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First Listen: 'Music For Shut-Ins'

NPR icon by Andy Beta
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Back in the winter of 2010, in one of the earliest interviews Ron Morelli gave about his upstart record label Long Island Electrical Systems (or L.I.E.S. for short), he summed up his opinion about being social in New York City: "It just makes more sense to stay home and try to work on music than go play records at a bar." In three short years, L.I.E.S. has gone on to garner both critical accolades and a ravenous fanbase (snatching up their limited edition 12" singles the moment they hit the web), and it finds Morelli regularly DJing club dates throughout Europe and overseeing a roster that expands well beyond the borough of Brooklyn.

For all of its expanded worldview though, Music for Shut-Ins - a two-disc compilation of this year's vinyl-only releases - shows how that hermetic spirit still informs the music. The beats are undeniable, but they are also decidedly lo-fi and interior. Chicago's Svegalisghost re-imagines his hometown's acid sound on "High Heel Sleaze" but makes its beats and keyboards sound like they're suffering from an upper-respiratory infection. Brooklyn producer Marcos Cabral's 12-minute epic "Dancing on Manhattan" juxtaposes the track title with a sound decidedly more introspective; while its jacking rhythms will no doubt inspire movement, Cabral also allows for an industrial haze of synths to slowly overtake the track and give it this forlorn feel.

While both of these producers appeared on L.I.E.S. American Noise compilation from last year, Shut-Ins shows off a bumper crop of talent, ranging from new acts like Greg Beato and Beau Wanzer to North Carolina noisemaker Samantha's Vacation. But the comp also gets some help from allies like the Netherlands' analog synth legend Legowelt (see his bubbling track "Teen Romance") and Washington D.C. duo Beautiful Swimmers, who takes the gated snare sound of early '90s hip-hop and inverts it for "The Zoo."

One of the label's bigger "hits" this year comes courtesy of previously unheard producer Florian Kupfer. On his track "Feelin," he uses the simplest of tools: distorted hi-hat with kick, and a female voice singing "I can't stop this feeling." And Terekke's "Amaze" sounds like it's echoing out of a cave, using fragments of an old soul song for an uncanny effect not unlike the dreamlike productions of dubstep master Burial.

While electronic dance music remains best experienced in public and out on a dance floor, Morelli and his roster of "outsider house" producers still sound most comfortable holed-up in their studios, hunched over analog gear, trapped in their own heads. But it's a space you won't soon want to escape.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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