Various Artists - Rough Trade Shops Electronic 11

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2012-01-20

Ah, good old reliable Rough Trade. You know where you are with a Rough Trade compilation - usually just a tiny bit underwhelmed but generally content because you know you're in safe hands. This compilation includes a very brief track called 'Pop is Dead' by Anne-James Chaton which basically makes sure we've taken the eponymous statement on board. It's a lie, clearly. In 2011, pop was anything but dead. It was shit, sure, but that's not the same thing. And if pop in 2011 was one thing, it was electronic. The guitar - that faddish, limited instrument we've chosen to view as the baseline for all 'good' music - was virtually redundant in the pop charts.

'So what?' I hear you squeak, your indie-purist hackles raised in defence as you reach for your Orange Juice compilation like a set of rosary beads. Yeah, so what? Guitars have dropped out of the mainstream before, they'll be back again. Well, frankly, balls to guitars, because it's the state of electronic music I want to talk about now. Because despite the hideous, cheap (not always a bad thing, I'll admit), moribund effluence clogging up the top ten, music of a knob-twiddly nature was in such rude health in 2011, it made most guitar-based music look like naught but a skid-mark on the unfortunately visible underpants of a waddling hipster.

Dubstep, blubstep, brostep, post-dubstep, chillwave, future garage... All that unfortunately named stuff plus loads more on the fringes. It was, all in all, a great year to be listening to wibbly synths and bowel-loosening basslines. Most of which, slightly bafflingly, you won't find on this compilation. But hey, what we do get is pretty fine and some of it is utterly seminal, from Flying Lotus' collaboration with Thom Yorke, '...And the World Laughs With You' (actually came out in 2010, but whatevs), to Rustie's relentlessly fizzing 'Hyperthrust', all the way to Hercules & Love Affair's early house work-out 'My House', so perfect a summation of all that was great about that era's dance music it only underlines the fact that they need to stop this shtick and find a new sound pronto.

Elsewhere, the 80s is still happening, in a good way. John Maus' 80s synth-pop homage 'Head for the Country' is both doomy and hands-aloft anthemic; Azari & III's brilliantly named 'Manhooker' sounds like Throbbing Gristle embracing early techno; while Ford & Lopatin have big fun twisting up some smooth mid-80s pop on the excellent 'Emergency Room'. By way of contrast, we also get some wonderfully horrible, plain weird noise from the likes of Ekoplekz and Marcus Schmickler, and some fuzzy ambient stuff from Mark McGuire and Rene Hell. There's even a bracingly evil techno-metal onslaught from Prurient, whose 'A Meal Can Be Made' is cheesy-as-fuck and totally awesome in roughly equal measure.

In fact, there isn't much here that doesn't hit the spot, although Death Grips' 'Guillotine', which is just shouty and confused-sounding, is pretty dire. The comp rounds things off with the sexy, trip-hoppy 'Deadman (Death Dub Remix)' by Shackleton King Midas Sound and Solar Bears' classy, John Carpenter-esque instrumental, 'Twin Stars'. Obviously, it's something of a mixed bag, but Electronic 11 is more consistent than these compilations usually are and, crucially, it never gets boring.

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