Odes to Mother Earth

Ripping off the planet without clearing the samples

Björk
"Earth Intruders"
From Volta

Björk has been hammering out her resident alien persona for 14 years now, a few ticks longer than producer Timbaland has spent polluting urban pop radio with syncopated crickets and Orientalist neons swiped from pretty much anywhere he can pull it off without coughing up a royalty. (The Economistreported last week that globalization is doing well.) She's a "rich artist" and he's a "commercial auteur." After a long softening from the former—Vespertine's domestic glitch was like a bunch of glasses rattling in a cupboard, Medúllawas a cappella, and they were buffered on either side by long breaks and repackagings—the oversize drumming and chants Tim brings to "Earth Intruders" are supposed to return Björk to primordial wilin' out. "We're all fucking animals," she said in a recent interview. "Let's just march." A rupture, but a predictable one in a climate where Mother Earth has retaken the throne as muse. The most mannered work here comes through the thumb piano of the Congo's Konono No. 1, actually from the cradle of civilization.


Panda Bear
"Good Girl/Carrots"
From Person Pitch

Where Björk's return-to-dirt anthem is a freaking mandate, Panda's approach is more gentle—an invitation. "Carrots" (and the rest of Person Pitch) even swaps the thubba-thubba bonfire- dance drumming he's known for in Animal Collective for trebly tabla loops, a toss in the sandbox compared to the native, American trauma of pulling out that inner child from under the rough blankets of socialization. His quacky Beach Boys harmonies are fed through enough echo and reverb to make them sound like ambient chatter from the seat of a carousel. Person Pitch's noncommittal bliss is pretty much its best asset—letting go is hard enough as it is without getting throttled in the exchange.


Soft Circle
"Sundazed"
From Full Bloom

Hisham Bharoocha, the peacenik behind Soft Circle, used to drum in Brooklyn's Black Dice, a neo-tribal powerhouse that has gradually fizzled into synth bloopery. "Sundazed," though, saves face by taking the same impulse as the crashing-drums crowd—rhythmic, hypnotic—and dissolving it into a tangle of synth marimbas, tricky off-rhythms, and reverberant shades. Turns out new age is something like the Cretaceous, just with hairier lizards shimmying around.

 
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