Ever feel tired of the never-ending stream of pop constantly being provided to us? If you’re looking to do some studious listening, check out these incredibly forward-thinking 2014 releases, by artists new and old:
Sun Araw, Belomancie (Sun Ark/Drag City)
Up until now, Cameron Stallones (a.k.a. Sun Araw) has built his name on the kind of psychedelic looping that conjures up some late-night bong sessions in a futuristic cyber-cabana. But now he’s gone even further into the future with this year’s incredible Belomancie, an 80-minute exercise in electronic minimalism that still evokes the tribal qualities of his earlier work. Stripping down his sound to a goofy collection of primitive drum machines and synthesizers, Stallones Ping-Pongs various polyrhythms against one another to create a series of extended jams that are at once disorienting, hilarious and loads of fun. Though it doesn’t make for a casual listen, Belomancie generously rewards those curious enough to plunge its depths.
Torn Hawk, Through Force of Will (Not Not Fun)
At this point, vaporwave has probably become the most overdone, unfortunate genre exercise in recent memory. Listening to vaporwave has essentially become synonymous with choosing to hate life itself, which is why Torn Hawk’s new full-length Through Force of Will is such a godsend. Exploring the similarly VHS-damaged world of vaporwave, Luke Wyatt’s Torn Hawk project fuses old Macintosh sounds with virtuosic guitar riffing and generally fuzzed-out electronics to create something surprisingly uncynical. In mining the old commercial sounds of the past, Wyatt actually finds something beautiful and celebratory, making Through Force of Will an album that refuses to stay mired in nostalgia, choosing instead to live fearlessly in the moment.
Ben Frost, A U R O R A (Mute/Bedroom Community)
Out of all the albums on this list, A U R O R A might be the most difficult to simply leave on in the background. Ben Frost has cultivated a style that feels executed to perfection on A U R O R A. The intense interpretation of EDM-as-ambience leaves the listener feeling all but obliterated by its end. For all his abstraction, Frost has a surprising ear for rhythm, with the songs on A U R O R A incorporating ceremonial, pounding drums into an aural assault. It has moments of serene beauty, but above all, Frost’s newest work is a swirling slab of electronic oscillations — a living, breathing piece as enticing as it is frightening.
Tonstartssbandht, Overseas (Arbutus)
It’s unusual, yet appropriate that Tonstartssbandht’s masterwork to date is a double-live album. The White brothers have built a reputation for their heavy and heady live shows, effortlessly jamming out slices of neo-psychedelia that are at once soothing and impossibly righteous. It has a similar quality to the lonesome, earlier work of Modest Mouse, stretching songs to incredible lengths to accommodate the interstellar jamming, yet Tonstartssbandht also knows not to overdo the cosmic aesthetic. Though psychedelic, the music of Edwin and Andy White is still based entirely in a drums-and-guitar setup, a testament to how evocative their version of rock can truly be. For those searching for a dive into the underbelly of basement rock, Overseas manages to be both massive, yet incredibly intimate.