It’s hard to tell when exactly this happened, but at some point over the past ten years, electronic music started sounding, I don’t know, more alive than rock or country or folk or jazz or other kinds of real-life noise-making. Whereas plenty of revivalists seemed perfectly content to disinter long-dead dinosaur jams and repackage them in tight pants, man-machine hybrids everywhere were evolving, reproducing, absorbing influences and creating new ones out of silicone chips and synthesizers. It wasn’t the end of music, but it was the end of a certain idea of music, that it should be played on instruments that needed to be tuned, that the frontman needed pipes like a Basilica organ, that the drummer…hell, even that there be a drummer. Texture was the new guitar solo, attack sustain decay release the new “Never Mind the Bollocks.” It smelled like…nothing. And sweat and sex and liquor.
That’s why bands like Best Hits are so exciting. Whatever they’re indebted to stylistically they sound basically influence-less. Even if that’s an impossible assumption, they at least are trying to sound like nothing ever heard before. Ambient onamonapoeiatic hip-hop? Electro-twee? Whatever, no. I wouldn’t call this music experimental, not because it’s not, but because listening to these tracks doesn’t entail a particularly severe learning curve. They’re short and great. It’s like eating something that looks like a green cube that tastes exactly like bacon and candy. A twosome based out of Brooklyn (Matt Weiner on dials and knobs and Claire Elise Tippins on more dials and knobs), these guys have a lot of projects going on: the Peace Age label, a whole host of awesome artwork, and bands called Ger, Shrur and Twins. Apart from sounding like the programming lineup of a British children’s television network, they all are awesome and well worth checking out.
Onto the 7-inch, we start off with the alternate-dimension club anthem “Fantastic Lands,” which reminds me of some kind of electrified world-music from a country that doesn’t exist. It’s the kind of track that makes Diplo-style globetrotting seem positively boring. While MIA is all about universal mash-up bassquaking, these guys pose a compelling counterpoint: like kids hiding under a blanket and calling it the homeworld, Best Hits are imagining what it means to be indigenous beat-makers from imaginary places, coining MC-ing languages and extra-geographic rhythm figures for a crossover market. If Mad Decent-style cool-onialism happens to rub you the wrong way, Best Hits throws it down guilt free.
B-side “Heartbeats,” on the other hand, sounds slightly more local, almost perversely so, like overhearing a next door neighbor masturbating to exercise videos and pretending to talk to his dead mother on speakerphone. It’s an interesting channeling of Mr. Roboto-esque autism into awkward dancefloor anthem, almost as if David Byrne’s onstage persona got programmed into a revolting late-80s era Macintosh, or 2001’s HAL ended up living inside your beer fridge. Imagine if Grease with a soundtrack by Suicide and you’re half-way there.
I can’t really tell which of these tunes I like better, a feeling that I hope will be exacerbated by the Best Hits full-length, out sometime this Winter. Until then, I can just put the two songs on repeat, put on warpaint in my bedroom, and terrify my girlfriend every time she comes home from class. If your New Year’s resolution is lose your fucking mind, I suggest you do the same.
But back, briefly, to the idea that I started with, that electronic music breathes in a way almost no other genre can these days. If faced with a decision between the Greatest Hits of Cream and the cream of the Best Hits crop, I urge you to relax and let Darwin take control. Put on your headphones, and evolve.
https://ampeater.s3.amazonaws.com/aem056/01 Fantastic Lands.mp3