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BLS

This is the inaugural Quarter Report of 2014 – FACT’s favourite 20 albums released over the last three months.

This time last year, we were grumbling about a solid if unspectacular opening quarter. No such gripes this time round – the last three months has been a banner period for the humble LP. We’ve been treated to: some long-awaited albums that met – and surpassed – expectations; a few supercharged bolts from the blue; a profusion of very different (but very good) mixtapes; and a couple of welcome curveballs too. Eyes on the prize, 2014 – you’re on the right track.

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16100s
100s
IVRY
(Fool’s Gold)

“While IVRY disposes with most of the cloud rap affectations (‘Thru My Veins’ is a noticeable exception), the EP still finds 100s repping a sound unlike anything in rap, just this time, it’s an update of the G-funk of yesteryear with heavy doses of Bay Area forebearers Too $hort and E-40″ – full review

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1Actress
ACTRESS
Ghettoville
(Werk Discs)

Ghettoville might chronicle a dark patch for Actress, but once it hits its stride it’s as good, and as full of life, as anything he has produced. It’s certainly not the sound of a musician on the verge of retirement (go on Darren, prove me wrong).” – full review

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2Angel
ANGEL OLSEN
Burn Your Fire For No Witness
(Jagjaguwar)

An electrifying (and electrified) breakthrough for Chicago eccentric Angel Olsen, whose second full-length is ghostly magic from start to finish, with her quivering, old-timey voice and oh-so-lonesome lyrics hacking through frazzled Link Wray guitars, garage rock torch songs and hushed Cohen-esque miserabilism. If you’re a one-guitar-album-a-year kind of record buyer, this is that album.

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CarlaB
CARLA BOZULICH 
Boy
(Constellation)

“Instead of the stark arrangements of the Evangelista records, Bozulich here embraces pop structures and a sometimes oppressively full palette […] at times it’s so heavy it feels as though Bozulich wants to crush you with sound and affect; at others, it’s almost spacious and inviting.” – full review 

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20Cloudface
CLOUDFACE
Wyre Drive
(Exotic Pylon)

“Fragile beauty, not ugliness, is where David Reynolds’ strengths lie. Still, while there are undoubtedly bigger things to come from him – and the rest of the Mood Hut gang – Wyre Drive is an excellent place to start.” – full review

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3Ekoplekz
EKOPLEKZ
Unfidelity
(Planet Mu)

“That Punch Drunk, Perc Trax, Mordant Music and Editions Mego have all found something to claim as their own in Ekoplekz’s music is a testament to its richness; drawing on the bootstrap studio wizardry of dub and the Radiophonic workshop, the taut sonics of industrial music and more recent developments on the dancefloor, Edwards has found a sound that chimes with many.” – full review

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5FreddieGibbs
FREDDIE GIBBS & MADLIB
Piñata
(Madlib Invazion)

Gangster Gibbs and the Beat Konducta offer a sturdy counterweight to the cheap’n’dirty thrills of budget mixtape culture with this meticulously crafted and subtly addictive set. Madlib’s dusty loops turn out to be an ingenious foil to the Indiana rapper’s grizzled reflections on thug life, and there’s quotables aplenty, as on the heartbroken bluster of ‘Deeper’: “Gone to a nigga that don’t got nothin’ that I ain’t got, only difference is he tryna be a fuckin’ astronaut”.

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21Workshop
KASSEM MOSSE
Workshop 19
(Workshop)

You can’t fault Kassem Mosse for class – after eight years of rapturously received, gloss-finish deep house 12″s, he quietly sneaks out his debut KM full-length like it’s nothing. Which, of course, it’s not: Workshop 19 shows Mosse’s snake-charmer routine translating to the LP format with ease, and boasts some of his most subtle, supple work to date.

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17ByAnyMeans

KEVIN GATES
By Any Means
(Self-released)

By Any Means feels instead as if Gates is placing himself directly within spitting distance of rap’s coveted upper ranks; production-wise, the album sounds as if it could have easily slipped from any number of top tier rap labels, yet with Gates at the helm, the journey is deeper, darker and far more invigorating than anything with a Rozay, Em or Hov co-sign, at least in the last couple of years.” – full review

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4LilSilk
LIL SILK
Son of a Hustler
(Self-released)

“With Young Thug finally wrestling free of regional and underground shackles, it seems like it might be just the right time for Thugger protégé Lil Silk to make his move, and Diary of a Hustler is an admirable effort. Building on the success of last year’s ‘Rapper’ and ‘I’m Geeked’, Silk whines and squeals over a generous 17 tracks, and for the most part nails it.” – full review

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6MilleAndAndrea
MILLIE & ANDREA
Drop The Vowels
(Modern Love)

Wildly anticipated in this strange little nook we inhabit, the debut album from Millie (Miles Whittaker) and Andrea (Andy Stott) more than capitalises on the promise of that stellar 2008-10 run of singles. Slipping between granular breakbeat, trap for anoraks and thudding industrial house, it’s pretty much gold from top to tail.

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7Moodymann
MOODYMANN
Moodymann
(KDJ)

“As a kind of home listening sequel, this version of the album plays out as one of Dixon’s signature collages, a loose, constantly shifting pastiche of moods and tempos, with jazz references and Detroit-themed clips used as pointed transitions. ‘Werk’, ‘IGuessuneverbeenlonely’, ‘Watchin U’, ‘Heaven’, his (bizarre) remix of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born To Die’ and the flawless, if 5-10 years old ‘Freeki Muthafucka’ all pop up along the way.” – full review

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8Perc
PERC
The Power & The Glory
(Perc Trax)

“Beat music of the sort that you do not dance to so much as lean against, as with a strong wind or a block of concrete […] The Power & The Glory can be viewed from several angles – and each will reveal it to be exceedingly good.” – full review

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9RomeFortune 
ROME FORTUNE
Beautiful Pimp II
(Self-released)

“Eschewing the rap trend to grab as many hot producers as is humanly possible and cram 20+ tracks into each zip file, Beautiful Pimp 2 has a single producer (CitoOnTheBeat, who was responsible for a single cut on the tape’s predecessor) and clocks in at a shockingly economical 30 mins in length. It’s obvious that Rome is eager not to be dumped into the same box as his Atlanta cohorts, and if Beautiful Pimp 2 is proof of anything, it’s that the rapper is ready to take his sound into places others simply aren’t willing to go.” – full review

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10SuperSaian
SICKO MOBB
Super Saian Vol. I
(Self-released)

“The Dragon Ball Z-inspired mixtape collects highlights ‘Fiesta’ and ‘Lamborghini Girl’ […] the playground chants and hyperactive, major-key beats are destined to be polarizing, and you’ll know where you stand on Sicko Mobb (and bop) almost immediately.” – full review

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11Benji
SUN KIL MOON
Benji
(Caldo Verde)

“Though Mark Kozelek has few equals when it comes to dislodging lumps in throats, Benji is his most emotionally taxing Sun Kil Moon record by some way. It’s an album almost entirely about death – the deaths of relatives, friends, strangers and children; people who die young and old; in fires and in school shootings; in freak accidents and of heart attacks. Each death leaves an imprint on Kozelek’s psyche, weighing him down with pain and reminding him of the preciousness of life.” – full review

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13SEPM
SUPER ELECTRIC PARTY MACHINE
Super Electric Party Machine
(Carnage Music)

Stern, austere minimal house from the Raster-Noton…nah, we’re just joking – Super Electric Party Machine is almost certainly the most deliriously trashy album we’ll hear all year. Glitzy vogue house and no-holds-barred wobble from Larry Tee (the bloke who coined the term electroclash) and the team behind his wild Super Electric Party Machine nights. For the 10% of you open-minded enough to have made it this far into the blurb, you’re in for a shamelessly fun collection of party pabulum.

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12SupremeCuts
SUPREME CUTS
Divine Ecstasy
(Dovecote Records / Memphis Industries)

“The music of Supreme Cuts has always fallen into a genre-agnostic mélange often described as post-everything. The term isn’t perfect, but on Divine Ecstasy, the pair continue to bound from R&B and hip-hop to house, rave and footwork, often in the same song.” – full review

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13Untold
UNTOLD
Black Light Spiral
(Hemlock)

“A gnarled, confrontational record, Black Light Spiral might just mark the death of Untold the designer. Gone is his usual razor-sharp synthetic sound palette to be replaced by grot and distortion; gone are the DJ-friendly tops and tails in favour of gleeful left-turns and moments of confused stasis […] instead, the producer’s debut album sees him turn inwards, creating a sealed and forbidding world with its own strange internal logic.” – full review

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15AcidArab
VARIOUS
Acid Arab
(Versatile)

Exhausted that old copy of Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat? Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho’s East-meets-West dance project hits paydirt on this fine compilation of heavyweight club exotica, with Western producers taking their stylistic cues from Middle Eastern and North African folk music. With Professor Genius, I:Cube and Pilooski among the personnel, it rarely slips into the gap-yah trap.

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