Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012: Dance and Electronic:
When you drive into Montreal, one of the first things that you might notice is the crumbling state of the city's road infrastructure. A sprawling mess of expressways, overpasses, ramps, and tunnels — most of which were hastily built before Expo '67 and the 1976 Olympics — where chunks of concrete are missing and continue to fall today. For his latest album, Exercises, Montreal musician Mike Silver (aka CFCF) drew on the city's Brutalist architecture, '70s Canadiana, and the work of American composer Philip Glass for inspiration. While that might sound like the recipe for a pretentious disaster on paper, Silver pulls it off, creating a collection of minimalist, piano-based songs that are fully-realized. A far cry from his Italo disco-influenced 2009 debut, Continent, or his upbeat remixes for the likes of HEALTH and Sally Shapiro, the eight tracks here (given numbers rather than names) are more melancholic and reflective. There's no telling where Silver might go from here, but if Exercises is any indication, he's got plenty of good ideas to test out.
13. Ricardo Donoso
Assimilating the Shadow
While Ricardo Donoso turned heads with last year's Progress Chance, he upped his game substantially in 2012 via the mind-expanding Assimilating the Shadow. The double LP is not only grand in size but also in ambition, spinning some heady Jungian theory into a mass of slow-weaving electronic epics that touch on everything from house, minimalist techno and club music to more atmospheric, '80s-influenced synth sounds. The resulting hybrid is complex, to say the least, with Donoso laying down some seriously mathy and intricate rhythm patterns. However, the record is hardly a frantic mess, but rather a painstakingly slaved-over slab of slicked-out electro bliss, playing out in a manner exceptionally cool, calm and collected. In some ways, the record is a detached piece of work, but that's also part of the charm, as it comes out sounding fascinatingly alien and on a plain of its own. As a package, Assimilating the Shadow is a true thinking fan's kind of electronic album in more ways than one.
12. Four Tet
That Four Tet's latest recording will appear in year-end lists is sort of expected; Kieran Hebden doesn't really make bad albums. Yet Pink wasn't intended to be an album: Hebden's been releasing vinyl singles since early 2011, and when he realized he had enough for a full-length, he added his two latest songs to the mix, and released it digitally. But although the singles signalled nothing beyond the individual, two-song twelve-inches that they were, a theme emerged amongst songs like "Lion" and "Pinnacles": they were danceable. Hebden has long been fascinated by cyclical samples, but in lieu of the found sounds and musical clatter of his 2003 breakthrough, Rounds (and, less so, of his 2010 full-length There is Love in You), are stronger bass lines, deeper drum frequencies, and faster 4/4 rhythms. That's not to say that Pink is monotonous, because it isn't: Hebden balances his embrace of the dance-floor with slower, more ponderous soundscapes and his trademark, chime-inflected, sample-laden ditties. So, is it a proper album or just a great collection of songs? Does it really matter?