Chris Parkin uncovers the latest gems in a particular genre. Here, he rounds up some recent electronica vinyl treasures to tempt you away from your indie-rock collection
Remarkable as it might be, there are still people who sniffily reject electronica because it isn’t “proper”. By which they mean it’s not Oasis or The Stone Roses or something. But durr, it’s 2018. Music has been electronic for decades – and here are a few recent standout vinyl releases that knock the output of most indie-rock bands into a cocked hat.
One of 2017’s finest albums, in any genre, was Kelly Lee Owens’ debut for Norway’s Smalltown Supersound. Almost out of nowhere – well, Wrexham, actually – Owens has delivered an album of sylvan dream-techno that owes a debt to her time singing in choirs as well as a stint working alongside acid revivalist Daniel Avery at XL Recordings. Its songs drip with emotion as its drones and oscillations shift nimbly between the spaced-out Anxi and a ghostly, melodic tribute to Arthur Russell.
KELLY LEE OWENS’ SONGS DRIP WITH EMOTION AS THEIR OSCILLATIONS SHIFT BETWEEN THE SPACED-OUT ANXI AND A GHOSTLY TRIBUTE TO ARTHUR RUSSELL
Also on Smalltown Supersound is space-disco pioneer Lindstrøm. His albums with Prins Thomas were retrofuturistic affairs with a slowed-down motorik chug and a velvet touch. Lindstrøm stepped away from all of that on 2012 albums Smalhans and Six Cups Of Rebel, honing a harder- edged electronica, and his 2015 collaboration with Todd Rundgren is a bonkers racket. But It’s Alright Between Us As It Is lives up to the promise of last year’s space-disco epic Closing Shot. It’s a cosmic wonder split into nine tracks of arpeggio-disco, seguing into one dizzying piece.
Four Tet is keeping up a similar pace. Kieran Hebden’s 2015 album Morning/Evening was inspired by his grandfather’s collection of devotional Hindu music and is the best thing he’s ever done. New Energy brings those ideas onto the dancefloor. It’s a sprawling double LP of deconstructed electronic ragas, the influence of spiritual jazz and epic, meditative techno and ambience.
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s hypnotic, time-bending albums Two Orb Reel, Marlek and Khultan are vital new releases, just like Glitterbeat’s reissue of Jon Hassell’s essential album, Dream Theory In Malaya. Consciously or not, many of the artists mentioned above share a similar soundspace with the Brian Eno collaborator, whose idea of ‘fourth world’ music – primitive, pan-global, exploratory electronica – is in full intoxicating effect on this 1981 album.
Thrill Jockey’s Colleen is very different. For her past few albums, the French musician has played her trusty viola da gamba, cutting up its melodies and doing weird things with them to create beautiful sound worlds. It’s all change on A Flame My Love, A Frequency, recorded live with pocket synths and Moog effect pedals in the wake of the terror attacks on Paris in November 2015. Colleen’s songs are as delicate as ever, but her dazzling melodies are replaced with muted, melancholy chiming and a ghostly sound redolent of Roedelius’s beautiful Selbstportrait albums.