An Electr(on)ic Month of Music Leaves Little to “Wine” About

Posted: May 4, 2013 in Music
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When I think about the world of electronic music, I can’t help but draw comparisons to the world of wine. Connoisseurs of the magical fermented beverage are an eclectic sort that draw inspiration from both the old and the new. They are able to pull the slightest variances from one bottle to the next. They expand their  palates, experiencing everything from the sweet to the dry, and the smooth to the harsh.

Electronic music has similar diversity in range, and May is loaded with releases that tickle the tongue of the entire genre. With such a vast selection, there is something sure to please even the most distinct consumer.  We’re going to uncork a few bottles, swirl the glasses, and give you a taste or two of some of the more stellar releases landing in your record store this Spring from some of electronic music’s most revered artists.


If blowing the dust of a vintage selection is your style, a couple of ancient cellar dwellers are back after a long absence. As one of the most successful electronic-to-pop crossover artists of the last 30 years, Depeche Mode has built a reputation like no other. Millions of album sales and a handful of #1 singles propelled the band to the top of the pop music scene in the late 80s, but despite a couple of album releases over the last decade, the band has slipped into obscurity as the pop culture turned its attention to Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and other acts of our day. Instead of trying to keep up with the radio sound of today, the band opted to return to their roots of sorts with their release of Delta Machine – a dark, ominous album of stripped down electronics and deep, haunting lyrics. If you remember the drone and mystery of the band’s 1986 release Black Celebration, you will enjoy the trip through time back to the era when this stuff was about as cool as it gets.


Also returning to the scene – and even more surprisingly – is Orchestral Manoeuvres In The  Dark with English Electric. Although the album is the band’s first in almost 20 years, it feels like they never left us. OMD had a slew of hits in the mid-80s, and the new record picks right up where they left off with all the catchy, infectious synthpop stylings the band has been forever known for. Tracks such as “Metroland,” “Helen of Troy” and “Dresden” are made with grapes picked right off of the John-Hughes-movie-era vine. It’s fun and whimsical, and leaves a refreshing, familiar aftertaste long forgotten by today’s pop acts.


Outside of the synthpop scene, electronic music branches off into many different directions, and while not as popular by radio standards, some other legendary artists are harvesting their vineyards with great results. For the fans of the smooth and delicate, there is Armin Van Buuren and his new release Intense – a flawless ride through the world of trance/house music. Van Buuren is considered around the world to be one of the top DJ/producers and Intense is the pinnacle of his last 15 years of work. The album translates as easily from a night club in Ibiza as it does to your backyard pool party, and is filled with the perfection he has spent his career striving for. With beautiful female vocals , danceable beats and impeccable sequencing, Van Buuren upped the ante on acts like Tiesto and Paul Van Dyk and has taken his game to a whole new level.


If you like your wine a little darker and more mysterious, you can’t go wrong with Tricky’s return to the scene – False Idols. Since his departure from Massive Attack in the mid-90s, Tricky has explored almost every avenue of musical stylings. False Idols is the amalgamation of all of these – from trip-hop, to rap, to touches of jazz and rock – but the electronic background remains pretty constant. If you’ve ever wondered what Moby would sound like on methadone, the answer is here – and it’s pretty damn impressive.


There are those that “supposedly” only drink wine at gatherings to enhance the enjoyment. That same type of feeling embraces my next two offerings. The French duo of Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay – collectively known as  Justice – quickly climbed the ranks of the DJ/Electro scene after their 2011 release Audio, Video, Disco and are set to release a new, live album Access All Arenas on May 7th. The “live” aspect of acs like Justice is the barometer most electronic DJs are measured by, and the turntable tag-team provide an energized, perfectly mixed hour plus of dance beats. The set was recorded live with little if any post production, allowing the listener to close their eyes and disappear into the strobe-lit, hypnotic environment of a festival like Coachella.


The same type of fun is coming on May 21st, as the legendary Daft Punk are releasing their 4th studio album Random Access Memories. The record includes collaborations with guitar icon Nile Rogers, Pharrell Williams, producer Giorgio Moroder, Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Panda Bear (Animal Collective), songwriter Paul Williams and others, and plays a updated homage to the disco sounds of the late 70s/early 80s. The robot-masked DJs are sharp as a tack on Random Access Memories, and the first single “Get Lucky” (already topping the charts in Europe) is bound to be the hit of the summer world-wide.


For some (which unfortunately includes this author) the wine of choice is the cheap, dirty wines of Night Train fame and Mad Dog glory. You drink it as fast as possible, get drunk as hell and wake up the next day feeling like you got hit by a bus. Electronic music has something for you this month along those lines as well. New York City’s Mindless Self Indulgence bring How I Learned to Stop Giving a Shit and Love Mindless Self Indulgence to the party on May 14th, and if you have never experienced the stylings of frontman Jimmy Urine and company, this is a great place to start. The album is brash, comical, loud and relentless while mixing punk, rap, synthesizers and rock guitars into a hellstorm of electroclash genius. It’s not to be taken seriously, and definitely not for virgin ears, but tracks like “I Want to Be Black” and “Ass Backwards” just might have you wondering why they don’t make more music like this. I suggest drinking a lot of this on a Saturday night and feeling your head expand.

So go ahead and dig out the corkscrew, slice up some gourmet cheese and fill your glass with any or all of these great offerings in May. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes for dancing, because after a few inebriating sips of these albums, you won’t be able to help yourself. And of course – consume responsibly…


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