Posted by: Dominic Umile | 10/01/2010

October Commutes: Andre Obin, School of Seven Bells, Tropics

School of Seven BellsRecent commutes have been dominated by a handful of records and mixes (I hope to have a separate post about the mixes up shortly), as well as some great reads that I’m happy to share. Check out my Twitter feed for more links, but along with my music chatter below, I’ve collected a few URLs.

Matt Taibbi spent what appears to be far too long immersed in aimless, frightening conversations at Tea Party rallies, as I can only assume no other kind of dialogue exists there; Dean Starkman capably identifies the problems plaguing the mainstream media; Uncut Magazine has a great piece in their August issue about George Harrison’s masterful All Things Must Pass (not online, as far as I can tell, go buy it); Eric Alterman (and many others) reacts to the “open season on progressives” that the White House has been irresponsible enough to weave into its messaging of late. And now…OCTOBER COMMUTE MUSIC.

Front RunnerI wrote about Andre Obin for PopMatters back when Ghostly International subsidiary Moodgadget issued his powerfully urgent Colorwheel, a potent techno two-songer from the Boston producer. Since 2008, I hadn’t heard much from him. Obin seems to have hunkered down in his studio to finesse a dark synthpop/house pairing for his Front Runner, the new six-track EP also on Moodgadget. Depeche Mode is a suitable enough reference point for “Gazelle,” where arpeggiated synths meet blunt-edged, uncomplicated club beats, but I’m digging “Golden Hair,” a Kompakt Recs-like standout. Shimmering, glassy leads light the way for the main minor key progression, and while relegated to the background, his treated vocals seem to trickle off into the track, adding significantly to the air of mystery that renders the whole experience so alluring. Get “The Arsonist” at ISO50, and listen to the whole EP here.

Disconnect From DesireOn the subject of commendable production, you’ve no doubt by now read a good deal about School of Seven Bells’ sophomore album Disconnect From Desire. I foresee a lot of end-year talk about this album — it’s a fascinating set of both electronic and organically conceived dance songs that offer hypnotic playback if you’re paying close attention. Disconnect‘s melodies are catchy and memorable; there are well-structured harmonies (that more often sound sampled from an older musical form) at every turn. While it’s a far more danceable record than their first — which incorporated experimental tribal rhythms and suggested proggy influences that didn’t always make for an easy listen, but for an excellent debut nonetheless — the new songs feel complete and whole. “I L U,” in its lush keyboard swells, close mic’d, breathy vocals and clattering tambourines, reminds me of the Trainspotting soundtrack, or just of the days that I had my head buried in every album that had a “UK IMPORT” sticker stamped on the front of the case when it made its way into indie stores here in the States — Sleeper, Echobelly, Suede, how much money were we spending on CD singles back then? Listen to the head-nodder “I L U” remix from Vagrant label affiliates Phantogram. It’s on the recent “Heart Is Strange” single, and you can get that track by sharing/submitting your email here.

Soft VisionAs expected, Planet Mu’s 2010 run has been quite diverse, from the dank halfstep/techno hybrids of Vex’d’s Cloud Seed to the woozy, midtempo dream state of Solar Bears’ work. An EP from 22-year old UK producer Chris “Tropics” Ward falls along the lines of the latter. Warbled and melodic, Soft Vision is powered by strong grooves, too — the opening and title tracks are as driving and summery as the free/no longer free Beat Connection EP that got some buzz a while back, just as its “Melorr” is propped up on subtle and psychedelic instrumental hip hop, rippling with pan flute loops, quick-churning atmospherics, and interspersed vocal cut-ups that make for a sound comparable to that of Ward’s labelmate Falty DL. This has been a post-breakfast staple in my headphones of late, and it’s apparently merely a primer for a forthcoming LP. Ward has a mess o’ tracks on his SoundCloud.



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