The 25 best albums of the last three months: July to September 2018

Every three months, FACT rounds up the best albums that have passed through our inboxes and over our desks. This is 2018’s third quarter report and it’s jam-packed with club, ambient, experimental and rap gems you might have missed.

The punishingly hot summer has now been exhausted, but its angry residue still hangs in the atmosphere. It’s been a challenging quarter, we won’t deny that, so art needs to rise and meet the tension head on. Thankfully we’ve been treated to gentle, meditative self-care tomes from artists like Sarah Davachi and H. Takahashi, angry calls-to-action from Lotic and Vanligt Folk, Bamba Pana and Xzavier Stone’s urgent transmissions from the global dancefloor, cautious, gentle pop from Tirzah and Low and so much more.

Amnesia Scanner
Another Life

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

For better or worse, Amnesia Scanner have come to define the chaos and digital excess of Berlin’s contemporary post-genre club scene. The Finnish duo’s electronic collages are just as likely to soundtrack radio plays as they are to be played by DJs, and their EDM-style riffs and sometimes undanceable rhythms frequently push the boundaries of taste. On their debut album Another Life though, everything just clicks into place. It’s a record that places them not solely as a club act, but as architects of the kind of computerized hardcore that puts them firmly in the lineage of acts like Atari Teenage Riot and Death Grips. Tracks like ‘AS A.W.O.L.’ and ‘AS Faceless’ sound like digitally shredded nu-metal, yes, but for listeners of a certain age, this only adds to the album’s aggy charm. SW

Bamba Pana
(Nyege Nyege Tapes)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

One of the core producers from the Sisso stable highlighted on last year’s exceptional Sounds of Sisso compilation, Jumanne Ramadhani Zegge, aka Bamba Pana, re-tools the singeli music of his native Tanzania, absorbing global club tropes and tailoring them to order. It’s brittle, jerky and jarringly detailed from the outset, managing to sound like a carnival and sweaty basement almost simultaneously. Poaa is hyperactive dance music at its best, a rollercoaster ride of wobbly bass, shifting percussion and manic energy that’s impossible to ignore. JT

Bliss Signal
Bliss Signal
(True Panther Sounds)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Who would have thought that a combination of power electronics and black metal could elicit such euphoria? When Different Circles boss and weightless pioneer Mumdance joined forces with Altar Of Plagues frontman James Kelly to form Bliss Signal at Unsound 2017, the last thing we expected was to be uplifted. Fast forward a year and Bliss Signal stands out as one of the 2018’s most ecstatic releases. Mumdance’s swelling ambient washes and eardrum-destroying blast beats elevate Kelly’s frazzled shredding into an overwhelming deluge of noise that is somehow able to transcend the gloom and emerge with an energy that’s truly life-affirming. HBJ

Channel Tres
Channel Tres

Spotify / Apple Music / SoundCloud

After hearing Moodymann’s voice on Drake’s chart-dominating ‘Passionfruit’, Channel Tres realized that it signaled a neat way to fold his passion for Detroit and Chicago house into contemporary rap. His debut self-titled EP is a low-slung delight and filters a litany of influences – G-funk, jazz, hardcore punk – into tracks that sit somewhere between Galcher Lustwerk and George Clinton. It’s house music, sure, but lacking the ubiquitous plasticky post-Disclosure sheen or fatiguing lo-fi cynicism. Instead it’s anchored by Channel Tres’ sizzling bars that dance around the beat in ways your fave could only dream of. JT

Low Power
(White Paddy Mountain)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Composed using only an iPhone, Low Power was put together as a calming antidote to Tokyo’s anxiety-provoking technological chaos. Architect H. Takahashi assembled the album during his commute from “idyllic” Saitama to the big city and used these moments to sink into a different world, a land of peaceful, cascading synth tones that sound like water droplets falling gracefully onto a muted glockenspiel. It’s a gorgeous record, perfect in its simplicity and ideal for reducing the day’s density to a tranquil shimmer; it would be rude to ask for more. JT

(Peder Mannerfelt Produktion)

Spotify / Apple Music / SoundCloud

Boston-based Isabella Koen has been bubbling up on the fringes of techno with inventive records on cult labels like Frak’s Börft and Jacktone for the past few years. Whistle, her new EP for Peder Mannerfelt’s own label, is a shining example of how far the genre can be pushed to its limits while remaining tethered to a 4/4 pulse. ‘Vain, for example, is remarkably lithe for a piece of 150BPM nosebleed techno, while ‘Penchant Disenchantment’ weaves plenty of funk into its overheating steam engine throb. However, it’s the glassy, atonal melodies of ‘Dicey Takes Its Form’ that stand out, adding a note to the record that’s both sweet and strangely sour. SW

Laurel Halo
Raw Silk Uncut Wood

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Laurel Halo’s 2017 LP Dust gave the voice a starring role, cutting and splicing it into collages of jittery experimental pop, but on her new mini-album it’s been left out of the picture. Instead, Halo builds Raw Silk Uncut Wood from skeletal instrumentation, pockets of pacifying space and organic sounds – including cello from Oliver Coates, which adds a richness to the beatless, Ursula K. Le Guin-inspired title track – and percussion from Eli Keszler. As with Sarah Davachi’s Gave in Rest, Raw Silk Uncut Wood offers escape from the clatter of 2018 – but without losing sight of the spiky experimentalism that defines Halo’s unsettling meditations. ACW

Lechuga Zafiro

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

With each release, Mexico City’s N.A.A.F.I has demonstrated the unstoppable power of the Latinx avant-club sound it has cultivated over the last six years. Uruguayan producer Lechugo Zafiro’s debut for the label is no exception and Testigo combines organic sound design, cybernetic dembow rhythms and unnerving vocal samples to truly destructive effect. ‘Pájarocámara’ opens with a woman sobbing, then builds a lolloping beat around a loop of an un-stifled gasp, while ‘Ita’ sounds like a spaceship crashing into a rainforest full of hungry wolves. Yet it’s ‘Agua Y Puerta’ that seems destined for greatness, having already received support from Batu and Mobilegirl and showed up on Kode9 & Burial’s Fabriclive mix in the last few months alone. HBJ

(Tri Angle)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Relentlessly complex, defiant and confident, Power is the culmination of years of work from J’Kerian Morgan, aka Lotic, both as a tirelessly inventive DJ and boundary-pushing producer. The album came together during a brush with homelessness that rocked Morgan’s relationship with their assumed home of Berlin and challenged their day-to-day reality. But after embracing their natural femininity and visualizing Power‘s unforgettable album cover, Morgan was artistically revitalized, channeling that energy into every pore of Power. The result is a series of mind-altering productions that display not lazy aesthetics but wrought sexuality and the kind of ecstatic energy found in clubland’s darkest recesses. Power proudly throws a middle finger up at society’s expectations and confuses, enthralls and excites all at once; forget what you think you know. JT

Double Negative
(Sub Pop)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Even fans who’ve been following slowcore figureheads Low since the early ’90s have been surprised by the trio’s 12th studio album, Double Negative. It’s not as if Low haven’t worked with electronic sounds before – 2007’s Dave Fridmann-produced Drums and Guns remains underrated and misunderstood – but it’s still rare to hear their songs augmented by an aesthetic more readily found on limited cassette at the Brooklyn Flea. Double Negative sounds like the skeletons of Low songs exhumed and reconstituted by Andy Stott and Demdike Stare, with Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s voice piped through molasses-slow overdriven electronic beats, cotton-wool pads and throbbing noise. It’s one of the most surprising pop albums of the year. JT

(Trouble In Mind)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

It was way back in 2013 when Chicago’s Whitney Johnson kicked off her ambitious trilogy with Seraphastra, a ferric bundle of half-heard beats, wheezing synths and echoing vocals. She followed it up in 2015 with the fuzzy, drum machine-heavy Somnaphoria and finally finishes the trilogy with Sacracorpa, her most singular record to date. The new album came together after a medical condition from birth returned unexpectedly, re-focusing her artistic resolve and offering Sacracorpa its emotional core. Here, the fuzzy concepts that underpinned the trilogy’s first two installments are developed in widescreen, giving her songs room to breathe, grow and flourish. Johnson’s swirling, indistinct vocals are at center stage, surrounded by a smudged chorus of bubbling synthesizers and pulsing rhythms. Psychedelic music rarely sounds so intimate and so sincere. JT

Midori Takada & Lafawndah
Le Renard Bleu

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Japanese percussionist and composer Midori Takada’s first recording in 20 years is a single 20-minute piece inspired by the blue fox, a trickster archetype in Japanese and Senegalese folklore. Though its rippling combination of waterphone and marimba delivers everything you’d hope for from Takada’s first new music in over two decades, it’s Lafawndah’s vocal performance that elevates La Renard Bleu into instant classic status, bringing an R&B-meets-ecclesiastical dimension to Takada’s spiritual arrangement. SW

Miss Red

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

It’s hard to believe that K.O. is Israeli vocalist Miss Red’s debut album. Sharon Stern has been working with Kevin Martin, aka The Bug, since 2012 and dropped the exceptional Murder mixtape – featuring production from Andy Stott and Mark Pritchard as well as Martin – back in 2015. But K.O. is undoubtedly her most fully-realized work to date, with Martin’s unmistakable grind providing a backdrop for Stern’s dominant personality. Miss Red has managed to take the influence of Sister Nancy and Lady Ann and push it into a completely new realm; reggae is the backbone, but the end result is a Frankenstein’s monster of three decades of ‘ardkore dirt and development. JT


Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Tuning into a new age frequency that’s even weirder than their previous excursions, Niagara’s first full-length takes its cue from Portugal’s unique experimental lineage as well as the trio’s self-styled “fourth world plus” sound. Awash with kosmische abstractions and Blade Runner-inspired synths, the album is a psychotropic mishmash of acoustic meets electronic and ancient meets sci-fi, with glissandi-enhanced odyssey ‘Franca’ and marimba-led ‘Damasco’ proving particular highlights. As the band note: “You can hardly tell if this sounds like the future or some distant past”. ACW

object blue
(Lets Go Swimming)


One of my very favorite musical moments of this year was watching object blue calmly tear apart the control room of Berlin’s Kraftwerk to an audience of about six people. Every bit of that concentrated aggression, lethal poise and cool elegance is encapsulated in REX, which takes King Lear as the stimulus for a set of thrilling excursions into off-kilter techno and intricately deconstructed club sounds. Initially intended as the producer’s debut EP, REX was borne out of a turbulent period that resulted in the record’s shelving and subsequent re-recording, and this turmoil is tangible throughout. On ‘(Time To) Work’ a hiccupping Aaliyah sample competes with frenetic percussion that hurtles in multiple directions at once, whilst on ‘Chipping At The Kingdom’ muffled snares shift in and out of phase with the distant echoes of stone slabs grinding over each other. It’s through these constant left-turns that REX repeatedly shirks convention and perfectly captures the raw emotion and intensity of the producer’s evocative live performances. HBJ

Renick Bell
Turning Points

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Renick Bell is one of the artists at the forefront of “algorave”, a movement whose artists write club music with code, typically in front of a live audience; Bell himself creates his unpredictable tracks by manipulating samples with text-based editing software. On paper, it doesn’t exactly sound thrilling. However, Bell’s Turning Points is one of the most inventive club albums of the year, moulding kicks, snares and synthetic textures into elastic shapes that twist your brain and body into knots. His music is easy to compare to Autechre, who have been using software to summon their arcane funk for decades, but Bell’s concise arrangements are far more digestible. SW

Rico Nasty
(Sugar Trap)

Spotify / Apple Music / SoundCloud

Jagged, flourescent and punky, Nasty feels like a trip to an intergalactic rest stop: ordered but alluringly alien. We get to listen as Rico Nasty’s shapeshifting persona is melted over a swatch-book of vivid bangers, from brutal EDM-flecked opener ‘Bitch I’m Nasty’ and the jerky ‘Superthug’ tribute ‘Countin’ Up’ to the sugary, 8-bit rattle of ‘Ice Cream’, that turns Raekwon’s Cuban Linx classic on its head. In the wrong hands, this approach could be a disastrous mess, so it’s to Nasty’s credit she allows her three uniquely-defined personalities – Trap Lavigne, Tacobella and Rico Nasty, acting like Scrooge’s ghosts – to guide her to success. JT

Sarah Davachi
Gave In Rest
(Ba Da Bing!)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Any music fan who has ever attended a musical performance in a sacred space will no doubt share Sarah Davachi’s appreciation for the awe that these buildings can inspire. Step inside a church and its devotional fervor chimes perfectly with drone music’s meditative potential. On Gave in Rest, Davachi dutifully presents this symbiosis using synth, strings, piano, organ and voice across seven serenely minimal compositions that provide shelter from the storm of modern life. The album expels a mournful, medieval-tinged breath throughout: ‘Auster’ is resonant and puritanically sparse, ‘Evensong’ evokes the somber side of Christian liturgy, and the Hammond organ-powered ‘Waking’ closes the service on a haunting note. A melancholic cloud hangs low over this bleakly comforting album. ACW

Steve Hauschildt
(Ghostly International)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

On Steve Hauschildt’s exceptional 2016 album Strands, the Emeralds co-founder reconstructed the sound of ‘90s chill-out rooms and early IDM. Hauschildt’s follow-up, Dissolvi – his first album for Ghostly International – isn’t a complete departure, though it does evolve the synthesist’s style in subtle and significant ways. On two tracks he collaborates with vocalists (Julianna Barwick and GABI) for the first time – including the standout ‘Saccade’, a sublime piece of digital folk that evokes B12 and SAW-era Aphex Twin as well as ‘70s new age music. Making the leap from crafting soul-soothing ambience to arranging actual songs can’t be easy, but Hauschildt pulls it off in style. SW

Teresa Winter
What the Night is For
(The Death of Rave)


Teresa Winter’s second album for Manchester’s The Death of Rave, What The Night Is For is a tense, surreal prospect, dialed into the magickal queered atmospheres of Coil and the multi-faceted cinema fantastique of notorious French filmmaker Jean Rollin. But don’t for a second assume this is merely a wobbly collection of funereal drones. Sure, opener ‘Canticles Of Ecstasy’ is basically seven minutes of eerie church organ, but it’s more Last Year at Marienbad than The Abominable Dr. Phibes. What The Night Is For is chilling and relentlessly feminine, with Winter’s vocals curling over synthetic clouds and spikes of percussion. Occasionally, she lets rhythm interrupt the ritual, carving its path through her Northern vowels with all the grace of a dull blade. It’s not pretty, but it is beautiful. JT


Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

“You can come to me with honesty, you can come to me with tenderness,” Tirzah Mastin sings on ‘Devotion’, the heart-wrenching centerpiece of her stunning debut album. It’s this incitement to emotional intimacy that lies at the heart of the record, as Mastin’s weary delivery and Mica Levi’s off-kilter production effortlessly translate the most relatable expositions of affection, desire and heartbreak into astonishingly direct pop songs. From the anxious giggle that reverberates around the opening section of ‘Devotion’ to the startling confession, “I don’t believe / When I say I can forgive” on ‘Basic Need’, Tirzah bares her soul to us so that we can too. HBJ

Vanligt Folk
(Kontra Musik)

Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Hambo might be the oddest fusion we’ve heard all year: Swedish folk music, dancehall and EBM. The hambo is a traditional working class Swedish dance that sprung up as the 19th Century dribbled into the 20th, and Vanligt Folk use this as a revolutionary call to action, chanting and singing (in Swedish, of course) about race, nationalism and tradition. Juxtaposing this traditional sound with gritty dancehall production that sounds something like Equiknoxx making a D.A.F. record, the message, whether you understand the words or not, is pretty plain to hear. JT

Xzavier Stone
(Fractal Fantasy)

Spotify / Apple Music / SoundCloud

Xzavier Stone’s debut album, Thirst, takes everything great about ‘90s R&B and hip-hop and wraps it in the glittering shroud of modern club music. Admittedly, there are plenty of other producers doing the same thing, but Stone’s tracks – which heavily feature his own vocals – are more like fully-fledged songs than club tools. On highlights like ‘Give Me Sum’ his beats channel The Neptunes, while ‘Roll 2 the Door’ is Jersey club by way of Timbaland. Thirst is just one highlight of a year of killer releases for Sinjin Hawke and Zora Jones’ Fractal Fantasy label. SW

Young Nudy
Slimeball 3
(Paradise East)

Spotify / Apple Music / SoundCloud

Young Nudy’s Slimeball 3 provides another case in favor of the emerging Atlanta rapper’s distinctive style. The assertive, conspicuously feature-free mixtape assembles the architects of contemporary trap’s grittiest psychedelia for a surreal treatise on sex, violence and money-making. Pi’erre Bourne’s rumbling basslines and elastic synths provide the perfect accompaniment to the rapper’s menacingly laconic drawl, while his whimsical, sing-song delivery of “I’m ridin around on my skateboard / Nah, I’m not doing no surfboard” on ‘Middle Fingers’ is as catchy as it is cold. Standout ‘InDaStreet’ serves as the fullest realization of the Nudy’s off-the-wall vision, as he winds a syllable-stuffed knotty cadence around Maaly Raw’s chilling flute-led production. He describes it best himself when he levels: “I’m all about all type of fuckery, you know, fuckery”. HBJ

Yves Tumor
Safe In The Hands Of Love

Spotify / Apple Music

Avant-noise artist signs to Warp and attempts to start a big beat revival? When the chameleonic Yves Tumor dropped the indie-referencing ‘Noid’ earlier this year, it seemed perfectly designed to delight and confuse in equal measure. Yet with the release of Safe In The Hands Of Love, the demonic rock ‘n’ roll posturing that saw the artist donning milky contact lenses and psychedelic body stockings suddenly made total sense. The album goes some way to bridging the gap between Tumor’s experiments in esoteric R&B and ambient experimentation with his rabidly confrontational live shows, which graze the harsher edges of noise and drone. Add features from fellow experimental noise-makers Puce Mary and Oxhy, Posh Isolation’s Croatian Amor and vocalist James K, and the result is the artist’s most accomplished release to date. HBJ

Watch next: From Studio to Screen – Becoming a Composer