40: THE HAXAN CLOAK
THE HAXAN CLOAK
An astonishingly mature and skillfully realised debut album from young Londoner Bobby Krlic, The Haxan Cloak was this year’s benchmark for sophisticated darkness. Krlic drew on elements of noise, neo-classical, industrial and doom metal to craft his own brutal but nuanced, organic sound, prompting inadequate comparisons to the disparate likes of Tim Hecker, Dead Can Dance and Earth along the way. It’s just the beginning of what will surely be a glittering career.
39: JAMES PANTS
This self-titled LP found James Pants in breezier mood than he was on 2009′s angsty, apocalyptic instant-classic Seven Seals. His skilled studio touch, combined with years of record-digging, means Pants is preternaturally adept at conjuring and combining very specific textures, moods and eras: so when he sounds like Bobby Beausoleil working with Joe Meek on a cover of Dirty-era Sonic Youth, you know that’s precisely what he intended. Another terrific album from one of the most talented (un)pop artists working today.
BREAKING THE FRAME
Taking cues from the spiritual minimalism of Eliane Radigue and Alice Coltrane – most obviously on ‘Presence’, ‘Not-Two’ and ‘Dark Matter – Breaking The Frame found techno stalwart Surgeon putting dancefloor considerations to one side and setting his controls for inner space. Though not quite the equal of his 2001 masterpiece Force + Form, it’s a bold, challenging and highly rewarding work.
37: BALAM ACAB
WANDER / WONDER
The most distinctive artist on Tri Angle’s impressive roster delivered his debut album this year, and although Wander / Wonder didn’t exactly come loaded with surprises, it took the crystalline, lagoon-like aesthetic that Balam Acab established on last year’s See Birds and dove even deeper. Without headphones this record might pass you by, but pay it proper attention and you’ll realise it’s a real grower of an album, full of detail and beauty.
36: TROPIC OF CANCER
THE END OF ALL THINGS
‘The Dull Age’
Compiled as a farewell to Downwards, The End Of All Things collects Tropic of Cancer’s past singles for the label plus a handful of previously unreleased recordings. Combining a sighing, shoegazey romanticism with uncommon rhythmic steeliness, Camella Lobo and John Mendez’s immaculately stylised drone-pop is rarely less than ravishing, and this disc has us eagerly awaiting their debut album proper.
35: JON BROOKS
MUSIC FOR THOMAS CARNACKI VOL. 1
This remarkable, digital-only album by Jon Brooks – best known for his work as The Advisory Circle on Ghost Box – might just be 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 presents 27 perfectly-formed miniatures of occult ambience, queer-pitched radiophonics and pseudo-classical whimsy. An absolute delight.
34: KODE9 & SPACEAPE
Kode9 is one of the masters of dissonance in dance music, and Black Sun proved it – a record built on detuned synthesisers that fizzed and screeched to levels of alarming beauty. In fact, some of its best moments (such as beatless Flying Lotus collaboration ‘Kyron’) were completely removed from the dancefloor, which bodes well for the solo record that Kode9 has alluded to recording next.
33: MAIN ATTRAKIONZ
808s & DARK GRAPES II
It’s been hard to keep up with hip-hop this year: there’s more mixtapes being released than ever, and new artists jumping on the latest trends every day. One of this year’s defining themes was “cloud rap”, a style defined by the rounded off, sample-heavy productions of artists like Main Attrakionz’s Squadda B, A$AP Rocky collaborator Spaceghostpurrp and based world elders Clams Casino and Keyboard Kid. 808s & Dark Grapes II, true to type, was one of several Main Attrrakionz tapes released this in 2011, but stood out as the best, balancing that sky-high production with gritty street code mantras.
32: THE HORRORS
Faris Badwan and friends have never sounded as confident or convincing as they did on this year’s Skying. From the faintly U2-esque ‘I Can See Through You’ to the cascading, blissed-out shoegaze of ‘Still Life’, it’s an album written and recorded with stadia in mind, but it still manages to sound heartfelt. Indeed, not since early Verve have we heard such an earnest and honest effort to whip up a storm in heaven.
31: RICARDO VILLALOBOS & MAX LODERBAUER
Munich jazz label ECM’s mission statement has long been to deliver “the most beautiful sound next to silence”, and on Re: ECM, two of electronic music’s finest – minimal touchstone Villalobos and Sun Electric’s Max Lodebaur – twist some of history’s most precious source material in entirely new ways over 150 minutes of dissolved bliss.