Best of 2016: Outsider House

This year was a little slower for some of these artists who make this sort of lo-fi home listening house music. Then again, I put some of them on the other lists because they leaned so far into Techno or Ambient, especially the Opal Tapes / Black Opal output. 1080p was up to its usual tricks to brilliant effect, and 100% Silk was a bit slower, unfortunately making some headlines a few weeks back with the deadly Oakland fire. I hope they make another headline because of the brilliant artists that they’re supporting, and I feel terrible about the tragedy because I love the music and ideals of the label so much.


10> Computer Graphics - We Have To Go

Almost a year ago I started listening to this debut full length as Computer Graphics aka Aleksey Devyanin aka Pixelord aka other stuff. Listening back now, there's nothing discernably Russian about this, but it's interesting that this sound usually comes from Vancouver or the UK. This is smooth and well-produced outsider house with a brooding title track that makes it a worthwhile listen.

9> But Ludzha - Basslines for Life

Baselines for Life is the standout 12” on 100% Silk this year. It takes Deep House and washes it out to a beautiful extent that is perfect for me and…no one else? Very few people, at least. These are jams built around stellar soul samples and blasted out bass that just roll.

8> DJ Voila - Aimless Summer

A reference to Endless Summer? This was made for a Montreal summer and I’ve been there to experience that weather phenomenon. I imagine it’s different if you’d lived through a bitter, cold, Canadian winter, though. This is a 1080p tape through and through: it’s often fun and bouncy, it has a range of moods, and it demands your ears.

7> Akasha System - Vague Response

This is the other 100% Silk moment that keeps on giving from this year. This defines what the label should sound like right now and I hope the direction that it’s headed in. Vague Response is carried by planned out melodies that generally impart a sort of hopeful melancholy about a lost past, a bleak present and a less bleak future.

6> $$$TAG$$$ - Crowd Surfing

Opal Tapes put out a lot this year and this is one of the two releases that I physically acquired. It’s a fun listen because of how the beats roll through the whole thing. It has the feeling of an outer space mission that is lurching steadily forward all the time. It’s really good on analogue too, seriously…

5> Perfume Advert - Foreverware sounds like the opposite of Vaporware, but maybe it's the opposite of Temporare. Compared to last year's tape of the year +200 Gamma, this is a pristine outing that has the tech house beats of their first few releases. It still has the Perfume Advert sound for sure and it's fun to hear it in a more precise context that makes it possible to bring forward the deep house funk that was latent in their sound already. Don't accidentally sign up for Seagrave's mailing list or anything, but this Pepto Bismol pink tape shouldn't be missed.

4> LNS - Maligne Range / Helical Rising

2016 saw the debut of Vancouver's Laura Sparrow in two releases that are similar in length and different in release format. Maligne Range was a tape released on 1080p that introduced me to her electro-tinged skeletal outsider sound and it was furthered by the Helical Rising 12" that occasionally brings the tempos up while still maintaining the unique sound of the debut. With the latter on the new Freakout Cult label, it feels like there's a movement that complements and counters Mood Hut that's brewing in Vancouver and I'm excited to see what develops here.

3> Immune - Breathless

The only release that I can think of that stands in between Vaporwave and Outsider House. It has the gnarled shoegaze and grit of the former, and it's on Dream Catalogue and features HKE on a track, but it fits on this list pretty well. As I think about it, the two use similar hardware up to a point, though Vaporwave often probably would use Software in a much different way than many of these artists. This is a fresh listen though, especially because nothing out there really sounds like it.

2> S Olbricht - For Perfect Beings

The sole notable Lobster Theremin release this year is from Stephan Olbricht, Né Martin Nikolai, of Hungary. He perfectly sums up what can be done with the outsider sound and actually does so on the front and back of a single vinyl record (that I wish I owned). So, format wise it’s a misnomer, and quality wise it is too. You can hear it in the transition between ambience and house where the same wit and attention is paid to the sound and composition of the overlapping moments.

1> Body-San - Shining the Money Ball

One upping a high bar that was set on last year’s Corporate Interiors, Body-San moves to 1080p to drop the tape of the year. This time, there’s more jazzy funk, muzak, and tropicalia rolled into the house structures than before. It’s all a soundtrack to a B sci-fi animated film about interstellar intrigue (not really). I want every party I’m ever at to have the vibe of this album.