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Favorite ThisFar Arden Compilation Vol. 1 Review

Published: July 18, 2012
By: Natty Morrison

At times, defining glitch-hop can seem like a difficult task.  I’ve generally used the “beat music” label on any form of IDM, specializing in hip-hop style beats.  However, with the massive success of DJs like Pretty Lights, Flying Lotus and DJ Shadow, along with rising stars like GRiZ, Shadow Attack and Freddy Todd (to name a few) the field has gotten much wider – and more confusing.  The recent growth of so-called trap music – heavy, simplistic beats, reminiscent of Dirty South rap and crunk – combined with the continued expansion of dance music’s influence into mainstream rap music, can make for an overwhelming duty in this ever-changing world of EDM, which relies so heavily on genres.  But, after listening only to the first volume of Brooklyn-based Far Arden Recordings’ Compilations albums, I can pretty safely say that this is glitch-hop, plain and simple.

But though I use words like “plain,” and “simple,” that don’t mean there’s anything plain or simple about the music.  Rather, the songs featured on this collection are intensely complex, a shimmering package of cranium-shaking hip-hop beats, analog synth and 8-bit sounds that plays like a graduate-level course on How to Make Simply the Best Music. 

8-bit is nearly ubiquitous on the collection.  The woozy lead-off cut, “Pants Labyrinth,” by MetaTron (with a killer vocal line from Mandy Moonbird) sounds like Megaman on a heroin bender; it’s a fantastic interpretation of the original UK dub sound through a Nintendo filter.  ANNuNAKii’s, “The Grid,” uses a dizzying array of blips, dinks, and clicks to muse on the concept of post-dub.  Though the tune is understated, it’s unafraid to harken back to some of dubstep’s more defining sounds, dropping echoed vocals and NiT GRiT-style yaw bass lines at every corner.  And on the kLL sMTH contribution, “Recapitulate,” the album’s heaviest bass drop comes equipped syrupy sweet keyboard melodies and analog/8-bit sounds to keep it from venturing into the usual dubstep clichés.

Of course, it’s not just 8-bit; Far Arden Recordings is label jam-packed with future stars of the glitch-hop scene. Elsewhere on the album, we find Bass Science (“Lights Out”) reimagining trance music at a crawl, with glorious results; NicoLuminous (“Dub Flow”) venturing deep into psych-dub, holding onto dubstep aesthetics without any sense of traditional form; and jOBOT (“It’s Easy To Miss What You Can’t Have”) composing a mellow symphony of kick drums and perfectly tuned snares, where even the hardest drops come with a side of subtlety.

The best track, though, comes courtesy of Proper Motion.  “And I Panicked,” blankets a skittering drum beat with warm soul samples, lingering flutes, winds and koto plucks.  In many ways, it reminds one of a more focused Flying Lotus, an American Jamie XX, or an east coast interpretation of J. Dilla done by RZA.    Its opening even seems to be influenced by turntable composers like RJD2 or Blockhead, with ominous thunder sounds making nice with bursting soulman-style vocals and horns.  Truly a must-have single on a must-have compilation. 

Tags: DowntempoDubstepGlitchHip HopLivetronicaBreaksDrum and BassElectro