You probably don‘t need me to tell you that 2016 totally SUCKED!
On a positive note, it was a pretty good year for albums. Here are some of my favourites.
I think I first discovered worriedaboutsatan through Mary Anne Hobbs’ brilliant 6 Music Recommends show. The Manchester (now Yorkshire) duo’s brooding, ambient, jungle excursion “The Woods” really captured my attention. The soundtrack to the thought-provoking Adam Curtis “HyperNormalisation” featured solo appearances from the band’s Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller (with Miller acting as music supervisor for the project). It also provided a teaser of new material from Blank Tape which the band launched via an awe-inspiring live show at The Castle Hotel in Manchester.
full blossom of the evening
As a fledgling producer of electronic music, I’ve spent many an hour, scouring YouTube for inspiring tutorials and performance videos. You have to take the rough with the smooth but it makes it all worthwhile when you discover an artist like Austin Cairns, aka r beny. I was particularly struck by his ability to conjure such beautiful sounds from fairly cheap gear (not to mention the much less cheap modular systems he uses). His album full blossom of the evening is overflowing with lush, droney, ambient gems. It was recorded in San Jose, California but is equally at home in sunny Manchester.
London’s iconic club fabric had its licence revoked by Islignton Council following the tragic deaths of two club-goers. As London music venues fall victim to gentrification at an alarming pace, this news was met with significant protest from DJs, musicians and venue-goers. This massive 111 track compilation was released by fabric Records and Houndstooth in order to raise funds to appeal the club’s closure. Thankfully, a deal was struck with Islington Council (with the backing of Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan) to reopen the club in November.
Heaven is for Quitters
Perhaps Drew Lustman’s most personal album to date, it is, therefore, fitting that he released it on his own label Blueberry Records. The man himself puts it better than I could:
“Heaven is for Quitters is at its core, about dealing with yourself, both the good and the bad. I share this album with the hope that it can be used by others as I have; a guide, a blanket, a reassurance that the path I have chosen is the right one. It is my job to share my experience and there is a lot of work to be done here on Earth, the thought of going to Heaven too early is paralyzing. I venture to think you'll agree.”
Having taken ten years off from releasing solo records in order to focus on commercial sound design, Joseph Fraioli returns with an enviable Eurorack modular synth system on Venetian Snares’ Timesig label. According to label boss Aaron Funk, “There were so many great tracks, it was nearly impossible to compile this album.” .
It was therefore quite a relief to discover that pre-orders came with a 19 track bonus disc!
Lorn & Dolor
Lorn & Dolor are a match made in heaven. That is, if heaven were pitch black and filled with sharp metallic objects. Apparently, having already released four parts in the series, they had “enough material to make a new ’DRUGS’ part every week for eternity”. Instead, they decided to call it quits and leave us with parts five and six. Boo!
Dubstep, post-dubstep, footwork, Alan Myson has mastered them all. Hollowed somehow manages to sound like classic Ital Tek whilst simultaneously defying categorisation. If anything, it sounds like a soundtrack to an imagined dystopian sci-fi movie.
Struggle & Emerge
Strictly speaking, this is a maxi-EP not and album but my house, my rules.
The “making of” documentary is well worth a watch too.
Martin Boulton (aka Min-Y-Llan) is the man behind the mammoth Touched compilations, released in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. And I mean mammoth! We're talking over four hundred tracks on this one alone, all for just 15 quid. Touched 3 features tracks from 808 State, Adamski, Amon Tobin, Bibio, Future Sound of London and literally hundreds more. I encourage you to go and buy it twice.
Traditional Synthesizer Music
Much like labelmate Datach’i’s System, this album is composed and performed live on an absolute beast of a modular synth. Modular what? Just imagine dropping your life savings into a bottomless pit, but with blinking lights and a mess of patch cables.
I've been a big fan of Tricky since first hearing him on Massive Attack’s Blue Lines. His debut solo album Maxinquaye is a classic and he’s somehow managed to remain relevant and uncompromising, even after more than two decades in the business.
Dolor fuses pitch-shifted RnB vocals with melancholy synths and stuttering beats. Gun City feels like it was made in the rain, under neon light, whilst chasing down replicants.