Quick Reviews

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Africa Hitech 93 Million Miles // Like Egyptrixx’s impressive debut, Bible Eyes, Africa Hitech endears itself to the listener through sheer force of invention.  93 Million Miles is a tangle of so many electronic subgenres that the album resembles a carefully woven nest of robotic funk and delirious electro and Detroit-inspired dubstep.  But chasing the individual strands of sound on the album is hopeless; you really just have to surrender yourself to the wildly colorful madness that Mark Pritchard and Steve White have crafted.  Obviously, the title track is the most representative moment of the album: a tiny synth line circles the drain while echoing handclaps channel surf your speakers and a nasty 303 bassline and a gentle robotic mantra occasionally shows up to hold it all together.  As a gateway into the album, “93 Million Miles” just about perfect because a lot of the track’s major tropes show up later.  The stuttering “Do U Wanna Fight” places that synthetic voice front and center for a ridiculously catchy (if somewhat repetitive) track.  And “Footstep” reworks that squiggly bassline to terrific effect in the latter half of the album.  Those processed handclaps show up again on “Future Moves,” whose beat sounds a little like a school spirit stomp from some future robot high school.  But not everything is a futuristic funk throwdown.  Both the stunning “Spirit” and the beautiful “Cyclic Sun” use busy tribal beats as a template onto which they can cast their wiggling electronic touches.  All told, 93 Million Miles takes some time to process because the attention to detail makes each song a nearly infinitely complex vehicle for rhythm and melody, but effort of exploring this jungle of influences and inspirations is well worth it.  Rating: 8 / 10

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Autechre EPs 1991 – 2002 // Extended plays are usually an opportunity for a band to push their own envelope, a time when a band can reconfigure its sound into something radically different without fear of commitment or reprisal.  But what can you do with the EP format when your albums are as dense and obtuse as Autechre’s back catalog?  What do you do when your albums are about as challenging and radical as the most left-field recordings commercially available?  Evidently, you do what you have always done, just do it weirder.  In a sense, Warp’s exquisitely packaged retrospective of a decade of Autechre’s EPs is a helpful clarification of the prolific nature of Sean Booth and Rob Brown’s experimental project.  There’s rarely been a year in the past two decades when the pair has not released something, which makes this collection a bit daunting.  At 47-tracks (and almost 6 six hours long!), EPs certainly isn’t for everyone.  But for those willing to dip into Autechre’s back catalog of EPs, you’ll find a wealth of great stuff, including skittering masterpieces like “19 Headaches” and “Gantz Graf” and subtler downtempo stuff like “Gelk” and “Zeiss Contarex.”  And as ever, Autechre simply revel in the joy of strange sounds: blips and glitches, shirks and skwacks, thumps and grrrups.  For anyone with a desire to approach Autechre’s intimidating career, EPs 1991-2002 might be ultimately more representative than wading through their albums, hours and hours of experiments in gauzy ambient and hard-pressed future-techno and arty glitch sampling.  Rating: 7 / 10

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Various Artists Back and 4th: A Hotflush Compilation // Since 2003, Hotflush has released singles and albums from Mount Kimbie, Joy Orbison, Scuba, Untold, and Boxcutter.  Or, in essence, since 2003, Hotflush has been endearing themselves by releasing a steady stream of instant classics.  On their newest compilation, Back and 4th, Hotflush have assembled a killer greatest hits and unreleased tracks package.  The second disk of the collection functions as your standard issue label highlights record, except that Hotflush has a lot to be proud of:  Joy Orbison’s “Hyph Mngo,” Mount Kimbie’s “Sketch on Glass,” Boxcutter’s “Brood.”  But the real treat are the unreleased tracks.  Of particular note is FaltyDL’s “Regret,” a string-ladden stunner that features a tumbling beat and a frantic cymbal workout.  There’s also Boxcutter’s super smooth “Loadtime” whose stuttering peacocking is as impressive as anything on Oneiric.  And James Blake’s remix of Mount Kimbie’s “Maybes” is soulfully precise.  In the end, Back and 4th is perhaps too easy of a compilation to praise.  When you have this much excellent material from which to pull, it’s practically impossible to screw it up.  Rating: 7.5 / 10

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