PRINT December 2014


Wu Tsang

Publicity image for Arca’s Xen (Mute, 2014). Photo: Daniel Sannwald.

1 ARCA, XEN (Mute) It might not be an exaggeration to say that twenty-four-year-old Venezuelan producer Alejandro Ghersi—aka Arca—is one of the most important artists of our time. This debut LP (named after his feminine/genderless alter ego) is paradigm-shifting. Organized around poetic concepts, the songs feel like light-matter exploding out of a void. Arca once explained to me the way he might take an ordinary sound (like the crunch of a plastic bottle) and refract it into infinite harmonics and telepathically low bass rhythms.

2 POLYMORPHISM X JANUS (Berghain, Berlin, October 10) This much-anticipated party to end all parties lived up to expectations and RUINED EVERYONE. People from every continent converged at the legendary seventy-two-hour rave cave in Berlin for performances by Total Freedom, boychild, Jam City, and Lotic, among others. Berghain has a world-class sound system, and I thought my bones were going to dissolve. No photos are allowed at the club, but the image of Total Freedom’s smoking devil-horn braids is burned into my mind.

3 TOTAL FREEDOM, 10,000 SCREAMING FAGGOTS (self-released, sound track for Hood by Air Fall/Winter 2014 New York Fashion Week show) I could fill an entire Top Ten list with Total Freedom (aka Ashland Mines)’s sounds, but this mix, featuring a score by Timothy DeWit and spoken poetics by Juliana Huxtable, feels particularly emblematic of his practice as a DJ. He doesn’t simply reproduce the pop “feed”; he uses sound manipulation to show us where the feed comes from—in the most anarchistic, truth-seeing way.

4 FADE TO MIND Having come of age with this family of DJ/producers, I am of course biased, but 2014 seemed to be the year this LA-based record label came into its own, producing regular epic shows in LA and New York and a monthly broadcast on London’s Rinse FM. In the Internet-accelerated music industry, Fade to Mind has established itself as an institution of important innovators.

5 PATRICK BELAGA Belaga is a twenty-three-year-old classically trained experimental cello player. He improvises with every unconventional surface of his nineteenth-century cello to make the most insanely beautiful music. He moved to LA this year, and he’s already working on major projects, including (with Jake Shears) the score for the next Gus Van Sant movie.

Still from Sia’s 2014 video Chandelier, directed by Sia and Daniel Askill.

6 SIA, “CHANDELIER” (RCA) If you’re obsessed with a pop song on the radio, chances are it was written by Sia Furler, the Australian songwriting guru and pop star in her own right. And unless you were in a cave this summer, you probably heard her instant anthem “Chandelier.” She has said she recorded this song herself because it’s personal, about her battle with alcoholism—and I love it when pop songs get real. This track makes you feel euphorically happy despite its lyrical darkness.

7 KELELA (FYF Fest, Los Angeles, August 24) Kelela’s return to her hometown after a yearlong world tour felt like a warm, stadium-size embrace. Even in the midst of her ascension to larger-than-life status, Kelela holds down her honest human presence. This year she managed to keep fans satiated with a few co-releases (with Le1f and Tink) as we await her first full-length album, due out in 2015.

8 FUTURE BROWN Signed to Warp Records this year, Future Brown is a supergroup consisting of DJ/producers Fatima Al Qadiri, Nguzunguzu, and J-Cush. This ambitious collaboration brings together exquisite sensibilities and serious dance potential. Working virtually across continents and taking on all kinds of fashion, performance, and recording projects, Future Brown is more like an art collective than a band.

9 E+E, THE LIGHT THAT YOU GAVE ME TO SEE YOU (self-released) Virginia-based Elysia Crampton is one of my constant inspirations. She produces soul-shattering world-inflected music, pulling from a wide array of influences—from John Mayer to José Muñoz. Her compositions are as transformational as she is: Crampton is a poet, a philosopher, and also a master of Bieber remixes.

10 ILOVEMAKONNEN Up-and-coming recording artist iLoveMakonnen is a really cute person with an irresistible vocal style. Drake recently remixed his major hit “Tuesday,” an inescapable track that encapsulates my favorite kind of low-key party vibe.

Wu Tsang is a Los Angeles–based filmmaker, artist, and performer. Wildness, her first feature film, premiered at the Museum of Modern Art’s 2012 Documentary Fortnight and won the Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary. A solo exhibition of Tsang’s work is currently on view at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich.