Thursday, January 14, 2010

10 albums in 2009

After the 33 selected tracks, now it's turn for 10 best albums of 2009 - see them listed below. More or less, they are from the domain of electronic rhythms, although no surprise that the distinction dancing/listening is very loose in this case, because a proper album, in my opinion, should have certain "listening" qualities to be enjoyed from alpha to omega.

> DJ Sprinkles - Midtown 120 Blues [Mule Musiq]

A very beautiful, ethereal and moody oevre. Technically it's deep house, but there is much more - it's rooted in the classic house music, that we are used to, but it's taken a step or even few steps further. In very organic and subtle manner, non-pretentious pulsating house beats are interweaved with live jazzy instrumentation, spacey atmospheres and field recordings, including many spoken texts. The irresistible result does not that much provide dance energy as relaxation and a true listening pleasure. Furthermore, the album works incredibly well as a whole piece (which is an achievement per se in this kind of music). Sit back, relax and dive in!

> Lawrence - Until Then, Goodbye [Mule Electronic]

Lawrence is quite known for his output on Dial records from Hamburg (actually he is one of the co-founder of this label), however his best work to date is brought to us by the Japanese imprint Mule Electronic. There are two types of tracks on the album - uptempo beat groovers (e.g. "Don't Follow Me", "Jill", "In Your Eyes") and somewhat more abstract, slower or even beatless compositions. The overall mood is deep and sometimes haunting, filled with unorthodox, airy melodic textures. I'm pretty sure we will hear some more high quality works from this artist in the future, but until then, goodbye!

> Sven Weisemann - Xine [Wandering]

Last year this young producer has captured my attention after a string of outstanding EPs which were balancing somewhere between deep house, electronic dub and ambient. The album, issued on Mojuba's sublabel, is even more detached from beats - in fact, the majority of compositions are pure ambient and piano pieces backed up with strings and deep yet minimal atmospheres. There are no big hooks, as this kind of music requires patience and getting in the appropriate state of mind gradually, however, once you get there, you get fully rewarded. Music as a spiritual experience or meditation.

> Monolake - Silence [Imbalance]

Robert Henke's project does not really need an introduction - since it's early Chain Reaction years in the mid 90's, this name is a synonym for the top-notch dub-influenced electronica and techno. Actually, such records as "Hong Kong" are cornerstones of this subgenre. The good news is that Monolake is still thrilling and experimenting with new rhythmic and sonic palettes. On this album the trademark masterful use of delays and reverbs is still present, but also sounds from the real world and the overall dark, sometimes even threatening ambience have been employed, creating a kind of suspense reminiscent of the classic Orbital's track "The Box", just less obvious perhaps. The sound is also stunning because of its spatial qualities - the record certainly has its own space within. I am not even sure should it be referred as music or sound design, but it doesn't really matter as far as the result is as good as it is.

> Tapes - Hissing Theatricals [Jahtari]

A grand and very original record. Its originality lies in the unorthodox marriage of the 8-bit chipmusic with analogue noises and hisses. As the title implies, the sound deliberately replicates tape hissing. As far as the groove is concerned, it is heavily leaning on dub aesthetics. Impressive!

> Bass Clef - May The Bridges I Burn Light The Way [Blank Tapes]

I wonder how little resonance this record has caused, but it may be due to the fact that it was released close to the end of the year. Anyways, what we've got is a set of highly original, bass driven rhythms. This guy surely has dubstep background, but from his actual productions it's quite obvious that he has gone his own path and this album just has some formal dubstep elements, apart from that also exploring other rhythmic patterns, e.g. from Caribbean and Brazilian dance styles. Last but not least, Bass Clef adds some nice lively tones by using brass, especially a trombone. By the way, he uses trombone in his live performances as well - I had a chance to see his live performance once in Luxembourg. My personal faves from this album are "You Do My Head In", "Kiss Me" and "Promises".

> Silkie - City Limits Volume 1 [Deep Mehdi]

I've got to confess that I have always been a sucker for warm, jazzy strings and pads that are so typical for many drum'n'bass productions (especially from the mid 90's). Basically, Silkie has taken these kind of warm, melodic sounds and used them with more contemporary beats. Said this, I have to add that it's not merely dubstep which sounds as drum'n'bass, there is much more, and actually the tracks are quite complex and intriguing. But the flow is still easy. Big respect!

> Mathias Kaden - Studio 10 [Vakant]

In the recent years, Mathias Kaden has been known for his minimal house/techno tracks with accented, complex rhythmic structures. Obviously, he was much into exploration of traditional tribal percussive patterns, especially the African ones. Now, when even many die-hard minimalists have leaned toward deep house, no big wonder that in "Studio 10" he proves to has undergone a similar change. Due to some live instruments, vocals (there are many other featured musicians in this album) and general composition of the tracks, it's very deep house, but still there are rich additional percussive layers and programming on the micro level. Anyway, the result is very sincere, dreamy and... well, musical. My personal highlights are "1981" and the closing "Re Menor". Jus' groove!

> Luciano - Tribute To The Sun [Cadenza]

The Luciano's full-length is remarkable, indeed. Although the ending of the album is weird, perhaps unnecessary eccentric and is somewhat contrasting to the rest of this album, this rest - something like the first 3/4 of the album - is brilliant. There is no boring minimalism or whatsoever, on the contrary - it is rich with joyous chants, vital energy and colorful details. In general, the ethnic elements are too overused in the dance music nowadays, however, I must admit, that Luciano is one of the few producers that still do that very expertly and somewhat naturally. Also, guest vocals - and there are quite many on this record - have been integrated so well. This album (the first 3/4 at least) is recommended for those sombre and freezing winter days when you wish it was sunny summer again.

> Fever Ray - Fever Ray [Rabid]

It's not an easy task to draw a fine line between pop music and more tracks-based music. Where the one ends and the other starts? But perhaps this kind of distinction is too artificial and formal, at least it seems that Karin Dreijer Andersson don't care much about stylistic references but music itself. Surely, her vocal is outstanding and unmistakable, but the mood is quite different if compared to The Knife - somewhat more mature, melancholic and bizarre. There were also some great remixes of her singles "Seven" and "Trinagle Walks" issued, but go for the original first to get the complete picture. Karin is an artist through and through. Let's try to see her live in concert this year.

That's it, my friends, have a nice year and lots of good music!


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