ZLO

Uon, 2017

In the late 90s, the Basic Channel label rewired electronic dub. Bass drops sunk so deep they were more felt than heard. Rhythms were implied with negative space as much as drum hits. Uon pushes these same concepts further out, so far I have a hard time explaining why I think this ZLO is in a dub record at all. Central elements of these songs seem to be missing, but their outlines are faintly visible in the periphery of what's left. The undertow of this has become a riptide the songs themselves can't escape. This is dub as a subliminal force.

Disruptive Muzak

Sam Kidel, 2016

How do you turn an album of prank calls into artistic social commentary? I thought it a dubious proposition, before listening to Disruptive Muzak, by Sam Kidel. It was boomkat's pick for album-of-the-year (and if I'd heard it in time, it would have made my list, as well). If you to start on side two, you'd find an exquisitely crafted ambient work. It's all hovering, subtle tones, pivoting unexpectedly, punctuated with clipped, intermittent percussion. It's unstable nature imbues a narrative thrust, without any need to build and crescendo.

On side one, you'll hear the same ambient piece—but this time, collaged with voices of the call-center employees it was played to. Kidel would dial a help line to play this music down the wire, without saying anything. Those abrupt swings in tone are now recast as conversation between the machine music and employee.

Since the call-center workers are unaware of being recorded, Disruptive Muzak reprises the voyeuristic pleasures of Scanner's first albums. The unwitting listeners are by turns, non-plussed, weary or even friendly and persistent. In other words, entirely human—except the few times Kidel reaches an automated menu that tries to make the pre-recorded music choose decipherably from a multiple-choice menu. At that point the album feels darkly futuristic, as two machines carry on a conversation without us.

Light Shadows

Will Samson, 2013

Light Shadows is a falsetto-drenched soulful pop EP filled with the warm static hiss of a Fennesz album. I came across it, I'm sure, in my weekly trolling of the boomkat.com new release missives. I was working on my Aching with Amorous Love podcast at the time—it seemed to fit in well, so I tossed it on the pile. It wasn't until I was editing and assembling the mix that it really caught my ear; enough so that I went and listened to the rest of the EP. It blends a nostalgic, yearning with a delicate, ambient beauty.