Because Sleep is the Cousin of Death: The Most Slept-On Beat Records of the Year (Part II)

El-P – Wearegoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 – [Gold Dust] Funcrush this — 15 instrumental odds and ends too haywire to fit onto a solo rap record. Volume III of...
By    December 15, 2010

El-P Wearegoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 – [Gold Dust]


Funcrush this — 15 instrumental odds and ends too haywire to fit onto a solo rap record. Volume III of Wearegoingtoburninhellmegamixx found El-Producto hawking his garbage on iTunes instead of giving it to Goodwill, with previous installments available only as tour-only affairs (and later for free download.) Cannily aligning himself with a bass-heavy instrumentalist zeitgeist, playing Low End Theory, and forcing one-time Fat Beats fanatics to like the Beebs, El-P stayed inscrutable in 2010, reminding us that he has always been a decade ahead (ask ailing little Johnny).

This is strictly fam-members only. The commercial market is slim for those who love blistering beats and synthesizers so jittery they need their own medicine cabinet. But for those whose vital nerves have long since been frayed, it’s another glimpse into the evolution of one of the most visionary musicians of the last 15. Beats turn into suites, filled with Valkyrie drums and the orchestral violence of a cinematic car crash. More evidence why El is one of the only musicians who can make sounding like hell seem like a good thing. –Weiss

MP3:Wilder Zoby (prod. by El-P)-”Contagious”

Onra Long Distance   –  [All City]


Onra may just be the most exciting and enthralling beatmaker you never heard of. Long Distance – the Parisian’s third full-length studio album – builds on his previous efforts by incorporating a slab of synth-based electronica into his chopped up-soul aesthetic: Think Dilla meets Dam Funk meets Flying Lotus and you’re probably not far off. As the northern hemisphere continues its descent into short days and long, dark nights the summery sheen of this beat tape might feel out of place in your rotation but it’s just so funky that you won’t care. Vive la revolution, indeed. — Dan Love

MP3: Onra ft. Walter Mecca-“To the Beat”

Paul WhitePaul White & The Purple Brain [Now-Again]


Paul White smokes so much purple he probably dresses in all-paisley. Last year, he told the world of his strange dreams and they’ve apparently gotten weirder. As a result, he hitches his head to the hallucinogenic properties of Swedish psych-rock guru S.T. Mikael, complete with sitars, slinking guitars, and drums that wander like a self-medicated mind. Less instantly catchy than his previous work, The Purple Brain works by osmosis — you need to time to figure out the layout of  ectoplasmic vocals, roped-in chaos, and the Winchester Mystery house’s worth of stairwells to nowhere. But when you do, its a rewarding listen that proves that Paul White’s hazy brain is still expanding.  That purple. —Weiss

MP3: Paul White-“Ancient Treasure” 

Rudi ZygaldoGreat Western LaymenPlanet Mu


During a year in which Planet Mu re-asserted itself as one of the most dependably forward-minded labels in music, Rudi Zygadlo’s debut was overshadowed by the dominance of his label-mates. While Starkey, DJ Nate, Solar Bears, Ital Tek, and Terror Danjah staked their claim as vanguards of modern dance music, the taciturn Glaswegian’s vision of post-dubstep was just as technicolor and multi-faceted as any of his contemporaries. Inspired by classical, church liturgies, opera, folk, Zappa, and early ’00s hip-hop, Zygaldo’s music stands out from his peers for his devotion to song-craft, boasting well-constructed hooks, bridges, and breakdowns. Calling these “beats” does them a grave disservice, with their brain-frying synths, ruthless groove, and symphonic inclinations most closely resembling Guido, Nosaj Thing, or even Hot Chip. It’s doubtful Rudi will be on the second team much longer. –-Weiss

MP3: Rudi Zygadlo-“Resealable Friendship”

ScubaTriangulation [Hotflush]


Sure, the Berlin-influenced austerity of Scuba’s Triangulation may seem cold and mechanical compared to loosely programmed Californian Dilla-fun,  but the frost never feels forced and the resulting collection bores itself into your brain when you aren’t looking. My favorite moment is undoubtedly “Before”: a 2010 update of the Trip-Hop torch songs favored by early Portishead, Massive Attack and UNKLE. Equally warm and chilly with bombed out drums and half-whispered vocals, the song (not track) lives and dies off mood alone, inspiring thoughts of shadows, spies, love and betrayal. You’ll have to imagine your own scenario however, as director Sam Geer chose to go a more abstract route for the official video, resulting in non-narrative blasts of colors and shapes as druggy as the music itself, but with a side of focused German efficiency. –Sach O

Stream: Scuba – “Before” (Left-Click)

Shed-The Traveler [Ostgut]


Berlin techno auteur Shed veers off course with his second album instead of continuing where 2008’s club-minded Shedding the Past left off. There are no bangers on The Traveller — even drum & bass closer “Leave Things” is too well-mannered for such classification — but there are plenty of slinkers and crawlers. It’s as if Shed is less interested in the pulse of a track as much as its dying twitches. Most of the tracks never allow you to view them head on — you have to settle for millisecond-long glances and peeks from around the corner. The Traveller might be a musical cul-de-sac, but it’s the kind where you’re better off having been along for the ride, even if you end up just a few feet from where you began.–Renato Pagnani

MP3: Shed – “Keep Time”

ShlohmoShlomoshun Deluxe [Friends of Friends]


By year’s end, Shlohmo had already eclipsed his impressive debut Shlomoshun Deluxe, with his Camping EP and remix work displaying the 20-year old’s rapid evolution. But on his first release, the signs were already there in the way Henry Laufer innately explores the empty spaces between earth and sky, paring found sounds (bird chirps, stray city noise, clunky footsteps) to frozen mercury synths and Godzilla bass. He struck compromise between the organic and the chemical, Ableton beats constructed with the coolness of a technician and the lapidary warmth of an artisan. Admittedly, parts of this record show him learning on the fly, but its precocity establishes him as one of the finest talents of the next generation.  —Weiss 

MP3: Shlohmo – “Hotboxing The Cockpit”

Slim TwigA Sheik In Scores [Self-Released]


A slithering cauldron of doomsday vocals and diseased guitars, Middle Eastern samples and movie scores for the blind, Slim Twig’s Sheik in Scores may be the most fractured pop album of 2010. Boasting a weeded weirdness reminiscent of Quasimoto, Gonjasufi, and King Khan, 22-year old Canadian Max Turnbull shatters his paintings into bits and recombines them as off-color mosaics of serpents and seraphs. Like the man says, “interpret this as a slab of densely psychotic psychedelia, or as a document of outsider hip hop.” If that’s true, then consider this unwrapping. –Weiss

StarkeyEar Drums & Black Holes [Planet Mu]


Starkey makes the kind of music that smacks you across the face with one hand while gently caressing your bruised mug with the other. The Philadelphia producer understands that violence is never too far removed from beauty — on Ear Drums and Black Holes, this usually comes in the form of wiggly Lite-Brite melodies that float through Richter scale bass. “Ok Luv” clobbers with an ear-to-ear grin; “Multidial” swirls in moody daylight while lightning and thunder attack from a cloudless sky; “Neck Snap” snaps necks but makes whiplash sound like a good time. For all the chest-rattling throb of his music’s lower end, what separates Starkey from other merchants of post-dubstep bass music is that underneath all that aggression, he’s got a heart as big as his bass is loud.–Renato Pagnani

MP3: Starkey ft P-Money – Numb

Take Only Mountain [Alpha Pup]


Balancing the experimental with the warmly familiar, Take contorts genres (R&B, jungle, dubstep) into innovative shapes.  Many producers struggle to produce a coherent piece of work when shifting to the LP format, but after years of LA DJ gigs and working the remix circuit, Take adapts seamlessly, sublimating the feel of a late night rooftop set with stunning views and making it accessible via headphones and the right high. Overlooked in the deluge of exceptional releases flooding out of the Low End Theory, Take’s gift for melody and songcraft make each song deceptively unique–the type you never skip when it comes on shuffle.  On Only Mountain, Take plants a flag at the summit, daring other beatmakers to snatch it away. — Aaron Frank

MP3: Take-“Neon Beams”

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