The 10 Best Bay Area Electronic Records of 2011
Brownswood Electr*c 2.1
Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Electr*c 2.1 is a four-track EP that compiles quite a bit of talent. But, more specifically for our purposes, the EP contains a standout song by local promoter, DJ, and producer Noah Bennett, aka "Dials." "Pillow Forts" is a forward-thinking and futuristic experiment in sub-bass sound design complimented beautifully by shimmering arpeggios and interweaving falsetto harmonies. It's the kind of track that sets a high standard for new bass music coming out of San Francisco.
"Backward Love"/"Crystal Mountain Thunderfuck"
With possibly the best name of any of the releases on this list, 40 Thieves' latest sees the local production outfit dropping a rare 10" vinyl-only release that explores the same kind of loopy and dubbed-out territory that defined its early output. "Backward Love" is a trippy and shambolic disco track that flirts dangerously with noodling psychedelic rock guitars, nods to Steve Miller Band's "Macho City," and copious usage of early '70s production tricks. Flip it over and you have "Crystal Mountain Thunderfuck," which dispenses with the subtleties of the A-side by borrowing the paranoid groove of The Wall-era Pink Floyd and throwing it over a slow and groovy disco four-on-the-floor to create something that wouldn't sound out of place in a DJ Harvey set (or at least, in the sets of one of his many imitators).
Last but not least, we figured we ought to pay homage to the city's vibrant underground IDM and experimental electronica scene. Aria Rostami is a recent signee to the audiomoves netlabel (an imprint of the venerable Sheffield, UK-based Audiobulb). His recent release, Uniform, is an ambient sound collage comprised of cleverly manipulated field recordings, heavily reverbed upright piano, and glitchy rhythms that brings to mind the work of Christian Fennesz, John Duncan, and Brian Eno. Tracks like "Tokyo" and "Midori" show Rostami experimenting with the kind of soundscape design that evokes a rain-drenched afternoon in the city.