DT Top 50 Albums 2014
- 50. Knife Party – Abandon Ship
- 49. Flight Facilities – Down To Earth
- 48. S.P.Y – Back to Basics Chapter Two
- 47. Paco Osuna – Long Play
- 46. Mat Playford – Too Big To Fail
- 45. The Bug – Angels and Devils
- 44. Max Cooper – Human
- 43. Tycho – Awake
- 42. Vermont – Vermont
- 41. SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land
- 40. Prins Thomas – III
- 39. Clarity – Infinite
- 38. Teebs – E S T A R A
- 37. Technimatic – Desire Paths
- 36. Redinho – Redinho
- 35. Leon Vynehall – Music For The Uninvited
- 34. Tokyo Prose – Presence
- 33. Gorgon City – Sirens
- 32. Simian Mobile Disco – Whorl
- 31. Cristian Vogel – Polyphonic Beings
- 30. Martyn – The Air Between Worlds
- 29. Lucy – Churches Schools and Guns
- 28. Clark – Clark
- 27. Juju & Jordash – Clean Cut
- 26. Gus Gus – Mexico
- 25. ENA – Binaural
- 24. Francis Harris – Minutes Of Sleep
- 23. Rustie – Green Language
- 22. Royksopp – The Inevitable End
- 21. Slam – Reverse Proceed
20. Lone – Reality Testing
One of the hottest producers over the last few years has undoubtedly been the Manchester based Lone. From exploring the themes of the rave/hardcore revival and cinematic interstellar travel, the talented young artist really impressed us with his last 2 albums and has then again this year when undertaking a new challenge for his EP ‘Airglow Fires’ which made it into our top 20 tracks of 2013. The release saw Lone return to old Belgian stomping ground R+S and showcased his exploration of a more considered and intimate sound alongside a rediscovered love of classic hip-hop, as he explained “I love hip hop and house music when it’s at it’s rawest – to me ‘Airglow Fires’ has that kind of 90’s basement vibe to it, where the lines between the two genres are kind blurred”. We were fans of Lone long before this though and now we’re delighted to see him hook up with R+S once again with the announcement of his new LP ‘Reality Testing’. We were pleased to see that the excellent ‘Airglow Fires’ and ‘Begin to Begin which was billed as “referencing the history of electronic music” with elements of “Detroit techno, rave to jungle, and everything else in between” were amongst the 12 original cuts making their way onto the album which has been our pre night out soundtrack of chouce since its release.
19. Luke Abbott – Wysing Forest
Luke Abbott’s Holkham Drones remains one of the most auspicious debut records of recent years. Its arrival back in the summer of 2010 seemed to herald a seminal new talent, with Abbott’s ability to craft pastoral electronica from analogue homemade hardware and old machines not only placing him in his own genre, but rejuvenating James Holden’s Border Community label in the process. Listen to either Holden’s stunning album from last year or Nathan Fake’s Steam Days from 2012, and you can hear Abbott’s influence. That these two staples of the techno leftfield engaged with analogue aesthetics to put out the best albums of their respective careers so far, pointing towards a clear inspiration and making Holkham Drones something of an epoch-defining record. Now, an unrushed four years later, comes the follow up album. No pressure then. Thankfully, Wysing Forest lives up to expectations by Abbott’s decision to ignore the temptation to re-create the successes of his debut and instead do something else entirely. Whilst Wysing Forest is not a complete departure – the warm analogue aesthetic, droning synths and galloping poly-rhythms remain – it is nonetheless a very different album to Holkham Drones. Recorded over six-weeks in Wysing Arts Centre in rural Cambridgeshire, the album arose from a period of intense studio experimentation.
Wysing Forest might not have the immediate ear-worms that Holkham Drones did, there’s nothing the equivalent of ‘Brazil’ or ‘Trans Forest Alignment’ here, and on the whole this is a much more difficult and at times colder prospect than his debut album. But then, that’s point. This is a record that demands something of its listener, and which gives back in equal measure to the attention you’re willing to afford it. Like Holden’s album the summer before, this is the antithesis to the kind of LP that gives you everything the first time round. Instead, it is a record that demands replay, and which you’ll find yourself going back to over and over, discovering something startlingly new and intimate each time. A more mature, coherent and over-all satisfying listen than Abbott’s first LP, Wysing Forest is an incredibly accomplished piece of work and another weighty chapter in what is already proving to be an impressive career.
18. Fatima Al-Qadiri – Asiatisch
Fatima Al-Qadiri’s debut album for Hyperdub – the sinogrime influenced ‘Asiatisch’ – based around the concept of ‘shanzai’ (a phrase which has come to be used to refer to the Chinese counterfeiting of Western brands and goods) is an almost ‘midi’ rendition of world music that is full of colour, melody and odd Chinese vocal snippets. It’s the reverse of the albums concept in that it in itself is counterfeiting Chinese culture in a western style- especially seen on opening number ‘Shanzai’, a Chinese cover of ‘Nothing Compares to You’!
An artistic rendition of what electronic music in China might sound like if that sort of creativity was allowed behind the bamboo curtain we were blown away when the album landed in our inbox and think you will be too.
17. Dana Ruh – Naturally
A lot has happened to Dana Ruh since first landing on our radar some years back thanks to her early work on Perspectiv. For one, she’s explored myriad sounds; the likes of which verge between house, techno and experimental planes and have seen her appear on esteemed labels a la Ostgut Ton, Buzzin Fly and Work Them. 2014 really seemed to have seen her hit her production stride, with her own work on her Brouqade imprint the sort of grainy, fuzzy house fare that’s not lacking in warmth or personality. How apt, then, that she marked her album debut on Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality label, an imprint that knows a thing or two about releasing such well-honed productions.
Naturally is the name of the album in question, and boy, is it teeming with solid vibes aplenty. More steady than it is frenetic, this is a deep house LP in the truest sense of the word, with its many considered ramblings giving it an assured sound that’s imbued with jazz designs and various other assured moments.
Ed, quite clearly, had done his homework on Ruh before asking her to provide an LP. This isn’t simply a triumph for Ruh, but it’s a triumph for the label too.
16. Falty DL – Into The Wild
We’re quite the fans of FaltyDL here at Data Transmission. So much so that when his album Hard Courage dropped back in 2013 we flew out from swinging London to Berlin just to attend the Ninja Tune affiliates album launch party. Thus you can imagine our excitement when the news reached the office that Mr. DL would be dropping a new album on us entitled In The Wild. After impressing his with his Power 12” unveiling of his brand new remix of Disclosure and Friend Within’s ‘The Mechanism’ which we’re not hesitant in saying we prefer to the already popular original the Blueberry label boss then rounded off a stellar 12 months with the release of ‘Into The Wild’ with new record seeing the Brooklyn producer express himself across a variety of mediums and style for one of our favourite albums of the year.
15. Joris Voorn – Nobody Knows
Hailing from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Voorn began producing in the early 2000’s with his very first EP garnering support from the likes of Carl Craig and Laurent Garnier. To follow up such a huge feat with further success may have felt an impossible task at the time, though his productions, through meticulous attention to detail, are constantly improving and continue to be huge successes the world over. Having produced numerous singles and it’s his artist albums that really won us over as fans and we think his latest effort Nobody Knows is the best work of his career, which considering how much we loved his previous efforts is high praise indeed.
14. The 2 Bears – The Night Is Young
The 2 Bears’ Raff Rundell and Joe Godard have always worn their musical influences on their hairy sleeves for all to see. Last time round on their debut, ‘Be Strong’, was all about them putting an accessible spin on the house music that they love shocking out to (and playing out when they DJ), but this time they’ve made a real effort to change tack – which makes sense, as many of the DJs they shouted out on that album’s eponymous single – which for many younger Bear-fans will have been their Daft Punk, ‘Teachers’ moment – are now doing pretty damn well on the club and festival circuit, the near-omnipresent MK being a good example…
So this album takes us into a more varied world of bear sounds – a deliberate attempt to showcase London’s many soundtracks, just as if you were driving around and listening to the city’s various pirate stations booming out house, Afrobeat, techno and everything in-between which is just the way we like it.
13. Kink – Under Decontruction
The announcement that Bulgarian producer KiNK AKA Strahil Velchev had a debut long player on the horizon was greeted with its fair share of excitement; an unfailingly distinct producer who mixes his rich, warm house sounds with the darker shades of techno. He’d originally intended the album to reflect his profile as a dancefloor producer. In the end though, Under Destruction became a much more experimental, difficult and somewhat cerebral exploration of the post-Soviet era dancefloor culture from which he’d emerged, than even Velchev might have expected.
Cities like London, Detroit and Berlin all have their own history and mythology that informed the development of their electronic music culture; early illegal parties in abandoned warehouses, the re-appropriation of desolate spaces and transforming them into havens of subculture, and the empty spaces representing freedom and liberation as opposed to urban decay. Similarly, Velchev’s hometown of Sofia, the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, has its own little-told story.
If electronic music is an artform defined by technology, then Bulgaria has its own very particular roots. The narrative begins with the visit of Bulgarian dictator Todor Zhivkov to Japan in the late 70s, where he was amazed by the country’s technological advancements. Driven to act immediately upon returning home, he established Bulgaria as a key developer of the computer industry across Eastern Europe, under the COMECON trade network that had been established between the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies back in 1949. This led to the extraordinary situation where the modest socialist country was supplying at its peak 40 percent of the computers in the Eastern Bloc, the industry employing 300,000 workers and generating the equivalent of US$13.3 billion a year. The eventual demise of the USSR and Eastern Bloc socialism left behind an army of highly-skilled engineers and IT scientists, as well as a generation of children with access to the ‘Pravetz 82’, the first computer produced on a mass scale under the socialist industry; essentially a hacked and reproduced Apple II system. With the economic turmoil and uncertainty that accompanied the fall of the Iron Curtain, dialup internet was the means through which Bulgarian youngsters were now able to connect with the outside world, inevitably connecting eventually with the dance culture that was on the rise throughout the world in the 90s, and reproducing the music in the same way their engineer parents ‘backwards engineered’ the Apple II systems they were recreating. Early Detroit techno and UK jungle were filtered through a South East mentality and given its own gritty spin.
This was the environment in that KiNK grew up in, and Under Destruction itself was produced in the concrete blocks of Sofia’s Zone B5; with Velchev steering away from the ‘functional dancefloor’ album he originally intended to make, which would have reflected his impressive success as a house and techno producer a little more closely. He knew he had a concept on his hands that was a little more cerebral, and he ended up partnering with Stefan Goldmann from the Berlin-based Macro Recordings to help him tell his story.
12. Recondite – Iffy
As you may have guessed by our extensive coverage of all things Recondite over the past year we were more than a little bit excited that he’d been prepping an album for Berlin label Innervisions. Then in the run up to the release of the Iffy LP, Recondite further excited the office (we’re an excitable bunch we know) by revealing plans to release a special 12” featuring alternate versions of album tracks ‘Levo’ and ‘Garbo’ which we quickly fell in love with.
But that’s not to say we still don’t think highly of the originals – we’re huge fans of the whole album- so much so we invited the inimitable Bavarian to talk us through his new LP upon its release. From “linear techno groves” to “harmonious and evocative” soundscapes to minimal beat structures underpinned by distinctive 303 bass lines this is an album that has it all.
11. Porter Robinson – Worlds
Worlds. When we talk about worlds it could be any one of many. We live in a Universe containing nine planets and four dwarf planets, which could be in one of several Universes. However, when we are referring to Porter Robinson, we discuss all worlds in his latest album, Worlds. At the age of just 18, Porter Robinson’s world changed dramatically for the good when his hit record Say My Name could be heard in every nightclub across the globe as it sprinted straight to number one on Beatport. Earning the support from such recognisable names as Tiesto, David Guetta and Paul Van Dyk, this incredible young talent now has the entire planet at his feet and all ears listening to every beat he drops.
This album has showcases everything that can be good about EDM and highlighted both the genres potential as a creative force and that of its creator. His rise to fame in EDM has been fast at such an early age and with releases like this in the works, Porter will only continue to rise further and further. Flicker was our personal favourite only just surpassing that of Fellow Feeling. The latter being the perfect way to describe Robinson’s journey up the ladder so far without using words and if he continues in the same manner we’re sure the entire world will be talking about the name Porter Robinson.
10. Illumsphere – The Ghost Of Then And Now
Illum Sphere (known to his mum as Ryan Dunn) is the co-head of the now seminal Hoya:Hoya clubnight and record label, a collective of likeminded individuals comparable to LA’s Brainfeeder/Low End Theory movement, as well as Glasgow’s Hudson Mohawke fronted LuckyMe crew. He has remixed Radiohead, released records on Martyn’s 3024 imprint, Young Turks, Pinch’s Tectonic and has now found a more permanent home at the British home of beats and downtempo music the vitally important Ninja Tune label. It was therefore never in doubt that Dunn was an accomplished producer able to throw up beats and pieces in a variety of styles. But what about his album? Was it any good? Well as you may have guessed from it’s lofty ranking on our list, we loved it as work of art that builds and breaks, ebbs and flows and in short, works as a full length statement. The sound palette is varied, utilising elements of jazz, beat scene hip hop, world music and hardened electronics throughout the course of the record. It is organic sounding electronic music, a bastard offspring of both UK and LA styles, with all the controlled human mistiming’s and idiosyncratic quirks and ticks you could wish for.
The album is sequenced in such a way, that the peaks and troughs in energy levels allow you to experience the album, in its entirety without getting bored, which is no mean feat let me say. After opener ‘Liquesce’ the subsequent 5 tracks all subtly increase in tempo, before dropping back into the slow reaches for a single tune, before launching into another section of rising tempo’s followed by a brief lull, and then acceleration again, up to the last number. Needless to say, bit serious thought has gone into the sequencing of this album. The fact Dunn can flip between totally organic, free flowing dubby-jazz-meets-lounge music and John Carpenter style synth arpeggios without so much as raising an eyebrow is testament to the producers understanding of both sound design, frequency response and feel. This is one of the main reasons I think you should listen to this, this consistent juxtaposition of organic and mechanical, although nothing new, to be done so well over the course of an entire album is a clear signal of man who knows what he wants to achieve and is willing to push whatever boundaries he needs to get there.
Dunn has created an enduring piece of art and an extremely comfortable addition to Ninja Tune’s already impressive oeuvre. Will it stand the test of time? We think it will. There is a timeless quality in the choice of instrumentation used and the tunes never come across as boorish or belligerent. There is little digital trickery or faddy effect work going on, and the sound palette is gentle and unobtrusive enough to entice listeners back in at different times of the day – as well as broadening the records potential audience a fair bit. Some may call this background music, but I would disagree as the mixes are so chocked with sonic candy and little quirky moments that it takes multiple listens to even get close to understanding why each element is included or not.
9. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
Arguably one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2014, ‘You’re Dead!’ finally landed in record stores across the world earlier back in October and quickly found its way inside our heads and on our playlists. The LA Born producer, composer and rapper, Flying Lotus (AKA Steven Ellison) has already created a legacy for himself with four studio albums and multiple contributions to the world of film. Not one to blend in Ellison’s work has blended the lines between genres, but it is his latest LP that truly pushes the boundaries between conceptual beats, jazz and rock.
The album is made up of nineteen fast paced tracks averaging at two minutes has been designed to be listened to in one sitting, with no track quite able to stand alone. The album even has its own biography written by Ytasha L. Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture. She describes ‘You’re Dead!’ as “a shamanic pilgrimage into the psychedelic unknown of the infinite afterlife”. Quite a bold statement, considering we have no concept of what lies beyond and whilst we’re not quite sure on that what we can agree on is this is an excellent album that may have been even higher on our list were it not for an ill conceived appearance from Snoop Dogg.
8. Ulterior Motive – The Fourth Wall
When our friends at Goldie’s legendary Metalheadz revealed that they had added Drum & Bass duo Ulterior Motive to their arsenal of acts we instantly expected big things and it is safe to say they more than delivered with the release of their debut album The Fourth Wall.
Moving away from traditionally aggressive club D&B in favour of a more favour of a funkier aesthetic and features vocal additions from James Sunderland, Meyhem Lauren and Brotherman, artists who Ulterior Motive believe bring an exciting twist to the proceedings. “We made a conscious effort to seek out new, unused vocalists for the album project. We really wanted to use and work with people who hadn’t worked within the drum & bass format before. It’s outside perspectives like that that bring a new twist to things,” explained the duo and boy were they right. More of this please boys.
7. Tensnake – Glow
What is there left to say about Tensnake? Apart from being one of the nicest guys in the scene the Hamburg native’s House sounds are drenched in the soul styling’s of the city where he quickly formed a big reputation for being one of the worlds leading purveyors of disco both in its ‘Nu’ format and original 80’s boogie. Then came the release of the huge ‘Coma Cat’ which stormed dance floors the world over and firmly established Tensnake in the upper echelons of dance music and now then we had his hotly anticipated debut album ‘Glow’, packed to the brim with all star collaborations set to drop next week.
With guest spots on the eclectic album from artists such as Nile Rodgers, Jamie Liddell and multi-monikered producer Stuart Price as the LP promises to explores avenues of “disco, R&B, downtempo pop and naturally house music”.
6. Answer Code Request – Code
If you’re familiar with the work of Answer Code Request, you’ll already know that the Berlin based producer has a unique ability for crafting wonderfully atmospheric techno. Putting out records under the ACR guise since 2011, Berghain resident Patrick Gräser has earned a reputation for being one of the most exciting, interesting and refreshing techno artists working in the German capital. The Breathe EP for Ostgut Ton earlier this year exemplified Gräser’s appeal: his ability to fuse charismatic synth sounds and idiosyncratic rhythms whilst keep the kicks tight and unrelenting is what has paved the way for tracks such as ‘The 4th Verdict’ to become some of the biggest techno weapons currently in circulation. It’s stark and functional techno music but without the austerity (and dare we say, monotony) that those terms usually suggest. As such, it’s not surprising that expectations were riding high when Gräser announced earlier this year that he would be releasing his debut album. Thankfully, it’s a record that not only lives up to ACR’s discography, but presents another dimension to Gräser’s talent. Rather than being an extended collection of the all-out peak time techno tracks that you might expect to hear on one of ACR’s EPs, Code is an album that takes advantage of its longer running time for a broader, more satisfying experience and which tentatively explores the frontiers of Gräser’s established sound, dipping its toes into IDM and ambient aesthetics.
5. Caribou – Our Love
Some things just take too long. Waiting for buses. Toasting bread. Loading screens. Dan Snaith to finally follow up his last album. These are all things that on the wrong day couple with the right amount of bad luck can turn us from our normal happy go lucky selves into borderline sociopaths or in the case of our marketing guy full psychopath (at least until he’s had a cup of tea). Well, we got to scrub that last complaint off our list as Mr. Snaith, better know to the wider world as Caribou has finally dropped the follow up release to his universally loved breakthrough record ‘Swim’.
It’d been four long years since that album blew us away and found itself as the soundtrack to literally everything. From adverts to Hollywood blockbusters to the latest edition of Fifa’s popular football computer games a track from ‘Swim’ was never that far away. And we still love it. An album that can survive that type of over-exposure is always going to be a precious commodity and thus we had high hopes that its sequel ‘Our Love’ would be equally brilliant and guess what? It bloody well was.
4. Actress – Ghettoville
Billed as the follow up to Actress’ 2009 muggy masterclass in modern electronica ’Hazyville’ (the vinyl edition of which is included in the lush 3 x LP boxset Ninja Tune/WerkDiscs have lovingly put together), Darren Cunningham’s fourth full length album sees him re-visit the claustrophobic, industrial leaning techno and RnB vibes of his first full length.
It has been argued that Cunningham is the Aphex Twin of his generation – an artist that refuses to compromise, seemingly makes music for himself, with an almost omnipotent, remarkably on point talent vision in signing artists ahead of the curve.
His vision – as you would expect from such a lauded electronic auteur and the author of modern day classics such as 2010’s ‘Splazsh’ and 2012’s incredible “R.I.P”- is as uncompromising and singular as any luminary that has ever donned his/her producers hat in the field of abstract electronic music. Ghettoville sees the producer revels in the incidental details of sound itself, ruminating on the possibilities of what can be achieved with noise, fuzz, drones and pastoral ambience and melody.
However, don’t let the extended, hypnotic funeral vibes of opening number Forgiven or the strange industrial Street Corp lull you into thinking that Ghettoville is an exercise in sonic indulgence and chin stroking eccentricity, quite the opposite actually; the album is playful and colourful despite its bleached, washed out, mono-chrome sound palette. It’s a paradox, and because of that probably makes this Cunningham’s most accomplished, nuanced release to date.
3. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
You may remember our unbridled excitement at news that everyone’s favorite Nordic techno veteran Todd Terje would be finally releasing his long awaited debut album back in April via his Olsen imprint .
Titled It’s Album Time and with joyfully humorous artwork courtesy of illustrator Bendik Kaltenborn, Terje presented 12 of his works known and unknown, including ‘ Inspector Norse’ and a haunting cover of Robert Palmer’s ‘Johnny And Mary’ featuring the instantly recognisable vocals of the one and only Mr. Bryan Ferry. Witty, humorous and clever all at the same time. It’s Album Time got plenty of airplay in the DT office throughout 2014.
2. Aphex Twin – Syro
In a rather fatalistic and sardonic proverb they say nothing is certain except for death and taxes. Now we’re not quite sure who ‘they’ are but might we suggest to them a third certainty that could be annexed to their observation: the hysteria that will generated by the announcement of fresh material from experimental beat scientist Aphex Twin.
It’d been almost 13 years since the release of his last official album ‘Drukqs’ when his iconic logo flew high above the skylines of London and New York, teasing the impending return of one of electronic music’s most innovative and revered artists. It was a return worthy of the hype as Aphex continued to show just why he’s held in such high esteem with the release of Syro.
1. Gui Boratto – Abaporu
Long before the runaway success of his seminal debut album ‘Chromophobia’ on Kompakt Records in 2007, Brazil’s Gui Boratto was involved in creating music, though in a very different capacity; as an audio engineer, multi-instrumentalist and composer who worked in the advertising sector from the early 90s onwards. However, it’s this exact history that undoubtedly fed into his career in electronic and club music, which he initiated a decade ago to much success.
As Boratto told Data Transmission, while much of the club music that we listen might see the artist working on the textures first as producers, working as a composer alternatively means the melodies and harmonies come first; followed then by the electronic production.
It’s this role as a composer that Boratto returned to on his fourth album ‘Abaporu’, which he says reflects the same creative process that informed his debut. And neatly, it also fits in with a wider movement we’re currently seeing in underground house, which has seen influential acts like Ten Walls and Tale of Us embrace a return to melodies that have a real sense of grandeur.
Boratto calls this a “movement”. And for a DJ/producer who’s always been known for his sophisticated grasp of melodies and harmonies, it’s one for which he’s the perfect fit and his album ‘Abaporu’ serves as the perfect embodiement of in which has been undoubtedly our favourite album to arrive this year.