Best EPs of 2013

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So, having listened to no fewer than 261 EPs & albums released this year, it’s time to distil that listening into the annual Best of the Year lists. As always, we’ll start with the ten most exceptional EPs. Read more

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Mix Tape #25 : Best Albums of 2012

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Today marks 5:4‘s fifth anniversary, & so i’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who regularly read, share & respond to the articles & music explored here. Since 2008, the blog has grown from being an occasional hobby (reading the earliest articles, that fact is rather painfully obvious) to something that now receives significantly more time & attention. i very much hope that 5:4 can grow & become even more interesting & useful in the next five years; all comments, criticisms, suggestions & other feedback is always very warmly encouraged.

But to return to the present, & to continue our annual tradition, here is a new mix tape featuring one track from each of the forty entries on my Best Albums of the Year list. The mix includes more extreme dynamic variety than in previous years, so while i’ve done a little to mitigate that, be warned that at times the music veers between extremely soft & very loud indeed. As ever, if you like what you hear in the mix, please support the artists & buy the music; links are included on the last two days’ posts.

i’ve remarked in the past on the provisional nature of all ‘Best of’ lists, & so to keep things current, i’ve updated the summaries of the Best Albums/EPs of the Years, to reflect further listening than had been possible at the time; the revised lists can be found under The Lists on the main menu.

The mix tape lasts a little under 3½ hours; here’s the tracklisting in full: Read more

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Best Albums of 2012 (Part 1)

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* Please note this list has how been superseded by the one on the Best Albums of the Years page *

This is a list surrounded by other lists leading to other lists, lists … that explain everything by being gateways into worlds of sound, feeling and information…
…the love of making lists is an attempt to remind us of what it is that has happened, and what is happening, all at once, as time and humanity collapses into itself. …
The list is a collage of hopes and wishes, of knowledge and exhibitionism.
(Paul Morley, Words and Music)

So we move on to the list of lists, the forty albums that have made the greatest impact over the last twelve months. Here are the first twenty to have made the cut.

Read more

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Emancipated beats: voidesque – as if it never existed

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Despite my fondness for more avant-garde beat-oriented music, for a long time it’s been disappointing to see the current state of such idioms overshadowed by its champions. The likes of Aphex Twin, Autechre & Aaron Funk have, on the one hand, deeply moved & inspired composers & musicians to seek to explore what can be done with beats that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with dancing, while on the other hand intimidating these same musicians to the point of pastiche & parody. It’s possible to count the really imaginative beat-artists of the last decade on one hand. All the more reason, then, to celebrate someone who brings some fresh invention to the genre.

Derek Jeppsen is a composer based in San Diego, California, a recent graduate in electroacoustic composition, & he piqued my interest when i read the description of his first release:

The album is really quite simple, and draws from certain things that may seem antiquated (drum samples), but this collection is about staying away from my “sound art” experiments and academic work. Many “popular” idioms make it to my music (use of a beat, repetition, etc.), but also many things that wouldn’t fit that context, especially in the rhythmic and form realms (polymeter, metric modulation, tempo changes), which often reflect the fact that I play Javanese gamelan professionally. The album is generally about creating an atmospheric artistic space, and including some stylized elements from dance music. There are also moments about randomness and aggression, and one of the tracks is an algorithmic composition, generalizing “beats” and playing with modal melodic generation.

This isn’t the usual mix of descriptors one finds in music of this kind, & it’s gratifying to find that none of them are mere hype. Under his nom de guerre voidesque, Jeppsen’s first EP, as if it never existed, makes a very striking first impression. The three artists mentioned above exert themselves on Jeppsen’s music too (which he freely admits), but less as an éminence grise than as a collection of influential but nevertheless distant forces. Another way of putting it would be to say that these inspirations act as a series of points of departure in Jeppsen’s music rather than dictating both the style & idea of the journey.

Right from the opening track, ‘synaptic luck’, there are potent signs of individuality, in both the unexpectedly warm acoustic (which persists throughout) & the flexibility of the tempi, seamlessly shifting the underscore & making the beats interesting in their own right, emancipating them from being mere markers in a grid-like space. They turn out to be the focus of the piece, in fact, whereas at the start it was the various melodic ideas that seemed to offer most interest; it’s rather satisfying to have one’s initial sense of perspective proved to be otherwise. A similar atmosphere pervades in ‘the imaginary restitution’, a track that also places most emphasis on the beat structures while nicely confounding exactly what they are, while in ‘eusodius’ the beats become a remarkable, restless lattice that becomes increasingly hypnotic; it’s a brave composer who aspires to the intricate rhythmic evolutions of Autechre’s Untilted, but this track carries it off with real aplomb. It’s only fair to say that the EP’s longest track, ‘new threats’, is an aspiration too far; it opens interestingly enough, but is ultimately too monotonous to sustain its almost 10-minute duration.

But that’s the odd one out, & the remaining three tracks are each outstanding. ‘wrong door’, despite lasting a mere 106 seconds, inhabits the kind of cracked texture that Three Trapped Tigers might create in their gentler moments, & ‘masquerade’ is a beautiful exercise in understated aggression, carrying along a crude melody covered in razor barbs, contorted & cut-up by the beats, which in this context, despite their force, take a secondary role. Like ‘wrong door’, ‘masquerade’ impresses in part due to its brevity; one can’t help wanting to hear Jeppsen turn these textures into larger canvases, but as miniatures they’re no less superb. Yet it’s the final track, ‘previous’, that stands out most, a disarming introduction—a quiet ambient melody, sans beats—swiftly becoming a dialogue between naïve, playful melodic shapes & gritty, out-of-step rhythms. It’s a delight, the ear dancing back & forth between the two strands which, by design, can never quite coalesce.

There’s much to praise in this first voidesque release, which is a strikingly individual take on what would once have been called IDM. Jeppsen’s clearly a talent to look out for in the future.

5:4 rating: 4.43/5

as if it never existed can be streamed below, & purchased from the voidesque Bandcamp site; new voidesque material can be heard via Soundcloud.

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