Best of 2014: Iva’s Top Ten Electronic Tracks of 2014
When I was invited to contribute to the platform, I thought the best way to introduce myself would be a list of favorite tracks. Coincidentally, ’tis the season of arranging things into descending numbers, so here is a top ten of the electronic releases that excited me in 2014.
10. Disa – ‘Sculpture’
A tendency that started a few years ago but really peaked this year was the intense interaction of R&B with electronica, to a point where the genre is completely redefined. But while typical examples like Banks, FKA Twigs, Movement might dabble in this fusion, they still remain rooted under the R&B category.
New Icelandic-born act Disa exploits R&B vocal mannerisms, but it is the elaborate electronic compositions that defines her style. ‘Sculpture’ was one of her first releases this year, which was highly praised by a number of “independent” music sites and apparently heavily backed up by strong label representation. The suspicion that Disa Jakobs is not just your average struggling against-all-odds up-and-comer is also supported by the incredibly good production on her tracks, and especially on ‘Sculpture’. The composition and the sonic execution here are purely amazing: from the minimal bass line in the beginning, to the down-and-heavy synth progressions towards the end and the voice modulations from feminine to masculine, often done within one and the same phrase.
9. The Juan Mclean – ‘Simple Design’
The Juan Mclean is the project of John MacLean and former member of dance-punk outfit LCD Soundsystem Nancy Whang. Their collaboration here is a dancy, romantic, groovy piece, with a very oldschool, italo-disco vibe. ‘Simple Design’ is a well crafted, but very light and unassuming track, probably the most commercially sounding on the album. To be honest, ‘Simple Design’ sounds like a lot of things that have already been done, but its catchy tune infected me for nearly a month last year.
8. Herbert – ‘Bumps’
By his own proclamation, Herbert refuses to use drum-machines and pre-existing samples in his productions, at the same time strives to create music, which can be simulated in a live performance. Conceptual in their ideas and execution, his works are often driven by an anti-corporate agenda. So when he wants to do а summer hit, you can bet it’s not going to be your typical pop number.
‘Bumps’ was sent to me by a friend and I don’t know if it was the hypnotic tune or the pessimism of the lyrics about a “system that can’t stop itself eating itself “, but I was instantly taken. At first, the track might seem simple and easy-to-swallow. However, each listen peels off a new sonic layer: Orient-inspired beats, high-pitched synths, looped horns, and repetitive keys. On top of all that spread vocals by Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne, that describe a pre-programmed, pointless and indifferent generation of consumers.
7. Flying Lotus – ‘Ready Err Not’
The horrifically grotesque video for ‘Ready Err Not’, directed by the twisted king of flash-animated gore David Firth (‘Salad Fingers’) makes me wonder in which asylum did those two meet and collaborated to create what my nightmares look like. The video is very much in unison not only with this particular track, but with the whole album Flying Lotus released this year. The death motif repeats through this whole introspective record, whether it is about fear or eagerness to die. Experimental as all of Flying Lotus‘ work, the entire album is a brilliant mixture of electro jazz, fusion, IDM, hip-hop and trip hop (although by the artist’s own admission, he was heavily influenced by Slayer and Mastodon).
‘Ready Err Not’ is a creepy tiny instrumental gem of percussion-like beats and bubbling sounds – as if mimicing the last thing you’d hear before you drowned.
6. Tiga – ‘Bugatti’
The self-adopted douche-bag persona is a well-known Tiga move, that would have been annoying if it wasn’t hilarious. The reason why this is so utterly tolerable is that all Tiga gimmicks come heavily backed up with pro-skills and talent to combine components into a brilliant track.
The overly repetitive lyrical mantra of ‘Bugatti’ is perfectly in sync with the obnoxious jerk character, which proved to be a smart trick as it attracted not only those who found it amusing, but also those that didn’t really get the joke.
The track is a composition of techno-chunks with a classic house vibe, escalating synth noises and a silent killer of a bass. And also – that video, tho!
5. Zebra Katz & Hervé – ‘Tear The House Up’
LGBT hip-hop has been on the rise the last few years, not without the help of an educational little number, that got stuck in our heads in 2012 with its repetitive lyrics and monotonous beat. In 2014 however, Zebra F-ing Katz turns to 180 degrees and instead of taking bitches to college, he’s making them sweat at the club with the help of several house producers. One of them is Hervé, a house-hold (pun intended) name within the UK dance scene, who brings his signature bassline in this dirty club collaboration. Resurrecting Chicago Hip House of late 1980s, ‘Tear The House Up’ might as well be the future direction of “urban” dance music.
4. Planningtorock – ‘U+U’
Berlin-based Jam Rostron, born in UK as Janine, is something of a walking/singing/music-producing manifesto for gender equality: from the face prosthetic and pitched down androgynous vocals to the strongly politically-propelled lyrics. Planningtorock has been active for nearly ten years now, collaborating with artists like the The Knife, Mount Sims, my-secret-crush James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Badly Drawn Boy. This year she released her third studio album All Love Is Legal: an inspiring piece, not only due to its powerful social stance, but also because of its brilliantly weird dance experiments. Continuing her winning streak of 2014, she released another single, including ‘U+U’ – a total twist into a super-chart-friendly tune, which would have sounded almost conservative for Planningtorock if it wasn’t for the pro-poligamy lyrics.
3. C.A.R. – ‘Idle Eyes'(Roman Flugel remix)
C.A.R. is the latest project for Chloé Raunet former singer for the coldwave outfit Battant. Ever since the bands dissolution she has been working actively as a collaborator in multiple recordings and a self-publishing DJ, the culmination of which is the release of her first full length album My Friend. Out of this LP ‘Idle Eyes’ emerges cold and detached, with auto-ironic almost cynical lyrics. (which were originally written for a collaboration with compatriot Mike Levy also known as Gesaffelstein).
The single comes packed with four spanking remixes, but veteran tech-head Roman Flugel sweeps the gold with his sleek, crisp rendition. Vibrating bass underlying layers and layers of keys and pads transform the original electro pop tune into a raging cyborg.
2. Mr Oizo – ‘Ham’
Speaking of weird, Mr Oizo released a new album this year, full of dark-humor twisted electronica, mixed with some dub-step and trap. One of the sickest jokes in the album is ‘Ham’: a frantically neurotic piece of intense synths and deep beets. The track, much like the whole album, is a constant progression – no intro or outro, just insane, violently glitchy explosion. ‘Ham’‘s fanatic techno beat can either build you up or make you very uneasy. If that doesn’t quite do the trick, you can just watch the video, directed by weirdo Eric Wareheim, whose creepy mind gave birth to memorable visuals like Major Lazer‘s ‘Bubble Butt’ and Health‘s ‘We Are Water’.
1. Liars – ‘I’m No Gold’
Liars’ 7th album is definitely my favorite. It so brilliantly balances between the experimental and the audible, it almost sounds like a pop album for the band, without losing the avant-guarde. On one hand, there is the freaky mixture of techno, house, industrial and alt rock that reinstate the truly innovative approach Liars have always had to music production. At the same time, the tracks here are much more tangible in composition, more energetic, even more danceable.
‘I’m No Gold’ is a dark dance-punk combo of aggressive instrumentation, infectious beat and Angus Andrew’s weird vocals that gradate from a monotonous repetition to a falsetto. The six-minute album version has easily one of the best intros of 2014, followed by Andrew’s powerful entry. Overall, I can list Mess as one of my definite winners for best album of the year, both electronic and not.
Check out this selection of the Top Ten Electronic Tracks of 2014 as a YouTube playlist:
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