Best of 2019

TRAKSE.NET

They didn't make the cut...

Altin Gün - Gece
Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Two
Angel Olsen - All Mirrors
Bat For Lashes - Lost Girls
Bibio - Ribbons
Caterina Barbieri - Ecstatic Computation
Doon Kanda - Labyrinth
FKA Twigs - Magdalene
Floating Points - Crush
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana
Grace Lightman - Silver Eater
Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation - Sacred Dreams
Kevin Morby - Oh My God
Lena Raine - Oneknowing
Lorelle Meets The Obsolete - De Facto
Nate Young - Volume One: Dilemmas Of Identity
Nathan Micay - Blue Spring
Penguin Cafe - Handfuls Of Night
Phono Ghosts - Warm Pad, Sharp Stab
Portico Quartet - Memory Streams
Priori - On A Nimbus
Roza Terenzi - Let's Ride
Ruby Rushton - Ironside
Sarathy Korwar - More Arriving
Snapped Ankles - Stunning Luxury
Tenderlionious - Hard Rain
Tenesha The Wordsmith - Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts
Theon Cross - Fyah
Thomas William Hill - Grains Of Space
Toy - Songs Of Consumption
Umberto - Helpless Spectator
Vanishing Twin - The Age Of Immunology

10


VWETO II

Georgia Anne Muldrow

MELLO MUSIC GROUP


The names people invoke when trying to describe Georgia Anne Muldrow are unavoidably, almost impossibly lofty: Nina Simone and Alice Coltrane, Erykah Badu and Ella Fitzgerald. The Los Angeles-bred singer, songwriter, and musician is all and none of these things – she’s able to channel the greats from decades past in soul, R&B, and jazz, but her own music is too subversive, too forward-thinking to be cordoned off as a footnote to any one lineage. Over the course of a career that spans dozens of releases and ropes in a wide array of talented collaborators, it would appear that Muldrow has explored every nook and crevice of her tastes and talents. And yet, after nearly 15 years, each new turn in her catalog is a step directly into the unknown.

Released by Mello Music Group, "VWETO II", is this kind of exploratory turn. It’s the sequel to her 2011 album by the same name. Like its predecessor, "VWETO II" is an all-instrumental affair, reestablishing Muldrow as one of the most reliable crafters of sturdy, funky, spaced-out hip-hop working today.

Brilliantly toeing the line between staggered instrumental hip-hop, crackling downbeat and shadowy electronic soul, 'VWETO II' is obviously a statement from an artist at the peak of their powers, this is brilliantly written and fully immersive music for home listening or late-night post-club sessions. Thoroughly brilliant.

9


Yes! Come Parade With Us

Leafcutter John

BORDER COMMUNITY


To create his seventh LP - and first for James Holden’s Border Community (Luke Abbott, RocketNumberNine) - Leafcutter John drew inspiration from his personal history. The genesis of Yes! Come Parade With Us came when the one born John Burton took a trip to Norfolk, where he had been an art student in the 90’s, in 2017. Once there Burton took it upon himself to walk the 60-mile Norfolk Coast Path, making field recordings along the way and using the time, space and landscape to find inspiration. Once back in his London studio he called on Tom Skinner (Hello Skinny), Sebastian Rochford (Polar Bear) and a modular synthesiser to help him put together the record.

Given that it was conceived in the great outdoors, it’s no surprise that Yes! Come Parade With Us is a record full of fresh and optimistic tracks. The sounds that Leafcutter John coaxes from his electronics here all have a charming positivity to them. Arpeggios, morning-phase pads, fairground vamps and whirring lead lines are just some of the tones that make an appearance. The air of kitschy irreverence that pervades the record gives it something of a Ghost Box flavour.

Skinner and Rochford help knit this thing together. The pair’s dextrous playing provides a sturdy platform from which Leafcutter John can grow each track into vivid, shimmering compositions. The manner in which samples, synths and keys blend on some of Yes! Come Parade With Us’ grander moments is reminiscent of The Gasman and early Four Tet.

It’s rare to find an artist as seasoned as Leafcutter John still creating music of such vigour. Yes! Come Parade With Us is the sort of album that improves your day, any day.

8


Kiri Variations

Clark

THROTTLE RECORDS


Kiri Variations, the latest LP from electronic auteur Clark, grew out of music that Clark wrote for Euros Lyn’s 2018 television miniseries Kiri. Given that many of these pieces were initially conceived for the screen it’s perhaps no surprise that Clark largely adopts a more measured approach here than he did on his previous album, 2017’s bombastic Death Peak.

This is quite possibly Clark’s prettiest work to date. Across Kiri Variations we find Clark spooling out music rich in melody and harmony. Strings and pianos often take centre-stage, a smart choice that only adds to the heightened emotion of these pieces. Moments such as ‘Simple Homecoming Loop’ and ‘Tobi Thwarted’ have a stately quality not dissimilar to Olafur Arnalds, and the influence of William Basinski is also keenly felt.

While Kiri Variations may not be as dystopian and overdriven as Death Peak the album still finds Clark plumbing his music with eerie, destabilising sonics. Unsettling synth drones often sneak up on the listener under cover of the acoustic instrumentation, something that brings cuts like ‘Bench’ to a powerful climax. Occasionally the maximalist tendencies of Clark’s previous output come to the surface once more - by they the degraded, Oneohtrix Point Never-esque tones of ‘Banished Hymnal’ or the highly spooky choir that dominates album closer ‘Goodnight Kiri’.

Clark dials back the beats to create an uncanny delight in Kiri Variations.

7


Polymer

Plaid

WARP


Yes, you’ve read that right. A new Bogdan Raczynski release. Do not adjust your sets. This is not a drill.

After a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it white label had many of us wondering if we’d hear more from the Rephlex legend in 2019, we’re as excited as you are to find out that the rumours are true. Over a decade on from the last record to bear his name the Polish-American artist issues Rave ‘Til You Cry, a compilation of previously-unreleased jams put out by the Disciples imprint. This 18-track transmission is here to remind us of everything that makes Raczynski so great. Tracks ranging from breakbeat, brain-melting IDM, beautiful braindance and harsh noise are all delivered with an infectious enthusiasm.

The madcap glee that is present in Rave ‘Til You Cry’s most intense moments means that this album is as witty as it is abrasive. Check the manner in which ‘318 22t7’ bludgeons you with kicks while also delivering moments of melody amid the chaos, or the way ‘332 23t422’ breaks up the mutant jungle beat with some jarring spoken word samples. Heard in a modern context it’s now easy to see how the likes of Sophie, PC Music and Bjarki have drawn from Raczynski’s frantic-calm-frantic dynamic.

Amid the whirligig drums and wacky 303s there are moments where other facets of Raczynski’s sound shine through. The two tracks which bookend Rave ‘Til You Cry frame the album in a different light - there is a cinematic quality to the eerie, spacious ‘156 s2n’ and ‘204 fr’. ‘220 s1c’ is almost abstract enough to pass for musique concrete, while ‘210 31c22’ is a melodic leftfield hip-hop beat that could have been siphoned off from a Dabrye LP. With Bogdan Raczynski’s old pal Aphex Twin making a comeback in recent years it feels right that this old breakbeat pioneer should get another moment in the sun.

6


Pax Americana

André Bratten

SMALLTOWN SUPERSOUND


André Bratten has been building to a new full-length for a couple of years now. Throughout 2018 the Norwegian producer issued a series of limited-edition vinyl EPs via Smalltown Supersound. Some of the material on these dated from much earlier - ‘Pax Americana’, the B-side of the first drop and the title-track of this record, was made by Bratten the day after Donald Trump’s presidential election victory back in 2016. Bratten has taken his time over Pax Americana, and his patient craft pays off in a selection of deft electro numbers.

Three of the tracks from the EPs (‘Pax Americana’, ‘Recreation 26B’ and ‘HS’) make it to Pax Americana backed by a trio of new cuts. Working with recording equipment that had previously seen use by ABBA, a Swedish television station and artists on the rockabilly circuit, Bratten carefully constructs his grooves from an 808 and a sequencer. On entries like ‘HS’ and ‘Recreation 26B’ Bratten’s beats skitter around in a manner that recalls the 90’s/early 00’s heyday of Aphex Twin, The Other People Place and Autechre.

While he doesn’t exactly let rip at any point across this record - even the breakbeat odysseys ‘426’ and ‘Ranx’ have a feeling of restraint to them - there are more than enough dancefloor-friendly moments here. The times when Bratten gets more abstract are just as interesting. ‘Commonwealth’ has a dystopian flavour to it that harks back to the early days of minimal synth and coldwave. Meanwhile the wistful ‘Pax Americana’ will have one thinking of The Orb.

If you’re looking for thoughtful and nuanced electro then André Bratten’s Pax Americana is the record for you.

5


Structuralism

Alfa Mist

SEKITO


Alfa Mist follows up his superb 2017 debut LP Antiphon with new full-length Structuralism. The London jazzer maintains the smoky, evocative vibe of Antiphon here, turning in a collection of lamp-lit numbers that blend neo-soul, closing-time jazz, fusion and a little hip-hop. It’s a highly charismatic album, one that seizes on the sound of artists like Ezra Collective and takes it way deeper. Jordan Rakei and Kaya Thomas-Dyke both guest on Structuralism.

4


Vortex

Special Request

HOUNDSTOOTH


Never one to do things in the most normal manner, Paul Woolford says that he’s made the four (!) Special Request LPs set to drop in the coming months while he was dossing around in his pants. The claim is easier to believe when you hear Vortex, the first of the quartet to emerge on Houndstooth.

This album is definitely the work of someone who had a lot of fun when making it. Indeed, Woolford signposts the joy he took from crafting VORTEX before you even get around to the music - day-glo black metal artwork and track titles like ‘A Gargantuan Melting Face Floating Effortlessly Through The Stratosphere’ set the tone nicely.

When you get to the music you’ll find that this album is a twisted mix of electro, breakbeat, hardcore and devil-may-care electronics. As is customary with the Special Request project we see Woolford dragging 20th Century rave sounds into the present day and bending them to his will. Cuts like ‘Ardkore Dolphin’ and ‘Vortex 150’ come across like old jungle tracks which have been left on spin-cycle for days, their broken beats and squelching basslines now all jumbled up.

It’s worth noting that VORTEX is an LP that gets quicker as it goes on. While ‘SP4NN3R3D’ and ‘Memory Lake’ start us off at acid/electro tempo, by the end of the record we find Woolford having a go at something close to gabber - or at least the sort of warped hard-tech that has been coming out on Bjarki’s bbbbbb imprint these past few years. The ever-increasing BPM’s only add to the feeling of an artist going about their business with delirious glee.

Special Request’s VORTEX is one hell of a good time.

3


Hollow Earth

Pye Corner Audio

GHOST BOX


Pye Corner Audio presents Hollow Earth, the long-awaited sequel to Our Head Technician's last Ghost Box broadcast Stasis. Hollow Earth is a vessel that sinks itself deep into notions of submerged psychologies and subterranean exploration.

Hollow Earth buries itself deep into Bowie b-side synth improvisations, New Age meditations while the ghosts of 90s house euphoria blur the edges. The subterranean element of Hollow Earth plays a pivotal role in the album's journey, diving deep into the core of the earth and drifting between vast, awe-inspiring spaces and into the sort of claustrophobic chambers that defined recordings such as Sleep Games and Black Mill Tapes.

With the track titles offering a map through this new landscape, the audio soundtracks a multitude of labyrinths, lakes and buried memories before reaching the surface in the albums closing minutes. Having been absorbed in this album for the past few weeks, we can honestly say that Hollow Earth is by far the most accomplished album in the Pye Corner Audio discography to date. A true milestone of Radiophonic techno, one that blurs the boundaries and edges of the sound library while shaking all that listen right to the centre of the once molten, but now Hollow Earth.

2


New Atlantis

Efdemin

OSTGUT TON


Berghain resident Efdemin returns to the club’s Ostgut Ton label with what is possibly his most ambitious work yet. New Atlantis is the closest Efdemin has ever got to bringing together his techno productions with the forays into ambient composition and experimental electronics that have peppered his career. The LP is inspired by Francis Bacon’s novel of the same name - a work in which, four centuries ago, the writer conceived of ‘sound houses’ that contained instruments which could recreate the sounds of the universe. While Efdemin’s fourth LP might not contain every sound in existence, there is certainly a huge range of timbres on offer here. The title track, for instance, is a minimal techno piece that blooms from pensive synths into a gorgeous morning phase soundscape. Elsewhere on the record everything from hurdy gurdy, poetry, dulcimer and trance keyboards are employed in the service of discovering New Atlantis.

1


Persuasion System

Com Truise

GHOSTLY INTERNATIONAL


Since the release of his last Com Truise LP (2017’s Iteration, also out on Ghostly International) Seth Haley has switched things up. Jaded by his sonic palette and working methods, Haley changed out his equipment and constructed a new set of core sounds to work with. The result is Persuasion System, a record that builds on Haley’s previous successes while still remaining identifiable as a Com Truise collection.

Anyone worried that Haley may have jettisoned the hypnagogic synth style on which he made his name can put those fears to bed. Many of the cuts here still buzz with the same ‘80s-indebted energy that has guided so much of Com Truise’s best work. Take lead single ‘Existence Schematic’ for example, a track that combines chunky synths with a head-snapping electro-groove for a real retro thrill. Many of the tracks on Persuasion System also have a reassuring familiarity to them - kind of like how Oneohtrix Point Never has also pushed his sound on in recent years without abandoning the cyberpunk dystopia that is the cornerstone of his aesthetic.

A notable step forward here is the way Haley colours in the spaces around the grooves on Persuasion System. Some of the entries display the ghost of a Braindance influence in their rhythm section programming, something we’ve not seen much of in the Com Truise oeuvre up until now. Even more interesting are the moments in which Haley begins to experiment with beatless episodes and wistful, slightly lo-fi electronic textures. The manner in which a couple of the tracks reconfigure thick synthetic lead tones as ambient sounds make us wonder if he’s been listening to a little Yung Sherman and Yung Gud. We even find guitars cropping up towards the end of the album, though the way they come cloaked heavily in reverb and delay smudges their edges nicely.

Persuasion System is an excellent addition to the sonic world of Com Truise, as he simultaneously travels back in time, while keeping his eyes and ears on to the future.