Here’s my latest mixtape. I’m calling it Ecstasea for a number of reasons, firstly because I just like the way it looks, hovering there over the warm neon purple glow of an oilplatform in a roiling ocean. It’s also a cheeky punmanteau that neatly describes the music within: all endless liquid rhythm and blissful abandon. I had no greater ambition with this mix than to gather some of my favorite transcendental deep house and techno tracks and sequence them for maximum joy. No concept, no specific era – just a vibe that I know and love, riding beat crescendos and chill valleys up to an ecstatic, jazzy finale.
Detroit techno legend Carl Craig joined forces with Green Velvet to drop a surprise collection of hard-edged tech-house dance tunes last week. As a gigantic fan of Mr. Craig who’s unfamiliar with the latter, I couldn’t have been more curious.
It doesn’t attempt the timeless artistry and elegance of Craig’s best work, instead aiming for something more directly club oriented. Set your frontal lobe on autopilot and let your hair blow back? This unassuming, low-stakes set is built, as far as I’m concerned, for invigorating night drives and house parties.
“From the outer reaches of the galaxy come two captains from two worlds—worlds that hold traditions which shape the branial particles and molecules of the munchkins, who will and have come to dominate the not-so-distant future with multiple galaxies and intercosmic cosmo cities,” states a voiceover intro on the first track. I don’t know what all that galactic imagery is supposed to mean, but this out-of-nowhere collaboration is at least worth a try.
This is a list of seriously amazing music. The best albums released in 2014, no shit. You probably haven’t heard of some of these artists. That’s okay. That’s awesome, in fact. Most of it’s off the beaten path, and it’d be a shame if that’s the only reason you never heard it. My biggest pleasure with this blog is hearing from friends who discovered something that’s become absolutely essential in their lives. I treasure that feeling and only hope to spread it. Enrich your life. Be adventurous, try out some of the music streaming on this page! It’s free right now and you’re definitely not doing anything better!
I know this is late in the sense that most people publish their lists before the year is done, but I couldn’t care less about being first in judging an entire year’s worth of beautiful music. I’d always rather be finished than first.
Every piece of music on this list deserves attention. You’ll probably love some and hate others, because that’s how taste works.
See the Best of 2014 Honorable Mention list for the greatest albums that didn’t quite make the final cut!
[Note: excepting the ABSOLUTE FAVORITES section, these albums are listed in the order I heard them.]
I stumbled across this ominously bespoke track today while falling through a youtube hole. Understated dub techno sprawl from Deepchord Presents Echospace.
I began following an Intrusion link from a fine German friend, stepping through the nocturnal Detroit world one related video at a time.
This might be one of the more tightly controlled meditations from Deepchord Presents Echospace, but it’s ventilated, heaving, and not a little bit spooky despite itself. This video highlights the sort of mindscapes you’re bound to fly over with this tune on high volume. Dark, specific, filled with cavernous negative space. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
If you find yourself falling, just look around.
I’ve been a fan of Robert Hood‘s brand of sensually minimal techno since hearing a reissue of his classic Minimal Nation double 12″ in 2009, falling in love with the beyond-lush Motor: Nighttime World 3 a few years later. Somehow I’d never dug through his vast collection of singles until last Friday. I was working at my desk when Dancer queued up, and immediately had to stomp my feet along, slapping the desk with my open palms.
This track is a 4/4 monster, piling grand piano and a hairy sax groove on top of a throbbing beat, with just the slightest hint of guitar sprinkled around. The mixture of pure electronics and live instrumentation works in a way most hybrids could only dream of. It’s the kind of song Daft Punk would kill to make; the sound feels like peeling their recent album Random Access Memories down to its beating heart.
Only a handful of Detroit masters craft techno with such soul, such a playful jazz sensibility, as Robert Hood. I’m thinking of Carl Craig, Kenny Larkin, and of course Underground Resistance, where Hood began his musical odyssey. While this tune is obviously more of a house thumper, I’m happy to share it as another example of the playful, jazzy core of what makes Detroit techno one of my favorite sounds of all time.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written here on Optimistic Underground, and as with every prior hiatus I now feel the need to hammer out some mea culpa before jumping into the music. Today I’m skipping that nonsense. Here’s one of the greatest pieces of electronic dance music I’ve ever heard, a landmark from almost two decades ago that I only discovered this year.