It’s a windy, moody night in the much maligned hump of January as I listen to Rough Trade Shops – Electronic 11, a decidedly left-field and downbeat compilation of the industry stalwarts’ 2011 picks. It’s a fitting night for it, because this is The Wire style electro, for the most part, a far-removed cousin to the sparkly synths that characterised so much dance-floor trash this year just spent.
If you’re not familiar with names like Rene Hell, Nic Jaar, or John Maus, then you’re in for rather a dark treat, wherever your electro sensibilities lie on the spectrum; for the sounds they conjure, corralled by the seasoned ears of the Rough Trade folk, are a potent if acquired taste. Acquire it herein!
Two excellent tracks in particular speak of the hope for 2012 that this compilation represents: the nouveau-soul of Hercules & Love Affair and Azari & III. If nothing else, these are the wheat that stands out from the chaff found elsewhere in 2011 – if either of these bands and tracks inspire a good swathe of new sounds in the coming twelve months then we’re sorted.
Satisfyingly, the swollen middle of this 22-track compilation amps up the pace and the verve; so whilst the darker ambience of the first third can’t exactly be said to ease you in, Modeselektor and Rustie really put you through the wringer. Sensational Meets Koyxen and Death Grips represent the Ninja-Tune flavoured hip-hop side of things in big fashion, and short of delineating the entire track listing, things just carry on messing you up from this point onwards.
I expected nothing less of Rough Trade than a total oeuvre of electro, a grand, scenic tour not pandering in the slightest to the mainstream (although Azari & III did flirt dangerously, briefly, with it). Like a true connoisseur, Electronic 11 contrasts taste, pace and texture so that, bizarre as these elements may be in isolation, their essence is the clearer for the juxtaposition.
The long and short of it is such a diverse album of excellent, challenging, and loosely speaking, electronic music, that you’d be mad to miss unless you only ever listen to Ellie Goulding and Example. If I ever hear any of the tracks featured on this compilation in a club, then I’ll know I’m in the right place.