2015:‭ ‬The Albums Of The Year

in Bittles' Magazine

Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world

The year‭ ‬2015‭ ‬was a strange time for music.‭ ‬Huge albums by the likes of‭ ‬Blur,‭ ‬The Libertines,‭ ‬Foals,‭ ‬The Chemical Brothers,‭ ‬Leftfield and‭ ‬Grimes failed to sparkle as,‭ ‬in the mainstream at least,‭ ‬there seemed to be very few stand-out LPs.‭ ‬The year appeared to lack that one‭ ‬unifying album which would‭ ‬woo pundits,‭ ‬pop fans,‭ ‬clubbers,‭ ‬indie kids and hip hop heads alike.‭ ‬There was no‭ ‬Blue Lines,‭ ‬Dummy,‭ ‬Whatever People Say I Am,‭ ‬Nevermind,‭ ‬or‭ ‬LP1.‭ By JOHN BITTLES

That’s not to say that there was no great music released in‭ ‬2015.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬if you cared to seek them out,‭ ‬there were many aural gems to be found.‭ ‬From angry hip hop,‭ ‬growling techno,‭ ‬luscious house and mesmerising ambiance,‭ ‬there were plenty of essential LPs.‭ ‬The‭ ‬20‭ ‬albums listed below are a selection of what I consider to be the highlights of the year.‭ ‬Some you may be aware of,‭ ‬others you may have only heard of through overhearing hushed conversations in the dark.‭ ‬You may not agree with some of them.‭ ‬You may not agree with all‭! ‬Yet,‭ ‬in my opinion at least,‭ ‬each and every one of these records are essential listening that will fully enrich your life should you be brave enough to give them a go.‭ ‬I think that’s what we call a dare‭!

 

1.‭ ‬Closing Ice by‭ ‬Senking.

closing iceFor me,‭ ‬this year’s stand-out album could only be this deep,‭ ‬dark,‭ ‬menacing trip into the very heart of the groove.‭ ‬I spent many hours and days in‭ ‬2015‭ ‬playing this on repeat.‭ ‬And,‭ ‬I have to admit that at times I almost convinced myself that‭ ‬Closing Ice by‭ ‬Senking‭ ‬was‭ ‬my one and only friend.‭ ‬The record’s nine mid-paced tracks throb with an eerie sense of threatening design,‭ ‬sounding as if they are about to reach out through the speakers to steal your very soul.‭ ‬Yet there are also many moments of startling aural beauty to be discovered here,‭ ‬which helps lend the record a rich,‭ ‬textured feel.‭ ‬After a two year absence‭ ‬Closing Ice was a confident statement‭ ‬of intent from‭ ‬Senking.‭ ‬It’s bass heavy soundscapes working in perfect tandem with sublime techno pulses and atmospheric ambiance to create an album which transports the listener to a whole different universe from the very moment they hit play.‭ ‬In a perfect world this would have been huge‭!

 

2.‭ ‬Dream_III by‭ ‬Nmesh‭ & ‬t e l e p a t h .

nmeshDream_III isn’t so much an album as a way of life‭! ‬It is a deeply immersive and stimulating split LP of futuristic ambiance and twilight electronica from two of electronic music’s rising stars.‭ ‬Those who have previously found themselves mesmerised by the‭ ‬desolate cityscapes of‭ ‬Blade Runner or the dense audio emissions of‭ ‬Biosphere will find much that will enrapture here.‭ ‬London label‭ ‬Dream Catalogue have long excelled in releasing this type of nostalgia-draped electronica which seems to have a pulse all of its own.‭ ‬In short,‭ ‬it is a wonderful example of that much maligned hipster baiting genre known as vaporwave.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬Dream_III may just be the most gorgeous and fully-realised example of this style of music I have heard so far.‭ ‬With over an hour apiece both‭ ‬Nmesh and‭ ‬‬t e l e p a t h deliver a string‭ ‬of bewitching sonic caresses which are almost too beautiful to behold.

 

3.‭ ‬Foreign Parts by Seb Wildblood.‭

Seb WildbloodIn a fantastic year for house music it was the glorious rhythms and deep house textures on‭ ‬Church co-founder and deep house disciple‭ ‬Seb Wildblood’s‭ ‬debut LP,‭ ‬Foreign Parts which singled it out as one of the best.‭ ‬Full of sumptuous melodies,‭ ‬goose-bump inducing grooves,‭ ‬and spacious beats to enrich the soul,‭ ‬the record marks Seb out as a very special producer indeed.‭ ‬Even though I have had‭ ‬the record on almost constant rotation since its release over five months ago I have never once found myself getting tired or bored.‭ ‬The simple reason for this is that tracks such as‭ ‬Moŏir,‭ ‬Sønday‭ ‬and‭ ‬Systir are the type of gloriously deep house which would make the likes of‭ ‬Mateo‭ & ‬Matos,‭ ‬Idjut Boys or‭ ‬Moodymann‭ ‬blush.‭ ‬This is house music which feels classic to the core,‭ ‬and which seems to get better after each and every play.‭ ‬So good that even the most devoted hater will struggle to resist.‭

 

4.‭ ‬American Intelligence by‭ ‬Theo Parrish.

theo parrishTaking the legacy of Chicago and Detroit to new and unexpected places,‭ ‬American Intelligence is composed almost entirely of experimental,‭ ‬yet‭ ‚‬proper‭‘ ‬house music from one of the genre’s most respected and gifted stars.‭ ‬Released way back in January on his own‭ ‬Sound Signature label,‭ ‬the bumper LP saw the producer deliver a heady,‭ ‬tranquil and funky double CD/triple LP of smoky house jams.‭ ‬Many of the tracks stretch towards the ten minute mark which helps give the record a‭ ‬relaxed,‭ ‬unhurried feel.‭ ‬Yet,‭ ‬songs such as the opener‭ ‬Drive,‭ ‬Life Spice,‭ ‬Thug Irony‭ ‬and‭ ‬Footwork remember the demands of the club to give us some of the most devastating moments heard on any dance floor this year.‭ ‬Echoes of‭ ‬Prince,‭ ‬Larry Heard,‭ ‬Drexciya and more can be found in what is a wonderful work of art created by one of the more talented sound designers of our time.‭

 

5.‭ ‬Night Of Visions by Ancestral Voices.‭

Ancestral VoicesOver the previous few years the label‭ ‬Samurai Horo has released some of the most interesting and experimental drum n‭‘ ‬bass to be heard.‭ ‬So much so in fact,‭ ‬that many would claim that they left genre limitations far behind a long time ago.‭ ‬This November saw the imprint release its magnum opus in the magnificent‭ ‬Night Of Visions,‭ ‬the debut LP from‭ ‬Liam Blackburn’s Ancestral Voices‭ ‬guise.‭ ‬The album is composed of rumbling bass infused soundscapes which sit at the point where ambient,‭ ‬techno and dubstep collide.‭ ‬It is this lack of respect for genre restrictions,‭ ‬and what has gone before,‭ ‬which helps make‭ ‬Night Of Visions one of the most beguiling and bewitching releases of the year.‭ ‬Eerie and sinister,‭ ‬there is a darkness at the heart of tracks such as‭ ‬Ritual Terre and‭ ‬Invocations which creates a thrilling sense of unease.‭ ‬Seemingly created by a mad scientist with‭ ‬ominous designs,‭ ‬this is an all consuming record which sounds uncanny when played alone in the dark.‭

 

6.‭ ‬Bleeds by‭ ‬Roots Manuva.

roots manuvaAfter taking a much needed break from the music world Britain’s own‭ ‬Roots Manuva made a welcome return this year with the angry,‭ ‬unsettling,‭ ‬yet strangely mournful hip hop of‭ ‬Bleeds.‭ ‬Ever since the release of his excellent‭ ‬Brand New Second Hand LP back in‭ ‬1999,‭ ‬maestro‭ ‬Rodney Smith‭ ‬has created some of the most individual and inspiring rap music to be heard.‭ ‬His new album finds the musical maverick in truly sparkling form‭! ‬Utilizing the production talents of the likes of‭ ‬Adrian Sherwood and‭ ‬Four Tet the beat-based accompaniment to Mr.‭ ‬Smith’s rhymes are forward-thinking and brain-snaringly deep.‭ ‬Yet,‭ ‬as always,‭ ‬it is the gloriously impassioned South Londoner’s marijuana-infused drawl which is the true star of the show.‭ ‬From the bitter diatribe against the selfishness of modern society on Hard Bastards to the bitter-sweet‭ ‬Don’t Breathe Out this is the only rap LP in‭ ‬2015‭ ‬which constantly kept the listener on the edge of their seat.‭

 

7.‭ ‬Grind by‭ ‬DJ Richard.

dj richardAfter a couple of celebrated releases on his own New York imprint‭ ‬White Material the producer made the leap into the long-player format with the gorgeously atmospheric deep house of‭ ‬Grind.‭ ‬I have to admit though,‭ ‬that when I first heard this‭ ‬DJ Richard‭ ‬was a new name to me.‭ ‬Released on Hamburg institution‭ ‬Dial Records the album merges dance floor drive with heady ambiance to winning effect.‭ ‬Whether revelling within the beatless soundscapes of tracks like‭ ‬No Balance and‭ ‬Waiting For The Green Flash,‭ ‬or the warm house thump of‭ ‬Savage Coast,‭ ‬Screes Of Gray Craig,‭ ‬or‭ ‬Bane the album never once deviates from the sublime.‭ ‬In a set packed full of highlights,‭ ‬DJ Richard leaves the best for last with the wonderfully evocative‭ ‬Vampire Dub ending the record in majestic style.‭ ‬Fans of the output of labels such as‭ ‬Kompakt,‭ ‬Ki Records‭ ‬or‭ ‬Dumpoet Community will find themselves in heaven as soon as the needle hits the groove.

 

8.‭ ‬Atarashī Nin Ntso No Tanjō by‭ ‬2814.

2814_500Originally released on‭ ‬Dream Catalogue at the beginning of the year,‭ ‬it was through the welcome reissue by‭ ‬Amanda Brown’s respected LA label‭ ‬Not Not Fun in August that I first discovered this album’s vivid and picturesque world.‭ ‬A collaboration between long-time‭ ‬Dream Catalogue disciples‭ ‬Telepath and‭ ‬Hong Kong Express the record is a wonderfully hazy listening experience,‭ ‬where the police sirens,‭ ‬and sounds from the outside world are transformed into moments of complete and utter bliss.‭ ‬Unbelievably stirring,‭ ‬the album imagines a heavily romanticised future world which can,‭ ‬it seems,‭ ‬never be.‭ ‬Tinged with just the right amount of both hope and regret,‭ ‬this is one downtempo album which packs a mighty punch and which will linger long in the mind.‭

 

9.‭ ‬Ultraviolet Music by‭ ‬Deepchord.‭

DeepchordWhile dub techno may,‭ ‬at first glance,‭ ‬appear to be one of the more limited of musical genres,‭ ‬over the last decade or so it is this label which has been applied to many of electronica’s stand-out LPs.‭ ‬Deepchord’s twin CD opus‭ ‬Ultraviolet Music is the perfect example of this‭! ‬By slowing down techno’s usually frantic and overly aggressive beats and grooves until they resemble no more than a drawn-out,‭ ‬echoing pulse‭ ‬Deepchord’s Rod Modell has crafted a series of pieces which inspire both devotion and awe.‭ ‬With his dub-infused grooves unfairly labelled by some as‭ ‚‬heroin house‭’‬,‭ ‬the music on this album is a lot more varied than this lazy definition may suggest.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬the music morphs from sublime ambiance to clanking bangers with aplomb.‭ ‬You would even get away with playing one or two of these tracks in a club‭ (‬maybe not in your local‭ ‬Oceana though‭!)‬.‭ ‬Vividly realised and hypnotic in the extreme,‭ ‬this is an album to enrich both minds and ears.‭

 

10.‭ ‬Covers by‭ ‬Placebo.

Placebo_CoversEvery year in music there is a curveball,‭ ‬an album that you think you should hate,‭ ‬but unreservedly love.‭ ‬In‭ ‬2015‭ ‬that honour fell to those talented indie goths‭ ‬Placebo with,‭ ‬of all things,‭ ‬a covers LP.‭ ‬Versions of‭ ‬Running Up That Hill by‭ ‬Kate Bush,‭ ‬Where Is My Mind‭?‬ by‭ ‬The‭ ‬Pixies,‭ ‬Bigmouth Strikes Again by‭ ‬The Smiths,‭ ‬I Feel You by‭ ‬Depeche Mode and more both honoured the much praised originals yet still managed to inject them with something new.‭ ‬Surprisingly restrained and emotional,‭ ‬this is a record which,‭ ‬from its release at the very beginning of the year,‭ ‬has very rarely left my side.‭ ‬In a year full of over-production,‭ ‬bland platitudes,‭ ‬funky-lite and complicated beat patterns‭ ‬Covers was a succinct example of how,‭ ‬to create great music,‭ ‬you only need a few instruments,‭ ‬talent and soul.

The next ten…

11.‭ ‬Body Pill by‭ ‬Anthony Naples‭ – ‬Short but sweet set of raw,‭ ‬fractured house which is perfect for those seeking a bit of adventure within their‭ ‬4/4‭ ‬beats.‭

12.‭ ‬Morning/Evening by‭ ‬Four Tet‭ – ‬Made-up of two twenty minute long tracks this is one of the most beguiling and heart-warming albums you will ever hear.‭

13.‭ ‬My Love Is Cool by‭ ‬Wolf Alice‭ – ‬In a very poor year for indie music the slacker rock,‭ ‬folk and grunge stylings of this four-piece stood head and shoulders above the rest.‭

14.‭ ‬The Acrobat by‭ ‬Grant‭ ‬– Classic deep house grooves brimming with heart and soul from this mysterious producer whose work completely transcends the dance floor.‭

15.‭ ‬Key Markets by‭ ‬Sleaford Mods‭ – ‬Angry,‭ ‬spiteful,‭ ‬yet hilarious dissection of modern society from two angry old punks who sound perfectly at home with a series of funky basslines and a hip hop beats.‭

16.‭ ‬Imagine The Future by‭ ‬ASC‭ – ‬Sonically thrilling album of dense electronica which sounds like nothing else around.‭

17.‭ ‬Dilate by‭ ‬Vessels‭ ‬– Rock and techno collide to devastating effect in a record made up almost entirely of long,‭ ‬lingering grooves.‭

18.‭ ‬All Yours‭ ‬by‭ ‬Widowspeak‭ ‬– Gorgeously hazy‭ ‬reflections abound on this pastoral LP which recalls the stoned majesty of the likes of‭ ‬Mazzy Star.‭

19.‭ ‬Modern Nature by‭ ‬The Charlatans‭ – ‬A life-affirming return to form for the indie veterans.‭ ‬Born of tragedy,‭ ‬Tim Burgess and co haven’t sounded this energised and vital in years.‭

20.‭ ‬Warm Glow by‭ ‬Luca Sigurtà‭ – ‬Ambient,‭ ‬trip hop and all manner of crazy shit combine in an album which,‭ ‬since the very first play,‭ ‬I haven’t been able to get out of my head.‭

| JOHN BITTLES