15-11 of the Records of the Year of My Choosing

Sharpen your ears: it’s the records that are a bit better than the last lot but not quite as good as the others!

15 Factory Floor – S/T

Thing is, all the best tracks on this album have been released before (Fall Back, Two Different Ways) which makes the record something of a disappointment. Despite that, it’s full of sophisticated techno that’s got Industrial/Noise chops as well as analogue dance appeal. In contrast to Nik Void’s work on Transverse with Chris & Cosey, the washes of noise are kept to a minimum and the album operates largely on the interplay between the excellent drum programming and Void’s treated vocals.

Sometimes it can be a bit route-one with its reliance on arpeggiated synths (guaranteed to make you move) and thunderous New Order beats, but it’s all so well orchestrated, sharply produced and deadpan in its delivery that it overcomes a limited dynamic by staring you down and bludgeoning you to dance with relentless techno sex. I want a befringed robot to fuck me right in the 80s.

14 Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat

Pretty hard to argue with this one; Liz Harris has released a bunch of older material under this title that deals with her witnessing of an empty boat washing ashore – the owner apparently absent and, presumably, lost at sea.

She deftly confounds expectations in her unusual compositions that threaten to be merely pretty in their reverb-drenched greyness, by allowing layered vocals to clash and melodies to hang, unresolved.

It’s heart-breaking and tender, with Harris’s gorgeous high vocal register breaking free of the murkiness of the mix – not enough to enunciate clearly, but enough to intone and generate a melancholic ambiguity.

13 Darkside – Psychic

This was obviously going to be good – Nicolas Jaar’s got a virtually impeccable back catalogue and he marries an evident intelligence with a searching ear and attention to detail, always managing to retain an immediacy in the sensuality of his production and vocals.

As Darkside, Jaar works with guitarist Dave Harrington to create music that bears all the hallmarks of Jaar’s own work, but expands into a space-disco aesthetic that’s propelled by Harrington’s 70s noodlings. It’s telling that Darkside released a remixed version of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories earlier in the year, since they’re also operating in the same territory – slickly produced, ambitious long players that hark back to the era of disco and prog.

Darkside shit all over Daft Punk’s syrupy mess by still retaining a progressive attitude and merely learning from past eras, rather than just creating a novelty record with all their mates. The album is full of space and moments of reverie, allowing the grooves to bubble up organically and, while Harrington is no Nile Rodgers, the funkiness is couched in subtly inventive electronics that allow the album to snake around into surprising corners.

Sometimes it’s in danger of meandering aimlessly, but the psychedelic and exploratory attitude opens it out to unusual modes of engagement, while the humanity is retained in Jaar’s characteristic vocals and jarring keyboard melodies.

12 Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

Yes, yes, yes. As soon as this fucking monster opens, it’s pretty clear that it’s Thee Oh Sees on top form. On occasion, Dwyer’s bloodlust lyrics can sound a bit daft, but there’s cartoonish edge to Thee Oh Sees that suits the balance of seriousness and hedonism in garage.

There’s a lot of breakneck riffing that stays amazingly rigid despite the spectre of chaos and mayhem that’s always behind Dwyer’s innocent falsetto (the cover depicts a load of strawberries intermingled with bared fangs) and there’s a well-judged balance of wide-eyed psychedelia with crisp melodies (No Spell); dirty, drifting grunge (Strawberries 1 + 2) and dexterous foot-stompers to lose your shit to (Maze Fancier).

Play it loud and take your shirt off, please.

11 Demdike Stare – Test Pressings #001, #002, #003, #004

 

A strange and audacious set of 12” singles from Demdike Stare; the Test Pressings series sees them adapting the production techniques that had previously generated their haunted, pagan techno to a slew of recognisable dance formats.

The mystical strand of occultism that colours their take on dance music produces a violent, satanic, sexualised broth. They’ve successfully married the hedonistic and hypnotic nature of house/techno with the psychedelic abandon of pagan ritual. It’s fucking volatile. If anyone could actually play it to a dancefloor, they’d all start fucking each other with crucifixes.

In the Test Pressings series they disappointingly dial down the vampiric bloodlust but compensate with improved dancefloor mechanics. It’s all excellent, and makes explicit the origins of Demdike’s previous dancefloor emptiers by re-examining the classic dance templates that have inspired the explosion of sonically innovative electronic artists with tangential relationships to their Detroit / Chicago / Berlin origins (see Blackest Ever Black).

It’s all about Eulogy and Dyslogy from #003 for me however; an engrossing cut of dubby techno from the Basic Channel mould on the A-side with a ridiculous bit of pots-and-pans breakbeat on the other.

The only disappointment is the loss of all the weirdo-chanting, doomy piano chords and atmospheric hiss that made their earlier material so compelling; perhaps their next release will be a perfectly symbiotic pairing of The Wicker Man and Drexciya, but this is pretty good for now.

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Get in the recovery position and await your top 10…

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