On top of releasing an excellent EP (Without You) and LP (Nostalchic) in 2013 already, British Brainfeeder affiliate Lapalux has also taken the time to put out a few excellent one-off tracks this year. His latest, the ethereal “Moveoutofmyway”, features dreamlike vocal work from Pictures labelmate ShadowBox that is beautifully bent and manipulated by this beatsmith’s unmistakable touch. Stream and download the track below.
Last year, the mad scientist that is Daedelus laid down this completely bonkers set for Boiler Room Los Angeles. Just pure awesome right there. That custom controller! Gyah! If you’re in San Diego, you should already have tickets to see him on Thursday at The Casbah with Ryan Hemsworth, Samo Soundboy, and Two Fresh. Right? …RIGHT!? Get on that, dawg. The rest of ya’ll can check their tour dates here.
And finally… the cathartic wrapping up of my favorites from last year. Here’s my top 10 from 2012 in no particular order. Thanks for reading everyone! It feels good to be back.
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
“Okay… now open your mind up and listen me, Kendrick / I am your conscience, if do not hear me then you will be history, Kendrick”
A complex and stirring reflection on growing up in Compton, Kendrick Lamar‘s good kid, m.A.A.d city is a record that has all parts working for it. Kendrick’s mind-boggling flow effortlessly rides between snare slaps and 808 kicks, transforming at a moment’s notice to complement this LP’s exceptional production in endlessly inventive ways. Yet for all his technical flair, it is ultimately the poignant narrative of good kid, m.A.A.d city that ascends this masterpiece to the status of modern classic. The strengths of Lamar’s storytelling are many, but remain grounded in his ability to weave together the looming themes of family, peer pressure, alcoholism and substance abuse, violence, love and lust, loss, anxiety, and survival, all the while capturing smaller moments with such detail that you feel like you’re right there with young Kendrick rollin’ down Rosecrans.
Kendrick Lamar – Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe
Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)
Buy: Pick up good kid, m.A.A.d city over at Amazon.
Cashmere Cat – Mirror Maru EP // “773 Love” (Cashmere Cat Edit)
In an era where access to music is unprecedented, mysterious bedroom producers often find themselves with a unique piece of promotional capital— their lack of identity. When everything is at your fingertips, there’s nothing like a little inscrutable piece of information to drive the internet crazy. Of course, first and foremost you’ve gotta have the skills to garner the initial attention in the first place. Cashmere Cat definitely had it all.The incredible Rustie BBC Essential Mix introduced the world to “Mirror Maru”, a tune the BBC tracklist initially miscredited to “Swag5″. Within a few days it was revealed that this mix highlight was indeed the work of the 24 year old Norwegian producer born Magnus August Høiberg. Apparently he has been in the game for a little while now— appearing at the DMC World Championships as DJ Final in 2008— but really blew up in 2012 with just a taste of this track and a series of inventive and impressive remix work, peaking with his superb edit of Jeremih’s “773 Love”. He went on to release the Mirror Maru EP on DJ slow‘s Belgium-based label Pelican Fly and drop a sick remix for Ed Banger Records.
At the end of the day, I simply can’t get over Cashmere Cat’s approach to production. The spazzy, syncopated arrangements, the crisp drums and synth, the rich instrumentation and layering of sounds, the sense of space within the compositions— all pushing a perfect balance of building tension and breezy vibes. Keep your eye on this one in 2013; I guarantee he’ll be making big moves.
Buy: Get a copy of the Mirror Maru EP from Beatport and download the “773 Love” edit for free via the SoundCloud widget above.
Nicolas Jaar - The Essential Mix (
Nicolas Jaar‘s monumental BBC Essential Mix was unlike any mix I heard last year. Or any other year for that matter. Ever a wizard of sound, Jaar touches on just about everything over these two hours— Twin Peaks, folk, Jay-Z, classical, jazz, teen pop, juke, contemporary classical, soul, minimal techno, and the obscured spaces in between. Yet for all its eclecticism, this mix is remarkably seamless, skewing all into a dark and reflective vibe that has Jaar’s inimitable fingerprints all over it. Even sweeter, Jaar’s label Clown & Sunset made an edit available that removes all the pesky BBC Radio 1 station drops and banter. Shouts out to Pete Tong, but frankly this opus deserves to stand alone. I’ve listened to the mix in full over a half dozen times at this point and it’s still astounding.
Buy: Download this mix via the SoundCloud widget above.
Rustie – BBC Essential Mix
Rustie also forged one of the most exciting pieces of music in 2012 with his contribution to the BBC Essential Mix series. An eclectic masterpiece altogether different from Nicolas Jaar’s work, this mix is propelled by dense, low-end heavy electronics, huge club jams, hip-hop bangers, Zelda samples, and Rustie’s propensity for the maximal. The results are mind-blowing. Rustie’s frenzied mix is two hours of fervent energy with just the right amount of respite, leaving you teetering on the edge of exhaustion as the cool waves of the unreleased Rustie jam “444Sure” wash over you at the finale. Full of exclusives, this mix was also the source of much clamoring on internet forums and blogs for a number of unbelievably dope tracks— Baauer‘s massive trap anthems “Harlem Shake” and “Dum Dum”, Dorian Concept‘s sick remix of Cid Rim‘s “Draw”, Cashmere Cat‘s indelible “Mirror Maru”, and of course a veritable LP’s worth of new and unreleased material from Rustie himself. Will those Rustie tracks ever see the light of day? Who knows. Until then, enjoy this epic mix at the stream below.
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Before the release of his excellent Luxury Problems, I had the pleasure of seeing Andy Stott perform during the Modern Love Records showcase at Decibel Festival in Seattle. In the basement underneath Melrose Market, Stott laid down a mind-melting set that was ultimately my favorite of the entire festival. Most of the material he played was from this unbelievably heavy LP, which is a big step forward even after last year’s excellent pair of EPs: Passed Me By and We Stay Together. The haunting compositions of Luxury Problems build slowly upon murky drones and loops, swampy 4/4 bass kicks, and haunting, angelic vocal work from Andy Stott’s childhood piano teacher Alison Skidmore. A balance between delicate beauty and ominous dread, this record feels like death. Not a terrifying death, but rather a patient, creeping shift into another dimension, the ethereal voice of forgotten ancestors guiding your way through the shadow to the other side. No finality, simply a beautiful and mournful transition to another world.
Andy Stott – Numb
John Talabot – ƒIN
2012 was a year saturated with excellent electronic releases, as many producers propelled house, bass, garage, juke, and the like into new territory. Barcelona’s John Talabot took a particularly fresh and forward-thinking approach to house music, infusing his balaeric cuts with spectacular depth. The sonically rich ƒIN is alive with mood and texture, full of dense compositions that plunge through a murk of melancholy up to introspective, crescendoing highs. Talabot’s varied and propellant percussion, tropical melodies, and lush layers of synth converge to form a vibrant pulse that never allows the record to stray too far into darkness. And it’s that cool interplay between the light and its shadows that make ƒIN one of the more nuanced and rewarding listens of 2012. Stream “Destiny” and “So Will Be Now”, two standouts from the record featuring vocalist/producer Pional, below.
Buy: Pick up ƒIN over at Bleep.
Lil Ugly Mane – Mista Thug Isolation
“Bitch, I’m morose and lugubrious / I’ma let the uzi spit / turn his face into gooey shit“
Word is that before he became a rapper, Richmond’s Lil Ugly Mane was deep in the noise/black metal scene. A fact not all that surprising when you consider the monumentally harsh gloom of his 2012 LP Mista Thug Isolation. Building off that classic mid-90s Memphis sound, this is a record birthed from the darkest underbelly of the 9th circle of southern hip-hop. The theme is executed with tight precision— from the lurid cover art, to Shawn Kemp’s dense and gritty production, to Ugly Mane’s brutal and pessimistic lyricism. Of course, it’s also all cleverly delivered with a subtle tongue-in-cheek self-awareness that imparts a grimy intellect and sick sense of humor to album: “I’ma slit my wrists, no tourniquet, I’m murderous / My crib got more burners than furnishin’ / Got a lot of haters, not concerned with it / The Earth revolve around earning currency, Copernicus / I leave you scared stupider than Earnest is“. The many layers of Mista Thug Isolation easily transcend Lil Ugly Mane from proficient horrorcore-thug revivalist to a one of hip-hop’s most exciting MCs.
Lil Ugly Mane – Serious Shit
LIl Ugly Mane – Cup Fulla Beetlejuice
Buy: Grab Mista Thug Isolation for $5 over at Lil Ugly Mane’s Bandcamp page.
Baauer – “Harlem Shake” b/w “Yaow!”
Baauer was taking trap to the next level before it became an absurd playground for e-tarded bros at HARD Festival. Which didn’t take much time at all. The internet’s consensus is that trap was birthed when Flosstradamus dropped their huge remix of Major Lazer’s “Original Don” a little over a year ago. O Trap how quickly ye have grown! Yet, however oversaturated or polluted with knockoff artists this genre tag may become, Baauer feels like a producer who will continue to hold it down and elevate for as long as he’s fuckin’ wit it. Both “Harlem Shake” and its flipside “Yaow!” are nothing less than bangers of gargantuan proportion. Huge low-end radiates through rave synth squelch, pitch-shifted vocals, Lion roars, snare roll bursts, and Lex Luger-like crescendos. Try to drop these tracks and not go H.A.M… it’s just not gonna happen.
Buy: Download the “Harlem Shake” b/w “Yaow!” single for free via the SoundCloud widgets above.
Ryan Hemsworth – Slowed Summer
In a year where Ryan Hemsworth totally outdid himself, it was difficult to decide on just one offering from this rising Halifax producer. However, I felt this particular mix— and he put out many this year— perfectly captured the collective consciousness of internet rap nerd culture in 2012. An amalgam of #RARE SNES and PS1 bootlegs, exclusive trap bangers, future bass anthems, and dumb, boastful hip-hop, Slowed Summer sounds like my adolescence crashing head first into the here-and-now. Diddy Kong‘s takin’ shots at yer crew while Alucard‘s poppin’ bands in the club, all to a soundtrack of the best thugged-out SoundCloud jams you never heard. Damn. And in 2013 this guy is straight up sampling Final Fantasy VI?!? Don’t hurt ‘em, Hemsworth.
V/A – West In Dust 2012
In my opinion, West In Dust 2012 was by the far the most promising label compilation I heard last year. The joint project of Rave Deep (aka David Reep, aka Elephant & Castle) and the notably busy Glenn Jackson — who plays in James & Evander and Hoodcats, produces tracks under his own name, helps head blog/web-label MAPZZZ, and writes for XLR8R — West in Dust is a new electronic label based in Oakland that is full of burgeoning talent from the Bay Area, Chicago, Montreal, Melbourne, and beyond. Their inaugural comp is an incredibly consistent offering that flows as well as any album, yet also highlights the individuality and distinct talents of each featured artist. That is, West in Dust 2012 presents an impressively unified artistic vision without ever becoming homogenous or repetitive. Even more exciting for me was the fact that I really only knew a handful of the artists that make up this comp. To have all of them deliver is unexpected to say the least and speaks volumes not only of their talents, but also of the taste levels of selectors David Reep and Glenn Jackson. West in Dust will likely be a force to reckon with in 2013, so be sure to pay attention.
Buy: You can download West in Dust 2012 over at the West in Dust Bandcamp page.
And now for the second part of my random musings on music in 2012… and if you missed it, you can view Part 1 right over here.
Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
Frank Ocean‘s unfolding story was one of the most beautiful and honest of 2012. His heartfelt letter that touched on his experiences of the past few years and the complexities of human sexuality set the tone for his moving performance of “Bad Religion” on Jimmy Fallon and later release of his excellent debut studio album channel ORANGE. This powerhouse of forward-thinking R&B was a grower for me, the subtlety and strength of Ocean’s earnest compositions unfurling further with each repeated listen. Of course, I don’t think anyone can deny the immediacy of devastating standout “Thinkin’ Bout You”. Take a listen below.
Frank Ocean – Thinkin’ Bout You
Buy: Get a copy of channel ORANGE over at Amazon.
Traxman – Da Mind of Traxman
Da Mind of Traxman, another masterpiece of juke from 2012, is one of the most versatile and original offerings in the history of the genre. With savvy vocal flips, slick jazz samples, gritty 303 synth, and brutal, distorted guitar cut-ups, Traxman lays down an LP’s worth of next level shit. The particularly eyebrow-raising album opener “Footworkin on Air” rides in with a hypnotic and ethereal kalimba riff that Traxman deftly deconstructs and reforms over bubbling arpeggios, booming bass hits, and syncopated snare slaps. The mind of Traxman is an otherworldly nebula indeed, so breathe deep and enjoy the trip.
Traxman – Footworkin On Air
Buy: Pick up Da Mind of Traxman over at Planet Mu.
Holy Other – Held
A deep, spectral meditation from mysterious Manchester producer Holy Other, Held is exactly the kind of release one might expect from one of Tri Angle Records‘ finest. These compositions are forlorn and brooding at their core, but remain gracefully balanced with euphoric and emotional highs. Haunting vocal fragments pulsate across surging ambience, droning synth, and rich drum work; plaintive calls from beyond the veil that color Held with a mournful and nostalgic hue. Stream the gorgeous title track below and listen in awe as Holy Other effortlessly bends the despondent first half into the transcendent prayer that closes the song.
Buy: Get a copy of Held over at Bleep.
DJ D’Nelski - Hush Hush Presents: Distant Lights Vol. 1
I’ve already mentioned Kid Smpl‘s excellent debut LP, but the founding of Hush Hush Records also brought us this sweet night bus mix from label head and KEXP DJ Alex Ruder (aka DJ D’Nelski). A beautiful introduction to these kinds of tunes for anyone who’s slept on it thus far, Distant Lights Vol. 1 blends the cream of the crop from the Hush Hush monthly DJ night in rainy Seattle. An appropriate soundtrack of hazy beats and screwed and spaced out R&B, this mix is drowned in a distinct emotional pulse— don’t be afraid to succumb to the vibes and let yourself feel.
DJ D’Nelski – Hush Hush Presents: Distant Lights Vol. 1
Download: Head over to the Hush Hush Records page to download this mix.
Danny Brown – “Witit”
This track— a bonus track on the deluxe edition of 2011′s stellar XXX-– is nothing short of the most monstrous hip-hop banger to drop last year. SKYWLKR’s production is completely bonkers, a poltergeist beast of subs and ascending synth shrill, and Danny Brown goes straight ignorant on it: “She rubbin’ all on them titties like my name was Biggie / But I don’t know no Diddy, but got Dirty Money with me / Got some Bobby and that Whitney for Christina and Britney / She sippin’ then she get tipsy, then she drop it low and get get it”. This is rap nihilism at its finest.
Danny Brown – Witit
Perseus – “Seychelles”
This dancefloor banger from French Express label head Perseus may be quite familiar to those of you who checked out Face of Another, the audio/visual mix I made last year with Marilia Maschion. I seriously cannot get enough of this one. Centered on an incredible Toni Braxton sample, “Seychelles” is a deep piece of disco-tinged house that’s as tropical as its namesake. With an infectious chord progression, killer synth tones, and production that’s so crisp and clean, this is easily one of my favorite dance jams of the past few years.
Buy: You can download the “Seychelles” b/w “Love in Zanzibar” single for free from the French Express Soundcloud page.
Burial – Kindred
Sheesh, what can I even say about Burial? Kindred is yet another masterful and mold-breaking offering from the enigmatic London producer. For these three extended compositions Burial effortlessly cycles through layers and layers of sound, imbuing this EP with unmistakable mood and atmosphere. The dark and seductive title track is eleven and a half minutes of sublime drone, unearthly vocal flips, grimy breakbeat, vinyl crackle, and static that will engulf you. Peerless.
Burial – Kindred
Buy: Download a copy of the Kindred EP directly from Hyperdub.
Oh. Hi there. It’s been a while. Let’s get this thing going again, yeah? I’ve missed ya’ll. Enjoy this brief look back at 2012 over the next week before I start tackling 2013.
DJ Rashad – Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi
The hectic 160 BPM rhythms of juke continue to be transformed by a number of brilliant producers, including some of Chicago’s legendary progenitors of the genre. Founding father of footwork DJ Rashad put out one of the year’s finest LPs with the innovative and inspired Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi, pushing the genre to new limits.
DJ Rashad – Feelin’
DJ Rashad – iPod
Buy: Pick up Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi over at Beatport.
LOL Boys - Fader Mix + Edits
With the highs must come lows… sadly, 2012 signified the dissolution of my favorite rising electronic duo: LOL Boys. With little more than a brief farewell on their Facebook page, this internet-borne collaboration was ended just as they were on the brink of truly breaking out. In their parting, LOL Boys released a zip file of the edits that made up the awesome mix they put together for The FADER back in July. One of the most refreshing and eclectic blends of pop tunes I’ve heard in a long while, this breezy masterstroke was on repeat for weeks after it dropped. Stream that mix and download Edits below.
And hey, it’s not all tearful goodbyes. The silver lining here is that Jerome Potter still carries the LOL torch as Jerome LOL and Markus Garcia is starting to release tracks under the alias Heartbeat(s). Perhaps now we’ll get twice the goodness from these two talented DJs and producers.
Download: LOL Boys – Edits
Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions
Kendrick Lamar’s instant classic good kid, m.A.A.d city was enough to solidify 2012 as the year that TDE delivered handily on their promise. I just hope that Kendrick didn’t overshadow Habits & Contradictions, the excellent LP that fellow TDE member Schoolboy Q dropped earlier in the year. Between some excellent sample work and production, Schoolboy’s agile and aggressive flow, plus some dope guest spots, this is definitely not to a record be slept on. Stream Schoolboy’s heavy collab with K-Dot himself down below.
Buy: Grab Habits & Contradictions over at Amazon.
Mrs. Magician – Strange Heaven
If you’ve been following my Facebook, Twitter, or Soundcloud feeds, it’s become readily apparent that I am listening to a lot less guitar-centered music these days. However, the infectious garage rock haze of Mrs. Magician‘s stellar debut album Strange Heaven was an undeniable force in 2012. Produced by San Diego legend John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, The Night Marchers) and released on his label Swami Records, this effort has helped earn these hometown heroes some much deserved attention and acclaim. They even snatched up a San Diego Music Award last year for “Best Pop Album”, proving that they actually do get some things right over there now and then. Check out the bitingly clever and catchy “There Is No God” below or stream the whole LP here.
Mrs. Magician – There Is No God
Jam City – Classical Curves
If the Night Slugs crew sounds like they came from the future, then Jam City is making music from the furthest reaches of that spectrum. His unconventional approach to electronic music cuts right through the time-space continuum, referencing the dark minimal sounds of early rave and house, but bending them like light through a prism into a refracted sound that is at once abrasive, mesmerizing and very new. Classical Curves is certainly one of the more challenging records I heard this year and requires a bit of time to process fully. But, the rewards at the end of that journey are well-worth it.
Jam City – Her
Jam City – The Courts
Buy: Get a copy of Classical Curves over at Bleep.
Kid Smpl – Skylight
Kid Smpl has had an impressive year— from his excellent Escape Pod EP, to his hypnotic performance at Live for the Funk‘s Decibel Festival showcase, his acceptance into the latest session of the Red Bull Music Academy, and of course the release of his beautiful debut full-length on Seattle’s freshest new label Hush Hush Records. A deep exploration of ‘night bus‘ music, Skylight is pure vibe; a slow and subtle atmospheric drone that builds patiently to emotive heights, only to reverberate back into an ambient vapor. This is necessary listening, so turn off the lights, put on your headphones and zone out in this ocean of lush tones and textures.
Korallreven (feat. Julianna Barwick) – “Sa Sa Samoa” (Elite Gymnastics Remix)
This Elite Gymnastics remix of Korallreven and Julianna Barwick‘s “Sa Sa Samoa” is a massive and authentic jungle rinse-out of the original balearic choral jam. However, to fully appreciate this track, you must watch the video. Equal parts seapunk, dump.fm, classic rave footage, and cosmically poignant Final Fantasy VII dialogue, this intense and assaulting visual speaks to life on the internet like no other. And when that Whitney Houston sample drops in… it’s all over. Ecstasy.
Buy: Download a copy of this track for free (along with the rest of the EP) over at the Acéphale Soundcloud page.
I’ve got a new live mix up on the DJ ill spectre SoundCloud for ya’ll!
This latest mix is a live set I performed at The Kava Lounge for the homies Liquid Geometry when I opened for MORRI$ (Night Slugs / Fade to Mind). I’ve been playing with these sounds since earlier this year— this particular set has changed and evolved a few times. If you saw me at a Sweat Lodge warehouse party, or at The Living Room in Seattle, or at Andre Power’s “Trill” night at El Dorado, then some of these tunes will be familiar to you. But, I think this version of the set is the tightest and most varied of the bunch. Hope you enjoy!
This has been floating around in the ether for a while now— originally conceived as a mix for some friends that passed through on tour, then expanded to a 2 hour set for MOPA‘s “POP Thursdays”, later distilled to a shorter visual set performed at the West Ivy Warehouse parties, expanded once again to a 2 hour visual set performed at The Whistle Stop, and then refined further to what you have in front of you today. For me, this is by far the finest permutation of the mix. Marilia’s visuals, which feature a series of expertly manipulated scenes from some of our favorite films, give it a truly cinematic quality.
We hope you enjoy it! You can stream the visual mix up above (I’d recommend HD and full-screen viewing). If you’d simply like to stream or download the audio, you can do so below. Check out the cover art, mix tracklist, and visual setlist after the jump.
DJ ill spectre: 75% less cool IRL [Photo by Christine Herde]
Well, it’s officially been waaaay too long since I’ve posted here. I really miss having the time to write about music consistently! I’ve been very busy with a few projects, including grindin’ on the DJ side of things and starting a warehouse party series centered on deep and dance-oriented electronic music with some very talented friends. I hope to see ya’ll at the next one; I’ll be sure to post the details here.
The way things are going, it’s likely I will continue to be engrossed in such endeavors, however I’d like to return to sharing some things here even if it’s not quite in the same mode. I am still insatiably consuming new music. My taste has always been in a perpetual state of evolution, but with my focus now turning more to DJing and live mixing, I find myself delving deeper intro various styles of electronic music — bass, UK garage, house, trap, juke, post-dubstep, night bus, etc — which anyone following my blog’s Facebook feed can attest to. As such, I find that I’ve been far less preoccupied with listening to full-length albums and more in tune with an endless torrent of EPs, 12-inches, singles, remixes, bootlegs, blog exclusives, mixes, and incoming tracks on SoundCloud.
Look out for my latest live mix, which drops this week and features some awesome visual accompaniment courtesy of the impressive eye and skilled hand of Marilia Maschion. Peep the dates for upcoming DJ ill spectre gigs down below.
Liquid Geometry Presents: MORRI$, Misk (EP Release), DJ ill spectre, Strangr, and Jalen
2812 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101
July 19th, 9pm, 21+
So Say We All Presents: VAMP
The Whistle Stop
2236 Fern Street
San Diego, CA 92104
July 26th, 8pm, 21+, No cover
West Ivy Warehouse Party w/ gEars, [Jason Begin], CUTMOD, and DJ ill spectre
West Ivy Warehouse
935 West Ivy Street
San Diego, CA 92101
August 11th, 9pm, 21+, No cover
What a nice surprise! Stream Animal Collective‘s forthcoming Honeycomb / Gotham 7-inch above. Ace, as usual.