Holly Herndon’s set at Big Ears this year was easily one of my top three of the weekend. Accompanied by visuals from her husband Mat Dryhurst, Holly flowed between songs, mixing improvisation with more formal songs. Rooted in techno and avant-garde electronic music, her music moves in strange but familiar ways. Take, for instance, “Chorus“: Over glitchy waves of sampled browser content, scattered drum hits build into a beat, grooving for long enough to convey the instant familiarity of dance music before breaking back down into scattered percussion hits and glitchy samples.
I got the chance to interview her before her Red Bull-sponsored show last Tuesday at the Empty Bottle. We talked about her compositional techniques, her approach to live shows, and what her upcoming album Platform will sound like. Listen to the full audio below.
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To usher in 2015 we will be posting a series of reflections, lists and miscellania that look at back at what the past year has had to offer. Today we have two shows focused on 2014′s underground electronic music and some accompanying notes courtesy of longtime Streetbeat DJ and host of etc. radio (Fridays 10pm-3am) … m50
To usher in 2015 we will be posting a series of reflections, lists and miscellania that look at back at what the past year has had to offer. We start with Rock DJ Ted Schwaba’s
“TOP 15 MUSICS OF 2014 (OBJECTIVE, TRUE)”
why 15 albums and not 20? because 2014 was kind of a lame year in music, imo. maybe it’s because i’m “old” now so I don’t care for young thug’s style of rap
NOTE: BY MUSICS I JUST MEAN “MUSIC INTENDED TO BE LISTENED TO AT ONCE” IT MIGHT JUST BE ONE SONG, OR IT MIGHT BE A ALBUM. ALL OPINIONS ARE SOLID TRUTH NO ARGUE EVERYTHING WRITTEN STREAM OF CONSCIOUS — MINIMAL EDITING
15 – Travi$ $cott – Days Before Rodeo (mixtape)
sounds like: it’s already ripping off the next music trend
days before rodeo is travis scott’s mixtape of stuff he cut from his album that’s supposed to come out sooner or later, and it’s mostly notable for inspiring kanye to remake a beat or something on his new album, which would almost definitely be number 1 on my list had it come out this year. so really, we should knock travi$ for delaying better music than his. I mostly like it for conceptual reasons; travis steals a flow from nicki minaj off a song she did like 2 months before this mixtape came out (lookin’ ass), and one of the beats is just a different version of that kendrick lamar feature on pusha t’s album last year (i.e. mamacita sounds like nosetalgia) it’s like accelerationist appropriation. Cuz a big part of rap is “take old sounds and repurpose them” but he’s just taking CURRENT sounds and repurposing them! slow down travis! . also there’s this real emotional chord in “drugs you should try it” that gets stuck in my head (where he says “take this night AH-wayyy”) check it out:
14 – Tielsie – Palette/Hueboy/Bipp (remix) (three songs next to each other on soundcloud)
Sounds like: what i wish EDM sounded like
Tielsie is one of the PC music people, but he sounds really different from the other PC music people (mainstreamier?) so i’m pretty sure he’s an actual different human and not just AG cook under a different name. anyways these three tracks aren’t supposed to be together, they’re just kind of jammed back to back by soundcloud’s player SO THATS HOW I LISTEN. But give it a try! It’s nice and fast and good vibesy. uh and i’m a sucker for really fast syncopated percussion w some footwork influences. oh and you can DL it for free offa soundcloud
sounds like: The Spiritual Successor to Basketball by Lil Bow Wow
if i had the werewithal to keep up with all the stuff lil b puts out, i would probably be a happier man, because it is universally acknowledged that he is the most coolest on the face of the earth. and I, a simple midwestern man, am incapable of feeling nuanced emotions so i just listen to happy music all day and refuse to feel sad, limiting me from ever becoming a true human being. uhh this is nice because lil b calls Wichita State University “witchika state.” lil b also has this magical way to mess up “proper” grammar and get his point across in very creatively broken sentences (eg “you say that I’m wack? see me on the court. score on me if you’re talkin bout points.”) which is a lyric from album standout Fuck KD, an excellent diss track with origins explained here better than I can: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/an-outsiders-guide-to-the-lil-b-kevin-durant-beef/
DJ Rashad passed away this year of a drug overdose (not a blood clot, actually, lots of autopsy confusion and weird media stuff surrounding it though so i understand if you’re confused (RIP oscar taveras as well)) and this is the last stuff he put out before passing away. First two tracks are classic repetitive-vocals footwork fare, middle seems like where footwork is currently, last track is a sped up version of Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” and maaan i could just listen to it all day.
11 – Boddika, Joy Orbison and Pearson Sound – Faint/ Nil (reece)/ Moist (single)
sounds like: thinking man’s techno
you know how you go to best buy and try on the expensive headphones and they’ve got a very well-produced song going on in the background (probably like… some promotional Jay Z track that sucks because Jay Z sucks now and is the epitome of sell out) and you’re like “maan i NEED these 500 buck headphones to hear music this good?” these tracks, if set as the headphone kiosk’s default tracks, would move BOATLOADS of headphones. they’re so dense and diverse! Of course, that makes them crap for parties, or really any type of social listening. you’re supposed to go somewhere quiet, close your eyes and listen to the like 5000 different percussive sounds in the three tracks. disclaimer: moist has some squishy gross samples and makes me feel ill at ease
I’ve been big on merchandise for a while now, but they’re always switching up their sound. Buncha tampa bay hardcore guys who now play yacht-rock sounding eagles 80s music. wind chimes in the intro track. you know what it is. so this isn’t “life in the fast lane” but in a similar vein it’s also so un-trendy that i think it’s pretty cool. sounds very cheesy at times, there’s a song with telephone ringtones in it, who does that anymore? maybe you have to be a privileged asshole to like this music, hopefully not though! because i like it!
9 – Usher – Good Kisser (Disclosure Remix) (single?)
sounds like: Smooth party music
so i was at a “party” and i mosey on over to the spotify (which was playing a crap gucci mane song) and asked the guy manning it if i could cue up a track. “sure,” he replies, “what artist?” “Usher.” “Usher? Nah, that’s gay music.” no surprise — someone really into gucci is a homophobic blockhead. he walks away, so i put on this track anyways. About halfway into the song, he walks back up and says “Yo! This song is awesome! Who is this?”
sounds like: vast soundscapey metal, but sometimes it just sounds like bluegrass
Panopticon is from Kentucky, I think, which explains why their country genre interludes are actually good instead of cheesy: its coming from the heart, not from fulfilling some over-technical metal guitarist’s virtuosity checklist. the production is grand, and even if you don’t like metal you’ll be cool with the country stuff. also the album art is very pretty and gets me in some type of lumberjack snowshoeing mood
7 – Taso – Teklife Till Tha Next Life Vol. 1 (album)
sounds like: a party where everyone’s too cool for you to talk to comfortably
Taso’s part of teklife, but he usually has a more hip hop bent to his footwork. his original compositions for this album, like Luchini and Only The STrong WIll Survive, are awesome and really get my blood boiling (i think that’s an archaic saying nowadays). Only problem is he does footwork covers of C.R.E.A.M. and SpottieOttieDopalicious which are like two unfuckablewith songs. There’s literally no way to improve either of them, but maybe if you DJ this at a party people will do that thing they do where they think you’re remixing the original CREAM live on your turntables somehow, and then you will earn mad respect or something while all you’re actually doing is messing around with the hi pass filter
sounds like: saying words over and over again in the coolest way possible while youre immersed in 1 foot of murky water
I like lakutis a lot; i tweeted at him for a n essay i was writing a few years back and he actually responded with thought out answers. he’s also in a podcast i lsiten to (podcasting is the new It thing, but not podcasting in a bad Lifehacker way, podcasting in a slice of life casual convo sorta way) uhhh i like the production on all these songs, its nice and dark and i originally thought this album was just okay but i listen to it a lot on the train so maybe its way better than i thought?
Sounds Like: beats so good that you’re glad nobody’s rapping over them
Ok so this came out in december 2013 but i didnt’ listen to it until 2014 so it’s on this year’s list. I’m usually not a man for instrumental rap beat; instrumentals tend to feel way sparse and need fleshing out by the percussion of the rapper’s voice to keep me interested. UNLESS YOURE CLAMS CASINO, who is definitely the best producer in the game right now if by “best” you mean “most dynamic.” there’s so much variety! AND it goes hard at a party. also his other instrumental mixtapes are good too if uou don’t have them. there’s no way you won’t like em. ITS A TED GUARANTEE.
sounds like: strummy acoustic guitar accompanying a very emotional true story
when i was in high school i could listen to 100% bland radio rock songs like the Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris and Drive by incubus and get emotional and angsty. And if ilistened to them like RIGHT BEFORE BED i could even cry most of the time. then i got mature and as a totally dispassionate art critic i now judge work solely by its artistic merit and i only cry when i get hit in the nose because even one who has transcended emotion cries when they get hit in the nose. or at least I thought…. BUT benji reawakened my emotional music sensibilities, as everytime i listen to it i get really sappy and think about how i haven’t called my parents in a while and feel bad for exploding aerosol cans and think about mortality and get melancholy about high school romances. it’s great! i don’t even like this genre 99% of the time because the lyrics drive the train, and the lyrics are usually really corny but not today
Everything about this album is west coast, which might offend people who want their rap to get to the point more quickly, but I don’t think that Kool AD functions as well in a cluttered new york production space (see Das Racist’s El-P produced stuff, for example). His drawly flow drops knowledge bombs about four times each verse, and you’ll never know it unless you actually listen becasue he’s too modest to do that dumb thing that big sean would do if he rapped a good bar (as in call back to it so you know BIG SEAN IS SMART capital neon letters). sometimes he doesn’t try, but just don’t listen to those songs! if i could be anyone alive right now, i would be kool ad. if i could be anyone alive ever, i would be Ramses, maybe. who would you be?
2 - A. G. Cook, GFOTY, Danny L Harle, Lil Data, Nu New Edition and Kane West – PC Music x DISown Mix (mix)
sounds like: 60 possible future universes in 60 minutes
PC Music was the “new hot thing” in 2014 which means that you, the reader, are either a) bored of them already and would like to get on with something conceptually newer in 2015 or b) are a regular person and don’t understand these “group a)” people because these PC Music youtube videos have like 4000 views; what do you mean they’re popular? Kind of hard to be writing for both a general audience and music dorks here, so no further comment. It sounds great. My favorite part is at 12:50. you favorite part can be anywhere you want it to be. free download on the track
1 – Sophie – Lemonade/Hard (and I guess Hey QT too) (single)
Sounds like: squeaky clean rubber ducks gaining incredible momentum and bouncing around a kitchen, except when they hit something they go faster instead of slower
My music of the year is two tracks by Sophie, who has yet to make anything less than amazing, and one track by QT, who is a 2 person due of which Sophie is half. This sounds a lot like PC music (it’s actually on the NUMBERS label but who cares) because it has a sweetness to everything that comes off as forward thinking rather than just dumb. so here’s my resultant thinkpiece: David Foster Wallace talked a lot about the poisons of irony, how it can only clear space for ideas and cannot constitute a meaningful movement in and of itself. Instead he praised what has come to be called new sincerity, basically being genuine and emotional and eliminating the harsh sarcasm from your being because what is irony doing anymore when the denny’s twitter account has fully coopted it? NUFFIN. problem is, sincerity is rather corporatized too, and i think it’s good that i throw up whenever i encounter my aunt’s precious moments figurines. That leaves us in a narrow space for future cultural innovation: how to move forward straddling irony and sincerity, ensuring both remain in the service of connection rather than alienation? PC music’s got a bit of an answer. spectaclist images of conspicuous consumption are brought to a scalding temperature and allowed to wash over beats and song structures, cleaning the classic chord progressions that we only pretend we’re tired of for new use in a framework that’s post-capital: QT is famous because she says she is, but QT isn’t a real person (but you can follow her on instagram). Lipgloss twins extoll the latest, scarcest fashions, but PC music releases unlimited music for free download. AG Cook is like 10 different artists, and this diffusion of identity rebels against maybe the most ingrained western idea (the self). Metamodernism has a soundtrack.
Danish singer songwriter Agnes Obel performed in WNUR’s studio on Halloween. All four songs are from her second album “Aventine.” Agnes is currently touring North America, more details here: http://www.agnesobel.com/
Video by Alex Brüel Flagstad
Editing by Jessica Peng