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Some years you struggle to pick out 10 really good electronic albums released in that year, 2018 was not one of those years. From Amerindian future club eruptions, to footwork rap, to blissed-out ambient gospel, this year was brimming with musicians and producers brimming with ideas, and really good albums. Here are 25 of the best of them.
25. Kenny Segal – Happy Little Trees
Kenny Segal’s music exists beyond the confines of the once packed floor of The Airliner on Wednesday nights, but I can’t help think of Happy Little Trees as a kind of eulogy for the recently shuttered Low End Theory. The L.A. producer behind a lot of the best Milo and Open Mike Eagle tracks played frequently at the Low End, siphoning the bass blasting beats of peers like Flying Lotus, Samiyam, and Dibiase, into more whimsical, wholesome, yet introspective, Saturday morning cartoons type beats.
That’s all here on Happy Little Trees, but the whimsy has been toned down, and in its place sits a kind of serene winterscape where the bedrock of 21st century boom bap is accompanied by chill winds that bring glimpses of jazzy guitar and piano chords, inklings of footwork, and the moss of digital grit brings texture and ambiance. It feels like a knowing nod of acknowledgment to the accomplishments of the past and the influence the Low End Theory has had on so many music makers as our Saturday morning cartoon hero heads onward into another adventure.
24. Fred P and SMPD – Mantras for the Traveling Souls
The first track on this short three track EP begins with a short fade up on swinging Detroit house hi hats and muffled snare swipes; it’s like descending into an underground club that’s been happening perpetually for decades, and that’s just the kind of deep house that an OG like Fred P and his partner SMPD are making on Mantras for the Traveling Souls. This is straight up by the books Detroit house, deep house, nightlife music, whatever you want to call it. Music that hits a sweet spot between dance floor ecstacy and late night driving introspection. Nothing more, nothing less. Enjoy it while you can.
23. M.D. James – 5 Year Lapse
The L.A. music scene contains multitudes, from the city’s consistently revolutionary hip hop scene, to the burbling club, norteno, jazz, experimental, and punk underground music worlds. M.D. James seemingly took them all in for 5 Year Lapse, a 22 minute album that encapsulates the darkest impulses of the city’s music scenes (ok, maybe not norteno, but maybe for the next M.D. James release.) to create a mini masterpiece of bleakness. Stick around for the end though, when a clean, finger picked guitar peeks out from underneath digital grit and police sirens, suggesting a beautiful sunset to stay the night, before it gets cut off before it can finish its thought.
22. Sofheso – Archive
Albums that are over 45 minutes are not the wave. The one exception to this rule might just be Sofheso’s Archive. At two hours and 17 minutes, Archive can be a slog, but this compilation of Japanese musique concrete-techno is so well structured that if you’ve got the time, and you’re in the right mood, you might just get spirited away by the noisy, rhythmically cumbersome, bleeps and bloops.
21. Khotin – Beautiful You
Like a middle of the work-week daydream of a lazy summer Sunday afternoon, or an advertising industry’s implanted sense of nostalgia for hazy days of yore, Canadian producer Khotin’s wistful electro-ambient music makes you feel at once warm and uneasy. Throughout Beautiful You the beachfront methadone clinic vibe is interrupted by a muffled KMart in store announcement style voice, announcing things like “Congratulations! Don’t miss out on this exclusive vacation!” and “I am so happy. How great I am!” When the world is terrible, and you feel like shit, sometimes it’s nice to take a walk around the placid void of a mall, or Instagram — if only for a little while. Beautiful You is a soundtrack to that wonderful numbness.
20. Ratgrave – Ratgrave
Like a lot of the records put out by Steven Julien’s U.K. based Apron Records, Ratgrave, a duo consisting of young German kids Max Graef and Julius Conrad, loves their vintage 808 and 909 drum machines; but they can also really play the shit out of a bass. Seemingly equally inspired by classic 80’s Trax Records Chicago house, 90’s European rave music, and the hyperkinetic fusion jazz of George Duke and Weather Report, Ratgrave race through funk influenced, musically dexterous jams on a rainbow bridge on their way to pick up George Clinton and Daft Punk on this album.
19. Helena Hauff – Qualm
Listening to Helena Hauff’s Qualm is like putting yourself directly into a 909 drum machine, or having your best friend, who happens to be a very good DJ with encyclopedic knowledge of dance music, give you a private, first class, rave. Except for a few moments of darkly ambient synth work on the album, Qualm is mostly straight acid house thrashing. Yet it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to recreate the past at all. Qualm knows and loves its acid house forebears, Hauff just wants to add her own name to that pantheon, and on Qualm she does just that.
18. Joseph Shabason – Anne
It’s hard to make out the narrative of this record without reading the press release attached to the Bandcamp page for Joseph Shabason’s Anne, but you can definitely feel the melancholy in the music, the sense that something is slipping away, and trying to figure out what it is before it’s too late. Named after Shabason’s mom, Anne is an exploration of Anne Shabason’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease, but it’s also a reflection on memory and personal history and trauma. Throughout the album Anne’s voice fades in and out of Joseph’s bed of ambient jazz. Joseph, who’s a sax player, has the tone of a lonely sax on an empty beach, and when he starts playing through the hazey ambient jazz patches and the gently ominous synth lines, it’s a real emotional killer. You hear the struggle to comprehend suffering, the wanting to understand, the eventual need to let go. It’s beautiful, but damn.
17. Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Limpid as Solitudes
Two years ago the great experimental music composer Pauline Oliveros passed away after decades of trying to get people to open up their ears, and their minds to the world around them. She started out making noisy avant-garde tape experiments in the 60’s, and later on in the late 80’s she developed a much quieter sound she called “deep listening,” where a musician, or a group, would simply listen to, and respond to the environment around them. A kind of meditative improve with the world and other musicians and your own inner psyche. The music developed in that deep listening era was quiet, almost meditative, but vibrant and subtly exciting like a jacaranda growing on the side of a building. Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma have taken up the mantle of deep listening on this album. Slowly coxing quiet epithanies out of the interplay of gentle ambient synths and field recording sounds. It’s music to open your window to.
16. Steven Julien – Bloodline
Steven Julien, aka Funkineven, the U.K. based Apron Records head has spent his career making drum machines sing. On Bloodline bass drums boom and snare hits snap with a distorted crackle, hi hats chime in a frenzy, and all you need to make tech-house jams is a drum machine and a synthesiser. If you stick around long enough vintage synths radiate warm ambient chords, especially on the standout, “Queen of Ungilsan.”
15. Nazar – Enclave
Maybe the only other genres where artists try desperately to develop a tough, brooding, dark aesthetic other than experimental electronic music is hip hop and extreme metal. For the most part though these artists work carefully to construct an edgy image, mining dark caverns of internal neurosis and the external trauma of the world to make occasionally interesting music. But once in awhile a musician comes up who’s the real deal, and Nazar is just that. Hailing from the southwestern African country of Angola, Nazar grew up in Belgium, but moved back to Angola after the 26-year-long civil war in the country finally ended. In it’s short 26 minutes, it tries to viscerally present that to listeners who might not even know about the conflict’s existence, or that level of paranoia and devastation that comes from living through it. Through Angolan kuduro rhythms by way of gritty U.K. bass and grime music, Nazar takes the listener through dark depths of inhumane experiences, and on the last track, the highs of the hope for peace and self determination.
14. AshTreJinkins – Floor
AshTreJinkins’ brand of electro techno sounds eternal, like it’s rooted in the Earth itself, springing forth when you’re lucky enough to hear it oozing out of a crevice in the cement or spewing out of a manhole cover. It’s a sound that at once is firmly rooted in the afro-futurism of Detroit techno and the unflinching presentism of L.A. electro music and the Sankofa-ness of L.A.’s Low End Theory, but music that sounds like no one else but AshTre. If you’re familiar with his work, there’s callbacks to older AshTre tracks like the ominous midnight blue of “Hood Temperature,” here lightly remixed as “Temperature Hood.” There’s also a great feature by fellow L.A. electro-techno visionary Sage Caswell. Just take a listen to the dirty streetlight orange glow of “Stuck Here” though and try not to fall in love.
13. Prison Religion – Resonance in Exoplanetary Hybridization
Only the folks at Houston’s Halcyon Veil, one of the most exciting and important experimental electronic music labels in the U.S. right now, could find a way to beef up the already maximalist aggression of Virginia noise rappers Prison Religion’s O Fucc Im On the Wrong Planet into the beautiful noise that is Resonance in Exoplanetary Hybridization. Across eight tracks, a rogue’s gallery of producers stretch and do their best to inflame Prison Religion’s high pitched screaming. Halcyon Veil label boss Rabit sounds like he’s trying to mercifully drown the duo in ambiance, while Geng seemingly encapsulates their energy into waves of Pauline Oliveros style tape cracks and white noise hisses. The most interesting remix comes early on from producer Bonaventure though, who tries to ride along with Prison Religion with a club ready beat. These are the most interesting producers working today, having fun with at the extremes of sound and human emotions.
12. Ethiopian Records – Tigist
I tried to interview Ethiopian Records for a college radio show I once had a couple of years ago. He declined, saying that it was too expensive to call in from Addis Ababa, and that his Skype connection was usually pretty spotty. But we got to taking over emails, and the good natured earnestness, intelligence, and eagerness of the guy to both excel at his craft and give back to his community is something I’ll never forget. Anyways, this short, two-track EP of sorts uploaded to his Soundcloud page exudes those qualities. Working with a modus operandi of trying to organically incorporate techno, especially Burial’s moody, cinematic techno, with traditional Ethiopian music (or is it the other way around?), Tigist illuminates our reality, where our future must content with our past, and our past our future. A present where we can channel both through dance and telling our stories to each other.
11. Garrett – Private Life II
I was so excited when the label Music From Memory started putting out tracks for an upcoming album by a mysterious new L.A. musician named Garrett. The tracks sounded like unhurried, soft ambient synth, buoyant bass, neck snapping snare, sunset G-funk of the best strain. I was amazed at how much the synth work sounded so much like 21st century L.A. funk master Dȁm-Funk. I thought finally folks in the electronic music scene were taking proper accord of all the amazing work that Dȁm has been doing to bring the funk and boogie sound back into dance music, but it turns out that Garrett is in fact Dȁm-Funk. Oh well.
Somebody please make sure Aphex Twin and Autechre get a chance to listen to this record, please.
10. Kelela – Take Me Apart Remixes
Everyone wants to work with Kelela, and duh, she’s honestly one of the best, most grounded in what her voice and songwriting can do, and most open to experimentation R&B singer of her generation. Since 2013’s Cut 4 Me, Kelea’s released collections of electronic remixes of her slithery and sexy R&B tracks with notable remixes by Brazil’s MC Bin Laden, Baltimore’s MikeQ, and Chicago’s DJ Spinn. On the occasion of the release of her debut studio album last year, Take Me Apart, she released a full album of remixes from an amazingly wide range of musicians. There’s a funky D.C. go-go remix by legends Rare Essence, a South African gqom remix by DJ Lag, one of the best recent remixes by Kaytranada, with one of the hardest drops this year in dance music, and a breathtakingly beautiful harp assisted remix by Ahya Simone.
Since it’s a album of remixes from such a diverse cast, listening straight through can give you a little bit of whiplash, but Take Me Apart Remixes is really a testament to the inclusionary and experimental nature of Kelela’s music, and the wild diversity of the wide spectrum of dance music that people are making out there across the world.
9. SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
I’m getting old, and now that I can hear the siren song of tinnitus ringing in the distance I try to bring earplugs to every show I go to. I was expecting SOPHIE’s debut L.A. show earlier this year to be loud, but I was not expecting after an almost epileptic shock-inducing light show, for my ear drums to be ground into dust, only to be lovingly molded back into place by the Euro-pop ballad “It’s Okay to Cry.” That track, a glossy, pop song about empathy, emotional openness, and a kind of coming out song for the previously secretive U.K. producer, starts this album off. It’s an amazingly highwire moment between sweet and heartfelt and saccharine and kind of too cheesy for its own good, where SOPHIE takes center stage as a singer and pop music producer and arranger. It feels special, but as soon as it ends we’re dropped into the brain-rattling neon pink dominatrix EDM of “Ponyboy.”
The album runs in that elliptical circle of monstrously strict and noisy pop EDM tracks, to soft, almost ambient, electronica. It can be exhausting, but if you throw yourself into it, it’s a rewarding dip into the psyche of an artist trying to make a place for herself that’s both commercial and avant-garde, both critical and inclusionary, both hot pink and latex black. “Immaterial” is the best pop song of the year too. No cap.
8. Jon Hassell – Listening to Pictures
Trumpeter Jon Hassell developed a style of music in the late 70’s he called “fourth world” music. It was music that was supposed to synthesize non-Western music like traditional Indian, Balinese, and Middle Eastern music with Western music like jazz — using electronics to forge a bond between past traditions and future techniques and an envisioned peaceful multicultural world of the future. It sounds a little cheesy, and frankly, a lot of Jon Hassell’s last 40 some odd years of releases are a little cheesy, but this year’s Listening to Pictures, his first record in almost a decade, makes up for that. Throughout the album. Hassell builds these dreamy, slightly noirish soundscapes using samples and fragments of trumpet parts, layers of ambiance, and stalagmite synth bits, which he then overdubs with moody and lyrical Miles Davis-style trumpet parts.
The album is tagged as “fourth world” music on its Bandcamp page, and while I guess there are elements of non-Western instrumentation, tempos, and moods, but more than a simple aesthetic, Listening to Pictures seems to dig deep into Hassell’s own psyche as a musician, composer, and world class vibe creator. A psyche eager to bring about a utopian future, by sharing and talking about all the world’s cultural knowledge to anyone willing to listen — one fragmented dream at a time.
7. Space Afrika – Somewhere Decent to Live
Press play on the first track of Somewhere Decent to Live and for about a minute you’re left wondering when the music is actually going to begin. For a minute low rumbling ambient bass patches lurk barely above the audible threshold until a sweeping, warm, synth chord comes out of nowhere, announcing itself across the track. That’s the way a lot of the tracks work on Manchester U.K. duo Space Afrika’s debut full length album. Low end dark bass ambiance is met with sweeping warm ambient synth touches, with the occasional rumbling bass drum thrown in for more texture, and maybe even a stretched out sample of a black key piano note.
Describing Somewhere Decent to Live as minimal I guess is a start. It sits at the intersection where the electronic fiddling of hardware techno heads meets the effects obsessed ghostly aura of the most spaced out dub music possible, with ambient music’s compositional predisposition to creating waves of emotional sound devoid of melody or harmony. *Deep breath.* That sounds much more pretentious than Somewhere Decent to Live actually is. It’s just really interesting, darkly spacey ambient music that makes you feel like you’re floating safely through a void, whether that’s the void of space, or your room, trying to escape our present dystopia.
6. Laraaji – Vision Songs Vol. 1
Laraaji is kind of like the Mr. Rogers of the music world. He’s unshakably optimistic, unquestionably positive, just a little spaced out and apart from the world you and I inhabit. He’s also deeply invested in getting you the listener to realize the specialness of this moment, the ever changing world around us, the power of meditation, and your potential for self realization and happiness, if only you’d brush your damn teeth. You can find it creepy, and cheesy, and maybe even oddly nefarious, but like Mr. Rogers, it also seems to be a truly genuine expression of one person’s undying belief in empathy and human connection to make the practitioner and the world a better place. Laraaji existed mostly in obscurity for years, playing blissed-out autoharp and gongs treated with echo effects and a sampler to create clouds, waves, and air streams of richly textured and musical ambient music for yoga studios, until a couple of years ago hipsters rediscovered and re-released his music.
Since then, a steady stream of rereleases has flooded the market with his music, pulled from mostly privately issued recordings, shedding light on a solo musical adventurer making links between jazz and ambient music, psychedelia and new age music, and Indian music and electronic music. These re-releases have been mostly instrumental affairs until the cultural archeologists at The Numero Group unearthed a stash box of tapes from a New York public access show hosted by Laraaji during the 80’s called Celestrana. Clips from the show uploaded to Youtube by The Numero Group show Laraaji geeking out about the healing powers of crystals and laying down the most heartfelt, sincere, new age jams about meditation and the specialness of the present moment ever recorded. Vision Songs Vol.1 is a compilation of those songs, mostly improvised on the set of the show.
Draped in a glittering cream and white robe, using a Madonna style headset mic, Laraaji uses variously a small synth keyboard, his old autoharp and effects board, and even occasionally a very flat There’s a Riot Goin On style drum machine to set a silk queen size bed filled with fluffy pillows soundscape to set the listener on a trip straight towards nirvana and self-realization. It’s spiritually agnostic electronic new age ambient gospel pop music, and it’s intoxicatingly good.
5. DJ Taye – Still Trippin’
DJ Taye was a kid rapper in Chicago before he got swept up in the city’s footwork scene, dropping rapping almost completely after hearing DJ Rashad’s declaration of footwork’s emergence and importance in the electronic music universe, 2013’s Double Cup. Admittedly it’s kind of a cliche to have to talk about the late DJ Rashad and Double Cup whenever you talk about any other footwork record, its influence can’t be overstated to footwork music and the community around the music, and Taye actively invokes the legacy of both Rahad and Double Cup on Still Trippin’.
From Still Trippin’s Chicago skyline cover art playing off Double Cup’s aerial view of the city at night cover art, to the opening tracks of both albums playing with footwork music’s ability to build tension and mood with layered synth chords, and staccato samples, Taye obviously had the legacy of Rashad in mind when he layed out his debut, and he definitely took the right lessons from Rashad. The beautiful thing about Double Cup was that it didn’t just lay out what footwork was for folks unfamiliar with it, it pointed to where it could go, into hip hop, other dance genres, ambient music, experimental music, and even pop music, and not be compromised or watered down.
Artists like DJ Manny, Jlin, Cakedog, Sela, Mic Terror, and others have taken some of those hints and created their own branches on the tree of footwork, but none have really come close to reaching towards hip hop and pop like DJ Taye has on Still Trippin’ since Mic Terror’s criminally unacknowledged Live from Your Moma’s House. On “Trippin” Taye himself gets back to rapping, breathlessly riding hisown sparkling footwork beat with utter dexterity. On “Same Sound” Canadian vocalist Odile Myrtil shows the sort of time contradicting abilities singing over a footwork beat can unlock. It’s a challenge to adventurous singers and rappers out there, and I hope that more people take Taye up on it.
But maybe more than that Still Trippin’ is an acknowledgment and reaffirmation of the centrality of the city of Chicago to footwork, from the cover art, to the numerous Chicago footwork DJ and producer features throughout the album. Even as the genre moves forward into the future, the city of Chicago will always be its home and in its spirit.
4. Zuli – Trigger Finger
A lot of people don’t like electronic music, or maybe worse, don’t take it seriously as music, because “every song sounds the same.” Sure, it’s hyperbolic, but maybe it’s a little true. Every genre has a template that artists tap into to signify an allegiance to a certain genre, a certain style, a certain want to be connected to a tradition. It’s present in country, hip hop, rock, and even classical music, but electronic bares the brunt of the burden of this musical fact. Woe is electronic music.
If you know someone like this please direct them to Zuli’s Trigger Finger. The Egyptian producer makes electronic music totally untied to previous genre templates, but still composed of fragments of lots of them. Like shards of memories of raves past, or half heard glimpses of tracks on Instagram videos. On Trigger Finger Zuli mangles U.K. rave and bass music, hip hop, grime, and drum and bass into musical shrapnel shrouded by white noise and snippets of Egyptian percussion and human voices mangled by vocoders. It’s a loving kiss off to electronic music as Zuli ventures further into a style all his own.
3. Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love
Safe in the Hands of Love is like scrolling through your Twitter feed in the morning. Depressing nihilism lies side-by-side with chaotic evil, and optimistic bursts of life. Yves Tumor has embraced that full spectrum of the human emotional experiences in their music since the beginning. One of their first shows saw them growling through a wall of crushing power electronics in a sandpit at a Hood by Air fashion show. Last year’s haunting Experiencing the Deposit of Faith was a touching ambient Southern Gothic masterpiece. But the ferocious Yves and the tender Yves have mostly been separated on previous releases, with glimpses of each shining through their respective opposite releases like yins and yangs.
Safe in the Hands of Love seems to be the first release where Yves encompases both personalities. It can be frightening to be dumped from the New York style hip hop loop of the opener “Faith in Nothing Except Salvation” to the experimental club explosions of “Economy of Freedom,” but that seems to be kind of Yves point, embrace the extremes of life, the extremes of noise and enveloping ambiance, dream pop and power electronics meets shoegaze terror, the depths of depression and violence and ecstatic moments of life and love, they’re all essential parts of the human experience to learn from and grow stronger because of.
2. RP Boo – I’ll Tell you What!
Just to be absolutely clear, RP Boo started speeding up old Chicago Trax house and acid house records and Detroit booty house records at southside Chicago dance parties, creating what became known as footwork and juke music, first. He was the first to do it. Only in the past couple of years has he gotten the proper recognition that he’s always deserved. But RP never stopped putting out great tracks or being a godfather and mentor to many producers in the footwork scene, including Gary Indiana’s Jlin. But none of the albums he’s released have really captured RP’s abilities and skills as this year’s I’ll Tell You What!
If you’ve ever seen RP DJ, you know he’s one of the best in the game, effortlessly forming narrative and musical arcs from older footwork classics, to newer jams, from hard hitting triplets, to time stretching soul chops. Always showcasing the extent of footwork’s musical and emotional capacity. Some off this can be heard on early mixtapes like Dude off 59th Street, but RP is really a musician best experienced live, like Charlie Parker in his prime.
For the first four tracks on I’ll Tell You What! you think that it’s going to be another RP album that’s good, but not great, like it’s lacking something. The tracks are interesting enough, but not really engaging enough to fully devote your attention to. Which is why the fifth track, “U-Don’t Know,” comes as such a big surprise. Taking full advantage of a pensive Stevie Wonder sample, RP goes from talking shit about his superior dance moves to blurting out, “Do I give away my soul?” to which the Stevie sample responds with a firm, “No.”
The track serves as a turning point, where I’ll Tell You What! joins the pantheon of great footwork albums. “Earth’s Battle Dance” starts off with a beat that sounds far too close to “Bangin on King Drive,” only to fake us out 50 seconds into the track when RP drops a dirty gospel/soul loop out of nowhere. That leads directly into “Work the Flow!” which sees RP working off the same minimal, well-produced, template as the first half of the album, but this time with such attention to detail, as vocal chops, growling synths, and percussion bells are added and subtracted from the track like a well tweaked pop song.
The rest of the album follows this trend, creating a euphoric sense of impending dread. Tracks like the diva house vocal chop monster “U Belong 2 Me” sound like juking in a sweaty Chicago club while buildings are crumbling outside. The closing track, “Deep Sole” continues that vibe, repeating an exuberantly sorrowful soul sample while RP requests that we, “Light up the disco floor,” before the track slows into arpeggiated guitars, with RP repeating, “It’s always beautiful at the end.” It sounds like either RP’s gently consoling you as your body dies, or playing the last song of the night. Either way, it’s beautiful.
1. Elysia Crampton – Elysia Crampton
Elysia Crampton’s self-titled album starts immediately in what seems like the middle of a track, like you’ve already missed the beginning of it, or like you’re tuning into a radio station that’s always been broadcasting since time immemorial, but you’ve never tuned in before. Throughout the album Crampton’s mix of bombastic club bass aesthetics blasting Andean and Amerindian rhythms with layers of glistening and gyrating distorted synth and electric guitar melodies on top of it feels kind of like that, tuning into a radio station broadcasting from a parallel dimension through a glitch in fabric of the space-time continuum.
For the past couple of years Crampton has been working in that line, trying to craft a narrative arc in her music that links Native American musical traditions and history, especially Native resistance to colonialism and Native queer identities to the present, projecting at times a progressive, radical, sometimes comically weird and wacky sci-fi utopian vision of the future, with the aesthetic of modern club music and experimentation. Crampton has always had big, expansive, concept ideas attached to her music, 2016’s Demon City saw Crampton paying homage to 18th century Aymaran revolutionary Bartolina Sisa and projecting her ideas into the future using walls of noise and disorienting rhythms and sound effects, while 2015’s American Drift connected her own life of constant moving from the desert in California’s Inland empire, to Mexico and Bolivia and Virginia, and then off into California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, to African-American and Aymaran history. This album is dedicated to the memory of Ofelia, a trans Aymara dancer, but this record sounds like the most personal record Crampton’s made to date.
Without tying itself to a particular narrative, Crampton digs even deeper into Native rhythms, building layers of musical harmony and dissonance using sounds from American metal music, jazz, and cumbia, to create a musical puzzle that’s as exciting to think about as it is just to simply listen to and enjoy. The drums themselves are the most complex and interesting grooves on records this year, and the layers of rhythm and dissonant melody act as kind of interlocking layers of history and nuance that one can unlock and discover their meanings and stories for themselves if they want to, but even without that, the music itself personifies Crampton’s thesis, the refutation of linear time, the embracing of indigenous and brown and black radical pluralism, and the hope to build a better, freer, world for tomorrow.