Distressing though it is, there’s no point in denying: the year is halfway done.
As such, it’s time for us to present our Second Quarter Report, in which we list the 20 albums of the last three months – April, May, June – which have given us the most pleasure and pause for thought, and which we believe are most worth your attention.
Listed in alphabetical order over the next two pages, some have already been reviewed favourably on the site, others have been enjoying heavy rotation on the office stereo but haven’t yet received their dues in print until now.
So, without further ado, we bring you the 20 best albums of 2011’s second quarter. If you missed our First Quarter Report back in March, you can still check it out here.
(WHEN IN DOUBT)
“What is truly remarkable about Fever is its coherence; its unique sonic stamp – every piece sounds like it belongs here and simply couldn’t exist anywhere else. It is cohesive structurally, texturally and atmospherically, and as 2562′s third album, represents the pinnacle thus far of a staggering career arc – a magnificent achievement in itself.” – full review
PASSED ME BY
“At a time when dub techno is one of the laziest and least inspiring genres in electronic music, one of the brightest people at its peripheries shows just how far into the jungle those borders extend, and it’s one hell of a place to visit. Hopefully you can make it out alive.” full review
“There’s nothing “cool” about Electronic Dream, frankly. It’s not underground, it’s not new, and it’s certainly not dignified: it’s straight-to-the-heart dance music, produced as cheaply as possible with commercial intentions. If you’re the sort of person who’ll balk at that, then you shouldn’t even be reading this review. But for those prepared to give trance a chance, Electronic Dream is a thousand times more vital and full of life than the majority of the overproduced, diva-for-hire vocal tracks coming out of the UK right now.” full review
“Hip-hop has always been ahead of the curve, and quick to throw off the shackles of tradition (the genre has largely left the vinyl format to rot, for instance – if your track’s on YouTube, that’s it out). It’s easier than ever to make a masterpiece with minimal production software, but it’s also easier than ever for artists to get bogged down in what doesn’t matter. While the rest of the world spends all night EQing a kick drum to death, Clams Casino is building a legacy.” – full review
AFRO NOISE VOL. 1
Eight years in the making, this incredible album finds William Bennett – erstwhile leader of power electronics terrorists Whitehouse – going solo and deploying his collection of obscure African instruments to conjure a kind of noise-techno voodoo apocalypse. Mind-blowing, if not for the faint of heart.
GANG GANG DANCE
“It’s both surprising and impressive that Eye Contact holds together as well as it does, given the baffling eclecticism of its source material. It’s an album that plunders ideas from cutting edge dance music yet feels like it still owes a huge debt to John Carpenter’s soundtrack to Big Trouble In Little China – gelling laptop production and live performance in a way that few bands can pull off” – full review
THE HAXAN CLOAK
THE HAXAN CLOAK
On this magnificent debut, London’s Haxan Cloak works from a base of noise and doom metal tropes and uses his classical training – not to mention considerable studio nous – to create a cinematic epic that’s as moving as it is faintly terrifying.
“Overall, a very solid debut album, which takes an approach that could have seen it fade to beige and often excels, due in no short part to an incredibly considered use of ambience that binds the album together. Hyetal will doubtless go on to make better records than this, but as starting points for a still-growing artist go, it’s very much worth your time.” – full review
“By giving equal weight to all of their influences without any trace of desperation or cynicism it is an album that feels successfully like “an album”, rather than a collection of tracks with the same underlying theme and lots of variations. Sonically, however, the record is coloured throughout by late ’90s/early ’00s electro production values and instrumentation, and probably owes more than anything to this particular period of dance music.” – full review
“A highly stylised record, the work of a record collector as much as a musician, but its melodic exuberance and unerring momentum forestall any accusations of detachment.” – full review
WE MUST BECOME PITILESS CENSORS OF OURSELVES
(UPSET THE RHYTHM)
Everyone’s favourite post-modern synth-pop torch-singer returns to reclaim the crown that’s rightfully his, insouciantly covering Body Count’s ‘Cop Killer’ and fashioning a song that will truly survive the ages in ‘Quantum Leap’.
MUSIC FOR THOMAS CARNACKI
Is this remarkable digital-only album the last word in hauntology? Under a title that nods to the supernaturally-attuned detective of William Hope Hodgson’s pre-war fantasy fiction, Brooks – better known as Ghost Box affiliate The Advisory Circle – offloads 27 devastating miniatures of occult ambience, queer radiophonics and pseudo-classical whimsy. Astonishingly good.
KODE9 & THE SPACEAPE
“If [Kode9 & Spaceape] continue to pursue this direction in the future, then the results might one day be revolutionary. Until then, this album will probably please a lot of existing fans, but tease others.” – full review
HOUR LOGIC EP
(HIPPOS IN TANKS)
“Reminiscent in many ways to classical music in its orchestration and arrangement, as well as sheer amount of content per track, Laurel Halo is attempting things that very few others are right now. It is daring, it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and some who do enjoy it may prefer this purely as listening material. However Hour Logic is a genuine antithesis to orderly club tracks that can still manage to work with and alongside them, if DJs are willing to give it the chance and explore the possibilities”. – full review
LV & JOSHUA IDEHEN
“Ultimately, Routes is an album that needs to be picked up and listened to from beginning to end in your own head, in your own space and yes, if possible, on public transport. It grows on you beautifully and will no doubt be among many end of year lists. But more importantly I know it’ll be an album I’ll come back to in the future – not least when I need to find some sense of direction. ” – full review
RICARDO VILLALOBOS & MAX LODERBAUER
In which Ricardo and Max raid the catalogue of the esteemed ECM imprint and “Berlin-ize” it, taking fragments of music by the likes of Arvo Part and Alexander Knaifel and using them to create complex electro-acoustic soundscapes that will re-define your sense of space.
“I’m not sure, though, that Analog Aquarium quite coheres as an album. Perhaps because the tunes each demand so much of the listener, and also cover such a wide array of styles, the record feels like a collection of tracks, rather than a complete whole. But no matter; each of these tracks deserves (and needs) a whole lot of your time, in all their stubborn, awkward and willfully obtuse ways. That’s underground visionaries, for you, I guess. Never make it easy, do they?” – full review
BREAKING THE FRAME
“Overall there’s a feeling of summation to Breaking The Frame; a summary of what’s come before, with the best parts distilled, and a setting out of what’s still to come. Dystopian as the atmosphere within the tracks themselves seems, the future for Surgeon’s own artistic development looks very bright indeed.” – full review
WEYES BLOOD & THE DARK JUICES
THE OUTSIDE ROOM
(NOT NOT FUN)
Despite the maelstrom of hype surrounding Not Not Fun this year, this gem seems to have gone largely unnoticed. Produced by Graham Lambkin of seminal UK post-industrialists The Shadow Ring, it’s a darkly atmospheric neo-folk masterpiece, simple as.
“Young Montana?’s music ultimately poses a lot of questions, and even after multiple listens, you’re likely to be unsure of your answers. Are all those rhythmic hand-brake turns too much, or are they ultimately what make the album work? When is a challenging rhythm too challenging, and, in this context, how far outside the box is too far? Limerence may provide answers eventually, but they’re steeped deep in questions and will only reward lengthy investigation of this remarkable and fascinating record.” – full review