Steve Reich – Drumming

Steve Reich may be most well known for his groundbreaking juggernaut Music For 18 Musicians; it’s truly unfortunate when most listeners don’t reach beyond that obvious landmark.  Written nearly a decade prior, this piece is one of the most unified, thorough explorations of a concept in the renowned composer’s towering oeuvre.

Drumming is an unequivocal masterpiece of singularly blinding focus.  The title and cover art alone convey more about this landmark than any copious wordplay could aspire toward.  It’s equivalent to Reich’s artistic kernel, a core sample taken from the root of his genius.  The ideas contained herein were expanded and mutated into everything composed in the intervening years.  This is the skeleton, the blueprint, the foundation.

Of course, it’s also a hypnotic masterpiece, a fully realized evocation of everything interesting about modern minimalism.  The drum patterns evolve so quickly and naturally that when layers begin dissipating near the final movement in a slow decrescendo of complexity, the feeling is akin to being woken gently out of a deep slumber:  peeling back comfortingly warm layers of blankets until the cool air sparks movement and consciousness.  Emerging upon the final moments, the most immediate, compelling notion is to hit snooze and resume the dream, from the beginning.  Drumming is a state one leaves reluctantly and with hesitation.

Thankfully, we need not wait until twilight to re-experience this particular dream.

[various releases exist, though check amazon for the version I’ve described, or cd universe where it’s a bit cheaper]

Dr. Who Dat? – Beyond 2morrow

Excitingly innovative instrumental hip hop artist Dr. Who Dat? released Beyond 2morrow at the dawn of 2009.  Yet nearly halfway through the year, there has been little in the way of challenge to this record’s supremacy in it’s natural habitat – repeated listens only reveal the grooves as deeper, the beats more layered, the compositions as wildly accomplished.

beyond-2morrow

Change.  Change.  Change.  Chaaaaaaaang.

Jump straight in and prepare to crack a smile as opener Lurk clears the path to a much jazzier, more soulful affair than the genre has been known for lately.  Every aspect, from the vocals to the chunky bass lines to the classy woodwind samples and early-electronica organ tones absolutely bleeds feeling and spirit.

[grab this at boomkat, or in digital format at amazon]

Love Spirals Downwards – Flux

A jet engine blast of an aural rubdown. Love Spirals Downwards attained a unique perfection with this release, striking at the heart of what I consider love sounds – music which conveys the intimate, soothing nature of love itself.  Music which can be a close companion in headphones, embracing worn psyches, calming fears, elevating a languid soul.

Tumbling down a vortex of gauzy electronic opulence, with Suzanne Perry’s siren cry as the only constant, this album is designed for losing oneself into shifting texture.  Ostensibly a dreampop-based sound in atmosphere and tone, the immediacy and a sense of futurism derived via many surprising elements sprinkled throughout engender rapt attention.  Love Spirals Downwards incorporates idm beats, afrobeat percussion, deep-as-dub bass lines and an ambient sensibility to drown everything in an opiate syrup.  Overlaid are the most ethereal guitar lines since Slowdive left orbit – and a shoegazer’s narcotic intentions to back them up.

Getting down to brass tacks, I suggest one merely listen to the track Psyche to fully grasp the beauty of this work.  If that one doesn’t bore straight through the frontal lobe to the brain stem and render jaws slack, I suggest taking a puff and then giving it another go.  Lay back and let the waves wash over.

[purchase at the band’s label, Projekt of course, or CDBaby – a new hard copy will be a rare find, but digital copies abound at amazon]

The Field – From Here We Go Sublime

Two years ago, The Field (aka Axel Willner) dropped this masterpiece of maximized minimalism from the sky to explode notions of what infectiously catchy dance music can be built from.

The_Field_-_From_Here_We_Go_Sublime

Pure, ecstatic, sustained immediacy.  This album hits your aural pleasure centers with laser precision from the first moment until the final echo wash.  Using clipped, compressed, shifted, exploded and otherwise modified samples to not only transmit a distinctly amorphous energy, but construct the beats – with each set feeling like micro-worlds unto themselves, tiny galaxies streaming by at high speed.  When Willner slows things down, as he does halfway though the aptly-named title track, eureka is the only natural response.

Grabbing throats and forcing attention, each song proceeds to evolve into a hypnosis-inducing pattern.  The best ones come on feeling hardwired into some primal wavelength in the hypothalamus, unrelentingly catchy until the last moment when elements unravel and a synth stab reveals itself as a pitched vocal, organ lines deflate into a rhythm bed.  An entire song tips over, unravels like a suture, and spills out The Four Tops.

Residing naturally at Kompakt,  his sound is pitched somewhere between the progressive ambient techno of The Orb and the ‘pop ambient’ of label founder Gas (Wolfgang Voigt); of course, to fully visualize you’ll have to imagine Willner floating in some sort of dirigible far above the proceedings.  Not to say that this is objectively better than either of those artists, of course – The Field simply aspires to loftier atmospheres than his forebears.

To put things laconically:  this is four on the floor dance music with enough inner life and microscopic detail to satisfy the deepest of psych connoisseurs, infused with the energy to keep a party stomping though it’s hourlong runtime, and entrancing to the point of total willing surrender.  So let go.  Put on those headphones.  Succumb to the kinetic charms.  From here we go sublime, indeed.

[check this grand record out at boomkat or, of course, amazon]