PRINT December 2013

Music: Best of 2013


Total Freedom performing at Galaxy, Tokyo, April 5, 2013. Photo: Ching-Yen/PROM.

1 DEAN BLUNT, STONE ISLAND (self-released) Formerly of the duo Hype Williams, Dean has chosen a path for his recent material that aches with restraint. This album is like an open window into his head. Listen in on his mind: smashed car windows, harp arpeggios, hope, and the voice of his conscience.

2 E+E, “EL SUEÑO DEL FORASTERO” (self-released) As E+E, Elijah Crampton makes music that catalyzes an emotional reaction in me that I cannot control. His gestures feel laced up in melancholy yet also bound by a vicious sense of humor. Often, as with this track, it’s as though he’s speaking some dead language—the actual meaning of which I can only guess.

3 DEEJAÝ LIL-FOX, “FODENÇIA DO GUETTO” (self-released) Lil-FOx, to me, is the most mischievous of them all. Most of his uploads are less than a minute long and many are just ten-second clips, which is to say that Lil-FOx’s feed is not so much a showcase of songwriting or production as a spectral display of foaming polyrhythms—beats so angular, they seem on the verge of completely falling apart.

4 TOTAL FREEDOM, DUMMY MIX 181 (self-released) Like some prince from the future, Total Freedom, aka Ashland Mines, is inspiring, right down to the way he moves. As with much of his music, this mix is messy and strong in the most hypnotizing way—a distress signal delivered with a toothy grin.

5 SHAYNE OLIVER AT GHE20 G0TH1K (New York) Shayne operates with raw intuition. It was while listening to him DJ that I first experienced a true trancelike state in a club. Watching him do his thing is like watching a lioness rip open a carcass in the wild. Mother. Though much of his energy now goes into his label, Hood by Air, Shayne still regularly DJs this party in NYC.

Masaaki Yuasa, Kick-Heart, 2013, digital video, color, sound, 12 minutes.

6 PHYSICAL THERAPY, YES, I’M ELASTIC (Fifth Wall) Daniel Fisher as Physical Therapy crafts his music with an unmistakably natural sense of space and rhythm. For this EP, he’s drawn heavily from techno and 4/4. His peculiar way of making things fit has taught me a lot about momentum and constraint.

7 DUTCH E GERM, “HBA WAR” (self-released) Rhythms shift fluidly in the music I’ve heard from Tim DeWit, formerly of Gang Gang Dance and now going by Dutch E Germ. Every piece seems, out of nowhere, to melt into some singular, screaming texture, before merging, just as suddenly, back into regularly metered drums.

8 JOWELL & RANDY, SOBREDOXIS (White Lion) Coming out of Puerto Rico, Jowell & Randy have been turning out great reggaeton for a while. With their next studio album in the works, they put out Sobredoxis this past summer. It’s smoother than their earlier stuff, but still filled with plenty of gritty drums, clipping high frequencies, and ridiculousness—echoing the strange vocal loops and menacing, sexual, but emotionless tone of their amazing 2007 track “Pa Dentro y pa fuera.”

9 MASAAKI YUASA, KICK-HEART (Production I.G) Yuasa, my favorite Japanese animator, directed this anime short about a romance between a pro wrestler and a nun; psychedelic electro-craftsman Oorutaichi composed the sound track. This film is intensely full of nervous energy, but watching it makes me feel euphoric.

10 CHIEF KEEF, BANG PT. 2 (self-released) Few things in 2013 were as fun to listen to as Chief Keef’s echoey, affected voice melt and throb in the dark on this summer mixtape. At his brightest, the Chicago rapper is celebratory and unhinged. I can’t wait to see where his mind goes in 2014.

Arca is a New York–based producer. This past year, he worked with UK artist FKA Twigs on her release EP2 (Young Turks), lent additional production to Kanye West’s Yeezus (Roc-A-Fella), and, with director Jesse Kanda, curated a multimedia show for the VW Dome of New York’s MoMA PS1. Arca’s debut solo LP is forthcoming from Hippos in Tanks in 2014.