Try measuring the incommensurable, that’s what this selection should feel like. This year again, the wealth of sounds merging from all sides of the planet, courtesy of gifted newcomers and accomplished musicians, has been literally overwhelming.
Once again boiling our team lists down to a single top 10 has been an utter conflict of love and duty but here is our attempt. From hallucinogenic ambient techno to jazz-infused electronic and bold lo-fi house groovers onto unearthly deep-house gems, these are our favourite albums.
10. Sa Pa ‘Fuubutsushi’ [Forum]
As the title alludes, this is very much an album of memories and reminders – perhaps a collection of that jumble of abstract sounds that rattle around the echo chamber of your mind after a big night out dancing. A brittle, broken audio hallucinogen – mixing the outside world with the club and creating a compelling netherworld in the process.
9. Dwig ‘From Here To There’ [Dwig]
From start to finish ‘From Here To There’ is a deep house masterclass. It’s immediately accessible yet generous to the attentive listener, excelling in the mesmeric capabilities of the genre while pushing a varied, refreshing palette.
8. Heathered Pearls ‘Body Complex’ [Ghostly International]
Jakub Alexander’s second album ‘Body Complex’ produced under his Heathered Pearls alias is ultimately music for deep thought. From start to finish, “Body Complex” is a work of art, full of imperfections and beauty, to be digested and viewed from differing angles.
7. Palmbomen II – Palmbomen II [Beats In Space]
Just when words like analog, lo-fi house and ‘recorded straight from hardware’ become so ubiquitous that they make you want to go foetal and listen to precision-engineered techno in a padded cell, along comes an album like Palmbomen II to take the wind right out of your sanctimonious sails. For his second album, Kai Hugo has created an album, which is much like the glut of retro house that has recently occupied more than its fair share of record shelves. But at the same time, it isn’t.
6. 45 ACP ‘Change Of Tone’ [L.I.E.S.]
With the L.I.E.S. output machine being utterly relentless, it’s easy to have a few releases slip under the radar. ”Change Of Tone” is one of those pieces where mere words cannot capture how well constructed it is. So consider this haphazard arrangement of basic English vocabulary to be the waving of a flare; ”Change Of Tone” is really rather good and most certainly not for sleeping on.
5. Levon Vincent ‘Levon Vincent’ [Novel Sound]
In his debut, Levon Vincent has set out every pitfall on a wall and shot them away with unerring accuracy. The delivery of the album has become the talk of the internet and the content will deservingly forever outlast the quick to fade thralls of social media. Whether it is digital or physical, this has to end up in your collection.
4. Gonno ‘Remember The Life Is Beautiful’ [Endless Flight]
Melody is at the forefront of Gonno’s musical production and DJ sets. The entire album revolves around whirring synths, beautiful layers and delicate stabs. This is a gorgeous album and one that is increasingly relevant as we begin to see the links between electronic music in Europe and Asia become tighter.
3. Hunee ‘Hunch Music’ [Rush Hour]
With this succession of deftly-polished yet gigantic-sounding miniatures, there is something almost demiurgic in the way Hunee juggles with both space and time. It’s in the details and proportions given to his arrangements and narrative shifts that the grandeur of his tune-making suddenly feels paradoxically measurable and incommensurable. Hunee’s appetite for music is pantagruelian andHunch Music makes for a superb celebration of both sides of a musician’s work: the never-ending matrix and the punctual accomplishment. A masterpiece.
2. Floating Points ‘Elenaia’ [Pluto]
One thing’s sure, Elaenia will remain as a defining moment in Floating Point’s body of work. Not only in the most practical sense of the word – the album being quite irreproachable in its technicity, but more than anything because its graceful craft and febrile mystique make it an absolute timeless object. Juggling with neo-classical elements and free-jazz tropes with unremitting elegance, Shepherd’s Elaenia builds an open-world-wide standpoint which seems to never run low on subtle details and epiphanies with eerie insight.
1. DJ Richard ‘Grind’ [Dial]
Whilst DJ Richard’s previous EPs showed music more sophisticated than your typical club music, they were calibrated for dancing, and Grind is a departure from that. DJs will find some great club tracks if they choose to skim it for parts, but that would be to miss the holistic effect of the album. This is narrative techno, and in typical artistic form, the narrative of conflict draws us inexorably towards reconciliation. This is heard on ‘Vampire Dub’, a confection of twinkling synth work, gauzy keys that leave behind calming reverb trails, and bubbling mechanical accents. Here the feelings of displacement are left behind, resolution can be found in a composition which is nakedly beautiful. This is the deserved conclusion to a great artistic accomplishment; a dance album with no fat, no misfires, every tune essential, surprising and rewarding. We hear darkness and conflict resolved through artistic expression, and we find peace.