With 2,175 posts in 16 months, you're bound to miss something. We've gone ahead and gathered some of our favorite tracks from now and yesteryear that didn't get much play, but deserved it.
Hubble: “Nude Ghost”
Ital: “Only For Tonight (Dubout/Saviour’s Love Megamix)”
The Rebel: “Prove It”
Today, Blondes celebrate the final installment of their 2011 12" trilogy for RVNG Intl. with a homemade video of the latest's A-side, "Wine." The two non-blondes compiled footage of gloving-- a rave craze where people cover their fingertips in black light paint and move them to the music. And while the eight-minute video has loads of funny characters-- give yourself a pat on the back if you recognized fourth place International Gloving Championship winner Ice Kream Teddy-- you can't help but find common ground with the Deadmau5 t-shirt-wearin', rabbit mask-sportin' teens whose minds are totally blown by gloving's undeniably mesmerizing beauty. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
Wine/Water 12" is out today on RVNG Intl.
Recent Harald Grosskopf interviewers, Blondes, unleashed their latest video for "Pleasure." Director Farley Gwazda said that the vid was "assembled entirely from animated gifs-- scientific diagrams, mathematical figures, representations of data, and renderings of simulated systems." Gwazda goes on to say that it "appropriates images meant to serve as a rational demonstration of logical concepts and transmogrifies them into a cosmic trip," which sounds pretty sweet to me. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones via XLR8R
"Pleasure" is from second of three 12" slabs of wax leading up to their full-length, coming this Fall from RVNG Intl. The duo's also going to be touring at the end this month through the next, read on to peep the video and the tour dates.
Perhaps best known as the drummer for Klaus Schulze, Ash Ra Tempel (with Manuel Göttsching), and Cosmic Jokers, Berlin's Harald Grosskopf was a German electronic music pioneer in his own right. Recorded in the Summer of 1979, his debut solo LP, Synthesist, was the euphoric, arpeggiated culmination of a two-month struggle with a finnicky Minimoog and a Revox reel-to-reel. The record, released the following year by Hamburg's Sky Records, was all but forgotten until Brooklyn label RVNG Intl. decided to re-issue it, along with a bonus disc of remixes by a handful of analogue synth revivalists, including Blondes, Oneohtrix Point Never, CFCF, Stellar Om Source, Arp, and James Ferraro. In April, Harald flew out to New York with guitarist and longtime collaborator Axel Manrico Heilhecker to perform Synthesist live for the first time ever at Manhattan's Le Poisson Rouge, with guest appearances by Alexis Georgopoulos (Arp), Laurel Halo, Julianna Barwick, and other millennial admirers. The AZ editorial linked up with Harald, Axel, and Sam Haar and Zachary Steinman of Blondes the night before the show at a restaurant in Greenpoint to talk synthesizers, Timothy Leary, and the origins of the term "krautrock."
Sam: Is it weird playing your old stuff again?
Harald: Actually, in the beginning, about four months ago, I was so over this old stuff. My idea was to take the original tapes [from Synthesist] and cut samples from it. So I was trying to hold of an 8-track, half-inch tape recorder, which is very hard to get. And I got one, but the machine was fucked, so I found some dude who was able to fix it. I tried to reconstruct it, but then I started falling in love with the music as it was. I hadn’t heard the record in 15 years. And suddenly this interest-- it was very nice. And being able to reconstruct it and improvise with it was really satisfying.
Sam: How did you get in contact with RVNG Intl.?
Harald: You know Manuel Göttsching? He put us in contact. Everything was arranged via the Internet; it’s fascinating. In the old days, it was like 500 envelopes with tapes. Everybody can do it now, and it’s faster. And free, basically.
According to Interview magazine, NYC electronic duo Blondes has evolved into the kind of band that splits its time between "playing DIY shows in Brooklyn and DJing penthouse parties." I guess we've missed out on the penthouse parties part, but it's hard to imagine even the pearl-earringed bi-coastal jet set not wanting to get down the B-side on their new Lover/Hater 12", which dropped last month on RVNG Intl. Like "Lover," on the flip, "Hater" offers about a dozen rhythms to groove to at once; choosing which one to actually latch on to at any given moment is less about what Blondes are pushing to the forefront, and more about what we choose to hear. Soft-fi visuals courtesy video artist Phil Logan make the sensory hologram complete. --Emilie Friedlander, Altered Zones
"I had to come up with song titles for the album. I never liked that process. For me, music as an abstract language is hard to consolidate into a few words. Still, the task was at hand and what immediately settled upon me while recollecting the recording process in West Germany was my intense interaction with the electronic music equipment. Over that time, I had 'synthesized' with the technology, hence the title track and album."
--Harald Grosskopf on the inspiration for the title track of his seminal 1980 album, Synthesist. Stream the whole album and read the track-by-track breakdown of Synthesist from the man himself at Self-Titled.
Grosskompf will be playing Synthesist at New York's Unsound Festival tomorrow (Friday) at Le Poisson Rouge with the help of Laurel Halo plus recent remixers Arp and Blondes on stage. Curated by FRKWYS, the night will also see performances by Emeralds and horror film composer Alan Howarth. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
The first Blondes video to actually feature a blonde, these strobing visuals form an appropriately disorienting complement to the house-inspired "Lover," which creates an illusion of acceleration and deceleration through the addition and subtraction of bouncy pulses. The cut introduces the duo's forthcoming Lover/Hater 12" on RVNG Intl., the first in a three-part series in which the duo explore "duality concepts." Listen for the Meredith Monk vocal sample near the end. --Emilie Friedlander, Altered Zones
Lover/Hater is out tomorrow on RVNG
In the spirit of Harald Grosskopf's Synthesist, Christelle Gualdi, aka Stellar OM Source, assembled a mix that captures a time of transition in electronic music, taking us on a tour of prog, New Age, and pop from all over Europe. The mix features Jan Hammer, Peter Schäfer, and Synergy, sounds that have acted as a sort of schematic for Gatekeeper, James Ferraro, and Oneohtrix Point Never. Need proof? Listen to Blondes' remix of Grosskopf's title track, Synthesis:
Cruise on over to Self-Titled to listen to Stellar OM Source's mix, grab RVNG's reissue of Harald Grosskopf's Synthesist packaged with remixes by Blondes, CFCF, Keyhole Voyeur (James Ferraro), and Oneohtrix
A hybrid between a reissue label and a stable of nu-garde Brooklyn artists, New York's RVNG Intl. imprint is marked by a heightened appreciation for music as an active dialogue between past and present-- not to mention an unexplained distate for vowels. Their illustrious FRKWYS series, which began with Volume 2, featured spirited transgenerational exchanges between Excepter, Arp, The Psychic Ills, and a group of A-list electronic masters as varied as Chris & Cosey (of Throbbing Gristle), Anthony Moore (Henry Cow), Hans-Joachim Irmler (Faust), and Detroit techno pioneer Juan Atkins.
Now that RVNG is reissuing Berlin electronic composer and Cosmic Jokers/Ash Ra Temple percussionist Harald Grosskopf's legendary 1980 Synthesist LP, it would seem fitting that the label pay lip service to the inspiration this Sky Records cult favorite has provided to the pilots of the contemporary synth revival. When it drops next Tuesday, the new master of Synthesist will be accompanied by Re-Synthesist, a recreation of the entire album composed of remixes by some of Grosskopf's most ardent millennial admires, including Oneohtrix Point Never, Blondes, Stellar Om Source, CFCF, and even Mr. Jim Ferraro. Check out Blondes' lightly smudged rendition of title track and album centerpiece "Synthesist" below (but not before scoping the original, because it's perfect!).
Synthesist LP re-issue + Re-Synthesist CD are out February 15th via RVNG Intl.
Following last year's Touched EP, Brooklyn's Blondes are readying a new 12" series on the painfully hip New York imprint RVNG Intl., which recently re-issued Ash Ra Tempel and Cosmic Jokers percussionist Harald Grosskopf's legendary Synthesist LP (1980). (Check him out of you like Blondes, because at times, the two can sound an awful lot alike). Last week, the duo announced a North American tour with Simian Mobile Disco and Juan Atkins (DJ) in March; word also just came in that they're also taking up residence in Berlin next month, with a smattering of tour dates on the Continent and in the UK. To psych themselves up, they recently dropped this KUNSTHAUS EU Tour mixtape, which, among other goodies, includes an overdub of Touched's "Paradise City" by their buddy, How to Dress Well. Blondes - KUNSTHAUS EU Tour Mixtape by BLONDES
Lover/Hater 12", the first in the series, rolls out March 15th on RVNG Intl
2/05 Berlin, Germany @ Picknick
2/11 London, UK @ Durrr at XOYO
2/17 Nantes, France @ Lieu Unique
2/18 Antwerp, Belgium @ Karveel
2/19 Glasgow, UK @ Death Disco at The Arches
2/24 London, UK @ Sup Magazine Release Party
2/25 Helsinki, Finland @ YK
2/26 Copenhagen, Denmark @ Dunkel Club
Just when we thought Brooklyn's Blondes were jumping on the dance music train without looking back, London's Dummy hipped us to a modern classical composition for chamber orchestra they debuted in New York this past October at a benefit for local experimental music organization Roulette. Not sure why, but the group have set the piece to footage from the music video for Sophie B. Hawkins' 1994 hit single "Right Beside You", in addition to (possibly) naming it in the pop chanteuse's honor. Listen to Zachary Steinman and Sam Haar discuss the score with legendary performance artist and composer Meredith Monk here (say wha??), and peep some US/Canada tour dates with Simian Mobile Disco and Juan Maclean (DJ) below. Rumor has it that a European tour may also be in the works.
03/08 Vancouver, BC @ Venue
03/09 Seattle, WA @ Neumos
03/10 Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre
03/11 Oakland, CA @ Fox Theatre
03/12 Los Angeles, CA @ Club Nokia
03/14 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theatre
03/16 Chicago, IL @ The Mid
03/17 Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Theatre
03/18 Montreal, QC @ Sat
03/19 New York, NY @ Terminal 5
03/21 Boston, MA @ Paradise
03/22 Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero
03/24 Miami, FL @ White Room w/ SMD DJ set, Radio Slave, special guests
03/25 Miami, FL @ Ultra Festival
The beach is probably one of the last environments that comes mind when thinking of Brooklyn electronic duo Blondes, but this ode to the Pacific Ocean by Future Shuttle's Camilla Padgitt-Coles encourages a more meditative experience of the mile-long dance tracks on last year's Touched EP, which are certainly as horizontal as it gets.
Touched EP is out now via Merok
As 2010 draws to an close, Altered Zones brings you its collective year-end recap. Today, we list our favorite tracks of the year, with favorite albums due tomorrow. You can also check our list of the year's favorite music videos here, and don't forget to stay tuned through the holiday break for daily year-end mixtapes from our favorite artists.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: "Round and Round" [4AD]
Balam Acab: "See Birds" [Tri Angle]
In a year when many artists explored the meaning of image and identity in an age of faceless, over-abundant information, Balam Acab was initially lumped in with a wave of internet-dwelling producers who put more weight on artifice and presentation than substance. "See Birds" (and the ensuing EP) quickly dusted off any scene associations, and distinguished itself by actually owning a deep-rooted, intoxicating groove. From the triplet sway and watery reverb of the beat, to the the ghostly keyboard stabs, to the feedbacking, echoing sample that drives it, "See Birds" stood out by employing dub for it's sonic palette. Its use of vocal samples as an independent instrument rather than a reference, besides resulting in one of the years most bizarrely memorable "hooks," also strips it of any sense of irony, coming off rather like a heartfelt transmission from someone who, at the moment, would really rather be left in the shadows. --Noam Klar
Baby Jazz: "Michael Jordan" [self-released]
Baby Jazz's very first track, "Michael Jordan" is a 12-minute megamix collaboration between Golden Chow (Samuel Cooper of Sunglasses) and Teen Wolfe (Elgin Braden of Aux Arc). The track starts with a cacophony of angular, glitchy samples and reversed female harmonies. But after 80 seconds of rising and waning sonic patterns-- usually lost the moment they are grasped-- a beat finally organizes the chaos. From there on in, Baby Jazz skips from genre to genre and sample to sample like a mini pop culture role call of feel-good cues. We hear Chris Tucker screaming on the phone in Rush Hour, some rando screaming "NOBODY TURNS DOWN DRUGS", orgasms, and the intro to Dolly Parton's "Don't Drop Out". A hilarious and joyful musical rendition of my YouTube history. --Ric Leichtung
Blondes: "You Mean So Much to Me" [Merok]
Along with Teengirl Fantasy, Brooklyn electronic duo Blondes pretty much led the pack this year in re-envisioning the electronic music pioneers of the 20th century as music the rock kids could get down to. “You Mean So Much To Me,” the 9-minute opener of the duo's Touched EP, sounds like something Juan Atkins, E2-E4-era Manuel Göttsching, and Cluster might come up with if they convened for a late-night bump-and-grind on an autobahn ride to nowhere. Sam Haar and Zachary whisper synth ribbons and ethereal vocal samples into a delicate cymbal patter until they unleash the eternal techno 4/4. You can read it as an invitation to dance or permission to sink deeper into your beanbag; either way, it's proof that the millennial generation is making headway on a new, glitch-free strain of intelligent dance music. --Emilie Friedlander
Dead Gaze: "Take Me Home or I Die Alone" [Fire Talk]
Cole Furlow, aka Dead Gaze, has been churning out one fantastic jam after another this year, but few tracks anywhere have struck me the way this one does. Through the first half, Furlow sounds like he's pleading with someone. More importantly, it sounds like he really means it. As the track progresses, the song gets brighter, leaving us to believe that someone must have finally taken him home. --Jheri Evans
Games: "Planet Party" [Hippos in Tanks]
It's been nine months since Games first arrived via "Planet Party." Needless to say, a lot has happened since, but the original genus for the duo's work still holds true. "Planet Party" is a diabolical excursion into midi-funk through the backdoors of our collective computer love, culling our internal memory for sampled bits and progenerated synth scapes. If there was ever a definitive sound of the past year, and counterpoint to "proto-chillwave," this was it. --Michael McGregor
Girl Unit: "Wut" [Night Slugs]
Counting local club producers such as Mosca, Kingdom, and label founders L-Vis 1990 and Bok Bok among its ranks, the artist collective and upstart UK label Night Slugs had one of the most influential and consistent runs of releases this year, presenting an assimilated and innovative take on UK bass music. Girl Unit's "Wut" was easily its defining moment, in which the disparate elements of Southern rap, electro, grime and Baltimore club crystallized into one bold, forceful statement of intent. With its 7-minute sprawl and cyclical structure, the track oozes confident craft, coming in with a deceptively innocuous melody, before dropping a down-tempo bombshell of sub bass, air horns and pitch-shifted cries over a backing of buzzy, minor synth chords. --Noam Klar
Greatest Hits: "Danse Pop" [Olde English Spelling Bee]
Greatest Hits lives up to their name. "Danse Pop" is a brief two minutes of sheer danceable ecstasy. The song wastes no time kicking into place and immediately has you sliding every which way across the hardwood floor. Just don't slip when it's all greased with the sweat of everyone else unable to contain this groove. --Jheri Evans
Hotel Mexico: "Its Twinkle" [Second Royal]
You can't not love the "Love Gun"-inspired riff that opens "Its Twinkle" by Japan's Hotel Mexico. But there's more to this song than that killer, 4-second, descending shredder of a hook. Layer upon layer of guitar, bass, samples, and tambourines build on that riff, as other melodic parts come in and out of focus like the phase of two droning tones. A soft falsetto emerges from the busy instrumental tapestry, changing the sonic climate with an added sense of fragility. The initial reason-- the "hot riff"-- that made you fall in love with "It's Twinkle" fades into the background. --Ric Leichtung
James Blake: "CMYK" [R&S]
A close relative of the cut-and-paste R&B hook Deadboy worked into his devastating "U Cheated," James Blake’s ubiquitous "CMYK" begins in a far more delicate fashion, before overwhelming with a 2-step wave at the drop. Starting with the notes on a synth falling like water in a fiendish Morse pattern of drops, you can’t help but be lulled into a moment of stillness before the fuzzy wall of sound hits. "CMYK" is so restless that its vocal snippets slip in and out of time, rushing around the track like echoes of its own past and future pitched forward and back before the energy of the whole collapses in on itself. --d
Nice Face: "I Want Your Damage" [Sacred Bones]
Nice Face, the madcap bedroom project of Brooklyn’s Ian Magee, has been channeling some serious hyperactivity since he started self-releasing his first cassettes and singles back in 2008. “I Want Your Damage,” our favorite of the pint-sized psych-rock stompers that made it onto his Immer Etwas LP this year, combines the fuzzed assault of Wooden Shjips, Purrling Hiss, et al. with the off-color zaniness of the B-52s. We're psyched to hear someone actually rock out over a drum machine, and can thank Nice Face for the kind reminder that precision and lo-fi values are by no means mutually exclusive. --Emilie Friedlander
oOoOO: "NoSummr4U" [Disaro]
Though this year saw music's darker retreats illuminated by the likes of Salem, Nike7UP and Stalker, San Franciscan producer oOoOO conjured the most poignant image of C21st cultural pollution. His self-titled EP, released in autumn by Tri Angle Records, is a beguiling, obsessive collection of possessed pop poltergeists that may be veiled in an unsettling gothic sparseness, but still burn effervescent at the core with pure melodic feeling. Non-EP track "Nosummr4U" is the best gateway into the sensual shadow-world of oOoOo, though. Its disembodied lullaby hooks and super-sleazy soft-metal guitar shredding is simultaneously alienating and enrapturing. --Jack Shankly
Pure Ecstasy: "Voices" [Acephale]
In the past year I've gone from seeing Pure Ecstasy in the back parking lot of an Ethiopian restaurant on a dismal, cold night in Austin to the background music on an advertisement with a pale, stumbling Kate Moss-type. Both fit them perfectly. The understated-ness of this band must not be, well, understated. "Voices" is rife with blown-out blue notes and phantasmic guitar tones, backed by softened vocals which sometimes stretch out in love-lost angst. With its simple but steadfast lyrics, Pure Ecstasy's "Voices" reminds us that you dont have to be a TS Eliot to be affective. --Ryan Ellis
Salem: "King Night" [IAMSOUND]
When it hit the blogosphere last June, Salem’s “King Night” felt BIG. Huge, even. In fact, it sounded like these Chicago enfant terribles were trying to pull us out of the muddy highway ditch that their Water EP had dumped us into just a few months earlier. Setting aside the half-hearted white-boy rhymes and syrup-slow siren calls for a minute, Salem shocked us with a sample that seemed to be the electronic trio's antithesis: a heavenly, full-choir rendition of the Christmas carol “O Holy Night”, which speaks of a coming savior, and is bound to evoke the starry-eyed rapture of your elementary school Christmas pageant. Six months ahead of season, “King Night” set its source material to paper-thin beats and a bassline so blown-out it made you check to see if your speakers were broken. It was hyperbolic, a bit tacky, and almost tragically optimistic. --Emilie Friedlander
Teengirl Fantasy: "Cheaters" [True Panther]
On "Cheaters", Ohio duo Teengirl Fantasy explore the more interesting peripheries of house and dance music, rather than these genres' more central, crowd-pleasing elements. As a result, the track feels like a careful distillation of all those subtle pulsations, innate rhythmic shifts, and density of sound that make the club such a good place to be. The vocal source material, culled from Love Committee's 70s R&B cut "Cheaters Never Win", appropriately swirls like some pained smoke-machine spirit through all of this anti-banger's small gaps. --Shea Bermingham
Teen Inc.: "Fountains" [self-released]
Teen Inc. found something special this Spring in the super-smooth sound of fusion and funk. "Fountains" comes off super epic and endlessly groovy, a supreme trip through wobbly synthesizer, slapbass, and plaintive falsetto. Perhaps part of the reason this song has bounced around so much in my head (and in my iTunes) is because of the unfortunately small sample size of Teen Inc.'s catalog: two songs, one solitary, self-released 7" record. However, give me an LP full of this sound on a long drive any day and I guarantee you'll see a satisfied dude. Fingers crossed for something similar to this fantasy in 2011. --Ian Nelson
Tjutjuna's "Mosquito Hawk" opens with a whirling psychedelic synth vortex. It maintains this ethereal prog façade just long enough to fade up the hyper-motorik and bury the intro's transcendent affectations beneath a mountain of guitar fuzz. Then, something strange happens: crashing symbols and the raw power of a chugging riff struggle to find their form as subjugated arpeggios begin to infect their oppressor, and guitar solos rip skyward to a heaven full of patch-chord glitches. This shock and awe of this moment can't help but fade back into the shimmering effervescence of a seesawing keyboard until, finally, they're wed in a moment of 70s Germanic Rock bliss. --d
Ty Segall: "My Sunshine" [Goner]
I don’t think there’s a single other track that I’ve listened to more than “My Sunshine” this year. Ty takes his signature garage-pop and toughens it with a dose of classic 90’s grunge brilliance. The song tears itself apart, screams till it's hoarse, and then snaps back into place; always on the edge of self-destruction but never ceding to the crush of its own noise. It's songs like this that make me wish that the spirit of '91 was still alive on the radio waves. Were it only a few decades earlier, this one would have every kid in the country howling along in their bedrooms. --Andy French
Vacant Lots: "Confusion" [Ancient Hills Music]
The "psych" tag has been getting thrown around pretty arbitrarily recently (day-glo hypnogogia?), but in the classic sense, it could hardly apply more than it does to the Vacant Lots. "Confusion", one a handful of absolute burners from this Burlington duo, doesn't aim for any vast imaginary worlds (though it does nod to some monolithic/prog-temple vibes), instead preferring a dopesmoking hypnosis and half-disquieting/half-cozy drug-rug nostalgia borne of teenage garage jam thrills and more acquired tastes for drone and minimal guitar mesmerics. --Richard MacFarlane
WU LYF: "Heavy Pop" [self-released]
It's refreshing to hear such genuine, visceral soul on this out-of-nowhere hit from mysterious Mancunian outfit WU LYF. Such rawness and emotion tends to be absent from a lot of contemporary leftfield pop, but "Heavy Pop" stays true to its namesake, trudging through continual set-backs and triumphs, drum-rolls, guitar chimes, and gravel-throated howls. The climax comes in the form of a rambunctious, exhausted collapse; fitting of a track so emotionally invested, and as a result, so gloriously draining. --Shea Bermingham