1 January 2014

Top 25 releases of 2013

So here they are: my favorite 25 releases of the year.  Last year I made a top 20, this year I couldn't manage to bring it down to less than 25, out of a longlist of at least 50 worthy. This year I haven't strictly stuck to albums but also included some EP's. Take it for what it is. Lists are pointless in a way, but they are quite useful way to bring order to an end of the year summary. As always there are releases of the year that I haven't gotten round to listen to or purchase yet, but that would surely be contenders on this list. No one mentioned, no one forgotten. There will also be a separate list of archive/reissues coming soon. Anyway, enough with the excuses, here's the list:

1. The House in the Woods - Bucolica
Mind blowing side project from Martin Jenkins (aka Pye Corner Audio) focusing on more ambient oriented material. Like a Ghost Box take on Wolfgang Voigts GAS-albums, but instead of of chilling out and coming down after a 90's rave in the Black Forest, Jenkins lies stunned in a meadow after a particularly hectic evening at the Belbury Youth Club. Fantastic album, and to my mind probably Our Head Technician's best work to date.

2. Ceephax - Cro Magnox
An amazing new album from Andy Jenkinson, vast in scope. A more melodic and mellow take on acid than Jenkinsons earlier releases. A bit like Kraftwerk in a kosmische mood, with a TB-303. Still haven't managed to get tired of it after multiple on multiple listens. My go to album of the year.

3. Various - Interpretations on F.C. Judd
A compilation/remix album that for once feels like a proper album. The tracks by the different artists flow in an organic way, rarely found on these kind of releases. All tracks have a great respect for the feel of F.C. Judds original without losing their own identity. The list of participating artists is stunning: Perc, Chris Carter, Holly Herndon, Mordant Music, Pye Corner Audio, Karen Gwyer, Leyland Kirby, Ekoplekz et al.

4. Autechre - Exai
New massive album from the legends and one the didn't let down. Two hours of new material with a more straight dance floor edge than in quite a while. After Oversteps look back (kind of) to the Amber ambient era, the references this time feels more Tri Repetae and LP5. An album that managed two live up to expectations, and that's no mean feat considering how high they were.

Read full review of Exai - AUTECHRE on Boomkat.com ©

5. Hacker Farm - UHF
This one was actually released at the end of 2012 but I'm including it here since I didn't get hold of it until the begging of 2013 when Boomkat released it on digital. Listening to this for the first time felt I finally had found an album that sounded the way I've always imagined post industrial should. It's a bit of a cliche, but this is really one of the few albums that really lives up to the legacy of TG and the Cabs.

6. Ricardo Donoso - As Iron Sharpens Iron, One Verse Sharpens Another
This years album from Donoso was actually released as two 12" EP's, containing four tracks each. This feels like a logical development from last years Assimilating The Shadow (my top album of 2012). The changes are as subtle as most of Donoso's solo output. A fantastic album. Nobody does trance influenced kosmische like Donoso.

7. John Foxx and the Belbury Circle - Empty Avenues
A six track EP that I had been waiting for since it was first revealed that Foxx had participated in a session with Ghost Box stalwarts Jon Brooks and Jim Jupp. The result is every bit as good as I had hoped for. Brooks and Jupps music paints a perfect setting for Foxx's melancholic reflexions. Now I only wish for a full album to turn up, even a Belbury Circle album without Foxx would be ver welcome, considering the way Brooks and Jupp complement each other on this one.

8. Ensemble Skalectrik - Trainwrekz
A slightly less hectic year on the release from from Nick Edwards, but he's managed to churn out a few great recordings nevertheless: the Ekoplekz "Devesham Dub" and the PLKZFX "Plekzistentializm" cassette are both great. But this one has to be considered his major effort of the year. A proper album from his most industrial incarnation, paying homage to such greats as Conrad Schnitzler and Maurizio Bianchi.

9. Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven
Daniel Lopatin's first proper album in two years is a revelation. Finally I understand what he was aiming at on Replica. The full blown widescreen digital sound creations of R Plus Seven is his best work since Returnal and maybe even since Rifts. It feels totally logical that this one is released by Warp.

10. Karen Gwyer - Needs Continuum
A meticulously crafted album of murky melodic bass riffs and intricately programmed sampled drums. There's a subtlety to this that means repeated listens is a must to fully appreciate the width of these tracks. The Doctor Whoish bass rhythm of Waukon and the way Gwyer then plays with the expectations that creates is stunning.

Read full review of Needs Continuum - Karen Gwyer on Boomkat.com ©

11. Demdike Stare - Testpressings 1-4
No proper album from Demdike this year, but this series of four EP's more than makes up for that. Considered as an album this would be up there among their earlier ones. A more direct beat oriented approach than the sampledelica of the past, but nonetheless great stuff. EP number three is probably my favorite of the lot.

12. Cray - Delta Wahn
A cassette release from the small australian label Rocket Machine. A wonderful album of melodically playful electronics. Warp meets The Radiophonic Workshop, even if that's not a totally fair assessment. Delta Wahn has an identity all it's own.

13. Stellar Om Source - Joy One Mile
Christelle Gualdi released her most beat oriented material to date. Apparently influenced by the acquisition of a TB-303 this is an excellent album of melodic acid. One of the finest acid albums since Chosen Lords in my mind.

14. CHXFX - The Unhaptic Synthesizer
It's not always synthesizer albums about synthesizers are all that great. But this is an example of one that is. CHXFX second cassette after 2012's split cassette with PLKZFX is a charming journey through sound and the ability of the synthesizer in the vein of sixties and seventies experimental explorers. Very Radiophonic in parts, in the best of ways.

15. Kemper Norton - Carn
Kemper Nortons two sonic geographical explorations in the Carn-series is given a proper album release by Exotic Pylon Records. Folktronic ambient industrials is one way of describing it, but it doesn't really do it justice.

16. N. Chambers - Bathysphere Suite
Norman Chambers has been busy as usual with a few great new Panabrite albums out this year, but it is this "pay what you want"-download of his that has touched me the most. One long form piece that combines Chambers trademark kosmische synth sequences with more exploratory soundscapes makes for an enthralling listing experience.

17. Vatican Shadow - When You Are Crawling
Dominick Fernow has been busy with multiple releases from his Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement project as well as new stuff as Prurient on Blackest Ever Black among other things, but has been lying a bit lower with the Vatican Shadow stuff this year. The VS album "Remember Your Black Day" is good as expected, but it was this follow up 35 minute EP that was his standout release of the year for me.

18. Physics - Spectramorphic Iridescence
Great album of almost Conrad Schnitleresque qualities on Digitalis. Playful, experimental and menacing at once.

19. Frak - Erase
The Swedish legend's first release on Psychic Malmö. High quality electronic madness always drifting between seriousness and irony. Just great.

20. Miles - Unsecured
Miles from Demdike Stare released the fabulous Faint Hearted album, but again it's a tie in EP that was the really great one in my mind.

Read full review of Unsecured - Miles on Boomkat.com ©

21. Moon Wiring Club - A Fondness For Fancy Hats
Yet again, Ian Hodgson releases another new MWG album at the beginning of December. This year a main album on cd and an accompanying cassette with another 45 minutes of musical weirdness. A further step towards ambient experiments, especially on the tape.

22. Michael O'Neill - Michael O'Neill
Tesla Tapes is one of the great new tape labels this year. This one is probably my favorite of their releases this year. Vocal reflections go the shadier side of mancunian life.

23. Xander Harris - Snow Crash
A soundtrack to Neal Stephensons classic sf-novel in the vein of an EBM-ified John Carpenter. What's not to love?

24. Osmiroid - Osmiroid
Dark and brooding dark ambient on Mordant Music.

Read full review of Osmiroid - Osmiroid on Boomkat.com ©

25. DUBCON (twilight circus meets cEvin Key) - UFO pon di gullyside
Key participated on a great Download album and really quite good Skinny Puppy album this year, but this dub collab is his standout delivery of the year.

No comments: