In this second article on deconstructed dance music, Jon Lindblom lists his 20 favourite releases within this intriguing post-genre.

The albums are listed in alphabetical order by artist, and since we already have written about many of them in a similar format we have, in those cases, re-used these texts here – with links to the articles where they first appeared as well as the occasional textual modification due to the time that has passed since.

Aïsha Devi – DNA Feelings (Houndstooth, 2018)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2018’.

Devi’s second album under her own name is once again built around deconstructed shards of rave, as well as her astonishing vocals that ties the fragmented and brilliantly disorienting compositions together. In an age when vocal manipulation has become standardised even in pop music, electronic transformations of the voice is in-itself no longer immediately compelling – yet Devi’s amazing vocal science shows that there are still territories of the synthetic voice to explore, beyond those inhabited by bland autotune exercises.

Aïsha Devi – Of Matter and Spirit (Houndstooth, 2015)

Even though this list is organised alphabetically, if I had to pick one record as number one, this would most likely be it. Devi’s first major dreamlike fusion of techno, trance and synthetic vocal science – operating at the edges of pop and club music – is both incredibly beautiful and formally complex. It is a wonderfully labyrinthine record with shimmering synthesizers, blasts of multi-rhythmic beats and echoes of alien vocals that represent much of the best of deconstructed dance music to me. Of course, this can also be said about DNA Feelings – but what puts Of Matter and Spirit a bit higher in my book is that the club elements are a bit more present here.

Aïsha Devi – S.L.F. EP (Houndstooth, 2019)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2019’.

With S.L.F., Aïsha Devi continued to put out great music in the deconstructed style that she took up once she switched from the more straightforward work that she produced under her previous moniker Kate Wax to what she is doing now, using her real name. S.L.F. may only be an EP, but still showcases everything that is great about Devi’s ‘aetheraves’.

Amnesia Scanner – Tearless (PAN, 2020)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2020’.

A short but punchy record that makes up for its brief runtime with great pacing, which its predecessor Another Life (2018) somewhat lacked. As usual with Amnesia Scanner, it is the complex rhythms and thick sonic textures that stand out – this time also backed up by some great guest vocalists and of course the vocal software-stack Oracle.

AQXDM – Infrared EP (Houndstooth, 2019)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2019’.

AQXDM is the moniker of Aquarian and Deapmash, who reunited in 2019 with their second EP Infrared – following one entitled Aegis that came out in 2018. Like its predecessor, Infrared is organised around the synthetic fusions of warped techno and jungle in the form of what Houndstooth refers to as ‘hypnotic, big room, golden-era rave’ that also exhibits the more recent experimental profile of deconstructed dance music. Indeed, tracks like the great ‘Tunnel Vision’ explicate the fact that the two do not necessarily need to be strictly opposed.

Arca – @@@@@ (XL, 2020)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2020’.

2020 was really an ‘Arca-year’, with what I consider her two best releases so far: her ‘pop’ album KiCk I and then this remarkable record. And they work really nice together as well, because of how they showcase two sides of her work. For whereas KiCk I is shorter and more pop-oriented, the one-track @@@@@ is a one-hour long tour de force of experimental club music that grips you right from the start and does not let go until it ends.

Arca – KiCk I (XL, 2020)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2020’.

While Arca has produced great experimental pop albums for artists like Björk and FKA twigs, this time she finally did so for herself as KiCk I is a great marriage between pop and her compelling take on experimental club music. Backed up by a number of great guest vocalists and a series of awesome music videos of a similarly pop-experimentalist kind, the album shows off a compelling pop star in the making.

Demdike Stare – Passion (Modern Love, 2018)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2018’.

While Demdike Stare started out releasing fusions of ambient, drone, industrial and library music with occasional nods to 90s dance music, their more recent releases have positioned themselves firmly in modern dance-music territories. The same goes with Passion, which also highlights the duo’s compelling rhythmic science that fuses genres such as jungle, dancehall, grime and chopped-up noise into brilliant post-genre experiments. (Also, do not miss the accompanying four-part release Stitch by Stitch, which offers a more decompressed take on the duo’s music at the present.)

Demdike Stare – Test Pressings (Modern Love, 2013-2015)

The Test Pressings series marked Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker’s turn away from their earlier, occult-based dark ambient sound towards deconstructed dance music. I will admit that I have cheated a bit here, since they were actually not released together as one LP, but as a series of 12 inches between 2013 and 2015. However, I think that the obvious links between the releases, in terms of them forming one larger body of work, justifies this categorisation. Listening to all of them from start to finish provides a compelling view of Demdike’s wide sonic spectrum, as they brilliantly move between mutated forms of breakbeats, techno, ambient and industrial.

Errorsmith – Superlative Fatigue (PAN, 2017)

I have always been drawn to music that leans towards the dark or melancholic – which should be evident not just from this list, but when browsing through my writings on this website as such. This album is certainly an exception, though, simply because of how fun it is: a series of goofy bangers that draw upon techno and dancehall in particular, which I sometimes refer to as ‘slapstick techno’. Indeed, the perhaps most standout element of Superlative Fatigue is how it demonstrates that formal and technical complexity (Erik Wiegand a.k.a. Errorsmith made the album almost entirely buy using a digital synthesizer named Razor that he created himself) do not have to go against easy-going, pure fun. Also, the use of vocoder on the album is brilliant and crucial for this.

Holly Herndon – Platform (4AD, 2015)

Equally compelling conceptually as it is sonically, Herndon’s take on the concept of the platform uses the album format as an intermediary for a large group of collaborators to interact through. With contributions from artists such as Metahaven and Claire Tolan, to musicians like Amnesia Scanner and Colin Self, Platform is an ambitious multimedia and social experiment that also encompasses music videos, press material and contemporary critical theory. And sonically, it intriguingly synthesises pop and deconstructed dance music with genres like music concrete and ASMR.

Lotic – Damsel in Distress (Janus Berlin, 2014)

Even though it does have a tracklist, Lotic’s Damsel in Distress works best as one long composition, insofar as it allows its complex formal structure to unfold properly. Indeed, one thing I like the most about deconstructed dance music – and about formal complexity in general – is that the compositions can be quite unpredictable in the sense that you do not really know where they will be going next. This is certainly true of this magnificent piece, which twists and turns constantly throughout its 27-minutes duration. And then there is the unexpected appearance of Beyoncé’s ‘Drunk in Love’, which is brilliantly integrated into the surrounding bursts of harsh electronics and frenetic beats like it is the most natural thing ever.

Marie Davidson – Working Class Woman (Ninja Tune, 2018)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2018’.

Davidson’s fourth album is her best so far. A conceptual album that portrays contemporary life (particularly work and club culture) on the one hand through brilliantly dry humour delivered mostly through spoken-word, and on the other hand through amazing sonic experiments mainly with complex rhythms but also with ambient and industrial elements. Overall, it is an addictive record that manages to combine the cinematic quality of a conceptual album with the formal complexity of deconstructed dance music. Addition: do not miss the accompanying trance-track ‘Chasing the Light’, which was created specifically for the album tour.

M.E.S.H. – Hart… Aber Fair! EP (Janus Berlin, 2019)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2019’.

Despite its short duration of just above 21 minutes, Hart… Aber Fair! is M.E.S.H.’s best release to date (but listen to the long version, with all individual tracks mixed together), as it puts his mutant rhythms and cybernetic textures upfront. After a somewhat modest two-minute intro, a heavy base drum kicks in and sets the tone for a remarkable tour de force of deconstructed dance music that explicates not just the best of M.E.S.H. – but of this ‘anti-genre’ as such.

M.E.S.H. – Hesaitix (PAN, 2017)

This is the first release I listened to by an artist associated with Janus Berlin – the club night turned record label that has played an important part in the emergence of deconstructed dance music – (other ones include Lotic and Kablam) and it is certainly an album that is a good representation of both. Whereas M.E.S.H.’s previous album Piteous Gate (2015) was somewhat too deconstructed and non-clubby for my taste, this one includes plenty of great club-bangers – in particular, ‘Mimic’, ‘2 Loop Trip’, ‘Search. Reveal.’ and ‘Coercer’ – that bring together thick and glistening synthesisers with heavy beats, without giving up on the post-genre, formal experimentation that is crucial to deconstructed dance music.

Rainer Veil – Vanity (Modern Love, 2019)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2019’.

After a somewhat slow start, Rainer Veil’s long-awaited debut album Vanity really kicks off from the fourth track and then maintains a steady momentum all the way to its end. Building upon the deconstructed sonic profile of EPs such as their brilliant New Brutalism (2014), Vanity is another masterful example of the mutant rhythms (and hallucinatory sonic textures) that deconstructed dance music has to offer. The previous reference to New Brutalism is indeed apt, as the duo’s music – when at its best – conveys a similar sense of formal novelty as the modernist architectural style once did, through a comparable kind of (sonic) geometric experimentalism.

Sophia Loizou – Irregular Territories EP (Cosmo Rhythmatic, 2018)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2018’.

At a first glance, the most recent EP of Sophia Loizou does not look very intriguing: a white and academic take on jungle, which downplays the black and urban elements that were crucial to the formation of the genre as part of the 90s’ hardcore continuum. Yet this is Loizou’s best release to date – following the great Chrysalis (2014) and the somewhat underwhelming Singulacra (2016) – which offers a compelling take on jungle very much in tune with recent deconstructed dance music and that later was expanded into the full-length record Untold (2020).

The Sprawl – EP1 & EP2 EPs (The Death of Rave, 2015 and 2018)

The power-trio of Logos, Mumdance and Shapednoise’s collaborative project The Sprawl oozes 80s cyberpunk in many ways. However, the music itself is thankfully not a pastiche of 80s or 90s dance music. On the contrary, it is parts of the latter – techno, in particular – twisted almost beyond recognition into shimmering landscapes of noise, synths and only the occasional beats. This is probably one of the most extreme examples of deconstructed dance music, yet still incredibly exciting.

W00DY – My Diary EP (Self-Released, 2019)

From ‘Top Ten Albums of 2019’.

Whereas W00DY’s previous releases have moments of brilliance, they generally feel a bit too rhythmically rigid in my opinion. But My Diary does not have that problem at all. While it is a relatively short release, it is nevertheless the best by the artist in question since it successfully augments the most interesting aspects of her work so far. In this case, a rhythmic frenzy that draws upon jungle, gabber and footwork in particular – through a compelling kind of fast-paced, synthetic formalism.

Zuli – All Caps EP (UIQ, 2021)

Zuli is perhaps best known for his great 2018-album Terminal, which brought together ambient sounds with experimental hip-hop in a compelling way. However, he has also released a series of EPs that sometimes lean in a more club-oriented direction in the style of deconstructed dance music. All Caps is the latest of these, and also the best in my opinion. Drawing upon club-genres like jungle and footwork, it provides six great and intense tracks filled with chopped up vocals, amen breaks and other polyrhythms.

Image Credit: Kris Temmerman