Author Archives: nathawks

BEST MUSIC OF 2013 ACCORDING TO NAT

Not the best year of music, not the worst. (I like to say that every year).
Onto what music, in my opinion, didn’t blow.

1. Oneohtrix Point Never-R plus 7
I am surprised every year by how little the tools of digital music making have shaped what music sounds like in the big picture. It’s mostly producers using these new tools to make the same electronic music that was happening 20 years ago. And those experimenters that thrive on the digital-ness of digital potential tend to produce unlistenable noise. Rarely is that sweet middle ground struck.
But Oneohtrix Point Never has gone and done it again. Ultimate music for music nerds. Both challenging and giving, looking forwards and backwards equally… all-knowing.

R plus 7 is the closest thing I’ve heard this year to a new form of music. Playfully utilizing computer power to craft something that knows what it’s made of, OPN’s heightened awareness of both trends in internet genres and how to make gorgeous music like Glass give him the perfect tool set to bring his future vision to life. These songs were performed live with great success.

Video for “Boring Angel” made entirely of emojis.

Video for “Problem Areas,” by Takashi Murata, which I did not like until a friend explained that all images are computer generated, which made me like it more.

Video for “Still Life” (excerpt) with Nate Boyce, who currently does OPN’s live visuals.

Here’s this weird archaic-file-type, intentionally-near-impossible-to-hear version of Chrome Country… embrace the digi-noise!

2. Autechre-Exai and L-event
Autechre released a 2+ hour lp and an ep this year. What did you do?
A return to a more harsh, aggressive mood: rhythms particularly muddled in the noise and melodies particularly difficult to discern, if there at all. Business as usual for these boys.
No one has caught up to where Ae were in 1993.
This is the sound of them walking alone in a barren, aesthetic tundra of their own design. There are so far ahead in their own race, they tread in any direction, answering to no one.

Baby listening to Ae Exai track…

Most pleasant track on the album…

…and one of the more fragmented…

Oh yeah, and they did a 10 hour dj set to promote the album. Some of that here…

3. Holden-Inheritors
Likely the strongest “I’ve arrived” debut of the year, 15 mighty tracks (75 minutes) of untethered studio wizardry and cosmic intentions show Holden having quite a bit of fun. Mostly modular synth and drums, with occasional guitar, Holden channels the Kraut Gods in Kluster-esqe jams that go in special directions.
Had the privilege of seeing him open for Atoms For Peace, and he brought it live.

Excellent video for “Renata” by creator of all Inheritors related art, Jack Featherstone.

4. James Blake-Overgrown
James Blake is so damned GROWN for his age. He holds back those deep melodic hooks with a confidence that bugs me out. Alongside the XX, Blake is solidifying the new minimal pop aesthetic. Futuristic soul music done so right. Hell, he even pulls off a song with RZA.

Big video dollars spent well…

Overgrown

Retrograde

5. My Bloody Valentine-m b v
The elders return from upon high mountain. The only guitars worth listening to this year.

“Only Tomorrow” live..

6. Beedeegee-Sum/One
First solo album by Brian DeGraw, the dude behind Gang Gang Dance. I swear, the first time I went to text this album to a friend it auto-corrected Beedeegee to “needs refer,” which I translated to “needs reefer,” which I hope is the meaning behind this silly, silly name. The vocal guests are all over the place, but damn the production is righteous. Great sense of 3-D space and plenty of sound pockets to get lost in.

I guess he recorded this in Woodstock, which is hilarious and fitting. Brian listens to everything and I like stuff he puts out an awful lot.

Official video for “Flowers”

7. Kyary Pamu Pamu-Nanda Collection
In Japan Kyary Pamu Pamu endorses all manner of products, like toothpaste. She gleefully shows up in a strange outfit, acts quirky, and happily promotes whatever. In her homecountry she is opening for K Perry and Gaga.

Kyary has her own line of fake eye lashes, and sings about how silly and materialistic modern life is, all the while embracing it.

As image is key, her videos are ridiculously gleeful imaginings of her sugar-coated fantasy land. There are goofy dances that accompany each song, which her fans perform along with her in concert. Cute!

She doesn’t write any of the music, but the rest of her producer’s work is worthless garbage, so … I don’t know. I’m guessing she’s magic? Kyary songs are childish, alternating between playground stompers and naptime lullabies. If, at first, this music strikes you as obnoxious, wait it out a little, herein lies some of the finest condensed pop serum of our time. Best j-pop I’ve heard since Kahimi Karie worked with Cornelius.

Not as strong as her previous album, but the single for the upcoming album, “Motei Night Land” is good fun.

“Motei Night Land” video…

“Invader Invader” (best track off Nanda)

Commercials…

8. Tim Hecker-Virgins
I had my doubts that Hecker would be able to put another spin on his signature haze-is-beauty style, but strike me down if he didn’t pull it off. This album involved him recording/manipulating classical musicians, which helps clarify his emotive pull. A massive, giving album.

His live performances are something to behold. I’ll never forget seeing him at Public Assembly, in the smaller front room, with audience members pumping fists and screaming … to loud ambient hiss.

Official Video for “Black Refraction”… this song is quite the creeper… and what a video…

9. Lonnie Holley-Just Before Music/Keeping a Record of it
Oh, music revelation.
I guess these recording were made in 2010-11, but I only heard about Lonnie this year. He grew up poor in the south with, apparently, something like 22 siblings (?!). He made a name for himself repurposing found objects into sculptures, doing music on the side. It’s not often that a true outside artist of such merit comes to light. Rejoice.

Often just himself and his keys with no overdubs, he never plays a song the same way twice. His babbling, meandering lyrics seem to hold all celestial wisdom.

Amazing video by Robert Beatty, who can apparently do anything.

I guess this is part of an unfinished documentary on Lonnie started in the 90’s…

10. Atoms for Peace-AMOK
AMOK was just what I was expecting/hoping it would be: electronic Thom writing pop songs with more space and simpler, consistent instrumentation. This is Thom relaxing, taking a break from Radiohead, kicking back… and going on a relentless world tour.

Great video for album standout “Ingenue” with Yorke poking a bit of fun at himself maybe? Thom is still cool.

Great live “Dropped”

11. Blood Orange-Cupid Deluxe
I hate music that desperately tries to re-create an era that is gone forever.
What I love about this Blood Orange album is Dev’s heartfelt affinity for a bygone era combined with his ability to make it new. Sparse, slick, and just so damned genuine.

Every track’s opening has that I-could-be-a-single moment.

The dude pulls off the moves. Effortless cool. Video of Dev visiting his 92 year old Grandpa in Guyana for the first time.

12. Bardo Pond-Peace on Venus
I was introduced to Bardo Pond a little late in the game. I liked them, saw them live, and now love them.
One could say that Bardo has a single song, with many variations. I’m guessing some drug-induced ritual allows all members to ebb and flow in a collective stretching of time. This is liquid rock music.

(OK, other than MBV, Bardo have the only guitars worth listening to this year.)

Appropriately balls-out trippy fan video for “Kali Yuga Blues”… a perfect song…

13. Charli XcX
Undeniable UK pop success that made surprisingly few waves state-side. Drugged up teen singing about partying and boys coupled with hipster-cred production, damn decent songwriting and, well, they hit the sweet spot. My go-to soundtrack for making it through grueling work hours.

Video for “What I Like”

14. Huerco S-Colonial Patterns
An excellent full-length that somehow sits between Andy Stott’s bass-blowout techno and Aaron Dilloway’s tape experiments. Club music for the neo-hippie generation. The shape of things to come for sure.

Official video for “Ragtime USA”

15. Roly Porter-Life Cycle of a Massive Star
This dude will always have a place in my heart as he was half of Vex’d. As Roly Porter he makes soundscapes of the highest drama. Cosmic emotions of a very serious depth. He’s good enough to get away with this album title.

Trailer for what is apparently a 45 minute live set with visuals he is touring/toured?!?! (no NYC dates posted).

Fan video with visuals from “Tree of Life”

16. C418-Volume Beta
One of my middle-school students turned me onto this. C418 is 27 year old East German Daniel Rosenfeld. He writes music for the video game Minecraft, which I will never play.

C418 is pure essence of what internet genres, like vaporware, ironically repurpose.
This is cinematic, heart-felt, lonely ambient music designed to be the soundtrack for late nights playing videogames.

My student explained to me that you have to ‘unlock’ a lot of his best tracks by beating certain levels.

Youtube comment: “Well the minecraft songs are so sad because you’re all alone in a forgotten world.”

And here is the entire 2 hr beta release…

Some End Music from the game…

17. John Wizards-s/t
Got to love Planet-mu for somehow listening in on all corners of the globe. John Wizards, a young lad hailing from South Africa, brings the combination of regional tradition and digital-updating you hoped for. Goes from auto-tune reggae to footwork idm and it’s all good.

Nice studio footage…

18. Ultrademon-SeaPunk
Apparently “seapunk” is another micro-genre. Ultrademon, amongst a few others from Chicago, created and branded the scene. There is no real discernable defining feature for seapunk other than its neon electronic club music from-and-for the internet cult. Whatever. More power to ‘em.
It’s good fun and has track titles like “Chatroom with Enya.”

This was released by a Rephlex subsidiary… interesting.

Official Video for “Bahrain”

Official Video for “Step Into Liquid”

19. Alunageorge
Alunageorge didn’t get the respect they deserved outside of the UK. I fcking hate Disclosure. I like these guys so much more.
Music in the stylish UK vein of well-programmed beats and smart live instrumentation. The vocals are pleasantly 90’s throwback (something I typically hate). Most importantly, they can write a damn fine pop tune.

Some nice studio-live footage…

20. (trend) Vocaloids/Hatsune Miku
Bizarro trend in Japan. Vocaloid is a program in which you can manipulate synthetic speech to make it sound more or less human. Fans make countless vocaloid songs, but Hatsune Miku, a digitally created artist, appears to be the official idol.
Miku performs live in Japan via hologram with a live band. Her lyrics are mostly about what life is like being a purely digital entity, how she is afraid she will disappear in a hardrive crash, and that she loves her fans.

Great example of digital/human synergy. The singularity awaits!

Here’s the video for “Eden” (2011), closest thing to Autechre’s “Gantz Graf” since!

New video by Takeshi Murakami!

Vocaloid Software tutorial

21. (trend) Black Midi
New internet-forum-based genre of employing as many notes as you can using basic midi software. The ‘black’ is reference to the indiscernible black mass that occurs when too many notes overlap on a score.

3 millions notes!

4.6 million notes!

8.49 million notes!!!

21 million notes!!!!! (which awesomely/annoyingly is half in just error clicks as the program crashes!)

And that, I guess, is a fitting end (coming full circle from OPN), as the digital era, like any, poses great possibilities… and shitty sounding mistakes… that can be turned into great possibilities…

till next year, ta ta!
-Nat Hawks

1 Comment

by | December 22, 2013 · 2:26 pm

Nat’s 2012 Top 10 Music Stuff

Opening Rant about Critics being Bad People:
Everyone, including myself, seems to be saying it was “another weird year for music.” I’m going to stop all that noise and say it was just another year of music.

As consumers of culture, our expectations have exceeded what is possible. We expect everything to be our new favorite, and if it isn’t, it’s disposable. Music critics are a sad example of this trend. These fair-weather fans seem to thrive off of inviting newcomers to the castle, only to throw them back onto the streets the next year, despite their behavior. Last year’s case-in-point was Radiohead, whose King of Limbs was nothing short of an absolute triumph of modern music elders staying not only relevant, but ahead of the pack.

I would argue that this year’s ritualistic critic sacrifice was Animal Collective. Merryweather Post Pavillion received a 9.6 from Pitchfork and this years playfully flawed, but equally lively full-length Centipede Hz received no mention in any category. You critics are meanies and I imagine you are bad friends.

NAT’S TOP 10 2O12

1. Animal Collective-all 2012 releases
Yup, Centipede Hz is a hot mess. Merryweather turned out to be un-follow-up-able. Here AC tries too much: up the tight pop sensibility, pile on endless layers of sound, and somehow simultaneously become more organic. The end product sounds much like the cover art looks… a glorious, enticing mess. They also had difficulty reproducing these songs live from too many toys/not enough breathing room.

At the same time, Centipede is so damned brave and colorful that it won me over in the end. When their gamble pays off, re-listen to single “Today’s Supernatural,” they remind me there is no one else like them and they are still more psychedelic and tuneful than, well, you.

The release of Transverse Temporal Gyrus offers a great companion piece. Recordings from the sound installation/performance they did at the Guggenheim, these tracks reveals the other extreme of loose sound collage, and should be more than enough to quell any sell-out fears from longtime fans. They are still the same old bros… chill out.

appropriately awesome/sloppy video for Today’s Supernatural…

2. Die Antwoord-Ten$ion
Why do critics act like Antwoord doesn’t exist? What’s the deal?

Yeah, Ten$ion has it’s share of embarrassing, skippable moments for sure (please don’t bring skits back). But the hits, of which there are plenty, make me want to party with them… forever.

I want the internet to uncover hidden gems from the corners of the earth. I want the internet to empower sound makers to spread their unconventional gospel. Here it is.

FattyBoomBoom video…skip the Gaga hospital scene.

3. Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin-Instrumental Tourist
Even being a huge fan of both Hecker and Oneohtrix, this album demolished all expectations. Two artists at the forefront of genre boundary demarcations, offering a full-length of true collaboration. Arguably more beautiful and strange than either’s previous work, Instrumental Tourist is just what you’d expect: washing archaic synth with the occasional antagonist sound stab.

Praying to see these two on stage together in NYC this year.

promo video for track “Intrusions”…

4. Vladislav Delay-Kuopio
Electronic music is gaining recognition to the US music listener. But ya’ll are way behind. What is often deemed forward thinking electronic has likely been done twenty-some years ago over in that thing called Europe.

Vladislav Delay has relentlessly pushed forward from the “clicks and cuts” blueprint of the late 90’s with an extremely consistent output. This year’s Kuopio challenges the listener with lush dub rhythms that refuse to fall in the right place. Future trip.

live2012 footage

5. Dominic Fernow-all releases
Dominic Farrow’s output as Vatican Shadow and Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement was one of the most exciting events of the year. An unstoppable force, he is multiple one-man scenes. As VS he is guru of damaged boombox beat nostalgia. As RSE he is the shaman of sewage, found-sound jungle rituals. These recordings could come from any era, but likely the future.

VS live in 2012 at Krakow/Unsound

6. X-TG: Desertshores/The Final Report
Ex-Throbbing Griss members covering Nico’s Desertshores in its entirety, completing a project begun by the now deceased TG member Sleazy. Elders of strange, industrial honorably update their approach and it generally works. The companion album, The Final Report, is the last studio album Sleazy took part in. Here X-TG really opens up into more exciting territory, allowing abrasive elements to step on top of the mix. At best it sounds close to a Coil record. I miss Coil.

X-TG live 2012/Bologna (first live show as XTG). Coolest uncles and aunts in the world.

7. Burial-Truant/Rough Sleeper ep
I’ve only heard the sound samples. I’m still waiting for my vinyl to arrive from the UK. I’m sure I’ll love it and put it at #7.

in its entirety:

8. Silent Servant-Negative Fascination
Much like Vatican Shadow, Silent Servant uses damaged machine beats to link earlier industrial music to current trends in noise-to-techno. SS is better than most, with a true sense of dance music fluctuations and some real production know-how. Better than expected.

rad live footage from 2011

9. Mount Eerie-Clear Moon
Phil Elvrum returns from the mountains, in a way. Recent years have seen him drifting too far from civilization, his music becoming just for him, personal meditations on being lost in the wilderness. I even sometimes forgot to read the postcards he sent. Here, particularly on Clear Moon (he also released Ocean Roar), he has returned to the village, and he has new stories, new revelations. Phil can sing about nature all he wants.

live2012

10. Ariel Pink-Mature Themes
I sure did love Ariel’s early tape collage albums. A total revelation and inspiration. Then, he got a band and it lost that special something. Now, with Mature Themes, he has made it work. These songs, while stand alone and longer in form, contain his endearing, goofy, retro charm. Ariel smokes the real stuff.

live2012 footage… perfect. feedback. awkward. lyrics that include “Dr. Mario.” slips into “Love Me Do”?! pure pink!

Other artists that I listened to and didn’t absolutely hate: Crystal Castles Grimes, Krallice, Light Asylum, Death Grips, Cut Hands, Pete Swanson, Holy Herndon…

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by | December 27, 2012 · 9:56 pm

DELIA ANTWOORD=Die Antwoord samples Delia Derbyshire

thanks to leo’s last mixtape this connection was made.  strange.  Die Antwoord sample an old BBC workshop track by Delia Derbyshire.

Delia above, Antwoord below in comments.

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by | July 18, 2012 · 2:44 am

Krispy Kreme-“The Baddest” of them all…

One of my 7th graders showed me this white rapper Krispy Kreme on youtube.  You said it was the funniest thing he had ever seen.  It’s pretty funny.  You haven’t had this much fun since ICP’s “Magic.”  Krispy’s nose is running, his lyrics are kindergarten disses, and him and his sidekick are holding real firearms. There are more videos from him, but this is the best one. This will go viral and you will remember you saw it here first.
Is this for real?  I don’t want to know.

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by | July 4, 2012 · 2:47 pm

new Chris Clark album stinks real bad.

i have stayed true to Chris Clark for a long time. even Totem’s Flare i thought was fantastic, particularly the 2nd half. the singles were, how would he say it, shite? the new album is tragically underwhelming. i listened once and will likely never listen again. he learned how to play guitar and he thinks that’s enough. nope.

LOTD is from his first ep.

2 Comments

by | April 9, 2012 · 5:34 pm

Squarepusher-Dark Steering

here’s an actual album cut. you may recognize from the 15 second teaser live clip. will likely be taken down soon. enjoy. sorry about all the SP clips, but am happy to be excited about something new.

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by | April 9, 2012 · 5:30 pm

Squarepusher-Energy Wizard

first single, likely, from upcoming album. Creator’s Project had posted it, then it was taken down. you can hear people in the crowd uncontrollably giggling.

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by | April 9, 2012 · 5:28 pm

Squarepusher-Ufabulum

an appropriately disorienting phone-cam bit of footage from SP’s recent websterhall show. one of the greatest things that has ever happened. people need to stop saying anything but niceties about this. yeah, he is not playing as ‘live’ as often does, but lord, give the man a break, lot of syncing going on here. and the new album is just what you likely want. return to song, many tracks had great hooks with long breakdowns. middle section became darker, then return to the more-pop. too bad the timing with the album release is so off. not coming out till May. could have made a lot more on this tour otherwise.

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by | April 9, 2012 · 5:27 pm

Babymetal

here we have j-blackmetal meets j-pop meets j-rave. the other side of the world is very far away. they use the ‘fox sign’, which is their own take on devil hand. embraced marketing through-and-through.

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by | April 9, 2012 · 5:17 pm

Kid Koala-sad turntablism

i must report that the current kid koala tour is heavy on filler and light on any actual uninterrupted music, sadly.  however, he did perform his moon river remix live which is incredible and strange.

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by | April 9, 2012 · 5:09 pm