This 12-song set from four reunited British synth-pop pioneers picks up where 1984 left off, carried on a dynamic chorale of rounded bass oscillation, monosynth-thickened drum textures, and sparkling chords with undeniable nods to golden-era OMD’s own Architecture & Morality and Dazzle Ships, as well as Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, and other archetypes. Sequencing may now be in soft synths or the Roland Fantom-X8 workstation, but tonality maintains the lush melodicism historically filtered from legendary Korg M500 Micro-Preset and MS-20, Roland SH-2 and SH-09, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, E-mu Emulator, and Fairlight CMI components.
The Coming Tide
It’s not just the New Orleans jazz style that gives the first track on this album from King and collaborator Esther Rose a Crescent City sound. It’s also the way clever mic placement and mixing give the impression there’s a parade passing by, with singers in front, and strings, horns, and then drums falling in line behind. Other tracks sound more conventionally like a band in the studio, but all are equally soulful, with sweet male/ female harmonies and expert, authentic musicianship.
The North Borders
Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, struck paydirt with 2010’s Black Sands, elevating his soul/electronic craftsmanship to the stratosphere in both popular consumption and in the insular world of DJs, stylish print media and vinyl. With success comes influence, which is repaid on The North Borders with guest vocals from Erykah Badu on “Heaven for the Sinner” and sweet newcomer Szjerdene on “Towers.” But it’s ultimately Bonobo’s dark night of the soul, a whirring late-night groove that never ends.
Dirtyphonics does not believe in limitations. The French electronic dance foursome plunders from all genres on its debut album. Tethering itself to a bass base, Dirtyphonics freely experiments with classic orchestration (“Prelude (White),” “Prelude (Black”)), twerpy Euro-rave rhythms (“Stage Divers”), and even crunching Metallicalike grinds (“Walk In The Fire”). With a cross-section of collaborators from the Duke Spirit’s Liela Moss, Steve Aoki, Modestep, and Foreign Beggars, Irreverence maintains a relentless level of irrepressible futuristic drum ‘n’ bass.
Unquestionably indebted to the racking-focus cut-n-paste of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, this third full-length by Kieran Hebden is an even more subversive take on the sampledelic aesthetic. Rounds reverberates like London 2003: a city of rhythms changing every few metres and measures. Reissued in a 10th anniversary edition, the still-vital electroacoustic recordings are accompanied by a vintage live set showcasing how Hebden’s woozy resonances and vitreous melodies flip effortlessly from micro-edited helixes to discombobulating yet still funky cosmic groove.
Lines We Trace
Central to this Seattle-based sextet’s wondrous orchestral/ pop sound are strong songs and gorgeous string parts arranged by cellist/ producer/engineer Sam Anderson. Piano, horns, guitars, and electronic instruments create richness and complexity in this music, which is somehow earthy and ethereal at once. The young players, who recorded Lines mostly in Anderson’s home studio (though one inspired string part was captured in a tunnel in Golden Gardens Park), have created something new and beautiful that should inspire other DIYers.
In and Out of Weeks
Vocalist Ingrid Havik’s deadpan cadences and Gothic lyrics form the hypnotic tissue within this endearing Norwegian quintet, their punchy power pop fortified by tumbling rhythms, playful synths, and inspired songwriting. “Son of A Bitch” is Highasakite’s perfect template, Havik chanting spells (“Hold my hair while I vomit,” she pleads), drummer Trond Bersu thumping beats like the perfect Ed Blackwell/Mick Fleetwood BFD program, guitarist Kristoffer Lo spiraling riffs like devilish cherubim. Absolute head tripping, sky spinning, brain-out-of-body magnificence.