That boy needs therapy
September 1, 2009 10:34 AM   Subscribe

What are some of your favorite obscure electronic music singles? I'm looking for the kind of stuff where an otherwise unremarkable or unrecognized artist managed to release one perfect song.

I am not interested in one-hit wonders as Wikipedia defines it -- I don't care if the song was ever popular or a club hit, just that it's good and interesting. Songs that creep onto your playlists despite not knowing or liking anything else by the same band are what I'm looking for, perhaps an excellent remix that managed to redeem a weak song. I tend towards artists such as Negativland, Lionrock, Aphex Twin, Prefuse 73, Amon Tobin, Girl Talk, DNTEL, Autechre, Avalanches, Jason Forrest, etc. but am looking for stuff far off the Pandora similarity radar.
posted by benzenedream to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

I kind of feel the same way about Kid606-I love him, even though he goes through phases and Resilience sounds nothing like his live mixes, for example-but I personally believe the most brilliant album he made is "The Illness despite the fact it's two track single (the CD comes with 4 mediocre bonus songs). Look for "The Illness 12" mix" (different, better mix than whatever album it's on) and "Ecstasy Motherfucker."

They are hyperactive unabashed rave-ups that sound like MDMA in aural form. I put this single on when I am going out dancing later and I want to get all pumped up while putting on plastic bracelets and cat ears.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:53 AM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

I like only two Jackson and His Computer Band songs, Utopia and Arpeggio, and I hate all the rest.

But those aren't from a single, and I heard Arpeggio first on Pandora, so two strikes.

For some instrumental hip-hop, why not try some Conrad Newholmes, who seems to have disappeared to a Mennonite farm in Illinois ca. 2005 or so. But I like more than one song of his, so strike three.
posted by tss at 11:02 AM on September 1, 2009

I quite like Rhyme More by Noakes Pressure for this.
posted by galaksit at 11:06 AM on September 1, 2009

Amorphous Androgynous' The Isness had two songs I really liked; Elysian Feels (up-tempo) and High Tide on the Sea of Flesh (slow and plodding tempo yet evocative in mood). Hard to say what type of songs they are; they're just... different. The album is all over the place in styles, in a good way.

There's a guy who goes by the name Izmar; track 6 on his Aze album is pretty sublime.

Ulrich Schnauss has a nice extra-long set called Downtime; Part 3 is particularly good (it's a ways down the page.)
posted by Hardcore Poser at 11:14 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gustav - We Shall Overcome
posted by strangecargo at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2009

Best answer: Your desires have been taken into account by the music industry for decades now. Really, it's quite simple and a standard way to proceed. Here's how you do it: samplers, compilations, remixes, and artist picks. Electronica music labels are often small, and lack a big promo budget, so the way they try to gain exposure for their clients is by issuing a sampler or comp of their artists, and because they need to put their best foot forward, often are successful in picking the best tracks from their artists work. The other way is to go for remixes, because wonderful things often happen, and by their very nature, they're one-offs. Finally, albums which are compilations of a given artist's favorite picks of other's work.

A few notable samplers/comps/remixes/picks which have a high ratio of success IMHO: Warp 10+3, Delivery Room (Leaf Sampler), Lost For Words (Leaf Sampler), All Tomorrows Parties (Autechre fave picks), Putting the Morr back in Morrissey (Morr Sampler - nothing to do with Morrissey!), American Breakbeat Rebuilt, Parts in Post (Plaid remixes), almost all Stone Records samplers and remixes, Xen Cuts (Ninja Records sampler).

Really, there are tons and tons of great cuts, and the way to go is as I indicated: samplers, compilations, remixes, artist picks. Soon you'll have more great tracks than you can shake a stick at.
posted by VikingSword at 11:33 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fizzarum's Microphorus is a very old track that fits your description.

Deaf Center's Lamp Mein

Low In The Sky's Cool Sanson
posted by fake at 12:06 PM on September 1, 2009

"Stylophonia" - Two Little Boys
posted by Citrus at 12:42 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

My definition of electronic is kind of broad, overlapping with dance stuff, and I don't usually know whether these groups happened to release something else good or not. Here goes anyway.

Years ago I discovered a site called, which, among other things, delivered what you're looking for - delicious electronic stuff you've never heard of.

The best thing I can remember getting from there was a song called "1982 for you" by a temporary collaboration between Solvent and Lowfish called Tinfoil Teakettle, off the compilation album Snow Robots Vol. 2. Here's the epitonic page for that album.

Another group I think I discovered there was Figurine. I love their song IMpossible, which is a heartbreaking IM session done as a call-and-response song between an aching guy and the girl (with the super pretty voice) that dumped him and moved away. He's saying how lost he is without her and he's there for her, but she's saying she's met someone new in her new town and doesn't want him anymore. He's like "I am still here, to type to you...If you want me to..." and she answers right away "I don't want you to." Ouuuuch. Aaand cue cool/sad synthesizers. Bonus points for neat speeding racecar sound sample. So good.

I like Ulrich Schnauss too, as someone mentioned above. Some of his stuff edges towards new agey, though. Not all the way there, but heading that way. To the degree he is known, it's for more than one song. My favorite by him is Blumenthal.

I love love love this 2009 Calvin Harris song called I'm Not Alone. Awesome keyboards kick in at 45 seconds.

I like Buraka Som Sistema's "Wawaba." Portuguese DJs, I think.

I really like Badmarsh's Indian-infused song "Jungle Sitars" off of "Untouchable Outcaste Beats vol 1" is really cool.

Continuing the eastern sounds, here's a cool Hefner remix of Omar Faruk Tekbilek's "Shashkin"

The only thing I ever heard by Lo Fidelity Allstars was the awesome "Battleflag" "Tell me is it time to get down... on yo muthafuckin' knees..."

Did The Normal ever do anything of note besides the classic "Warm Leatherette"?

Same for S-Express's classic "Theme From S-Express"

In the late 80s the guitarist and bassist for Fine Young Cannibals released a single dance-ish instrumental as Two Men A Drum Machine And A Trumpet called I'm Tired of Getting Pushed Around"

Another late 80s one-off was "Pump Up The Volume" by M.A.R.R.S.

I'm going to bend the rules a bit and call this one electronic, just because I love it and happen to be listening to it. Hey there's some keyboards and beats in there. Sushi by Kyle Andrews.

I imagine you know the Postal Service. If not, get thee hence. And hence. The whole album, really.
posted by Askr at 1:38 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I love me some Planet Mu. I can vouch for the beauty of the Cosmic Forces of Mu and Amμnition (discount mixCD). The label also released Children of Mu and Sacred Symbols of Mu, plus some lovely looking dubstep comps (if you're into that kinda thing).

Six Records Breaks Your Heart Again is the only release by Six Records, featuring (what I assume are still) exclusive tracks of beauty.

If you're digging for inspiration, you may want to see the artist pages on - scroll down to the Remixes and Tracks Appears On section, so you could find more remix singles and compilations to digest.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:07 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Single tracks of wonder: The Fear by µ-Ziq. Artist of interest: (Chris) Clark.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:14 PM on September 1, 2009

I cannot bend to your specific whims, but can offer some artists you may want to explore:

The Orb (the older, the better),
Orbital (the long version of The Box, and Halcyon, are nearly perfection IMHO)
William Orbit
(ok, I'll get off the "O"s)
Banco de Gaia
Lemon Jelly
Groove Armada (Chicago and At the River are notable tracks off Vertigo)
Thievery Corporation
Kruder/Dorfmeister (and spinoff Peace Orchestra)
Massive Attack
Higher Intelligence Agency

More lounge-y
Ursula 1000

Overall, I'd have to agree that compilations and samplers are the way to go. I had a lot of success close to 15 years ago with the emit compilations but imagine those would be very difficult to find. Likewise, the compilations put out by Waveform records.

And I am *SO* favoriting this post. Thanks for asking, I'm always looking to add to the collection!
posted by pkphy39 at 3:15 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Follow-up to pkphy39's comment on em:t - the label's output was limited, the lifespan short, and most of the releases are highly regarded, so you'd be lucky to find any of the gems below $30 USD (the new releases aren't as popular, that's why they're cheaper). Woob is the worst, with $50 for artist albums being a lucky find.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:45 PM on September 1, 2009

"Popcorn" by Hot Butter.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:22 PM on September 1, 2009

Ah, seconding everyone on the label sampler suggestions. In fact, it reminded me of a sampler I bought just for the cover art from Tigerbeat 6, Let's Lazertag Sometime. Some songs suck, some are brilliant, and when you find a brilliant song you try to find more from that artist only to find that their single is pretty much where it's at. And only at. That's how it is with most samplers, which sounds like what you're looking for.

So, here are the only worthwhile songs from Let's Lazertag Sometime:


posted by Juliet Banana at 7:09 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anything by Trance[]Control, a duo out of Gothenburg, Sweden. Here is a YT sample.
posted by Muirwylde at 7:52 PM on September 1, 2009

Alden Tyrell is pretty fantastic whenever, but his track "There May Be Dark Days Ahead" qualifies for me as the perfect song of which you speak... It's on a Clone Records compilation at least. I also like Michael Heilrath's soundtrack to Shoppen, but track 2 ("Wenn Man Sex Haben Will") is my favorite downlow electronic track maybe ever.
posted by mintcake! at 12:40 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. I've tried a few of the Tigerbeat and Xen Cuts samplers and had good luck with them - that's where I first discovered Interspecies Love from Kevin Blechdom. I'll look into more of those.

pkphy39: I think we're sharing the same mp3 folder, I'm into most of those artists as well.

Juliet Banana - funny you should mention that particular Kid606 track, it's one of my faves as well; my other favorite of his is mp3 killed the CD star, which is a huge mess but somehow works for me.

I'll throw out a few songs I'm listening to that fall into this category (perhaps due to my ignorance of the artist's entire discography):

Digitalism - ZDRLT (Rewind)
Tricky - Council Estate (Drums of Death Remix)
Houston Guy - Ragtag and Bobtail (sorry, no better link found)
Koonut Kalifee by Venetian Snares (I like other VS stuff but this is the catchiest song of his I've heard yet, and with Spock in heat no less)
William Orbit - John Cage's In a Landscape (don't like any of WO's other stuff)
Cut Copy - Hearts On Fire (Midnight Juggernauts Remix)
People Like Us - Bitter Dregs (I love PLU, but this is the song that keeps creeping onto my mixes)
Familjen - Det Snurrar I Min Skalle
Cornelius - Ape Shall Never Kill Ape - Balls out crazy and my far and away favorite Cornelius track.

Thanks for all the suggestions, I'm browsing my way through them now...
posted by benzenedream at 12:46 AM on September 2, 2009

OH, and you're reading the "bloghaus" music blogs and hypemachine, yes yes? I'd say blogs more for samples of songs from completely unknown/obscure artists with 400 friends on their Myspace Music page and no record deal, and hypem for endless remixes of popular songs by people you've never of. Unless it's a remix of a famous song by a famous remixer (ex: Crookers), in which case it'll be all over hypem for a week.

Check out Palms Out Sounds, Nashville Nights, and Cream Team for sure. I'm not going to go crazy with the linkage because most likely anybody as geeky as you are about music with an internet connection is currently overloaded with MP3 blogs.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:17 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

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