Music

The Best Electronic Music of 2011

Our electronic music enthusiasts pick highlights from a year when the genre ranged widely and wildly from ADD dance music to the last great pure dubstep record to an industrial cacophony that's a proper soundtrack to a world in turmoil.


10. Siriusmo - Mosaik (Monkeytown)

Germany's Moritz Friedrich waited over ten years to drop his debut album as Siriusmo. He apparently lacks confidence in his skills as an auditory artist, preferring to focus on graffiti and illustrations rather than performing live. Well, if his debut is anything to go by, his humility is unwarranted. This 17-track work of ADD dance music is clearly one of the year's most complete albums of pure fun. It's consistently dancefloor friendly, yet dedicated to no one genre or scene. Living up to the album title, slices of dubstep, IDM, and breaks can be heard alternating throughout Mosaik, as can a lot of French qualities, with many tracks spiritually borrowing from the likes of Mr. Oizo, Daft Punk, and Justice. Certainly, "High Together" is one of the most memorable intro album tracks of the year, starting with poor electronic vocal melodies punctuated by dwindling applause and eventual booing before launching into proper banging electro. And it all goes up from there. - Alan Ranta



9. The Advisory Circle - As the Crow Flies - Ghost Box

Dedicated to the memory of Trish Keenan of Broadcast, the sophomore album from Jon Brooks as the Advisory Circle practically screams "Don't panic!" Cloaked in the paranoia of old British PSAs and the creative limitations of vintage synths, As the Crow Flies sounds as if it could have been released in the early '80s as a horror or post-apocalyptic action film soundtrack. Yet, this is not a mere throwback record replicating classic electronic library music. Brooks demonstrates a distinct spark of creativity, employing more high-fidelity organic sounds at various points, expanding the aural palate, and redefining his own universe, while his arrangements have significantly deeper layers than his debut. Shades of Kraftwerk, Jean-Jacques Perrey, and Jean Michel Jarre can be heard throughout the track listing. Rather than merely looking backwards, the album sounds as if it's breaking new ground. That makes it just as interesting and enjoyable to hear as the originators themselves. - Alan Ranta



8. Plaid - Scintili (Warp)

London duo Andy Turner and Ed Handley chose the best possible way to celebrate their 20th year signed to the legendary Warp Records -- by releasing their most distinguished album to date. On the whole, Scintilli exists beyond all genre classifications except the frowned-upon IDM. It is devoted to nothing except immaculately crafted sound, proof that the Plaid aesthetic has been honed to a sweet science. Utilizing a bizarre range of time signatures, beat patterns, and BPMs, the album always sounds fresh, moving between more referential dance numbers with ethereal vocals and moody warped bass tracks to serene ambient explorations. The offbeat nature of these forms may be somewhat discombobulating on a first listen, yet one cannot deride the perfect balance of their production. This is an electronic music album made for the appreciation of other electronic musicians and certain geeks who fancy themselves audiophiles. Apparently, there are enough of these people in the UK to get this up to #167 on the charts. Good show. - Alan Ranta



7. Amon Tobin - ISAM (Ninja Tune)

Who says it's all about sound alone? Over the past five or so years, we've seen a number of electronic musicians deliver ground-breaking live shows, each with an aesthetic that embodies the artist, from Daft Punk's neon pyramid to Plastikman's stark LED cage. For Amon Tobin's incredible ISAM live show, it was all about geometry -- a blocky, 3D set played with audience perspectives, replete with mind-bending visuals to match Tobin's exquisitely crafted bits and pieces. ISAM was clearly made to be bigger than just another record, and in touring behind it, Tobin has advanced himself to a new level.

But what about sound -- what about the record? Certainly, ISAM is an impressive testament to Tobin's technical prowess. He's advanced leaps and bounds in skill since his days looping jazzy breaks as Cujo, something which he alludes to in an introductory kiss-off to his ISAM commentary. That said, as an album, ISAM is easy to admire and harder to love -- at least at first. "Journeyman" comes close to the soulful satisfaction of previous Tobin staples like "Slowly" and "Back From Space", but generally, this is an album that demands patience, attention, and preferably a nice sound system. Odes to resynthesis like "Piece of Paper" or "Mass & Spring" are candy for a great set of headphones, but you aren't going to truly fall for them without repeated listens. On the bright side, ISAM's density ensures that each active listen reveals something new. - David Abravanel



6. Deadbeat - Drawn and Quartered (BLKRTZ)

Though it's bad form to single out a genre, dub techno painted itself into a pretty tight corner from the start. There are only so many ten-minute exercises in tape-delayed synths that one can hear before it starts to blend together in a bassy haze. Veteran producer Deadbeat, aka Scott Monteith, sidesteps these concerns by embracing his role as a storyteller. Each of the five tracks on Drawn and Quartered is a journey, often with ambient build-up beginnings that evolve into gradually layered beats. Nothing is rushed, nor does it ever feel overly repetitive, a difficult pitfall to avoid in dub techno.

Sometimes things are cyclical, as on "First Quarter", which emerges from drone to a spacey dub soup, before drowning again. Other times, as on the meta-track that encompasses the end of "Third Quarter (The Vampire of Mumbai)" and the beginning of "Fourth Quarter (Cala's House)", it's a transitory section that keeps the narrative of the album flowing.

Like many of 2011's best releases, Drawn and Quartered's sounds are lushly spaced -- just what plugin/IRs are these guys using, anyway? The drums and wide-panned synth delays of "Second Quarter" accumulate into a warm and inviting bed of a track, and the mix always feels full and inclusive without being overwhelming. In a year full of genre-crossovers and daring moves, Drawn and Quartered isn't setting any new standards. Rather, it's a watermark release from an experienced musician at the top of his game. - David Abravanel


Next Page
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.