The Thomas Top Five: 3/21/16
Our Editor-in-Chief listens to upwards of 50 albums per week, so why not let him share the five, presented alphabetically by artist, he thinks are the best for you to hear on this week’s installment of the Thomas Top Five?
The Field – FROM HERE WE GO SUBLIME
Genre: Minimal Techno, Tech House
Favorite Tracks: “A Paw In My Face,” “Good Things End,” “Everyday”
At the nexus of ambient, trance, and house, no outwardly flashy or preening behavior is to be found over the course of FROM HERE WE GO SUBLIME, but rather a comprehensive and detailed exploration of every last minute detail of sound. A master of the microsampling technique, wherein nigh-unrecognizable bits of existing songs are lifted and repurposed at the mixers discretion, The Field’s objectively encompassing tracks such as “A Paw In My Face” take on a whole new dimension when the listener realizes it’s all based around a miniscule loop of the guitar solo from Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Impatient listeners may balk at the repetitive nature of the tracks, but the nature of the beast lays within the multiple layers that can only be unpacked when given the proper amount of time to take in and process. Although each track offers its own distinctive artistic statement due to being structured around a gradually developing sample, the understated pulses of the percussion and the general “arctic” milieu keep a sense of tonal consistency. A must-hear for anyone even remotely interested in DJ mixing and sampling.
Kraftwerk – COMPUTERWELT
Favorite Tracks: “Computerwelt,” “Taschenrechner,” “Computer Liebe”
Kraftwerk is mostly known for the one-two punch of TRANS EUROPA EXPRESS and DIE MENSCH-MASCHINE, and for good reason. Setting the blueprint for virtually all electronic pop to follow, both albums offer up contradictory accounts of the increasing pervasiveness of technology and convenience in modern culture, all over some of the most sleek, futuristic synth programming of all time. However, COMPUTERWELT is often left by the wayside by dedicated fans, and for no real discernible reason. Although perhaps the pioneering spirits of their most well known albums are absent, Kraftwerk is letting loose and engaging in genuine, unmediated fun. How can you keep a smile off of your face when presented with the naive joy of “Taschenrechner?” Doing away with some of their more esoteric journeys through synthesized space, COMPUTERWELT is much more concise, feeling like the most efficient machine designed by Kraftwerk yet. If you’re going to listen to only one track, though, it absolutely has to be “Computer Liebe.” Lending its melody to Coldplay’s “Talk,” Kraftwerk’s version is much more melancholic and bittersweet, the heart-wrenching main hook taking on greater significance when it’s realized that the themes of — not only finding love in the modern age — but loving an actual computer are relevant now more than ever. And that’s the theme of the whole album; buried behind all the fun, that love of technology is the loneliest kind of all.
Modest Mouse – THIS IS A LONG DRIVE FOR SOMEONE WITH NOTHING TO THINK ABOUT
Genre: Indie Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Dramamine,” “Custom Concern,” “Head South,” “Exist Does Not Exist,” “Make Everyone Happy/Mechanical Birds”
Long before Modest Mouse was an alternative radio staple, they were one of the most prolific and talented indie rock bands around. Those who discovered them when they first heard “Dashboard” will be shocked upon hearing THIS IS A LONG DRIVE FOR SOMEONE WITH NOTHING TO THINK ABOUT. Gone are any pop sensibilities whatsoever (perhaps only still present on “Dramamine”), leaving lengthy cultivations of lo-fi atmospherics in their place. Setting up their palette that favors heavy use of guitar overtones, THIS IS A LONG DRIVE is heavily indebted to the indie forefather of math rock, with long passages of subtle texture that aren’t afraid to let things breathe and slowly percolate before exploding into Isaac Brock’s Hellcat screams. This is raw, passionate, and really, really stoned; the perfect soundtrack to the angst and melancholy that inevitably surface on any long distance road trip.
Pharaoh Sanders – KARMA
Genre: Spiritual Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz
Favorite Tracks: “The Creator Has a Master Plan”
This is the second religious release that has made the Thomas Top Five (although this one is much less explicit in intent than HOW GREAT THOU ART), so I should clarify that regardless of what your personal beliefs may be, the key to appreciating anything with a distinct spiritual agenda is its sense of authenticity. Though I may not personally have it, I respect those whose faith has integrity and contributes to a greater good, and I think manifesting it into such an endearing and enduring work of art as KARMA is just about all that can be hoped for. This is undoubtedly one of the most bright, reassuring, and life-affirming albums of all time; every ounce of Pharaoh Sanders’s unabashed love for the Lord and all of his creations shines through, and a belief in life after death comes from this album far easier than any preacher could hope to institute. Although the inclusion of the vocals doling out the occasional sermon of peace and love have turned away some listeners, it baffles the mind how one can’t respond to the steady layering and buildup of Sanders’s “sermon,” culminating in bursts of religious ecstasy signified by his soloing. Jazz is one of the more inherently spiritual genres considering the creative muses ostensibly flowing through its heavily improvisatory practitioners, and KARMA leaves no doubt in my mind that if God exists, he was using Sanders as his mouthpiece during these sessions.
Slew Dem – GRIMETAPES.COM: SLEW DEM VOLUME ONE
Favorite Tracks: “Man’s Heartbeat No Longer Beating,” “Dirt on the Diamond,” “Grime Riddim,” “Pablo, Not ‘Cause of Nas”
Admittedly, the inclusion of “.com” in any album title looks shoddy, but if you can get past the janky cover art (this is an unauthorized bootleg tape after all), you’ll have an utterly surprising release on your hands. With the continued success of groups such as Death Grips and Kanye West’s 2013 effort YEEZUS now being firmly solidified in the mainstream lexicon, grating, industrial sounds are more marketable to the common listener. However, a hugely influential genre of music often gets short shrift from audiences across the pond, and the schizophrenic, sweaty, and demented sounds of grime are often almost entirely unheard of outside of the London ghettos in which it thrives. As a select few on the internet have pointed out before me (this is understandably an almost entirely unheard of release), SLEW DEM VOLUME ONE puts all future sonic descendants to shame. Lo-fi and entirely unpolished, the various MCs of the Slew Dem collective spit and shriek over filthy, bass-heavy riddims, often working themselves into frenzies that transcend all hopes of coherency. It’s raw, electrifying stuff, and is without a doubt the hypest thing I’ve heard in a good, long while. Unfortunately, you’ll have to get resourceful in order to snag a copy for yourself, but I’m sure you have the resources right at your fingertips.