Justin Farrar's Top 50 Tracks of 2013
by Justin Farrar | December 11, 2013
By no means is my Top 50 Tracks of 2013 playlist intended to serve as an exhaustive overview of underground music. The radical proliferation of digital media in the Internet age, as well as the accompanying explosion of too many micro-genres to accurately chart, makes any such endeavor impossible.
Nevertheless, I am confident that my playlist offers listeners significant insight into many of the key trends and artists that helped define the underground in 2013. These include 21st-century industrial and minimal wave (Humanbeast, Lust for Youth, Damien Dubrovnik), noise-informed beat music (Unicorn Hard-On, Alberich, Shapednoise), cutting-edge techno (Shifted, Morphosis), the progressive-electronic revival (Quicksails, Panabrite) and ongoing studies in modern noise rock (Sightings, Wolf Eyes). Plus, my playlist spotlights all manner of sonic oddities, like Euglossine (nü exotica meets jazz-disco deconstruction), Raspberry Bulbs (blackened garage-punk knocked up by Slap-a-Ham grind) and German Army (tropical island chillwave burned at the stake and resuscitated as a creeping Haitian zombie).
While I have your attention, I would also like to touch on a few of my favorite albums of 2013. Three in particular come to mind. The first is Humanbeast's Venus Ejaculates into the Banquet, released on Load Records in August. Leaping audaciously from performance art-based noise experimentation to immaculately rendered darkwave (replete with goth-pop hooks), the Rhode Island duo of Maralie and Eli V Manuscript displays the kind of evolution unique to genuine avant-garde pioneers. Another keeper is the Spectrum Spools-released Weird Universe from Unicorn Hard-On. Yet another Rhode Island badass, producer Val Martino created a hulking beast of an album that -- while minimal, even austere in places -- boasts rich fusions of electro and noise, progressive electronic and schaffel, video game scores and rock-informed groove pummel. Plus, it makes for super fun listening. Lastly, Sightings unleashed the captivating Terribly Well on Dais Records. Over the previous decade, the New York trio has racked up so many excellent full-lengths that singling one out as their pièce de résistance simply is not possible. What makes Terribly Well so special is how Sightings manage to marry the seething distorto-damage of their earliest efforts with the neo-industrial, art-rock designs marking the group's more recent output. Trying to bring together cathartic ferocity and meticulous-minded sound sculpture is always demanding (simply ask Six Finger Satellite's classic line-up or Evol-era Sonic Youth). And to attempt such a tenuous marriage via an ensemble-generated sound that, by its very avant-garde nature, alienates 99% of the human population is just asking for problems. Yet Sightings totally succeed, once again proving that they are one of noise rock's most vital outfits. Happy New Year, you freaks!