The last 12 months have seen us indulged with outstanding long players from artists new and old, and as the holiday season tradition goes, we’ve drawn up a list of albums which we feel are the Best Albums of 2021.
Of course, we cannot feature every album we fell for, or which meant something to us. This end of year list goes some way to show the albums that soundtracked our year, notable releases which gave us inspiration.
[KRTM] – It Will Make The World A Better Place
A Space for Sound – Sometimes underwater (feels like home)
Aboutface – °s
Alva Noto – HYbr:ID I
Andy Stott – Never The Right Time
Appleblim – Infinite Hieroglyphics
Asymmetrical – Blind Faith
Aya – im hole
Baaz – Alley
Bendike Giske – Cracks
Bicep – Isles
Biosphere – Angel’s Flight
Bisk – Vacation Package
Blank Gloss – Melt
Brain Rays – Zesty Enterprises
CK – Tracking Patience
CZN – Luxury Variations
Cass. – Ambient Music For A Young Girl
Charlie Charlie – Little Things
Chihei Hatakayama – Late Spring
Christoph de Babalon – 044 (Hilf Dir Selbst!)
City & i.o – Chaos is God Neighbour
Civilistjävel! – 4-5
DJ Pitch – It’s Not What You Said It’s Because You Spoke
DJ Plead – Relentless Trills
DJ Seinfeld – Mirrors
DVS1 – Beta Sensory Motor Rhythm
Dalibor Cruz – Riddled With Absence
Darkside – Spiral
Dean Blunt – Black Metal 2
Dean Hurley – Concrete Feather
December – DÉBUT
Domenico Crisci – Orgasma
Donnacha Costello – Together Is The New Alone
Downstairs J – Basement, etc…
Dubharp – Spiral Heights
Edward – Turning
Eilien – Digital Lovers
Emmanuel – Force of Nature
Eomac – Cracks
Etari – Rainbow Eucalyptus
Euphonic – Low Orbit Archives
Exael – Flowered Knife Shadows
FUMU – Almost, Never, Nearly Where?
FYI Chris – Earth Scum
Facta – Blush
Fear_E – Mechanical Music for Brighter Days
Feral – The End
Five Rituals – V Rituals
Flaty – Railz
Florian Kupfer – Phantom Pain
Florian T M Zeisig – Music for Parents
GEORGIA – State Effect (Accel)
Gantz – Vanilla Nightmare
Gi Gi – Lumino Pleco
GiGi FM – Kiwi Synthesis Diary 21k
Granul – Cypher
Grouper – Shade
Guy Contact – Drinking From The Mirage
HTRK – Rhinestones
Haramia Tapes – Daydreaming
Headlock – Dragged Away
Helm – Axis
Herbert – Musca
Hiro Kone – Silvercoat the throng
Holy Other – Lieve
Inhmost – The Meaning Of.....
Inkasso – Zeichen im Schacht der verschleierten Tatsachen
Irakli – Major Signals
J – my seat and weep
J. Albert – Phase Portait
Jake Muir – Mana
James Ginzburg – Crystallise, A Frozen Eye
Jean-Louis Huhta – Wormhole Of Time
John Tejada – Year Of The Living Dead
Joy Orbison – Still Slipping Vol. 1
Kentaro Hayashi – Peculiar
Lawrence – Birds On The Playground
Leif – 9 Airs
Leron Carson – Under The Conditions
Li Yilei – OF
Lone – Always Inside Your Head
Loscil – Clara
Luca Durán – Libertas
Lukas Koenig – Buffering Synapsis
Lutto Lento – LEGENDO
Lyra Pramuk – Delta
MM/KM (Mix Cup & Kassem Mosse) – TBG11
MMM – On The Edge
MPU101 – ITX022
Madteo – Head Gone Wrong By Noise
Mano Le Tough – At The Moment
Maoupa Mazzocchetti – Uxy Dosing
Marco Shuttle – Cobalt Desert Oasis
Masayoshi Fujita – Bird Ambience
Misantrop – Reproaching the Absurd
Moin – Moot!
Moor Mother – Black Encyclopedia of the Air
Moritz von Oswald Trio – Dissent
Mr. G – The Forced Force Is Not The True Force
Muqata’a – Kamil Manqus
Nikolaienko – Rings
Nikolay Kozlov – OUTTAKES21
Nthng – Unfinished
Oliver Torr – Fragility of Context
Oliver Torr – Trans Europe Postal Express
Origamibiro – Miscellany
Other Lands – Sounds For Isolated Souls
PST – Workshop 31
Packed Rich – Ilian Beat Series 001
Para One’s – SPECTRE
Patricia – Blue Ridge
Pendant – To All Sides They Will Stretch Out Their Hands
Phew – New Decade
Picnic – picnic
Poltrock & de Roover – Vacuum
Prequel – Love Or (I Heard You Like Heartbreak)
Priori – Your Own Power
RONCE – Malignant
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement – Flying Fish Ambience
Raw_M.T – Vulvic Planet
Rắn Cạp Đuôi – Ngủ Ngày Ngay Ngày Tận Thế
Relaxer – Concealer
Reymour – Leviosa
Ripatti – Fun Is Not A Straight Line
Rival Consoles – Overflow
STL – Lost In Musik
SVN – SVN
SW – blewLIPs
Sa Pa – Borders of the Sun
Sabla – Music For Melted Floors
Saint Abdullah – To Live A La West
Sandro Mussida – Decay Music n. 3: Rueben
Sansibar – Sans Musique
Sarah Harris – Mirage
SeekersInternational Presents Ragga Preservation Society – Worldwide Sound
Seven Davis Jr. – I See The Future
Skee Mask – Pool
Sleep D x Ad Lib Collective – Flashed Glass
Slikback – MELT
soFa, Houschyar & Okay Temiz – Şelale
Soft As Snow – Bit Riot
Space Ghost – Dance Planet
Steve O’Sullivan – Green Trax
Tau Contrib – Encode
Throwing Snow – Dragons
Tiziano Popoli – Burn the Night / Bruciare la Notte: Original Recordings, 1983–1989
Topdown Dialectic – Vol. 3
Täpp – i like what i do // i do what i like
Uffe – Words and Endings
Ursula Sereghy – OK Box
Valentino Mora – Underwater
Venus Ex Machina – Lux
WESQK COAST – Clava
Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan – Interim Report, March 1979
Worriedaboutsatan – Providence
Yeong Die – Weather Z
Zvrra – Bizzaroland
10. Vivian Koch
‘Beyond Contact‘ is akin to hearing your all time favourite euphoric breakdown, except it is like glancing at a naked Edison bulb, the after-image of the filament ghosting across your vision after you shut your eyes, glowing purple and green in the void behind your eyelids.
‘Beyond Contact’ was released 28 May via AD 93. Order from Bandcamp.
9. PLO Man & C3D-E
‘Public Static V.’
Acting Press marked their return to 2021 with a collaborative album from label co-founders PLO Man and C3D-E. Pressed as a two-sided LP, ‘Public Static V.‘ is an A/V performance that was written, performed and recorded live in 2019 at Linecheck festival in Milan, Italy. Spanning 43 minutes, the music contained within traverses chill-out ambient, ethereal electronics, field recordings and flecks of jungle, resulting in a timeless LP that never ceases to amaze.
‘public static v.’ was released 2 February via Acting Press. View on Discogs.
‘Pilled Up on a Couple of Doves’
Shelter Press have a great many fantastic modern ambient records in their repertoire, but with the addition of PDPIII’s ‘Pilled Up on a Couple of Doves’ (Britton Powell, Huerco S. and Lucy Railton) the label truly outdid itself. The overpowering immensity of this album elevated it above fierce competition, the depths of its sound an insurmountable wall that we found ourselves returning to the shadow of repeatedly throughout the year.
‘Pilled Up on a Couple of Doves’ was released 9 April via Shelter Press. Order from Bandcamp.
7. Loraine James
Perhaps it’s little surprise that an album written in the summer of 2020 became one of the most inimitable records of the year, but it’s even less surprising to see Loraine James once again strike an unparalleled chord. The artist has hurtled up the hierarchy of vital electronic music since her first album in 2019, and on ‘Reflections‘ the London-based musician proved exactly why. As much as these few words fail to properly account for the excellence of this album, listening will provide all the proof you need.
‘Reflection’ was released 4 June via Hyperdub. Order from Bandcamp.
‘How much time it is between you and me?’
Aleksandra Zakharenko’s music has been a calling point for us for a few years now. Between her formal releases and her regular Bandcamp missives, Perila frequently shows us new depths to her music. Her debut for Smalltown Supersound struck a powerful chord comprised of the cornerstones of her music: lysergic dreamstate spoken word, fathomless depth, and a sense of peace, all of which combine for a superlative example of Zakharenko’s sound.
‘How much time it is between you and me?’ was released 25 June via Smalltown Supersound. Order from Bandcamp.
5. Space Afrika
Following up from the well received, self-released ‘hybtwibt?‘ Where they started crafting the sounds that come into fruition so well in Honest Labour. With purpose, Josh Reidy & Joshua Inyang aka Space Afrika move into intricate spaces for this album. The production is crisp, the influences are many, the genres are bent, and a real strength to the album is the choice in lyricists, where the fit of vocals to production is nothing short of tasteful selection.
‘Honest Labour’ was released 27 August via Dais Records. Order a copy from Bandcamp.
A Russian producer with scarce output, Hoavi in fact released two albums within close proximity in 2021, but it was his record for Peak Oil that has come out tops for us. From the outset of ‘Flay‘ to the the closing of ‘Streamline‘, Hoavi reminded us of the proximity of one genre to the next, and demonstrated how to carve a neat line from ambient music to more dancefloor-oriented sounds, all without letting the listener up for air. Although there are moments of nostalgia, Hoavi swerves repeating old patterns, instead weaving a new tapestry that feels utterly timeless.
‘Invariant’ was released 8 October via Peak Oil. Order from Bandcamp.
3. Ben Bondy
‘Glans Intercum‘ feels like an exploration of writing music for filtering out the loudest parts of modern society with engrossing, untrackable rhythms, all the while balanced with frequencies that seem to nullify parts of itself. A golden example of the sound West Mineral has been carving out for itself, and a personal best for Bondy, ‘Glans Intercum‘ sets an inspiring precedent for ambient music’s apparent “resurgence”, directing attentions towards a future of the genre hybridised with an essence of the dancefloor.
‘Glans Intercum’ was released 22 July via West Mineral Ltd. Order from Bandcamp.
‘Reflections On Intrinsic Value’
With ‘Reflections on Intrinsic Value’, Ronan at last gave us a release broad enough to showcase the numerous facets to his sonic identity, roaming through downtempo, breakbeat and jungle, dusted with overtones of ambience and tastes of trance. One of several releases this year through his own label, Eternal Ocean, Ronan’s efforts here pay off in uncompromisingly high quality, with each track hallmarked by a certain blend of accessibility, nostalgic influence, and a foresight that places him at the head of the pack when it comes to the swathes of jungle-influenced music arriving in the last year.
‘Reflections on Intrinsic Value’ was released 8 October via Eternal Ocean. Order from Bandcamp.
1. Rat Heart
Every once in a while a record comes along that effectively has no peer group, creating an itch in the musical tastebuds that only a return to the original source will scratch. On the surface an unassuming white label, upon listening ‘Rat Heart‘ opened up the gates to a soulful world full of singular character that we’re rarely treated to, loaded with freestyle cuts, red-lined vocals, and a lo-fi soul that retains its purity through peerless honesty, thus shirking the quagmire of music fetishising that style. A clear disdain for the myriad musicians emulating the status quo in the hunt for fame worn on its sleeve, ‘Rat Heart”s inimitable flavours had us crawling back continuously since release with a hunger only satiable through the ritualistic listening of this record.
‘Rat Heart’ was released 15 July via Shotta Tapes. Order from Bandcamp.