As music continues to diverge and scatter into various near impenetrable niches, where scenes get a little oxygen, expand, and blow our minds, before our attention is drawn elsewhere, it gets a little difficult to keep up. With bedroom producers from Kampala to Kensington all clamouring for attention in an overpopulated musical world, it can be hard to determine where to focus your attention – where the important and lasting music is.
Well here at Cyclic HQ we’re pleased to tell you we can’t help you. And we’re not even going to try. Music is all about the personal. You’re a unique individual, chiselled from your experiences over the course of your life. We weren’t there. We were dealing with our own experiences. So you’re not going to see a definitive top 50 from Cyclic Defrost, because our writers have all spent the year going down their own individual rabbit holes in pursuit of music that moves them. What you will see here is the fruits of their labour. It’s a mess, there’s no real consensus, it’s filled with every genre from every country you can imagine – but we offer an ironclad guarantee. If you continue below we promise you will find something that moves you too.
Bob Baker Fish (Features Editor)
Niagara – Apologia (Principe)
Whilst DJ Nigga Fox released an EP on Warp this year, my pick from the ever reliable Principe crew was Niagara. After a series of increasingly weird and diverse EP’s, this Portuguese three piece create these amazing post everything electronic squiggles on their debut LP, where new age ambient, jazz fusion, and wonky experimental house come together and jam out a beguiling hypnotism that you can never quite put your finger on.
Only Now x Orogen – Untitled (Sucata Tapes)
From Discrepant’s tape label this San Franciscan duo’s music is dense ambient experimental music, heavy on the bottom end and imbued with a real sense of darkness. There was something about this deep throbbing tectonic experience that I couldn’t get enough of. It seemed to shift on each listen.
Norman Westberg – After Vacation (Room40)
Produced by Lawrence English, this is dense ambience with gorgeous chiming waves of delayed and reverbed guitar from ex Swans guitarist Norman Westberg. Over the years I’d moved away from the guitar. This brought me back.
MMMD – Hagazussa OST (Antifrost)
MMMD’s soundtrack to Haguzussa, a ridiculously grim medieval terror film is seriously bleak, all menacing cello and deep black bottom end rumble. Perfect music for a plague, or a dinner party where you’re planning on releasing a plague.
Seb Chan (founder)
Ill Considered – 3 [self-released] / Makaya McCraven – Universal Beings [International Anthem] / Various – Spiritual Jazz 8 Japan [Jazzman]
I think the last time that ‘contemporary jazz’ was this popular was in the ‘acid jazz’ era of the early 90s. This year the whole London jazz thing really burst out everywhere. There was is really so many great releases to choose from here but Ill Considered released 3 and several live recordings right from the heart of the scene whilst over in Chicago Makaya McCraven connected the London scene back to Chicago with his re-edited live recordings on Universal Beings. But it wasn’t all new jazz, with a whole host of reissues from the out reaches of the late 1960s and 1970s. The best of these collections was the latest in the long running Spiritual Jazz series – a double album set with some amazing and obscure recordings from Japanese artists.
Another Channel – Dub Excursions [Moonshine Recordings] / Deadbeat – Wax Poetic For The Our Greatest Resolve [Blkrtz] / Dub Surgeon – The Lost Future [Ark to Ashes]
Over in Berlin, dub techno never seems to go away, and in 2018 there was a solid new album from Deadbeat, alongside a slippery debut from young producer Another Channel who has managed to find some new trajectories to explore. Then there was also a ‘lost album’ recorded in the late 1990s from Jay Haze with Ricardo Villalobos aka Dub Surgeon which is in the same vein as Pole’s crackly experiments.
La Luz – Floating Features [Hardly Art] / Carla dal Forno – Tops of the Pops [self-released] / Penelope Trappes – Penelope Two [Houndstooth]
Three quite different acts here – the LA surf indie of La Luz, the Melbourne via Berlin coldwave of Carla dal Forno, and the Lismore via London ethereal electronics of Penelope Trappes (of The Golden Filter). La Luz’s third album is just a great summery record, perfect for those long drives to the beach while Carla dal Forno’s cassette release of pop covers plunges summery pop into midwinter coldwave. Penelope Trappes’ latest release is perfect late night listening and came accompanied with a ‘visual album’ version which premiered on 4:3.
Low – Double Negative [Sub Pop]
I had no expectation that Low’s latest album would be as spectacular as it turned out to be. In fact Low has been one of those bands that I’ve known by name but never really followed in a massive way – and I only saw them live was when they supported Slowdive a few years back. But Double Negative evoked the same emotions for me this year as Ian William Craig’s Centres did for me last year. – the perfect accompaniment to a world on fire. The album was released with a series of excellent music videos too.
Midori Takada and Jan Jelinek – live in London at Union Chapel (May 2018)
Usually when I travel I end up missing gigs by a couple of days – but lately I’ve managed to be in the right place at just the right time. In 2017 it was one night in Stockholm that just happened to coincide with Radiohead, and this year I was in London when Midori Takada performed a wonderful double header with Jan Jelinek. I hadn’t heard Jan perform since the time he came and played at Frigid in the mid 2000s, and catching Midori Takada for the second time in two years was just as magical. The Union Chapel is one of those rare venues with the most uncomfortable seating imaginable, but worth enduring for the acoustics and atmosphere.
Peter Hollo (Website Editor)
This year I’m focusing my list on artists from the Arab world working in or with electronic music. It’s… kind of faithful to the “top 5” concept.
Various Artists – Girih: Iranian Sound Artists Volumes I – IV [Zabte Sote]
Ata Ebtekar smashed into many people’s consciousness in 2002 with a 2-track breakcore/drill’n’bass EP on Warp called Electric Deaf. Since then he’s put out various techno & related releases, but has also, since moving back to Tehran, worked on a number of projects exploring Iran’s history of electronic music, and different ways to marry traditional Persian music with contemporary electronics.
Ebtekar is a relentless supporter of Iranian experimental music, and finally this year he formed a label, Zabte Sote, to showcase Iranian music (with the help of Opal Tapes), and put out a massive four cassette / digital compilation featuring a stunning array of wonderful music. There are artists here who, like Sote, are quite well-known internationally: Leila, another Warp-related artist; Ash Koosha (once released on Ninja Tune); New York-based Aria Rostami; brilliant ambient/electronic/noise duo 9T Antiope, and the two members Sara Bigdeli Shamloo (SarrSew) and Nima Aghiani separately; drone maestro Siavash Amini; ambient sound-artist and Arovane collaborator Porya Hatami; and many others. But an equal delight is of course discovering new stuff, like Ixuol‘s granular loveliness and NUM‘s experimental electro-acoustic songs.
As I finished putting this together, Resident Advisor published a fantastic long article on the Iranian scene and the SET Festival that Ebtekar has put on in Tehran for a few years now.
Other Iranian music of note this year includes two from Siavash Amini: his drone album FORAS, and his gorgeous muted, reverberant post-classical piano album The Brightest Winter Sun, a collaboration with fellow Iranian Umchunga (also featured on Sote’s compilation above) commemorating (subtly, semi-anonymously) the deaths of various classical composers. And then there’s Paris-based Iranian-in-exile Mahdyar‘s album about extremism, Seized, which veers between glitched hip-hop beats & electronics, and glitched samples of Persian music. And Dutch-Iranian singer Sevdaliza continued her cyborg-cool trip-hop with an EP this year called The Calling.
But one release really needs to be called out on its own as my 2nd selection.
Nima Aghiani – REMS [Purple Tape Pedigree]
Already mentioned above, Nima Aghiani is one half of the wonderful Iranian (now also Paris-based) duo 9T Antiope, in which Sara Bigdeli Shamloo is the vocalist, and Aghiani contributes noise-making machines, beats and also violin. On this solo release, a highlight of 2018, he explores the liminal netherworld of REM sleep – the weirdness between waking & dreaming – through surging, bubbling, crumbling electronics, with plenty of bass and industrial techno beats, and on the last track provides a beautiful nearly-calm coda of violin played through looping delays. Extra cool factor for being released on PTP by the way.
ZULI – Terminal [UIQ]
ZULI – Trigger Finger [Haunter Records]
Cairo’s Ahmed El Ghazoli aka ZULI has released a few EPs over the last few years on Lee Gamble‘s UIQ label. This year he dropped a crazy EP on Milan label Haunter Records, including a bit of distorted junglism for the title track, but later in the year he was back on UIQ with his debut album, Terminal. The album returns him to his hip-hop roots (or at least the merging of hip-hop, club music and experimentalism), still with glitches and digital distortion, and some beautiful shimmering ambient passages. There are collaborations with MCs & vocalists from around the Arab world, including prominent appearances from Egyptian rapper Abyusif.
ZULI is vocal in his disdain both for the increased tribalism of the current world, and also the assumptions that come with his being described as an Egyptian, or Arab musician. If anything, I hope that the music I’m drawing attention to here is indicative of how borderless the world of music is – or can be, should be – in the face of that tribalism, and the anti-Arab and Islamophobic racism that continues to be so dominant in “the West”.
While we’re at it, Cairo is another hotbed of incredible music-making at the moment. A fascinating interview in The Wire with Nadah El Shazly (whose album Ahwar was a highlight late last year) and many other figures in the Cairo scene was preceded this year by a magnificent Wire Playlist contributed by El Shazly. As well as featuring an exclusive ZULI piece and a track from Abyusif, it introduced me to the project Lekhfa, a collaboration between singers Maryam Saleh, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh and multi-instrumentalist/producer Maurice Louca, all important figures in the Egyptian underground/pop music scene. Although Lekhfa was technically released last year, The Quietus considered it enough of a 2018 release to put it in their top 100 for this year. The album’s combination of Egyptian pop, jazz and traditional music, and some wonky, dubby, slightly trip-hoppy production is incredibly exciting to these ears.
Finally, there’s not much information about Feryal Dawa out there, but she(?) has released two great jungle tracks on compilations from the SEAGRAVE label this year – one called “Cairo Boy” on Animal Chin and recently “Cancer Breaks” on Looks Like Teeth.
Jerusalem In My Heart – Daqa’iq Tudaiq [Constellation]
The third album proper from Montréal/Beirut musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh’s Jerusalem In My Heart, an audio-visual duo with Charles-André Coderre, also concerns itself with a modernisation and tribute to Egyptian pop music – specifically, the first side of the LP is a long extemporisation of the popular Egyptian song “Ya Garat Al Wadi”, originally by Mohammed Abdel Wahab. Here it’s performed by a 15-piece orchestra in Beirut, arranged by the legendary Sam Shalabi (who divides his time between Montréal and Cairo). By Part III, Moumneh’s glitchy production has taken over. On the second half of the album, JIMH continues its exploration of traditional Arabic music through a granular processed lens, including the stunning “Thahab, Mish Roujou’, Thahab” in which – not for the first time – Moumneh’s solo vocals are expanded and processed live through various granular effects.
While we’re in Lebanon, ex-Sydney (now Melbourne-based) producer Jarred Beeler, one third of the beloved BV (RIP), released an EP as DJ Plead this year called Get In Circle that blends the rhythms of dancing circles at Lebanese weddings with footwork and house production.
AMMAR 808 – Maghreb United [Glitterbeat]
Last year, Belgium-based Tunisian producer Sofyann Ben Youssef produced an album with musician Nidhal Yahyaoui under the name Bargou 08 about the music of the Bargou region between Tunis and Algeria – an album that rather gently fused traditional music of the region with rock and electronica.
With AMMAR 808, Ben Youssef imagines a Maghreb massif, uniting the north-African region with TR-808 drum beats, distorted, sequenced traditional instruments and vocalists from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco singing traditional songs in an Afro-futurist context.
This is a personal list of music I’ve encountered and loved this year, artificially constrained to a particular region. I’ve given myself bonus entries for artists from the same countries as some of the others above, which still made it hard to include, for instance, the raw, Dilla & Madlib-inspired beats & Arabic samples of Ramallah, Palestine-based producer Muqata‘a on his Inkanakuntu EP for new Discrepant sub-label Souk Records. And sticking to North Africa means not including London-based Angolan producer Nazar, who explores the conflict and oppression of his violence-torn country in his Enclave EP for Hyperdub, splicing guns cocking and air raid sirens into his industrial grime beats.
David Sullivan (Contributor)
Tierra Whack – Whack World (Self-released)
This 15 minute, 15 song audiovisual album is the succinct antidote to the upswell of redundant, Spotify-fodder hip hop releases. Whack manages to travel across broad territory via a very concise route.
Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs (Columbia)
My mate Elliot likened Earl to Dean Blunt and I reckon that’s a pretty interesting comparison. Earl crafts songs in a way that’s not going out of his way to be listenable, nor overly obscure; he’s just making music which is honest to him without having to tell you how real he is.
Tim Hecker – Konoyo (Kranky)
Tim Hecker takes everything good in the world and makes it sad and then takes everything bad and makes it inspiring. The first track is titled “This Life” and that’s what this album is; music for existence.
Slim Set – Feed EP (Self-released)
I really like that first album by The Streets. This is kind of a similar vibe except it’s straight out of Western Sydney so I get most of the references.
Basa Basa – Homowo
Recorded in Nigeria in 1979, this LP got a re-release in early 2018. It’s a joyous listen.
Hanz – Plasty II (Tri Angle)
Frenetic, ADD beats and electronic oddities from North-Carolina-based producer Hanz (aka Brandon Juhans). Following on from a string of self-released albums and EPs, English label Tri Angle signed Hanz, reissuing a couple of these earlier efforts (Reducer and Plasty I) before releasing Plasty II in March this year. Taking cues from hip hop production and pushing it into new and extreme directions, Plasty II is so chock full of ideas it threatens to implode at any second.
Serengeti – Dennis 6E (PEOPLE)
Serengeti is an adventurous and prolific MC, whose impossible to pigeon-hole catalogue has seen him collaborate with artists as far reaching as Sufjan Stevens, Open Mike Eagle, and Tobacco.On Dennis 6E, Geti takes his Kenny Dennis alter ego for another spin, however this time there seems to be more depth to the character than ever before. In part due to the wide-ranging production from Andrew Broder (Fog), the music seems completely at odds with the vocals which adds to the complexity of the character and the album itself.
Bbymutha – Bbyshoe EP (SmokeOuts Music)
Bbymutha (aka U.S. rapper Brittnee Moore) is turning hip hop clichés on their heads using rap to share her experiences as a single mother of 4. The Bbyshoe EP is an honest and intriguing mission statement from an exciting new artist, combining laid-back trap beats with her distinct rap drawl.
Tangents – New Bodies (Temporary Residence)
Tangents continue their winning streak with their latest full-length, New Bodies. Introducing new elements into their already expansive sound, New Bodies continues this exploration while further refining the distinct amalgamation of styles on their 2016 breakout, Stateless. The album finds the group embracing their live roots without losing the adventurous studio experimentation that has become the benchmark of their sound.
Barking – Prone (Deep Seeded Records)
The new solo moniker of Australian producer Gareth Psaltis, Barking explores dark techno soundscapes in a similar vein to another of his excellent projects, Phile with Hannah Lockwood. Released via fledgeling label Deep Seeded Records, Prone caps off a stellar year for the label and for Psaltis.
Jason Heller (Contributor/ Website Wrangler)
MMMD – Hagazussa (Antifrost)
Jesus fucking christ. This film, and the accompanying score by MMMD were an absolute standout for me this year. Dark and twisted, like The Witch meets Stalker. Moody as hell. I came home from the screening and ordered the OST LP immediately. Minimal synth and cello ambience. Makes me afraid to be alone. Recommended.
Carlton Melton (Agitated Records)
I tried to delve a little deeper into the world of contemporary psych noise fuzz ambient weirdo rock this year and ended up with a few records by Carlton Melton. I can’t tell you lots about them but you can google it. More long form wigout wonk that pleases my mind. Go forth.
Disrupt – Omega Station (Jahtari)
Jan Gleichmar turned out this very nice piece of work this year. Stepping away from straight up 8-bit dub, Disrupt goes back to the future with this evocative future score for a non-existent film. Less riddim based, more time and space.
The other film that floored me this year was Hereditary. Watching it in the cinema was an intense experience, you could almost feel the air of tension as the film ramped up from WTF to Holy Fucking Shit. If you haven’t seen it don’t watch the trailer. Good stuff.
Ok so I might have spent a large part of this year with a slight obsession with Celine Dion, in particular the song ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’. Don’t ask me why, it is just what happened. I have a fantasy parallel life in which I am the drummer for a cheesy pop ballad rock band, I am obese and I rule at this song. Luckily for you I have also been obsessed with Buff Correll this year, and he happens to do a highly mediocre version of this song. Buff Correll. Unsung comedic genius or weirdo on the spectrum? I don’t know. Be sure to watch more of his videos than this one, they are all amazing and there is a strong possibility that he has covered a song you love. He does it better than the original. Believe me. Buff Correll 4 lyfe!
Jason Richardson (Contributor)
Brownout – Fear Of A Brown Planet (Fat Beat Records)
Some Public Enemy fans don’t appreciate covers but I find it satisfying to hear their music realised in a style like the music they sampled. Is this the same group who performed Brown Sabbath?
Rupert Lally – This Is An Adventure
This is a party record, which surprised me as I know Rupert from the somber A Future In Commons: A Tribute To Bassel Khartabil.
DJ Pnutz – Play That Beat Mrs. DJ
Lots of upbeat instrumentals and I also enjoyed the track title ’Im Not A Chef I Just Cook A Lot’.
Long Distance Dan – Dusted Sounds Volume 1 (Dusted Industries)
After the long-player last year, it was a shorter-player this year with more of Dan’s gritty productions.
Never Ending Echo – Multitrack Mind
This was something Dan recommended and I enjoyed. So much tape echo that Roland Space Echo might be listed as a band member!
Luke Martin (Contributor)
Various Artists – In Death’s Dream Kingdom (Houndstooth)
Not every compilation of electronic music takes a T.S. Eliot poem as a starting point, but then this is hardly the usual grab-bag of tunes. Inspired by the grimness of ‘The Hollow Men’ and its aura of abandonment, of eternal loss and decline, a range of artists from Pan Daijing to Gazelle Twin and Pye Corner Audio contribute music that ranges from the almost content to the crepuscular and dimmer. Calling it ambient sells it a bit short, and calling it dark ambient probably implies a few too many clove cigarettes. But regardless, it provides a good soundtrack to the preparation for eventual death.
Tim Hecker – Konoyo (Kranky)
Hecker’s made a career out of a dirty lens. His music is the sound of a loss of focus, of a numbness that’s not altogether welcome – the pricking of a limb that may have gone to sleep, or just maybe is sending advance warning of something bad that’s around the bend. This album couples that cautious space with courtly Japanese instruments, unleashing an unfurling beast, all smeared electronics and stately gagaku drone. There’s a sense of morbid intelligence in the music, as if the sound is alive.
William Basinski + Lawrence English – Selva Oscura (Temporary Residence)
A journey through a darkened, Dante-inspired forest, this album surprises at the same time as it sounds exactly as you thought it would. Basinski and English here are like some kind of Voltron, creating a rather elegant, outsized version of themselves. Is it parts Disintegration Loops and part Cruel Optimism? Sure it is. But they’re melded in such a way that sends the listener down pathways that, while strange, are also uncannily familiar.
Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death In Meatspace (TFS Records)
So I was already on board for this given the band’s pedigree, but this takes the expected combination of freak-rock and political commentary right over the fucking top. A Cronenbergian body-horror of talent, haloed with ethereal choirs and guitarwork that runs the gamut from skronk to Ribot-flavoured subtlety. It’s got more bass kick, more high life reference points than expected: this is what happens if a steroidal Drones made their own coke-snorting version of a Byrne/Eno record with more interlocking pieces, more balls in the air.
(Extra thumbs up for the band’s recent performance of a live soundtrack to No Country For Old Men: a rough and ready recording of that should hold us ’til the next album, TFS.)
Thom Yorke – Suspiria: Music For The Luca Guadagnino Film (XL Records)
I’m uncertain that my reaction to this album can be divorced from Guadagnino’s reinvention of the Argento classic, but the soundtrack certainly stands on its own from a listening standpoint. It’s more ethereal than the Goblin score to the earlier film, but there’s more than enough callbacks to let us know we’re in the same ballpark. Everything reflects the film’s constructed world, all shapeshifting synth and plangent melodies.
Special mentions: Sunn O)))’s White 1 and White 2 remasters, Julia Reidy’s Beholder, Bongripper’s Terminal, Tabua-Harrison’s Scout and Body by The Necks.
Melonie Bayl-Smith (Contributor)
After skipping last year’s list and in spite of being another year older, I find my taste becoming ever broader. Yes, I’m still listening to the same old same old (loves me some Eno)… but having recently taken up learning a new instrument, I find myself listening to reliable favourites with a new ear, and discovering new music, new voices and new musicians/composers on an almost weekly basis. A snapshot of my top 2018 discoveries / heavy rotation listens follows here, in no particular order:
Nils Frahm – All Melody (Erased Tapes)
If you fail to be moved by the close harmony melismas on ‘A Place’ … well I’d say you are beyond hope. Some might think Mr Frahm is a tad dull live, but my take on it is that for him it is all about the music and the moment – minimalist in the truest sense of the word.
Vox Clamantis – Arvo Part: The Deer’s Cry (ECM)
Absolute standout live at the Sydney Festival – unaccompanied voices never sounded so ancient, so contemporary, so singular and so rich – all at once. They are also a perfect match for the elegiac qualities embodied by Part’s compositions. Again, I dare you not to be moved by this most deeply human yet ethereal music.
The Staves – The Way is Read (2017) and If I Was (Atlantic Records)
After discovering The Staves’ killer 2014 release ‘If I Was’ I then found myself hooked on the entrancing voices and clever arrangements on their collab with New York’s yMusic ensemble. Definitely worth a dive in.
Mammal Hands – Shadow Work (2017) and Nayo Rao – Icaros (2017)
Gondwana Records is a UK label established by trumpeter Matthew Halsall (see my 2016 top picks for CD) with a roster of superb jazz / electronica / soul / hip-hop genre spanning artists.
Mammal Hands are top-notch musicians who bring a range of jazz feels together to produce evocative, melodic, driven music, while Nayo Rao floats along on both soaring vocals and deeply danceable beats and basslines. Cannot recommend Gondwana enough!
Ben Frost – The Centre Cannot Hold (Mute/Bedroom Community)
Ben Frost has long been writing the soundtrack to a new dystopia (or maybe the dystopia is here and we’re blind to it). Propelled by the finest industrial electronica, The Centre Cannot Hold is an exemplar record, with other-worldly melodies and super-processed sound bites overlaid with droplets of orchestral samples. Can’t wait for his Carriageworks performance in Sydney Festival in January!
Carl Stone – Mae Yao (Electronic Music from the Eighties and Nineties) (Unseen Worlds)
The previously unheard work is completely mind-altering, as it rises with intensity, reaches the zenith, and ends in nothing less than total glory with its advanced manipulation of voices.
Soundwalk Collective – L’impossible Du Possible (The Vinyl Factory)
Taken from Soundwalk Collective’s album What We Leave Behind, drawing on legendary film director Jean-Luc Godard’s personal archives of reel-to-reel, shot film and outtakes. Soundwalk Collective had 2 releases this year, enough reason to celebrate.
Maxwell – OP1 Brahms (Touched Music)
Track from Synthesized Sounds For Young Humans. Brahms most recognisable composition being dissected and reorganised throughout a bass amplifier.
Cuts – From Here To Nowhere (Village Green Recordings)
Besides the already profound composition and Patti Aberhart’s heartwarming vocals, there’s a touching videoclip made using footage courtesy of British diver Rich Horner.
Unfinished Portraits – How To Hide Dark Circles Under My Eyes
Unfinished Portraits self-released a bunch of productions from 2014-2016. It’s oneiric, lo-fi and deep.
Autechre – Bqbqbq (From NTS Sessions 1 – Warp Records)
Autechre released 8 hours of music with the NTS Sessions this year. Bqbqbq from the first session is proof enough that they’re still miles ahead. Oddly beautiful and nostalgic.
Ruth Bailey (Contributor)
Phantastic Ferniture – Phantastic Ferniture (Caroline)
Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin Makeout Records.Julia Jacklin’s Indie Rock outfit excite me endlessly. The reverb over guitar when I saw this track performed live makes me think of the 80s and neon lights. I think maybe that’s what this band is- homage to or celebrating the best of the 80s and possibly 90s sounds.
J Mascis – Elastic Days (Sub Pop)
A far cry from Dinosaur Jnr’s rocky outputs, J Mascis has a definite and pronounced acoustic/ softer side and like his previous albums before this one, he nails the unmapped and often confusing heart journey. It’s the lyric “see you at the movies, the movies in my head” that hooked me on this song with pretty much that song title – from first listen. It’s the carefully wound guitar solos too which effuse for me, perhaps not you, nostalgia for the 90s.
Booka Shade – Cut the strings (Bedrock Records)
Das good das German, it’s Booka Shade. Cut the strings easily stands out as a top Dance album for me this year. In Velvet though from a recent mini-ep probably my favourite track from them – they just know how to make a track that “sings” in all the right places!
John Hopkins – Singularity (Domino Records)
Luminous Beings is the track, probably because I was lying in Centennial Park one mid winters day and staring up at the sun as I heard it. It takes you to another dimension this particular sensory delight. Kind of the point of John Hopkins musical approach I’ve found over the years.
Death Cab for Cutie – Thank you for today (Atlantic Records)
A ninth studio album from the band who gave us Transatlanticism, my hopes were pretty high I must say and for the most part they delivered! I’m looking forward to March and seeing them perform this album live plus some old faves (we hope) there’s a certain comforting feeling that Ben Gibbard’s lead vocals offer me and for that reason the song of this album changed each listen I gave to it, but “When we drive” sounds like the quintessential timeless Death Cab for Cutie song.
Sparrows (Single: Over and Out)
Whether in its original form or remixed this track:
Wayne Stronell (Contributor)
2018 has been another great year for new music. While the commercial world is strangling the mainstream, its joyous to hear so much new incredible music. For what its worth, its always a hard task for a music obsessive to pick just five, but here they are, in no particular order. Of course there are so many more I could mention, both new sounds and some incredible reissues and compilations from a long past underground, but the below depict where my head has been at, the sounds I have used to navigate a pretty crazy year on so many levels.
Meat Beat Manifesto vs Terry Riley – In C (Electronic Sound)
Jack Dangers released Impossible Star last year, which was a great return to form, but In C was a surprise full length after his Soundcloud teaser from years ago. I spent a lot of this year really absorbing Terry Riley and Steve Reich, a coincidence? This could almost be the electronic equivalent, small shifts in repetition, so suited to the modular synths and trademark deep bass. What he has done with the Terry Riley original is so infectious, pressed on translucent yellow vinyl in limited numbers, probably currently getting flipped for inflated prices. Only preview is this 46 second video on Youtube…
Young Echo – Young Echo (Young Echo)
Young Echo collectives new full length on their own imprint, shining the light back on Bristol, the years melting pot future classic. It truly pulls so many sounds from UK musical history, the obvious sound system culture of dub/step, but surprises with post punk influences, sounding like they’ve nicked lines from Coil and Greater Than One. It maybe an album of short sketches, with little flow from track to track, but with repeat listens it really starts to make sense. There are no credits on the album, probably too many to mention, such as producers Jabu, Ossia, Vessel, Kahn, and vocals from Rider Shafique, Manonmars, Chester Giles to name a few. Just as worthy is the Manonmars debut album, the third release on their label.
Anguish – Anguish (RareNoiseRecords)
I thought this would be a Dalek album, but is so much more, being joined by Mats Gustafsson on sax and electronics, Hans Joachim Irmier and Andreas Werlin, who truly collaborate to create controlled chaos in the dread. Vocals as usual on point, everything about this album destroys. Angry music for crazy times.
Buddy Peace – Present (self released)
Beats, samples and cuts The mighty Buddy Peace seemed to take on the impossible task of making a one minute track every day of 2018, so we are not even at the end as I write this. 365 minutes of drum music for heads by the years end. 2019 will really showcase Buddy Peace’s talents when he’ll weave his mixtape magic using these to create something more coherent, I’m really looking forward to what he cooks up from these diverse sketches. Available as digital on Bandcamp each month as a package. Maybe his latest mixtape Woe Be Gone is a hint, getting back to his roots with a bounce that dictates repeat plays.
Mestizo And The Heavy Twelves – Big Bad Death (Fake Four Inc)
Its been a while since I’ve heard Mestizo, from the Galapagos4 stable, returning with fire on this collaboration with drums and synth duo The Heavy Twelves. Raw and angry analogue drums and jaded synths sit perfectly with Mestizo’s social commentary, music for the times. The picture disc vinyl looks great and sounds great, with instrumentals on the flip.