More up-and-coming underground albums
“Ghettoville” — Actress
Last year’s “R.I.P.” by London-based electronic musician Actress, also known as Darren Cunningham, was a layered, avant-garde trip through the psyche that melded aspects of minimalism with traditional techno tropes.
In addition to being one of 2012’s most bewitching electronic albums, “R.I.P.” was also mired in interesting influences such as John Milton’s novel “Paradise Lost.” With his newest album, “Ghettoville,” Cunningham returns to the headspace of his debut full-length from 2008, “Hazyville,” and takes homelessness and desolation as main themes.
Depleted, barren and demented, Cunningham’s newest work sounds battered and strung-out, like a journey at dusk through a junkyard of dispelled objects. Eight- and 16-bar loops of lo-fi snapshots from unknown sources are the foundation of this album’s structure. As a whole, “Ghettoville” wallows in a fog. Its mucky loops tend to stagnate and are not quite interesting enough to validate their length. Actress, one of the most spellbinding and concept-driven personalities in the electronic music scene today, has released an album that is cohesive as an idea but falls flat and pales in comparison to his previous cerebral albums.
“Ghettoville” works as an idea; it’s just not a place I’d like to revisit.
“Adhesive” EP — Container
After releases on Spectrum Spools and Morphine Records, two exceptionally strong techno labels, Container returns with his “Adhesive” EP released through the Liberation Technologies label. “Adhesive” is made up of four tracks of mechanical ambrosia, equal parts noise and unrelenting percussive beats.
Here, Container engineers a single-loop system of TR-909 kicks, snares, hi-hats and toms and yields a batch of no-nonsense mock-up sketches in a palette of black and white. Rock ‘n’ roll and punk seem to be cousins to Container’s base of blistering, ascetic techno.
In “Glaze,” the rock ‘n’ roll bop of an up-tempo, modular drum sequence tangles with robotic convulsions of noise. With the “Adhesive” EP, Container wins again and proves to be making some of the most invigorating techno today.
“New Brutalism” — Rainer Veil
There’s a turbidity that hangs in the air of “New Brutalism,” the second release by Manchester duo Rainer Veil. The Modern Love signees have a dark take on U.K. bass that sounds like a charcoal reflection on the industrial past of their homeland in Britain. New Brutalism was also a movement in architecture that began in the U.K. As a movement, New Brutalism was austere, focused on functionality and characterized by the use of poured concrete and a lack of decoration.
Like the movement of the same name, the album is grayish and stark. Ghosts of U.K. hardcore float amidst swathes of noise on “Three Day Jag.” Rainer Veil’s work on “New Brutalism” is similar to U.K. artist Burial, although bass swells are used in a way unlike the latter and whereas Burial’s “Untrue” calls upon two-step, “New Brutalism” calls upon jungle, a genre that’s been used in a considerable amount in bass music as of late.
“Benji” — Sun Kil Moon
Sun Kil Moon, the folk-rock project of singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek, sees its sixth album, titled “Benji,” released on Kozelek’s San Fransico-based Caldo Verde Records. On “Benji,” Kozelek crafts an art of storytelling that is built from firsthand experience. Kozelek, 47, forms a narrative about his life experience as a whole.
He includes stories about the people he’s known: the friends, family and romantic relationships he has had. In almost every story on “Benji,” someone dies, and the songs on this album are like eulogies. “Benji” is similar to a great American novel or a movie like “Tree of Life” in its breadth and depth. The album harnesses a spirit of compassion and values of respect and dignity for human life. “Benji” has an effect of calming reflection.
“I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” is a love song for his mother in which Kozelek admits that the one thing he needs in his life is his mother and that he doesn’t know what he will do when one day she passes. “Ben’s My Friend” is about his relationship with Ben Gibbard, the lead singer from alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie, and “I Love My Dad” is a love song dedicated to Kozelek’s father.
Songwriting seems to be how Kozelek expresses what he’s learned in life, and “Benji” is a poignant account in simple and plain English.