This month sees the release of the self-titled debut album from Light Asylum, a New York-based synth duo fronted by the fiery, intense Shannon Funchess. One of the best and darkest albums to come out yet this year, it’s put us in a dour mood right in time for summer, and we rather like it that way. As such, we’re using the release of Light Asylum as inspiration to round up the greatest moody, atmospheric electronic music we’ve heard this year — so close the blinds and turn these records up.
Light Asylum — Light Asylum
Light Asylum is the kind of record obsessions are born from. The smoldering presence of frontwoman Shannon Funchess, a Grace Jones for the cold wave set, gives way to a collection of songs that are at once tender and barbed like wire. At the center of this nearly flawless record is “Shallow Tears,” a ballad that’s one of the five best songs of its kind in recent memory, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” included. At the other end of the spectrum, “Angel Tears” is a beautifully upbeat and heartbreaking tune that’s crystalline until the splintering end.
Ceremonial Dagger — Ghost Triangulations
At the entire end of the spectrum, we consider Ghost Triangulations. Ceremonial Dagger’s always been an impressive force, musically and visually (the rare artist these days who can make audio noise and then deconstruct it amazingly in a visual format), but this album is a demon, even for him. A demon of noise, specifically, twisting and convulsing in on itself. It’s a rough ride, true, but the feeling you get coming out the other side is glorious.
Featureless Ghost — MindBody
Atlanta duo Matt Weiner and Elise Tippins creates cold, skeletal music as Featureless Ghost. The songs on their recently-released MindBody cassette are ridiculously catchy, smoky anthems. For our money, nothing tops “Know-U,” an antisocial late night mating call that’ll lodge itself in your head ’til you hit the pillow (or maybe the grave).
oOoOO — Our Love Is Killing Us
Chris “oOoOO” Dexter’s been around this scene since it was called witch house (remember that?), and his longevity shows on Our Love Is Killing Us. Five tracks of swampy bass juxtaposed with anemic snares, haunting vocals (at times provided by Butterclock), and, on “Starr,” the best half-second Mariah Carey sample (from “One Sweet Day”) that you could possibly imagine. This is music for heartbroken witches.
Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland — Black Is Beautiful
Not to sound like a Seinfeld retread, but who are these people? The duo either formerly or additionally known as Hype Williams released Black Is Beautiful under what could possibly be but are probably not their real names, and have taken to performing them live only after playing an ear-shattering 30-minute tape loop. All of this would, under any rational circumstances, instantly relegate these guys to “TL;DR” status, but they’re just too damn brilliant to ignore. Black Is Beautiful’s collection of songs-as-track-numbers are smudgy, blurred-window views into a world that’s colored to look like the expansive road scenes of Drive, all hazy narcotics. Truly quite a wonderful ride despite the creators’ every effort to keep the listener out.
RØSENKØPF — RØSENKØPF
In case the daydream world of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland has you feeling a little too polite, here’s RØSENKØPF: a blistering, rude assault on every sense. Taking the “pleasure in pain” ethos to 11, their new self-titled record is absolutely punishing in the most glorious way possible.
Dreamers — City of Hope
Listen to City of Hope for the first time in its entirety and you’ll come away with your head rattling. It’s obvious that’s intentional, as the entire project is meant to juxtapose fractured, fragmented techno of the most intense Detroit variety (and, yes, a smattering of Berlin-esque flourishes) with Megan Gold’s snotty, punky vocals. It shouldn’t work; it should just be a giant headache. Instead, the cacophony’s addicting.
Innergaze — Mutual Dreaming
Innergaze are very much the sound of Brooklyn, NY at this exact moment in time. Half manic on uppers and half asleep, their cold, analog electronic workouts call to mind a bruised, sleep-deprived Chris and Cosey. Definitely less terrifying and more hallucinatory than many records on this list, Mutual Dreaming would make a great date record if you and your special someone were, shall we say, in an altered state.
∆AIMON — Flatliner
Don’t let the impenetrable pronunciation of ∆AIMON put you off of what a great record this is. Equal parts punishing industrial noise and gorgeous melodic song structure, Flatliner is an experience best felt beginning to end, with no stopping between songs.
Actress — R.I.P.
Darren Cunningham’s never made particularly traditional dance music as Actress. His last record particularly, Splazsh, sounded like an eager, wide-eyed dubstep kid set upon the whole thing with a scalpel early one morning. But his new album, R.I.P., is another world entirely. Vortexes of bass form and encase tinny highs in ways that are senseless and rule-breaking. Sometimes factions coalesce, but it’s most exciting when they don’t, and it’s obvious Actress is playing with sound (and our minds) out of sheer joy. “What kind of music is this?” a friend asked us after listening to R.I.P. for the first time. Our answer: It’s everything.