20 Unduly Overlooked, Mostly 99-cent Electronic EPs & Albums (on eMusic & Bandcamp)
For the past several months, my whole subscription has gone to 99-cent albums (mostly but not all EPs in length), and every month it takes further restraint (and quite a bit more effort in searching and sampling) not to spend it all on electronic music. IDM remains my favorite subgenre, and there’s a little bit of it on this list. Most of it, however, doesn’t fit anything obviously or perfectly. I’ll eventually get to an electronic dub, trance, ambient, dronescape list, so they’re all excluded.
For those keeping score, yes Bandcamp has a much better selection of electronic music one is more likely to have heard of and know to seek out. I keep going back to the eMusic well to lower the stakes for stuff I thought I’d like but turned out not to (which has been duly stricken from this list).
In approximate order of how much I like them, favoring newer release dates, and putting extra effort into connecting the sound to a bigger name where obscurity necessitates…
1. “Figures EP” - Wookie, Blossom, M2R1 (2019). This one is head and shoulders above most of the others for Wookie’s distinctive use of guitars on the first three tracks and having a groovy, not-quite-jazz feeling to it. It’s loungey, acid jazz done right, with the perfect level of rhythmic complexity (on drums that don’t sound like machines) to keep listeners engaged. I don’t like the term “chillout” mainly for its ease of Spotification https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-problem-with-muzak-pelly, but if that’ll get people to buy it, so be it. Thievery Corporation and Groove Armada are fairly close in sound, though I may prefer this over both for its relative purity. An excellent 99-cent bargain or NYP. https://blossomusic.bandcamp.com/album/figures-ep
2. “In My Room” - Rumpistol (2019). Rhythmic and sonic variety for me are the key to making interesting electronic music without crossing into less accessible, experimental territory, and this frenetic 99-cent EP has the right formula. A little melody also goes a long way if one can avoid oversimplification. Alternatively, this one is adept at layering something simple under a lot of texture. It’s even danceable at times, as with the trancey slide guitars and synth-flutes on the second track. From Denmark and quite acclaimed. https://rumprecordings.bandcamp.com/
3. “Ciscandra” - Facy Sedated (2016). While twice what the usual EP costs at $2, I’ve heard no better approximation of the choppy electronic melodicism of Japan’s De De Mouse. Vocals feature prominently, but they’re generally chopped to bits, taking a single syllable and shaving it down to something recognizable as a human voice but quite incomprehensible.
4. “Fuses” - Chapelier Fou (2015). Incorporating organic elements from “real instruments” (other than keyboards) into electronica was a novel and presumably difficult thing to do as recently as the 1990s. Now to gain recognition it must be done very well. CF’s songs sound like they were built from acoustic instruments or otherwise were already songs before the electronic parts were added. Sometimes that makes them sound folksy, but I’ve yet to hear anything that sounds interchangeable as so much electronic music now is. I’ve started w/ this 99-cent EP and hope to own the whole catalog someday. I like the use of dial tones on “Tea Tea Johnny,” but the debut album “!” could go without the 18-minute sound test at the end. https://chapelierfou.bandcamp.com/album/fuses-ep-2015
5. “Fushigi Man” - Himuro Yoshiteru (2015). A highly melodic IDM EP for 99 cents, using a lot of sounds and techniques of Luke Vibert, including playfulness. All too brief, unfortunately, with drill’n’bass given about half of the closing three-minute track. https://himuro-yoshiteru.bandcamp.com/
6. The Viking” - Guy Wampa (2012). A short album or highly substantial EP for 99 cents, the varied production, use of acoustic instruments and vocal samples all stand out from the crowd. Maybe closest in kind to the big beat of the Skint label from a bygone era, with bass always a central element to annoy the neighbors if you’ve got a good system. If I had nothing else to listen to, I might skip the third track after a dozen spins, but overall it’s solid from start to finish. Being on hard-to-Google but so far uniformly excellent WW Records is worth noting. https://iamwampa.bandcamp.com/album/the-viking
7. “Black Holes & White Noise” - Pause (2010). Smooth, glamorous, and kinda hazy, there’s a harsh beauty to these tracks that give them just the right amount of edginess and earwormability. Basslines are again central, but the tempos are slowed and the complexity high enough to empty dance floors onto headphones. Like trying to split the difference between a club and a lounge, though fashionably either way. RIYL Daft Punk, 99-cent albums. https://pause1.bandcamp.com/album/black-holes-and-white-noise
8. “Four Walls” - Dmitriy Zakat (2019). If someone asked me for a 99-cent EP of standard EDM without vocals, this would be a contender for not doing anything scarily experimental, especially the short second track, “Tell Me.” “Insidious” is appropriately a little darker and slower, with the last track being pretty much an extension of it.
9. “Still Life” - Kodomo (2008). His full catalog appears to be NYP, so color me foolish for shelling out the big bucks on eMu. Anyone who wishes Boards of Canada had stuck to the sound of its classic albums will find that wish partially granted by this one. The first track sounds so close to BoC it would be an illustrative case to draw the lines between tracks that sound similar versus those that could be remixes of each other. The rest of the album sticks to the winning formula of layering alluring melodies over solid beats. What a concept! https://kodomo.bandcamp.com/album/still-life
10. “S/t” - Ghost Hunt (2016). This one connects the epic sci-fi electronica of the past to its EDM present and is another fine 99-cent title of album length. I hear Kraftwelt and their namesake. No-frills melodies on the broadest of synth waves and lo-fi rhythms that could be sped up from a vintage Wurlitzer are the mode, but subtle guitars add a nice touch, too. In total, this is a lot simpler and more pleasant than rocket science. https://ghosthuntband.bandcamp.com/album/ghost-hunt
11. “S/t” - Eomac (2012). Tracks on this 99-cent EP deliberately avoid standard EDM fare but veer closer to actual danceability than most IDM, with tones instead of tunes. The rhythms are uptempo but also a step up in complexity from the usual. The warped club track supported by a disjointed thump that closes out the experience is my favorite. A fine change of pace overall if you don’t need something light and hummable. I’m almost stumped for points of comparison; maybe this is a harder version of Metamatics? https://eomac.bandcamp.com/
12. “El Tiempo Pasa” - Yashar (2018). 99-cents or 2 Euros for four long tracks adding up to over half an hour. It opens and closes a bit like TransAm. From there I’d describe “Dioses” as kind of minimalist trance, with occasional found sounds added to the mix. The third track takes the pitter-pat rhythm of something off of an electronic Radiohead song and patterns a simple melody over it. Rather an easy listen. https://yasharyashar.bandcamp.com/album/el-tiempo-pasa-ep
13. “Quemira” - Ynoji (2014). Sounds of the jungle and saxophone or other reed instrument noises fade in and out of the background of this fine, if unspectacular IDM EP. Xtraplex has an abundance of these kinds of titles, and I would probably like them all. Add rhythm and ominous vocals to the “Annihiliation” film soundtrack’s bass-heavy sci-fi sounds, and you might get something like “Recrio” and “Melhorar” on this EP. Send world music and EDM through a woodchipper together, and this might be the result. https://xtraplex.bandcamp.com/album/xpl011-quemira
14. “Genre-Specific Experience” - Fatima Al Qadiri (2011). Two electronic albums still on eMusic ranked among Pitchfork’s “best albums of the 2010s https://pitchfork.com/features/lists-and-guides/the-200-best-albums-of-the-2010s/,” and I’ll take this one at 197 over Huerco S. at 190. Steel drum melodies carry this EP into dubstep and other vaguely recognizable subgenre territories, and while enjoyable I strongly disagree that either one should rank among the 200 best albums of the last decade. This one should be disqualified simply for not being an album, and Pitchfork’s focus on art installations and accompanying music videos in its blurb speaks volumes. https://fatimaalqadiri.bandcamp.com/album/genre-specific-xperience
15. “Chaoticmass” - Shinsuke Tsuchiuchi (2019). Young American Primitive made this kind of shimmering electronica way back in 1993, and it’s a clear reference point for this album, whose artist’s name I’m sure I can’t pronounce after almost a year of Japanese Duolingo. One of few on here that is close to techno or more standard EDM whose beat oonces fairly consistently.
16. “Can You Feel It” - niet! (2017). There’s an ethereal quality to these, but eventually the beats kick in. Slow-paced but not especially relaxing, they’ve painted themselves into a liminal sonic space that will unfortunately confound people who only want to chill out or dance. Female vocals are occasionally added to the mix, but they don’t stick around for long. Five longish tracks add up to half an hour for 99 cents. RIYL Tom Middleton, 1990s Waveform Records. https://hypersunday.bandcamp.com/album/can-you-feel-it
17. “Null EP” - Patch Notes (2018). I’m generally quite pleased w/ everything Prime has put out. With this EP being no exception, they take the aggressiveness of dubstep and make the stereotypical break section (what might be considered the chorus in a pop song) optional, resulting in some fine, unpredictable but always hard-hitting IDM that goes for the jugular. NYP. https://primenightcult.bandcamp.com/album/null-ep-pnc033
18. “Ten Thousand Things” - Snufmumriko (2014). On one’s first spin, the Chinese themed titles don’t seem to be very closely connected to the music on this full-length, 99-cent album, but the tracks do feel very much connected in sound to each other. This is just a small step above ambient and a notch slower than downtempo. Fine for reading, contemplation, or relaxation but there’s enough going on to be worth listening a little more carefully. Chinese elements are tucked away quietly beneath the drone, in fact, and I’ll be sure to have this on my headphones next time I climb Mt. Tai.
19. “F” - Bellen (2019). A perfectly acceptable drum & bass EP with a slightly retro, end of 20th-century feel. Overlaid synths are rather entrancing. You can be the judge whether it would be up to LTJ Bukem’s compilation standards, but I think it’s close.
20. “V1” - VONBON JAPAN (2016). This one’s off kilter in a way that only Japanese artists seem to be capable of being, giving the listener a kind of woozy feeling from all the abrupt shifts in tone. There are flutes, guitars, vocals, but not enough to justify iTunes calling it world music. It dips into dubstep on the first track after lulling the listener into expecting an acoustic album, then unleashes a kind of video game taiko drum dungeon beast on “Kaizan,” then yielding to breathy female vocals singing “heya.” “Koiuta” has actual lyrics. $1.99 makes the perfect comparison of whether costing twice as much as a 99-cent album holds up to scrutiny.
A year deliberately unemployed, making lists, concludes.
Rather than reposting repeatedly, here’s my lists of what’s left on eMusic: http://www.omnifoo.info/pages/eMuReddit.html
& by my evaluation http://www.omnifoo.info/pages/eMusic%20Labels.html