Dec 30, 2011

Best electronica albums of 2011: numbers 7 to 5

Welcome back to my countdown of the best electronic music albums of 2011. Have a look at my previous post, why don’t you.

Before we fondle the edges of the top five, let’s have a look at some more people that coulda been a contender but they weren't because I wiped them on the doormat on the way in.

[This is part two. Click here for part one. Click here for part three. Click here for part four.]

Some also-rans

It’s always a tightrope wobble producing this annual series of blog posts, because I don’t want my top ten to be too guitary. Metronomy fell just about on the wrong side of the divide so they are not included in my final list, but that doesn’t stop The English Riviera (Because) being one of the best albums for ages.

Katy B, darling of what I call the Radio 1 dubstep scene, did wonders for Magnetic Man. However, On A Mission (Rinse) didn’t convert me and she misses out on the top ten. Again. At this rate Skream will be round my place brandishing a pointed microphone stand. Again.

Balam Acab’s liquid loveliness on Wander / Wonder (Tri Angle) missed out on a place in the final list, which is a shame for such a brittle marvel. Thundercat’s The Golden Age Of Apocalypse (Brainfeeder) was too jazz funk for my tastes while Shigeto’s Full Circle Remixes and Gold Panda’s Companion (Ghostly International) walk away from this blog with nothing more than this brief mention right here in this sentence just here.

7 - The Field - Looping State Of Mind

Like an agoraphobic moo-cow, I have been ignoring The Field. In 2007, his album From Here We Go Sublime scooped critical praise but it skittered past me because I was probably too busy listening to The Klaxons. And so to 2011, when I finally not only listened to The Field, but I whacked them straight into my top ten with their Looping State Of Mind (Kompakt).

The album opens with the soft siren call of Is This Power, which is all very nice, then they hit you with the monumental It’s Up There, a chugging 4:4 builder not a million miles from Rez-era Underworld. Arpeggiated Love too has a special kind of 10-minute stuck-needle aesthetic.

It’s probably the easiest listen in this whole top ten, but there’s something about the slow evolution of each song, the recurring sounds and the minimalism that helped this album find a particularly warm spot in my listening hole.

6 - Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX - We’re New Here

Dubstep is a term batted about more than Max Mosley’s bum in a dungeon, and I’m not sure it means anything anymore in a world in which Benga, Burial and Skrillex all lay claim to the term. Post-dubstep is easier. If it’s someone electronic trying to sound like The xx, then it’s post-dubstep. We’re New Here (XL) is post-dubstep. Apparently.

Jamie XX’s stroke of genius was only choosing to use the vocals when remixing Gil Scott-Heron’s 2010 album I’m New Here. He loaded his remixes with future party goodness and created an album that stands on its own. An instant classic and an essential for your record collection, Mr XX’s incredible attention to detail will keep you glued to the speakers. We’re New Here has bouncy bass (NY Is Killing Me), house music (I’ll Take Care Of U), utter beat mayhem (The Crutch) , all underpinning lashings of that smoky, smoky voice.

A true pioneer bringing another true pioneer to a new audience. Gil Scott-Heron, lost to us all in 2011, lives on in the dub.

5 - Surgeon - Breaking The Frame

Taking a million years out doesn’t tend to encourage a quality comeback (see James Cameron’s Avatar or the Stone Roses’s Second Coming), but by the sounds of the furious techno on offer on Breaking The Frame (Dynamic Tension), Surgeon has been percolating quite nicely.

He is in an utterly uncompromising mood, but as the static anger of Radiance gives in to the harps from hell on Presence, there is beauty here too. An evil beauty.

The loops are tight although they still give the impression of an army of machines with steam valves and dangerous malfunctions, the hisses and the gasps stretching out loosely over waspish choirs and malevolent melodics. In some ways, it’s a throw-back to the faceless, tuneless Tresor techno of the 1990s: you know, when dance music was good. And most importantly, more than any artist of 2011, Surgeon stands out as someone unwilling to bend, someone out to please only himself; a man and his machines and, as a result, a bunch of slobbering (and terrified) techno fans.

[This is part two. Click here for part one. Click here for part three. Click here for part four.]

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