It's perhaps rhetorical because a simple antipodal response would not suffice. "No" is almost certainly incorrect because the article being linked is nothing more than a litany of comebacks and reunions, the past regurgitating itself, a perverse ouroboros wherein death is staged, sometimes only for a few years, only to facilitate the cycle of rebirth. "Yes", however, would also be wrong, because what we're witnessing is not the singular revival of a style (garage/postpunk/synthpop/Balearic/Italo/house...). Rather, 2013 seems to be the year of the zombie vanity project. A ouroboros that doesn't engender recreation, just reaffirmation. Everybody on that list (with a few others that have resurfaced to boot) are brands, name acts whose sudden re-materialization is accompanied by a successful flood of hype. The reaction to the music itself is almost secondary. Simply returning in and of itself reestablishes the brand, and thus pushes the act into the contemporary.
(David Prince- Ouroboros)
There used to be a healthy amount of cynicism towards the reunion tour and the accompanying "comeback" album (some of it earned/some of it not), but these acts have almost unanimously been greeted with open arms. The result is a 2013 in which a flood of old names have become the zeitgiest. As someone who came of age at the tale end of the music biz siege on the popular imagination, it's almost heartening to see a collective nostalgia for the "event" album resurfacing, particularly for folks I'm keen on like Bowie, MBV, or Boards of Canada (and we can expect a great deal more think pieces on music's marketing in 2013 than its music- some Philip Sherburne has articulated well over at Spin). But thus far, there hasn't been a whole lot that has popped up from the margins to demand attention like Death Grips did last year. The closest to the mark that I've heard is the stuff glowing from the loose assemblages of the American queer rap scene, which is still rising but which poses the danger of shaving its edges for more widespread acceptance. And its press, while kind, seems to somewhat treat it is a novelty, an addendum to a perpetually progressive scene (which hip-hop is not) rather than a legitimate attempt to branch off from the dying root of hip-hop, which sure has good singles, but you know there's trouble in genreville when your single of the year is the one where Rick Ross drugs a rapes someone. Yes, there's also a good deal of quality footwerk out there that, luckily, still sounds alien, but we're now talking about a scene almost a decade old.
Maybe this lack of surprise is on me, as I've admittedly been tuning in less (focusing myself somewhat on the past). Even as I scan the blogs and the zines though, it still seems like music at the current moment is being swept up in investment into (diminishing) returns rather than the shock of the new.
That said, here's what I've been digging this year:
RP Boo's Legacy
Jagged, disorienting, abstract masterpiece ten years in the making. I can't put this on and do anything else. I mowed the lawn and went off in zags. I tried it at work and got the slight sensation of vertigo. I tried jogging and nearly got lost. Proving that footwerk is still pretty much the most viable and dynamic artform currently out there, it's music that hijacks your senses and not only in a club. Everywhere you go. Tarzan howls. Aaliyah samples that underline tension and uncertainty rather than confidence and assurance. Use with extreme caution when operating a vehicle. One word tossed around frequently when describing Legacy is "surreal" and there's parts of it that remind me of Negativland's Escape from Noise LP, the way stoic newspeak phrases were turned from something lucid and calculated into something mysterious and indistinct. RP Boo is doing that same thing with music-taking sounds we know and unlearning them for us, meaning it's not only introduces the new but deprograms the old at the same time.
Also, DJ Rashad's Rollin' EP on Hyperdub is pretty dope, but I've only listened to it through once so far.
Le1f- Fly Zone
Mykki Blanco- Betty Rubble: The Initiation
Zebra Katz- DRKLNG
In essence, these three form a three-way split between the now-ism of the past few years of techno, crafted in new forms to create vertical pop poetry out of these more horizontal forms. Le1f is the post-everything eclectronica of contorted and wabbly synths a la Night Slugs, LIES, Numbers, et al. Mykki's a bit more industrial, not quite at the level of desperation as the Perc Trax and Sandwell District folks, but definitely way more scorched early than his peers. Zebra Katz is austere minimalism, with cold detached lyrics that betray the neutrality of such tones, presenting them instead as something perverse and somewhat frightening. What makes this core so unique in special is their willingness to get dirty, to go to dark corners, and to ignore anyone's perception of what a hip-hop track should be or how a hip-hop artist should act. Perhaps most importantly, they've all elected at points to tell the backbeat to fuck off, choosing producers (including themselves- all are very talented and would do well to weird up a Yeezy or Miguel track) that understand how stale beats are killing hip-hop.
DJ Clap- Best Night Ever
Though there are parts of this release that are Footwerk-y, I think this album has been branded as such because it's mostly composed of rapid-fire CD skips that occasionally bust off into abstruse tom-heavy beats, but there's also a lot more lock-step here than most Footwerk include many sequences that play like straight-up accelerated house/techno. DJ Clap pilfers the gabber pace and its spotlight on the meth end of molly and its endless micro-repetitions, but also adds the euphoria of (happy) hardcore in the lush timbre of its sounds. Last time I listened, I kept thinking equations like M83 gabber or Traxman Drill N Bass, which seem cheap, but cheap may be the key here. Like the leading title, Best Night Ever is music that assembles the tiniest slivers of bliss it can find and violently shakes them at you until you're nauseous. Moderation is best, but impressive stuff nonetheless.
Various- This is How We Roll
When I last checked in on Blackdown's Keysound Recordings label, they were doing some quality and competent, though not particularly groundbreaking bass music. With this latest compilation, it appears they've upped their game a bit. I'll have to dig a little further into the catalogue to see what I missed.
Sarantis- Electric City
A number of good things coming out of the Senseless Records Bandcamp page for a while now. Like DJ Clap and RP Boo, this one might also not be great for those prone to migraines, but for the rest...
My Bloody Valentine- M B V
Everybody seemed to have made up their mind about this by the time most of us were finally getting the download page to load. My initial thought was, like many's final determination, that yep, This is yr Bloody Valentine. And particularly when I got to "Who Sees You", I was A-OK with that. But the weird twist that the second half of the album took some getting used to. I've decided that it is indeed pretty great, though I do feel now like I want more, something I ironically never felt with Loveless. There's a tension in thewhirlwind event horizon of "Wonder 2" that makes the record feel incomplete. Hopefully, we'll find out what's on the other side of that black hole sometime in our lifetime.
Locust- You'll Be Safe Forever
Locust is principally the project Mark Van Hoen. So in this sense, You'll Be Safe Forever is not really a comeback. Van Hoen's been active for a while. In fact, last year's Revenant Diary was a career highlight. This is the first time he's gone by Locust though in 12 years. The music on the album does not necessarily veer into far-off directions like contemporaries Seefeel did with its digitally pixelated return album a few back, but the swelling hazes, vocal manipulations, and radiophonic allusions are more contemporary than ever now as underground electronic music has finally caught up with Van Hoen.
The Knife- Shaking the Ritual
I've actually only heard this one once too, but it was impressive and I really like the above. I was never interested when their early naughts albums came out, but I've it on my calendar to dig in further.
Various- Interpretations of F.C. Judd
A bunch of today's most compelling acts taking a stab at Judd's 60's electronic experiments, but not in the usual way wherein artists remix to make the original sound like their own signature style. On this album, the productions truly compliment each other and the artists involved have done a good job at pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.
Well Come Around
5 to listen a little further:
Stellar Om Source- Joy One Mile
Mu-Ziq- Chewed Corners
Broadcast- Berberian Sound Studio sdtrk
Various- Night Slugs Vol 2
Kurt Vile- Walkin on a Pretty Daze
Top of the Pops
5 for the charts
Timberlake/Timbaland- "Blue Ocean Floor"
Timberlake/Timbaland- "Tunnel Vision"
Disclosure- "When a Fire Starts to Burn"
Kanye- "New Slaves"
Iggy Azaelia- "Work"
Further Down the Well
5 lower underground
Boards of Canada- "Reach for the Dead"
Low- "Just Make it Stop"
Tropic of Cancer- "Fall Apart"
Stanislav Tolkachev- "Heartbeat"
Ducktails- "The Flower Lane"