on Monday, 27 December 2010
I like my house, it's simple but it's nice, I like House, it's probably the best thing there is on TV, with the exception of the first twenty or so episodes of Lost, but House music, well i've never been sure. All those half spoken samples, it never did anything for me. There was a time, many many years back when i hated "dance" music, and whereas it's impossible to define a sound as simply as dance, i basically mean club music, I hated it, my sister hated it, Mike Roberts hated it and quite possibly his brother John Roberts, which is strange because John Roberts, the artist is one of the ones that has helped me finally understand the genre, EL-P also who's beat heavy wereallgoingtoburninhellmixxx from earlier in the year helped me finally understand Dubstep, though still not Burial.

I'm not even going to try and put these in order or even explain how they sound, the soundclips should take care of that, but these are some of the most essential beats i've experienced this year. This encompasses Techno, Dubstep, Electronica, Beats and House...i think oh and something called UK Funky.

**for soundclips and generally best view, read direct from website rather than rss feed.

Various Artists - Soul Jazz Presents Riddim Box (Excursions in the UK Funky Underground) Buy
Soul Jazz, seems like a label to pay attention to, not only do the have the most awesome artwork but seem capable of putting together really quite incredible compilations, not content with already supplying us with the amazing Future Bass compilation featuring some of the most interesting Dubstep artist i've come across (Mala, Untold, Coki, Randomer) Here we're treated to 21 tracks from the UK Funky underground, a fine collection indeed.

Boomkat: Soul Jazz set their sights on the morphing parameters of UK Funky with a cherry-picked, 21-track double disc compilation. While they've touched on the topic with the Future Bass and Box Of Dub sets, this one is essentially a "Best Of" UKF, locking off stone cold heavyweights from Kode 9, Lil' Silva, Grievous Angel, Crazy Cousinz, DVA, Ill Blu, Roska, MJ Cole, and Altered Natives, among others. The style has emerged as a clearly defined sound in the East London underground over the last couple of years, tying up strands of Bashment House, Soca, Garage, Grime, and European party Techno into a colourful weave of rhythms and patterns sharing the 120-135bpm bracket. The relatively loose set of criteria for Funky tracks have set up the sound as a mongrel cousin to an oft-homogenised Dubstep scene, and provided new options for DJs and dancers tired of halfstep torpor and looking to up their groove quota. The instantly infectious arrangements of scene standards like Hardhouse Banton's 'Sirens' and the NB Funky's 'Riddim Box' (which supplied this comp with its title) laid the template for a sound constantly in flux between junglist propulsion and feminine pressure, which has since been exported to all corners of the floor with fusions like Kode 9's proggy 'Black Sun', the Tech-House ruffige of Radio Slave's 'Blaze 'N' Cook' remix and Roska or DVA's technoid tribalist riddims. This is probably one of the best places for Funky noobs to practice their dutty wine, and even for the "heads", there's some under-the-radar goodies you really ought to get familiar with. TIP!

Various Artists - Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1 (Night Slugs) Buy
This is non stop, absolutely essential, Lil Silva, Jam City and Girl Unit who's incredible "Wut" closes a killer set, one of my favourite tracks of the whole year.

Boomkat: In UK club music 2010 was the year of the Night Slugs. To celebrate this fact, they round up 13 prime cuts for their 1st CD release, including exclusives and VIP versions from their top boys and showcasing the most virile memes of Teched-out Funky, Jacked-up R&B and Electroid Bass music. On an upfront and exclusive tip, there's a ramped-up VIP mix of Mosca's awesome 'Square One', next to Jam City's all-new and stupidly effective 'Arpjam' plus the shocking force of an L-Vis 1990 & T. Williams hookup entitled 'Stand Up', all created especially for this comp. You may also notice a few newish names, introducing the likes of Ikonika's buddy Optimum on the fluttering, tranced-out Funky riffs of 'Broken Embrace' and the lazer-soul House of Montreal's Jacques Greene with '(Baby I Don't Know) What You Want'. Still fresh out the box, Girl Unit's outstanding 'Wut' anthem makes a bold appearance next to Kingdom's athletic Ballroom banger 'Bust Broke' and there's still no f**king with Lil Silva's 'Seasons', possibly the label's canniest A&R move. Factor in Bok Bok's remix of another megatonne bomb 'IRL', the sweetened synth licks of Velour's 'Booty Slammer' (now outed as the work of Hyetal and Julio Bashmore), and the warped electro-heat of Egyptrixx and Cubic Zirconia, and you know what the outcome is... ESSENTIAL.

Various Artists - Scientist Launches Dubstep into Outer Space! Buy
Even if your not interested in the remixes, the original tracks on disc one are a superb introduction to Dubstep. Another fantastic mix.

Boomkat: The long awaited and much debated Scientist mixes of exclusive dubstep material from the likes of Pinch, Kode 9, Mala and Shackleton finally lands for all Sound System crew. It's undoubtedly Tectonic's most ambitious project to date, some 12 months in the echo chamber spent duppying contemporary material until it heaves and breathes courtesy of masterful mixing board trickery. The man at the controls ranks among the finest Dub engineers ever to grace a desk, and although his prime period was nearly 30 years ago he's still got an innate sensitivity to the subtleties of fluctuating reverb/echo/delay combinations and the transient spaces they're capable of creating. With this in mind the original tracks are rendered as hallucinatory images of their former selves, spatial dimensions warped and surfaces refracted until they feel overgrown and listening to them is like peering into an alien forest, becoming both unpredictable and almost unstable. A project of this kind is pretty much unprecedented in Dubstep and deserves your attention forthwith.

Digital Mystikz - Urban Ethics (Digital Mystikz) Buy
Whereas the still excellent Return II Space from earlier this year was mainly Mala based material, here Coki takes control and all you have to do is wait a whole 57 seconds before you get what your waiting for, one of my favourite discoveries this year.

Boomkat: Coki's loooong-awaited counterweight to Mala's astral 'Return II Space' LP finally lands on super heavy 3LP gatefold vinyl!!! As the other half of Digital Mystikz, Coki can rightly claim status as one of the most influential figures in modern UK dance music, providing the necessary gutterisms to balance Mala's meditative, rooted ethos. It's probably fair to say that Coki's tracks have yielded a great influence on the dubstep scene with pivotal tracks like the proto-wobbler 'Spongebob', dreadnaught 'Tortured' and the crossover anthem 'Night', produced with Benga, tracks which created a fairly clear dichotomy within the style between wheeling, populist rave and "deep" heads-down steppers to anyone bothered enough to consider such things. He basically specialises in making the sort of marmite tracks which will send you nucking futty either way you look at it. 'Urban Ethics' is armed with seven cuts, three of which would fall squarely into the rave-wounding category. In the opening 'Shock It', the threatening darkcore killer 'Robotnik' and the self-explanatory 'Animal' you'll find what you were most likely looking for; fierce, rave-guaranteed burial tunes as potent as the the nastiest '94 Bizzy B tracks, but boiled down to a crack-like 2010 hit. The others, 'Old Hope', 'Intergalactic' and 'It' are all tidy digi-dub numbers, but lets face it, they're not gonna make you skank out like the rest, are they? Well recommended for all dubstep soundbwoys!

ASC - Nothing Is Certain Buy
Boomkat: After 10 years of impressive releases for Offshore, Good Looking and Covert Operations, ASC drops his new album on Instra:mental's excellent Nonplus Records. With 'Nothing Is Certain' he's created a defining moment for the Autonomic canon, focussed on glowing, far-eastern electro-referencing melodies and agile modern tech-step programming. 'Matter Of Time' sets his agenda with exceptional production values before swinging into the lush but fractured minimalism of 'Opus' and taking a moment for reflection on the beatless 'Conversations'. 'Microsia' and 'The Depths' are tricker half-timed beat experiments and there's even a stab at slow swung electro-house in 'Textura'. Back in 180bpm mode 'Losing You' and 'The Ubiquity Incident' shift back into steppers gear with impressively widescreen results. ASC is in sophisticated form and should be checked by any fans of DBridge, Instra:mental, Sabre etc. Recommended.

EL-P - Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 Buy
Despite an off putting first track or so this mix really picks up the pace quickly and peeks between tracks 7 &9 which are simply excellence after excellence, maybe topped only by the incredible closing track Eat my Garbage 2, 8 minutes plus of dubby drums and filthy synth stabs. A musical trip well worth investing your time in.
Boomkat: Continuing the tradition of 1998's 'Little Johnny From The Hospital' and the more recent 'Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx2', El-P serves 15 diverse instrumentals for Def Jux. He largely shuns samples for this LP, instead favouring a powerfully synth and drum driven excursion with fragments of electro wired with a heavy rock vibe.

Ernesto Ferreyra - El Paraiso De Las Tortugas Buy
Boomkat: Following a series of well received 12" singles, Cadenza present the debut LP from Ernesto Ferreyra. Having lived in places as diverse as Ibiza and Berlin, the influence of the house and techno scenes in these cities stretches across these tracks with reassuring subtlety. Delicate changes in melody and percussion snake around the kickdrums while a stream of warm pads flows over and under the mix to generate a powerful upbeat feeling throughout. A dubby low-end pulse drives the music with ease while the high end creates the sort of energy guaranteed to keep your feet moving all night. Even on the album's darker moments (on cuts like Back Pain) there is still a lightness of touch that keeps you engaged without neglecting the high levels of production on show. The album ends with a selection of powerful house cuts of the Panorama bar variety, completing one of the more interesting minimal records of the year. Mastered by Rashad at D&M in Berlin, 'El Paraiso De Las Tortugas ' is a guaranteed party starter, honed for maximum dancefloor effectiveness.

Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner Buy
Boomkat: The highly anticipated debut album from Gold Panda (discounting the Japan-only collection of singles!). Ever since his 'Miyamae' 12" dropped on Various Production's label last year, it was obvious Gold Panda was one to watch. Since then he's had a clutch of warmly received singles for Make Mine and Ghostly International besides a stream of remixes for everyone from Health to The Field, each painting a more detailed and involving portrait of a distinctly lovely artist with a penchant for sweetly exotic melodies and crafty electronic composition. His beautiful recent single 'You' aside, there are ten tracks of brand new material, ranging from the dusted sunrise techno figure of 'Vanilla Minus', through the trickling melodic cadence of 'Same Dream China', and the ecstatic throb of 'Snow & Taxis', maintaining a thread of tenderly blissed emotions which make 'Marriage' and the pastoral pulses of 'I'm With You But I'm Lonely' so unforgettably nice. fans of Lusine, The Field, CFCF, Four Tet or Caribou should book in some quality time with Gold Panda.

Teebs - Arduor (Brainfeeder) Buy
Boomkat: Teebs' debut drops sweet and heavy on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label, following the excellent Lorn album with a more lushed-out and hazy experience. As his recent single and A-side for All City's LA series proved, this man's got his own distinct style of MPC chops, generally less frantic than Flylo's and cleaner than Ras G's, defined by smooth, cushioned surfaces and the warm glow of his synthesizer textures. However he does share their attention span, giving eighteen finely sculpted vignettes from the most liminal, dreamy headspace, mostly hovering around the three minute mark. The previous single featured three of the album's best tracks, the sparkling centre-piece 'Arthur's Birds', the tingle and bump of 'Bern Rhythm', and the melancholy ''Why Like This?', but the goodness certainly doesn't stop there... 'While You Doooo' shakes out a sun-crisped Bossa Nova syncopation with shimmering harps and the sublime 'Wind Loop' could almost be a hazy adjunct to the Tri Angle sound of Balam Acab and co. His drowsy compressions on 'Felt Tip' provide one of the most blissed out and dreamy states, and the Carlos Niño comparisons come full circle in his gorgeous collab with Gaby Hernandez on 'Long Distance'. The combination of meditative calm and richness of the production elevate this album well above the crowd and mean it should make a lasting impression.

Harmonious Thelonious - Talking Buy
Noisy, tribal and at times reminding me of Vitalics ability to control his audience, brainwashing them with mind controlling beat after beat.

Boomkat: Harmonious Thelonious is an alter ego of the prolific Stefan Schwander aka Antonelli Electr, Rhythm Maker and Repeat Orchestra. Following two under-the-radar 12"s for Dreck and Diskant he's bloomed his Afro-infatuated Harmonious Thelonious project into a full blown album, brimming with dense and noisy electro textures and sumptuous rhythmic syncopation. It essentially imagines what Konono No.1 could sound like if they were a studio project from Düsseldorf, borrowing heavily from the lilting timbre of their likembe melodies and bolstering them with ruffly scrawled effects and augmented with a steadier, techno compatible propulsion. As the title infers 'Entranced' is an hypnotic display of slipping loops and bustling, frictional textures creating a undeniably kinetic charge akin to The Field jamming Kasai Allstars, while 'Tautological Speakers' bristles with distorted electronics and gorgeously glassy tones over shuffling machine beats from Jamal Moss's most battered Rolands. The four tracks from his Diskant 12" also make an appearance, including the awesome 'Primitive, Persuasive, Provocative Percussion' which almost sounds like Female going full tilt for a Congolese ceremonial ritual. Rugged, raw and heavy stuff, just how we like it.

Mount Kimbie - Crooks and Lovers Buy
Just lovely. James Blakes solo project was not the only thing worth talking about this year.

Boomkat: With two EPs and a handful of remixes, Mount Kimbie have opened a portal into the world of post-dubstep, electronic fusion soundscaping. 'Crooks & Lovers' is their much anticipated debut album, an assured statement comprised of crafty complexities and coherently juxtaposed angles making use of the freedom from any immediate dancefloor demands. With their releases landing on HotFlush and their inclusion in the catch-all net of dubstep, you'd be forgiven for thinking they're a purely dancefloor act but there's many more elements at play within Mount Kimbie that we've always felt would better lend them to the album format. The shards of acoustic guitars, crying-on-the-dancefloor vocals and jazz arrangements woven into their singles are given more time to develop here, from the vocal glossolalia of 'Adriatic', sounding like an XX experiment recorded on a 10th storey balcony, to the woozy underwater accordian and nautical atmospherics of 'Ode To Bear' or the Bohren And Der Club Of Gore-style dark jazz closer 'Between Time', indulging their esoteric inclinations with finesse. That's certainly not to say that they've forgetten the groove entirely. It's still a central feature of their sound, just largely slowed to a more sedate, hazy pace. The heavy compressed head-swing of 'Would Know' sounds like Actress stepping off with James Blake (who frequently works closely with the duo), and 'Blind Night Errand' programmes Bretschneider-esque digital minimalism spliced with an East London flex in line with Spatial productions. They're at their best when all the elements mesh together, with idiosyncratic chord arrangements, effervescent R'n'B vibes and clinical rhythm structures of 'Carbonated' or the morphing BC-to-Balearia of 'Field' and the twitchy soul of 'Mayor'. 'Crooks & Lovers' is a deeply enjoyable album with a broad appeal to lovers of pop savvy, technically aware and original electronic music. A Must.

Marcel Dettman - Dettman (OSTGUT Ton) Buy

Boomkat: Berlin's techno figurehead launches his highly anticipated debut album for Ostgut Ton. Ever since his deadly MDR001 release, Marcel Dettmann has become a name to keep a close eye on within techno/house circles and beyond. We remember hearing that early transmission during a deluge of classic dubstep tracks and tepid techno minimalism in 2006 and were simply astounded at how much his music stood out from the crowd. His sound concentrates the physicality and dark drive of Industrial/EBM techno or efficient Dubstep into sleek arrangements reminding of Rob Hood or the grey scapes and shapes of Sleeparchive, a typically dry and functional style that's cast a shadow of influence over large parts of the techno community. 'Dettmann' is his note from the edge of the current dancefloor, a dryly observed comment of drowning techno, strafing dub-tech and slowly oxidised atmospheric tones that's about as thrilling as an asphyxiwank in the darkrooms. His set unfurls at a well judged clip, from expansive beatless intro and the garage techno subduction of 'Argon' we're plunged into Vainio-esque bleepism on 'Screen' and steered through frozen jackers like 'Drawing', the Basic Channel-debted sub-throb of 'Reticle' and the folded flex of 'Irritant'. As the sweat begins to dry in the closing stages the relentlessly push of 'Silex' starts to smirk at your under-exercised cardiovascular system, while the sit-down and space-out moment of 'Home' signals that you should be heading off before 'Viscous' demands that you stick around for one more, kicking out salted bass vibes and monotone melodics to keep you pounding the same spot you've been on for the last 12 hours. If that sounds like your idea of fun, this is a must.

Honourable mentions to:

Four Tet - There Is Love in You Buy
Luke Abbott - Holkham Drones Buy
Shed - The Traveller Buy
Various Artists - Funf Buy
Various Artists - Soul Jazz presents Future Bass Buy

An amazing year, just too many great albums to mention.

Although 2010 hasn't been quite the same with regard to the amount of critically acclaimed ambiance and experimentalism, it has produced some incredible releases. To be fair the genre has mostly been explored inside out, nowadays it's less about incredible new sounds as it is about what you do with them. There has however been no shortage of great releases this time round and an abundance that I've just not had chance to listen to, for instance the Audio Gourmet net label collection and Resting Bells constant output.

Hopefully you'll discover something new from the below, happy droning.


1. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Love Is A Stream (Type)Buy
A beautiful mess of static waves, magical and strangely beautiful. An album that finally gave this man's solo pursuits the attention they have long since deserved.

Best known as a founding member of Tarentel and The Alps, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma returns with a brand new album for Type having previously released solo material through Spekk, Arbor and his own label, Root Strata. "Love Is A Stream" marks a radical rethink of the classic dream-pop template, taking an impressionist's brush to the established genre traits. Full of noise and expertly sculpted feedback, tracks such as 'Loving Love' feel like an all-analogue take on Fennesz's noisier moments, complete with hazy exchanges between skyscraping major 7th chords; you might equally suggest that Love Is A Stream goes some way towards joining the dots between My Bloody Valentine and more recent drone-pop scene leaders such as Tim Hecker and Grouper. Although the dominant component parts of this sound seem to spring from the fiery embers of molten synthesizers and tape saturated guitar tones, the album derives some of its luxurious textural presence from vocals supplied by the likes of Type boss John 'Xela' Twells, Lisa McGee and Maxwell August Croy. You can just about make out lost voices roaming around the pulverised mix of 'Stained Glass Body' and the billowing 'River Like Spine' (though it's fairly hard to make any single element out, given how melted and fluid the mixing is), bringing a frail human element to an album that otherwise sounds entirely not of this Earth. Beautiful music.


2. The Fun Years - God Was Like, No (Barge) Buy
All too many bands have failed to follow up killer albums, and due to my own imperfections I almost always overly build up my anticipation of any new album from a band that I love as much as the Fun Years.

With God Was Like, No, The Fun Years did not disappoint. Nothing was too new but their own brand of gentle ambience mixed with the soft crackle of static is near enough perfect to reaffirm the old statement, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Boomkat: *Long-awaited new album from this amazing project, sounding somewhere between Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, Philip Jeck and Fennesz* The Fun Years are responsible for one of our favourite records of the last few years, the magical 'Baby, It's Cold Inside'. This is the much anticipated follow-up, delivering their first new material since an inclusion on Kompakt's Pop Ambient series. Arguably, it's their finest work, evolving the grainy loops and organically constructed drones into a living, breathing mass of intangible yet deeply affecting emotions set somewhere between the majestic blur of Philip Jeck's classical loops and Mogwai's widescreen post-rock, without really sounding like either. After a string of intense recording sessions and road testing the material in odd locations like an air traffic control tower and the guts of a Richard Serra sculpture, 'God was like, No' was finalised, resulting in eight tracks which bend light and sound with a gorgeously tactile and almost kinaesthetic quality. This is best heard on the first side of shorter drone-pop experiments, five tracks which glow and fizz with a matt luminescence, constantly realigning your depth perception as serene layers of synth drone hover in and out of focus, fluttering and disintegrating around blissed, infinite guitar loops not dissimilar to Fennesz's work on 'Endless Summer'. Once we've snapped out of the trance, the other side introduces an altered palette of shapes with a more tensile, frictional relationship. From the subtly dense crescendo of crackle and foreboding gongs in 'And They Think My Name Is Dequan', 'Get Out Of The Obese Crowd' sinks fathoms deep into gruffly distorted textures and stays there until the tidal waves of cathartic ambient noise in 'Precious Persecution Complex' gradually subside. And breathe. If you love feeling shored up and dazed at the end of an album, this one is an absolute must.


3. Eleh - Location Momentum (Touch) Buy
At times no more than the hum of machinery left on standby, yet strangely fascinating, less was certainly more for the majority of this album. It carried the same kind of ability as Phill Niblock or Saito Koji of being able to evolve very slowly and yet never lose the listeners interest.

*The long awaited Touch debut from Eleh - one of the most fascinating and mysterious projects in contemporary electronic music* Ever since we heard our first Eleh record back in 2006 we've been completely blown away by the precise architecture and conceptual realisation of one of the more mysterious recording projects in electronic music. A succession of eleven vinyl-only releases on Important and Taiga followed, marking the enigmatic figure behind the name as a purveyor of exceptional drone music, exploring analog synthesis with a particular emphasis on the physicality of sound from the very lowest registers of the frequency spectrum. 'Location Momentum' is the first time Eleh's music has become available on a digital format, giving Touch the honour of releasing five long, deeply immersive tracks. The patient development and concentration of resonant acoustic phenomenae on the 20 minute opener 'Heleneleh' leaves us breathing slowly and feeling as though our atoms are about to disintegrate like a sandsculpture built on a bassbin. The overlapping drones hit critical frequencies, creating tactile synaesthetic sensations akin to some religious/narcotic experience. The cathedral-set reverbs of 'Circle One' further enhance the worship/trip, something we recommend experiencing on a good set of speakers as opposed to headphone for maximum effect (apparently you're supposed to be 7 feet away from the sound source), putting us into a drowsy, maleable state, but still acutely aware of an immense and insistent presence in control of our senses. By the time you're onto slow subduction of 'Observation Wheel' expect blurred vision and possibly speaking in tongues as par for the course. Finally we're left open mouthed and drooling at the measured and ultra-precise control of 'Rotational Change For Windmill', gradually lowering the pure, unadorned bass tones into a vacuum of abyssal nether regions, enveloping all other tones until we're in the presence of a mass of tangible air movements, at one with a properly arcane vibe. If the music of Eliane Radigue, La Monte Young or Kevin Drumm has affected your life, this album comes very highly recommended. *WARNING* Do not listen to this album while using heavy machinery or operating a vehicle!


4. Counterspark - The Halpern Experiment (Resting Bell) download
In a year when my drone/experimental needs were mostly spent in anticipation of the release of the latest album by The Fun Years, which seemed to be put back month after month, Counterspark did a more than admirable job in catering for my needs with an album, a free one at that of sublime, warm and welcoming drones, not a million miles from The Fun Years, that begged to be listened to on headphones and played again and again.


5. Frank Bretschneider - EXP (Raster Noton) Buy
A new name to me but one I won't be forgetting in a hurry. Delightful miniatures of clicks, beats and sine waves. This won't be to everyone's taste, the songs are songs within songs but from 1:50 of "mass, blue: aluminate, ventilator" through to the end of "Lightweight, Satellite" four songs later, it simply went from strength to strength.

If you even remotely like this then you will absolutely adore his better still 2007 album rhythm.

Boomkat: Raster Noton's rhythmic auteur, Frank Bretschneider, presents his first album in three years, a "music-visual project based on the idea that fine art should attain the abstract purity of music". 'EXP' is an attempt to assimilate the qualities of music, namely rhythm, movement, tempo, mood, intensity and compositional structure within the visual aspect. The music for the project is arranged from an array of generated and selected waveforms sourced from pure electricity, magnetism, light and other radiation. These sounds inform the visual animations, paralleling their changes in frequency, intensity and shape, attempting to exactly reproduce the audible occurences. Of course, that's pretty hard to grasp without seeing the animation so we'll just concentrate on the music. The album is divided between 35 tracks, each ranging between 13 seconds and nearly 3 minutes. Living up to his reputation as a master digital craftsman, Bretschneider uses his abilities to sculpt cochlea engulfing bass tones and ultra-visceral hi's, occasinally arriving at moments where he creates the illusion of 3D electro-acoustic environments with spectacular depth perceptions. Between these hyperreal scapes and his avant B-boy beats this is a special album that should warrant repeat listens for those who really want to explore every nook and cranny of his artificial spaces. Very highly recommended.


6. Taylor Deupree - Snow (Dusk, Dawn) (12k) Buy
I'm still waiting for his long player Shoals, also from this year, to sink in. However the preceding single track to the album, Snow (Dusk, Dawn) was an instant hit, maybe bettering my favourite Deupree moment to date, that being Weather and Worn. 16 minutes of snow falling, crackling ambient elegance that was not a second too long.

Boomkat: "Transience, ephemerality. There is beauty in things that don't last. Taylor Deupree's Snow (Dusk, Dawn), a multimedia project incorporating sound and photography, is based around 63 photographs taken with expired polaroid film. This particular film produces images cast with other-worldly blueish hues and almost immediately begin to fade; losing color, to deep browns, and then finally, within 24 hours after being shot, to complete black. Deupree's work is often inspired by nature, particularly the winterscapes near his home and studio in rural New York. With the polaroid film in hand, which he knew would capture only a fleeting image, he shot images during the first heavy snowfall of the winter of 2009, at dusk, in the setting sun; nothing was to last, the snow, the image, the day. The next morning, barely at sunrise, he set out again to finish the film, in a dawn that wasn't going to last. As quickly as he could, following each photo session, Deupree scanned the polaroid prints, capturing the first white snow in ghostly blue before the pictures faded to black. Each of these scanned images is printed and displayed next to its original, black polaroid counterpart in the package along with the cd. Each copy of this edition of 63 is thus rendered unique, each with a different print and polaroid. For the music portion of the project there is also contrast, transience, and decay. A fragile melodic loop, distressed by surface noise, struggles to keep its repetitive flow over a quiet and languid 18 minutes as it subtly, but constantly, loses ground and eventually becomes fragmented and falls away amongst the elements that surrounded it. Snow (Dusk, Dawn) captures the essence of what much of deupree's work is about: imperfection, time, and memory. He uses both high- and low-tech means of creating rich works that scrape away at the surface of digital sterility. Avoiding the con- trolled manipulation offered by computers he prefers natural and unpredictable processes to add depth and texture to this work. Outdated film, cheap cameras, dust and leaking light effect his photographs while guitars, found percussion, old analog synthesizers and recordings of falling snow provide the soundtrack to a moment in time that comes and goes like dawn".

7. Eluvium - Static Nocturne (Watership Sounds)
mp3 excerpt
Stream the full track at Bandcamp
I rarely have the patience to sit through a single track that clocks in at almost hour, even albums that last that long rarely capture my attention for their entire length, but then it a rare case that the quality is this high. I'd long since been a fan of Eluviums crisp piano opuses that I'd pretty much ignored his more experimental side, that being until I discovered Zerthis earlier this year. Static Nocturne takes a similar approach, as the title would suggest an instrumental compostion, dreamy and pensive in sound and full to the brim with wonderful wonderful static.


8. ibreathefur - Every Day You Look Different (Under The Spire)
The Under The Spire lable seemed to take a back seat this year, or at least avoid the limelight it was given upon its launch in 2009, still the continued to fire out some great, sadly for th most case critically ignored, records.

The pick of the bunch was ibreathefur's Every Day You Look Different. Four songs of crunchy ambience and decay that were neither too long nor too short, basically, just right. Certainly an artist capable worth keeping an eye on.

Boomkat: Ibreathefur is the project name of Chris Spearman, here delivering a work full of tension and dynamics, one minute pummelling you with harsh electronic noise the next soothing you with calm and fuzzy drones. A maelstrom of electronic noise hits you as this lovely 4-tracker opens, bringing to mind the more glacial sheets of noise Tim Hecker has perfected over the years. 'Nylon Light Bleed', quietens down with a manipulated acoustic guitar that falls back into a swirling hiss over mellow drones. The EP finishes with beautiful field recordings, rounding off a lovely release from this interesting new artist.


9. Roll The Dice - Roll The Dice Buy
Whilst everyone got excited about Emeralds new sound and Oneohtrix Point Nevers never ending list of releases, dropping the word "Kosmiche" into every sentence, very few bands of such a trend really impressed me. Maybe the aforementioned artists albums will hit me next year like Jacaszek's Treny took a long long time to register.

I was however completely won over by the collaboration of Swedes Peder Mannerfelt and Malcolm Pardon, namely Roll the Dice, from the opening Arpeggios of The New Black, it was evident that their sound was filled with nostalgia and this is something that they delivered with great expertise. Axee and the aforementioned The New Black stand out.

Boomkat: *Massively anticipated release of this mysterious Fever Ray related project for fans of John Carpenter, Emeralds, Cluster, Afx - on a strictly limited vinyl pressing* Roll The Dice is a very special collaboration between two Swedish studio boffins, Peder Mannerfelt and Malcolm Pardon. The keener eyed among you will recognise Mannerfelt from his involvement with the stunning Fever Ray project, while Pardon is known for his work as a behind-the-scenes producer of music for film and TV. They've shared a studio in southern Stockholm for several years so it only seemed logical to combine their passions for analog electronic music beyond the odd techno track they'd been known to make. So the decision to construct an album using only synths and piano was made, resulting in a semi-improvised opus that ranks alongside recent releases by Emeralds and strongly harks back to the minimal expressions of later Roedelius or the intuitive drama of John Carpenter. A working method was established where the duo would enter the studio with no pro-conceived ideas, inspiring a freeform aesthetic which found structure in repetition and understated progression, sometimes blooming like a spiritual Arvo Pärt composition, as with 'After', or at times conducting their feelings via Basic Channel styled metallic bass throbs reflecting chromatic synth patterns as vividly cinematic as the northern lights, namely with 'Swing'. The absence of drum machines and computer sequencing means that the duo rely on innate precision, guided by the same sort of kosmiche spirit that made Cluster's heavenly transportations so spectacular, and which they manage to parallel in the majestic ascent of hypnotic piano and subtly swelling synths on 'Undertow'. Giving a final shape to the product, the project was finished on the legendary API desk of Gröndal studios in west Stockholm, the desk of choice for Timbaland outside of the US, giving a hallucinatory hi-end gleam to their widescreen vision. Essential Purchase!


10. BvDub - The Art of Dying Alone Buy
BvDub cemented his place in my heart last year topping my album of the year charts with both We Were The Sun and the much underrated A Prayer to False Gods.

This years not so positively entitled The Art of Dying Alone only served to further strengthen the already sturdy foundations. Nothing massively new except perhaps the more prominent presence of fragments of wordless vocals, particularly on the beautiful 19 minutes that are the closing eponymous track. A prime example of how beauty can be strectched out into near perfection. Truly Epic.

Boomkat: Returning with his Bvdub project, San Francisco's Brock Van Wey presents his cheerily titled new album, The Art Of Dying Alone. Previously seen on Kompakt's Pop Ambient 2010 compilation, Van Wey capitalises on this growing momentum by delivering what's almost certainly his finest hour to date. The album is a shining example of its genre, an astutely constructed flow of of ambience and introspection that navigates considerable depths. With a bucketful of heavy-headed melancholy, 'Descent To The End' sets you on your way, immediately plunging you deeply into Van Wey's verdant, multi-layered musical idiom. As has previously been the case, some of the more obvious points of reference would include the likes of Gas and more recent artists in the field of flotation tank techno, such as The Sight Below. However, the almost song-like tendencies of the record unshackle the Bvdub sound from its genre forebears to some extent, as demonstrated by 'No One Will Ever Find You': an oceanic swell of female vocals, acoustic guitars and endless, frothing synth-strings - the founding ingredients for much of what's to come over the course of this album. The immense twenty-one minuter, 'To Finally Forget It All' stands out too, allowing a clicking downtempo beat to infiltrate Van Wey's luscious soundscape and line his quilt of looped guitar harmonics and misted-over choral textures with a pulsing rhythmic component. As ambient music goes, the all-round epic sonic effulgence of The Art Of Dying Alone is unusually brash, and the adherence to a specific set of sounds further imbues the album with its own specific identity within the field. Grand stuff that followers of the Pop Ambient school won't want to miss.


Find more artists like Infinite Body at Myspace Music

Find more artists like infinite body at Myspace Music

11. Infinite Body - Carve Out The Face Of My God (Post Present Medium)Buy
Strangely popular amongst the more trendy experimentals, your Skaters, Ducktails crowd etc. A lovely album awash with waves of synthetic drones that dramatically fade in and out of focus.


12. Segue - We Learn to Forget (Under The Spire)
It kind of does what it says on the tin really, it's Under The Spire, it's quality minimal drone ambience, you should need no further encouragement to go check it out.

Boomkat: Segue is the solo project of Jordan Sauber from Vancouver. He blends guitar with found sounds and field recordings for a series of minimal drones perfectly matched with Under The Spires homespun aesthetic.


13. Seaworthy & Matt Rösner - Two Lakes (12k)Buy
A nature record of types, beautiful sounds of moving water and forest sounds, the kind of beauty we've come to expect from the excellent 12k label.

Boomkat: A brilliant new collaboration from two of Australia's leading electroacoustic practitioners, Two Lakes finds Seaworthy's Cameron Webb joining forces with Matt Rösner for an album based upon the sounds of the coastal ecosystems of Lakes Meroo and Termeil in New South Wales. The duo set about collecting detailed location recordings of the various lakeside habitats and environments, capturing sound from forest regions, streams and beaches at different times of day. Hydrophones as well as more conventional mics were used to document the natural sonic activity, and the two musicians even found some time to set-up a studio in a nearby cabin so as to lay down improvised instrumental performances using acoustic and electric guitars, ukulele and electronics. Instrumental and environmental sounds are unified in the final mix, and the results never fail to be enthralling. That's not always the case with albums of this kind. It's all too easy for music like this to become a little wishy-washy - neither one thing nor the other - but Two Lakes feels like a very synergetic meeting of documentary field recording and instrumental performance. The tone of a piece such as 'Meroo Stream' far transcends the sort of pastoral tranquility you'd expect from such a project, and instead there's a real sense of solitude, and even... dampness permeating through the mix. Superbly recorded and beautiful on a surprisingly visceral level, Two Lakes comes very highly recommended indeed.


14. Warmth Terminal - Getting Closer (Hibernate)
The Hibernate label continues to fight the Under the Spire label as my favourite hands on small independant experimental label. There were a number of great releases from them this year, probably the pick of the bunch being Warmth Terminal, minimal and simple in sound yet as the name quite aptly suggests, the gentle drones will warm your heart with their uncomplicated and undefiled clean tones.

Boomkat: Getting Closer is the debut release from UK-based ambient artist David Lancaster, who unveils his Warmth Terminal project with a collection of four melodic and accessible drone-based compositions, mastered by Ian Hawgood. Avoiding the customary sense of stasis hanging over these sorts of releases, Lancaster launches with 'On That Day', a quarter-hour work that swells through bright, sustaining passages of tonality whilst evolving through an unexpectedly tuneful, somehow aquatic sounding progression. On this opener, the presence of synth-string chords and a guiding bass presence sets Lancaster's sound apart from the dominant "micro" tendencies of the ambient genre. Serving up a shorter second piece, 'They Sat Down And Sighed Happily' (try to ignore the cloyingly twee title) is full of glowing major-key harmonics and a continuous field recording of what seems to be rainfall. It's all very pretty and highly musical, once again readily coming forward with a sense of melodic development nestled away at the heart of the drone. 'It's All Around Us' takes these notions of subtle, tuneful motions to a new extreme, installing a sense of time-lapse euphoria that probably has as much in common with a Robin Guthrie production as it does electronic drone music. Finally, 'See In Slow Motion' rounds off the album in similar style, drifting through nine minutes of icy, hypnotic waves.


15. Minamo - Duree (12k)Buy
Another beautiful release from 12k, with artwork to match. Half remembered melodies that are delicatley held together in such a fragile manner that I can't help but think of the excellent Molly Berg and Stephen Vitiello collaboration of last year. Simple, almost childlike and equally as beautiful in it naive sounds.

Boomkat: Durée is named in tribute to French philosopher Henri-Louis Bergson's writing on human conceptions of the relationship between duration and consciousness. Apparently Minamo are keen to align with Bergson's view that time is a continuous flow rather than a sequence of quantised, compartmentalised moments. Something like that. Hard to say how that really adds up when you consider that this is a CD that very specifically lasts 45min 11sec and is divided into 8 distinct tracks, but still, given the Japanese electroacoustic quartet's predilection for narrative-shirking freetime strands of improvised (though subsequently edited) music, you kind of see where they're coming from. These things tend to be best served without preamble, and purely as an exercise in cochlea-tickling processed loveliness this album is just gorgeous. Led by Fourcolor's Keiichi Sugimoto, the group uses a selection of instruments including guitars, percussion, bells, analogue synthesizer, harmonium and an unspecified Nintendo console as sound-mkaing devices. After committing a number of lengthy, off-the-cuff recording takes Minamo set about mixing, cutting and splicing together the album, although the digital post-production is apparently reduced down to a minimum, with far greater emphasis placed on the realtime use of effects pedals. Although Minamo's established sound remains largely in place, their renewed, organic approach lends Durée's compositions a more song-like feel than prior material you might have heard from this band. There's a wonderful sense of symbiosis to a piece like 'Help Ourselves' however, marrying plodding piano chords to bright, piercing strands of bitcrushed tones to great effect. Nothing too experimental going on here, but Durée is right up there at the pinnacle of Minamo's musical accomplishments and stands as a top notch example of pastoral, very beautiful electroacoustic soundscaping.


16. James Blackshaw - All is Falling (Young Gods)Buy
Another beautiful album of musical intricacy from an artist that has made my end of year list for the last three years running. Many didn't show much love for this album, but in reality it's a logical progression from his early guitar heavy albums which i feel where a victim of their own success. Here the focus is more on the piano and the addition of further instruments, though the guitar still features heavily it is no longer the sole focus of our attention. Particularly the opening Part 1 and Parts 6, 7 & 8 are as beautiful as you'd expect from Mr Blackshaw.

Boomkat: Initially, it would seem as though the big story here is that 'All Is Falling' finds the much-revered acoustic guitarist setting his primary instrument aside in favour of various other outlets for his compositions. Indeed, Blackshaw adopts a very different sonic arsenal, and while a guitar is still a major component - this time it's plugged in. Blackshaw has gone electric. In actuality, this album isn't too much of a stretch from last year's delightful The Glass Bead Game, which found Blackshaw opening up his sound to include increasingly orchestral textures. Likewise, 'All Is Falling' features strings, woodwind, percussion (tuned and otherwise), and kicks off beautifully with an axe-free, piano-driven first part. The swirling keyboard phrases reveal a familiar agenda, as Blackshaw enticingly cycles his way through tumbling arpeggios in much the same way as he might on his acoustic 12-string. Part two marks the first indication of where Blackshaw's newly amplified sound might be headed, and the switch to electric guitar immediately raises comparisons to Ben Chasny in Six Organs Of Admittance, yet the tone of the pieces themselves avoids any psych-folk reference points, instead sounding overwhelmingly like a modern classical suite penned with the electric guitar in mind. The sixth piece in particular seems to reference Steve Reich-style repetitions, as underlined by a voice counting time throughout. There are some shatteringly lovely arrangements strewn across this record, with violin and cello parts complimenting Blackshaw's lead especially nicely; the twelve-minute seventh part puts these elements to best use, as the bowed elements shift from highly organised short, rhythmic phrases and Rachel's-esque post-rock into more abstract and dissonant territory, as underlined by an onslaught of sickly, detuning glissandos. Another firm-footed evolutionary step for this artist, 'All Is Falling' expands upon James Blackshaw's established oeuvre without deserting the compositional principles and instrumental fluency that made him such a compelling figure in the first place. Lovely.

No Words (Land Of Decay) by WhenSkiesAreGrey
17. Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words - No Words
Strange name, beautiful sounds. The opening two tracks (of this three track tape) are both entitled No Words, the second is a masterstroke of beauty. Calling out like some distant relative of Zerthis the sound of sinking, pianos underwater, slowly descending to their demise, being sucked into a black vortex, extracting every last possible piece of beauty out before it's ultimate necrosis. Powerful stuff.

Distance/ Skeletal/ Union by Marta Mist
18. Marta Mist - Distance/ Skeletal/ Union (Hibernate)
Another excellent release on Hibernate, just a single track this time but epic all the same. Twenty plus minutes that seem to pass with hardly the blink of an eye. Beautiful stuff.

19. Sean McCann - A Wind in Their Way (Monorail Trespassing)

Deleted Scenes: two frozen reverb-guitar blowers from sean mccann, closed out by a rather eno-esque piece that sounds like some gorecki, time-stretched, recorded to micro-cassette, then run through a holy stain pedal

20. Loscil - Endless Falls (Kranky) Buy
As brilliant as ever, the rainfall that accompanies the opening track only serves to make his work even more beautiful and essential. Fern and Robin was one of the dreamiest pieces of the year, there's a good chance that if you left this on repeat you may well never wish to wake back up. Soothing sounds.

Boomkat: One of Kranky's longest standing artists, Scott Morgan returns for a fifth album for the label, and it's quite superb, even by Loscil's already high standards. Regular Kranky followers will no doubt find themselves suitably bewitched, but this music's equally likely to appeal to followers of BJ Nilsen, Stephan Mathieu, Kyle Bobby Dunn and Celer. Endless Falls is bookended by recordings of rainfall, something which mirrors the droplet-obscured sleeve. This sort of imagery is a handy visual metaphor for ambient music of this variety: in the photograph a form of interference displaces the content of the picture as its true subject, and so it goes in Loscil's music. While Morgan's string sections and looping melodic gestures make up the fabric of these recordings it's the muffling and masking of them that draws the true beauty out of this music. 'Estuarine's minimal and plaintive piano phrases wouldn't be nearly so alluring were they not partially hidden away from you, and the stretched-out violins of the title track only function as beautifully as they do because they're cradled by a low, warm hum of filtered out, ambient sound matter. Rather than merely revelling in protracted linear drone exercises, Morgan latches his music to subtle rhythmic elements throughout the album, most prominently highlighted by 'Dub For Cascadia' - whose melancholy chord surges, crackling waves of static and contoured bass throbs sound like Stars Of The Lid playing along to something from the first three Pole albums. It's difficult to contemplate such a thing, but Endless Falls might be that rarest of things: an album whose best track is a spoken-word piece. In this case Destroyer's Daniel Bejar takes to the mic for the nine-minute closing piece. 'The Making Of Grief Point' is nine minutes of dramatically-charged, glitching, Biosphere-like drone, spun from downplayed neo-classical instrumentation and filtered loops, all accompanying Bejar's typically elliptical, digression-prone and fractured lyrics. Wonderful stuff throughout - highly recommended.
And so there goes another year, billions of albums released, far too many ignored or at least neglected, and yet some really great albums have surfaced over the past twelve months.

The last three months in particular has seen me finally click with Dubstep and even House to some extent, a genre I never thought i'd get into.

Here we start with the most essential pop albums of the last year. i've narrowed it down to 18, if I was less tired I probably would've rounded it up to 20 and included Sleigh Bells Treats and the eighties-tastic That We Can Play by Games.

The majority of pop that i've fallen for this year has been deeply influenced by the sixties, girl groups especially, not a bad thing considering this was the golden decade for pop.

Hopefully you'll find something new and enjoyable. Enjoy 2011.

Click the reviews link for soundclips and the normal reviews, generally my own comments along with Boomkats plus tracks to stream.

Artist Album

1 Best Coast Crazy For You Buy
Review + Soundclips
2 Rangers Suburban Tours Buy Review + Soundclips
3 Allo, Darlin' Allo, Darlin' Buy
Review + Soundclips
4 Anika Anika Buy
Review + Soundclips
5 Big Blood Dead Songs Buy Review + Soundclips
6 The Like The Like Buy
Review + Soundclips
7 Magic Kids Memphis Buy
Review + Soundclips
8 Tennis Baltimore - EP / South Carolina Buy Review + Soundclips
9 Beach House Teen Dream Buy
Review + Soundclips
10 Gigi Maintenant Buy
Review + Soundclips
11 Belle & Sebastian Belle & Sebastian Write About Love Buy
Review + Soundclips
12 The School Loveless Unbeliever Buy
Review + Soundclips
13 Chain and the Gang (I've Got) Privilege 7" Buy Review + Soundclips
14 Cults Adult Swim Singles Program Buy Review + Soundclips
15 CocoRosie Grey Oceans Buy
Review + Soundclips
16 Amiina Over & Again Buy
Review + Soundclips
17 Gonjasufi Kowboyz&Indians / My Only Friend Buy
Review + Soundclips
18 Scout Niblett Calcination of Scout Niblett Buy
Review + Soundclips
on Sunday, 26 December 2010
Although in many ways this wasn't a completely new album, a number of the tracks had surfaced in various guises, for instance the opening track and maybe instant standout track Just Do It was previously a B-Side to single Dinosaur Egg, other tracks featured as foreign bonus tracks on other albums. And yet this still remained a precious collection of songs from a very special girl. Capable of sounding sweet as an angel and then as dark black can get.

Many tracks stood out, for me personally the hectic dynamics of both Calcination and Cherry Cheek Bomb made them instant winners alongside the less obvious big muff infected boggy sound of Strip Me Pluto, the dank muddy sound of the guitar was a perfect compliment to her oh so perfect vocals.

I fear that i will never get bored of this girl. A live performance earlier this year only helped to reaffirm that. Certainly one of my proudest discoveries.

Find more artists like scout niblett at Myspace Music

Spoiler : What Boomkat Said:
For her sixth album, Scout Niblett once again teams up with producer Steve Albini, resulting in a series of recordings that's perhaps even more spartan and bold in its arrangements than anything she's done before. Much of the album is pared down to just Niblett's own voice and a skeletal electric guitar accompaniment, but the tactic could hardly be more effective: the likes of 'Just Do It' and 'IBD' are uncannily absorbing, hooking you in with their heavily charged atmospherics. Albini is surely the perfect collaborator for Scout Niblett, keeping her sound pristine but mercilessly free of any sort of conventional post-production traits. Calcination isn't entirely made up from voice and guitar however, and there are plenty of moments where minimal drum parts erupt from the quiet. 'Cherry Cheek Bomb' and 'Ripe With Life' both embrace fuzz-wrenching grungey outbursts while 'Lucy (Lucifer)' ditches guitar altogether, instead shaping a song - at times onomatopoeically - on the thrashing of drums and cymbals. Highly recommended.

One of those incredible tracks, that probably isn't meant to be considered pop, yet its hugely Indian influenced backing was simply impossible to ignore, the lyrics too, so deadpan and straight to the point, "I'm turning your John Wayne into another John Doe/ I'm not your lone ranger I'm not your John Doe".

The album itself was strong, the track Sheep perhaps being even better than this, Ageing gloriously blues like in sound, like it had been ripped straight from an old 78, DedNd sounding like it was auditioning for a future Flora commercial, but nothing quite caught the immediacy and invention of this track.

Kowboyz&Indians / My Only Friend (BUY)

Spoiler : What Boomkat Said:
The enigmatic GonjaSufi is by far one of the more interesting recent recruits to the Warp roster. With a voice as distinctive as his, and a solid rep in the LA beat scene, it would appear that he's got the pick of the production litter at his disposal too. The Gaslamp Killer-produced 'Kowboyz&Indians' sounds like some pedigree nugget from the Finders Keepers archives, weaving fuzz-toned psyche beats with mesmerizing chants and his strange vocal cadence, a raspy blues twang with a mysterious hint of the exotic. On the flip 'My Only Friend' maybe gives a better display of his range, setting hushed and introverted sung tones to an acid fried psyche beat backing hinting at J.P Massiera mixed with Broadcast. It's all splendidly odd and suitably psychotic for one of Flying Lotus' favourite artists, promising something very interesting from his forthcoming album.