I don’t have the time, money or headspace to keep up to speed with everything that’s happening music-wise, so this is a request for advice from those with their finger on the pulse, but I suppose it’s also a bit of a general moan.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been disappointed on hearing something that’s getting hyped. Reviewers talking about something being ‘astonishing’ or ‘incredible’, and I hear it and I just don’t get it. It might be thin, like there’s nothing much actually happening, or it might sound just like loads of other stuff that’s already out there - same sound palette, sound dynamics. Or whatever.
Part of this is me getting old, of course, but I find it frustrating that with so much innovative technology available (incredibly powerful and flexible software, incredibly powerful and flexible hardware - both analogue and digital), so much of what’s released seems lazy and formulaic, with a lot of artists just content to operate within safe genre boundaries, some of which are pretty old. I mean, how many modular enthusiasts are happily putting out stuff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a late 70s/early 80s Tangerine Dream LP? How much of today’s techno could easily be unreleased Surgeon tracks from the late 90s? I heard Holly Herndon & Jlin’s Godmother yesterday and it made me feel sad, old and tired.
I’m not saying that this is all necessarily bad - I mean, a lot of my favourite music is formulaic, and not particularly innovative. A lot of it fundamentally sounds good. But sometimes, depending on my mood, I can get annoyed with something I enjoy listening to, because it’s like fast food - sure, it tastes good, because it’s full of salt, sugar and fat, but it’s not nourishing. Most of the time I love listening to Lone, for instance, but I could so easily switch to hating it because of how obvious the references are.
So, the question here is not who’s good?, but who’s innovating? Who’s doing things that are different, that you just couldn’t imagine existing 10 years ago?
Autechre are still growing and changing and exploring.
Eartheater’s IRISIRI is great.
I enjoyed rkss’s DJ Tools from last year as well.