Even if Flying Lotus hadn’t put out a single tune this year, his contribution to the musical landscape in 2010 via his label Brainfeeder would have been enough to cement his reputation as the figure-head of an entire musical movement. Having already released the amazing Lorn album earlier this year and EPs from Daedelus and The Gaslamp Killer, Brainfeeder returns with an album two years in the making – Ardour, by visual artist and beatsmith Mtendere Mandowa (better known as Teebs).
Mandowa created his own gorgeous artwork for this record and at one stage shared an apartment block in Los Angeles with Flying Lotus and Samiyam. All the Brainfeeder elements are there – psychedelica, experimentation and eclecticism wrapped in a head-bobbing hip hop framework. But there is something about this album that’s all of its own. Ardour is defined as “great intensity and warmth” which goes someway in describing the beauty of this album. From the opening track ‘You’ve Changed’ there is a depth and lushness to the atmospheres on Ardour that are perhaps more subtle yet just as intense as some of its label-mates. Repeated listening reveals how much is truly going on these tracks.
The almost ambient vibe of ‘Burner’ contains layers of what sounds like bells and hammers being dragged on concrete. Even a seemingly straightforward beat like ‘Why Like This?’ contains intricate synth washes and samples of loose change. ‘Long Distance’ features bird-like sounds and a sticky beat built around the genuinely affecting vocals of Gaby Hernandez. One of the real highlights on the album is the simply titled ‘Moments’. The track oozes with textures falling almost like rain over a side-chained r’n’b beat that turns on a simple drum fill. Mandowa’s greatest trick is making such lush and beautiful music so intense and challenging by mean of traditional sampling and chopping. A truly unique album.
Before the dust has even settled on the crater that Cosmogramma left on the musical landscape, Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus) keeps the pressure on with a thrilling new EP on Warp. Far from an aftershock or out-takes from his LP, Pattern + Grid World sounds like an artist at the absolute top of his game. Having firmly established his own kaleidoscopic vision of what music should sound like in 2010, Ellison lets go of the reins a little and has an absolute blast across these seven tracks.
Opener ‘Clay’ serves up his signature woozy textures that flow underneath a complex rhythm while synths joyously explode around it. ‘Time Vampires’ is absolutely gorgeous with its melodies sounding like a happy, childish accident with an unrelenting, neck-snapping beat. The tune is perhaps his most direct nod in a minute to fallen hero J Dilla. The real mind-bender here is ‘Camera Day’ that on the surface sounds like Lotus’ most accessible tune in recent times but on repeated listens reveals a wizardry of the synth that is simply unparalleled right now.
The UK-based production duo of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos (better known as Mount Kimbie) first started making waves in the bass scene almost two years ago. In particular, the Maybes and Sketch On Glass EPs both released on Scuba’s Hotflush imprint last year turned a lot of heads with their unique aesthetic. Compounding their reputation for amazing production has been a string of remixes for the likes of Big Pink, The xx, Foals and Ninja Tune’s woman-of-the-moment Andreya Triana.
Their long awaited debut album Crooks & Lovers finally dropped a couple of months back and its impact is still being felt. Coming in at under forty minutes, Mount Kimbie waste no time distilling their textured sounds over eleven largely instrumental cuts. For those unfamiliar with the pair’s sound, its all about the texture and ambience. Far from the cold, precise and clinical high-impact assault of dubstep, the tracks across this album have much more in common with Boards of Canada, Fennesz, Four Tet or Burial.
One of the real highlights here is ‘Would Know’ which glides under layers of reverb and muffled vocals with thoughtfully placed percussion and subtle interruptions. Elsewhere on the album, ‘Mayor’ provides a playful, steppy outing with arppegiated synths giving way to a very purple-sounding lead. Garnering unlikely but welcome rotation on Triple J, ‘Before I Move Off’ is centred on a warm guitar figure, with strings, vocal snippets and echoes anchoring the organic feel among squelchy bleeps. The record is rounded out with ‘Between Time’ – a beautiful down tempo guitar piece driven along by a single snare hit.
Fans of this record will be stoked that Australia will finally get to see Mount Kimbie live early next year.
Take‘s new album on Alpha Pup, Only Mountain, is stunningly epic. It bulges with the same density of sound as Amon Tobin and Download, but it’s more organic than either. It’s a hard record to pull highlights from. “Quartz for Amber” propels with clanking background percussion and psychedelic swellings. “Neon Beams” channels a blunted Vangelis, and throughout there are sleeper cells of renegade funk lurking furtively in the recesses of shimmering synths, restrained rumbles and cardiac arrest snares.
Take has a healthy back catalogue, including a recent split 10″ with Matthewdavid on All City, and a remix of “Parisian Goldfish” on Flying Lotus’ L.A. EP 3 X 3. You can also marvel at the diversity on his 60-track Sweatsons Trajectorymixtape under the name Sweatson Klank.
In retrospect, giving my once-heard copy of his Earthtones & Concrete to Swob during a major CD collection clean out last time I moved house was most likely a major fail, but at least it’s still in the family.