Come on, admit it — you’ve logged more hours in front of a screen playing Minecraft than you can count. And like almost everyone else who has ever partaken of the experience, you’ve fallen under the sway of its hypnotic electro-acoustic soundtrack. Hell, even people who have never played the game in their lives have come to love the music composed by Germany’s Daniel Rosenfeld under the name C418. Anyone who denies its status as a masterpiece of modern ambient minimalism is just being snobby. But up until now, if you wanted to nab that music to enjoy outside the context of the game, you could only purchase it as a download.
That’s all about to change, however, as Ghostly International is getting set to release the Minecraft music on CD and vinyl for the first time ever. On August 21, Minecraft Volume Alpha, the first of two volumes of Minecraft music, will be unleashed upon a waiting world. And besides the standard vinyl and CD versions, there will be a limited-edition LP — only 1,000 available — on transparent green vinyl, featuring a lenticular-printed sleeve specially designed to lend the 3-D cover art the oomph it deserves. See below for a sampler.
The souring of buttery instrumentals by Zach Saginaw crafts a trickle-down effect of warm beats hitting jagged rocks. Like settling down at the end of the day in an uncomfortable chair sent by the LA beat scene, Shigeto is just above melancholic but is never far away from disaffected, creating silver linings — just like the eponymous track 11 — with fractures in them.
The mixing of analogue plug-ins with methods using digital chopsticks, hardens adolescent innocence to cold facts. “Olivia” gets heads nodding while administering paper cuts to ears, and hip-hop burbles chunter under their breath (“Detroit Part 1”). Any positivity is always consumed mildly, a habitual sweetness in the air (“Ritual Howl”) handled with concern. Where one or two beats refuse to let on, sometimes you wish Shigeto would come out and be less emotionally indistinct. “Perfect Crime” noodles and fidgets away, teasing with hopeful segments that are quickly done for.
Saginaw sifting through several processes at once is why his mood never appears as cut and dried as merely lonely or savouring isolation. With there being no barren spells of emptiness, flickers, squirms and tics in a smothered surround sound create a low-rent richness you feel you can lean on. Conversely, when fighting for sleep as temperature takes over, the lava lamp alongside starting to churn fiery colours, this is just the instrumentalism to go with it.
File under: Teebs, Sweatson Klank, Frank Omura
Bright eyed and bushy tailed, dieting on synth cycles streaming and straining to be first past the finishing line, it’s a rare occasion where you can find a Panda behaving with an upright, inquisitive vivacity as it commutes. The student from the School of Asian and African Studies all the while appreciates house and dance electronics that can run as a compact travelogue from a position on the couch, showing there’s no place like home.
Developing the shades of Lucky Shiner into neon colors that won’t sting your eyeballs, GP’s crafty implementing of international features turn holiday slides 3D; the chimes to “Junk City” bring a vision of Asia without plastering it in Kanji, and the new age traveller “Brazil” just loops a chant as means of sightseeing commentary. Maximalism as altruism, with a supple, soft-sided urgency, takes hustle and bustle in its stride.
From an electronic standpoint, Panda doesn’t go rustic when slipping outside of the bright lights, opting instead to detune indigenous instruments on “We Work Nights” to keep on city slicking. Off the gas, “My Father in Hong Kong 1961” and the meek tumbler “S950” see commotion lapse, stepping back to appreciate nuances and finer points of the vista at large. “Flinton” and “Enoshima” allow themselves a little homesickness with neat and precise electronic evocation continuing to show Gold Panda in a bold, assertive light that contrarily, exhibits an understated personality that just wants other to share in his sunshine.
File under: Caribou/Four Tet, Shlohmo, Joy Orbison
Sidling up to you with the softest of electronic pop and R&B via some attachment to post-dubstep/meta-bass subsidiaries, Brooklynites Thomas Mullarney and Jacob Gossett stretch their arms wide to show they have a lot of love to give. Except everything’s in miniature, bringing music boxes into the studio to use as a metronome and reimagining the grace of its pirouetting ballerina. However tender and fresh-faced, the presence of an anonymous puppet master watching every move they make shows that beckoning for an embrace isn’t enough.
“Overseer” is that casual, smoke-blowing observer slash noxious voyeur, attempting to move the finger permanently pressed against the album’s lips by slipping in busy signals. Despite wanting to “separate the lies from the truth,” oddly it’s not a cold reception Beacon slink with. Given the construct, humidity is present throughout the softly-judged electronica, though “Late November” is art imitating climate and “Anthem” deals with a wintry air, revelling and revealing itself in low volume textures and enclosed, shadowy spaces. And despite when feelings are made to the contrary, the vocal delivery helps relax ears tricking you into thinking peace is always on the horizon (the assuaging “Studio Audience”).
This as much as anything gives the album its low insistence and quietly scheming coyness, making you worry about how amicable Beacon’s degrees of separation really are. Mullarney and Gossett scatter rose petals en route to the boudoir, but also leave the thorns in your wake.
File under: James Blake, The XX, Emika
A dread-filled visit to the dental or doctor’s surgery this is not. Seattle’s Jeff McIlwain marks the moment where his name is called again with steady electronics and deep club determiners, within the general handling of similar but divergent electro DNA. Its disparate inserts are obvious; the way it hangs together just as much, becoming frontline relevant from whichever angle it’s travelling from.
Exclusively electronic doesn’t make for a virtual world of polygon windows, regardless of “Stratus” stepping into a dodecahedron-shaped rash of looped synths. Lusine’s angles of cosmic disco represent the challenge of the album, attempting and usually succeeding in gathering degrees of emotion (not even to humanise particularly) from the angular and steadfastly mechanical or artificial. “On Telegraph” hypnotically moves in no direction in particular, and “February” is sure to be big once the weather is more charitable.
Standing next to more image-conscious electro-pop (“Get The Message”), Lusine’s methods fiddle with differing strands running hot and cold at the same time, juggling processed vocals made distant (“Another Tomorrow,” a love song handled by robots) with balmy synth provisions. The variations continue with “First Call” coming off as a sneakily slick Hot Chip effort with more plug-ins and jerks of machinery. For an album that’s not especially light, it is served well by a double definition of flexibility.
File under: Vector Lovers, Woolfy vs Projections, John Tejada
Matthew Dear’s evolution continues, now settling into a midlife shuffle that marks the point where 2003’s Leave Luck to Heaven and fifth album Beams have very little in common. The vocal style that he’s allowed to seep through record by record now takes center stage, its leftfield pop aspiration sort of hanging off beats with a languid keeping of distance, using a kind of Beck-meets-Davids Byrne/Bowie gabble. Dear’s persona is now either too cool for everything, or not cool enough for anything, veiling happiness in a saddened slouch, with low-spirited charm (“Do the Right Thing”) or droning frustration (“Shake Me”).
An eponymous dedication to Detroit-schooled house and techno has now progressed into sounds nagging at the mainstream through plenty of 80s references (the infectious, even if you don’t know why, “Fighting is Futile” and the showy DIY funk “Up & Out”), while simultaneously sounding as if they want nothing to do with any particular scene (rebel without a cause “Earthforms,” electro burrower “Overtime”). It does leave fans in a quandary: embrace the changes or bemusedly wonder what’s going on.
May this review be so bold as to say if Dear’s original sound first rapt you, you don’t necessarily need this in your collection. For first-timers, everything sounds very well drilled as if this were Dear’s signature, skippered by a character that’ll take many listens to make sense of. A dream topic for message board arguers, that’s for sure.
File under: Tiga, Audion, Talking Heads