In this day and age you could hardly claim to be starved of good music. It does depend on your perspective and your habitual listening tendencies, but anyone with a computer and a half decent Internet connection can have their sticky whiskers all up in good music's grill at the touch of a button. If you look in the right places there's even super switched on people that get paid to advise you what to listen to, although it's important to differentiate between super switched on and bandwagon jumping, unimaginative, shouty bastards that have no right to do so.
In light of this you'd even be forgiven for being overindulged, like the morbidly obese man at the end of The meaning of Life, unable to ingest just one more wafer thin mint. If this is the case for you (as it has been at times for me) the best response is to retreat into your shell, taking with you only what you need to survive until the glut has receded sufficiently for you to venture out into the world of music once again. That might seem like an elaborate excuse for me to inflict my digital age version of Radio 4's Desert Island Discs upon you, and you're probably right in thinking so. However we've started now and there's no turning back. So, if you were stuck inside your shell, hiding from the world of music, here's the three things that I (and subsequently you) would take with me:
Clubroot -II: MMX
Did you ever wonder what exactly it was that made some music so incredibly nostalgic and personally resonant? When something really hits you in the chest, sending rushes down your spine and raising the hairs on your arms and neck, rather than simply providing you with basic aural stimulation. Obviously there are certain stylistic devices that can be used to evoke nostalgia within a designated audience, this is ostensibly what modern electronic music is based around. But until I listened to something that really scratched a personal itch this week I never really gave this sense of wonder and breathlessness a second thought. Then a series of coincidental happenings led to me reading this explanation of Hauntology from wise music sage Mark 'K-Punk' Fisher, at which point I gained a new found respect for this audiological discipline of emotional manipulation. Put simply (although I suggest you read the K-Punk article for a more complete description) Hauntology is the process by which certain artists use sounds from the music that they were enraptured with in their formative years; by ingraining such sounds into their compositions they can evoke the sounds of the past in an ethereal sense, essentially imbuing their music with the ghosts of the past. A perfect example of this would be Burial, who's mournful evocation of the long dead rave culture resonates with many of us who grew up influenced by Rave (and it's further evolutions as Jungle and Garage), tapping into a sort of subconscious collective nostalgia.
In light of this I understand why I love Clubroot's second offering so much. Self titled once again (this time as II: MMX), it picks up where his debut left off. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; the first album was incredibly lush; saturated with rich, deep hues and imbued with a wistful sense of longing. If it fell down, which is possible dependent upon your viewpoint, it was perhaps due was not having the ambition to look beyond the mood pervading it, as though it was trapped in one frame of mind for it's duration. The second album begins with Orbiting, a track which, though starting with it's roots in the same territory as the album preceding it, soon spreads it's wings to soar away into the strata above. What follows is, at least in my opinion, the finest complete Dubstep album since Burial's second full length, somewhat fitting considering the raft of Burial comparisons thrown at Clubroot in the wake of his debut. Despite the similarities in beat structure and hauntological mourning of Rave's downfall (check the glorious Toe to Toe for a shining example), throughout this album his other influences make much stronger and more lasting impressions. His professed love of early tech drum and bass from the likes of Nico, Optical and Dom & Roland is certainly evident, Whistles and Horns sounds so much like an Ed Rush and Optical tune (who's name escapes me) that you'd be forgiven for thinking of it as a 140bpm homage. However in this modern-retrospective form there seems to be more in the way of allusions to his contemporaries such as Kryptic Minds and Instra:mental, perhaps because like Burial, they continue to push forwards whilst always gazing over their shoulder at the music they were first infatuated with.
Lorn - Nothing Else
When I first heard Lorn's beats a while ago now, I got the impression that he was quite an angry individual. If you were paying attention to the Brainfeeder website or Open Music a year or so ago, you would doubtlessly have picked up 7&13 or Trained by the Pain (his remixes and re-appropriations of some Biggie tunes) and wondered how this moody, frictious, razor sharp music fitted in amongst that of his West Coast peers. The paranoid, psychosis ridden counterpart to their smoked out Cali vibes perhaps? This isn't to say that it wasn't good, far from it in fact, but it certainly left you feeling uneasy and more than a little bit nervous. The sort of tunes that might make a highly strung dog urinate on your rug. Then, after hearing his Mix for Mary Anne Hobbs in November, I was completely astounded. The moody vibes and saw-toothed, bowel shredding bass were still present in abundance, but now it seemed that all the awkwardness had gone, kind of like an immensely creative but introverted teenager coming of age and finally beginning to assert himself on the world. Maybe that's a bit of a cliche, but if you track down his back catalogue (it shouldn't be difficult, it's all available for little or no money on his myspace) and listen to it in comparison with this album you might see what I'm talking about.
Nothing else is nothing short of breathtaking, it's an album of continuous highlights and even after repeated listens its still hard to identify any weak spots in it's armour. Consequently its difficult to pick out anything that really stands out in respect to the fact that it all does. However at a push I'd have to say that Void I and Void II take the cake for the sheer dramatics; the first part rolls to and fro like a WWII fighter plane being drink-driven through a storm in the mountains before disappearing into a thick layer of cloud. 'Shit' you think to yourself, 'hes gone and crashed it into a cliff face'. Then, as you listen for a distant explosion, Void II comes roaring out of the abyss at top speed, all guns ablaze and howling like a triumphant banshee. Throughout the album the beats are hard as nails and incredibly well arranged, building to intense machine gun rattles at times before stalling and falling apart at the seams, only to regather themselves and assault you once again just moments later.
There's also a few moments of melancholy beauty to be found amongst the brooding intensity, Glass & Silver and Cherry Moon in particular provide some levity in the midst of the storm that rages around them, the latter a lovely arrangement of emotion laden strings and off-key musicbox chimes amongst a chattering bassline and skipping drums, kind of like a Portishead playing with a string quartet in a post apocalyptic tundra at nightfall (it's available as a free download in a variety of places around the net so tap it into google if you want a sampler, also there's this album minimix on the Brainfeeder Soundcloud). Finally there's even a cursory venture into anthem territory on the last track What's the Use, which sounds rather like something Nosaj Thing's arcanely reanimated corpse might make, before a perfectly judged and rather haunting vocal judders through unexpectedly, leaving it's doom laden message resounding around your skull as the album winds down to a stuttering close.
Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
If the vast hype wagon about this album has passed you by, then I'm assuming you don't have the Internet, you hate going outdoors and you even gave up on reading, watching the telly and talking to anyone because other people and their opinions terrify you. In which case you probably aren't reading this anyway. The rest of you will have either listened to it already and, like me, become utterly enraptured by it, or you'll have regarded the hype with the same world weary cynicism you reserve for anything proclaimed as next level, unparalleled genius or a game changer by the out of control hyperbole machine that doubles as global music media, and you're currently sneering at anyone who talks about it with the same self assured expression of scathing disdain you reserve for anyone who isn't just as narrow minded and opinionated as yourself. I digress, besides I'm not sure that the latter sort of person really exists outside of Internet forums.
Anyway I'm not going to go into the gritty details, or discuss the wonderfully diverse roster of immensely talented musicians that have joined him in creating this wonderful composition, or even explore allusions to his Auntie's theories of astral transcendence. What I want to talk about is all the noises (or 'recurrent sonic motifs' if we're being particular). To begin with there's an achingly beautiful string progression that washes in and out throughout the album, intensifying as the album reaches it's point of crescendo on Drips/ / Aunties Harp. Its here that the 8 bit bleeps of Lotus's own digital legacy fully unite and mesh with the Jazz strings of his family heritage. Every time I listen to it (it's getting on well into double figures now) the very essence of my being seems to sing in reply; essentially its sonic dmt, or perhaps that's too crude a metaphor, but fuck me it's amazing. Then there's this sound, god knows what it is, listen up at the beginning of Arkestry and at the end of Clock Catcher, German Haircut, Drips (and probably others) for what sounds like top end harp strings being lightly brushed but in reverse, then at the end of Table Tennis and throughout Galaxy in Janaki the selfsame noise becomes intensified to the point to where I'll be damned if it doesn't sound like the joyful cries of incredibly tiny people, possibly in raptures over what Flying Lotus has created for them.
I even read in one article in LA weekly that he's secreted recordings of his late mother's life support machines in various places throughout the album, a suggestion that would be incredibly disrespectful if it wasn't sourced from the man himself, so I'm guessing it's true. Perhaps I'm being fanciful but I reckon I can hear such noises in a number of tracks, particularly Table Tennis and Computer Face/Pure Being. All this aside the sheer number of noises used in this album is utterly stupendous, bear in mind that any given producer works within the framework of a certain limited palette of noises, the more adventurous the producer - the more extensive the palette of noises. Of course there's always the option to branch out from this and many do at some levels, but it is for this reason that so many producers create a sound that is recognisable as their own. With this in mind, whilst Cosmogramma manages to sound like Flying Lotus throughout, it also sounds like any number of other things at the same time thanks to the multitude of noises and influences at play. All in all if Ellison set out to make a work that mapped out the endless sounds and textures of the universe, he's come far closer to it than anyone has ever been before.