Ten Experimental Electronic Albums I like on eMusic (non-droning and not quite noise).

In the vein of seasonal tone deafness, I figure most people would like to listen to the following about as much as I’d like to listen to Christmas showtunes, so let’s go to the edge of music versus noise, shall we?  

There’s still plenty on eMusic to have to differentiate between what bills itself as experimental electronic music and what openly embraces the label of “noise.”  Similarly, rest assured I’m hard at work on non-electronic experimental music which will have to be further separated from new classical, which tends to sound at least a bit experimental anyway.  Ambient music and dronescapes are also excluded but forthcoming eventually in their own lists.

Much of the below revealed itself as just a little too far out there for my IDM list some weeks ago.  I’d still call all of it music, and from time to time one can even hear things like melody creep in and out.  I hope true experimental fans won’t stone me for it, and I promise that it’s all thoroughly undanceable.  Definitely a higher percentage here for 99-cents (or “name your price”) as I’m not sure what other than the price point might attract most listeners.  

1. “The Rest Is Bliss” - Philipp Otterbach (2019).  Quietly, subtly melodic on the oddly titled first track “Interlude,” as if everything you’ve listened to up to now was just track zero for this fine bargain of an EP.  In fact, I’d liken the de facto intro to the excellent work of “A Quiet Revolution.”  From there, a beat does kick in, surrounded by other frenetic rhythmic elements and spacey beeps, and I would welcome anyone to the challenge of dancing to it.  “The Weak Song” has a simple formula, with an emotional vocal sample that surprisingly doesn’t wear itself out on repeated listening.  The two-part closer keeps the slow tempo but goes back to a more consistent beat.  A chill but hardly still listen, this one’s most conducive to contemplation.  https://knekelhuis.bandcamp.com/album/kh021-philipp-otterbach-the-rest-is-bliss-ep

2.  “Demand & Possibility” - Unclean (2019).  Noisy, metallic beats punctuate the opener of this half hour, 99-cent EP, along with industrial machinery sounds, however it’s more electronic overall than an Einsturzende Neubauten album.  I think an actual industrial list of ten will be possible even without this one.  An irregular, bold thump makes “A List of Things” my favorite for overpowering all the random noises going on around it, and the alternative version of the opener gets into Autechre territory.  Beats are most prominent in the closing track.  https://ante-rasa.bandcamp.com/album/ante12-unclean-demand-possibility

3. “Disruption” - Jetsam (2014).  Among my favorite recent finds for 99 cents or otherwise, one might be tempted to dismiss it after the first track as just more pseudo dubstep with vocals.  But keep listening.  It gets downright weird (on “Taiko”), and I don’t use that generic term lightly or often.  At least half non-electronic, with plenty of use for heavy guitars and drum sets, this is probably pop instrumental first,  experimental second, and electronic third.  Unusual also for carrying a melodic theme throughout the 25-minute run time.  Hands down my favorite on this list.  https://jetsamsound.bandcamp.com/album/disruption

4. “Soltar” - Carlomarco (2019).  Frente Bolivarista only has four EPs on it for 99 cents each, but they’re all worth a listen for a take on electronica both mildly experimental and Afro-Latin.  Carlomarco’s entry is spare and inoffensive for anyone who is allergic to the noise and otherwise dissonance throughout the rest of this list.   

5. “Experimento de Ruido 134340” - Kaiser Moon (2016).  Far more guitars on this than any other entry, these are borderline prog or psychedelia but set over the rhythm section of a vintage organ.  Definitely not songs in the conventional sense.  And despite having “noise” in the title and dueting between guitar and electronic noises, this is also among the least noisy and most mellow ones.  The brief closer almost sounds like a Duck Stab-era Residents remix. https://kaisermoon.bandcamp.com/album/experimento-de-ruido-134340

6. “Panopticon” - DSCRD (2014).  A 99-cent EP labeled as IDM with guitar stabs amidst dark and foreboding sounds set to electronic beats that pop in and out of the mix.  Buzzing, whirring, and clicking, too, with building tension.  Would Bentham and Foucault approve?  Of the overall tone, perhaps.  https://dement3d.bandcamp.com/album/dscrd-panopticon-ep-dm3d007

7. “Wet Dreams” - Yamori Kota (2016 or 2009). If others featured guitars in the guest spot, this relatively expensive EP does the same for the piano.  There’s a lot of slicing up of sound on the two “Fragments” tracks in a manner similar to but much softer than Prefuse-73.  I also hear a bit of Múm.  The tone goes darker in the second half.  https://yamorikota.bandcamp.com/album/wet-dreams 

8. “Repeating Flowers” - Suplington (2017).  After loving the more obviously musical 20-minute single “Music for Life Cycles (I-VII),” this album disappointed me at first, but now I can hear the goals of these lighter soundscapes were entirely different.   https://suplington.bandcamp.com/album/repeating-flowers 

9. “Plumbutter” - Batchas (2018).  Value shoppers, look no further than this 99-cent epic of abstract techno, possibly all of which was improvised on analog modular synthesizers.  https://batchas.bandcamp.com/  

10. “Thismansadventure” - Cursor Miner (2010 or 2001).  A highly reputable name in electronica for 99 cents.  Maybe singing vocals vaguely resembling a pop song are a disqualifier, so this IDM gem of an EP can be buried at the bottom of the list.  My preferred level of experimentation is approximately here, with at least some tracks offering clearly musical elements to grasp and invite repeated listening for purposes other than to wipe the aural palette clean.  Plenty of electronic noise also, I assure you.  https://shop.unchartedaudio.com/album/thismansadventure

I’ve got enough wish listed to remake this list at least once over.  Some restraint, in this case financial, from just listening to everything I want to hear, as allowed by streaming, does serve a purpose.  Having access to everything all the time might prevent me from listening to anything even twice, and I think that’s the bare minimum anything interesting deserves.

On other lists:  “Fatal Light Attraction” - Kerridge (2016).  “Music for Life Cycles (I-VII) - Suplington (2016)


  • edited December 2019
    All the  Frente Bolivarista label stuff was great -- though Soltar was the most interesting/accessible/fun.  (all are 99 cents).  Here's the BC camp page https://frentebolivarista.bandcamp.com/album/carlomarco-soltar and the Emusic page: https://www.emusic.com/label/1051232/Frente-Bolivarista
  • As long as cheap, fun stuff like that little label keeps popping up, the challenge of staying subscribed is worth it.  Here's to more in 2020.
  • Semi-Experimental Electronica Albums & EPs (on eMusic & Bandcamp)

    Over the years, much of what I’ve bought and enjoyed has been electronic music that isn’t quite full-on experimental (i.e. there may be a consistent beat, a melody, or even singing) but also isn’t really danceable or what I’d call IDM or downtempo. Thus this liminal quasi-category…

    If there’s a recurring theme, it might be the shifts from songs to soundscapes over the course of the album or EP. One track might have a beat while the next doesn’t. Singing is rare; spoken samples are more common. It might be too busy to be ambient and not enough so to be IDM, similarly too fast-paced or occasionally abrasive to be downtempo or “chill out” (the last category being an all-consuming blob of lazy non-description).

    There seems to be a near-infinite supply of 99-cent EPs that fit the description and are at least to me far more interesting than the beyond-infinite black hole of techno, tech house, and house. In the order of my listening preference and making note of those which are more or less experimental or better fitting IDM, downtempo, ambient, etc.:

    1. “S/t” - Capua Collective (2017). These five songs clocking in at half an hour in total are the closest anything on this list comes to “pop,” with sung lyrics and the feel of an actual band, or a collective of up to eight who are almost certainly not living off royalties from this EP. Quite relaxing and pleasantly worldly overall, Thievery Corporation and trip-hop come to mind on the first track and mostly throughout. I’m impressed with the variety of instruments they harness, making it soulful and lightyears away from the cool detachment of Massive Attack and other luminaries of the fading subgenre. A fine bargain for $2 or £2 on Bandcamp, where they seem woefully under supported. Bandcamp gets the nod here also for its litany of styles, while eMu slaps its largest unmodified catch-all, “Electronic,” on it. https://capuacollective.bandcamp.com/album/capua-collective-ep

    2. “Nosotros” - Matsu (2020). This is swell bargain for a catchy 99-cent EP or short album that never fully commits to the dancefloor, keeping the beat generally understated on the opening track and keeping the groove equally balanced between rhythm, atmospheric and repetitive synth lines. If pressed, it fits best in downtempo, rather different than two other bestsellers on the very nice WeAreWolves Records. https://somosmatsu.bandcamp.com/album/nosotros

    3. “S/t” - Máquina del Amor (2015). Suggestive album art hardly hints at what it might sound like, and in fact it only sounds a little like what older folks have called “washing machine music.” Since it’s got live drums, synths, and voices that don’t sing lyrics, I’d have to call it somewhat experimental, though it could just as well be called post-rock. Trans Am and yet more obscure Legion of Two, Toby Dammit (especially the last track), are somewhat similar points of reference, though sometimes the abstract and clashing or almost atonal use of voices recalls Aphex Twin. Not only from track to track but within songs there’s a lot of tonal variety, ranging from triumphant to lulling, chaotic or hypnotic. A rather entrancing listen best appreciated as a whole, just $3.50. https://azuldetroia.bandcamp.com/album/m-quina-del-amor

    4. “Acid Pa Svenska” - Christian Lappalanien (2015). In making every track precisely three minutes and three seconds long, one would expect a lot of curtailed songs and a generally constrained feeling, but these are lovely melodies for fans of Perrey & Kingsley or other Moogmasters and synthesizer royalty. I don’t know how traditional the songs are, possibly Swedish folk songs (?!), but they’re pleasant without being cheesy. The whole album is a nice change of pace in particular because there is no beat (unless you count the somewhat rhythmic basslines) or percussion. Moderately paced and more than a little like Hardfloor without the blistering tempo, builds, and breaks. Pricey, unfortunately.

    5. “Five Empty Places” - No Wuks (2017). The reliable Russian electronic label BastardBoogie shows its breadth with this atmospheric, fairly ambient and short album. There’s a somewhat sinister feel to the proceedings, similar to The Moscow Coup Attempt or the quieter tracks of Philosophy Major. The pace picks up considerably on “The Rehearsal Studio. Sleep Wrecker,” the feeling of which could even be called frenetic or urgent, reminding me of Orbital’s epic “Meltdown” from way back in 2001 for its phone and emergency sounds. The closer is electrolounge with a Russian lady talking over it. While it’s cheap on eMusic, it’s NYP on Bandcamp, so buy it there. https://nowuks.bandcamp.com/

    6. “Life After” - Hoeksema (2017). Very quiet vocals over piano open this 99-cent EP (or short album), but overall the album could almost be called synth-pop, if the tempo and volume are turned waay down. Fans of Low and slowcore might approve, so it’s worth asking what this is doing on an experimental electronic list. It just didn’t fit elsewhere, so there’s more guitars on this than any other entry.

    7. “Sketches in D Minor” - The Hardy Tree (2017). 99 cents and part of the label’s fairly extensive catalog of precisely timed single tracks in various styles, this being electronic and consisting of rather atmospheric variations on a simple melody. https://wiaiwya.bandcamp.com/album/sketches-in-d-minor

    8. “Resonating Realities” - Marsman (2014). A rather dark and swirling series of melodic dronescapes on the ever-reliable xtraplex label for 99 cents. I like to read to it, though it’d be just as suitable for deep contemplation. There are beats on some tracks, again resembling the rest of the label’s IDM, but they’re mellow. https://xtraplex.bandcamp.com/album/xpl017-resonating-realities

    9. “МУЗИ” - Masha Kashyna (2020). Russian vibraphone covers of some semi-classic electronic takes on old jazz numbers are still electronic but are remixed to sound somewhat more organic. Mr. Scruff’s “Get a Move On” opens the EP. The Bandcamp description makes me look pretty silly…they’re actually by Astor Piazzola, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and others. 99 cents. https://mashakashyna.bandcamp.com/album/muzy

    10. “Investigaciones sobre Ciclos y Secuencias” - Pol del Sur (2017). Spoken vocal samples and 70s-80s loops with a flute might seem an unseemly combination, so maybe it’s good that they conclude their investigations after just over 20 minutes. The overall sound is similar enough from track to track that one might ask whether they’re remixes or just variations on a theme. You can be the judge of whether they update or just borrow the Kraftwerk sound. 99 cents on an interesting label I only discovered this year, Pirotecnia.

    11. “Toqqissovoq” - Stereo Hypnosis & Futuregrapher (2017). This is basically ambient drone given plenty of time and space to shift into illbient, but over the course of 25 minutes there’s quite a lot more going on within it, including samples at some points that pierce the calm quite nicely. A whining dog and old-timey men’s spoken words are a bit reminiscent of The Black Dog’s sci-fi track, “Chase the Manhattan” off of their classic “Spanners” album. 99 cents. Futuregrapher’s full discography at 90% off (10 Euros) is mighty enticing, too. https://futuregrapher.bandcamp.com/album/toqqissivoq

    12. “Evela” - NATTEN (2012). This 99-cent EP begins with an unusual spoken word sample that could cement it as experimental, but there’s a synth-brass over bassline groove that carries the whole thing. Not exactly groundbreaking, but also harmlessly straddling the lines between the dance floor and downtempo. There’s almost a disco feel to the second track, despite its darkness. The closing track builds slowly to a nice bass loop, but I don’t really like it w/ the simple synth brass. The formula could be broken up more.

    Bandcamp Only (almost all NYP):

    “Et in Arcadia Ego” - The Village Orchestra (2005). This one’s definitely among the most experimental here, but one track in particular stands out as actually catchy like classic IDM, the oddly named second track, “Jacob/Bad Hand at Cards v2”. That one alone makes the rather epic album worthwhile, and the rest is somewhere between ambient and drone. https://store.broken20.com/album/et-in-arcadia-ego

    “Live KSBR 1987” - Doppler Shift (1987). Just knowing that Projekt Records founders were involved in this project should be enough to persuade a discerning listener, but it’s unexpectedly ambient and spacey, with incorporation of acoustic instrumentation to make this set well ahead of its time. As this was apparently broadcast live on the radio, DJs necessarily butt in to introduce the tracks, but overall this is very soothing and achieves a rare feat for 1980s electronic music in not sounding dated at all. https://projektrecords.bandcamp.com/album/live-ksbr-1987-name-your-price

    “Yuna” - CAIN (2019). I’ve gotta say it’s no wonder the three nice worldly electronic EPs on Frente Bolivarista for 99 cents disappeared and migrated to Bandcamp at a significantly higher price. This one reminds me of Beanfield in particular and their Compost label as a whole, though I’m not sure I’d shell out eight Euros for it. I prefer the one by Carlomarco for a few Euros less. https://cainsmusic.bandcamp.com/album/cain-yuna-ep

    “3 Ways to Cure a Soul” - Nymad (2018). Six tracks skirt the edges of IDM and downtempo electronica to make a highly listenable long EP or short album. I wouldn’t say the intro is “piano-driven,” but the ivories are pretty prominent. There’s a nice build to all these tracks. Slightly harder-edged, more atmospheric, and less melodically smooth than Bonobo, or maybe recent Orbital on “Allies,” but those should both be enticing points of comparison. https://nymad.bandcamp.com/album/3-ways-to-cure-a-soul

    “Three Melodies” - Patryk Cannon (2013). Apparently a radical with his strident views on capitalism, these three tracks are indeed melodic and surprisingly bright, with heavily treated vocals popping in and out of the mixes. As titled, short in duration but interesting, with a lot of reversed loops and crisp piano tones and twinkling. https://patrykcannon.bandcamp.com/album/three-melodies-ep

    “Bleak” - krakaur (2015). Understated downtempo EP could be considered an LP with half the eleven tracks being remixes. The beats are unusually dense and complicated. Each track feels pretty chopped up, though I don’t know if it qualifies as broken beat. Definitely some drone elements as well, and the whole thing passes quickly. https://krakaur.bandcamp.com/album/bleak

    Rather than reposting repeatedly, here’s my lists of what’s left on eMusic: http://www.omnifoo.info/pages/eMuReddit.html
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