Georgia Anne Muldrow
As Bloodshy and Avant, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg are the Swedish production wizards responsible for crafting the beats for tasty dance singles by the likes of Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Kelis, Kylie Minogue and Britney Spears, whose 2004 club banger “Toxic” helped the duo earn a Grammy. Around that time, Karlsson and Winnberg also met Andrew Wyatt, a New York-based musician and former member of the A.M. alongside members of the late Jeff Buckley’s old band. Together, this unlikely trio formed Miike Snow, whose debut album served as one of the most surprising delights of 2009. A far cry from the hit machine these Swedes are used to feeding as Bloodshy and Avant, this odd little slice of electronic art pop is unlike anything else out there today, finding Karlsson and Winnberg deconstructing their Top 40 formula to a hum of magnificent minimalism as Wyatt gauzes the grooves like Panda Bear replacing Simon LeBon as the frontman for Duran Duran. Miike Snow is Nordic new wave at its finest, and proof that even the most enormous helping of commercial success could never quell one’s will to be weird. Ron Hart
Three things you should know about the debut full-length release by Scottish DJ/musician Hudson Mohawke (real name Ross Birchard): it’s audacious, it’s enthralling, and occasionally it’s very silly. Butter targets both the chin-stroking electronic connoisseurs and the clubs, as Birchard lays down two-minute sample collages, fractured rhythms, and straight-up dance-funk jams, all slathered in a rich, shimmering production that he could serve pancakes with. Birchard’s craftsmanship is impressive and certainly meticulous, but he’s never po-faced or pretentious about it. In fact, the joy and excitement that were involved in making the album are palpable as Birchard is never afraid of being cheeky when playing with his toys. As such, even the most eccentric experiments are fun, and the more straightforward material is instilled with an off-kilter edge. AJ Ramirez
Having spent much of his time in the naughties exploring the outskirts of Hauntology and dubstep, Baron Mordant decided to tail it off with an album supposedly collected from castaway tunes from that time. That it’s his most consistent, least familiar, and most assuredly excellent release is an achievement in itself. The vocal-heavy but by no means lyrically dependent SyMptoMs is art-pop post Roxy, post Japan, and, perhaps most importantly, post rave. That Mordant served time in EBM outfit Johnson Engineering Co way back when should be no surprise on tracks like the propulsively swirling psychedelia of “In Truth Is Wine”. Just as well, the dark textures of the title track should shock no one familiar with Mordant Music’s collaborations with Skull Disco’s Shackelton. Yet, the murky tales of industrial desolation add a special acuteness to the mix, like on the opener “Where Can You Scream?”, a throwback of sorts to the electronic folk of World Serpent Enterprises. An appropriately gloomy album to end a dark decade. Timothy Gabriele
Georgia Anne Muldrow
On July 28th, 2009, Georgia Anne Muldrow turned in her bid to conquer the near-wasteland that is soul music in the 21st century. The timing couldn’t have been better; fresh off two of her songs receiving high profile re-treatments from the likes of Erykah Badu (“Master Teacher”) and Mos Def (“Roses”), Umsindo seemed positioned to become the Memorable Forward-Thinking R&B Album of 2009, much like Badu’s effort had in 2007. Sonically, all the pieces are here. Muldrow opens the album with songs based on both African and Native American chants to reveal her heritage, but much of the album is focused on her unique blend of p-funk and Madlib/Dilla-style hip-hop. I’d refer to her music as free-soul, as much in the spirit of Alice Coltrane as Mary Wells.
To hear a Muldrow album is to hear the future of soul. From J Dilla-like snippets such as “West Coast Prayer” and “Okra” to the bombastic release of tracks like “Caracas” (perhaps a direct descendant of New Amerykah) and “I.Q.”, Umsindo is an album that challenges the mind and excites the eardrums equally. Muldrow is on a planet that no other R&B artist save perhaps for Erykah Badu (and George Clinton) operates on, but for some shameful reason we continue to overlook her contributions. Umsindo, for all it’s unique visions and it’s easy comparisons to Badu’s New Amerykah Part One, should have been a record critics championed from summer ‘til the end of the decade. David Amidon
In 2009, one had to steer through several new folk variations and lo-fi recordings to find Navigator’s Bad Children. Access to the record wasn’t a problem. In fact, its creator—Braden J. McKenna (WYLD WYZRDZ)—presented the album as a free download through the bountiful “digital magic series” of label Magic Goat. Perhaps a lack of publicity and commercial potential caused the album to escape the attention of tastemakers. Although there is a temptation for McKenna’s fans to cherish his work as a best-kept secret, music this inspired deserves a larger audience, especially in a saturated market that frequently rewards mediocrity. Bad Children is the lo-fi album that actually lives up to the great expectations surrounding other recent records of the sort. The compositions here easily rival songs that put Jack White on the map, and the production is a kind of marvel. Rough recording techniques work in joyful accord with an endless series of hooks and subtle surprises, which emerge against all odds from the noisy mix. The album runs a concise 30 minutes, but repeat mode beckons. Thomas Britt
Rated O is the second of an announced triptych of records named the “Thank Your Parents” series, the first being 2008’s Preteen Weaponry, and both, in Oneida’s unique way, pay homage to the music our parents generations have given us. The record is Oneida’s tenth studio album, with the band flying the flag for the Brooklyn underground long before the recent boom of bands from the area. This triple album allows the listener to experience how the band arrives at their more stellar moments through experiments with sound and structure.
Oneida have always been impossible to trace to one style, and what begins as a bass heavy freak-minimal techno affair with a big beat feel on “Brown Out in Lagos” moves forward into the first CD’s more electronic music inspired structures. On “10:30 at the Oasis”, repetitious hooks, blips, beeps and general noises are layered in, all carried by a chugging riff, with beats created out of the most unlikely of distortion, and where rhythms wandering in and out to assure the listener that they are at all times fully in control of where each piece is going. The first two CDs are Krautrock experiments along the lines of Geoff Barrow’s Beak> record later in the year, with guitars beginning to take more of a presence towards the end of the first CD, and heavier, more psychedelic references on the second. However, it is CD3 where the record really makes its stand. The final CD strikes a brilliant harmony between intensity and ambiance, with unyielding Wooden Shjips-esque freak outs presented in a much less intense scenario, while utilizing a range of classic instrumentation, but in an environment well outside of their expected comfort zone. The record is experimental in the loosest sense, and there is a depth in structure to these tracks that, at points, feel like they could go on for infinity. Robert McCallum