Tuesday 28 December 2021

Belated Best Of

I sat down today with the intention of doing my annual bevy of tunes to schedule for the day before NYE - what originally started as my teenage electro-fiend self sharing my own personal playlist of big choons sort of became a cross section of past and present faves from a variety of genres. I still intend to do that, but as I started hashing out some choices I thought I'd change gears a bit and instead share some of my favourites from this year. Time has gone all funny as I had to trim some out that were very firmly from last year but I think I've ended up with a good selection, we'll get into it after the break.

It goes without saying it's been a pretty strange year - as such I've been spending a lot of time with HEALTH as their current electronic infused sound is very cathartic at times: often intense and with a pronounced nihilistic streak as well. While DEATH MAGIC is probably still my favourite of theirs, I've got a real fondness for everything they've done since that pivot to the more electronic side of things (which was always there to be fair, it just got more pronounced with DEATH MAGIC). Some of their latest I haven't been so hot on - on paper the collab with Nine Inch Nails should have been amazing, I don't think it was bad mind you, but I think perhaps my expectations were a little high. Still, you're always going to have moments like that with artists no matter what, and the rest of the singles that have been coming out like DEAD FLOWERS have been more up my street. Perhaps not as electronic as previous, but still a very great example of what I mentioned in the opening sentence.

I'd also been spending a lot more time with Oneohtrix Point Never as well. I'm incredibly behind on the man's output nowadays, but I am more than happy to see him achieve the levels of success he has done. I'm pretty sure if you go back and read my first post about OPN when I first discovered him about 10 years ago I mention his work having that cinematic quality to it, and to see him get soundtrack work is very validating (plus as well noted, I am all in favour of film soundtracks being more electronic and interesting than your usual stereotypical 'cinema strings')

But we're getting a little off topic, I've listened to a ton of ambient this year, much for the same reasons as listed above, and OPN's work is still among my favourites of the genre. I've liked a lot of the direction he's taken since - there's been much more experimental output as of late and I'd go as far to say as the last traditional 'ambient' album he did was R Plus Seven in 2013, and even then parts of that album were totally signposting the more experimental direction he'd take. All of this is to say that there was perhaps part of me pining for a 'classic' OPN tune, perhaps not one loaded with lush Juno arpeggios like the Betrayed In The Octagon era but along the same kind of lines.

The original Nothing's Special (that's included as a b-side on this single and on the main album, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never) came close with it's lush synth-work and mournful treated vocals - but the version that features Rosalía on the vocals is just spectacular. An unexpected collaboration to be sure, one that I've seen written off and bashed for as a result, but one that I absolutely adore. My only complaint is that I would have liked an instrumental version on the single to complete the trilogy.

It's not all doom and gloom though, as I mentioned in my little mixtape last post, I've also been spinning a ton of the soundtrack to Unbeatable, an upcoming rhythm game with a little free demo called [White Label] on Steam and Itch. I'm going to essentially copy/paste what I said last time here because otherwise I would just be repeating the same points anyway - Unbeatable has a totally enthralling visual style that is utterly drenched in nostalgia - it's totally designed to target that [adult swim] generation, if you're at all like me and stayed up way too late watching shows like FLCL as a teen, then you'll find it familiar.

The soundtrack does a downright perfect job of complimenting that aesthetic, aping bands like The Pillows to great effect, with a real rough 'round the edges feel that makes sense in the context of the game but also . I couldn't not mention this one just because it became a swift obsession of mine and made up a big chunk of my listening for this year. While not totally electronic, it does stray into that side from time to time: be it the Avalanches style sampling of Proper Rhythm, or the mandatory lo-fi hip hop joint I chose in Homework Salad By Night - it just wouldn't be the complete [adult swim] experience without it now would it?

And finally, a little bit from LNS. A recent addition to my radar, I ended up scooping her entire discography on Bandcamp not long after first being introduced. Her latest, the punnily titled LNS-id, is as you might expect a much more acidic affair than her usual. Don't be put off by the cover though, despite the cover's design, the sound on here is pretty far from 'ardcore acid stuff - as album opener and my favourite of the bunch Blue Acid does a fantastic job of demonstrating. It's a somewhat menacing beast, the Acid is definitely there in the form of a machine gun 303 arpeggio lurking in the background but it's contrasted with these slow synth sweeps in the background that give it an altogether different feel from the small amount of acid I have in my collection (which isn't saying much because I'm really unfamiliar with the genre beyond broad strokes as a result!). The rest of the album is a more standard Acid affair, I don't mean that as a knock though as it's all lovingly done: even following the standard 'Acid' blueprint of sounds LNS still manages to make some interesting stuff but by far and away the most striking is this intro track. Brilliant.

Honestly, there was even more I could have put here. I did hesitate calling it the 'best of' because A) I am perpetually behind on new stuff, so there could be things I haven't even heard yet and B) You all know I like to talk at length, so at least this way it keeps things more manageable! (Plus, I don't know how many more covers I could have used to make that blended pic I used up above for the post either) finally, C) not everything is available on bandcamp unfortunately, so this was the best compromise. Rest assured it was a bumper year for new tunes, I even managed to get some new Eurobeat as well. I'll try and swing back around again with a big end of year track dump, but if I don't manage that take care and I'll see you all in 2022. As always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


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