One thing that’s become abundantly clear in 2022, amidst the rise of NFTs and the collapse of Twitter, is that the future is folding in on itself. Electronic music, however you might define it, was not born on the internet but given new vitality within the cold grasp of its icy tendrils. As the development of the internet spread globally, so did the proliferation of electronic music alongside the tools for its own creation. As we near the end of the so-called “internet age,” the genre mocks its decline with its own age of self-referential, 100 Geccian parody. If the great A.G. Cook is correct in saying that the laptop is the folk instrument of the 21st century, the sound of rebellion lies in a producer’s ability to accurately mimic the degradation of the future’s lofty ideals. In that spirit, here are 10 excellent electronic albums that you may have missed this year amidst the great content deluge.
Gladde Paling: Dansmuziek
I can’t stop talking about Dutch producer gladde paling. Translating to ‘slippery eel,’ you’d be excused at first glance for mistaking his music for traditional festival EDM. In truth, his debut album dansmuziek is not only hard-hitting electronic music, but also hilarious, devious, clever and effortlessly masterful. An 18-track album that stops just short of 30 minutes, every moment feels like a rush of adrenaline, with his signature “paling” producer tag and promises of “another drop” or simply “cake!” between hits of explosive synths and drums as mesmerizing as they are energy-inducing. It’s the musical equivalent of the strange animations that play on bowling alley screens when you land a strike—delivered with a playful wink and a screeching bass. Seriously, listen to a track like “Mexicaanse Dans” with its massive drop that descends into pure abrasive noise without being simultaneously unnerved by how hard you’re head banging to the ridiculous music and gladde paling’s clever, hysterical production mastery. Whether he’s interpolating iPhone ringtones or pairing MIDI flute sound effects with orchestral compositions during the album’s intro, intermission or conclusion, dansmuziek serves as one of the most exciting electronic debuts I’ve heard in a long time.
Pendant, aka L.A. producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Chris Adams’ Harp, is simply revelatory. In its aching sincerity, the artist’s first full-length foray into electronic music navigates heartache, cataclysm, death and rebirth to forge a densely melodic, cinematic listening experience. The extremely catchy singles “Static Dream” and “LED Head Rush” are endlessly listenable, while tracks like “Rights For An Angel” or “Latex Heart” borrow from some of the dance-music greats without mimicry, instead adding to their vast sphere of influence while establishing a legacy of Pendant’s own. The exhilarating emotional core of the album, both plaintive and aggressively optimistic, captures a sort of mystical intensity. The memorable nature of these genre-spanning tracks truly speaks for itself, with Harp emerging as a cult classic in the making.
Andy Loebs: Flexuous Vertex
You can’t easily categorize the eclectic, prolific works of producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Loebs. For years, his oddball, heavily MIDI-based compositions have drawn comparisons to Lorenzo Senni and vaporware stalwart James Ferraro by way of Kenny G. Flexuous Vertex, his latest and first for Keith Rankin’s increasingly iconic and idiosyncratic Orange Milk Records, finds the musician challenging contemporary electronic music norms with a deft hand. Tracks like “In Praise of Unlearning” shift from lush synth pads to what sounds like a VHS Windows 95 instruction video before arriving at full-on auditory degradation. Loebs’ work feels simultaneously comforting and unwieldy, a singular sound that feels like an electric dream—sacred folk music born in the metaverse. Flexuous Vertex’s marriage of early internet aesthetics with virtuosic production mastery, clearly evident in “Flexuous Text,” is a wake-up call to anybody who thinks AI-generated music could hold a candle to the skill of an inspired artist with a singular vision.
Macula Dog: Orange 2
Pair the discordant intuition of The Residents with the whimsical theatricality of the Sparks brothers warped through a PVC pipe and shocked with 50 volts of electricity, and you’ll have a vague idea of what Macula Dog’s Orange 2 sounds like. Intricately arranged but spellbinding and at times baffling, the New York duo channel their completely unique showmanship and knack for presentation into a deviously clever and singular album. Discordant vocals narrowly escape their twisted compositions, lending Orange 2 the distinction of being the band’s first “pop” record, though I use that term extremely loosely. A careful and thoughtful disposition bleeds through every quirky inch of the record, personalizing the record as something only Macula Dog could be capable of. Devo for the fruity vape generation.
Jennifer Vanilla: Castle In The Sky
Jennifer Vanilla is a treasure. The project, a sort of performance-art piece from NYC DJ/producer Becca Kaufman, is absolutely bursting with personality, creativity and fat funky beats. Their first full-length album Castle In The Sky is an expedition into the quirky mind of its creator, a theme park full of club-ready anthems that feel either lifted from the Laurie Anderson playbook or a Jane Fonda exercise tape. The thick bass of “Take Me For a Ride,” the light disco groove of “Jennifer Pastoral” and the jovial splendor of “Body Music” are as encouraging to the audience as they are to Jennifer Vanilla themselves to explore, express, change and, most importantly, move. The discordant rhythms of “Humility’s Disease” are a treat that underscores the artist’s propensity towards making electronic music a communal event outside of a typical dance-floor context—an admirable goal achieved successfully across their entire catalog to this point, but truly realized on Castle In The Sky. As they close out the album singing “Feel what you want”—it’s hard not to accept that as a mission statement for both the record and the effortlessly charming project.
Dance System: In Your System
If you’re a fan of analog electronic music production and haven’t seen Dance System (aka producer/DJ James Connolly)’s Resident Advisor “Against The Clock” video—a series that focuses on musicians creating tracks typically within 10 minutes—do yourself a favor and check it out immediately. Connolly jerks from vinyl record sampling to the 909 and within a few minutes whips up the hottest house beat of 1997 in a studio in 2019. On this year’s In Your System he deftly mimics a classic style with a singular sensibility, relying on its repetition to engender a glamorous club hypnosis. Often imbuing French-house inclinations with a trademark goofiness, tracks like “Pump It Up” and “Dreams 2 Luv” soar whether in headphones or out of massive speakers. “What You Want” is a clear standout—catchy and addicting with an absolutely massive sounding one-bar loop composed of a simple bass line and drum loop paired with ominous, voice of God (or devil) narration that’s thoroughly spellbinding. When the voice screeches “I need acid!” to the sound of the 303, you’ll feel like you’ve arrived fashionably late to the hottest rave at the pearly gates.
Fax Gang: Dataprism
Fax Gang’s knack for transmuting heavy distortion into something lush and heavenly is uncanny. With hip-hop and trap inclinations a la Drain Gang overdriven to 11, it’s hard to compare their inimitable gift for crafting addicting, euphoric melodies to anything else out there. On Dataprism, their prolific output over the last few years hits a creative peak—their heavy noise instincts exposing a layer of sensitivity that, while honoring an internet-branded nostalgia, isn’t eroded by the typical traps similar producers tend to fall in. Opener “See You Through The Prism” is spellbinding and glimmering, while tracks like “Space Requiem’’ portray an emotionality that doesn’t lose itself in melodrama despite a comparatively spare instrumental. In a short time, the group has created a singular sound that begs to be revisited.
The DJs & Trans Zimmer: Trans Zimmer & The DJs
If you’re new to the strange, prolific oeuvre of producer/composer Trans Zimmer—I’d encourage you to visit her 2022 releases Since I Left You 2, Erected Transbian Twerks 69-69, and to stay tuned for her upcoming release Aphex Twin Sucks My Dick. Her work is difficult to explain, exploring mashups, jungle, drum and bass alongside carefully orchestrated compositions. For a simple idea of how idiosyncratic yet charming her work can be, check out her doo-wop remix of SOPHIE’s iconic “Ponyboy.” Earlier this year, she combined her compositional talents with producer The DJs for the self-titled Trans Zimmer & The DJs, an oddball collision of classical, electronic and even storytelling magic. As bizarre as it is sincere, the result is textural, emphatic and endlessly charming. The music tends to shapeshift quickly, but burns a lasting impression in the mind of the listener that resembles an acid-burned DOS point-and-click game. It’s hilarious, symphonic and unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
“places faces” from altrice’s latest EP compiciter has to be one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year. With its incredibly infectious bass line and catchy, melodic sampling, it serves as the highlight of the Arizona producer’s release on Dan Snaith’s Jiaolong label. This song doesn’t stand alone; Compociter on the whole is contemporary house at its absolute finest—both finding new areas to explore as well as highlighting the familiar that makes the genre great. Emotional and passionate production with a sort of nostalgic wink and beats that’ll electrify a club makes this one essential for any dance/house music connoisseurs.
On their latest album Toybox, Colorado producer Nanoray applies a defibrillator to the heart of rave, breakbeat, darkwave, gabber and plenty of other great electronic stylings for an intensely thoughtful and imaginative club record. Drum and bass has seen something of a renaissance in recent years, stretching out beyond its previous limitations from multiple artists who utilize it in contexts ranging from shoegaze, jazz and even folk. Here, Nanoray applies a singular brand of 2022 trickery to the genre, cleverly circumventing the typical amen-break expectations and imbuing it with mesmerizing vitality. Standouts here include the heart-pounding odyssey “Hyperion777AFMIX” and the acid-tinged “Mimicloq,” both of which are guaranteed ragers.
Jason “Aso” Friedman is a collective formed in 1971 with the goal of writing “The Last Great American Music Review.” It is currently operated out of Philadelphia.