Long live rock, I need it every night

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Electronica 101

The past few posts I touched on my ignorance of electronica/dance/whatever. It was also a topic of discussion w/ the rest of Rock Club in regards to Datarock and Ki:Theory. I tend to dismiss much of this music without really giving it a chance. Case in point, I went back and listened to Datarock and some of it's pretty good. It's not something I'd put on my iPod but it's not as bad as I first thought.

After I badmouthed the new albums by Spiritualized, M83, and Cut Copy, Stutts (our Rock Club proxy and sometimes reviewer) emailed me with a list of albums to check out. It wasn't a list of the best electronic/electro-pop/ambient albums ever and they're not all favorites of his. He just offered them up as a good examples of various genres. He did a nice job with the recommendations because no two albums are alike. It's impressive b/c Stutts is no club kid. He just knows a lot about music (and porn).

I'll post my reviews of the 10 albums recommended. Here's my take on the first five along with a description from Stutts:

Amon Tobin - Supermodified

Stutts: A.T. has an interesting back-catalog, mostly b/c of his creative breaks and use of retro-jazz. Yeah, there's a lot of djs out there that incorporate jazz elements (a notable album is St Germain's 'Tourist'.) But the particular jazz samples are inspired and usually serve as flourishes, not the main element. The guy can go from slow trip-hop to manic drill-n-bass but most tracks are moody with a slight up-tempo beat. His soundtrack to the Splinter Cell game is excellent and even his older Cujo work rivals the best stuff found on late-90s Ninja Tune. But Supermodified is plain cool.

Jumbo Slice: All this Jazz talk had me worried. I'm sure there's Jazz I'd love but since I'm usually exposed to the Smooth variety, I tend to avoid Jazz. Stutts description above is right on the mark. Tobin's samples and accents work well with the electronic elements. The first half is definitely strong. I like the tracks with bigger beats ("Get Your Snack On", "Marine Machines") as opposed to the mellow songs (like "Slowly".) Tobin also released a song called "Hot Korean Moms" so he gets bonus points for that. Rating: Three and a Half Bowls of Kimchi.

The Third Eye Foundation - Little Lost Soul

Stutts: I wanted to pick something that pushed the experimental envelope just a bit w/out going full into Autechre territory (by the way, if you want to hear a great Autechre track, check out Clipper.) This dude has a sense of humor. It's dark but it's there. Some manic drum/drill beats over very moody and even creepy textures. I'm recommending this album as a starter but I think Ghost and In Version are also worth checking out.

Jumbo Slice: Never heard of The Third Eye Foundation but if he's on Merge he's doing something right. Merge is a great record company. Reading the description from Stutts, I figured I'd like this. If I'm going to listen to electronic I prefer it to be "moody, "manic", and "creepy". A sense of humor helps. That's why I like Richard D. James of Aphex Twin. The guy seems like a complete nut job. Matt Elliot, the man behind The Third Eye Foundation, is a little more reserved than James. What Elliot does on this record here isn't too similar to Aphew Twin but a lot of same qualities are there. Rating: Two and a Half Glowsticks.

Cinematic Orchestra - Every Day

Stutts: This one is just flat out pretty. That's it.

Jumbo Slice: There was a short period in my life when I was very much into Acid Jazz. I'd go to the Eighteenth Street Lounge each weekend and hang out on the couches acting all suave. I even bought a bunch of Acid Jazz CDs despite the fact I really didn't care for it. Why be such a jackass/wanker/douchebag? Because I was dating a Norwegian au pair and that's what she and her au pair friends liked. Sounds stupid but it was worth it at the time. Conclusion: Unless it helps with the ladies I see little, if any, reason to listen to Acid Jazz. Cinematic Orchestra is no exception. The instrumental songs are cool/chill out stuff but nothing memorable. I found the singing a big distraction especially on the last track, "Horizon". Every Day only gets a rating of One Martini Glass.

Scanner - Lauwarm Instrumentals

Stutts: Not too many guys who mix in scanned police recordings and eavesdropped phone conversations into their tracks. So this gets a nod.

Jumbo Slice: Freaky weird stuff. If Lost used electronic music instead of a full orchestra Scanner would be perfect for the job. I can just picture Jack and Kate getting chased through the woods as this music played. Certain stretches are monotonous but they manage to move on before it gets boring. Rating: Three Black Smoke Monsters.

Tarwater - Silur

Stutts: Well, it's only right to throw something so very Krauty into the mix here. And this one manages to be both cold/detached and engaging. And is ultimate track ends off with an otherwise joyous mood (considering the rest of the album). It's unusual and worth a mention.

Jumbo Slice: The first couple songs reminded me of Tricky. Granted, my knowledge of electronica is pretty limited so maybe that's a bad comparison. The rest of the album struck me more as post-rock than electronica. It also got more "Krauty" with each song. A few could have been theme music for Sprockets with Dieter. Maybe that's why I liked it. Rating: Three and a Half Frankfurters.


Jimbromski said...

We're no longer going to Datarock. Ironically enough, the reason is because Stutts is having a party that night and he'll cry like a big puss f we miss it.

Part of the problem here is defining the genre, lots of people use samples and loops these days so it's hard to tell what's what. I haven't heard any of the stuff you listened to but I did like Working for a Nuclear Free City a lot, also the Field had some good stuff. I'm always open to this shit.

I also used to frequent 18th St Lounge.

Potsy said...

Your comment on Acid Rock reminds me of why I liked Portishead. Note the past tense. It was great to get busy to, but that new shit I'm hearing on WOXY is aggravating.

"Two glow sticks." Nice. These are the kinds of rating systems I can get behind.

John Foster said...

The fella from Scanner is playing guitar (first time ever) on Colin Newman from Wire's Githead project. A couple of good albums so far.