New Hifi Pig contributor Daniel Brown takes a look at some of the albums and EPs that he has discovered during the last year. Much of the stuff is very different to the usual audiophile fodder and there is some great stuff in here, so read on and you may well discover something new yourself!

Following the electronic and experimental music scene through 2015 has proven to be very fruitful, as i’ve managed to come across some ripe and juicy albums/EP’s for the plucking. Admittedly not all of my discoveries have been released in 2015, but were still fresh and exiting to my ears at the time. Below I will review 7 Album/EP releases I believe really move the electronic/avant-garde music scene forward into new exiting directions. Reviews will generally focus on production values, originality and my personal musical enjoyment. I’ll focus on the 2015 releases first.

Culprate – Mask (EP, 2015 Release)

With the crowd-funded success of Culprate’s delightfully quirky and electronically brilliant 2014 album ‘Deliverance’, it seems Culprate decided to go back to his hard-hitting club/grime-electro roots with his 2015 EP ‘Mask’. Now fairly seasoned in this genre, Culprate’s newest release comes full of hard-hitting drops, huge synths and deep bass lines many of his fans will be accustomed to. The title track ‘Mask’ does not disappoint in my view; the drop totally justifies the long intro build up and will explode out of any half-decent Hifi system.culprate_mask

Where some fans might be slightly disappointed is in the strength of the other tracks, which do not seem as well composed or as ‘grimey’ as other tracks from other EP’s he’s released, such as “Nightmares in Reality’ and ‘5 star EP’. The production style seems to lean slightly on the electro-sheen side, rather than anything too experimental or gritty. In other words, it feels like Culprate is playing it safe rather than creating a totally new experience for his fans. These points aside, I still enjoyed this EP for the amazing production and creativity Culprate always brings to the table.

Mr. Bill & Ryanosaurus (Electrocado) – Scribble (Album, 2015 Release)

I’ve been following Mr. Bill for around 2 – 3 years now via social media, Bandcamp and his website. What becomes clear quite quickly is his amazing work ethic and output of music, as well as his close connection with his loyal fans. His 2015 collaboration album ‘Scribble’ released under the two artist’s collaboration name ‘Electrocado’ is an exploration into what electronic production can do if pushed to the edge; as most Mr. Bill followers will now be accustomed to. The album is a pure electronic soundscape of glitchy beats, transient samples and silky smooth production, opening new capabilities of Digital Audio Workstations (DAW’s) such as Ableton and Protools.scribble

The niche market that Mr. Bill operates in means this album will not be to everyone’s taste; even i’ll admit sometimes listening to a whole Mr. Bill album can be quite demanding. That said, one has to admire the amazing creativity and effort that goes into these super funky beats and larger-than-life melodies. There are times in the album that left me speechless and wondering ‘How did he create that?’ much like watching a magician perform. Listening on decent headphones is a pure delight and the rhythms seem to penetrate right into your brain. I hope Mr. Bill continues to push the envelope in 2016.

Tame Impala – Currents (Album, 2015 Release)

This Australian rock band seem to do no wrong in the music world. My first experience of them was the release of their 3rd album ‘Currents’ which seemed to be a slight departure for them into the psychedelic indie rock scene. In my opinion this has paid off greatly, the sound being comparable with psychedelic artists such as Pink Floyd or Jimi Hendrix, but keeping with a pop-orientated and accessible feel. There are stand out tracks for me, such as ‘Cause i’m a man’ and ‘Eventually’, however listening to the whole album is a thick soup of hard-hitting psychedelic enjoyment.tame_impala_currents

The production style relies heavily on guitar fuzz, gritty drums, deep bass lines and phase-shifting vocals. All of these effects however are done with great taste and the lyrics come across powerfully. There’s a lyrical sense of change and awakening, which puts you in a slight reflective and open state of mind. This is twinned with the dream-like instrumental playing to great effect, making for a solid package overall. This album successfully adopts psychedelic techniques into a great modern sound, it will be interesting to see where the band takes their sound next.

Tennyson – Like What (EP, 2015 Release)

I first heard of Tennyson around November 2015, and when I listened to their EP ‘Like What’ I was blown away. The duo obviously have a wealth of influences that comes across from listening to the EP. There are similarities in sound to the artists I’ve mentioned above, however there is a slight jazz twist in their music, as well as clever incorporations of recorded sounds such as cats meowing, doors slamming and alarm clocks. During listening I was even making connections to artists such as Bjork for the experimentation and synth sounds.Like_What

The whole EP flows beautifully, with crystal clear production that feels almost like a binaural experience using headphones. The intro track ‘Like What’ is correctly titled, as it doesn’t sound like anything else. Instead it gently introduces you to the soft pallet of electronic sounds before exploding into a full jazz-electro plethora soundscape. The tracks with vocals such as ‘Fault Line’ are particularly strong and will hold their own on any decent Hi-Fi or headphone system. This is a duo I predict great things from in the near future. They can seamlessly integrate multiple genres and ideas into musical packages that sound totally amazing.

Darkstar – Foam Island (Album, 2015 Release)

I discovered this album through Soundcloud and really enjoyed what I heard, which led me to buy it directly from the label ‘Warp Publishing’. The whole album when listened through sets the scene of suburban community and perhaps lost opportunities of a better life. There are intermittent moments where small monologues occur from different ‘characters’ giving you small insights into their thoughts or life situations. The musical style is fairly electronic, dynamic and somewhat experimental, especially on tracks such as ‘Go Natural’. The vocals tend to be vocoded or edited in some way which tend to give the tracks a slightly gritty and surreal feel.dark_star

As a kind of concept album, the tracks work well together and successfully blend catchy rhythms with drone-like melodies and strange lyrics to create a kind of brooding underworld atmosphere. Some of the stand out tracks like ‘Stoke the Fire’ & ‘Through the Motions’ really punch with satisfying bass and a great overall mix. My attention did start to lapse towards the end of the album, but overall this album creates a clever blend of synthetic sounds with punchy hooks, topped off with a real insight into modern suburban youth and monotony.

My Blue Extremes – Opaque (EP, 2014 Release)

As quite a small independent release, this EP is a very satisfying listen. As the artist name suggests, the EP’s sound revolves around sad, empty and melancholy feelings with the use of sparse instrumentation, slow build-ups and atmospheric pads. The strength of each track is excellent with great composition and good quality production. There is clever use of distortion and electronic effects to induce a kind of lost or lonely feeling in the listener. The use of electronic sounds and instrumentation is done tastefully to keep the tone of the EP serious.My_Blue_Extremes

In my opinion, this is a very strong EP that does what it says on the tin. Listening through the 5 tracks takes you on an emotive journey, which can be a hard feat when relying heavily on electronic production and instrumentation. This again highlights the excellent compositional work that keeps you interested throughout. The use of piano and strings in the tracks anchors the listener into imagining a performance, whilst the electronic sounds and effects suggest deep emotions running through the composer; almost in a subconscious way. This is a great reference EP for future producers who want to successfully create a mood within their music.

Darkside – Psychic (Album, 2013 Release)

Darkside’s debut album ‘Psychic’ kicks the electronic duo off to a great start. As a continuous album with each track blending into the next, it completely takes you into another world of electronic obscurity and amazing soundscapes. The sound production is meticulously crafted in every track and it pays off when turning up the volume on a decent Hi-Fi. There is an excellent blend of recorded instrumentation, such as drums and guitar, with electronic accents and distorted synths to move the narrative of the audio on. All of these elements combined with a surreal psychedelic feel make for a very original experience.Darkside_Psychic

I personally loved this album on first listen. What struck me was how engaged I was during the first track ‘Golden Arrow’ (which is 11 minutes long) after realising hardly anything happened in the first 2 minutes! The track ‘Paper Trails’ has some amazing vocal work in terms of production, whilst vocals in other tracks are practically unintelligible and are almost chant-like at times. This does however add to the great psychedelic mystery of the album and lends itself as an experience more than anything else. A treat for the ears and a very original album in its entirety.

Daniel Brown

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