It started with Tricky and ended with Efdemin, and all I can tell you is there’s a real six degrees of separation thing going on here. Pre-Millenium Tension is so much inspiration and punchline; the sad joke of my high-school years (back then, nothing felt more subversive than jamming “Christiansands” on the way to our small-town prom); the Bristol-heavy, Londoner sleaze so particular to the 90s; the thing I never imagined would hold up, but hold up—have you heard “Bad Dreams” lately? ‘Cause man, that shit hits.
But it’s not just those toms that do it, or that death-rattle of a bass. There’s something to Tricky’s atmosphere—early Tricky at least, before he reportedly disavowed his only good records on grounds of insanity—that makes the heaviest elements even heavier, and it inspired in me a nightmare ride through piles of understated electro. Stuff that doesn’t worship at the altar of pure beat, you know, even though Pre-Millenium Tension is inarguably beat obsessed. While some of this month’s jams love a kick (oh hello, Jahcoozi), they’re equally reliant on the little things: that one breath in a vocal track, the space blips, lounge samples, dream loops, et al, that turn a track from run-of-the-mill Tiesto thump (ew) to pure effing brilliance.
Here we go.
Hands down the best jam on Pre-Millenium Tension, and second only to “Black Steel” as sexiest Martina Topley-Bird vocals ever. Too bad she’s gone so sugary now; Tricky-era Martina was like the saving grace of my high-school experience.
But at least Jahcoozi’s Sasha Perera is picking up the slack. The Berlin-based trio’s latest, Barefoot Wanderer, is full of rad electro-dub and dancehall, but Sasha’s back and forth with Guillermo E. Brown—plus that rad reverb explosion at the finish—pretty much makes the album. So good.
Speaking of explosions: London’s Elite Barbarian are in, like, a cage match with Oneohtrix Point Never for most creepily robotic space-station trauma. I mean, I’m sure they like each other just fine, but put the duo’s It’s Only When You Get To The End That It All Make Sense in a ring with Oneohtrix’s Zones Without People and there’s no way either is coming out injury free.
Trentemøller, on the other hand, seems to be downplaying any and all robotic qualities for something decidedly hushed and organic. New album The Great Wide Yonder is anything but his typical downtempo, but the Danish producer’s still a total genius; “Sycamore Feeling” wafts with reversed vocals and lazy, hollow guitars that (accidentally) school the fuck out of the XX’s “Infinity”. Whoops.
The Field. Apparat. Even Trentemoller remixes—this London duo comprised of Allez Allez’s Sam Willis and Banjo Or Freakout’s Alessio Natalizia is paying homage to the best of the best. Even their name bows its head, however unintentionally; Walls is the title of Apparat’s amazing first solo record, and this self-titled debut takes a cue. Dreamy, lush electro post-punk with a penchant for bells and airy vocal loops. Get ready to see this self-titled debut on gazillions of 2010 best-of lists.
Standout jam from the beloved German producer’s much-anticipated second album, Chicago. I’m not sure Efdemin could ever go wrong, but this track’s maniacal focus on the perfect lounge snippet and slight, subtle beat is beyond right: the most amazing weirdo, deep-summer space lounge.- Rue Sauvage