by New Era
by Swagg Kids
More dispatches from the jerkin' front, the music of L.A. teenagers mocking hiphop from within, about which I wrote in the October 8 column. New Era's "Maedae Maedae" is basically a new vocal over the alien beat of her own "Pockets on My Pannies," which is a recommendation by itself, but this earns its place in your download queue via lines such as "Call me New Era, but my name is Steph-eye-nie/Never paper chase, money-money always find me" and "My name is New Era, I don't know what else to say/I been making all the money, I don't know what else to make," all delivered more legibly than the earlier song, but with equal irresistible nonchalance. As for the Swagg Kids, they call themselves schoolyard names, boasting, "I'm a nerd, nerd, nerd/Geek, geek, geek," the latter of which they claim as the meaning (one of them, at least) of that old hiphop term of endearment "G," over playful 808 sub-bass kicks and swirling, filtered chimes. Hey, if rappers could reclaim epithets far more historically freighted and socially problematic than these, then why not? Extra points for the way that, in places, they deliberately hypercaffeinate their flow: "Watch me work/Watch me dip and watch me jerk."
by Claude VonStroke
It makes sense that in techno, the music whose entire raison d'être is machines, the human voice would be the last frontier, from Todd Edwards's records as the Sample Choir (a vowel from here, a consonant from there is very much his MO) to Matthew Herbert's self-explanatory Bodily Functions to Dave Aju's 2008 gem Open Wide, an album crafted entirely out of mouth noises. Aju's fellow San Franciscan Claude VonStroke's great new single follows the same basic idea, though I'm going to go ahead and guess the drums came from something a little more mechanical. It's not like you could tell the neatly layered vocal cords themselves were human without knowing in advance, frankly—they bump and grunt and jump around the scale the way you're accustomed to hearing synths do in this setting—but once you're aware, it adds to the pleasure, highlights the grain, and builds to a groaning climax that builds back up gradually when the beat kicks back in.