Best of 2019

TRAKSE.NET

50


No Home Record

Kim Gordon

MATADOR


Kim Gordon has done many things in her musical career. She’s made numerous records with a variety of different acts; she’s collaborated with artists like Jim O’Rourke and Yoko Ono; she’s had a hand in changing the course of alternative rock history several times over through her work in Sonic Youth; but she has never released a solo studio album under her given name. Never, that is, until now.

While No Home Record is technically Gordon’s debut solo LP, one listen to this record has you in no doubt that you’re dealing with a seasoned professional. Even when they are at their most fraught and ramshackle these tracks are artfully constructed. On cuts like ‘Air BnB’ and ‘Cookie Butter’ Gordon’s distorted, atonal guitars cut brutally across the mix as if lifted from a different song entirely. In the hands of a lesser artist a risk like this could throw the songs off, but Gordon manages to make the choices work for her here.

Given that Gordon is such a voracious experimentalist it’ll come as little surprise that a wide range of genres are bent to her will across No Home Record. The juxtaposition of music-box twinkles with abrasive electronics on opener ‘Sketch Artist’ recalls St. Vincent; ‘Don’t Play It’ is feral synth-punk in the L.I.E.S. mould; there’s a bit of Sunn O))) to the totemic drone-ballad ‘Earthquake’; and the beat on ‘Paprika Pony’ is like a lo-fi remake of OG Maco’s trap megahit ‘You Guessed It’ (yes, really). Even in an age where artists regularly chop and change genres at short notice No Home Record cycles through an impressively wide range of musical styles. Gordon’s charisma and compositional nous, undimmed at 66 years old, bring these disparate parts together as a coherent whole.

Kim Gordon’s unabashed, ambitious solo LP No Home Record proves that she’s still operating in a league of her own.

49


Volume Massimo

Alessandro Cortini

MUTE


Expanding on some 4 albums with Important Records (including 2 collaborations with stalwarts of modern electronic music Merzbow and Lawrence English), two with Hospital Productions and one with Point Of Departure - 2017’s Avanti - one of Bleep’s albums of that year: the prolific Alessandro Cortini returns to join Daniel Miller’s Mute Records with VOLUME MASSIMO.

Here we see him deviate slightly from the industrial noise he’s previously honed to a fine art and venture towards a brighter cinematic sound full of saturated, processed synthesisers and undulating melodies. Some parallels can be drawn to recent work from Pye Corner Audio in the slowly unravelling melodies (Amore Amaro) drawing you ever closer. Or to seminal Boards Of Canada material, sleep deprived electronic excursions to a place not yet known.

Translating to ‘Maximum Volume’ gives us some kind of idea of the power of these productions. Maintaining an enveloping romance found in the decayed textures and sonic artefacts akin to artists such as Leyland Kirby. This may also be reflected in some of the tracks, Batticuore for example being the Italian for increased heart palpitations due to strong emotion.

A welcome return from one of the maestros of electronic music with an expertly produced record of exquisite beauty.

48


Weather

Tycho

MOM+POP | NINJA TUNE


For Scott Hansen’s latest record as Tycho, the San Franciscan artist has decided to bring a new element into play - the human voice. While Tycho’s sound has always been rich in melody, fifth LP Weather marks the first time that Hansen has put vocals centre-stage on some of his compositions. Saint Sinner (Hannah Cottrell) takes on the singing duties, and this new addition provides a pleasing variation on Tycho’s vivid brand of electronic indie-pop.

Take, for instance, Weather’s lead single ‘Pink And Blue’. The instrumental here is just the sort of thing people flock to Tycho for - driving bass, colourful harmonies and the faintest whiff of shoegaze in the dreamy production. It stacks up alongside artists like Apparat, Bibio and Bonobo in the way it synthesises organic and acoustic elements to create a highly evocative listening experience. Indeed, it’s such a pleasing sound that it’s no surprise to find that the moments on Weather when Cottrell is absent see Tycho doubling-down on this lush instrumental style.

When Cottrell’s vocals do come in they are at once collected yet quietly forceful. This vibe fits perfectly with the bubbling emotion of a track like ‘Pink And Blue’, and Cottrell’s contributions push Weather’s sound closer to artists like M83. The other Cottrell features on Weather confirm that she is a perfect foil for Tycho - so much so that she is soon to join the band as a touring vocalist.

After 2016’s Epoch LP saw Scott Hansen’s Tycho break into the big leagues, new LP Weather sees Hansen both consolidating Tycho’s position and evolving the project in exciting new ways.

47


Rave 'till You Cry

Bogdan Raczynski

DISCIPLES


Yes, you’ve read that right. A new Bogdan Raczynski release. Do not adjust your sets. This is not a drill.

After a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it white label had many of us wondering if we’d hear more from the Rephlex legend in 2019, we’re as excited as you are to find out that the rumours are true. Over a decade on from the last record to bear his name the Polish-American artist issues Rave ‘Til You Cry, a compilation of previously-unreleased jams put out by the Disciples imprint. This 18-track transmission is here to remind us of everything that makes Raczynski so great. Tracks ranging from breakbeat, brain-melting IDM, beautiful braindance and harsh noise are all delivered with an infectious enthusiasm.

The madcap glee that is present in Rave ‘Til You Cry’s most intense moments means that this album is as witty as it is abrasive. Check the manner in which ‘318 22t7’ bludgeons you with kicks while also delivering moments of melody amid the chaos, or the way ‘332 23t422’ breaks up the mutant jungle beat with some jarring spoken word samples. Heard in a modern context it’s now easy to see how the likes of Sophie, PC Music and Bjarki have drawn from Raczynski’s frantic-calm-frantic dynamic.

Amid the whirligig drums and wacky 303s there are moments where other facets of Raczynski’s sound shine through. The two tracks which bookend Rave ‘Til You Cry frame the album in a different light - there is a cinematic quality to the eerie, spacious ‘156 s2n’ and ‘204 fr’. ‘220 s1c’ is almost abstract enough to pass for musique concrete, while ‘210 31c22’ is a melodic leftfield hip-hop beat that could have been siphoned off from a Dabrye LP. With Bogdan Raczynski’s old pal Aphex Twin making a comeback in recent years it feels right that this old breakbeat pioneer should get another moment in the sun.

46


Animated Violence Mild

Blanck Mass

SACRED BONES RECORDS


On the previous Blanck Mass full-length World Eater - an album that ended up in our top 10 for 2017 - Benjamin John Power certainly brought the noise. However, World Eater was nothing compared to the follow-up. We’re not sure how he’s done it, but that record somehow sounds tame in comparison to Animated Violence Mild.

Almost every second here is crammed with stuff, so much so that the sound waves for tracks like ‘Death Drop’ and ‘Wings Of Hate’ are pretty much rectangular. The production manages to sound shredded and messed-up, yet still allows melodies and tones to come through with clarity - no mean feat, and something that places Animated Violence alongside albums like Death Grips’ The Money Store.

While euphoric power electronics remain at the core of the Blanck Mass sound, club and rave influences are also a mite more prominent here than they have been on Power’s previous releases. ‘House Vs. House’ comes across like some sort of Super Smash Bros. mod in which you can make all of the Fade To Mind producers fight everyone who’s ever dropped a record on Posh Isolation. Trance synths punch through the infernal intensity of ‘Love Is A Parasite’, ‘Wings Of Hate’ and ‘No Dice’ - the latter of which even has a bit of a snap influence to it, something that makes it strangely reminiscent of Pictureplane. And as for ‘Death Drop’? Well, ‘Death Drop’ is jumpstyle in hell.

Animated Violence Mild, the latest LP from Blanck Mass, is a white-knuckle ride through extreme volume. The fact that this stuff was made by someone called Benjamin John Power is one of the all-time great examples of nominative determinism in music.

45


Flamagra

Flying Lotus

WARP


We’ve waited five long years for a new LP from Flying Lotus. Steven Ellison has kept busy in the time since 2014’s You’re Dead!, largely by making music for films and directing his own movies, but he’s given us precious little in the way of new music.

One listen to Flamagra and it's clear this is the sort of album that needs half a decade to reach its final form. A record of huge range, Flamagra finds Flying Lotus applying the directorial scope of his screen output to his music. Even by Ellison’s standards, Flamagra is an ambitious record - and it’s also the sort of thing that only Ellison could pull off.

At its core, Flamagra is still identifiable as a Flying Lotus album. The lopsided, circuit-fried boom-bap that has always been the cornerstone of the FlyLo style is all present and correct here, and Ellison’s love of jazz-fusion comes through again on tracks like ‘Pilgrim Side Eye’ (a cut co-written by Herbie Hancock and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson). That squelchy astral-funk sound we’ve seen Ellison play around within his collaborations with Kendrick Lamar also rears its head a few times, something hinted at by guest spots from Thundercat and George Clinton.

Flamagra’s most impressive and unique moments come when Ellison blindsides you with a sharp left turn. Shabazz Palaces blast us off into the cosmos on ‘Actually Virtual’; centrepiece ‘Fire Is Coming’ finds David Lynch incanting a Twilight Zone-style monologue over frenzied drums and sci-fi pads; Flamagra’s second half is peppered by little chamber-jazz vignettes and beat asides. This spirit of invention makes the LP run as much like an OST to an unseen movie as a concept album.

Flamagra is a sprawling masterpiece from one of contemporary music’s great auteurs.

44


Oneness

Matthew Halsall

GONDWANA RECORDS


Dating back to 2008, the epic recordings of Matthew Halsall sessions with the future members of his Gondwana Orchestra are here collated in — true to its title — Oneness. The LP has meditation built into its DNA, making use of tentative tanpura drones (as heard on Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda) as well as vivacious spiritual-jazz measures, bursting with colourful horns and percussion. What’s more, it welcomes the potential of the collective, and the possibility of a truly egoless music.

43


Stars Are The Light

Moon Duo

SACRED BONES RECORDS


Stars Are The Light, the seventh LP from modern-day psychedeliacs Moon Duo, is probably the group’s most fun listen to date. While we still get plenty of the trippy atmospherics and Motorik rhythms that have become the band’s calling card, Stars Are The Light also presents several tracks that have clearly been made with the dancefloor in mind. The twinkling melodies and warm synthesisers on many of the tunes here has us thinking of Peaking Lights.

42


Lamenting Machine

ISAN

MORR MUSIC


Eternal charmers ISAN investigate the melancholy inner life of their machines with a typically tender touch in a very user-friendly, gorgeous album of burbling electronica.

Arriving just over 20 years since their now-classic debut LP, ISAN’s new side finds that not much has changed in their self-contained world of gilded and exquisitely melodic small sound composition, and nobody’s complaining. Future-proofed by their feel for low-key melancholic ambiguity, they maintain a line of music that’s sweetly primed for warmth.

As ever with ISAN’s music the devil lies in the detail of their recordings. Ostensibly simple and stripped down, there are extremely fine layers of plasmic resonance that inhabit the background and periphery of their elegantly fluid and ribboning arrangements. With the sleight of a master hypnotist they subtly draw the ears in one direction while subliminally illuminating the layers surrounding it, leading the ear’s roving eye to wander the soundfield in slow saccades between their pointillist motifs and strange harmonic remainders.

The effect is just gorgeous, prompting very cute highlights between the kosmische lullaby of ‘Perlon’, and the nimbly star-stepping gait of ‘Ichthyosaur’, along with the crystalline shimmer of ’Strix Aluco’ and the AFXian bliss of ‘Ephemeroptera’, before waltzing you to bed with ‘Calliscope’ and their sighing title song.

41


The Quiet Temple

The Quiet Temple

POINT OF DEPARTURE


From unpredictable forces of nature often emerge works of striking beauty — such is the case with The Quiet Temple’s self-titled release. When musicians Rich Machin and Duke Garwood situated themselves in their studio, they took little more than a vague plan, and a revolving door, eventually welcoming members from Spiritualized and Sterolab into their ranks. The Quiet Temple is a simmering record of languid jazz at its core, with all the experimentalism and spacial sensibilities that entails.