In between old Autechre and New Order, Piers Barber found time to listen to some new albums in 2018. Here is the Music Factory’s round-up of the best 2018 had to offer. Full lists from previous years can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Nils Frahm – All Melody; DJ Koze – Knock Knock; Anderson .Paak – Oxnard; Mark Pritchard – The Four Worlds; Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurts; WEN – EPHEM:ERA; Djrum – Portrait With Firewood; DJ Richard – Dies Irae Xerox; The Internet – Hive Mind; Low – Double Exposure; Daniel Avery – Songs For Alpha; Âme – Dream House; Mr. Fingers – Cerebral Hemispheres; Helena Hauff – Qualm; Thom Yorke – Suspiria; Novelist – Novelist Guy; Hunee – Hunchin’ All Night; DJ Healer – Nothing 2 Loose; Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs; Rival Consoles – Persona; Anthony Naples – Take Me With You; Bruce – Sonder Somatic
10. Wooden Shjips – V. A dreamy, infectious and wistful slab of West Coast psychedelia with some wonderful guitar moments.
9. Jay Daniel – TALA. Compelling, subtle Detroit workouts from an increasingly accomplished artist.
8. Forest Drive West – Apparitions. Start-to-finish bubbling bass, dub and drums from this prolific producer, released on the ever-excellent Livity Sound.
7. Delroy Edwards – Hangin’ At The Beach. A tad hard-to-love yet still a completely fascinating collection of hazy beats which occasionally evolve into moments of real beauty.
6. DJ Python – Dulce Campañia. New York’s Brian Piñeyro delivers awesome chugging, gently evolving rollers on this dreamy debut.
5. Skee Mask – Compro
2018 was a real breakthrough year for German producer Brian Müller, whose smart breakbeat-indebted Skee Mask project has been compellingly evolving since 2015. Compro finds him at his most confident and assured – the album never rushes, but delivers track after track of infectious Ilian Tape (read our best of the label here) goodness, all squelchy, thumping bass, ambient techno, artful nods to hardcore and endlessly creative drum patterns that have deservedly shot its producer to the top of the dance music end of year charts.
4. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
An incredibly daring left-turn from the cheeky Monkeys, Tranquility Base saw the Sheffield indie rock pin-ups steer brilliantly clear of their slightly tiresome lad-rock and instead offer up this classy curveball, complete with Exile on Main Street-style cut and paste lyrics, groovy musicianship and heaps of sleaze and suave. It’s got to make this top five simply for its ballsy bravery and lingering melodies – more of the same please boys.
3. Martyn – Voids
A near-death heart attack and the loss of close friend Marcus Intalex feeds deeply into Martyn’s excellent Voids, his fifth full-length album which draws together the dubstep, 2-step, techno, garage and warm house styles he has restlessly shaped and pioneered throughout an important career. There are some real moments here: ‘Manchester’ is a tribute to the city and his friendship with Intalex, ‘Mind Rain’ is an urgent percussive romp, while ‘Cutting Tone’ is a particularly brilliant, energetic highlight.
2. Prince – Piano and a Microphone 1983
Classic Prince, this, somehow managing to release one of the most musically magisterial, magical albums of the year despite no longer being with us. Piano and a Microphone is a tantalising glimpse into the workings of this one-of-a-kind great: a rehearsal session recorded in one continuous take comprising of piano sketches that range from unfinished haunting ballads to playful jazz and muscular funk. Fascinating, enduring, and an enticing teaser of what might still yet be hanging about the Paisley Park vaults.
1. Blawan – Wet Will Always Dry
Blawan’s debut full-length is quite simply an exceptional techno album, devoid of fillers or pretension. I came to it after an off-hand listen to Jamie Robert’s RA Exchange: a frank and revealing account of the frustrations, insecurities and writers-block challenges – on top of illness and personal issues – that the artist has dealt with (admittedly with great aplomb) throughout his career. The interview – as well as his Quietus feature – was an intriguing counterpoint to the ruthless and primal style of techno (and K-I-C-K D-R-U-M knuckle tattoos) that has become his trademark and that gives off such an air of uncompromising confidence. This second side of Blawan – playful, imaginative, inventive and vulnerable – can be heard throughout this brilliant album. On top of that, it has some of the most bruising, authoritative takes on techno heard in years.
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