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2020 was a year contingent on technology. In an era where we have been confined to an existence indoors, we have depended on the digital realm, on cyberspace essentially, to communicate, connect and converge with others. It doesn’t come as a complete shock then that this has also been a considerable year for electronic music, with some of the most provocative computerised sounds being released over the past twelve months of lockdown. ARCCA has selected twenty projects that stood out particularly, pairing each with a short summary of their sonic profile...
Actress - Karma & Desire
A sparse urban landscape fades in and out of focus in Actress’ starkly minimalist offering. Tinged monochrome, Karma & Desire comprises a series of gloomy metropolitan sketches that drift into increasingly unchartered territory: echoey piano bleeds into ambient drone, hovering vocals meld into control panel synths and static hiss. Throughout this fragmentary sojourn into the soundbank of the inner city’s murky depths, it feels as if a radio transmission is flitting between various overcast channels. As each channel sinks into the next, a different form of introspection is presented.
A.G. Cook - 7G
An extensive catalogue of maximalist electronic experimentation is presented by A. G. Cook, in his aptly named, seven-sectioned body of work. An archive of excess, a metallic sheen gleans off of every phrenetic beat in 7G, from the sleek and shiny to the caustic and cutting. Soft strums and flittery synths swirl into a fuzz of scattery breakbeats, pitch-shifted vocals and abrasive noise - mechanical artifice shifts from tranquil to grating. Cook presents a breakneck speed circuit through the many influences of hyperpop, oftentimes exhilaratingly jarring as simple sonic sketches warp into disparate soundscapes.
Against All Logic - 2017 - 2019
Against All Logic presents an astringent collection of dance tracks in his floor-filling retrospective, 2017 - 2019. Steely and spitting, whilst the entirety of the work is undercut by clean machine-driven rhythms, each track is in possession of a distinctly abrasive edge. Floaty synth lines driven by thrumming drums are engulfed by distortion and marred feedback; layered sampled refrains are swallowed by contorted clangs and clashes to form entrancingly gnarled hooks. In this merging of the ambient and the industrial, we are left with what sounds like a found cassette-recording of a brimming nightclub.
Amnesia Scanner - Tearless
An apocalyptic soundscape seethes and churns in Amnesia Scanner’s sonic sketch of the anthropocene epoch’s destruction. Reeking of hysteria, the piece is a brutal and disfigured reflection on the impending climate crisis and its impact on the psyche. A melding of the primal and artificial, Tearless is composed of an erratic mixture of warped chanting vocals, sweeping synths, pummeling drums and gravelly screeches and screams. The final result is despondent and dislocated: a juddering symphony to accompany the world’s end -- a fearful soundtrack to witness Earth’s consumption by fire and brimstone to.
Arca - KiCk i
Arca’s offering is grounded in the concepts of the transitory and the identity-affirming, as she explores constructions of gender and the human in her shapeshifting experimental work. KiCk i plays with the artificial, bending vocals to the point where the hominid and the machine become indistinguishable. These alien utterances are submerged in an otherworldly tangle of stuttering gunfire percussion, ethereal synths and intense clattering. Here the turbulent and the delicate intertwine, a mercurial work celebrating an existence outside of binaries, embracing the
liberating chaos of fluidity.
Bladee - 333
Bladee presents a colourful collage of bright and sparkling mumble rap in 333. Celestial, airy instrumentals provide the backdrop for wandering pitched-up murmurs, a current of shimmering optimism flowing through each whispered confession. Cosmic synths, trippy taps and plucked strings weave a divine web of transcendental tones that wrap around the droning vocals. The end result is a series of spiritual scrawls; a brand of spacey rap that glimmers and gleams in its plastic casing.
Charli XCX - how i'm feeling now
how i’m feeling now is a diaristic gush of uncensored thoughts and feelings -- a frenetic scribble documenting Charli XCX’s
experiences of isolation and solitude, channelled into glossy clubpop. The wonky, disorientating vim of the work reflects the disorder of the current time; sultry, sugary vocals dripping through sharp, sparky production marking an attempt to smoothly traverse the discord. Bassy synths and metallic percussion meld with sci-fi distortion and futuristic glitching to create an escapist work; a work that is brash and uninhibited, that looks forward to an unfettered future.
Eartheater - Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin
A yarn of rebirth and transmutation is spun in Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin, an anthology of visceral, earthy hymns. Orchestral swells and shimmers merge with plucked strings and raw vocals that flit between the ethereal and the guttural. The analogue and the digital bleed into each other, providing the ideal framework for a work that combines the primordial and the synthetic. Using images of sweeping rugged landscapes, Eartheater explores shedding archaic skins and donning new fortified exteriors, dusting off the embers as she rises from flame and volcanic ash.
Jessy Lanza - All The Time
Jessy Lanza presents a buoyant collection of spectral grooves and glowing rounds in All The Time, an understated yet effortlessly danceable series of tracks. Bright, chirpy synths and shimmering chords are driven by paired-back drum machines. These simple, solid rhythms are guided by breathy vocal lines, harkening an off-beat brand of 80s new wave. Whilst the work is slick and well-oiled, at times it ventures into the discordant, with odd chords jutting out at strange angles and manic flitting and glitching disrupting the flow. The end product is a series of floaty slow jams, that whilst understated and wispy, still have bite.
Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song
A dream state is transmitted in Inner Song; visions of a climate in crisis and environmental breakdown. In this work, Kelly Lee Owens presents a vivid picture of the pastoral, constructing a complex electronic landscape
that mimics the swelling and shrinking of the natural world. Layers build and textures deepen and broaden, as deep kicks and transient, morphing synths flow like melting ice caps. Airy vocals navigate this shifting terrain, drifting in and out of focus of the thawing instrumentals. The different meandering elements result in an expansive work; one that flits between warm and cool; a circular piece that repeats bubbling and effusive refrains.
Lyra Pramuk - Fountain
Fountain is a collection of songs composed from a singular instrument: the body. In Lyra Pramuk’s overture of chamber choral, the limits of the voice are stretched as she moulds and manipulates her vocals to extremes, oftentimes sounding entirely unhuman, other times distinctly raw and primal. The work takes the shape of open wails and building chattering and chants over sweeping sustains and drones. There is chaos muddled in the divine here in this burgeoning babbling, though the overall result is one of great beauty. Through electronic treatment, Pramuk explores the resonant possibilities of the human form and produces a futuristic yet folkish body of work, steeped in weightless spirituality.
Oklou - Galore
Galore is an album that feels nymphoid, as if composed by forest-dwelling spirits. In this offering, Oklou uses a palette of sparkling
tones to paint faint figures against a backdrop of saturated moodiness, exploring themes of femininity and rebirth within the depths of this
cryptic and arcane habitat. Shimmery synths, modulating organ and clean tapping drums provide the setting for delicately enchanting vocals that feel hushed and secluded. The end result is a work that is mystic in its restlessness; an unearthly collection of mellow musings and ruminations that flicker against a dark arboreal tangle.
Oneohtrix Point Never - Magic Oneohtrix Point Never
It seems as if Magic Oneohtrix Point Never is constantly dialling between channels; an abstract collection of disparate snippets and seemingly found sounds. Fuzzy nostalgia washes over the work, as recovered recordings and gritty noise punctuate wavering vocals and steady rhythms. These murky bursts of noise are embellished with sparkly twangs and sweeping strings, giving this sonic fog a sense of solid form. Tracks peter out into dead air, and the end result in a work stained by impermanence. In its semblance to a disintegrating radio broadcast, Oneohtrix Point Never’s creation brings to mind memories warped and misshapen by the passage of time.
Róisín Murphy - Róisín Machine
Róisín Murphy evokes high-camp and a sense of dancefloor drama in her exuberant nu-disco offering. Strings soar and twang over raucous beats and pounding kick rhythms, this slick melodious mechanism steered by commandeering vocals that seem to yearn and hunger. Róisín Machine is a tangle of euphoric nightclub anthems; an album that explodes with hedonism and indulgence. The final result is an act of escapism - a work that projects away from current mundanity and dreams of a return to unified bliss within the confines of a sweaty discotheque.
RUI HO - Lov3 & L1ght
Lov3 & L1ght is a disorienting swirl of sonic technicolour; a futuristic collection of bright flashing strobes and glowing neon pigments in the form of sound. Juddering percussion clashes with screeching synths, as warped, pitched-up vocals deflect off of penetrating basslines. The album glistens as it bends into cyberspace, slick and sheening in its transitions. RUI HO creates a soundscape that transcends the human and enters the realm of the bionic form -- a work that explores the fusing of the mortal and the machine, harkening our impending co-existence with cybernetic beings and robotic bodies.
Sega Bodega - Salvador
A beguiling descent into the dark depths of a spiralling internal dialogue unfurls in Salvador, a brooding collection of choppy industrial bass tracks. Raw and unprocessed ruminations lurk underneath brazen yet keenly sharp production, the tracks lurching about in a perturbed manner. Screeches and scratches grate across heavy knocking percussion; groaning murmurs rasp over maximalist synths. The textures of the work are deep and gloomy, mirroring the cautious probing of a restless mind unpacked within the lyrics. The final product is seductively overcast and plays flirtingly with the balance between pleasure and pain.
Sevdaliza - Shabrang
A series of cryptic parables are inscribed throughout Shabrang, a winding saga of pulsating trip hop and atmospheric
downtempo. The search for selfhood occupies the pages of this narrative, with the sparse sonic landscapes enclosing existential statements that ricochet and rebound. Dusky basslines and stuttering percussion undercut twanging strings and fragile, undressed vocals. There’s a sense of recovery from fallen grace throughout the work, as Sevdaliza contrasts emotional extremes of darkness and light and documents the turbulent path to reclaiming a bruised identity.
Shygirl - ALIAS
Shygirl exposes the grungy underbelly of the club in this steamy release -- a glowing griminess illuminating the darkest corners of subterranean nightlife. Pulsating percussion and blasting bass channel silky spoken word, laced with sultry edge. ALIAS oozes sexuality, exploring the different forms lust and carnal desire can take and transforming them into distinct personas, which Shygirl flits between sleekly. The end result is a work that has unbridled gall; that assertively delves into the intricacies of touch and corporeal sensation in the context of a dimly lit dance floor.
Zebra Katz - LESS IS MOOR
In LESS IS MOOR, glimpses of the ballroom scene flash through a ferocious charge through an eclectic mix of contemporary club influences. Each sound is steeped in intensity: ricocheting gunfire percussion and veering basslines coil around blaring sirens and threatening, crooning vocals. Zebra Katz dons the bravado that is
intrinsic to vogue, spouting showy declarations of self-love amidst this barrelling sonic backdrop. There are instances where his guard is let down though, with occasional snippets of vulnerability interposed between the displays of brimming self-assurance. The final product is a work where all facets of black queer identity forged by the altar of the nightclub are explored.
Zora Jones - Ten Billion Angels
A rift to a parallel universe rips open in Ten Billion Angels, a torn fabric of glitchy experimental tracks. The whole work is vaporous and entrancing: shimmering, twinkling synths are undercut by jarring percussion,
whilst clattering, treated vocals reverberate around sparkly soundscapes. Zora Jones constructs a liminal expanse, exploring cosmic, otherworldly dimensions in her use of spacey, alien textures. The body of work teeters on the border of the cyborg and the human, exploring this blurring boundary and its freeing, even utopic, potential.