Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EPs of the year (International)

Fair bit of overlap with the Irish list here, summing up how strong domestic releases were. Big up Nialler9 ( , from whose blog i discovered the excellent Beat Connection EP

1 - James Blake - The Bells Sketch / CMYK / Klavierwerke

"While the three tracks contained on this 12-inch are a little more morose and sparser than Blake's breakout remix of Untold's "Stop What You're Doing," they're still just as fiercely inventive. Reminiscent of his work with Airhead—the sublimely minimal "Pembroke" and "Lock in a Lion" saw a release on Brainmath recently—"The Bells Sketch" flickers with the echoed shrills of delayed strings contorting behind low end palpitations that stretch and slice their way up into a slow stomp, decorated with playfully pitched vocals, erratic jazz piano basslines and flecks of pure G-funk synthesizer." - (Resident Advisor Bells Sketch review -

"Blake’s Burial-esque manipulation of vocals and unique and imaginative use of space is incredibly soul-stirring and affecting in ways that are unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Nowhere is this more evident than on the mournful, fairly mindblowing “I Only Know (What I Know Now),” which sounds like being born/dying, or as P4k’s David Bevan put it, “like infinity trapped inside of five minutes.”" - (GorillaVSBear CMYK/Klavierwerke end-of-year blurb - )

02 James Blake - Buzzard & Kestrel by elpretentio2

2 - Memoryhouse - The Years

"From an oft-used drum machine, to endless looping, to somberly chilling beats, The Years uses simplicity to their advantage...spacey nuances and sobering, breezy murmur-like vocals...the closer (is) a wavey, haunting, and graceful song like no other. With elegant twangs spread evenly underneath the pacific vocals, Nouvion’s tender lyrics reach a new plane of comfort as she sings of dreams, of houses in the sky, of continuously drifting slowly and, oddly enough, “His lungs filling with water from the tide.” - (Sputnikmusic review )

3 - Beat Connection - Surf Noir

"Seattle duo Beat Connection make sun-soaked, dance-infused sounds under the cover of cloudy skies. Surf Noir, the University of Washington pair’s free EP, programs beats that run the gamut from ambling tropicalia (“Sunburn”) to house-derived rhythm (“Theme From Yours Truly”) and ’80s synthpop (“Motorway”). The eight tracks contained on the EP float lightly, sometimes drifting carefree, and at other moments picking up the pace, caught up in the patterns of the wind and waves of their fictional beach setting...The warbled computer speech of “Fresh Touch”, the bright, simplistic casiofied background over which the Peter Gabriel-esque vocals of “Silver Screen” sit and the (perhaps) Kraftwerk Autobahn-referencing “Motorway” are all amongst the EP’s more interesting offerings. These are the sounds through which Beat Connection prove they have more to give than sunshine and summer vibes." - (Mishka Bloglin review - )

4 - Wildbirds & Peacedrums - Retina / Iris

"Sweet, fluttering vocal hooks and soulful breaks are here in abundance, and Wallentin sounds more sentimental and sultry as she works over Werliin’s clean, punchy grooves...On songs like “Under Land And Over Sea,” “The Drop,” and “The Lake,” it’s easy to hear not just Wallentin’s voice, but also the way her mouth and tongue form each word, and to get a sense of just the sort of force with which Werliin strikes every drum. It’s unusual to hear songs and sounds that so directly implicate the human bodies that produced them, and it demands a creative leap to pursue such intimate exposure. By the force of their musicianship on Rivers, however, Wildbirds & Peacedrums manage to own that risk as one of their greatest assets." - (Tiny Mix Tapes review - )

5 - Angkorwat - Early EP

(see Irish list )

6 - School Tour - Yes Way

(Irish list

7 - Joy Orbison - The Shrew Would Have Cushioned The Blow

"...'So Derobe' follows with a more experimental construction, reminding of James Blake's special drum arrangements but fashioned in a slow-burning deep house sense with sparing use of a fat square bass and soul-singed vocals percolating up through the groove. Actress completes an exceptional record with his strutting electro-acoustic house mix on the flip, strangely devoid of any discernable bassline but full of effervescent electronics constantly evaporating into the higher registers while the rhythm effortlessly stops and starts at will. Imagine Bernard Parmegiani jamming with Anthony Shakir at 4am on Mir and you're up there. Vital." - (Boomkat - )

8 - FUR / Coyote Clean Up - Lackadaisical

"The Lackadaisical EP is a split with Denton, TX's FUR and Detroit's Coyote Clean Up. Both artists make the sheen of lounge house, less about mannequins and runways, more about off kilter edits that prevent the hypnosis of snap breaks lulling your senses into impulse. The label could not have selected a more fitting album cover, as this is an EP that has me dreaming about breathing and hearing underwater. Oh, how I long for the lackadaisical days to return. Oh, how I long for a water-proof Ipod." - (Impose - )

9 - Pariah - Safehouses

"‘Railroad’ is more conventional modern garage, but extremely good with it, tear-streaked heartbreak synth melodies riding shuffling 2step beats with the occasional Amen break rearing its welcome head...‘C-Beams’ is wonky computer hop heard through a peyote haze, a psychedelic Zomby / FlyLo derivative. Lastly, the final number and title track is a beautiful ambient synth emission, like staring from the deck of a space station into the engulfing, terrifyingly beautiful infinity beyond. Safehouses is the announcement of an extraordinary new producer, and proves that R&S remains a force to reckon with." (-FACT - )

10 - Lake R▲dio - Blair / The Weather

"‘VCR Operation’ is chilled, delightful Gold Panda-esque electronica, while ‘Martin Hannett’s Ghost’ takes Joy Division’s haunted, desolate ‘The Eternal’, subtracts Ian Curtis’ vocals, and adds distant but soulful female ones: the bleak backdrop drives home the desperation of the “i need someone” refrain. Overall, Blair and The Weather have enough sonic similarities to the witch house pack to be regarded as kindred spirits at least. Not that any outside validation is necessary: taken on their own terms, these two records are eclectic, strange, atmospheric and frequently compelling. Well worth investigation." - (State)

11 - Pangea - Pangea

"Pangaea's vision can sometimes start to sound a bit bleak, thanks in no small part to his talent for fusing sprawling chords with layers of atmospherics. But with a quick smattering of winding synth on "Dead Living," he immediately manages to lift the track and take it somewhere drastically different, playing up the awkward riff and amplifying its impact. And on closer "Because of You" he does things that completely contrast the preceding bars, as if he's feeding himself deeper into the recesses of his late night recording sessions...Much like the way Pangaea chooses to irk out his music slowly, his productions take that extra bit of time to creep up on you, gradually becoming more and more infectious." - (Resident Advisor - )

12 - oOoOO - oOoOO

"oOoOO's skewed take on commercial electro-pop celebrates its decadent glamour while going out if its way to expose its rotten core. From the stuttering, fractured R&B wasteland of "Mumbai" to the barren faux-funk of "Hearts", oOoOO is a beautiful still of urban yearning and mindlessness captured through the stained glasses of a romantic outsider, a guttural fairy tale orchestrated by delayed vamps and diseased synth tones." - (Altered Zones - )

Hearts by oOoOO

13 - Logikparty - High Risk Narcissist

(Irish list - )

14 - BALAM ACAB - See Birds

"It wouldn't be fair to mention Ithaca, New York's young Balam Acab without first saying something about goth crunk merchants Salem. Both rely on the same lugubrious slow-mo formula of pitched-down vocals, pitched-up vocals, heavy bass drums and spooky echoes of Three 6 Mafia, Burial, Boards Of Canada and Dead Can Dance...opener, "See Birds (Moon)," is a dream, skittering over an underproduced bassline and a bizarre vocal phrase that could've been culled from an old Goblin soundtrack. Haunted Tokyo synth-clatter rises and fades somewhere in the middle. We're met with dizzied glossolalia and chopped-up samples of a riverside. (Think Green River Killer in this case, not a babbling brook.)" - (Resident Advisor - )

See Birds by BALAM ACAB

15 - Children Under Hoof - A Collar Can Become A Noose

(Irish list -

16 - Laura Sheeran - Music For The Deep Woods

(Irish list -

17 - Summer Camp - Young

"Sure this is woozy bedroom pop, and these six songs artfully weave a twenty minute sonic hammock that you’d happily lounge in all day, but there’s something darker and more alluring at work here...Young is incredibly likeable, and by the time the chorus of ‘Ghost Train’ comes around the band have established themselves a sound that’s so genuine and pretty it dispossesses you of any cynicism and pulls you into their world of fuzzy bewilderment." - (Drowned In Sound -

'Ghost Train' by Summer Camp by seaninsound

18 - Ramadanman - Ramadanman

"There’s often a bracing austerity and sparseness to Ramadanman’s music. Here, that’s accentuated by the woody tones he uses, as well as the absence of bass. There’s also so much going on in these tracks, so much painstakingly executed work, that it’s easy to get lost in the detail. I have to almost think myself out of thinking when I hear this record; to consciously abandon all the cerebral stuff and let these supremely funky virtual drum-circles wash through me. Right now, Ramadanman is quietly becoming a master at work." - (FACT - )

19 - Games - That We Can Play

"Tackling a decade’s worth of music is a huge task, but Lopatin and Ford, having spent a large portion of their youth as friends jamming on synths and wigging out to prog-anything, have no trouble in locking down references sonically and stylistically. Everything is present and correct: rubber basslines, sawtooth strings, keytar wailings, arpeggiators, FM flutes, crystal pads, power drums, the lot. However, what makes the results more than mere referencing, and what gives That We Can Play its character, is the way the songs are all slightly unfamiliar...The results are referential, but never reverential, and quite explorative, everything being bent and shaped and snapped subtly. ‘Strawberry Skies’, for instance, is their contribution to history’s vocal pop canon, featuring Laurel Halo’s dreamy singing over synth panpipes and marimbas, a bouncing boogie bass and stomping disco drums underpinning it all. The song is solidly constructed, but the vocal is saturated with reverb throughout, reminiscent of OPN’s cloud-like textures, pointing the song in an unexpected direction." - (FACT - )

Games [ft. Laurel Halo]: Strawberry Skies by alteredzones

20 - Forest Swords - Dagger Paths

"Forest Swords is one man, The Wirral’s Matt Barnes. With his dubwise predilection for gauzy textures and sensual fuzzy gasps, Burial and Fennesz are immediate reference points, but the more you live with the record, the more a distinctive, brutally minimalist aesthetic comes to the fore. The way Barnes arranges his sounds and rolls out his beats betrays his love of jagged R&B and hip-hop, but that pop sensibility is distended by his penchant for distant, anguished vocals, punishing drones and martial percussion sourced from the devil’s own dancehall." - (FACT -

Miarches by Forest Swords

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