Snow is an integral part of the character of NYC. A city teeming with transplants, you get this collective anxiety right after a fresh snowfall, as the winter drags on with throngs of people hotly anticipating 100 degree days that smell of dog piss and uncollected garbage. Nah, if you ask me, summer in the city is overrated. What rules is the sunny day after a snowfall, when the white blanketed streets look cleaner, storybook almost. The avenues, less crowded with hurried masses and less visible concrete, appear more rural than usual. Shit, there could be grass underneath all of that snow!

Yep, it was perfect time to discover Aether‘s new album Artifacts. Producer Diego Chavez probably doesn’t deal with too much snow in San Antonio, TX but nevertheless has released the first great record of 2009, rockists be damned. I often wax poetic about the Headz comps from Mo’ Wax back in the early 90s, but that’s a good reference point here (even Pitchfork got it right!). Chavez tempers the heavy boom-bap breaks of classic abstract hip-hop (think Shadow, Cam, Crush) with just enough melancholy vibes provided via guitar, keys, and vocals. The best contemporary producers are not just beatmakers anymore, but rather songwriters,¬† who are forced to depend less on the loops they manufacture and more on the verses and choruses they create. With his other great project A.M. Architect and what seems to be an intelligent, thriving electronic scene, I suddenly have to add San Antonio too my list of cities to keep an eye on.

Today’s post “Variance” captures the mood perfectly but this is a record meant to be listened to from start to finish (oh, the horror!) with unexpectedly funky BPM changes (“It Was”) and nods to Aether’s many influences (“Makeshift Sanctuary” could be part II to Blockhead’s “Sunday Seance.”)

NOTE: Thanks to a comment from Radiolaire, I was able to track down the source of the beautiful piano sample in this post to the soundtrack for the film Babel put together by Gustavo Santaolalla. The track is called “Bibo No Azora/Endless Flight and Babel” by Everton Nelson, Gustavo Santaolalla, Jacques Morelenbaum & Ryuichi¬† Sakamoto.

RIYL: DJ Shadow, Blockhead, Nobody, Rjd2, DJ Krush, Boards of Canada

BUY: Amazon