Monday, December 24, 2012

Year in Review | Top Five Indie-ish Albums of 2012

Year in Review | Top 5 Indie-ish albums of 2012

As many highlights as we have for the electronic-music sphere in 2012, this year was also a good one for music in the indie world. We can't call it all 'rock' per se, but acts that found themselves somewhere in between the two poles presented some of our favorite sounds of this year. Thusly:

5) Yeasayer Fragrant World — Secretly Canadian
The third LP from Brooklyn psych-RnB outfit Yeasayer was not as universally beloved as its past efforts. Admittedly, even we found that it took a few listens to come around to this murkier left turn. But Fragrant World does grow on you, and while there is no "O.N.E." to satiate the pop drive that many of the moments on Odd Blood offered, the skank-trip that is "Henrietta" has been ever-present since it's early release and gems like "Devil and the Deed" and album opener "Fingers Never Bleed" sneak up on you—and if they haven't yet, give them a chance to.

4) Tanlines Mixed Emotions True Panther Sounds
As diverse as 2012's musical offerings were, few truly embodied that perfect mix of indie-rock singing and songwriting and the propulsive groove of a dance beat quite like Brooklyn's Tanlines. Catchy and hard to dismiss, Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm's Mixed Emotions occupies a similar territory to that of Penguin Prison or even RAC as it moves to original material, but Tanlines' lightly distorted guitars, synth lines, drum machine rhythms and pop vocals were the ones we couldn't escape since Mixed Emotions hit back in March. Previewing their live show, we described them as 'Vampire Weekend, TV on the Radio and Hot Chip jamming together in the tropics" and that still seems the best way to sum them up.

3) Grizzly Bear Shields — Warp
Already awarded the top slot in the iTunes Album of the Year list, Grizzly Bear is well on its way to snagging upper-echelon ranking on just about everyone's end of the year lists. Far from being the work of the Hype Machine, this Brooklyn five-piece's latest, Shields, is just that good. Not deviating from the core of what these guys do best, this record features more of the band's signature quiet storms—hurricanes of lush harmonies and rolling drums, as we called it after reviewing its last live show in Chicago. It was tough to imagine Ed Droste and company topping the studied and cinematic art rock on display with 2009's Veckatimest, but they managed to refine the Grizzly Bear sound even further here.

2) Beach House Bloom Sub Pop
Another band that had big shoes to fill with a new record, Baltimore dreamers Beach House gained legions of fans with 2010's Teen Dream, and succeeded in bestowing 2012 (and us) with an even more accomplished vision of their sound. So comfortable are Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally now, that on a song like set closer "Irene" they can stretch its groove into a seemingly endless loop that in lesser hands would cross over into monotony. Not so with Beach House, here it's exactly the strange paradise that Legrand is singing of.

Beach House - Irene from dudikaz on Vimeo.

1) Chromatics Kill For Love Italians Do It Better
An accomplished and sprawling trip through a shimmering future of music that's somehow simultaneously stuck in the '80s, the triumphant return of Johnny Jewel and Ruth Radelet is officially our top indie release of this year. Beyond the Kill For Love itself, which is an epic listen of brooding dance beats, silky crooning and an introspective ambiance, Chromatics managed to put its stamp on the Drive soundtrack and, on a personal note for Dialogue Inc, on January's Tomorrow Never Knows festival, where principal contributor Joshua P. Ferguson was lucky enough to spin an opening DJ set ahead of their live performance there. In many ways—from their music to their album artwork to the aesthetic philosophy Jewel and Co. exudes across DJ mixes, photo shoots and any of their various other artistic outlets—Chromatics, and it's sister acts on the Italians Do It Better label, is in perfect harmony with the look, sound and feel prized by Dialogue Inc. Kill For Love, and all that accompanied it this year, is no exception.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Year in Review | Top Five Mixes + Comps of 2012

Year in Review | Top 5 Mixes + Compilations of 2012

Without further ado, another session of  year-end wrap-ups is upon us. These past 12 months were interesting ones for electronic music, DJs and the club scene—not to mention the exciting things that we'll feature in the more guitar-driven part of the world later in the month. Easing into things, we begin with our top DJ mixes and compilations of this year. Admittedly, reflecting on this segment of our year of listening, we didn't cover as much ground as we would have liked, but that may have just made it easier to single out our favorites, which are:

5) Various Artists Modeselektion Vol. 02 — Monkeytown Records
"With fingers in this many pies, Modeselektion Vol. 02 really shouldn't have come across as a cohesive statement, yet it does. Not every track is an out-and-out winner, but the depth and breadth of artists, scenes, locales, and musical movements showcased here is not only impressive, it also serves as a pristine snapshot of what a credible tastemaking unit Modeselektor is." 
— From Joshua P. Ferguson's XLR8R review

4) Guy Gerber Fabric 64 Fabric
"Imagine, I had to come up with the context, what would be the theme? I’m trying to tell a story within one hour. So I had to come up with this, I had to compose, I had to mix and also choose. I do a lot of music, not everything makes it to the album. For an artist, one of the most important things is to give up certain things. I stayed in the basement or the garage. I usually work in big studios, so this was really fun. I would just open the garage door, have a lot of light and yeah, I think musically it’s great." 
— From Joshua P. Ferguson's Guy Gerber interview about making his Fabric mix

3) Various Artists IFEEL024 - A Compilation — International Feel
"Ibiza has come to represent a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but for Mark Barrott and the stable of [Balearic-leaning] artists he's built up over the past three years, it doesn't seem to be about the mega clubs and foam parties. Laidback, organic sounds and moving at a leisurely pace are at the core of the International Feel mantra. This applies to both the physical music on display and the personality that's been injected into it."
— From Joshua P. Ferguson's XLR8R review

2) Ben Klock Fabric 66 — Fabric
Berghain, Panorama Bar and the Ostgut Ton label have come to occupy the epicenter of Berlin's techno world—some might argue the techno world—and none from that camp is better equipped to translate its vision and its sound for Fabric then Ben Klock. While his contribution shouldn't be viewed as an exact replica of one of his marathon sets, it should be considered a document that breathes renewed life into all the genre and this sublime talent have to offer.
Joshua P. Ferguson

1) Photek DJ-KiCKS — !K7
"In just over an hour Photek touches on spacey disco (Hot Toddy remixed by Morgan Geist), eerie techno (reaching back into the '90s with Baby Ford), and the murky realm of today's bass music scene with shuffling groovers from Sepalcure and DJG. Then there's his own personal contributions. Oh, how we can't neglect to mention those. These are a large part of the reason respected culture houses like XLR8R have been salivating over this release since the second it was announced back in January."
— Joshua P. Ferguson's review

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chicago | Ben UFO + Abstract Science DJs at Smart Bar

Abstract Science 15-Year Anniversary @ Smart Bar

Ben UFO  (Hessle Audio)
Abstract Science DJs | Chris Widman, Mister Joshua, Luke Stokes


 Friday 7 | 10pm | Chicago

While I have only had the honor of working as a co-host of Abstract Science, Chicago's premier future music radio show which airs every Thursday night from 10pm to 2am CST on WLUW 88.7 FM, for just shy of one year, it is with great pleasure that I get to take part in the long-running program's 15th anniversary celebration at venerated Windy City nightclub Smart Bar tomorrow, Friday December 7.

At heart a forward-thinking bass-music night, it promises an excursion through burgeoning dance music sounds the likes of which Chicago doesn't hear enough of, and surely there will be a few throwbacks in the mix for good measure. Abstract Science's own, founder Chris Widman, veteran host Luke Stokes and myself will hold down the early portion of the evening before Hessle Audio frontman and driver behind the most recent (ok, still forthcoming) installment of the Fabriclive mix-cd series, Ben UFO takes over for an extended three-hour set. 

Such is the excitement building for this event that Chris Widman was even interviewed by Resident Advisor in advance of the show. Here's a bit of what he had to say:

Abstract Science's format has changed very little over 775 episodes. New genres have emerged then disappeared, and we've added new co-hosts, but the program is still a combination of traditional radio programming, DJ mixes, live performances and interviews, hosted by hardcore music nerds on a mission to share their favorite records. I'm sure we're also a lot better DJs and announcers now.

**Disclaimer: Unfortunately, due to visa issues that were beyond anyone's control, the night's co-headliner Joy Orbison will not be performing. His appearance has been rescheduled for February 14, 2013—Valentine's Day no less—and all advance ticket buyers to tomorrow's show will also be honored with admission to this make-up date.

Ben UFO joins the team behind Abstract Science for its 15-year anniversary on Friday 7 at 10pm. Tickets are available at