01. Morphosis: What Have We Learned (M>O>S)
Although Rabih Beaini sure likes to improvise (check him performing live with his analogue setup whenever you can), he has managed to develop a puzzling signature sound that is as rough and ready as it is beautifully textured and detailed. In comparison to this album, most of 2011’s other productions in electronic music sound like wringing a handful of mediocre ideas to death with a considerable array of gadgets, but no result. Truly individual music from a true individual.
02. Reel By Real: Surkit Chamber – The Melding (Artless)
Considering how long Martin Bonds was an active part of Detroit Techno’s history books, the actual released output was irritatingly scarce. Listening to 2010’s retrospective on the same label, I had the feeling that he was perfectly fine with keeping his back catalogue slim but impressive. And then this came along, a collection of more recent tracks, and I just felt grateful that this lovingly curated album made public what could have been missed so easily, yet again. Employing a much wider set of references, this is the sound of Motor City transcending the paralysis of its own tradition and then some.
03. Jeff Mills: Star Chronicles – Orion (Axis)
Admittedly some of the most determined space traveller’s recent output is not without flaws, but never enough so as to get me tired of his ongoing mission to refine his sound. Still, every single one of his releases seems to be more unique and consequent than the majority of Techno productions some are ready to dismiss him for. He has created his own universe, and he roams in it. His music has surpassed club credentials, and even if some of his concepts may be pretentious, I would never blame him for pursuing his interests and painting them with his increasingly more spaced-out sounds that are so obviously his own. Let others try to reach the point where they become their own reference. Most will be forgotten when Jeff Mills will be heading for yet another galaxy.
04. Virgo Four: Resurrection (Rush Hour Recordings)
So many tales about the ruthless business tactics of the early Chicago House labels, and unfortunately most of them are true. I don’t even want to know how many gems have never seen the light of day because not every artist was willing and able to take a stand against that. I’m just grateful that sometimes things turn out how they should have, no matter how long it takes. This box set has not a track on it without the power to name and shame legions of clueless copycats. It is a testimony to musicians doing music because they just have to, even without anybody even having the chance to notice it. For every House afficionado still admiring the sheer beauty of their original Trax releases, they did more, in more styles, and now, at last, it can be heard.
05. Surgeon: Breaking The Frame (Dynamic Tension)
It is almost ridiculous that Surgeon is regularly drawn into the debate about what will become of Dubstep since it embraced Techno. For certain, he does not have to worry to deliver less in a genre newly discovered than in a genre left behind. Both Dubstep and Techno owe a lot to his work as DJ and producer, and this album does not even stress that, it just shows how he keeps getting better and better with what he does, and how he will thus be ever important to what is going on.
06. Pinch & Shackleton: Pinch & Shackleton (Honest Jon’s)
It seemed that as soon as rumour spread about the two collaborating in a session, the album was about to be released. But it certainly does not sound like a quickfire result. It is impressively accomplished, and already after a short while in, you begin to care less about who contributed what to the proceedings. It is just what modern electronic music should sound like when two major talents get together and nothing less. Keep the continuum and post-whatever talk for those who artistically vanish trying.
07. Container: LP (Spectrum Spools)
And suddenly, among all the good ole warehouse days mimicry, be it by means of analogue equipment or software replica, appeared this album. And it blew most of the competition to bits. I still do not know much about the artist nor do I care. I just hope he continues with this considerably psychotic and no less gripping take on the sounds of way back when and transforming it into something way ahead. A fine example for that it is always better to deconstruct than to reconstruct your references. It just lasts longer.
08. Drums Off Chaos + Jens Uwe Beyer: Drums Off Chaos + Jens Uwe Beyer (Magazine)
One of the most interesting German labels around. All their releases so far do not only look great, they sound great as well. I do not have the slightest doubt that it will be this way for quite some time to come. I’m not particularly knowledgeable in the Krautrock area but enough to maintain that the label’s initial agenda to fuse the modern sound of Cologne with the vintage sound of the German experimental ‘70s is so well-executed that it not only matters but becomes something else entirely. And I trust those people to come up with surprises as well. This project is of course already convincing by the names of the people involved. Jaki Liebezeit is not one to rely on past laurels, and his drumming is as tight and complex as ever, plus it mingles perfectly with the sounds of Beyer’s synths. The generation gap is hereby closed.
09. Ekoplekz: Intrusive Incidentalz Vol. 1 (Punch Drunk)
I can quite understand some people having their doubts about the music of Ekoplekz. To the passing listener it might seem chaotic, unstructured, aimless even. Retrofuturism drawer opens, Ekoplekz disappears. I, however, am old enough to vividly remember the vast output of the ‘80s tape circuit and all the wonderful ideas that came with it. And the ideas of Ekoplekz are so wonderful that they merit whatever release he has in mind. Kudos to Punch Drunk for featuring someone not afraid to merge the UK progress in bass and beats with sounds lifted from a romantic take on all the library musicians and electronic sound experimentalists who never had their say. Keep soldering that DIY gear and make me happy!
10. Kid Creole & The Coconuts: I Wake Up Screaming (Strut)
Of course the Kid’s comeback could not compare to the masterpieces of his past. The Coconuts are not the same, nor is his band. But as with his cohort Coati Mundi’s recent album, the lyricist wit is still there, as are some of the songs. As if I would mind. For me August Darnell is a genius and forever will be, and just to know that he keeps on doing what he is doing is well enough for me.