Well you just know that we’re just going to look back on 2017 and think ‘ugh, how did that happen?’ From America falling for a dim witted snake oil salesman, to our weak willed prime minister wasting 122 million dollars to get permission to do the right thing, to the world suddenly having an epiphany and realising that sexual assault and harassment are actually bad – 2017 felt like twelve months of having to tolerate the stupidest most morally bankrupt people in power doing the worst things imaginable then escalating.
But how did music fare? In the Third Man, Orson Welles high up on the Ferris Wheel in Vienna offered these pearls of wisdom: “…In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
As usual there’s complete disagreement between all of the Cyclic contributors, but that’s the way we like it. What follows is a sprawling, quite mad list of some of the most incredible sounds (and even a couple of books and films – complete with links to buy on Bandcamp and a sample track on YouTube wherever possible) our writers have encountered for the first time this year. And yes, despite all the madness we’ve had a great year.
Thanks to all the artists who still possess the passion and drive to create in these turbulent times, and to our writers who they inspire, challenge and confuse enough to put pen to page, and also to you for reading and caring about what can at times be marginal, but is always interesting. Cuckoo.
Bob Baker Fish (Features Editor)
Abdou El Omari – Nuits d’Été avec Abdou El Omari (Radio Martiko)
Years ago I had been looking for this in Morocco, but it had long since left. I’m a sucker for organ albums and this mix of Farfisa and traditional percussion from 1976 is just beautiful.
Joe Henderson – Elements (Milestone/Jazz Dispensary)
I’ve been obsessed with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson for a while now and have picked up everything of his I could find, primarily due to his collaboration, Earth with Alice Coltrane on this album. I’d worn youtube out, with Coltrane on tanbura, and Charlie Haden’s strident bass, Henderson is just all over this. So I was pretty happy to find a reissue of my grail this year. Early 70’s jazz in particular just fascinated me this year, it was the edge of fusion where electric instruments, an acknowledgement of other cultures and a new found spirituality crept into their sounds. Les Mccann’s amazing Invitation to Openness was also discovered and received a thrashing, and whilst I’m not proud of it, there was a brief sojourn into joys and pitfalls of the early (ish) CTI label. I don’t care what anyone says, George Benson’s White Rabbit is genius.
People Like Us – Abridged Too Far (Discrepant)
People Like Us is British collagist, sound artist, genius Vicki Bennett who creates pastiches of pop culture disembowels them and mines them for absurdity. This was from a performance in 2003 though was released this year for the first time on vinyl. It’s equal parts maddening and hilarious. This is my sense of humour.
Oneohtrix Point Never – Good Time (Warp)
The Safdie brothers Good Times harkens back to the edgy urban anti authoritarian 1970’s American cinema. It’s a relentlessly bleak adrenalin kick, starring a revelatory Robert Pattison (Twilight) as a seedy criminal having a night from hell. Yet it’s elevated by Oneohtrix Point Never’s Tangerine Dream on roid rage, an intoxicating overwhelming all encompassing quagmire of melodic electronic squiggles, and thundering bass. The brothers turn his music up to 12 and just let it run. Amazing.
Yamasuki – Le Monde Fabuleux Des Yamasuki (The Great Thunder)
I heard Yama Yama at the start of an episode of Season 2 of Fargo. It was insane. Epic, funky and impossible to place. I waited for the credits, took note, googled and was dismayed to find that it was ridiculously rare and expensive. Cut to 2017, the year of the reissue and sure enough here it is. When I bought it, Dave from the record store said ‘if you only buy one Belgian made Japanese concept album featuring a choir of kids, then this is it.’ He was right. It is it.
Seb Chan (Founder)
This year is well on its way to being the year I’ve listened to the most music ever. Maybe that says something about the chaotic state of the world right now. On the upside, I made some great discoveries this year and feel pretty excited about a number of artists, even though the ability for independent artists to make a living from their music continues to decline.
The Orbweavers – Deep Leads (Mistletone)
I turned up early for a gig in Melbourne and was completely bewitched by The Orbweavers. Deep Leads is their 4th LP and is a gem of urban Australian folk music. Their singer is a museum conservator and her songs revolve around historical explorations of local places accompanied by lush arrangements.
Penelope Trappes – Penelope One (Optimo Music)
Another great release on Optimo’s label which is the solo project of Penelope Trappes from Glasgow’s The Golden Filter. Trappes’ solo album has none of the traits of TGF’s scuzzy electronics and instead references This Mortal Coil for fragile acoustic piano lullabies.
Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology (Fire Records)
Weaver’s music will be immediately of interest to those into Stereolab and Broadcast. Her 4th album is more fully realised and less sample-based than the previous, and her songcraft gets stronger with each release.
Various – Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs presents English Weather (Ace)
Stanley and Wiggs, better known for their work as Saint Etienne, are masterful curators and crate diggers. English Weather is the latest in a long series of compilations of odd music from the 60s and 70s. Based around the conceit of an English pub circa 1975, English Weather is a great collection of unpolished b-side gems of prog, psych and folk. Great autumn listening.
JD Emmanuel – Solid Dawn (Kvist)
Pauline Anna Strom – Trans Millenia Consort (Either Ship Records)
More Californian New Age synthesists rescued from obscurity by crate digging labels. JD Emmanuel’s Solid Dawn actually came out in 2009 but I only chanced upon it this year. It gathers together a selection of his most ambient and drone-styled tracks from 1978-1981 previously released on limited run cassettes – although Emmanuel is now active on Bandcamp with most formats of his later catalogue easily available. Pauline Anna Strom got recently conpiled by Rvng Intl but her 1982 cassette Trans Millenia Consort is worth tracking down in its own right.
The Irresistible Force – Kira Kira (LSD)
I was very suprrised to find Mixmaster Morris announcing a new album after nearly 20 years via his Twitter late this year. Even more surprising was that it is a really valuable addition to his discography. Although it sounds like it could have been released anytime from 1995 to now, its a warm bath of quirky ambient dub well worth luxuriating in for a while.
Purdy – In Transit (Soft Records)
Purdy’s 6th album continues his prolific balearic streak. Although only six tracks, these are sprawling proggy epics. Its a little hard to get if you’re outside Australia but should be on Spotify. His earlier albums are all on Bandcamp.
Dmitry Ergafov – Comprehension of Light (Fat Cat)
Here 130701’s curatorial skills bring together a really solid set of pieces from Ergafov and his Comprehension of Light is a fantastic introduction to this young composer who has also released on 1631 and other labels.
raven – the night is dark, the night is silent, the night is bright, the night is loud (Art As Catharsis)
Cyclic writer Peter Hollo’s solo project finally drops another record and despite his strong distaste for both vinyl and 4/4 beats, his new LP would do pretty well ‘on the vinyls’ and a couple of tracks would be pretty easy for DJ use. This aside, Peter’s love of chopped amen breaks and running his cello through endless effects is on full show here.
James Holden & the Animal Spirits – self-titled (Border Community)
Holden’s evolution from prog-house to this – an almost live sounding mix of kosmiche and free jazz – is one of the more interesting artist trajectories to trace. His early knack for melody has dissolved into an equally impressive knack for dissonance and pent up energy. I loved his last LP and this one is even better.
Equiknoxx – Colon Man (DDS)
Currently the hottest production duo in Jamaica, Equiknoxx’s latest LP, Colon, is really a collection of instrumentals curated for non-dancehall listeners. That’s not a criticism, but coming out on Demdike Stare’s DDS label, this is all off-kilter and composed of neatly selected samples more than heavy bottom-end waist winders – instead idot matrix printers, bleeps, and a snippet of Walter Schuman’s soundtrack for 60s horror Night of the Hunter.
RX-101 – Like Yesterday/Transmission (Suction Records)
Otherwise mystery producer Brainwaltzera came into prominence this year with inclusion of his tracks in some Aphex Twin DJ sets. This LP is full of classic sounds that could be Afx or U-Ziq. In a similar vein Dutch producer RX-101 released 4 EPs of spiky retro Rephlex style braindance electro throughout 2016 & 2017 which are now collected over these two LPs for Suction Records. There’s some great Afx-style moments with nods to the mid 1990s especially in the percussion choices, melodic constructions and squealing acid.
Buddy Peace – The Middle of The World, Whole House Freeze, Stay Frosty mixtapes (Self Released)
Buddy Peace has never really stopped making beats but since the mid 2000s the hype around his sound has died right down as the kids got mor einterested in big drops rather than dusty samples. This year he was especially prodyctive dorpping three great mixtapes on his bandcamp. The Middle Of The World was pitched as an alterantive soundtrack to Moonlight, while Whole House Freeze and Stay Frosty are just good chopped up beats from dusty rock records.
Roger Robinson – Dog Heart City (Jahtari)
Roger Robinson’s purple patch continues with his second album in collaboration with Disrupt and the Jahtari label. Dog Heart City is an ode to Brexit Britain and a hollowed out, gentrified London. This, like 2015’s Dis Side Ah Town, is the perfect pairing of street poetry and Disrupt’s 8-bit dub. If I had to choose one record this year, this would probably be it.
Peter Hollo (Website Editor)
Five new musical obsessions for 2017:
Simon Fisher Turner
It’s ridiculous that SFT was not an obsession of mine earlier – and I was aware of snippets of his work here & there. But it took the release of Giraffe by Editions Mego to trigger me to dive deep into his back catalogue. While his earliest stuff is weird ’60s pop, arcane gothic soundtrack works and so on, there comes a point where he’s using the studio as an instrument, melding his skills in classical orchestration, soundtrack-style sonic evocation, and studio trickery into endlessly fascinating liminal works. The glitchy digital fuckery of Lana Lara Lata is a particular highlight for me, but there’s something of most of the sides of SFT on Giraffe.
https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=YQ5J7Ld9fM8&list=PL8OLNhDAXl Gt3TYW5NTWU_O3Xc0oK-GBs&index=13
The wonderfully odd duo of Valentina Magaletti (percussion, electronics) and Tom Relleen (bass, electronics) are basically a psych/post-punk rhythm section set free of all constraints. I had the pleasure of discovering their music being played at Flashback Records in Islington recently – but despite this unusual introduction, I probably ought to have known of them already. Magaletti has played consistently on the records of Raime, and recently collaborated with Wire’s Edvard Graham Lewis and Matthew Simms and Coil’s Thighpaulsandra on the chaotic out-rock project UUUU. Tomaga create arcane & ever-surprising works gregariously from all manner of sounds, always with an underpinning of rhythmic momentum.
I was aware of the Swedish-American cellist Helena Espvall via her work with Espers, and her trio with Espers’ Meg Baird and fellow folk singer Sharon Kraus, but I hadn’t properly explored her ouevre until I encountered her superb side on Tandem Tapes’ split cassette series this year (side-note: Jakarta-based ex-pat Aussie Morgan McKellar’s Tandem Tapes is one of the best sources of exploratory music around at the moment). Espvall uses cello and other stringed instruments (guitar, zither) with loop pedals and other effects, drawing equally from psych-folk and psych-noise.
Sydney’s burgeoning new electronic music scene
Sydney has a healthy history of electronic music, both for the dancefloor and off it, and the more experimental ends have been satisfied in the past by the likes of Severed Heads, Scattered Order, Couchblip, Frigid/Cryogenesis, and more recently the likes of Seekae at the poppier end of the spectrum and Black Vanilla & others on the dancefloor. Right now there seems to be an upsurge of extremely talented young producers mixing sound design and bedroom electronics with dancefloor styles and industrial tendencies – e.g. Hannah Lockwood & Gareth Psaltis’s Deep Seeded Records, releasing their own duo phile and then Phoebe Twiggs’ debut EP. They’re tracking similar scenes in Berlin & elsewhere, but with their own energy and creativity.
It’s definitely embarrassing to add this French doom group as a new obsession, considering how much time they’ve spent in Australia – but my knowledge of metal is only slowly percolating outwards, perhaps strangely via a love of noise and breakcore rather than the other way round. Fronted by the brilliant singer & artist Emily Bresson, Monarch have a way with epic, sludgey doom metal, with lugubriously slow riffing and alternately snarling & beautiful vocals. Lucky for me there’s a big back catalogue to ingest now.
It was a tale of two seasons for me in 2017. Winter and Spring.
Cigarettes after Sex – self-titled (Partisan Records)
Band names rarely make an impact on me, but this one is super fitting because while I’m not a smoker I have taken a drag of a cigarette and I know that heady feeling you get instantly. Add in ‘after sex’ and it’s a blissed-out combination you’re talking right there. The initial single from Cigarettes after Sex’s self-titled album drew me in, ‘Each time you fall in love’ and with my heart captured ‘Apocalypse’ broke it fittingly into pieces. I love the hazy dream pop melodies of this outfit. YAS.
Slowdive – self-titled (Dead Oceans)
The news trickled through that Slowdive had made a comeback and I’m sure glad they did. This is their fourth album and it punches me in the heart (in a great way.) Shoegaze to perfection. Sugar for the pill such an apt track name and perhaps could have been the album title.
Fourtet – New Energy (Text Records)
Confession time, I’ve never gotten over the brief love affair I experienced while living in London with London. A place where I could see Fourtet and his contemporaries play fairly frequently and I’d dance till dawn when he was on the bill at East (and later South) London club nights. I really enjoy his take on electronic beats and he’s quite the master of mixing minimalist to floor stomping tracks. If I’m honest, Kieran and I have probably aged according to similar time stamps and New Energy suits my current settled-down state of being and most likely is reflective of the life stage we’re both in these days. But the hark back to London times is felt in track SW9 9SL and overall the album is clever and surprising in all the right measurements.
Odesza – A Moment Apart (Counter, Ninja Tune, Foreign Family Collective)
From the spoken word intro to the final note on this album, Odesza demonstrates why they’re my favourite electronic duo of 2017. I saw them live just as the album was released and oh my gosh, I’ve not danced with reckless abandon like that for such a long time. The high-vibrational beats layered with horns and keys ahhhh it’s a magic combination. I absolutely ADORE the title track and feel that the euphoria it prompts is akin to running around Central Park in high summer in New York or just even strolling down Pitt Street in Sydney, I feel alive with this track. The variety of musical styles is explored and the samples and guest vocalists add the light and shade that an album of electronic music demands. Highly impressive, cannot wait for Laneway in 2018 to dance in the open air spaces with Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight maestros for twilight. I’m hoping!
The Horrors – Single: Something to Remember me by (Caroline International)
I’m sad and embarrassed to mention I didn’t actually get around to listening to the entire album from The Horrors. But I should because this track is my song of the year. I’d say it is narrowly tied with Odesza’s A Moment Apart, but it has all the makings of my song of the year. Synthesizer and lyrics that make you question why a relationship ended, but yet why you should look ahead to the future for new adventures. It’s kind of in the vein of old school Cut Copy (a little bit.) Very catchy hook!
The Justified Ancients of MuMu
23 years after taking a vow of creative silence, pranksters Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty returned in 2017 with a stream of conceptual weirdness. With a series of happenings – Badger Kull and Burn the Shard, a new book, 2023: A Trilogy, becoming undertakers, and a series of new merchandise, my favourite cultural terrorists have left me wanting more and wondering how I lived without their collective output for so many years.
I have been getting heavily into Bardo Pond this year, from their latest “proper” album, Under the Pines, to their recent imrov collaboration Curanderos, their re-release of their LP with Tom Carter, this group of psych-rock weirdos just keep it coming, and I for one couldn’t be happier. All I really want though is reissues of their earlier works, cos they are amazing and stupidly expensive and out of print.
Twin Peaks: The Return
David Lynch returned this year with the most singular and bizarre screen based production that has ever graced the small or big screen. 18 hours of truly mind-bending post-narrative that opened up more questions than it answered, annoyed people with it’s lack of cutesy pie eating, and took television to new places.
The Greasy Strangler
Jim Hosking’s 2016 film got a very nice deluxe Blu-Ray release from Monster Pictures this year, and is still one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. Genius bizarre slapstick weird out cinema at it’s best. Andrew Hung’s OST also got a release on Mondo too. There is no excuse to not see and hear this masterpiece. Find out more here.
Australia’s own answer to Kamahl has been performing and releasing records for over 40 years, and is still active in Melbourne’s RSL and club scene. I have managed to pick up quite a few of his releases this year on LP, 7” and cassette, and I look forward to finding more of them and sinking into his smooth, soulful voice.
James Norbert Ivanyi – Denalavis (Self released)
Instrumental heavy prog, with a vintage aesthetic – there’s plenty of flashy guitar playing here by the Australian guitarist, but it’s backed by arrangements that never fail to engage and propel the songs forward.
Motorpsycho – The Tower (Stickman Records)
Another gargantuan album from the psych rock maestros.
Yazz Ahmed – La Saboteuse (Naim Records)
Outstanding contemporary jazz with melody at the centre,
SØS Gunver Ryberg – AFTRYK (CONTORT)
Part abrasive techno, part immersive sound art, an impressive variety of textures and rhythms are on display here, despite the brevity.
Cleric. – Retrocausal (Web of Mimicry)
Avant garde metal released on Trey Spruance (Mr Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3)’s Web of Mimicry label, featuring guests from John Zorn and Mick Barr. Exquisitely complex and engaging, this is the vanguard of metal.
Kardajala Kirridarra – Self Titled (Self released)
Kardajala Kirridarra is the engrossing, fully-formed debut from four women hailing from Melbourne and the Barkly region in the Northern Territory, sung in both English and the native language of Mudburra. As subtly inviting as the production is, which focuses on ambient textures and down tempo electronic pop, the focal point of the album is the stunning voices of these four women. It’s an approachable, but also proudly contemplative and emotive release, and I just can’t wait to hear what they do next.
The xx – I See You (Young Turks)
The inimitably hip English trio have aged supremely well on their third LP, brightening up and filling out their laid back down-tempo electronica. Ditching some of their self seriousness, I See You is a confident and generous record that begs to be replayed.
Zola Jesus – Okovi (Sacred Bones)
Nika Danilova pulls together the many sounds and styles from her past releases to create emotive and anthemic electronic gothic pop. Danilova’s lyrics in particular are stunningly empathetic and direct; perfectly paced and deeply affecting (especially on a rainy day), it’s her most accessible and oddly uplifting album yet.
Fever Ray – Plunge (Rabid)
It was an absolute blast to hear Karin Dreijer sex up her sound so much on her surprise second solo album. Sharing a similarly radical and feminist edge to The Knife’s last album, its amazing that she sounds this joyous and liberated this far into her stellar career. Dreijer has created another album of irresistible industrial and ambient electro pop while wearing her quirks and kinks on her sleeve.
Laurel Halo – Dust (Hyperdub)
The Berlin-based US musician has made something truly unclassifiable with her third LP, concocting a heady and dense melange of ambient and down tempo electronica, free jazz, soul and guest spots from a whole range of artists. Rewarding repeat listens, Halo gives you just enough to latch on to in a universe that is all her own.
Oxbow – Thin Black Duke (Hydra Head Records)
The band that refused to die releases a more thoughtful – yet still terrifying – album after a sizeable break. They’re still best experienced as a live act, but this album is one of the more erudite black holes you’ll encounter.
Chihei Hatakeyama – Mirage (Room40)
Labyrinthine ambient. Not just pads but entire castles in the sky: it’s an exploration of place, a memory palace created out of misinterpretations and deja-vu.
Gold Class – Drum (Self Released)
The sound of a second album eating the world. Takes everything from their debut and adds to it: more fast-driving basslines, more solitude, more bad sex decisions and more moments of stolen, regrettable joy. .
Dean Hurley: Anthology Resource Vol. 1: △△ (Self released)
It’s a library music-style album of tracks created by Hurley for the Twin Peaks reboot. You know it sells itself, and is the missing piece from the other two soundtracks for that show released this year.
V/A – Even a Tree Can Shed Tears – Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973 (Light In The Attic)
Stepping between protest folk and acid rock, this examination of the search for an authentic underground sound encourages much crate digging.
LongDistanceDan – The Dust Man Stirs (self-released)
Love the vibe on this album. It’s full of energy and character with enough grit to feel like it’s been sitting in a garage for decades.
Adrian Heath – Want to Want to (self-released)
Met Adrian earlier this year and was rapt when he performed the song Whirlpool. It was one of those experiences that I sometimes try to revisit listening to the recording.
Lionel Benancie – Vintage (unreleased)
This French musician is a participant in both the Disquiet Junto and Naviar Haiku activities, which led him to contribute this wonderful prog-rock-ish track to the Crossing Streams exhibition I curated.
Abre Ojos – Reflection (unreleased)
Really love the sound of the spring reverb from Scott’s ARP2600 clone on this track, which feels a bit lighter than his usual vibe.
Fiona Caldarevic – The River’s Edge (unreleased)
The Crossing Streams exhibition attracted the interest of this Narrandera-based composer. For the opening of the exhibition she recruited local musicians to perform a piece that was composed in response to a haiku written by the manager of the library.
Moses Sumney – Doomed (Jagjaguwar)
Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism is a pretty adventurous album making it difficult to classify. Sumney explores numerous styles all of which are underpinned by his distinct voice and pop sensibility. ‘Doomed’ stands alone on the album, the minimal arrangement providing the perfect foundation for the hauntingly beautiful vocal.
Show Me The Body – K-9 (CORPUS)
Show Me The Body have had a pretty solid run since last year’s amazing Body War. They followed this up with Corpus I, a “collaborative mixtape” featuring a slew of guests including Princess Nokia, Eartheater, Dreamcrusher etc. The album was more eclectic and somewhat confounding, dabbling in hip hop, noise and hardcore. Some 6 months later the band returned with ‘K-9’, a return of sorts to the sound of Body War. Raw, aggressive and grimy.
Glad Hand – Been One Thing (Egg Mantis)
Glad Hand occupy a similar musical realm to their affiliates Adult Jazz, rich experimental pop music with an unconventional mix of sounds, samples and instrumentation.’Been One Thing’ is a great introduction, an eerie acoustic sample, scattershot percussion, jazz guitar chords and Declan Pleydell-Pearce’s unmistakable falsetto.
Dedekind Cut – LiL Puffy Coat (Hallow Ground)
I only became aware of Fred Welton Warmsley iii with the release of The Expanding Domain earlier this year, but have since delved into his prolific back catalogue through his work with Pro Era, his Ninja Tunes solo outings as Lee Bannon, and more recently his work as Dedekind Cut. The latter is an intriguing mix of ambient, noise and experimental electronica, which combine to create stark, filmic soundscapes. ‘LiL Puffy Coat’ captures this cinematic quality with its repeating piano/keys motif ravaged by synth noise and mechanical percussive stabs.
Liars – Coins In My Caged Fist (Mute)
Liars remain one of the most exciting and elusive acts in recent times. Continually evolving and exploring, no two Liars albums sound the same. With the recent departure of Aaron Hemphill the future of Liars was somewhat up in the air, so it was a great relief when TFCF arrived proving Angus Andrew could maintain the band’s flawless sense of adventure on his own.
‘Coins In My Caged Fist’ is a driving, bare-bones affair carried by a propulsive rhythm with creeping synth and Andrew’s signature drawl.
I always find end of year lists difficult, pondering for weeks what mere five records I could list… Theres always a bunch of stuff I want to mention, but doesn’t make the ‘top 5’ cut, everything on El Paraiso Records and Drumetrics has been brilliant, two labels to watch, and for me, 2017 was also about rediscovery, getting obsessed with tracking everything down by Piano Magic and Bark Psychosis. For what its worth, these are the some of the records that have excited me this year.
Dungen – Haxan, Versions by Prins Thomas (Smalltown Supersound)
Haxan was one of the best releases from last year, purely instrumental Dungen weapons grade material. Prins Thomas turns up with his versions, and its not what you’d expect from the producer, sticking true to the vibe and rhythm section, adding washes of lushness. Highly recommend the original, and these versions add even more.
Here Lies Man – Here Lies Man (RisingEasy Records)
Believe all the press write ups, “afrobeat meets Black Sabbath”, say no more.
Various – Wayfaring Strangers, Acid Nightmares (The Numero Group)
Rather fantastic garage and psych compilation, the best of the year, quality all the way, with a knockout gatefold blacklight sleeve to boot. Essential.
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement featuring Silver Servant – Ambient Black Magic (Hospital Productions)
Its been a great year for Ian Dominick Fernow reissues, releasing all his early tapes on limited vinyl for the first time. This is a new production with Silver Servant, dark yet blissful ambience.
Clocolan – Nothing Left To Abandon (BauSatz)
Lazy Boards Of Canada comparisons don’t do this justice, a real sleeper, originally only released digitally, but due to a high degree of interest, BauSatz committed it to wax, lovely.
Actress – AZD (Ninja Tune Records)
An empty, decrepit warehouse with a couple of loose window panes knocking in the wind was all that was left of house and electronica after Actress’ brutal evisceration of the genres on his previous album, Ghettoville. On AZD, Actress invites the punters back for a dance but doesn’t bother fixing anything up, he just turns the system back on and creates the illusion there is going to be a party long enough to hook you into its strange amalgam of techno and avant-garde. The result is mainly disastrous with some capricious moments of fascination along the way.
Orion – Orion (Cool Death)
This self-titled album by Sydney outfit Orion is a fucking cracker. They hit a bunch of nostalgic notes while doing their best to steer clear of the rest. It stays raw and free of pretensions while still managing to deliver some enduring pop tunes. If you haven’t already, check them out live at your local pub before they either decide to move on to different projects or bigger venues.
Wiki – No Mountains in Manhattan (XL Recordings)
My mate Elliot gave me a heads up about Wiki after we were discussing the lack of listenable hip hop at the moment, and you know, Wiki’s ok. The album is a little overlong and front-loaded with its quality but if you’re looking for something not too serious, not too wacky and backed up by a classic-yet-not-hackneyed New York sound, give Wiki a shot.
Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference (Young Turks)
For an instrumental jazz album, Harmony of Difference evokes some tangible emotions that are probably particular to the listener. I get hope, joy, sadness, loss, inspiration and an intriguing sense of family. It is one of the most beautiful and despairing experiences I’ve encountered sonically for a while. Truly wondrous.
Nthng – It Never Ends (Lobster Theremin)
Filled with deep space bass kicks and glorious reverb, the first proper album from hard to google UK producer, nthng, is a sublime listen. Perfect for smoky club nights and pensive missions down the Mariana Trench alike.
My favorite albums of 2017 (none of which were released in 2017)
Dasha Rush – Sleepstep (Raster-Noton, 2015)
I remember somebody describing this as beautiful, nocturnal electro-pop, which is very apt. It’s like drifting in a space station slowly orbiting, but never descending to, the gentle, fuzzy glow of a dozing planet. It’s pretty soporific for something sub-headed “Sonar Poems For My Sleepless Friends”, but then again insomnia has rarely been a problem for me.
Vor Der Flut – Hommage an einen Wasserspeicher (Eigelstein Musikproduktion, 1988)
In 1984 a bunch of musicians from various countries got together inside an empty water tank in Cologne and recorded these twelve tracks of celestial free improvisation. No studio effects, no overdubs (I think), just a selection of wind instruments fluttering through a giant subterraneous cavern into infinity. Blissful and flowing strongly in the cosmic-Teutonic vein of krautrock.
Björk – Vulnicura Remix Project Part Three (Soundcloud only release, 2015)
Mainly on this list for the Bloom remixes, which epitomize that thudding sci-fi-esque sound that has seemingly been trendy in the last few years (e.g. M.E.S.H.). Think bass snarls, stuttering rhythms and slamming airlock doors echoing through the harmonically resonant aisles of a giant server farm. The stoned-sex-in-the-morning vibes of Bjork’s albums can sometimes become a bit too much after a few hours, so the menacing dimension that Bloom takes these songs into is pretty interesting/refreshing.
Richard Skelton – Landings (Sustain-Release, 2009)
Swelling and drifting along at a geological pace, Landings sounds like the earth shifting, the wind dancing through tall marsh rushes. Deep string drones and shimmering touches of piano curl around each other like wisps of fog shifting across a dark northern wasteland. Definitely what I will listen to while hang-gliding if I ever take it up as a hobby; Listening to Landings already feels like floating over great expanses of land at the speed of wind.
Holly Herndon – Movement (RVNG Intl., 2012]
An audio-portrait of a female body transmuted through some vast digital machine. The gasping sounds of the human soul being posthumously uploaded to the cloud, the howling of someone being ground up in the churning machinery of some massive 3-d printer. And Movement is the visceral and hypnotizing printout.