\\Notes From Downriver//
\\Punk (La Vie Antérieure)//
\\Minimal Techno//
\\(Co-Dependent) Independent Jangling//
\\Occasional Modern Classical//

By James Harbard

Shellac - Dude, Incredible (Touch and Go - 2014)

I would pretty much give my right arm for a new Big Black record but instead in 2014 there’s a new Aphex Twin record (wait wahaat), a Cloud Nothings record not produced by Steve Albini that sounds like a record produced by Steve Albini after they released a record produced by Steve Albini that kinda sucked and …Steve’s off teaching cooking classes. What am I doing? Making skyscrapers, what do we have in common? Could Steve offer me something that wasn’t a metaphorical gap in “Pattern Walks”? Turns out he can! phew, Steve’s not just cooking. In 2014 there’s a new Shellac record and it’s equal parts hilarious, frustrating, shit and spectacularly good.

Albini’s always had a sense of humor on virtually all his projects, so Dude, Incredible won’t come as a shock, but just like how Big Black’s best record, the absolute masterpiece that is Atomizer (a record that if you don’t own you absolutely MUST) was overshadowed by Songs about Fucking due to it’s title alone, Dude, Incredible isn’t Shellac’s best but it’s certainly their loudest, silliest and most full on. It has  a song called “You Came in Me”, makes grandiose moments about a place named “Gary” and has a reoccurring theme about surveyors that makes absolutely no sense. It rides sacked blunt riffs and militaristic guitar work without any of the stunning production tricks that Albini is famous for. It sounds like a record made by a layman iced with the finesse of a powerhouse (possibly because it is). Dude, Incredible doesn’t offer anything as incredible as what was found on Atomizer It’s one of the weirdest, most energetic records I’ve heard this year and it’s a cut-throat attempt at tipping the scales to failure, and doing so in a way that it seriously kicks some arse, from a band and a dude that have been at it for forever and a day that’s exciting enough for me.

Aphex Twin - Syro (Warp - 2014)

Aphex Twin is responsible for more seismic shifts in individuals musical lives than even he could imagine, he’s most peoples foray into hyper intellectual electronica and he was certainly mine. It was about 14 years ago I first heard “Film” and I was instantly in love. Richard is responsible for my love of electronic music, and is probably the number one influence in my own music. Drukqs didn’t make sense to me but “Film” Did, and in a wonderful and unexpected way, Syro does too. I later found out Sonny Moore, for better or worse had the same moment, from someone who has spent time with Sonny but not a lot of his music, it felt magical we could trace our journeys back to the same moment with that piece.

Thirteen years is a long time to wait for anything, and hours into Syro it’s astonishing that this, for now, actually seems worth that wait. It’s still genre defying cosmos shifting stuff, a mystical and energetic and angelic record that feels unusually desperate and vital. I wasn’t expecting that, I acknowledge that he would most likely make a less dense record that might sound like a victory lap redo of “Avril 14th” and that might have been wonderful, except what we received actually sounds like a laboured over struggle. It’s not less dense, if anything Syro could be his thickest work to date, but Like Flying Lotus taking his sound and breaking it down into components and shooting it out of a cannon like he did on his lone masterpiece Cosmogramma, this feels similarly welcoming, that that’s the magic.

The question that remains  Why Now? but for now I’ll leave you with the past while I sit in awe and try to understand “CIRCLONT6A”, somehow the most comforting thing about this release is you know that millions of people are currently sitting there trying to do the same very thing and nobody is even slightly close.

Panda Bear - Live in Austin TX (14/9/2014)

Remember Governor’s island? The set that unleashed Tomboy? Noah is an interesting liver performer and this is most definitely our first real taste of his new record after that club based mixtape that surfaced over the weekend. It does indeed feel more nighttime ready, It’s also very hard not to get even more excited about it, which I’m sure is the point.

Fantastic quality bootleg/ this is probably the best thing I’ve listened to in the last couple of weeks.

That (Mr)? Twin Sister record is great too though, they stepped it up. 

Panda Bear - Mix Ticks (Self Released -2014)

As if the hype for his next record couldn’t be any greater over at this camp (I want “bros” at my funeral and I’m not even joking) this mix has done a fantastic job of me getting all worked up, There’s little hints of things to come in here if you listen hard enough, and in the first light of spring there’s very little better than the promise of new Noah.

It’s hard to know when we’re going to get our first real taste but since the release of “Slow Motion” and the very different final masters of Tomboy was cut by a canyon sized gap in time it could be a while, somehow I managed to live out that record in that gap in time though, we got different versions of most of the best cuts. The point is who knows what the fuck is in store for the future except that this mix will be my spring. I’m also praying that new Radio Dept. track means what I think it does…

The Radio Dept - “Death to Fascism” (Labrador - 2014)

Just the other night I put on the Radio Depts. wonderful Clinging To A Scheme I think because I felt actual distress, a feeling I hadn’t felt in it’s purist form for at least the last six months or so. It’s also a record I probably haven’t touched in the last two years.  Then all of a sudden as if they heard themselves leaking from my headphones they give me this, “Death To Fascism” takes off where the the Knifes political bent broke them in two (Literally)  a smoky, gnarled looping electronic that predictably gives way to a sea of absolute bliss when it turns on its head. A typically sweedish sounding guitar rolls in and breaks the loop and makes everything ok. These guys are so good at doing that. Air France are still a little bit alive in these guys, albeit in a different form.

Aphex Twin - “minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix” (Warp - 2014)

Where were you the day he came back and the collective consciousness of the world of electronic music that had just spent thirteen years catching up had to rearrange themselves yet again? The shock of hearing a new BOC track last year was something, but the shock was more in how dissonant they had become, so removed, their elevation was complete in a strange way. This is another thing I never thought would happen, but the shock here is just how impressive and big this feels. It’s overflowing with ideas but still feels like a streamlined class act, it’s a mess, but in the same way a beautiful girl looks better with her hair everywhere.

Hold onto your seats I guess.

dd elle - “tell Me” (Secret Songs - 2013)

Koolhaas, people I had so admired, removed themselves from the critique and largely removed their peers with them as well. Koolhaas would talk of the downtown athletics club, he would talk of the Rockefeller centre, he would talk about the world war two remains of smouldering Rotterdam, a task I tried to take on as well. Venturi would talk of vernaculars. When would we look at each other?

This is why they invented headphones. This is the sound of them hearing each other and not listening.

Tobais Jesso Jr - “Just A Dream” (Self released - 2014)

I can’t explain the world to you, or how this exists, but I’m glad it does.

J Mascis - Tied To A Star (Sub Pop - 2014)

J is a perpetual downer. Although he’s attributed the bummed out success of his incredible enduing discography to a now famous lost high school love, you can’t help but think that Tied to A Star would have happened even if he’d married her. Dinosaur jr’s last outing was one of their strongest ever, and Tied to A Star continues this high caliber streak and more than matches his last solo outing. Where that record peaked at it’s downer points like “It is Done and the stoner drawl of the wonderful title track, this thing feels more driven and optimistic. Although drive and optimism are not something anybody really looks for in a J Mascis record, Tied To a Star negotiates middle ground well “Every Morning” is pretty much the only misstep and it’s only because it’s wanting to be a fully electrified Dino J song but somehow lands closer to it’s sugar ray acoustic namesake.

I’m thankfully joking, although excusably lacking in eclectic power, and lacking in the surprise that he’s still good without it, this record still feels like a statement that goes beyond tools. It got me, I didn’t expect to fall as hard as I did for this record and although opener and highlight “Me Again” (possibly the most outre thing he’s ever written), suggests that he’s been listening to more bonny bear than he has himself, there’s still nobody this side of Daniel Rossen in indie rock that can play a guitar this distinctively.

Le Deon - Cassette (Aught - 2014)

Just pretend there never was a problem to solve, there never was a history, but here’s a set of tools that are used to create something.

Do your best to re-create that something.

This is music that seems to operate under the bounds of influence as hit and miss as the results are it’s rare you hear something that manages to do that, especially in beat based electronic music.