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Best Of 2016: Electronic

Best Electronic Album of 2016

Ital Tek - Hollowed

Taken from Hollowed LP Video directed by Clayton Welham and Joseph Lion

I’ve been an Ital Tek fan since his debut, cYCLICAL. That was back when dubstep was the stuff of articles in Wire Magazine, before the wub-wub-wub stereotypes set in. Ital Tek’s dubstep and dance music experimentations never quite fit on the dance floor, though, referencing the club rather than stepping foot in one. But Hollowed finds Ital Tek starting off closer to ambient and drone music, bringing those dance music touch points in as echoes of echoes of the club. The constant remains Ital Tek’s thick, encompassing synth lines, the kind that just envelop you like a fog. There was little doubt that this would be my electronic album of the year once it dropped.

The Rest of the Best

Perturbator - The Uncanny Valley

Perturbator "Sentient (feat. Hayley Stewart)" music video - animated by Valenberg. Co-directed by Valenberg & Blood Music. UNCENSORED VERSION. This is track number 8 on Perturbator's highly-awaited fourth album, "The Uncanny Valley." The album will be released on May 6th, 2016 through Finland/USA label Blood Music. Co-written by Perturbator and Blood Music. Produced by Blood Music.

The black metal guitarist turned cyberpunk synthwave electronic producer, Perturbator is best known by gamers for his contributions to the two Hotline Miami soundtracks. One of the leading names in the synthwave movement that is happening largely on Bandcamp, Peturbator brings a stronger sense of melody to his retro-terror. Drawing strongly from John Carpenter, classic 8-bit video games, Akira, and Vangelis, Perturbator is like a dark neon-soaked version of the ‘80s cranked up to 11. This kind of music could very easily veer off into hopeless cheesiness, but Perturbator’s compositions are a class above the army of bedroom producers also pushing material out onto the Internet.

Tim Hecker - Love Streams Love Streams out now - 4AD/PaperBag Directed by Brett Stabler

Hecker’s last album, the brilliant Virgins, was a haunting delight. Love Streams goes in another direction, less malevolent and more alien. Love Streams’ hazy, quivering tones create music that feels out of reach, a mix of traditional instruments and unrecognizable sounds, including voices from the Icelandic Choir Ensemble which present like unrecognizable alien voices lost behind the maelstrom. The album title confuses, sounding either naively romantic or vaguely lewd, but both fit in the sense that the album brings life forms to mind, and not the trajectories of celestial bodies or the artifice of digital machinery.

Autechre - elseq 1-5

Four hours of new Autechre! This digital-only surprise release is best described as a marathon. For those unaware, Autechre’s live shows are not of the “push-play-button” variety. Rather, they are real-time improvisational performances, new music strung together on the fly. Last year, they dropped a 9 hour set of live recordings as AE_LIVE. On elseq, the duo takes that improv approach into the studio, where they have considerably more toys to play with than in a live setting. What we get is something different from most Autechre studio releases, particularly the early ones upon which the band built its reputation. Pieces are abstract, blurring the line between music and sound design. Oftentimes, a repeating beat is about all that is immediately identifiably “musical”, a sort of life-line which pulls the listener through a kaleidoscope of sound. Repetition will go from relentless in one track to absent in another. It’s often bewildering, and impossible to pin down in easy description.

Loscil - Momument Builders

Music by loscil © 2016 Choreographed and Performed by Vanessa Goodman Video by Scott Morgan New album Monument Builders out Nov 11 on kranky.

This one just give me chills. Loscil has put out a lot of good albums, and on this one, he pulls inspiration from the Philip Glass soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi. It’s not dark ambient like a Lustmord album, but it’s also not whimsical or pensive like a lot of ambient music. It’s vaguely (and sometimes not-so-vaguely) foreboding. PopMatters called it “the sonic equivalent of the scenery in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road”, and that’s a pretty good description. It evokes empty, decaying urban areas under a perpetually gray sky.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS

Director | Dancer: Melanie Lane ( DOP | Editing: Jesper Berg ( Camera assistant: Laimonis Brakss Kaitlyn’s invitation to create and choreograph a video for her track ‘Arthropoda’ was an exciting proposal. Her sound encompasses a unique blend of organic texture, within a futuristic realm which very much resonated with my interest in the potential for dance to take on those qualities and translate them into a visual narrative. The concept for the video was to interpret Kaitlyn’s other-wordly, sonic universe by combining dance with a sculptural, architectural environment. The video embarks upon a surreal narrative that merges nature vs urban, reality vs sci-fi, future vs present. The Stapelbäddsparken (skate park) in Malmö, Sweden was the perfect location, offering a vast concrete landscape of urban textures and elegant, majestic lines that echo our natural world. The choreography is about the excavation of space - designing movement in space to unearth something unique, playful and supernatural. The dance style developed its own anomalous language, exclusively inspired by Kaitlyn’s sound. The image of the dancer is between human and mythical - borrowing from fluid contemporary movement to more graphic, insect-like choreography. The video for ‘Anthropoda’ is a universal story that embodies the curiosity and desire of human nature to transcend our environment. It magnifies texture and form whilst proposing the existence of otherness. Through the dance between a human body and an urban space, the film celebrates the playfulness, power and beauty embedded in Kaitlyn’s sonic universe.

Much like the Tim Hecker album, this is a very “organic electronic” album, incorporating woodwinds and other acoustic instruments, as well as human voices, over her primary instrument of a vintage late ‘60s modular synth (Buchla 100) that evokes that retro-futurism of that era. It’s lush, meditative, and disorienting, like the soundtrack to landing on a rich, hospitable landscape on an alien planet.

Eluvium - False Readings On

Artist: Eluvium Title: Regenerative Being Album: False Readings On Director: Stas Santimov Purchase CD/LP/Digital: ©2017 Temporary Residence Ltd.

Ambient music in the true Brian Eno sense, False Readings On is pretty, but also unsettling. Pieces will fade in with the kind of gentle sonic washes that would be at home on schmaltzy new wave albums with pictures of soft beach tides on their covers, but Matthew Cooper will then play against that by layering sounds and counter-melodies that disrupt and invoke subtle feelings of anxiety.

Venetian Snares - Traditional Synthesizer Music

Venetian Snares - Traditional Synthesizer Music February 19, 2016 I made a live album in my house, recorded between July and December 2014! Physical Preorders come with a 10 Track Bonus Album on CD! All Preorders come with an instant download of Magnificent Stumble V2

Aaron Funk sets aside his laptop software synths, and builds a wall. A wall of modular synth modules, that is. Unlike his often-bonkers (and often- brilliant) past work, Funk composed and recorded this album live entirely on modular synthesizer equipment, with no overdubbing or editing. The abrasiveness of typical VS albums is largely absent. Instead, Funk’s tendencies towards abruptness and off-kilter rhythms is restrained, peeking through rather than dominating. In making a less challenging album, though, Funk has made one of the most captivating Venetian Snares releases yet.

(Read an interview with Funk on the album’s production)

Datach'i - System

From the Datach'i album "System" OUT NOW: iTunes - Bandcamp - Planet-Mu Store - Spotify -

This album came to be in large part because of the Venetian Snares album above. Aaron Funk and Joseph Fraioli were friends in the past, who reconnected over their recent shared interest in modular synths. Fraioli had been posting videos of his setup on his Vimeo channel, which led to Funk pestering him into putting Fraioli into putting together an album to release on Funk’s TimeSig label. It’s the first work Fraioli has released under the Datach'i moniker in a decade. Like Funk’s Venetian Snares album, this Datach'i release is a much less experimental album than previous releases. Instead, it’s finely crafted

S U R V I V E - RR7349

Directed by Chris Rusch Edited by Melissa Cha Aerial Cinematography: Sean Krell, Ryan Aylsworth, Willie Rockefeller & Derek Gildersleeve Video Synthesis by Samantha Gibble Produced by Relapse Records & Holodeck Records Special Thanks: T.C. Johnson, Lindsey Reimnitz, Adam Schlender & Match Point Productions Purchase CD/LP: Purchase Digital: ------ SUBSCRIBE to ------ FOLLOW on Twitter: ------ For more videos from Pitchfork TV: Like Pitchfork on Facebook: Check out Pitchfork on Tumblr: S U R V I V E: “Copter” (Official Music Video)

S U R V I V E is a wonderful ‘80s synth extravaganza. The Austin-based group features four synthesizer players, two of whom were responsible for the renowned Stranger Things season 1 soundtrack.

Whereas the Perturbator album is very dark and aggressive, S U R V I V E is more dramatic film score. Giorgio Moroder’s “Tony’s Theme” from Scarface would make a good reference point. S U R V I V E (I already hate typing those spaces) pulls from other synth acts of the era, like Vangelis and (late-‘70s/early-'80s) Tangerine Dream.

Forma - Physicalist

Video by Leigh Silverblatt From the album 'Physicalist' (Kranky Records, 2016)

Slot this one right next to the S U R V I V E album, because that retro ‘80s synthesizer ambient soundscapes theme continues here. While S U R V I V E brings sparse, airy beats, Forma plows forward with driving kosmische beats straight out of Neu! or Kraftwerk… at least for the first half of the album. By the second half of the album, the beats start to show up less often,

Boobs of Doom - (((WHITE NOISE)))

Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises Liquid Dinosaurs · Boobs of DOOM ( ( (White Noise) ℗ 2016 Boobs of DOOM Released on: 2016-06-06 Auto-generated by YouTube.

Boobs of Doom sits at the corner of doom metal and electronic drone / dark ambient.

Best Electronic EPs

Arca - Entrañas

▸ Artist: Arca ▸ Album: [2016] Entrañas ▸ Track: Entrañas (full album) ▸ Style: Abstract-Post-Industrial-Glitch 1. Pérdida 2. Torero 3. Culebra 4. Vicar 5. Cement Garden interlude 6. Baby Doll / ft. Mica Levi 7. Lulled 8. Think of / ft. Mica Levi & Massacooraman 9. Clocked 10. Pargo 11. Turnt / ft. Total Freedom 12. Girasol 13. Fount 14. Sin Rumbo (removed at the request of the "copyright owner") Alt. link: (Artwork = “Memories of Feeling” by nancekievill Update (04-06-2017): [Merlin] Beggars is satisfied with the edit and has decided to release their copyright claim on this video. Leaving my remarks open to deter other potential take-down attempts. Update (04-04-2017): The claimant aims to take down the video in 7 days. They still maintain "Sin Rumbo" is their property; even though it can still be downloaded free of charge on Arca's SoundCloud page or streamed from Arca's YouTube channel. As expected, there's no way to challenge the copyright claim without a reply from Arca himself. As a result, I've been forced to edit out the last track. It remains to be seen whether this will be sufficient to satisfy the claimant. Update (03-26-2017): The claimant is disputing my appeal on two grounds: 1) they say XL Recordings has exclusive copyright to "Sin Rumbo" on Arca's upcoming self-titled album and so too retroactively on Entrañas; 2) they also say that because Arca has not explicitly dedicated this work to the public domain it cannot be shared without permission. As such, I've reached out on Arca's Twitter to request clarification over the status of the album. If I can't get confirmation directly from Arca, I'll concede to the claimant and edit out the last track as XL Recordings is not the proper copyright owner of the entire album. Update (03-15-2017): The audio appears to have been restored for the time being. As this may only be a temporary result of the appeal process I have elected to leave my remarks to the claimant here for the purpose of public record and general copyleft education. Update (03-15-2017): The claimant rejected my dispute without any explanation. I have appealed this decision with the following statement: "On Independence Day (2016), Alejandro Ghersi (stage name Arca) self-released a 14-track mixtape entitled "Entrañas" to the public on his SoundCloud page(1-2). This work was released free of charge and without label, legal restriction, or explicit copyright. I have consulted the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) ACE database(3), WorldCat database(4), LastFM database(5), and Discogs database(6) and have yet to discover evidence for the exclusive legal entitlement of the claimant. It is my good faith belief that this work is in the public domain because the author has indicated a desire to release it to the public without legal protection(7). On what grounds does the claimant assume the right to violate the will of the artist and the free creative enrichment of his audience?" "I find the YouTube content ID system is ripe for copyright abuse. In this system, the claimants are granted the benefit of the doubt over the defendant, can block access to public works, and then further reject their disputes without explanation, or third party oversight. Users are simply intimidated through this process and expected to accept the authority of the claimant on pain of copyright strikes against their account. Because of this policy, claimants can use their stature as a bullying tactic against users who lack the desire, knowledge, or ability to protect their rights. I ask those who review my counter-claim to take note of this form of abuse against the public domain." "I request a neutral arbitrator to review this case and render a fair judgment." 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Copyright claim (03-14-2017): Audio on this video has been muted at the request of the copyright claimant, "[Merlin] Beggars". I have filed a dispute against this claim on the grounds that the album was self-released for free and without label by the author. It is my good faith belief, therefore, that this work is in the public domain and as such should not be eligible for copyright claims. The album can still be downloaded for free from the artist's SoundCloud page:

I’m calling this an EP, but in reality it’s a single 25 minute track, released only on SoundCloud and the file downloading site Mediafire. It’s supposed to represent 14 tracks, but as a single music file without many clearly distinguishable breaks, mapping them out is somewhat futile. Like last year’s brilliant album Mutant, it’s hard to adequately describe

Aphex Twin - Cheetah

Taken from Aphex Twin’s ‘Cheetah EP’, out now on Warp Records. Directed by Ryan Wyer, aged 12, of Rush, County Dublin. Buy/Stream:

This is honestly one of my favorite Aphex releases. I feel like post-hiatus Aphex is killing it. On this one, Richard D. James takes the notorious Cheetah MS800 synth (infamous for both its “unique” tone and being so incomprehensible to program that all but a few simply gave up), and coaxes rich sounds from it, in the form of some rather subdued but detailed tracks that beg for headphone listening. Those looking for that high-tempo complexity RDJ is known for won’t find it here, but rather this one goes out to the fans of his brilliant Selected Ambient Works 1985-1992 debut.

Lorn - Vessel

The year 2100. In an effort to combat overpopulation, the postmortem social network "Anvil" is released. A fusion of both Japanese and Belgian comics inspirations and sensibilities, such as Ghost in the Shell, Akira or Peeters & Schuiten's work. "Anvil" invites us on a journey through the eyes of a young woman in her final moments on earth. Artist: Lorn Title: Anvil Label: Wednesday Sound Directed by GERIKO (Hélène Jeudy & Antoine Caëcke) Design, Script & Animation by Antoine Caëcke & Hélène Jeudy Character Animation by Anthony Lejeune & Manddy Wyckens // Links // LORN GERIKO Contact: [email protected] VIMEO LINK : SXSW OFFICIAL SELECTION 2017 BERLIN MUSIC VIDEO AWARDS OFFICIAL SELECTION 2017 SEEYOUSOUND OFFICIAL SELECTION 2017 RSC SHORTFILM FEST OFFICIAL SELECTION 2017 ART FUTURA OFFICIAL SELECTION 2017

This was a quiet, down-low album release on Lorn’s Bandcamp page. I only heard of it because of the Headphone Commute review (and if you’re not familiar with HC, they review electronic/experimental/modern classical, and only write about things they like, so any “review” posted is also a recommendation). It is dense and dystopic, best illustrated by the animated video for the track Anvil. Available for pay-what-you-want on Lorn’s Bandcamp page

Honorable Mentions

Kettel - Wingtip

buy Wingtip here: itunes: ~Music by: Reimer Eising - "POBLESEC"~ Directed by: Peter Corina Produced by: Pier Pictures Mastered by: Benn L. Jordan Cinematographers: T.S. Pfeffer, Peter Corina Artwork by: Jude Corina Butterfly Girl: Erika Harrington Evil Nerd: Peter McKay Special thanks to Brint Genzler, Isabella Corina, and Kaelin Corina Butterflies bred and provided by Jack Little of Little's Greenhouse:

I’ve been a fan of Kettel since the first Myam James album. Before this one, his most recent work was the soundtrack to the co-op PC game Ibb and Obb. Like that game, Kettel’s work on Wingtip is bright and cheerfully melodic. It’s not a hard hitting or particularly forward thinking album, rather, it is a throwback to those ‘90s days of melodic, tuneful IDM. It made a great soundtrack to my Cities: Skyline sessions.

Kassem Mosse - Disclosure

Provided to YouTube by FINETUNES Monomer · Kassem Mosse Disclosure ℗ 2016 Honest Jon's Records Released on: 2016-10-14 Composer: Gunnar Wendel Auto-generated by YouTube.

This one didn’t seem to get much attention outside of a Pitchfork review, despite his full length debut a couple years ago (Workshop 19) earning a lot of praise. Maybe because this album sees Kassem Mosse moving far away from those minimal techno, club beat roots. In its place are a sequence of abstract tracks, which alternate between beatless ambient pieces and mid-tempo beat tracks that hint at his previous work, but glitched and corrupted.

Brad Fiedel - The Terminator (reissue)

“Terminator Theme (Extended)” was written and performed by Brad Fiedel for James Cameron’s 1984 Sci-Fi classic “Terminator”. The Terminator Soundtrack has been made available by Milan records. Buy The Terminator OST on Amazon: Buy The Terminator OST on iTunes: Listen to The Terminator OST on Spotify:

This soundtrack to the 1984 film has been out of print for about 20 years, and its previous releases were of poor quality and cut up sequentially. Recently, Fiedel regained creative control of the material, and with the help of Milan Records, has remastered and sequenced the material into its first true release.

Zomby - Ultra

Provided to YouTube by Redeye Distribution Reflection · Zomby Ultra Released on: 2016-09-02 Composer: J. Moulds Music Publisher: Domino Music Publishing Auto-generated by YouTube.

There’s too many artists with this sort of name. Last year synthwave/space-rock duo Zombi with-an-I released a great album, and played Psycho poolside this year. This year, Zomby with-a-Y, the mask-wearing UK electronic producer, released his best album in a while. It’s grimy and inhospitable, playing at times like the soundtrack to a dim seedy club before making sharp right turns with inexplicable tempo changes that would immediately derail any foolish attempts at dancing to it.

Also honorable mentions:

Rival Consoles - Night Melody

Clark - The Last Panthers

Jubilee - After Hours

Steve Hauschildt - Strands

The Field - Follower

The Range - Potential

Participation Ribbon

John Carpenter - Lost Themes II

'Distant Dream' official live video, directed by John Carpenter. "Lost Themes II" out now. TOUR DATES & TICKETS : Pre-order & download "Distant Dream" instantly: BAND: John Carpenter: Synthesizer Cody Carpenter: Synthesizer Daniel Davies: Guitar John Spiker: Bass John Konesky: Guitar Scott Seiver: Drums Director: John Carpenter Executive Producers: John Carpenter/Cody Carpenter/Daniel Davies Production Company: Brick & Mortar Productions, Inc. Producer: Robert L. Lucas Cinematographer: Eduardo Fierro Editor: Mike Schiff Production Coordinator: John Vulich Color Correction: Mike Schiff/Eduardo Fierro B - Camera Operator: Mike Schiff C - Camera Operator: Gavin Nash / Robert L. Lucas Camera Assistant: Jone Troconis Aldaz Camera Assistant: Kaity Williams Camera DIT: John Vulich Grip/Electric: Patrick McCormick Grip/Electric: Joe Knetter BTS Camera: Kaity Williams/ Patrick McCormick Production Assistant: Sarah French Artist Info: John Carpenter Website: John Carpenter Facebook: John Carpenter Twitter: John Carpenter Instagram: Label Info: Website: Soundcloud: Youtube: Instagram:

Throughout John Carpenter’s long career, one thing he hasn’t done is release standalone albums. That is, until his debut last year, Lost Themes. This year, he returns with Lost Themes II, a continued collaboration with his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies (son of Kinks guitarist Dave Davies). Carpenter’s timing is interesting, given how many artists lately have taken strong inspiration from the styles he defined as composer for the scores of his films. Lost Themes