It’s another socially isolated Pandemic Thursday here in Los Angeles. We’re in the last week of October, and with temperatures dropping, and Coronavirus raging, we’re hunkering-down and spending more quality time with our music.
“Dancing About Architecture,” is our new monthly top 10 round-up of albums, mixtapes, and audio treats. All of this extra stay-at-home time is allowing for our Western Division Office to spend some extra quality time with music that we love, and want to share with you. Expect some light to be shed on the new, the not-so-new, the forgotten, the underground, the obscure, and the pop sleepers, that bring us solace and joy.
Pantha du Prince – Conference of Trees
The album opening track, Approach in a Breeze, starts off with slowing building ambient sounds that build, shimmer, drone and fade in and out. It’s a string-heavy affair, that lulls you into a hypnotic sense of well-being, while nudging ever-forward into vague terrain. The opening track blends seamlessly into the next (Transparent Tickle Shining Glace), not necessarily like a dj mix, but rather like the album was recorded in a single setting.
It feels at times like an ambient jam session, having different elements move to the foreground, while others are relegated to the back. This ebb and flow maintains until track 5, Roots Making Family, when the ambient sounds are punctuated but a pulsing 4/4 beat. Lots of organic sounds, chimes, bells, African-sounding rhythms, and field recordings of birds. Soothing sounds for troubling times.
Giorgio Moroder – Midnight Express (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
This 1978 record is something of an iconic piece of work, who’s legacy as a record has massively eclipsed the movie for which it was written. This in part thanks to the song “Theme From Midnight Express (Instrumental),” which has been sampled by J. Dilla (RIP), Outkast, and a whole slew of other savvy producers.
Recently I was listening to Mathewdavid’s superb record, “Time Flying Beats,” and this distinctive synth-line from this song appears on the track “Millennial Midnight.” This sends me down a train-spotting rabbit hole, which lead me to the record, and to really digging-in the sonic buffet. The schmaltz of David Castle and Chris Bennett’s songs on the album not withstanding, you’re left with an absolute stellar soundtrack of amazing sci-fi future synth music from one of the masters.
Sault – Untitled (Black Is)
Untitled (Black Is) which came out in this year, in an absolute scorcher. Equal parts post-punk in the vein of ESG and Liquid Liquid, deep and timeless soul that sits right in the pocket of 60’s era Motown and Stax, and experimenting with the “studio as an instrument” concept that give a just-right amount of art rock vibe.
The lyrics and messaging are a timely celebration of black empowerment and revolution, with an opening chant of “The revolution has come / Still won’t put down the gun,” that’s taken from the Black Panthers, it sets the tone for for this extraordinary LP. One just has to start to scan the liner notes to these gems to start to understand exactly why this record is so damn good. Untitled (Black Is) is about as close to a transient musical experience as I’ve had in quite some time. It’s an incredibly special record.
Four Tet – Sixteen Oceans
Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) has had one of the more interesting career arcs as an electronic musician in the past 20 years. From his debut Record “ Dialogue,” Which sounds more like a live experimental folk band (which he has some experience with, considering that he’s produced two of Sunburned hand of the Man’s records), to his solidified place as a “big tent” DJ at large festivals, he has always blazed his own trail when it came to the type of music and performer he has been.
Sixteen Oceans is the perfect combination of all of his influences over this arc. From 4/4 dance floor fillers, to downtempo and ambient tracks, the records float from tempo-to-tempo, all the while maintain a solidly organic sound.
Autechre – SIGN
IDM list nerds rejoice! Autechre is back with their 14th studio album, SIGN, for Warp Records. After years of delving into deep abstract sonic territory that was more aligned with music concrete than having any resemblance to melodic music at all, this album is an interesting combination of experimental computer-generated sounds, and Lush ambient melodies, and seems to perfectly combined the group’s early work (Amber, Tri Repetae, Incunabula among these) and their more recent, and arguably more challenging, with records like Elseq 1-5, NTS Sessions, and Exai. To my ears, this is the most emotive, lush, and deeply soulful record the duo has put out in a decade. A densely beautiful record.
Sam Prekop – Comma
Sam Prekop continues his solo records as an exploration of electronic music, and mines new sonic territory with “Comma.” This record seamlessly moves from ambient, downtempo, and even 4/4 techno, without ever losing Sam’s “signature” sound, which is decidedly experimental, lush, and filled with complex harmonies that somehow still have an accessible and almost pop sensibility. An excellent record, and defiantly a contender for record of the year.
We had a change to speak with Sam Prekop a few weeks ago, on Episode 10 of the Architects and Heroes Livestream show, which you can see here:
Roberto Carlos Lange – Kite Symphony, Four Variations
Roberto Carlos Lange (aka Helado Negro) has created a beautiful ambient record, based on graphic scores created in collaboration with visual artist Kristi Sword, composer Rob Mazurek, and violist Jeanann Dara. To fully appreciate the depth of work, you need to immerse yourself in the video work, listen with headphones on, read the liner notes. “Four Variations,” is a sound companion to “Kite Symphony,” which is described as “a new, non-linear, and impressionistic film, live score, and body of sculptural work that explores the landscape of Chihuahuan Desert through wind, sound, and light.” Its beauty lay not only in the combination of field recordings, acoustic studio recordings, and electronic sounds that subtly ebb and flow throughout the recording, but in the concept itself.
Lange describes the recording as “a collection of impressionistic sound pieces and invites the listener to open their ears to the sky, the sound of cacti, and the feeling of the wind on their skin.”
Dimensional Holofonic Sound – Seeing is Believing
Ben Stokes (aka Dimensional Holofonic Sound, or DHS) is something of a shape-shifter of culture. With this DHS moniker, he had a certified global techno hit with “House of God.” As one of the founding members of H-Gun Labs, he made videos for Public Enemy, Nine Inch Nails, De La Soul, The Orb and Ministry. As a director and visual/video designer, he’s been a part of DJ Shadow’s live show and done countless large-scale festivals. Oh yeah, he’s also a member of Meat Beat Manifesto, and together with Jack Dangers, runs Tino Corp. Records. Saying the man has street cred is, well, an under statement.
His current release “Seeing is Believing“ is a brilliant piece of work, that somehow manages to simultaneously be an incantation of the visceral, raw energy of rave and acid house at it’s inception, and at the same time a bridge to the future with the precise production. A scorching brew of bass-heavy breakbeats, cinematic vocal samples, atomic lounge sensibility, funk, and four-to-the-floor club stompers, this record is a timeless artifact from the future.
Be sure and check out the other worldly companion website to the album as well: https://www.seeingisbelieving.tv/
Phillip Sherburne – Harvest Moon (Mixtape)
While most people know Philip Sherburne as a music journalist, my first encounters with him in the early aughts in San Francisco was as a DJ and Selector. His ability to unearth producers, bands, and sound artists, and give them a larger platform (because of said music journalism), has always made him someone I’ve looked to as a curator of sound.
With his “Harvest Moon” mixtape, he is firmly in “ambient” territory here, weaving a series of slow-moving sonic sculptures that are the perfect antidote to the persist feeling that the world is folding in on itself.
KAMM – Cookie Policies
KAMM is something of a ‘supergroup‘ of highly accomplished musicians, who’s individual efforts and overlapping social circles in the electronic music world of Deejaying and Producing had them all serendipitously in Berlin at the same time for the same reasons. While Marc Smith, Alland Byallo, Kenneth Scott, and Marc Barrite (aka Dave Aju) all have deep roots in the club world, the collaboration yields something in a much different lane.
The end result of this collaboration is a record that takes the sonic palette and urgency of dance music, gives it a healthy does of mindfulness and introspection, slows its tempo, and gives it an organic cleanse. The subtle, layered density, and pure talent of the musicians, makes this a perfect environment to exercise the demons of heartache and loss, to burn the effigy of tragedy, and to cultivate a ritual of transcendence.
The words of Marc Barrite (aka Dave Aju) are far better than mine to express it…
Originally written and recorded in an era perhaps less fitting for the deeper musings on heartache and longing, psychedelic daydream pondering, and pervasive sense of hopeful melancholy it possesses, it now sees the light of day, seemingly right on time and wow in such a way. This is not only the most beautiful-looking and sounding package of music I’ve ever had the honor of being a part of, but also maintains the feeling well amongst decades of unique record collecting and obsessing.Marc Barrite – aka Dave Aju
And we will be continuing to clock time on our own decades of unique record collecting and obsessing when we see you back here next month with out second edition of “Dancing About Architecture.”
-Stephen R. (of Zygote)