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The Erik Lavoie Issue

Electric Independence

Holy fuck, we can't get enough of the new Manitoba album.

by Raf and Vince
01 December 2003, 12:00am

Holy fuck, we can’t get enough of the new Manitoba album, Up in Flames. We know we mentioned it last month, but that psychedelic shit gets better with every listen. In a recent chat with Electric Indy, Dan Snaith, the mastermind behind Manitoba, told us why.

VICE: Your album pumps me up. It’s like a fuckin’ million-trumpet wake-up call to all those sleepy-eyed bedroom producers making the same Boards of Canada album over and over.
Dan: A lot of what I didn’t like about electronic music is that they didn’t want to make music that made people cry or freak out. They were just making records that were kind of nice to listen to––dishwashing music.
I like sloppy-sounding music. Whenever I have too much of a plan is when it ends up sounding too precise, and I don’t really like it. I’m into shit like Mercury Rev, where they sound like they’re about to fall apart all the time but at the same time everything sounds like it’s in exactly the right place. I think that’s what’s missing from almost all electronic music.

But guess what? There may soon be even more “sloppy” in electronica. We have just learned that Kid 606 is gearing up for some psychedelic rock opera shit (he’s even been recording his own vocals). But that is two albums away. Kid is putting the final touches on another one first. He says, “It’s like taking everything I’ve done, throwing it aside, and then sticking it all back together again. This album covers all the ground I wanted to cover.” The couple of tracks Electric Indy sneak-previewed are nothing short of off the hook. Fuck that plunderphonic shit (the bootleg scene already killed most of that), his new album is way rave-y, way dance-y and way basement inna 2 bad mice kinda style. Watch out.

Five years ago IDM heavy hitter Mike Paradinas started the now well-respected Planet Mu label. Responsible for releasing some of the sickest experimental artists (like Venetian Snares and Hrvatski) over the last couple of years, Planet Mu’s latest offering is Paradinas’ first full-length in about three years (and his last as µ-Ziq), Bilious Paths. As usual his beats are expertly sliced, diced, and spliced together; from the classic DSP breakbeat fuckery of “Meinheld” (which uses some standard dancehall/ragga jungle MC samples) to the gabber-hop intensity of “Silk Ties” and the two-steppy skank of opener “Johnny Maastricht,” µ-Ziq’s deft programming is evidenced throughout. But melodies have always been his strong point, and on Bilious there are plenty of them. The album may be dancier than 1999’s Royal Astronomy, but it still retains some of that nice orchestral-arrangement type shit, like the schizo-beat ambience of “Siege of Antioch” and the beatless bliss of “Fall of Antioch.” On the whole, a diverse album that nicely balances simple melodic lyricism and complex beat tomfoolery.

Starting out in ’96 as an electronically focused imprint, Output Recordings quickly learned that the “diversify or die” mantra holds true as much for indie labels as it does for big business. But rather than using the blood of the workers to oil the machine of capitalism, Output decided to release records. And damn good ones, too. Output broadened their scope and signed on postrock-y acts like Fridge and Four Tet, and also released now-classic experimental pop albums like Atomheart’s Pop Artificielle (under his LB guise). Output also unleashed New York’s shit-hot DFA label on an unsuspecting but ultimately grateful European audience. Now with their latest label comp, Channel 2, Output have put together fifteen solid reasons why they’re on the next shit. With the vitality and carefree genre-blending of early no-wave, Channel 2 is a collection of tracks ranging from the acid-y techno rock of DK7 to Black Strobe’s dark vocal disco to LCD Soundsystem’s aloof lo-fi attitude to the Rapture with their Robert Smith-esque techno reworking of “Olio.” A great comp from a great label.

You can’t talk about great labels without mentioning UK’s Fat Cat. Over the last six years, Fat Cat has assembled a roster of artists that looks like a top-ten list of the most influential acts in cutting-edge music. The new double-CD comp Branches and Routes is over two hours of music from acts like Matmos, Bjork vs. Funkstorung, Kid 606, Sigur Ros, Fennesz, and Black Dice. A great intro to the label, this comp is destined to open up some ears to some new shit.

Portland, Oregon’s Outward Music Company has been reppin’ US IDM for a while now, releasing some solid albums from Solenoid and If.Then.Else. Their latest release is a full-length from Portland producer Strategy. Taking a bit of his ambient side (he also records for Chicago’s Kranky label) and twisting it into funkier rhythmic territory, Strategy manages to combine the organic feel of a musician (he plays drums, keyboard, and a shitload of other stuff) with the engineering expertise of a laptop technician.

In the spirit of Peaches and Gonzales, Berlin’s Angie Reed goes beyond the standard over-the-top electro rock and injects some personality into her debut album, …Presents The Best Of Barbara Brockhaus (Chicks On Speed Records). Amongst the minimalist, aggro electro beats, Reed mixes in some country-and-western, garage, and Timbaland-type beats, rounding out the album with all sorts of different flavas. Sort of a concept piece (based on her live show), the songs center on the fantastic sexploits of a bored secretary named Barbara Brockhaus. Reed manages to keep it fresh and funny throughout the album (which will no doubt find it’s way into many an electro-punk’s collection), while at the same time rocking the dance floor.