Fav albums of 2021
The ones that got a lot of listens and I'll most likely be playing this time next year
This sublime four tracker from the versatile German artist ended up being my number one bedtime listening material, clocking up more than 100 listens since its release at the beginning of 2021. Waves of shimmering sound, subtle texture and dubby Ambient vibes, just glorious!
Marcel Dettman was already well appreciated in my house as a quality DJ and selector but the remixing work on this EP not only elevates his own producer-profile cred but takes four tracks from Italian pair Tamburi Neri and transforms what admittedly would have been a solid stand-alone EP anyway, into the most memorable release.
Although the Dettman interpretations appear to be tacked onto the end, the sequence actually works well, with the four originals slowing building through emotive cultural musical references towards the floor. Hashiru (a spontaneous collaboration in the studio!), features Hiroko on vocals and is in my top three tracks of the year!
Another lovely way to conclude a long day, this time from US duo Animated Matter, who pack twinkling drama and a calming wash into 30 minutes that will take your breath away and leave you happy about it. So many listens. Read my review of Selkie.
Tasteful and catchy electronic Pop music from the Netherlands via Turkey. Taking the core aspects of Anatolian and Turkish folk music and working in an element of 80s electronic Pop leaves this fresh and addictive album. One to cherish!
As I said in my review, Jim Coles, revisits his early Dub-influenced work, playfully experimenting with his TB-303 and appropriating the dirtiest Dub bass lines along the way. The results are like classics: at once comforting, effortless and familiar. Essential.
A quirky amalgamation of Classical and Ambient influences (think Joaquín Rodrigo, William Basinski and Leyland Kirby) mashed-up with lo-fi electronic loops and manipulated vocals. Sounds a mess? It ain't.
Manipulating a plethora of Mellotron generated instruments (horns, guitars and wind instruments) with organs, harpsichord, piano and violin we are gifted a glimpse into the solitary and seductive world of the artist's mind. At once hypnotic and reassuring.
Not quite Ambient but leaning heavily in that direction, this is one of the strongest releases from the Sheffield lads. Blissful, droning passages interspersed with a seasoning of rhythmic flavours and light melody. Euphoric and grand in emotion, it's delicate sound design at its best.
Ilya Ryazantcev's 2017 debut Wild Palms has been on steady rotation since its release so I approached his follow-up this year with a slight apprehension. As expected it wasn't the same soothing form of desert island meditation but there's a lot to be said for repeat listens! At just 26 minutes in length I found it was the perfect length to fill the space before a meeting or the end of a days work, so I got to know it quite intimately. In short, the brief glow of tropical island vibes left only good feelings. Turned out to be a fine companion piece and one I will no doubt return to often.
More emotional music, this time more uptempo in style, from Portuguese producer Gonçalo Salgado, aka Lake Haze. Working on the concept of hitting a rave, popping a pill and riding the emotional shoom, it's a dreamy adventure of memories designed to break your heart with melancholic vibes. Read what I said about Sun Rising On Concrete Landscapes.
I know as much now about this Dutch producer as I did when I first heard his superb debut EP back in September (which isn't much) but I can report that Equanimity scratches all my itches, with a bit of Jazz, soulful vocals and electronic loops.
Kiri Ra! - Kiri Ra!
Slow-motion Jazz for lovers of Ambient - seductive, mellow and revealing. If there was a 'best of' order to these albums this would be near the top. Read my review of Kiri Ra!.
Exemplary Jungle Gym fare this: lo-fi, tasteful and addictive. Time to zone out.
Another hybrid album with guitar and electronic moods swapping bodily fluids, the result is an Ambient vibe that allows the mind to escape.
Dominick Fernow wears plenty of hats (as Prurient and Vatican Shadow among others) but I think his collaboration with Philippe Hallais as Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement is my fav. Like the Wild Palms album, this 45 minute excursion into the digital wet lands and tropical topography of the imagination thoroughly transports with 'digital rain storms' and 'falling comet bass drops'.
an artificial ambient wilderness rooted in wobbling sub-bass, watered wastefully with glossy digital FX
I listened to many albums and EPs a lot over the year ("a lot" usually meaning more than 20 times) but for various reasons they didn't make this final cut. The reasons for this are many and varied (could have been too many listens, one or two particular tracks ruined the whole, overall playing time was too long etc.) but I still found a lot to like in the following list:
- Christine Ott - Time to Die
- Sault - 'NINE'
- Space Afrika - Honest Labour
- Kevin Richard Martin - Red Light
- Yann Tiersen - Kerber
- Lunar Orbit Rendezvous - Faith/Reason
- Lena Raine - Chicory: A Colorful Tale (Original Soundtrack)
- Indigo - Part I
- HTRK - Rhinestones
- Malcolm Pardon - Hello Death
- LNS & DJ Sotofett - Sputters
- NTHNG - Unfinished
- Biosphere - Angel's Flight
- Loscil - Clara