WL//WH Best Electronic Albums Of The Year
2017 has proved to be a more than satisfactory year for electronic music, a genre open to fusion, hybridisation and crossing boundaries, with still plenty of room for experimentation and further developments.
Two aspects I’d like to emphasise : firstly the female djs/producers, despite some avoidable controversy, have definitely left and will leave their mark, Nene Hatun, Jlin, Amelie Lens, Rrose, Hydrangea, Antenes, Xosar, Nadia Struiwigh, Zhe Pechorin, Melania, Lair come to mind first; secondly the constantly increasing multitude of DIY tape labels, an stimulating endless source of new sounds and experimentations, Cultivated Sound, Amok Tapes, Ritual Process, Out Of Order, Clan Destine, Casement Exchange, Perfect Aesthetics, just to name a few.
Personally I’ve been following the most of electronic music genres and subgenres for years, therefore here is an ecleptic personal and subjective best playlist of the year, where, unlike the other ones, I opted for just an alphabetic order without any hierarchy.
400PPM “Fit for Purpose” (AVIAN)
New Yorker dj/producer Shawn O’Sullivan, in an abrasive and dark rereading of techno under the influences of a sci-fi psychedelic punk e post-punk suggestions, shows his unique skill to create intricate analog rhythms and the constant flow of scraping drones and brittle textures.
Paris-based Iranian female duo of Nima Aghiani and Sara Bigdeli Shamloo create four long multi-layered electro-acoustic cinematic compositions made of field recordings, ominous and spectral string arrangements, treated guitars and electronic effects together with hieratic and evocative vocalization, developing a vivid and magmatic soundscape of mournful mysticism and desolate charm.
ACRONYM “Malm” (Field Records)
Swedish electronic producer proves to be once again an incredible craftsman of icy, atmospheric electronic music ‘informed by grief and sorrow’, crossing the boundaries between ambient, kosmische musik and deep techno in an absorbing, painful way.
ANCESTRAL VOICES “Divination” (HORO)
Sophomore album for British producer Liam Blackburn, aka Indigo and one half of Akkord, cinematic, drone, industrial ambient work of deep calm and brief intesity. Profoundly emotional and sublime.
APHEXIA “The Gates” (Raumklang Music)
With her sophomore album the ‘industrial’ project by Hamburg-based musician Ophelia The Suffering (aka Ecstasphere) reaches the full maturity blurring the lines between IDM electronic and classical music, her increasingly growing unique songwriting skill impresses and charmes.
BELIEF DEFECT “Decadent Yet Depraved” (Raster)
The dystopyan epic debut by the mysterious duo is a filthy, apocalyptic and unmerciful black monster of post-industrial electronica built on slow and distressing rhythms, broken beats and quivering basslines, an obscure, powerful and portentous depiction of our times at the edge of the abyss.
BEN FROST “The Centre Cannot Hold” [Mute Records]
After the critical acclaimed ‘AURORA’ the Reykjavik-based Aussie experimentalist continues, with the assistance of Chicago’s studio wiz Steve Albini, his futuristic sonic exploration with a fluid, rarefied, elusive and introverted tangle of deconstructed sounds with no logic thread that affect and upset with even more extreme and visceral violence than before, just in a different subconsciously way; a difficult, challenging but ultimately rewarding listening experience post-apocalyptic wasteland.
BLUSH RESPONSE “Infinite Density” (Sonic Groove)
American producer Joey Blush is back, after last year album on Ant Zen, with another killer dystopic blend of EBM, industrial and techno; intense, intriguing, and aggressive, the perfect recipe for distruction.
BRAINWALTZERA “Poly-Ana” (FILM)
The best debut album from the IDM/Braindance camp comes from the mysterious, maybe German, producer who, with solid foundation in the past, namely Rephlex, creates something fascinating and personal, starting from that awesome synth sound.
Visionary debut from Greek multi-instrumentalist Constantine Skourlis with his innovative and imaginative take on dark ambient where classical and contemporary, live and digital combine and cohexist in a challenging and catharctic vision affected by the Greek mythology and the refugee crisis.
One of the dozens of releases by Hastings-based noise-experimentalist Zen Zsigo under the Cremation Lily moniker, this time for his own label, with his usual experimental wider approach to all the post-industrial styles from ambient, drone to noise, power electronics; an immersive soundscape pervaded together with anxiety and a touch of the sublime.
E-SAGGILA “Lux Campaign” (Opal Tapes)
I can’t miss an Opal Tapes release, so here’s the Toronto-based of Iraqi origin female producer Rita Mikhael, an artist in constant growth and experimentation with her fascinating combination of drone and ambient, industrial rhythmic noise, dark techno and drum’n’bass forays. The music of the also co-owner of Summer Isle tape label is strident, abrasive and bloody attractive.
The hyperactive (Jesu/JK Flesh) British mastermind Justin K. Broadrick, along with his faithful bassist G. C. Green, are back to raise the post-industrial bar, between drum-machine patterns, drilling bass, walls of guitar riffs, roaring vocals; initially brutally dynamic and progressively atmospheric, utterly uncompromising, undoubtedly still one of the masters of the post-modern industrial game.
The Berlin-based Spanish producer with her distinctive and imaginative experimental take on industrial and beyond, with the add of African tribalism, jazzy and dub flavors, delivering definitely one of the debut of the year.
LINGUA IGNOTA “All Bitches Die” (Self Release)
One of the most fascinating, unsettling and powerful album of year by Rhode Island-based classically trained vocalist interdisciplinary artist, composer, and performer Kristin Hayter, ‘inspired by vernacular extreme forms such as black metal, power electronics, and harsh noise as well as sacred music’, fluctuates between relentless, excruciating, brutal noise and beautiful melodies played on the piano, her voice is pure raw emotion.
Berlin-based Californian experimentalist James Whipple “wanted to follow rhythmic ideas into strange territories” and has fully achieved it in an intense, overwhelming, cohesive and distinctive body of work. Absolutely unpredictable and engaging.
MOAAN EXIS “Trascendence” (Audiotrauma)
French composer Mathieu Cudron from Toulouse with his personal genre-defying slab of techno rhythms and experimental industrial sound contaminated by drone, dubstep, drum’n’bass, dark ambient and electro, a debut album that surprises, excites and completely overwhelms.
Deep, spacey, powerful, pumping, cavernous, epic techno from the UK producer, a debut that will transport you into a state of emotive and introspective bliss.
With their sophomore album, Serbian techno industrial duo of Boris Noiz and Darko Kolar deliver an uncompromising, hard and intense apocalyptic pitch black onslaught, where the atmospheric elements of their debut have been cut to the bone, the melancholy erased, in order to induce the listener into an hypnotic and mind-blowing state, overwhelmed by propulsive no-frills 4/4 beats of the finest dark techno ‘for industrial people’ around.
PACT INFERNAL “Purification” (Horo)
Haunting debut album from the mysterious Berlin-based duo, a blend of dark ambient, tribal and industrial, maybe a bit more harshness of sounds wouldn’t have hurt, but still a disturbing and compelling taste of hell.
Berlin-based Chinese experimentalist Pan Daijing’s debut is a disturbing slab of post-industrial noise and dark abstract drone with a refined, visceral and cathartic approach, pretty much impossible to be unaffected.
Glasgow’s one half of Golden Filter with a stripped-dowm instrumentations, made of acoustic piano and electronic effects, transforms the most intimate and societal experiences into vulnerable lullabies with a sweeping and cathartic emotional power.
PHARMAKON “Contact” (Sacred Bones Records)
Third album and a further confirmation of the precocious Margaret Chardiet’s impeccable skill to handle harsh-noise e death-industrial; unlike the previous ones focused essentially on the body, this time the gap between body and mind, through her cathatic noise bliss, is increasingly narrow.
PHASE FATALE “Redimeer” (Hospital Productions)
Berlin-based New Yorker Hayden Payne is undoubtedly one of the favourite producer from the obscure and more industrial side of electronic music at the moment. His debut full-length has given birth, from his darkest part of his psyche, to a radical and magnificent synthesis between 80’s industrial, post-punk, EBM and techno. Hard to hear an harshly honest and brutally menacing and absorbing piece of dark electronic music
RAZGRAAD “The Ideology Of Pessimism” (Yerevan Tapes)
Talking about excellent DIY tape labels, here is, via Yerevan Tapes, the sophomore album of pure ‘black doomtronic’ from the Italian producer from Bologna, where different sonic imputs like post-industrial, dark ambient and kosmische collide and deflagrate to be channelled and reworked into a ritual, cinematic, dissonant, bleak, raw and obscure drone and metallic sound form utterly absorbing and immersive.
RESTIVE PLAGGONA “Orders Rejected” (NEN Records)
Something beautiful are happening in the Island of Corfù from the low-profile young prolific electronic producer Dimitris Doukas, not only his own Several Minor Promises imprint, but also a plethora of limited tapes for different labels under various monikers (Leftina Osha, Matriarchy Roots, Plaggona, Vile Temper) : lo-fi, dark ambient, post-industrial, dark techno…always a deeply intriguing listening experience.
TREPANERINGSRITUALEN “Kainskult” (Tesco Organisation)
Thomas Martin Ekelund most accomplished and cohesive release to date and probably his cornerstone : classic dark-ambient, ritual death-industrial, noise power electronics; rough, visceral, essential and spellbinding. Lord of the darkness is back and we are totally addicted to his cult.
TZUSING ‘東方不敗 / Dongfang Bubai‘ (L.I.E.S.)
The mysterious Malaysian-born, Taipei-based artist, with his powerful and carnal combination of post industrial techno and EBM grooves with exotic traditional Asian folk melodies, stands at the forefront of electronic music’s exciting newest wave of producers.