As I did last year, I asked Ian Hodgson of the mighty Moon Wiring Club to write about his favourite “Most-played and/or Puzzling Records” of the year. Here’s his top 6 for 2011:
01 Araabmuzik ~ Electronic Dream
This is an arcade-game hot-house of a record. Brash, hard, colourful, wrong in many ways but exhilarating and joyful. To start off predictably, Electronic Dream takes you… on a journey. So you wearily pack a Thermos and slouch. But wait! After skilfully plotting through a familiar terrain of neck-snapping MPC beats, you find yourself veering off course into the quagmire of Trance at break-beat speed. ‘Follow me’ say the ghosts of Jam & Spoon ~ you’re mere moments away from plummeting down the ravine of Cheese, happily shrugging. Puzzlingly, at the last moment, you’re expertly kept on course. Quite often favourite musical moments are made when predictability is taken away, and while it now seems inevitable that Electronic Dream had to exist, the mixture of Euphoric Trance and MPC beats created an excitement missing from the perimeters of safe genres. By several furlongs my most-listened to record of 2011.
02 2NE1 ~ Can’t Nobody
If you’ve always had a love for electronic pop-music, 2011 was the year that repeatedly delivered joyful, daft, sonically inventive, sometimes appalling, often deranged catchy tunes week after week. That a large chunk of the vocal content sloshed around an endless vortex of ‘shots’, ‘the club’, and ‘partying’ put me in mind of being trapped in a pleasure space-liner from a late 1970s sci-fi programme (something like the casino-world of Freedom City from Blake’s 7). There was something old-futuristic about this hedonistic maelstrom trapped in a loop of enforced enjoyment, and the sheer amount of it, where stylishly robotic singers became interchangeable, all had my ears in ghastly/delightful rapture/rupture. My pick of the bunch was from the K-pop/hip-hop quartet 2NE1, where the ultra-styled Can’t Nobody provided a double-chorus of double-pleasure. If you were in 1979, imagining what pop music of 2011 would sound like, then this would, I fancy, hit the nail on the head and deliver. It’s always a party.
03 Laurel Halo ~ Hour Logic
Sometimes a record arrives bringing with it a satchel-full of ‘Lost’ posters. Hallo? Has anyone seen Beaumont Hannant? Reload remixed by The Black Dog ~ where are you? My Yellow Wise Rug ~ re-rolled back into the attic? Listening to Hour Logic brings back the thought of many wonderfully distinctive electronic records, but it isn’t a pastiche, more like a clean Knife in a world reasonably obsessed with filleting an ever-decreasing stockpile of 1980s pop. It’ll be interesting to see where Laurel Halo goes next, as this is too good a record not to invest in further.
04 James Ferraro ~ Far Side Virtual
Listening to this record, always in the background is the sound of soft laughter. Whether it’s coming from an old PC in the attic, or leaking from a cracked laser-disc of Freejack is unclear, but if you’ve ever found yourself wanting to hear what the Lawnmower Man’s ‘hold’ music sounds like ~ now’s your chance. More than anything else this record reminded me of exploration computer games, such as the Aquanaut’s Holiday, not just as music, but it captures the very motion of gameplay, with the constant chiming-in of gentle pseudo-exotic piano invoking menu-select options or inventory screens, while the plastic-orchestral synth-washes indicate you’ve failed to photograph a giant squid. It also captured the mood of the Brian Eno records that nobody talks about, such as the deeply superb The Drop. Listening to Far Side Virtual on clear vinyl is a throughly enjoyable confusing amusing experience. Now excuse me while I check my inbox.
05 Woebot ~ Chunks
This is a very odd chicken-in-a-basket record that I consistently failed to get my head around all year, and wonderfully so. It has a weird mood of despondent Madlib/Dilla, with a forlorn grasping of breakbeats and grunting chiseled from a stockpile of 1970s mouldy rock records. It’s probably the most accurately named record of last year, and fills the mind with an image of musical pineapple/dog-food chunks, slopped out of a tin and sequencing into each other with a DIY MPC flex. It’s also worth noting that Woebot has recently released a tasty ebook on the subject of lost-rock. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B006TV1HKQ
06 Charli XCX ~ Nuclear Seasons
With post-80s quirk-murky-vocals and dark melodics now 10-a-penny, Nuclear Seasons took a little while to stand out a mile, but once it clicked it soon became an obsessional looping, mainly as it’s actually a pop song, with an emotive chorus, distinctive vocals, memorable melody, and completely killer Oo-Oo-Whop-Ahh! hook. It could easily sneak onto CD2 of Now 81 without anyone batting an over-loaded eyelash. Oo-Oo-Whop-Ahh! I’m I looking forward to a full-length Charli XCX album in 2012? Oo-Oo-Whop-Ahh!
There were many other splendid musical moments during 2011, from Funkystepz’ John Wayne to Julianna Barwick, and It would be amiss not to mention splendid turns from perennial favourites Jon Brooks, Pye Corner Audio, Tri Angle records, & Blackest Ever Black. And the Autechre EPs 1991-2002 box-set was most certainly the most enjoyable artifact of the year.
Making predictions of 2012 in 2012, isn’t a wonderfully advanced skill, but it’ll be interesting to see where the influence of 80/90s Industrial & Goth goes to, as something like the 1994 Laibach Satanic Techno offshoot Peter Paracelsus still has untapped potential, and it would be also lovely for someone to re-evaluate ISDN-era FSOL. I’m additionally poised in anticipation for five forthcoming records from: Grimes (now signed to 4AD because ‘Goth is sick’) Volume Three of Pye Corner Audio’s Black Mills tapes , Symmetry’s Themes For an Imaginary Film, Black Rain ~ Now I’m Just A Number: Soundtracks 1994-1995, and the hopefully triumphant return of Dead Can Dance…
The new Moon Wiring Club longplayer, CLUTCH IT LIKE A GONK, is out now.