Surgeon — ‘From Farthest Known Objects’
Anthony Child sidesteps the heavy, club-laden 4/4 for something more altogether spacetime continuum; a sort of elasticized, future-funk repetition. Says the producer: “The music I could hear was actually the received transmissions of Pop Hits from those Distant Galaxies that were being played on their radio stations. I quickly recorded all that I could before losing the transmission.” There’s also something almost in-jokery– in an almost Autechre-esque style– to the album’s shadowy contours and track titles.
Radiohead — ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’
In some ways a low-key release, this record turned out to be the group’s most consistent LP in many a year. The subtle experimentation and electronic touches seem more coherent and organic when compared to the overrated ‘Kid A’; while the textures, from the ghostly, drifting choirs to the blowing bells and dusty, Hecker-like piano, somehow feel strangely distant and a little off-tack. The genius is how it all comes together in a consistent manner: a hotchpotch of ideas never sounded this complete.
Factory Floor — ’25 25′
Factory Floor return with a much improved, tighter sound. ’25 25′ is supremely locked-in, handsomely robotic, possibly even extra instinctive and diligent: retro and futurist; fresh and familiar. Motoring-along programmed beats, precise, playful hi-hats, sharp synth-funk, impenetrable vocals meaning nothing and everything: it’s all here, and it all sounds rather meticulously planned. And yet the record is at no point neither too clean, nor anything remotely approaching homogenous.
Huerco S. — ‘For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)’
A long, awkward title that’s a nuisance to type up, but this is where the frustration ends. ‘For Those of You…’ is curiously lovely; half awake, half dreaming ambient music that is impossible to skip any moments of. The music captivates the imagination, freshens the soul. A Sea of Love is typical in the way it slowly reveals, blurred but beautiful pictures emerge like strange flashbacks to childhood that seem fresh in the memory and yet impaired and impossible to grasp. Not all modern ambient records are worthy of your attention (there are many well constructed but positively boring, heard-it-before albums out there), but ‘For Those of you…’ is certainly a semi masterpiece in strange and intriguing beauty, that will never dull how many times one hears it. Softly gripping.
Ansome — ‘Stowaway’
If you thought Perc’s own semi opus of a couple of years ago, ‘The Power & the Glory’ was bloody heavy, this record– on his PercTrax imprint– is even harder and grubbier. Track titles such as Blackwater, Black Alley Sally, and The Pain Train (yikes!) also obvious pointers to how this beast sounds. From stop-start industrial clangs and tightly pulled grime to what sounds like hard-nosed techno on a runaway horror train, this is about as dark, non compromising a techno record released this year. And as techno music becomes an increasingly safe, cartel-of-interest money-making commodity made on a laptop by beautiful people based in Berlin, this album was just what the, err, doctor ordered; giving the scene a touch of much-needed bit of roughing up.
Plaid — ‘The Digging Remedy’
Warp Records perennials Andy Turner and Ed Handley’s Plaid project now onto their eighth studio LP. This is the Plaid we have come to know and love, but equally with a pinch or two of new ideas. The record is skilfully crafted, lots of mysteriously positioned, serpentine moods, and more of those strangely warm, if slightly off-kilter, melodies. There’s a lively flute on Lambswood, and glistening glockenspiel and pared guitar on Wen. Do Matter, meanwhile, is a broodingly assembled few minutes of floating electronic post-rock, The Bee a bouncy, quirky electro-rock shindig, and Melifer a crisp and curious, bob-along gem. Keep digging, lads.
Autechre — ‘elseq 1’
Five cuts clocking in at around 50 minutes, ‘elseq 1’ is another exhaustive and generally hard-edged set of Autechre tracks, bringing sinister-factory and unbalanced electronica to the masses in true hard-to-decipher, but pleasurable, non compromising form: drunken, befuddled; like a riot going off in your head.
Bitori — ‘Legend of Funana’
Dating back to the time of Portuguese colonialism funaná is the name of the Cape Verdean based music that celebrates that land’s unique music style and culture, while helping to vanquish any dispirited moods. Awarded a special reissue via the Analog Africa label, ‘Legend of Funaná’ was recorded in Amsterdam, and puts these celebrated, joyful tunes together on one recommended disc. Funaná is noted for its decorated, uplifting folksy strains and simple-code rootsy rhythms. Accordion and ferrinho are permanent fixtures here; the identifiable music creating near constant foundations around which the rest of is built. Bet it sounds great live.
Mark Pritchard — ‘Under The Sun’
Perfect for cherry-picking, this LP. Pritchard has tried his hand at almost every electronic genre you can think of, but for the most part he sticks to sweeping, slow-building ambience and electro-folk dreaminess over the course of these 16 tracks (possibly too many, leading to a bit of inconsistency and indulgence here and there). The vocal addled tunes are arguably the album’s less interesting, and a chunk of the disc admittedly drifts by, requiring an almost mediation technique form of listening. But Cycles of Nine’s pastel-coloured, circler prettiness, the modest, science fiction cinematic analogue of Rebel Angels, and the amazing, 8-minute long Ems, which sounds like it was created by individuals not of this planet, all help make the album worthy of this list. The year’s best album artwork, though.
Underworld — ‘Barbara Barbara We face A Shining Future’
Nineties techno heroes return with their most crucial album in two decades. ‘Barbara Barbara We Face A Shining Future’ is beautifully positive in difficult times: from its Fall like opener I Exhale, to the pushing hypnagogia of Low Burn, it would be a shame if this album was overlooked. There is hope.