Milosh: You Make Me Feel

[12 August 2004]

By Tim O'Neil

I cannot predict the future. But sometimes I can manage an educated guess that turns out to be more or less correct.

About three years ago I predicted Milosh’s You Make Me Feel. Well, not exactly the album itself, but the fact that an album like this would exist seemed inevitable.

A couple years after the turn of the millennium (depending on whether you count the ‘00 or ‘01 switch, I suppose), electronic music was stuck. Trance music was a fat and bloated Elvis sitting atop a sweaty commode. UK garage/two-step seemed to have a bit of life to it, but the fact the genre was a nonstarter Stateside was disappointing. Then came electroclash. This development in itself was something of an inevitability. Whenever genres and idioms become stale and moribund, retro movements pop up with a well-timed kick in the pants.

Just as the Strokes and the White Stripes served as catalysts to the “new rock” movement, fun folks like Felix da Housecat helped pull electronic music back from the gaping precipice of ‘70s prog-rock inscrutability that threatened to swallow the genre whole (I mean, seriously people . . . progressive house?). But for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and for every movement there is an equal and opposite counter-movement.

Of course, folks like Milosh had no idea they were being set up to take the fall after the new wave revival ran its course. But it made too much sense to ignore: the only obvious direction left for electronic music to go in 2003 was in the direction of more personal and confessional singer/songwriter-oriented material. To put it bluntly: emo was the final frontier.

Sure enough, right on time the genre began to organize itself. Early pioneers such as Four Tet and King of Woolworths began to experiment with turning the traditional tools of IDM music into something more expressive and intimate. And then in early 2003 the genre’s Exit Planet Dust appeared on the scene like a thunderbolt from Zeus: The Postal Service’s Give Up.

I can still remember the first time I ever heard “The District Sleeps Tonight”, pulling out of a McDonald’s drive-thru in Owasso, Oklahoma. It was strange and familiar, the kind of pop-culture quantum leap that makes you wonder why no one else had ever thought of it before. I had never cared for emo much (in fact, I’ve had quite a good time mocking the endless stream of self-important pansies who constituted the “first wave” of emo, bands with unbelievably lame names like the Get Up Kids and Death Cab For Cutie). But here I was, face to face with my own prediction and scared shitless. None other than the frontman for the aforementioned “lame” Death Cab For Cutie had administered a much-needed kick in the ass to my beloved electronic music.

Which brings us back to Milosh. The fact that an album like You Make Me Feel can exist in the year 2004 is proof positive, as if you needed any, that the “electronica” movement of 1997 is finally dead. Electronic music itself had finally outgrown the painful expectations and inevitable backlash of the “new grunge” label, and a new generation of American musicians have grown up without the ingrained prejudice towards synthesizers and samplers that their older brothers and sisters possessed. It’s part of the landscape now.

Milosh himself has produced an album of unexceptional—if steady—virtue. Sonically, he owes a lot to folks such as Matmos and Herbert, with what seem to be a lot of found sounds and clicky-stuttering beats. There are some unusual melodic bits evocative of Boards of Canada. But his songwriting is the missing link here that prevents his tracks from becoming sprawling mellow messes. He’s got a knack for hiding hooks that lie buried under multiple layers of sonic debris, revealing themselves a little bit more with each listen. You Make Me Feel will appeal to anyone who can appreciate the subtle pleasures of hearing a talented young singer/songwriter slowly come into full possession of his talents. The fact that his weapon of choice is not an acoustic guitar or a rock and roll combo but a bank of samplers bodes well for the future of music in this modern world.

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