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Digital/Divide: October's Electronic Music Reviewed

On October 1, 2019

Digital/Divide is a monthly column devoted to any and all genres and subgenres in the great big beautiful world of electronic and dance music.

Even on an imprint as eclectic and inviting towards the unusual as Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder, Teebs has often come off as an outlier. Neither jazzy like Thundercat nor mischievous like Iglooghost, the long-established signee garnered respect in and out of the Los Angeles beat scene in part because his productions always hit differently than those of his peers and labelmates. Abstraction characterized the early songs of 2010’s Ardour and the more richly textured 2014 outing Estara, enough to make clear why he’d remain in FlyLo’s good graces.

With ** Anicca [Brainfeeder]**, Teebs opens up a considerable bit, largely though not exclusively through collaborative means. By allowing artists he respects and admires like Pink Siifu and Sudan Archives into his heady headspace, he electrifies his material to showcase a deep vulnerability. Vocal takes like Anna Wise’s breathy one on “Threads” appears to inherently speak for the instrumentalist’s mindset. When his pal Panda Bear shows up for the warbling pop of “Studie,” the murkiness of the beat only slightly masks this newfound honesty of the work.

Even when left alone, Teebs manages to display improved technical proficiency and amplified songcraft. “Mirror Memory” stomps and swoons with cinematically medieval majesty, while the two-part “Prayers” suite beckons to the divine. Returning to the brilliant organic hybrids of Estara, he plucks away on the angelic on “Marcel” and the idyllic on “Slumber.”

Bonnie Baxter, Axis [Hausu Mountain]

Fans of Brooklyn’s avant rock trio Kill Alters already know Bonnie Baxter by reputation, with vocal performances that shift from punk-informed shouts to otherworldly utterances. Liberated from the band context on this solo effort, she’s able to further stretch the limits of her innate instrument in a more freewheeling fashion. Though her Axis feels like an extension of the band’s recordings, the weirdness factor increases exponentially with fascinating results. Just over half of the tracks clock in under the two minute mark, with and the electro bass slapper “Jasper Rabbit” and its sibling “Creepy Carrots” serving as segues and standalone outlets for her abundant ideas. Those that cross that time threshold bristle with restive energy. The galloping rhythm of “Mirror Technique” contrasts amid samples speedy and slow alike, while the bluntness of “No DICC” makes its phallic rejections as clear as anything from the S.C.U.M. Manifesto. It all ends in the gabber goo of “Skyrat,” its hardcore catharsis leaving nothing unscathed.

Jacques Greene, Dawn Chorus [LuckyMe]

For about as long as electronic dance music has existed, artists have attempted to express the post-club comedown as music. Some do so with cheesy chillout, while others evoke emotions and serotonin fadeouts to more meaningfully convey what happens when night lumbers towards day. Opting for the latter path, Canadian producer Jacques Greene presses on towards the imminent aurora on Dawn Chorus. Where the preceding Feel Infinite looked largely to house for guidance, this follow-up commits to the moments, minutes, and hours that follow the peak time euphoria. Indeed, the breakbeat addled opener “Serenity” hasn’t fully shaken off that dancefloor energy, a feeling ravers and revelers can no doubt relate to. The end of the night out is inevitably extended via diversions and indulgences on the late-night trip home, and tracks like “Let Go” and the 303 squelcher “Night Service” tap directly into that. With a back half somewhat recalling The Orb’s late period Kompakt output, subtly on “Understand” and much less so on chatty closer “Stars,” Dawn Chorus works so well as the soundtrack to a prolonged winding down.

DJ N---- Fox, Cartas Na Manga [Principe]

Lisbon’s club scene and its corresponding kuduro sound may no longer be as obscure or insular as it once was, thanks to exposure from labels like Warp Records. But even as the profiles of these Afro-Portuguese acts have risen high enough to prompt international DJ gigs, the music itself remains one of the most innovative forms of dance music currently available. Having made his name with feverish batidas on prior records such as last year’s Crânio EP, Rogério Brandão continues to push the envelope on the sumptuous and strange Cartas Na Manga with productions that flip genre scripts into brave new forms. On the spirited “Nhama,” techno takes on polyrhythmic attributes as organic percussion and electronic plonks explore the space with an almost jazzy aplomb. The acid house urgency of “Faz A Minha” calls back to Chicago origins, while “Vício” drips and dodges like drum n’ bass sans amen worship.

Meemo Comma, Sleepmoss [Planet Mu]

From the opening moments of “Reaping,” calling this an ambient album seems immediately a misnomer. There is nothing particularly calming or tranquil about what Meemo Comma does with her engrossing sophomore solo effort. While pastoral elements like field recorded birdsong permeate the drones and trills of “Murmur,” the song, like so much of the music here, smacks of disruption to nature than coexistence. Perhaps that’s reality setting in, the awareness of one’s own human intrusion out in the grasses, fields, and forests that surround cities and line towns. Nonetheless, Sleepmoss teems with meditative potential without the fetishizing that a lazier artist would depend upon. Her soundscapes are as alive as her influences, with lush vignettes like “Firn” and “Winter Sun” that capture the essence of the colder seasons. Leafy crunches and springy synths merge for the fungal encomium “Amethyst Deceiver,” while the choral “Psithur” perpetually shivers in the wind.

Profile Picture of Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez

Born, raised and still living in New York City, Gary Suarez writes about music and culture for a variety of publications. Since 1999, his work has appeared in various outlets including Forbes, High Times, Rolling Stone, Vice and Vulture, among others. In 2020, he founded the independent hip-hop newsletter and podcast, Cabbages.

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