Summing up the year with a quick “Best of RF” list of records, labels, and various sonic goings-on is a tricky proposition. One that’s made doubly difficult since I’d like to pull together the disparate strands of local electronic, experimental, and other hard-to-classify music that I cover each week in “Rare Frequencies.” What follows is by nature a hodgepodge, a not-quite-10 list of some RF favorites from 2007.
Run by Boston ex-pat Dave Nardone, Barge may not be a Boston label, but this new Brooklyn-based imprint has a distinctly local flavor. Barge’s first non-compilation release was a crack(l)ing disc of soothing, oneiric drones by Boston’s Fun Years (turntablist Isaac Sparks and baritone guitarist Ben Recht) titled Life-Size Psychoses. The second release was a deluxe double LP by Providence guitarist Geoff Mullen called Armory Radio, a similarly grainy but magnificently noisy collection of soundscapes.
Bassic at the Good Life
Although dubstep has been rumbling in the underground for some time now, 2007 may well be remembered as the year that its sub-shredding sounds finally broke in Boston. One indicator is the relative success of Bassic, a new monthly party organized by a talented group of DJs known as Soundbox Presents. Over the short six months of its existence, the night has brought a number of top-notch dubstep producers and DJs from the UK, New York, and Baltimore, as well as spotlighting a slew of talented local DJs.
Sonic Weapons (Wimm) was a parting salvo of sorts by the venerable DJ C (a/k/a Jake Trussell), who left Boston for Chicago earlier this year. This bass-heavy, avant-party album zigs and zags across genres from breakcore to hip-hop to bhangra and back. Trussell has dubbed this infectious stylistic blend “Boston Bounce,” and this first DJ C full-length finds his prodigious skills in glorious display.
Tim Feeney & Vic Rawlings
In Six Parts (Sedimental) boasts cracked electronics, amplified cello, and percussion — it’s never going to be easy listening, but it’s worth every ounce of effort. Percussionist Feeney and cellist Rawlings create six sharp, tension-filled pieces that range from finely calibrated hums to searing blasts of noise.
This Newburyport label has always released material at a mind-boggling pace, but this year it kicked into overdrive. Releases have ranged from drifting Japanese psych by Suishou no Fune to electro-acoustic reissues of Pauline Oliveros. What really sets this year’s releases above and apart is an extraordinary pair of discs by German sound artist Christina Kubisch.
Local modular-synth designer, performer, and noise musician Rylan has always created highly personal electronics. On her latest album, Interior Designs (Important), she uses a vintage Serge synthesizer and her own quixotic instruments to compose sweetly anarchic music that bubbles, flutters, and squawks in the most wondrous of ways.
Mike Uzzi & Ben Recht
Two of Boston’s most gifted producers join forces and come up with a pair of endearingly idiosyncratic minimal techno tracks (released on Zero G). As much as I enjoy the stuttering A-side of this 12-inch (“Do You Have Anything To Say”), it’s the preternaturally groovy flip, “Opposite Hand Wrong,” that makes this oh-so-right.
Somerville’s little on-line record shop-that-could has been in business for a little over a year, and it’s quickly become the place to go for strange sounds of all shapes and striations, from cuddly kitsch to the forbiddingly avant-garde. The selection is odd as all get-out, the prices are low, and proprietor Angela Sawyer’s product descriptions are both informative and a bona fide hoot. (So good, in fact, that the Phoenix recently added Sawyer as a contributor.)