Eartheater: IRISIRI (LP, PAN, December 2018)

Ooh, I’d forgotten how great this is. I streamed this a bunch when it came out in… was it July? I pre-ordered the vinyl, which I think was due to come out in September, and then I gradually forgot about it as the physical release date got pushed back. So this turning up was a lovely little Christmas present.

This is one to file under “really frigging hard to categorize”. Metadata-wise I’ve landed on avant pop, but I’m not sure that’s really a genre. Alexandra Drewchin mixes the synths up with everything from harps (played by Marilu Donovan) to strings to occasional drum machines and guitars, and her vocals range between proper singing, moaning, yelping, whispering, computer-generated loops, samples, and all sorts besides. Stylistically, it can flip in a moment from prettily, floatily melodic to twitchily abstract and back, or even drop into thumpingly industrial, and sound perfectly natural the whole time. And it does all of this in a way that seems perfectly natural. The lyrics, which are more fragments than verse-chorus-verse, have a spikily feminist theme running through them (memorable refrains include “inhale baby pink, exhale red” and “computer! / this body is a chemistry mystery / these tits are just a side-effect / you can’t compute her / you can’t compute her / you don’t decide for my chemical”) and are sometimes disconcertingly strange (“there’s so much… stuff coming out of my skirt”). And although they seem scattergun on first listen, somehow they add up to a coherent whole (a sample of what sounds like a child chanting “okay, go! nobody’s looking, nobody’s looking!”, which would seem random by itself, gains layers of meaning from its context) and rise above sloganeering.

Building these disparate and not always easy elements into a coherent whole without seeming forced is a very rare talent, and Drewchin does it absolutely brilliantly. This is a record that I’m sure I’ll be coming back to over and over again for a long time.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.

STILL: I (LP, PAN, September 2017)

still-i

This is one of those records that’s kind of hard to classify, but very easy to like. It’s kind of like a electronicified form of Jamaican dancehall and dub. From Italy. I suppose that track names like Haile Selassie Is The Micro-Chip should give you some idea of what’s going on. Simone Trabucchi lays down tracks that are based around bloops and bleeps from analogue synths and drum machines, with a distinctive loose and echoey production. MCing is from six African-Italians. It’s all decidedly wonky and rather delightful. Personal favourite is the rolling up-tempo Don’t Stop (Wondo Riddim) with duelling vocals from Germay and Devon Riles.

Bonus points for the cover art, which features something that looks a bit like a plastic sculpture of Lee “Scratch” Perry as executed by Raoul Hausmann.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic and Dub / Reggae.

Objekt: Flatland (CD, Pan, October 2014)

The plus column: This is an ace album of proper electro-flavoured techno. It’s sonically and rhythmically rich, it’s got a lovely balance of hard thumpy bits and bloopy melodic bits, and it has that exciting feeling of being like what people thought the future was going to be like back when people thought the future was going to be exciting. The minus column: It could, at least to my ear, have been produced at any time in the past two decades. I mean, there are bits that just scream Dopplereffekt (and I have since discovered that the two acts had a split single on Leisure Systems once). That is, of course, a pretty theoretical objection, and doesn’t stop it being great fun to listen to… but it’s easy to overdose on such retro thrills. I try to limit myself to one or two releases like this a year. I’m glad I made this one of them.

I was bought this from Juno. They call it Techno.