Best of 2019

TRAKSE.NET

40


Building Bridges

Move D

AUS MUSIC


Across his long and distinguished career David Moufang’s output has been defined by elegance. From his early experiments with future jazz ensemble Conjoint, his work in Magic Mountain High, the wide range of tracks he’s released under various aliases and of course his best-known work as Move D, everything Moufang touches has an almost designerly craft to it.

Moufang’s eye for detail, less-is-more aesthetic and graceful production style are all present and correct on this new Move D LP Building Bridges. Club cuts make up the bulk of Building Bridges’ tracklist and deep house is the order of the day. From little more than cresting drums, purring basslines and woozy jazz chords Moufang is able to create tracks that both envelop you in a warm, tender glow and make you move.

Many people have attempted to copy Move D’s aesthetic down the years, but really nothing beats the real thing. You could list plenty of artists who’d attempt something like ‘Never Give Up’ or ‘Building Bridges’, the lengthy rollers that sit at the heart of the LP, but few would get close to Moufang’s light touch. Even when the feel of Building Bridges is edged a little more towards disco or dub techno Moufang keeps it classy. The one outlier here is ‘Alles Ist Eins’, a strange technoid ambience that is equal-parts Thomas Fehlmann and Amnesiac-era Radiohead.

Building Bridges, the latest LP from Move D, is another set of effortless deep house from one of the style’s leading practitioners.

39


Wallop

!!!

WARP


You can always rely on !!! for a party. The NYC dance-punk veterans have proven themselves to be one of the most consistent acts of the 2000’s, cranking out album after album of righteous grooves and slamming basslines.

!!! - that’s still pronounced Chk Chk Chk, by the way - don’t mess with the formula too much on eighth LP Wallop. Wallop almost acts as an extension of 2017’s Shake The Shudder, a record that presented some of !!!’s most succinct and streamlined songwriting to date. Many of the tracks here are anchored by a punchy one-two of disco big-beats and juicy bass hooks (be they provided by electric bass or a synthesiser). Cuts such as ‘My Fault’ and ‘This Is The Door’ are pure and effortless club rushes. The band also dabble in other dancefloor styles towards the back-end of Wallop - there’s a two-step shuffle somewhere in ‘Domino’ while ‘Rhythm Of The Gravity’ has a bit of Bomb The Bass about it.

There is also a feeling of unpredictability that creeps into several of the more disco-indebted tracks here. !!! often opt for massed vocals, a tactic that whips the likes of ‘Off The Grid’ and ‘Slow Motion’ into near-hysterical frenzies. This brings a pleasing element of chaos into play - while the band’s sound might have tightened up since the frenzies of Louden Up Now, their combustible music still maintains that exciting sense of wildness.

With Wallop, !!! have managed to maintain both their knack for crafting killer dance-punk and their sense of adventure.

38


Age Of The Ego

Crazy P

WALK DON'T WALK LTD.


"Age Of The Ego" is the immaculately-crafted eighth album by dance-music-national-treasures Crazy P. Fans of Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Grace Jones, Arthur Russell, Jam Hammer, Prince and Bobby O will find much to like, but this is clearly modern music, where heavy clubs beats are layered-up with perfectly-placed arrangement, ace playing and stratospheric soundscapes. Musically, Crazy P’s breadth of studio and writing experience shines brighter than ever, and "Age Of The Ego" has their unmistakeable stamp of quality, but is now augmented with a broader palate, and - like many - a feeling of upset with the state of the world.

'I don't usually write my lyrics in advance, as I feel they’re expressed better in tandem with the music, which seems to help tap into my subconscious. What came out on several tracks was Brexit, the state of UK politics and the way I feel about divisive, abhorrent manipulation by certain media outlets. Thematically parts of album were also influenced by the rise of social media, the struggling education system and how it’s failing our young, and the impact all of this has on us. It’s been hard to not be emotionally influenced by the situation we find ourselves in; not just in this country, but worldwide. I feel very angry and frustrated, but sometimes have to laugh at myself, because I struggle to articulate my feelings in normal conversation. I suppose lyrically it is political, a reflection of the times, but with a twist of humour and always a lot of love,' explains Danielle.

Ok but what do we think? Obviously, it's quite bitter sweet hearing Dani express herself this way; as their music has always sought to uplift and elevate through the optimistic and energetic vibe of disco's past glories. Don't worry though, the music still shines, and the grooves are here to make you wobbly, dance and jump; but look beyond that and there's some inspired lyrical genius contained within. And for that we have to applaud Danielle - it'd be very easy to ignore the current world situation and bury your head in a sand of instagram posts and self-indulgent tweetings. Instead Danielle, and the rest of the band of course, have taken the moral stand and addressed the issue. When musicians have the platform and influence that they do, Dani almost makes it seem criminal that on the whole the music community doesn't do more to change things. Here's to the revolution! 

37


Juice B Crypts

Battles

WARP


Battles return for their first LP since 2015 with their new album 'Juice B Crypts' and this record is as vibrant as anything they’ve ever done.

The band have said goodbye to longtime bassist/guitarist Dave Konopka and it helps that the remaining members (Ian Williams and John Stanier) are imperious musicians who can seemingly get their instruments to do pretty much whatever they want. Some of the playing here is simply breathtaking, the sort of thing that many bands would not even attempt to replicate (let alone pull off). Intricate, energetic cuts like ‘Juice B Crypts’ and ‘Ambulance’ have as much in common with the maximalist hip-hop of Flying Lotus and Iglooghost as they do with, say, Don Caballero.

The band have also recruited a host of guests to feature on the release, Shabazz Palaces, tUnE-yArDs and Liquid Liquid’s Sal Principato among those who join in the fun.

Juice B Crypts demonstrates once again that there are simply no other acts who can match Battles for musical invention.

36


The Utopia Strong

The Utopia Strong

ROCKET RECORDINGS


The Utopia Strong is a new group comprised of Kavus Torabi (Gong, The Monsoon Bassoon), Michael J. York (Coil) and snooker player-turned-DJ/musician Steve Davis. When together they make potent, heady music, and on their eponymous debut LP they arrange the various elements of their sound into an impressive full-length.

One of the styles that The Utopia Strong frequently lock into here comes over like a proggier version of what Primal Scream were doing on Screamadelica. Across the record we find giddy synths cross-bred with motorik rhythms, Krautrock techniques and progressive techno tropes. Tracks like ‘Swimmer’ use their rhythmic drive as a way of increasing the exuberant, blissful feeling given off by the electronics - the ultimate effect is like Jon Hopkins if he really let his hair down. Elsewhere album centrepiece ‘Brainsurgeons 3’ goes as deep on the Spacemen 3 allusion in the title suggests, blossoming from an orchestrated techno opening into a Can-esque euphoria.

There are also moments on The Utopia Strong where the band really let their freak flag fly. ‘Pickman’s Model’, for instance, is the sort of droning reverie that wouldn’t sound out of place in the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the way ‘Moonchild’ ends the record with some reversed choral sounds is trippy to say the least. Indeed, the album is bookended by two intriguing pieces of neo-psych - the lilting opener ‘Emerald Tablet’ could pass for an early Panda Bear instrumental.

Kavus Torabi, Steve Davis and Michael J. York invite you to open your third eye when listening to their first LP as The Utopia Strong.

35


Liquid Colours

CFCF

BGM SOLUTIONS


Duly shedding the chill wave colours that marked out 2015’s The Colours of Life as a key text in a loosely contained field, Montreal’s CFCF — aka Mike Silver — finally breaks his silence with Liquid Colours. This LP doesn’t move so much as it glides, vivacious as fizzy pop and sugary sweet to the taste. Silver deals in sincere forms of kitsch, daubing his elegant compositions with bright synths and a whole lot of DnB breaks, invoking the work of Yellow Magic Orchestra, as well as 1990s video game soundtracks.

34


PROTO

Holly Herndon

4AD


Since her early releases on RVNG Intl and Infinite Greyscale, Holly Herndon has been exploring the outer limits of electronic music and Avant-Garde pop, creating an otherworldly universe that is distinctly her own.

Her fascination with the human voice, has always been at the centre of her work, using it as a sonic instrument to be chopped and screwed, dissecting it on the surgery table, isolating all the sonic details and restitching it back together to create something from a parallel universe.

Following on from her incredible album on Platform on 4AD, this exploration of the human voice really takes centre stage in PROTO, where she has constructed a collaborative space for an ensemble of vocalists, a team of developers along with her longtime collaborator Mathew Dryhurst and an inhuman intelligence Spawn—a nascent A.I. entity housed in a gaming PC. Coming together, they have constructed a record of live vocal processing, that traverses the rich history of folk singing, alongside a communion between humans and technology, creating a record that embraces the alchemy between man and machine.

“There’s a pervasive narrative of technology as dehumanizing,” says Holly. “We stand in contrast to that. It’s not like we want to run away; we’re very much running towards it, but on our terms. Choosing to work with an ensemble of humans is part of our protocol. I don’t want to live in a world in which humans are automated off stage. I want an A.I. to be raised to appreciate and interact with that beauty ”

33


Electric Lady Sessions

LCD Soundsystem

DFA


Much like 2011's "London Sessions" (a live set recorded in the wake of their triumphant Glasto performance, "Electric Lady Sessions" captures LCD Soundsystem at the height of their powers in the midst of the riotious "American Dream" tour. Taking over New York's Electric Lady studios in January 2018, the band ripped through some of the finest moments from their latest album alongside fan favourites "You Wanted A Hit", "Get Innocuous" and "Home" as well as a trio of cover versions.

Incredibly, the group manage to pack the power, precision and loose limbed energy of their live shows onto wax, most notably when the Talking Heads-styled "Home" morphs into a KDJ-meets-Terje take on Chic's ecstatic "I Want Your Love", an ultimate record geek freak out. UK fans will also enjoy the Sheffield synth pop classics which bookend the set, namely James & co's versions of Human League's epic "Seconds" and Heaven 17’s disco-not-disco killer "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang". The best band in the world at their best folks!

32


Equivalents

Loscil

KRANKY


In listening to Equivalents, the twelfth album by Loscil (Scott Morgan), words like ‘drift’ spring to mind, but its great achievement is the ambiguity it invites. The vastness of its stature seems too monumental to invoke anything other than solid immutability; and yet, the epic open sky captured in these lasting pieces are constantly fluctuating, protean as they subtly envelop audio space. Inspired by the moody skies of Alfred Stieglitz’s early 20th century photography series of the same name, Equivalents recalls the wind-swept pastoralism found in the greatest of ambient works, without recourse to New Age aesthetics or worn tone poetry.

31


The Undivided Five

A Winged Victory For The Sullen

NINJA TUNE


After dropping a few LPs on Erased Tapes, A Winged Victory For The Sullen now debut on Ninja Tune with new album The Undivided Five. However, this change of surroundings does not signal any great stylistic shift in the project’s music - the duo of Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie (Stars Of The Lid, The Dead Texan) continue to go deep on their widescreen contemporary classical sound here.

The Undivided Five is another record with grand ambitions from A Winged Victory For The Sullen. Indeed, so cinematic are these compositions you could join them up with much of the music they have previously written for film and television. From the swelling strings of opener ‘Our Lord Debussy’ to the intimate, spare piano chords on final track ‘Keep It Dark, Deutschland’, everything here is designed with the intention of stoking strong emotion in the listener.

O’Halloran and Wiltzie have clearly paid great attention to detail in both the composition and recording of The Undivided Five. The use of granular synthesis and time-stretched textures provides their compositions with yet more space, while that aforementioned piano is recorded with such depth that it fills out the track on its own. The influence of contemporaries Sigur Ros and Olafur Arnalds - both residents of Iceland, O’Halloran’s new home - remains as strong as ever in the pair’s aesthetic.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen offer intense drones, sweeping ambiences and tender classical compositions on their latest full-length The Undivided Five.