Discover up-and-coming underground albums
“Music For Shut-ins” by L.I.E.S.
Long Island Electrical Systems, L.I.E.S., releases its second compilation, “Music For Shut-ins,” documenting the label’s prodigious output of techno and house tracks within the past year. L.I.E.S. has recently flourished as one of the nation’s most reliable and interesting labels. The album flaunts a musky, damp sound that comes off as atmospheric but hard-nosed nonetheless.
Standout tracks on the album include Terekke’s ambient, hollowed-out house slow-burner, “Amaze,” Florian Kupfer’s sorrowful “Feelin’ ” and Samantha Vacation’s electronic workout, “Samantha’s Vacation.”
L.I.E.S. has been at the forefront of what has been coined as “outsider house,” a movement featuring tracks that are less likely to find their way onto the dance floor than they are to soundtrack a stroll through the grimy alleyway behind the night club.
“Dance Classics Vol. III” by NHK’Koyxen
NHK’Koyxen continues his Dance Classics series with the third installation, “Dance Classics Vol. III,” released on the label PAN. Having studied architecture in college, Kouhei Matsunaga’s background is relative in his new work, with form and structure melding into freakish dance-worthy mutations of techno that progress at a steady pace.
Matsunaga’s work is as perplexing as it is funky, flexing its muscle with quadrant-like, cubist precision. He takes classic techno formulas and stretches them. Rapturous moments occur in the percussive track “811,” while glimpses of hip-hop breakbeat can be found in track “675.”
“Dance Classics Vol. III” is an album that comes off as queasy at times but mostly just overtly playful. Energetic, frenetic and fast-paced, with “Dance Classics Vol. III,” Matsunaga has created a work that doesn’t stand still.
“Stranger Than Fiction” by Kevin Gates
Kevin Gates paints a picture that targets the fallacies of riches, women and drugs, which are usually celebrated rap clichés. However, Gates’ pessimistic view is the source of struggles that position him as a man barely hanging on to the railings of life. Gates’ straightforward delivery puts him in a more depressive light, and he comes off as a captive prisoner in his own world of worries.
Gates’ supersaturated woes also set him apart from other rappers. There seems to be no more emotional rapper releasing music at this moment, holds barred for Lil B and Starlito, who makes an appearance on the track “MYB.” Highlights include “Angels” and “Don’t Know What To Call It,” a track with a poppy hook that wouldn’t seem out of place amongst radio fodder.
“Secret Thirteen Mix 097” by Lee Gamble
During the mid-1990s, Lee Gamble was involved with the jungle scene in England. Since then, he has released an ambient album, “Diversions 1994-1996.”
In this special mix, Gamble hijacks the power lines and crosses the wires on all telecommunications systems. He interjects his own cybernetic code, and the results are nothing less than stunning.
Make no mistake, Gamble is a technician. With a strong history in computer-based sound manipulation and a keen understanding of psychoacoustics, Gamble works marvelously with sound in its myriad forms.
Moments of this mix are beautiful in their own fried-out, hazy way.
“A Slab About Being Held Captive” by Wanda Group
Like an alien transmission from a dying planet, Wanda Group melds strange frequencies with debilitated drones, making the album “A Slab About Being Held Captive” an oddly crafted tour-de-force that just might make Wanda Group the strangest electronic musician working today.
As far out as Wanda Group’s work is, little could be as captivating visually as the dynamics crafted in this particularly peculiar record. Perhaps microscopic images of nanograms of pollen would do the trick, or perhaps images of bacteria cultivating in a petri dish.
Wanda Group, also known as Louis Johnstone, finds a predecessor in the work of experimental electronic musician Iannis Xenakis. Hums, buzzes and thuds of bass make for an atmospheric blend of dark ambience with some jarring moments of fragmentation interspersed.