtrack for VA-11 HALL-A is aesthetic perfection, I can't think of a better accompaniment to the visuals and overall vibe for something subtitled "Cyberpunk Bartender Action". Good For Health, Bad For Education is a twinkly retrowave styled number, think the kind of stuff Mitch Murder does and you're in a similar ballpark. Digital Drive on the other hand is a short, sharp sweet piece that definitely takes some cues from the world of J-Pop with it's instrumentation. The absolutely gorgeous breakdown at 30 seconds in most certainly takes a leaf out of the trance playbook and catches me off guard sometimes in the most incredible way - almost criminally short, I keep coming back to this one for more.

I decided to dig back into Au Revior Simone again this year as I had an electropop itch that needed scratching. To my surprise they haven't put out another full length since 2013's Move In Spectrums, which is not really a big loss as it's a fine album and well overdue for me putting it back into rotation. I adore their overall vibe, especially on this album - and while Crazy isn't my all time favourite of the LP, it's very much doing it for me right now - the chorus that demands to be shouted out alongside them backed with those keys, especially in the final quarter where builds up to one last explosion of sound is just brilliant.

Mijk Van Dijk for the last of the bandcamp players. This one is the opening track from the Teamwork compilation which as you might have guessed is one big collaboration album. If you're familiar with Mijk's approach you can really hear where the collaboration happens, he has a really distinct sound - in the case of this one I'm fairly sure that the intro is 100% Mijk as he loves those swooping synths and samples from games (Tomb Raider in this case!). Humate's touches become more apparent when the intro gives way to a suitably techy beat, and really come into their own around the 5 minute mark with the introduction of that new slightly trancey melody. As album intros go, it's really something.

Indulging my soundtrack side for the final stretch we have Void_Chords with Feel Your Breath. It's from the soundtrack to an anime called Two Car about motorcycle racing and if I've learned anything from watching Initial D it's that they certainly know how to make hype as hell music cues in anime, and Feel Your Breath is no different - I knew I was going to love this one from the intro alone as it takes more than a few cues from the Hospital Records style of Liquid Drum & Bass. It's a style I love but haven't really checked anything out in that vein for a long time, so when Feel Your Breath came along it was like... well, a breath of fresh air!

The theme of hype racing tracks continues, with long time composer Yuzo Koshiro's soundtracks to Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune being a massive treasure trove of trance I've been digging in. Until this year only 5 & 6 were available on streaming, but a re-issue of the soundtrack to 4 is available now too! If you're at all into the trance I've talked about this year I would definitley recommend checking them out - though they aren't exclusivley trance, they dabble a little in Drum & Bass and even Hardstyle in parts. if you're not into the vocal ones I've posted there's plenty of instrumental ones to have at as well, here's one of my favourites Glare

The final Soundtrack piece is, of course, Peace & Tranquility. It's become a bit of a meme but as I say every time, I don't mind that so much if it helps people discover new music, electronic especially. Who can say how many people have gotten into Bag Raiders from all the Shooting Stars memes? But that's getting off topic - Peace is simply put a lush piece of House. It absolutley stands alone from the thing it's soundtracking, and you don't need any knowledge of it either to appreciate the song itself. Which of course I highly recommend, I think it might be among my favourite house tracks of all time.

And of course, same as every year, how could I forget to include The Knife? I include this on every new year's roundup, or at least the ones I remember to do, I think I missed last year. This is them in all their Deep Cuts era glory, down to the steel pan as heard on Pass This On, it was never included on any other album so you'll have to pick up the Hannah Med H Soundtrack if you want it, but that's not a bad thing at all as it's full of great songs.

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


No comments: