Congratulations, humans of the world, you have reached the halfway point of 2018. As we await a loaded fall release calendar, your friends and droids at Blocland are reflecting on this year’s best electronic albums so far. You’d better enjoy this shit because robots will be writing all the music a few years from now.
Mouse on Mars — Dimensional People
Dimensional People begins, appropriately enough, with “Dimensional People Parts I-III” — a scene-setting compositional triptych built upon complex interweaving polyrhythms (from both electronic and live rhythm sections), and Justin Vernon’s amiable and unintelligible falsetto yelps and melodies. The piece doesn’t move so much as pleasantly wander and stumble, first with urgency and immediacy and later with a calm placid ease. The left-turns keep coming as “Foul Mouth,” the next track, features Zach Condon of Beirut doing almost radio-friendly mumble-rap hooks over glitchy arpeggiated synths and lush Volcano Choir-esque guitar and vocal swells. The laid-back joyous vibe dispels any notion one might have of this album as a self-serious, artsy-fartsy work.
Like a (much mellower) companion piece to Blanck Mass’s 2017 classic World Eater, the album hops from genre to disparate genre, often within one song, while mostly maintaining a consistent vision and sound. “Parliament Of Aliens Part I” builds from minimalist synth noise exploration to an off-kilter Appalachian fever dream. “Daylight” is a percussive ensemble with wordless Reich-ian vocal hits. “Sidney In A Cup” features spoken-word French and a grooving beach bar band. But whereas World Eater was essentially a one-man project, Dimensional People truly feels like a collaboration. In addition to Vernon/Condon/Blank, Sam Amidon, Lisa Hannigan, Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, and rapper Spank Rock make appearances among others. But in the center of all of this is the vision and gravitational pull of Jan St. Werner from Köln and Andi Toma from Düsseldorf, two inventive and innovative masters of electronic music who have been building to this point for 25 years.
– Saul Wright
Oneohtrix Point Never – Age Of
The musical world of Oneohtrix Point Never is a nicotine stained funhouse mirror constantly warping genres you thought you knew into something unpredictably maniacal. On his breakthrough, Replica, Daniel Lopatin turned ambience into suffocation. 2015’s Garden of Delete imagined a grunge band who traded in their guitars for turntables in order to pump out crusty, mutated EDM compositions perfect for sewer raves. Even with a film score on his hands, the neon glow of late night thriller montages turned into phantasmal high-art for ear canals. And now, like any avant-garde weirdo who has reached a certain level of notoriety, Lopatin has made his pop move. Well, as close to a pop move as one of electronic’s most bugged out minds can get.
On Age Of Oneohtrix Point Never concocts a digital age bad dream through the lens of adult contemporary, muzak, yacht rock, and chamber pop. Organic sounds and melodies often flutter before becoming nothing more than glitchy bits of data cobwebbing around the RAM. On “Black Snow”, ANOHNI’s typically powerful vocals are processed into a mechanical husk while Lopatin’s noise inflected lounge production grows arms and legs before bursting out of Michael McDonald’s chest cavity. Fellow experimenter Dominick Fernow lends his abrasive screams for added unease and the jump scare half way through “Warning”. Age Of continues Lopatin’s disorienting winning streak by taking the most toothless shmaltz imaginable and boiling it into musical body horror.
– Lobster Man
8ULENTINA – Eucalyptus
This EP from the Oakland producer is the sonic equivalent of a travel magazine; every sample, every instrument will stimulate a globe-trotting imagination. There’s the London breakbeat that propels “Soiled”; the off-kilter steel drums of “Wander Flute” are like a bad trip (induced by drugs or expired shrimp, pick your poison) on a Caribbean island; “Metal Clip” creates a sticky melody with Middle-Eastern strings and flutes, surrounded by a myriad of object recordings. What are those sounds: Staplers? A cash register? A rattlesnake?. That may sound cacophonous, but this strange collage coalesces into an experience that’s bold and beautiful. It’s even a ‘lil sweet on closer “Mint T,” a sublime electronic ballad complete with an Organ Tapes vocal feature that sounds straight out of an underwater grotto.
Some electronic producers take this kitchen-sink approach and expect audiences to put in work to appreciate the music. Not so with 8ULENTINA. These six tracks are instantaneously catchy while scratching that itch for hearing something truly unique and special.
Stay tuned for Part Two, coming soon to an Internet near you.