Our wordsmith and music supremo Ben Hogwood gets together the 20 must have albums and compilations of 2107…
10 ALBUMS 2017
SPECIAL REQUEST – BELIEF SYSTEM – HOUNDSTOOTH
Paul Woolford has done it again. When the first Special Request album came out it was an incredibly substantial piece of work, a double album that somehow kept you hooked the whole way through with its inventive beat dropping and cavernous, cinematic soundscapes. If anything ‘Belief System’ raises the bar further, daring to drop the beats altogether for its atmospheric closing sections. When the tension breaks out the results are thrilling, Woolford going for the jugular, with some incredibly strong force fields at work. The use of field recordings and analogue textures is the final icing on the cake to bring ‘Belief System’ to vital, pulsing life. An absolutely essential listen, no matter what your genre.
MOUNT KIMBIE – LOVE WHAT SURVIVES – WARP
Dom Maker’s move to LA has moved Mount Kimbie up another level, giving them an intriguing blend of US/UK tensions. The dry heat of the Californian desert is well within range, but guest slots from the likes of James Blake and Micachu bring through modern English talent. This is an album whose hot, dry energy immediately gets the listener into a sweat, and yet it proves just as effective in home company too.
TERRENCE PARKER – GOD LOVES DETROIT – PLANET E
Whatever its trials and tribulations over the last couple of decades, Detroit has never lost its knack for producing good music. Terrence Parker confirms the city’s strength in depth, bringing spirituality and a bit of old school house to the table for what proves to be a celebration of techno music. Greatly helped by vocalists Merachka and Coco Street, who contributes to the brilliant gospel-garage combinations of ‘Lift Yo Hands Raise Em High’, he delivers a great blend of piano-powered Detroit past, present and future.
FADER – FIRST LIGHT – BLANC CHECK RECORDS
‘First Light’ is a meeting of minds – Blancmange frontman Neil Arthur hooking up with keyboard / synth wizard Benge, who has previous with John Foxx, Gazelle Twin and Wrangler. They make a collection of modern day electronic music enjoying its 1980s influences but using them for something just as meaningful to the present day. With edgy paranoia about OCD issues, and lovelorn imagery around a launderette, Arthur continues in the rich vein of form he hit with Blancmange last year. A thought provoking and sonically rewarding album.
LEROY – BAMBADEA
Not for LeRoy the difficult second album, the Munich-based producer delivering a thoughtful follow-up to the outgoing debut ‘Skläsh’. Here his musical styles are an intriguing mesh of opposites that somehow manage to sound like nothing else, with some weirdly endearing shimmies and slower grooves. Smoky, dusty and more than a little off-piste, it’s a highly original piece of work.
JAMES YUILL – A CHANGE IN STATE – HAPPY BISCUIT CLUB
The return of James Yuill is a cause for celebration, building on the singer-songwriter’s knack of bringing together a wistful, folk-like delivery and up to date electronic sounds. Many of these songs turn into meaningful earworms, with lyrical quirks and melodic hooks that stay long in the memory.
KAITLYN AURELIA SMITH – THE KID – WESTERN VINYL
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith inhabits an enchanting world. Her music is powered by deep, human emotion, but has a mysterious streak that she explores in colourful and often bittersweet detail. A strong Eastern influence works well with communal vocals and snippets of field recordings, giving the production a set of layers that are a pleasure to unpeel.
STEFFI – WORLD OF THE WAKING STATE – OSTGUT TON
A thoughtful third album from Berlin’s Steffi, exploring her knowledge of processes and procedures within electronic music writing – but keeping human emotion to the fore. The structures here are beautifully stable but inventive, with busy lower end beats and stately keyboards. Beautifully constructed techno, but with a certain warmth retained.
SOULJAZZ ORCHESTRA – UNDER BURNING SKIES – STRUT
The earthy, brassy sound of the Souljazz Orchestra acquires synths and drum machines for the excellent ‘Under Burning Skies’. Packed with good vibes and breezy hook lines, it brings together brassy funk, strong Afro flavours and a bit of electronics in the background production. What’s not to like?
JOE GODDARD – ELECTRIC LINES – DOMINO
Joe Goddard continues to keep his finger on the dance music pulse, even though it feels ‘Electric Lines’ slipped under a lot of peoples’ radars this year. If you hear ‘Home’, the album’s jewel in the crown, you’ll be pleased to hear the rest of the album is nearly its equal, complemented by a versatility that allows Goddard to include acidic bass lines or soft-hearted, soulful numbers. His best yet.
VARIOUS – FUNKADELIC REWORKED BY DETROITERS – WESTBOUND
It is a brave remixer that takes on the might of Funkadelic – which might suggest why nobody thought of this idea sooner. Yet given the influence George Clinton and his merry men have held over Detroit in the last 30 years ago, it makes complete sense – and produces a brilliant set of 17 tracks that work for today’s crowd while reminding us just how amazing the source material is. Few remix albums transcend eras like this!
VARIOUS ARTISTS – CROWN RULER SOUND COMPILED BY JEREMY SPELLACEY – SPACETALK MUSIC
In which Jeremy Spellacey’s crate digging skills are exploited to the best possible effect. This is pure hot weather music, with some great club funk that will leave you on a higher plane – while diverting to sunshine disco, soul and Afro dance. Let’s face it, any compilation including The Staple Singers’ ‘Slippery People’ can’t go wrong – but when it’s matched by another 14 tracks, Spellacey’s worth is handsomely proved.
VARIOUS ARTISTS – FABRICLIVE 93: DAPHNI (FABRIC)
The line between artist album and compilation mix blurs heavily on Dan Snaith’s contribution to the Fabriclive series. Snaith – who of course is Caribou – offers a set of 27 shimmering originals and remixes direct from the studio, blended together into a continuous whole without sounding like a DJ. The end product is a set of vibrant new tracks that are immediately fit for purpose, the Daphni alias allowing Snaith to be more adventurous. A real treat.
PERMANENT VACATION X: TEN YEARS LABEL ANNIVERSARY – PERMANENT VACATION
As a celebration of a decade in dance music, Munich label Permanent Vacation commissioned a set of 16 brand new tracks from their artists. There are magnificent contributions from John Talabot, Joakim, Tensnake and Mano Le Tough, to name just a few, but Woolfy vs Projections’ ‘Astronaut’ show how diverse the label can be too. Here’s to the next decade!
DJ KICKS: MATTHEW DEAR (!K7)
2017 was a great year for DJ Kicks – and it could hardly be anything else given the start they made with Matthew Dear. In the background of his mix Dear includes vocal snippets of family and friends, bringing a charming warmth to proceedings, while musically it’s brilliantly worked together, from Nils Frahm to Audion
AIR TEXTURE 5 (AIR TEXTURE)
A bit of a surprise in store for Air Texture fans, the label using beats in one of their compilations for the first time proper. While that might alarm some of the purists of pure ambience, it works well and keeps a horizontal profile thanks to Spacetime Continuum and Juju & Jordash. Once again a compilation that is essential material for ambient music connoisseurs.
DJ KICKS: LONE (!K7)
Lone describes his DJ Kicks compilation as ‘a weird midnight radio show’ where you can ‘zone in and zone out’. Treat it as that and it stays on the money throughout, a slightly fuzzy homage to some great dance music – with the considerable bonus of four new tracks. Moving from hip hop grounding to deeper house, it keeps the fuzzy, analogue elements to the front of the mix beautifully, channelling the spirit of the early 1990s. Matt Cutler shows his worth as a late night DJ par excellence.
DESSOUS SUMMER GROOVES 5 – DESSOUS
Dessous Summer Grooves are usually the hottest deep house ticket, and this is once again the case with the fifth sultry selection. There are chunky beats, boldly voiced basslines and some lovely, heat soaked textures up top – all staying true to the Dessous watchword of consistency. Best enjoyed with a pool in close attendance!
TOO SLOW TO DISCO 3 – HOW DO YOU ARE?
DJ Supermarkt has himself a brilliant series here, and another set of sunny music with big hair from the West Coast hits the tropical spot. It is a real mood lifter, with lots of sun, sea and sax, as we celebrate the yacht rock style of the 1970s. This compilation is more about a shared feeling than picking out single tracks, and it all meets the same sun kissed high.
I-ROBOTS PRESENTS TURIN DANCEFLOOR EXPRESS – OPILEC MUSIC
A great compilation for historians and good-time seekers alike, Turin Dancefloor Express celebrates the city’s unheralded contribution to electronic music history. Italian rare groove, disco and electronica are the order of the day, so the feelings are good – and a whole host of new names are here waiting for your acquaintance!