A beginners guide to the best of 201o electronic music from Guy Manchester
I’ve always struggled to understand why people release end of year lists before the end of the year. The obvious deterrent stopping people from waiting to the end of the year is that if they do then the chances are no one’s going to read it on account of ”Ëend of year list’ fatigue. Also, if they have got room in their heads for the consumption of more lists they’ll probably turn their attentions towards the “what’s going to be on the next “end of year lists”Â”Â lists.
Not to be put off by facts such as those I’m going to dive in & give a kind of end of year list here. There are albums in the following list that demonstrate a danger of compiling lists well before the end of the year as three of the following albums were released in December, and two of them were definitely released too late to feature on the majority of the lists I saw.
This list focusses on electronic records. Perhaps rather than treating it as an end of year list it can masquerade as an introduction to electronic music for the electronic curious. Certainly most of the following are from the more accessible side of electronic music IMO.
It was quite a momentous year for electronic music. It was the year dubstep smashed into the top 10 (ok, crept up to no. 10 in the top 10) which is quite an amazing achievement. Props galore to Magnetic Man for achieving this feat. I wonder how many people would’ve predicted that at the start of 2010. A lot of people were a bit sniffy about MM’s success, sniffy along the lines of it representing a “sell out”Â. This was totally unfair on MM who were responsible for some of the darkest, most disturbing dubstep tunes of the year. Check out The Cyberman EP that preceded the albums release & is proof thereof. And the fact that they’ve introduced electronic music to a whole new audience can only be a good thing. The day we know dubstep has truly made it will be the day the word ”Ëdubstep’ is added to Apple’s spell check dictionary. And when that happens I’ll re-open this file and marvel at the lack of red dashed underlinings scattered throughout.
The other major event of note in the electronic year of 2010 was Mary Anne Hobbs hanging up her (radio 1 dj) headphones. She went out with a bang with some amazing sessions/mixes from some of the top producers she’s supported over the years. It was obviously a devastating loss to dubstep but it’s a testament to Benjy B, who moved into her slot, that the handover was almost seamless with absolutely no drop in musical quality. I know I’m not alone hoping that once MAH has settled into her new life/job that she’ll start doing a little radio djing for fun, either on the excellent Rinse FM (who’s winning of a radio broadcasting license was another of the years highlights – http://rinse.fm) or maybe on Mixcloud or Soundcloud.
Obviously this list is limited to those albums I was aware of. It’s inevitable I’ve missed some great stuff, either through forgetfulness or because I was unaware of it. Please add a comment if you think there’s a howling omission.
1. Actress – Splazsh
One of the most intriguing of the ”Ëpost-dubstep’ artists, this album consists of wonderful floaty hooks that slowly get under the skin. An original.
2. Altered Natives – Tenement Yard Volume One
Ridiculously prolific & utterly brilliant artist, this album involves a mishmash of styles melded together & guaranteed to get any dance floor going.
3. Daedelus – Righteous Fists Of Harmony
One of the Brainfeeder crew Daedelus juxtasposes organic & electronic effects in an album dedicated to the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.
4. Baths – Cerulean
An emotional collage of sounds full of ideas borrowed from various sources then put together in a very individualistic manner.
5. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
The “Hendrix of his generation”Â to quote Mary Anne Hobbs, this album’s full of a unique range of sounds culled together into an opus he himself described as a “space opera”Â.
6. The Gaslamp Killer – Death Gate
Another of Brainfeeder’s diverse & mysterious artists whose work is hard to pin down, especially if one’s attempting to do so in one or two sentences. Suffice to say it’s full of beats and seriously addictive.
7. Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner
Crisp, shimmering, beautifully crafted songs, emotional & full of warmth.
8. Ikonika – Contact, Love, Want, Have
A backbone of typical dubsteppyness (if that’s a word? And if it isn’t I’m not changing it now.) upon which Ikonika builds with her archetypal synthesisers, whistles, snare snaps & woozy vocals, resulting in inventive yet catchy beats.
9. Lorn – Nothing Else
A very ”Ënow’ album from the darker corners of electronica. Churning tunes full of emotion.
10. Mount Kimbie – Crooks & Lovers
This debut album from Mount Kimbie’s full of clever mashes of ethereal dance cuts full of hooks & clever timings. Graceful, fluid & lush.
11. Matthew Dear – Black City
Another dark record as one might surmise from the title, yet one that contains it’s lighter moments too. Inventive & cohesive.
12. Scuba – Triangulation
Triangulation explores a range of tempos and styles, embracing not just dubstep and techno but also a kind of rolling, minimal drum ”Ën bass. I like this album a lot.
13. Shlohmo – Camping
An album consisting of four bass heavy & beaty new tracks plus a bunch of remixes which play together very naturally.
14. Starkey – Ear Drums And Black Holes
A deft Philadelphian producer, this is a cohesive work that moves between more introspective & more dance inducing numbers.
15. Tokimonsta – Midnight Menu
Laidback & sunny soulful tunes perfect for chilling out too. Totally distinctive, original & very very wonderful.
16. Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise
Third album from this german minimal techno master, it fuses a multitude of disparate music styles into an album both beautiful and bewitching.
17. Lone – Emerald Fantasy Tracks
Light and breezy, not too fast, not too slow.Full of energy & intrigue.
18. Guido – Anidea
Not the most immediately accessible of releases but worth plugging away at. Classically trained Bristol producer whose composed and patient album unfurls slowly and eventually draws you in to it’s R&B’s heart.
19. Digital Mystikz – Return II Space
Meticulous, subtle, expansive arrangements full of earth shattering drops. May well be considered a timeless classic in years to come.
20. Shackleton – Fabric 55
An album released too late to feature on a lot of the year ending ”Ëbest of 2010′ lists this is partly a “best of”Â Shackleton’s more recent works plus quite a bit of new material. Absolutely the sound of a artist in a league of his own, an amazing mix of powerful, dense floor filling numbers.
21. Four Tet – There Is love in you
Four Tet’s most dancefloor oriented offering to date, a heartfelt & uplifting piece of work that demonstrates the power of sound perfectly.
21. Magnetic Man – Magnetic Man
The album that’s brought dubstep to the masses. Although it’s received some criticism from the dubstep purists there’s also a lot of forward thinking, experimental stuff on here. The Cyberman EP MM released before this is also worth checking out.
22. Dubkasm – Transform I Remixed.
Dubkasm, essentially a roots reggae outfit from Bristol, released Transform in 2009, an astonishing album of roots & dub reggae. For this remixed version of the album they enlisted the help of many of the cities best dubstep producers to rework it. This remixed version doesn’t vary from the original an enormous amount but the tweaks made to it give the album a second lease of life. Please check out both the original and this remixed version. You won’t regret it.
23. Scientist / VA – Scientist Launches Dubstep into Outer Space.
A double album consisting of one disc which contains a collection of tracks from some of dubsteps foremost artists & which in itself is a cracking collection of beats. Then on the second disc these tracks are reworked by the legendary dub producer Scientist. It’s fascinating seeing the styles in direct comparison. Huge respect to Pinch for pulling this one off.
24. Skream – Outside The Box
Second album from one of dupstep’s pioneers, an album mixing thoughtful landscapes & full on bangers.