The Texture Mag crew sat down and wrestled out our favourite 25 albums released this year.
The Lisbon-born, Manchester-based P. Adrix enhances the jaw-dropping ferocity of Príncipe Discos’ output by creating a bombastic blend of post-kuduro and UK bass. It’s the dynamic twists and turns like ‘Zelda Shyt’s’ trap breakdown and ‘Ovni’s’ manic flute that reaffirm why the Portuguese label is a force to be reckoned with.
The fact that Nils Frahm can perform most of this album solo, live, is testament to his compositional skill and inventive use of instrumentation. He moves between keyboards, sequeners, and synthesisers with hasty intent, and yet the sound that emerges is all-encompassing in its depth and slowly evolving tonality. Repeated motifs coincide with familiar instruments to gently carry the listener along amongst the haze of synths and human voices, building in tempo with the titular climax, 'All Melody'. The album is tightly cohesive and feels thoroughly personal, made all the more so by its all-encompassing performer.
Against All Logic
A listen once through 2012-2017 may bring into clarity some of the most discussed club and festival moments of recent years. In this summation of five years’ work, Nicolas Jaar finally provides a home for the more dance-friendly side of his catalogue, releasing previously unidentified (and incredibly sought after) tracks. That is not to say that this simply acts as a compilation though. Jaar’s trademark delicate sound design and composition shine through alongside stellar sampling in some of the most compelling house tracks of the year(s).
Ayman Rostom’s debut LP under the Maghreban moniker comes after years of production under a number of different aliases, resulting in this melting pot of an album that ranges from broken beat to downtempo house via reverberating beatless segments and hip-hop infusions. That it is not a singular concept album is apparent from the title alone, but Rostom’s sampling prowess allows his explorative nature to act as the core of the selection. The album is consistent only in its sense of groove strung through each track exquisitely, but when the production is this engaging it elevates the album to more than the sum of its parts.
This year garnered increasing exposure for Courtesy on the back of her tireless championing of the homegrown Danish techno scene. The process of organic, grassroots growth has culminated in the release of the first compilation on her new label, Kulør, and it’s a wonderfully strong debut. The tracks all have the frenetic energy so beloved in Scandinavia, never really dipping below 140 bpm, and yet maintain a sense of space and a deft touch even within the pulsating rhythms. This is atmospheric techno in some places reminiscent of early AFX but always with an eye on the future. The label is definitely one to watch.
Take Me With You
Good Morning Tapes
Coming off the back of the widely acclaimed and thoroughly played out OTT/ZTL EP, this new release from Anthony Naples started life as a mixtape of ideas for friends before being released in cassette format on the esoteric Good Morning Tapes imprint. The sounds are looping, lush, and laid so far back you'll probably fall over, slipping through the floor and into a blissful existence of house-tinged melodies and droning ambient waves. Afters vibes perfectly executed.
Raw Silk Uncut Wood
Even the title of Ina Cube’s latest album, Raw Silk Uncut Wood, portrays something polished and textured. Teaming up with percussionist Eli Keszler and cellist Oliver Coates, Cube delivers a beautiful and evocative set of pieces, from the glossy woodwind and strings of the title track, to the meditative physicality of ‘Quietude’s’ stuttering keys.
Batu’s exceptional label Timedance has been shaping its own strand of ruthless, mind-bending UK techno, a process that has been accelerated by the release of their blistering compilation, Patina Echoes. Right from Cleyra’s opener ‘Naked’, with its icy pads and broken beats, it’s clear that the compilation is a showcase of the Bristol-based label’s ability to layer metallic hooks over off-kilter percussion. As much as they may not want to be compared to other frontrunners in UK dance music, Timedance is well on the way to reaching the dizzying heights of defining UK labels like Hessle Audio.
‘Khonnar’ is a Tunisian Arabic word evoking “the dark, shameful and disturbing side of things". Deena Abdelwahed thrusts society’s ugliness into our faces with her highly confrontational and politically-charged debut album. Her use of Arabic instrumentation and lyrics alongside roaring basses and uncompromisingly severe drums plays these two contexts against each other, creating a powerful space where tradition and technology collide. It’s a space inhabited by the voices of the oppressed - ‘Al Hobb Al Mouharreb’ speaks for refugees, ‘Saratan’ for gender inequality, and ‘Fdhiha’ for the young. Abdelwahed empowers these groups, her blistering intensity shattering the world’s taboos and injustices.
For most of Autobiography, Jerrilyn Patton reapplies her sonic palette of hysterical vocal fragments and disoriented drum programming to the new and exciting context of Wayne McGregor’s ballet. The rest of the pieces see Patton expanding her vision as she delivers graceful minimalist ambience. While her frantic footwork sound may not be as shocking and raw as on her previous two albums, Autobiography’s intensity is felt when the listener imagines it in the cinematic space it was intended - manically propelling actual bodies in one moment, and then gently tugging at them in the next.
Make Me Know You Sweet
West Mineral Ltd.
Brian Leeds said that, with his Pendant project, he wanted to create the kind of ambient music that isn't merely in the background, and to find, in terms of form, some sort of synthesis between dance and ambient. Make Me Know You Sweet is at once expansive and enclosing, creating a sense of immobility through its pulverizing textures. A lot of the time, it creates that overwhelming feeling of being unable to get off your phone, where you close Twitter only to immediately open the app again without realising. But Make Me Know You Sweet is also a profoundly ecological record, evoking a swamp or amazon jungle as much as impenetrable cyberspace. Beneath the hall of mirrors, a sense of space, of the outside.
Percussionist Eli Keszler’s Stadium, inspired by a recent move to Manhattan, is a serene exploration of space and timbre centred around his prodigal talent on the drums. This is never overpowering, instead blending in and out of eclectic electronics and acoustic instrumentation to form what feel like streetscapes, strangely calming in their jittering flurry. The latter half of the album diverges into more uncertain territory, repeated motifs conjuring the disquiet of empty streets at night, but the tactility woven throughout Keszler’s playing provides a reassuring intimacy. Much like the city of its inspiration, Stadium stands as a statement of vitality balanced with uncertainty, sonically wandering within a concrete grid.
Since his first release in 2005, Martijn Deijkers has been drawing on dubstep, 2 step, UK funky and drum and bass, sculpting his own signature sound recognisable by its hollow, shuffling percussion and rave stabs. Voids, Deijkers’ first album on Berghain’s in-house label Ostgut Ton, sees the Dutch-born produced honing his capacity for low-slung beats with growling subs to create a sense of panic, like on the tumbling hysteria of the stand-out track ‘Mind Rain’. This fear isn’t just expressed through weighty high-octane tracks, however. ‘Manchester’, an ode to both the city and the late Marcus Intalex, who was both a close friend and inspiration to Deijkers, is far more restrained and melancholy, a subdued reflection on those who have been lost and the startling realisation of how fragile life is.
Shinichi Atobe’s Heat unexpectedly landed on Demdike Stare’s desk in September on a CD sent by airmail from Japan to Manchester. It sounds like something dropped from the late-summer sun, with luscious deep house pulses patiently layered that evoke memories of childhood innocence . It’s simple, yet essential, and just as Heat’s opening track describes, it’s ‘So Good, So Right’.
Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones
From the opening notes of Vicious Circles, everything unique about Sinjin Hawke’s production style is on display. A collaborator of extreme versatility, from Kanye to DJ Rashad, Hawke has an ear for sounds that warble and glitch, residing in an uncanny valley between uplifting and unnerving. The songs are harsh, like industrial lighting, yet hit the listener with just enough moments of pure euphoria that you can’t help but feel entranced. It feels as though it would be equally at home in a dingy basement club as it would aboard Space Station V, and combined with the otherworldly vocals of Zora Jones, the final product is one of uncertain beauty. It is as boldly glistening as it is blindingly bright.
If an intelligent, hostile parasite could become the host of a computer and make electronic music, it might produce something like Cocoon Crush. TJ Hertz’s last album, Flatland, offered a glimpse of his preference for meticulous and tactile electro, but his latest release on PAN sees Hertz’s strain of mutant techno evolving, becoming crisper and more organic. Tracks like ‘Silica’ are full of pauses filled only by insect-like buzzing and fluttering, which adds to the intensity of the kick-drum when it returns like a gunshot in the dead of night. It’s these hyperreal moments that demonstrate Hertz’s prowess as a producer, creating textured and life-like music that sounds like the unleashing of a swarm of tiny creatures.
Blackest Ever Black
The biography on Blackest Ever Black’s website explains that Sekundschlaf is of “unclear authorship, from somewhere west of Lake Lagoda, near the Russia-Finland border”, and the haziness in its background is mirrored in it’s dusty aesthetic. Like an abandoned Soviet T-64 tank sitting in a field on the eastern steppe, this grimey exterior only obscures a heart of iron and diesel below, bubbling to the surface in the form of cascading arpeggios and rippling breakbeats. The album builds from the sublime soundscapes of ‘Catching Rare Birds’ to the quivering, shivering jungle of ‘Are You Still Hurt’, all the while maintaining a sense of continual movement. The titular microsleep is hidden in the cracks of these compositions, never allowing more dancefloor-focused tendencies to overpower it’s blissed-out if not blissfully retrograde vision. Bigg tipp.
Grid of Points
Liz Harris totally envelopes her voice in reverb, as if her words are being spoken from beneath the water’s surface. At times on Grid of Points, however, Harris is louder than ever. On the 50 second opening track, ‘The Races’, she briefly emerges before retreating back into the fog. This is a recurring feature of Grid of Points - Harris’ words may be slightly clearer, but her heart-wrenching voice and piano are accompanied only by faint white noise, as if her voice is recorded on her phone. Clocking in at just 21 minutes, Grid of Points is the soundtrack to a lonely walk on the moon.
Ambient music is often about giving space to the sounds hidden by the noise of everyday life. On Tahoe, these unheard voices tentatively emerge from the beginning of life itself. The opener, ‘Equity’, sounds like the first time the earth began to turn on its axis, wind rushing through the empty, untouched landscape, while the running water on ‘Tahoe’ portrays a naive return to a prelapsarian vision of nature. Lee Bannon doesn’t so much create tenderness on Tahoe, rather he creates a space before time for the world’s first breaths to be taken.
Oil of Every Pearl's Un-insides
Sophie Xeon’s first full length album sounds like nothing else released this year. Flitting from spilled-water-on-my-soundcard glitch-infused slammers to soaring strings, as one RA commenter put it, this album “Makes everything else sound old”. The music is unrestrained by boundaries of genre or indeed rhythm, and gliding freely between the vying camps of pop and avant-garde electronica the album manages to maintain some semblance of humanity even in its most dystopian moments. Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides is futurism in crystalline form.
2018 was a year during which artists like Objekt and Deena Abdelwahed increasingly pushed the boundaries of ‘deconstructed club music’, stretching the sonic space to its limits. In a lineup of beatless and more abstract records, LSDXOXO delivered a refreshing shot of straight-up club bangers straight into the arteries. None of the tracks in this self-released LP outstay their welcome, all feature acutely chosen vocal samples, and many have been rinsed by this years top selectors to enraptured dancers time after time. ‘BURN THE WITCH’ is perhaps the standout, with jazzy keyboard cuts and a Missy Elliot refrain constructed on top of rolling breaks. Unstoppable.
Safe In The Hands of Love
Sean Bowie’s output as an artist has ranged from the sacred ambience of Experiencing The Deposit Of Faith to the teeth-gnashing frenzy of his stage performances (one show consisted of him convulsing in chains and screeching over a half-second CDJ loop). Tying these two extremes together is the vulnerability that Bowie communicates in his art. On Safe In The Hands Of Love, he adopts a new approach, painfully singing over emo and US alternative rock-inspired tracks like ‘Noid’ and ‘Lifetime’. In bringing his voice to the surface of the album’s grungy pop haze, Bowie has never been more emotionally exposed.
Here From Where We Are
Preempting the turn towards beatless electronic music that is gaining traction among such trailblazers as Objekt, Arthur Cayzer delivered a stunning return to form out of leftfield. Fusing notions of synthetic and organic, Here From Where We Are offers a heady dose of futurism tinged with the uncertainty of what might be left behind. It feels like a reflection on the state of electronic music too - staring out into an unknown void. Yet where anxiety might set in Cayzer feels comfortable, using liminality to his advantage. The record is meditative, searching, and as oddly comfortable on your vintage soundsystem as it is in the depths of a Ben UFO set at 3am. It lifts Cayzer back to the heights he was riding upon half a decade ago.
Portrait With Firewood
Formerly known as the decidedly less intriguing DJ Rum, Felix Manuel channels his childhood passion for the piano in this beautifully personal journey of self-exploration. Inspired by the internal reflection of Marina Abramovich, the album feels more human than any of Manuel’s records to date - an impressive feat when considering the simultaneous coalescence of so many influences from his hardcore days of yore. The album ebbs and flows, drawing on yearning cellos and the intensely choreographed drums of previous efforts, and builds to a breakneck climax on ‘Showreel pt. 3’. The versatility in tone and sound across the album is extraordinary, and it deserves nothing less than a continuous listening session.
Compro breathes life into a remote arctic landscape. Its crisp, glacial breakbeats sound like journeying through the icy wilderness and braving the elements alone, with only deep, ambient pads keeping you warm. It’s Brian Müller’s unrivalled attention to detail and ability to create clinical, yet emotionally loaded bass music that earns him the top spot this year. Compro feels like a timeless classic, forever suspended in the frozen desert.
Thanks for reading! 2019 promises to bring many opportunities and we're looking forward to seeing where Texture will go from here. If you'd like to contribute at all, get in touch here, and we'll see you in the new year.