It's rare that an electronic album is the biggest album of the year, or at least the most hyped. That's certainly the case with Syro, Richard D James first official release under his Aphex Twin moniker for some 13 years. So, is it any good? For starters, it sounds like an Aphex Twin album. Listen through to the 12 tracks, and many of his familiar staples are present - the "Digeridoo" era rave breakbeats, the mangled synth-funk mash-ups, the intoxicating ambient-era melodies, the warped basslines and the skittish drill & bass style rhythms. There's madness, beauty and intensity in spades. In other words, it's an Aphex Twin album, and - as so many have pointed out since the album's release was announced - there's no-one else quite like Richard D James.
With their debut album, Different Fountains reveal themselves to be an outfit capable of delivering on many different levels. The first half of Shrimp That Sleep, which comes to light on Belgian leftfield powerhouse Meakusma, is peppered with song writing sensibility and live band dynamics shot through with warm and lilting electronics. "Catch 23" has a whisper of The Whitest Boy Alive about it, with indie pop replaced by a more psychedelic undertone, but as the album progresses so the vocals dip and the content becomes more abstract. "Deep Home" works around a 4/4 framework with brooding atmospherics, while "Muybridge" makes for something of a highlight with its dubby approach infused with Eastern mysticism in a non-explicit way. As you can tell, it's an eclectic ride and yet a wonderfully cohesive one too.
Postal Service member Jimmy Tamborello has always had a knack for manipulating sound. Sometimes, this has meant subverting accepted genres - lo-fi rock, for example, or IDM. At others, his approach is much more melodious, mixing skewed sounds and popping electronic rhythms with elements of pop. Human Voice, his first album in two years, continues in the latter vein. By and large, it's a thoroughly positive affair, with cheery electronic melodies and cut-up, pitched down vocal samples riding cheeky rhythms and slack-tuned drums. As a result, Human Voice is hard to pin down, being neither straight up ambient or IDM. Regardless, it's a wonderfully evocative and entertaining set.
Originally released back in the early '80s, Veronica Vasicka's label has done its audience a fine service by re-releasing Portrait by Swiss duo Guyers Connection. Full of self-conscious vocals and in places decidedly lo-fi synth lines, it's surprising and disappointing that this collection wasn't a big hit first time round. After all, both "Pogo of Techno" and "Keep the City Clean" are as catchy as an oddball Yazoo, "Die Grille" is a jaw-dropping, windswept synth composition and "National Und Stander" sees the duo fuse ponderous piano lines with pulsing, rippling basslines. Best of all though is "Ein Glas Voll Gurken" a breathy synth-pop song that could have conquered charts had it been sung in English.
The Essence Of The Earth As Arch As Arc - (4:30) 152 BPM
Bodycells Fortress - (4:42) 89 BPM
There With The Boxer The Fog & Pale Queens In White Panties Dance - (3:19) 96 BPM
Blind Guide Killing A Lioness - (2:36) 89 BPM
On The Roads A Message Of Home - (2:22) 150 BPM
Her Prints Will Light The Path - (3:01) 90 BPM
Birthnight - (13:57) 140 BPM
Prince Of The Immortal Woods - (4:17) 157 BPM
With a mind-bending array of releases behind him, largely on cassette, it's not easy to get a firm grip on what Hans Dens' Innercity project is all about, but then that's not necessarily what it's about. In the same spirit of adventure that possesses the likes of Ekoplekz, the music on A Lion Baptism is a chaotic blend of noise and drone studies with a nod to Musique Concrete in the manic and detailed deployment of samples. At times this can reach discernible musical peaks, only to be manhandled by another barrage of sonic grot wielded with a thrilling impulsiveness. The diversity on the release will keep your brain on its toes, touching upon so many different tones and moods across the eight track savagery.