• Ryuichi Sakamoto reworks Oneohtrix Point Never in new Love In The Time Of Lexapro EP

    By | October 25, 2018

    Hear its title track now.

    Maestro composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and indie wunderkind (Sandy) Alex G will feature on Love In The Time Of Lexapro, a new EP on Warp Records from Oneohtrix Point Never.

    The four-track release features a Sakamoto rework of Age Of track ‘Last Known Image Of A Song’, an acoustic rendition of ‘Babylon’ with (Sandy) Alex G and brand new track ‘Thank God I’m A Country Girl’. Fan favourite title track ‘Love In The Time Of Lexapro’ has been a staple of Oneohtrix Point Never’s recent run of live shows.

    The EP follows this year’s exceptional Age Of, as well as singles ‘The Station’ and ‘We’ll Take It’, all of which were released on Warp Records.

    This is not the first time Oneohtrix Point Never and Sakamoto’s musical worlds have collided. Last year, OPN contributed a rework of Sakamoto’s ‘Andata’ to his Async – Remodels remix album.

    Pre-order a copy of Love In The Time Of Lexapro here ahead of its 23rd November release, check out the Ecco-referencing cover art and track list below.

  • Avant percussionist Eli Keszler to release ninth solo record, Stadium

    By | July 27, 2018

    From the Laurel Halo and Oneohtrix Point Never collaborator.

    Félicia Atkinson and Bartolomé Sanson’s publishing platform Shelter Press will release New York-based artist Eli Keszler’s ninth solo record, Stadium, this October.

    Made in response to a move to Manhattan, Keszler employs pointillistic percussive textures to mimic the “constant blurry motion and ever-changing landscapes of the fast-paced island,” says a press release.

    Listen to album track ‘Flying Floor For U.S. Airways’ now:

    The release of Stadium marks a prolific period for the artist. Last year he performed in a live duo with Laurel Halo, whilst this year he has toured with Oneohtrix Point Never’s MYRIAD live show.

    Stadium will be available via Shelter Press on 2xLP this October via the label’s bandcamp. Check out the album artwork and track list below.

    Tracklist

    1. Measurement Doesn’t Change The System At All
    2. Lotus Awnings
    3. We Live In Pathetic Temporal Urgency
    4. Flying Floor For U.S. Airways
    5. Simple Act Of Inverting The Episode
    6. Which Swarms Around It
    7. Fifty Four To Madrid
    8. French Lick
    9. Was The Singing Bellowing
    10. The Driver Stops
    11. Fashion Of Echo
    12. Bell Underpinings

  • The 10 best new vinyl releases this week (23rd July)

    By | July 23, 2018

    Sweaty disco jams, bubbling Balearic chuggers and precision Afro-electronics.

    Just as no music is created in a vacuum, so is it impossible to stick a record on right now and not feel the heat. The physical effects of this endless summer mean we’re here for just two things – ambient chill-outs or sweaty get-downs.

    Representing the former, there are aquatic immersions from Deepchord, and hammock-teasing electronics from Norway, while heating things up for the latter, you’ll find sticky disco from Sworn Virgins, a brace of dance floor bumps out of Joakim’s Crowdspacer studio and fevered, percussive electronics from DJ Khalab.

    Scroll down for our definitive across-the-board rundown of the week’s new vinyl releases as selected by The Vinyl Factory’s Chris Summers, Patrick Ryder and James Hammond with help from Norman Records. 5 singles and 5 LPs every 7 days that are unmissable additions to any collection.


    Singles


    Sworn Virgins

    Fifty Dollar Bills

    (DEEWEE)

    Listen / Buy

    “Cold, dirty money on your pale white skin.” And repeat. Soulwax studio and label DEEWEE drop a lascivious new 12″ from mysterious disco outfit Sworn Virgins that captures everything this summer has become – over-ripe, and soured into a deliriously sweaty fever dream. Suffocatingly sexy, ‘Burning Of My Clothes’ is a chugging, Harvey-esque freak-out for saturated nightcrawlers, while ‘Fifty Dollar Bills’ distils Sleeping Bag’s downtown disco juice into the kind of refreshing, cosmic boogie breeze you’ve spent weeks clawing at the windows for.


    Joyce

    ‘Bubbles’ / ‘Die Siesta’

    (Crowdspacer)

    Listen / Buy

    Hot on the heels of a conceptual ambient/art outing on VF, Frenchman in New York Joakim Bouaziz teams up with good buddy Bryce Hackford for two tracks aimed squarely at the dance floor. On the A-side, ‘Bubbles’ thumps along like a futuristic Prescription cut, all subtle keys, rolling bass and warbling sequences tailor made for peak time transcendence. Skipping to the flip, ‘Die Siesta’ dials back the tempo, but pumps up the funk, leading us on a loose and limber rhythm safari. Talking drums, teasing woodblocks and tumbling congas clatter over a slow disco groove, locking us in for the ecstatic piano chords.


    Oneohtrix Point Never

    We’ll Take It

    (Warp)

    Listen / Buy

    This week effectively sees the release of two EPs with differing title tracks from Daniel Lopatin’s recent Age Of LP, of which the keen drum programming and vinyl-only release of We’ll Take It gets our vote. With the reinvention of sound that comes with each OPN full length, the project has a decidedly wide fan base, and this EP gives an interesting mix of the spectrum. The EP features two new tracks springing from the nebulous fabric of Age Of, and closer ‘Trance 1’, which harks back to the immersive ambience that initially introduced Lopatin’s synthetic reveries to the world.


    Lark / Andrew Weatherall

    ‘Can I Colour Your Hair’

    (Care In The Community)

    Listen / Buy

    ‘Can I Colour Your Hair’ stretches back all the way to Lark’s debut, but never saw the light of day until now. This could be due to Weatherall’s mix gaining some traction over the past few months as he takes the swagger of the original and turns out one of his amazing dub treatments. Definitely one for the never-ending heat. Limited to 300 copies.


    Deepchord

    Immersions

    (Astral Industries)

    Listen / Buy

    A longform 12″ from the master of spacial, starlit techno Rod Modell. This pair of aquatic gems perfectly exemplify Deepchord’s expertise in producing ambient soundscapes that send you off into another, more peaceful world. Gorgeous Astral Industries artwork as standard.


    LPs


    DJ Khalab

    Black Noise 2048

    (On The Corner)

    Listen / Buy

    Italian producer DJ Khalab follows up his On The Corner Zaire EP earlier this year with adrenalised full length Black Noise 2084. Here, he weaves a handful of savvy live collaborations with the likes of Shabaka Hutchings, Moses Boyd and Tamar Osborn into a collage of field recordings, syncopated drum patterns and stripped back electronics. Bubbling with an energy that draws as much on the raw power of Konono No.1 as hyperactive precision of Shangaan electro, Black Noise 2084 is a pan-international record that blows in on a warm wind to shake up body and mind. The title track with Tenesha The Wordsmith is the radical centre-piece of an album that finds its time and place in a difficult present, stuck between repetitions of the past and promises of an afro-centric future. Sold out at source, there’s already a repress on the way.


    Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas

    Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas

    (Smalltown Supersound)

    Listen / Buy

    Though perhaps lacking in titular flair, this collaborative offering from two of Norway’s most acclaimed musicians more than delivers in sonic excellence. Where Bugge’s previous collaborations have followed the narrow path into the jazz-house cul-de-sac, ‘BW&PT’ takes a detour through kosmische, stops for a cocktail with bossa nova, and finally finds a hammock in a quiet corner of the Balearic Isles. The perfect fusion of Wesseltoft’s melodic ease and Thomas’ mixing desk mastery, this is a must have for any armchair astronauts.


    Eiko Ishibashi & Darin Gray

    Ichida

    (Black Truffle)

    Listen / Buy

    Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle label is always on point when it comes to adventurous music, and Eiko Ishibashi & Darin Gray’s stunning 2013 live set at Tokyo’s Super Deluxe club is no slouch in that realm. There’s a certain warmth and accessibility in the playing of these two seasoned improvisors, who cover a vast and compelling musical terrain throughout. Fellow collaborator Jim O’Rourke adds some further magic to this one in the mix.


    Rex Orange County

    Apricot Princess

    (Rex Orange County)

    Listen / Buy

    Young artist Rex Orange County has the world at his feet already, and here’s the first proof we have on vinyl. Apricot Princess stands ten songs tall and each one is absolutely killer, perfect pop music. Pressed onto orange vinyl, of course.


    Ty Segall & White Fence

    Joy

    (Drag City)

    Listen / Buy

    The second collaborative album from these two prolific garage rock experts and it’s a fun-filled romp through the more eccentric bits of ’60s-inspired psych rock. Imagine Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee and Marc Bolan on one album, and it might sound something like this.

  • Judging A Cover By Its Cover: June’s best record sleeves

    By | June 22, 2018

    A sideways glance at the month’s most striking vinyl visuals.

    Each month we will be hailing the joys of music packaging as we celebrate innovative and awe-inspiring sleeve design. Walking with you will be designer and author John Foster as he discusses imagery, typography, layout and finishing techniques of the finest artistic talents in the music industry. Occasional forays into classic albums and general pop culture nonsense come at no additional charge. Now, get those eyeballs at the ready as we cue up the opening number…


    Oneohtrix Point Never
    Age Of
    (Warp Records)

    Art Direction and Design: David Rudnick, Oneohtrix Point Never

    The longer you read this column the more you will appreciate that the kind of graphic design that inevitably excites me the most is the kind of graphic design that could never ever have come from my own hands. David Rudnick has left me absolutely fascinated with both his wild typography, and his application of those letterforms, which feels equal parts hopeless adoration and delicious subversion.

    My favourite part of Rudnick’s work is the restless nature that spurs on his desire to experiment, and also allows him to push a concept straight through the wall. All of those qualities are more than evident on his work for Oneohtrix Point Never, with the winking imagery in Jim Shaw’s painting (when have I ever been able to say that a Jim Shaw image was the least interesting part of a piece?) and the heavy application of an eclectic mix of typefaces. It is undeniably bold and points to a brand of retro-futurism that can only exist in the mindmeld of Rudnick and OPN’s Daniel Lopatin.

    When it is all said and done it could be argued that the CD packaging is the ultimate application of all of this madness. The final product was something Lopatin glowingly referred to as “the most OPN thing ever, and something I’ll never be able to top.” That may seem like crazy praise from an artist with a deep catalogue of wonderful packaging. But you know what? He might be right.


    DRINKS
    Hippo Lite
    (Drag City)

    Design: Tim Presley

    The pairing of Tim Presley and Cate Le Bon creates an enjoyably odd mix of his California psych roots and her lovely Welsh dada folk, with Presley often coming up with fairly traditional tunes that Le Bon then perverts and deconstructs. Presley can’t help but smile when he says Le Bon “comes out of Mars with ideas.” Making their second album as DRINKS, the overall effect is as if you have discovered an underground private press record, something personal and intimate and pop damaged and weird and sweet and totally removed from modern technology. It is telling that Presley explains that they lacked phone or internet while holed up in a reception challenged commune in a corner of the South of France for a month while making the recordings. Hippo Lite album that ultimately sounds like it was made for the enjoyment (and amusement) of each other, and that quality extends to the presentation.

    Designed by Presley, the layout is filled with rough, blown out snap shots of their time recording, and swimming (lots of river swimming!) and has the lyrics, logo and credits scattered about the cover. The band name is endearingly on there twice, as if was being decided where best to have it but then fell in love with the version they mocked up to figure it out.

    It is the kind of design that could have easily fallen apart, but it is done with such joy, weirdness and lack of inhibition (yet, what is clearly killer aesthetic taste) that it is undeniably winning, just like the record it wraps around.


    Father John Misty
    God’s Favorite Customer
    (Sub Pop / Bella Union)

    Art Direction: Josh Tillman and Sasha Barr
    Photography: Pari Dukovic

    Few labels have done as much as Sub Pop has in making fans feel they simply MUST own the physical version of their favourite artist’s records. The full catalogue of Father John Misty releases cry out to be held in your hands. Past albums featured pop-ups, die-cuts and detailed illustrations, but for God’s Favorite Customer, Josh Tillman and his trusted in-house design maven Sasha Barr brought along a dejected headshot to carry the day.

    Pari Dukovic, of New Yorker fame, turns his colour-saturated style of portraiture on Tillman, capturing Mister Misty in a contrived, yet believable pose. It delights on many levels, right down to the effort to style his hair, with the lighting only serving to outline the fact that it has a mind of its own. So much of the joy in Father John Misty is figuring out which parts are authentic and which are exaggerated, with a swirling ego front and centre.

    The production element that takes it all to another level is exclusive to the “Loser Edition” of the album, with a string of blue foil teardrops running down the front and back cover. Paired with a gold foil and splatter vinyl (of course, with the tears) the inner sleeve features doodles (very Barr-styled), photos and ramblings that assemble in four variants, making each interior as personal as is possible on this scale.


    Secret 7”
    (Various Artists)

    The Secret 7” series is pretty simple in concept – they take 7 songs from well-known musical acts and press 100 of each song for the first time ever on 7” singles. The rub is in how they package them, and how you purchase them. Each contributor creates a single, unique sleeve, so the final result is 700 sleeves, which are then exhibited before going on sale. For £50 each, you can buy the release, and only then do you find out who created the sleeve and what song it is for. You receive a unique piece and collectable disc with the proceeds going to charity. The series has given creative opportunities to some of the best designers and illustrators in the world with stunning results.

    As rewarding as it can be, it is also an exhausting process to assemble, so it warms my heart to see the series return this year after taking 2017 off. The exhibition runs until June 23rd at The Jetty on Greenwich Peninsula in London, with all sleeves going on sale starting at 10am on June 24th. Tracks this year come from The Clash, Primal Scream, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, Manic Street Preachers, The Eurythmics, and London Grammar. I have displayed a few of my favourites here and I can’t wait to discover who designed them.


    Air Miami
    Various releases
    (Teenbeat / 4AD)

    Design: Teenbeat Graphica (Mark Robinson)

    I don’t know about you, but I HAVE WORLD CUP FEVER! I absolutely love the opening round with three games blasting away over my shoulder in my studio all day every day. Every four years it also gives me a good reason to shout out my love for Air Miami’s skittering anthem ‘World Cup Fever’ and sit back and appreciate the graphic genius of front man (and Teenbeat label head) Mark Robinson.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to watch Mark grow as a designer, as I circled the same music scene and often found myself standing behind him in line at the video store. Much in the same way that he embraces music, he threw himself into design, tossing aside traditional rules in favour of just endlessly tweaking elements that he liked. Everything, from the barcode to the registration marks, were fair game to be used as part of the creative process.

    His active brain was truly on display when he had multiple formats to work with, as you can see with the design of Me, Me, Me where he changes the back of the sleeve for each format and territory, slowly manipulates elements with every opportunity. Robinson accelerated his progress by constantly working on new designs at every turn – whether it was extra promo posters, or simply the coffee mugs and ball point pens around the office (famously adopting the Factory Records style of giving catalogue numbers to everything involved with the label) – growing into the accomplished book and LP sleeve designer he is today.


    John Foster is the author of Album Art: New Music Graphics (Thames & Hudson), New Masters of Poster Design (Rockport) and numerous other books. As principal of his design firm Bad People Good Things he has designed hundreds of record sleeves for everyone from Teenbeat to Warner Bros.

  • Oneohtrix Point Never announces new album Age Of

    By | April 4, 2018

    The producer returns to Warp with a new LP in June.

    Oneohtrix Point Never will release his new album Age Of on Warp Records on 1st June.

    Read next: VF Mix 88: Oneohtrix Point Never by Apollo Noir

    The follow-up to 2017’s Good Time soundtrack – our favourite OST of the yearAge Of is described as Daniel Lopatin’s “most cohesive and richly composed work to date, weaving a tapestry of disparate musical histories,” which touches tantalisingly on “early music, country and folk balladry, melodic pop, computer music and more.”

    The announcement comes ahead of OPN’s new installation, myRiad, at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory, the trailer for which you can watch now and which features the Age Of title track.

    Oneohtrix Point Never also appeared on David Byrne’s new album American Utopia earlier this year.

    Available on digital, CD and vinyl and with t-shirt bundles direct from the OPN website, you can check out the artwork and tracklist below and pre-order Age Of here ahead of its release on 1st June.

    Tracklist:

    01. Age Of
    02. Babylon
    03. Manifold
    04. The Station
    05. Toys 2
    06. Black Snow
    07. myriad.industries
    08. Warning
    09. We’ll Take It
    10. Same
    11. RayCats
    12. Still Stuff That Doesn’t Happen
    13. Last Known Image of a Song

    Photo by Atiba Jefferson

  • Ryuichi Sakamoto’s async remixes LP set for vinyl release

    By | January 9, 2018

    Featuring Oneohtrix Point Never, Arca, Jóhan Jóhannsson and more.

    Ryuichi Sakamoto is releasing async Remodels on vinyl, this March via Milan Music.

    Read next: An introduction to Ryuichi Sakamoto in 10 records

    The LP includes 11 reworks, edits and remodels taken async – one of our top 10 favourite albums of 2017. 

    Though Sakamoto released some of the remixes featured in this album via digital streaming platforms, and topped the list of our favourite digital albums of 2017 we wish were available on vinyl, this is its first physical release.

    Sakamoto is also releasing live album Glass with Jóhannsson in February.

    Listen to Cornelius’ remix of ‘Zure’ ahead of async Remodels‘ 2nd March release and check out the track list below.

    Tracklist

    1. Andata (Oneohtrix Point Never Rework)
    2. Andata (Electric Youth Remix)
    3. Disintegration (Alva Noto Remodel)
    4. Async (Arca Remix)
    5. Fullmoon (Motion Graphics Remix)
    6. Solari (Fennesz Remix)
    7. Solari (Jóhann Jóhannsson Rework)
    8. ZURE (Yves Tumor Obsession Edit)
    9. Fullmoon (S U R V I V E Version)
    10. ZURE (Cornelius Remix)
    11. Life, Life (Andy Stott Remodel)

  • Our 12 favourite soundtracks of 2017

    By | December 12, 2017

    Modern classics and lost treasures.

    One of the great areas of proliferation in our office record collection this year was soundtracks. Whether for video games, audio/visual artworks, fashion shows or films, more soundtracks are being released on vinyl than ever before, both new and reissued.

    Tapping into a desire to represent the films we love in a physical and tangible way that is part nostalgic and part artistic, soundtrack reissues are also among the most ambitious releases out there when it comes to artwork and packaging, using the full scope of a film’s visual language to push the 12″ medium to the limit. As such you’ll find a few you might have expected here nestled in our forthcoming favourite record sleeves list.

    Contemporary artists too are becoming more ambitious in tapping the power of moving images to represent a musical idea, as major ‘visual albums’ like Beyoncé’s Lemonade have shown. Inter-disciplinary collaborations between musicians and film-makers, as seen in Sampha’s Process with Kahlil Joseph or last year’s Infinite Mix exhibition are likewise beginning to blur the distinction between whether music is written for film, or the film has been made to accompany the music.

    It is a distinction that is becoming less and less relevant, as a number of VF releases and commissions this year have shown, represented here by Eddie Peake’s Volcano Extravaganza soundtracks. Elsewhere we’ve sought also to use this list to flag up some of the year’s major events in film and television, and have split the list in two, tackling first reissues and then new soundtrack releases.

    You may have also noticed that we’ve changed the emphasis of our lists this year, away from the tired, arbitrary and frankly over-used ‘best’, to the more openly subjective ‘favourite’. We believe this more accurately reflects the fact that these rundowns are essentially recommendations of what we’ve enjoyed most this year, as selected by our weekly contributors Patrick Ryder, James Hammond and Chris Summers, alongside VF’s editorial team, Gabriela Helfet and Anton Spice.

    What were your favourites this year? Let us know in the comments below.

    See the rest of our 2017 review:

    Our 50 favourite albums of 2017
    Our 20 favourite 12″s of 2017
    Our 10 favourite 7″s of 2017
    Our 12 favourite reissue singles of 2017
    Our 30 favourite reissues of 2017


    Reissues


    6. Ennio Morricone

    The Thing

    (Waxwork)

    Listen / Buy

    There was no shortage of horror soundtracks to choose from in 2017, with multi-coloured variants and ornate box sets aplenty. Ennio Morricone’s score for John Carpenter’s 1982 cult horror film The Thing was our highlight. The soundtrack was one of the rare instances when Carpenter, a long-time fan of Morricone’s, didn’t score the film himself. “He didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak Italian — but we spoke the language of music,” shares Carpenter. In turn, Morricone delivered haunting, minimal, synth-led compositions – atypical of his style at the time. Remastered from the original tapes for this first ever reissue by horror score aficionados Waxwork in two variants, the edition also included an extensive interview with Carpenter. – GH


    5. Melvin Van Peebles

    Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

    (Stax)

    Listen / Buy

    Iconic Memphis soul label Stax Records celebrated 60 years in 2017 with a series of reissues from the likes of Otis Redding, Booker T. & The MGs and Carla Thomas. One which stood out for us though was the soundtrack to radical artist, director and poet Melvin van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, the proto-Blaxploitation flick that went on to become the highest grossing independent film ever at the time and a cornerstone of the early ’70s Civil Rights struggle. As Jeff Weiss writes in the liner notes, “for all the resistance mounting in the streets, no black director had yet made a film that captured the spirit of rebellion, frustration and the refusal to accept injustice. Van Peebles alchemized Malcolm X, Iceberg Slim and Soul on Ice with Huey Newton, Gil-Scott Heron and the French New Wave. Badass cinema was born.” Laying the foundations for the likes of Shaft and Super Fly, the soundtrack was performed by a then relatively unknown band called Earth, Wind And Fire, who combined elements of gospel, jazz and gritty street soul that foreshadowed hip-hop’s use of sampling decades later. – AS


    4. Jun Fukamachi

    Nicole (86 Spring And Summer Collection – Instrumental Images)

    (WRWTFWW)

    Listen / Buy

    In Japan, sound isn’t regarded an accessory or afterthought – it is as essential as any visual or ‘physical’ aspect, in film and otherwise. As such “image” albums are crafted for everything from a bottle of whiskey to a minor character in an animated film. Jun Fukamachi’s image album for the Nicole 1986 Spring and Summer fashion show, given away exclusively to attendees of the event, is a striking and unique example of this attention to sonicscape detail. Written, performed and recorded entirely by Fukamachi, the LP’s eight, synth-filled and ethereal tracks finally received a long-overdue pressing by WRWTFWW, who released a number of sought-after records from Japan this year, including Through the Looking Glass and Music for Commercials – some of our favourite albums of the year, and a first ever reissue of Kenji Kawai’s sublime Ghost In The Shell. – GH


    3. Thelonious Monk

    Les Liaisons Dangereuses

    (Sam Records / Saga)

    Listen / Buy

    In a year that marked Thelonious Monk’s centenary we were treated to a forgotten album by the radical jazz pianist recorded at the height of his powers in 1959 for French classic Les Liaisons Dangereuses but never used. And while Monk composed and performed a large chunk of the score, it was the party scene soundtracked by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, that was originally and most famously released in 1960. For his part Monk enlisted fellow hard bop luminaries Sam Jones on bass, drummer Art Taylor, and tenor saxophonists Charlie Rouse and Barney Wilen, to play through a selection of his own standards like ‘Crepuscule with Nellie’ and ‘Pannonica’. Readied as a double LP box set with essays and never-before-seen photographs for Record Store Day 2017, this crucial piece of lost cinematic history is another gem we’re happy to add to Monk’s extraordinary discography. – AS


    2. Geinoh Yamashirogumi

    Symphonic Suite Akira

    (Milan)

    Listen / Buy

    Scoring top marks in both our soundtracks and reissue categories, this first official vinyl reissue of the immersive and otherworldly accompaniment to cult anime flick Akira was a must have release in 2017. Composed by Dr. Shohi Ymashiro and performed by Geinoh Yamashirogumi, the 1988 score sidesteps the synthetic overtures of the day to fuse the choral embellishments of Japanese Noh with the rhythmic pulse of Balinese gamelan. The result is an intense listening experience which lends the action an operatic grandeur perfectly in keeping with the epic scope of the animation. If you hear hints of Reich or Glass, that’s because you’re listening to a glorious example of the musical forms the minimalists introduced to the West. – PR


    1. Serge Gainsbourg & Jean Claude Vannier

    Les Chemins de Katmandou OST

    (Finders Keepers)

    Listen / Buy

    Long thought lost to a studio fire, when the news broke a couple of years back that a copy of the soundtrack master tapes to 1969’s Les Chemins De Katmandou had turned up in a forgotten suitcase find, this first-ever pressing and “final audio jigsaw piece” to Gainsbourg and Vannier’s inimitable discography became a reality. An earlier effort in their creative partnership, but with much of their rule-breaking and imaginative studio-usage on full display, this is crucial new part of the puzzle in understanding two revolutionaries of the soundtrack format. – JH


    New releases


    6. Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch

    Blade Runner 2049 OST

    (Sony BMG)

    Listen / Buy

    Living up to the 35 year legacy of the greatest soundtrack ever written was always going to be a tall order, and director Denis Villeneuve replaced longterm collaborator and electronic genius Jóhann Jóhannsson (check out the sound design in Arrival!) with box office duo Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch in the hopes of harnessing the heart of Vangelis’s masterpiece. A perfect marriage of melody and sound design, Zimmer & Wallfisch succeeded in creating a score which echoed the plaintive synth tones and dystopian sonics of the original, while utilising every bit of contemporary sound science to soundtrack the action with wall shaking bass and frequencies you feel rather than hear. It may lack the heart wrenching emotion of ‘Rachel’s Song’ or ‘Tears In Rain’, but then so does everything else… – PR


    5. Actress, Gwilym Gold, Holly Pester, Evan Ifekoya and Victoria Sin

    To Corpse

    (HYMN / The Vinyl Factory)

    Listen / Buy

    Composed to accompany new site-specific dance works by Eddie Peake, this collection of five tracks pushed the notion of what a soundtrack can be into new realms in 2017. Like a controlled experiment, each artist was asked to soundtrack the same work in a different setting, resulting in a collection that spans Actress’ ambitious and organic techno, an elegiac stripped back variation, performed solely on an organ synth in a decommissioned church by Gwilym Gold, spoken word from Holly Pester and a club-lit variation from Evan Ifekoya and Victoria Sin, initially performed under the stars. Released in a gatefold vinyl edition, it was one of a number of soundtracks spanning the worlds of art and music released by VF in 2017, which also included Soulwax’s homage to Ibiza Close To Paradise, Jeremy Shaw’s trance-inducing Liminals 10″, Hans Berg’s ambient techno suite Dream Maker and a reissue for the provocative soundtrack to Isaac Julien’s exploration of black and gay identity in the Harlem Renaissance, Looking For Langston. – AS


    4. Daniel Hart

    A Ghost Story

    (Milan)

    Listen / Buy

    Daniel Hart returned to work with director David Lowery this year on, dare we say, a haunting soundtrack to supernatural drama starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. While Dark Rooms’ indie sensation ‘I Get Overwhelmed’ knits the whole piece together, it’s how violinist Hart unfurls the instrumental score around it that had us hooked. At times plaintive and nostalgic (the opening to ‘A Secret In the Wall’ carries the same weighty melancholy of Sakamoto’s Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence) but not afraid to soar to more euphoric heights, speaking of Hart’s pop work with the likes of St. Vincent, and Broken Social Scene, A Ghost Story creeps up on you in a white sheet and enters the fabric narrative like any great soundtrack should. – AS


    3. Nicholas Britell

    Moonlight

    (Lakeshore // Invada)

    Listen / Buy

    The sounds of Moonlight are so tightly woven into the film’s indigo-dusted visuals, it’s difficult to separate the two at all. From the opening frames of Barry Jenkins’ black, gay love story, when blaxplotation track ‘Every N***** Is A Star’’s first notes begin, you may recognise this consciously or perhaps not, because its soundtrack never verges on saccharine or overblown. This is a testament to both composer Nicholas Britell as well as Jenkins, who creates a world so vivid that sound and music are ever present, as in real life – sometimes subtly, sometimes not. The music evokes feelings which are echoed in what you are watching and vice versa, particularly in the ‘Little’s Theme’, ‘Chiron’s Theme’, ‘Black’s Theme’ trio. That said, three of the film’s most affecting songs – Supreme Jubilees’ ‘It’ll All Be Over’, Aretha Franklin’s ‘One Step Ahead’, and Jidenna’s ‘Classic Man’ – are regrettably omitted from this soundtrack (presumably due to licensing issues). Within the framework of Moonlight, ‘One Step Ahead’ and ‘Classic Man’ bring new ways of hearing onto songs already firmly embedded in pop culture’s consciousness, no small feat. – GH


    2. Clint Mansell

    Black Mirror : San Junipero

    (Lakeshore / Invada)

    Listen / Buy

    Arguably the go-to name in the soundtrack game, Clint Mansell enjoyed another great year in 2017, peaking with this deeply affecting soundtrack to Charlie Brooker’s dystopian romance, ‘San Junipero’. Allowing the likes of The Smiths, Depeche Mode and Public Enemy to reflect the temporal aspect of the drama, Mansell spends his time translating the visceral emotion of the episode with his breathtaking score. Melancholy, nostalgia and eventual optimism saturate every second of the composer’s synthesised nocturnes, while the occasional hum of distortion and crash of static hint at the drama’s fluid approach to reality. Available either on turquoise or purple vinyl, or as a stunning picture disc based on Butcher Billy’s sleeve illustration, this is a thing of true beauty. – PR


    1. Oneohtrix Point Never

    Good Time OST

    (Warp)

    Listen / Buy

    Coming as Oneohtrix Point Never’s fourth effort for the big screen the Good Time OST was a perfect complement to the Safdie brother’s crime thriller, and a vivid distillation of Daniel Lopatin’s sound spectrum. A deserving winner of this year’s Cannes’ Soundtrack Award, this LP certainly holds up as an exhilarating listen when absorbed away from the films imagery, with the visionary atmospherics and synth arpeggiations of Lopatin’s seminal early releases now aptly matched with some seasoned production skills. – JH


    Illustration by Patch D Keyes.

  • Our 10 favourite albums from August

    By | August 31, 2017

    August’s essential vinyl releases.

    The out-of-office auto-responses may be in full force, but August has seen plenty of releases to fuel that summer wanderlust, including lost tapes smuggled from crumbling radio stations, jazz jams captured on 550-tonne ships, and award-winning soundtrack visions.

    Coast through the halcyon days of summer with glistening ’70s and ’80s Somali sounds, Arabian acid visions, new albums from Queens of the Stone Age and Grizzly Bear, and more.


    Girl Ray

    Earl Grey

    (Moshi Moshi)

    Listen / Buy

    Plenty of hype about for this frighteningly young London trio and most of it is justified with an album that sounds like the Raincoats re-interpreting the songs of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Super soft too.


    Jen Cloher

    Jen Cloher

    (Marathon Artists)

    Listen / Buy

    Slow and sinewy indie rock from a member of the same Melbourne scene which spawned Courtney Barnett. This is lovely ’90s style indie rock thats sits somewhere between Yo La Tengo, Pavement and Patti Smith.


    Oneohtrix Point Never

    Good Time OST

    (Warp)

    Listen / Buy

    Winner of this years Cannes Soundtrack Award, Oneohtrix Point Never’s fourth effort for the big screen is a vivid distillation of Daniel Lopatin’s sound spectrum, perfectly complementing the Safdie brothers’ crime thriller, and holding up as a most assured and exhilarating listening experience when divorced from the film’s imagery. Channeling the atmospherics and synth arpeggiations of Lopatin’s seminal early releases, there’s some masterful production work in this midst of this one that sets it apart, and indeed makes some past glories from this project sound positively 2D in comparison.


    Grizzly Bear

    Painted Ruins

    (RCA)

    Listen / Buy

    This year’s most densely complex guitar record yields results with repeated plays as the band sneak unforgettable ideas and melodies into their windswept electronic rock. A fine achievement that benefits the patient listener.


    Mekine U Teksi

    Postanatolische Hybride – Die Steppenroboter

    (Themes For Great Cities)

    Listen / Buy

    Düsseldorf institution Themes From Great Cities deliver their first release of 2017 this week, inviting newcomers Murat Göktaş & Irfan Derin to lead us deep into the magical mountains of the Middle East via this excellent mini LP. Taking the souk styled sound of Acid Arab or Disco Halal on an astral excursion, the duo fuse drum machines, synthesisers and electric saz to create a Kurdish kosmische masterpiece packed with lysergic dance floor power. Presented in a gorgeous Luka Kurashvili designed sleeve, Postanatolische Hybride is a trip worth taking.


    Queens Of The Stone Age

    Villains

    (Matador)

    Listen / Buy

    They’re back! Josh Homme and his crew return with an absolute killer set, this time featuring Mr. Mark Ronson on the controls. Sounds like it might not work right? Well it does. Perfectly. Queens have always been tight, rhythmically locked and way beyond most other rock bands and here, Ronson has jumped in and twisted that dynamic into something even tighter and, dare I say, fun.


    Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe

    Levitation Praxis Pt. 4

    (DDS)

    Listen / Buy

    With the stunning Kulthan and Two Orb Reel already under his belt this year, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe knocks it out of the park again with this one, which takes Harry Bertoia’s metal rod sound sculptures as the launching point for a spectral, electro-acoustic odyssey. Having previously channeled the biorhythms of plants into his modular system, here Bertoia’s sound sculptures are cast anew from their previous incarnations (the Sonambient series are an essential listen for the unfamiliar) as Lowe’s voice and subtle electronic engagements bring a new sonority to these unique instruments. Head straight to this video for some added insight into the sonic magic behind this one.


    Various Artists

    Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa

    (Ostinato Records)

    Listen / Buy

    A shimmering compilation of little-known, soulful Somali music from the ’70s and ’80s, regarded as a golden age of culture in the country. Much of Somalia’s music from this period was nearly lost forever during 1988 air strikes, but employees at Radio Hargeisa, realising over 50 years of recordings were in danger, put their lives at risk to remove and save thousands of tapes. Now in the process of digitising over 10,000 of these tapes, this is hopefully the first of many Somali releases to come from label Ostinato.


    Benedek

    Bene’s World

    (Leaving Records)

    Listen / Buy

    LA native Nicky Benedek returns to Leaving Records after an excellent EP last year, keeping things way cool with this sleazy collection of sun blushed strollers and West Coast rollers. As with previous offerings on PPU and Superior Elevation, Benedek continues to reimagine the stoned drum machines and languid basslines of boogie and proto-house, though this time around the arrangements are tighter, rhythms tougher and hooks way more infectious. Whether he’s bringing those bubbling basslines and steam kettle synthlines to your BBQ, beach party or basement, Bene’s always on point – soak up some sunshine folks!


    Hieroglyphic Being, Sarathy Korwar & Shabaka Hutchings

    A.R.E. Project

    (Technicolour)

    Listen / Buy

    Otherworldy sax sounds meet traditional Indian folk and electronic flourishes in A.R.E. Project – a new collaboration between saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, producer Hieroglyphic Being and percussionist Sarathy Korwar. Their first release features four edits taken from over 2.5 hours the trio spent improvising aboard Lightship95, a recording studio inside a 550 tonne ship moored along the Thames, giving a techno-hued, celestial jazz upgrade to ‘get in the sea’.


  • The 10 best vinyl releases this week (14th August)

    By | August 14, 2017

    Steve Reich’s percussive minimalism, ’80s NYC reggae disco and French broken beat.

    This week’s offerings begin with a pair of killer 12″ reissues on Dark Entries and Jamwax / Emotional Rescue, sweepingly epic conscious soul on BBE and shamanic techno from Edinburgh.

    In the album’s section, the trip continues with Oneohtrix Point Never scoring Good Time, Parisian Neue Grafik crossing jazz and house tracks between Paris and London and a reissue of Steve Reich’s seminal minimalist ritual Drumming.

    Scroll down for our definitive across-the-board rundown of the week’s new vinyl releases as selected by The Vinyl Factory’s Chris Summers, Patrick Ryder and James Hammond with help from Norman Records. 5 singles and 5 LPs every 7 days that are unmissable additions to any collection.


    Singles


    Hi & Saberhagen

    Acid Finger

    (Lo Recordings)

    Listen / Buy

    After a slew of impressive releases for the likes of Huntleys & Palmers, Proibito and Belters, Edinburgh’s foremost dance floor mystics bring their mind expanding house stylings to Lo Recordings. Gurgling with psychedelic nuance and futuristic sound design, ‘Acid Finger’ sees the mysterious duo explore wintery synth tones, shamanic rhythm and fractal techno across five dynamic tracks. Though it packs more emotional impact than your average Eastenders wedding, the set shuns cliché completely, adopting the best bits of minimal techno and twisting them into a glorious new vision.


    Savage Hymn

    La Vida Sigue Igual

    (Dark Entries)

    Listen / Buy

    Whilst building up an array of Italo disco 12”s and reissues of sorely under-heard works from the likes of Severed Heads, Dark Entries records have never been ones to neglect propulsive contemporary cuts in the process, and remain an ever-reliable source for synth driven electronica both past and present. This latest offering from Savage Hymn is a fresh cut that dips into ’80s industrial, and varying strands of Detroit and Chicago techno with particular attention to all things percussive. Made for the floor and it looks great in its screen-printed sleeve.


    Glen Adams

    A Beat For You

    (Jamwax)

    Listen / Buy

    Jamwax and Emotional Rescue kick off a series of three reissues from Capo Disco’s Jamaica-meets-NYC vaults. Founded by the multi-talented Upsetter Glen Adams, Capo released a string of dubbed-out boogie bolts in the early ’80s, encouraging NYC’s nascent reggae disco sound while playing a part in hip-hop’s early knockings too. ‘A Beat For You’ is a shimmering low-slung groove and one last effort to reignite love’s dwindling flame. Full of hope and melancholy, just the way we like it.


    The James L’Estraunge Orchestra

    Closer / Groovin’ You

    (BBE)

    Listen / Buy

    Unashamedly epic stuff from “the band that never was” aka The James L’Estraunge Orchestra, who drop a limited 200-edition run 12″ ahead of their forthcoming BBE album. While the lyrics are a little naff, ‘Closer’ is nothing if not ambitious, the huge orchestral sound, gospel vocals and sweeping arrangements bowling headfirst at your heart strings. The instrumental on the flip is similarly bombastic, throwing in a little shuffling broken beat for good measure. Fans of Quincy Jones or Gregory Porter take note.


    The Honey Hahs

    OK

    (Rough Trade)

    Listen / Buy

    They might be about six years old but they are already infected with the sort of sad that makes grown people weep. We have to admit it, this puts our pre-teen musical endeavours to shame.


    LPs


    Benedek

    Bene’s World

    (Leaving Records)

    Listen / Buy

    LA native Nicky Benedek returns to Leaving Records after an excellent EP last year, keeping things way cool with this sleazy collection of sun blushed strollers and West Coast rollers. As with previous offerings on PPU and Superior Elevation, Benedek continues to reimagine the stoned drum machines and languid basslines of boogie and proto-house, though this time around the arrangements are tighter, rhythms tougher and hooks way more infectious. Whether he’s bringing those bubbling basslines and steam kettle synthlines to your BBQ, beach party or basement, Bene’s always on point – soak up some sunshine folks!


    Oneohtrix Point Never

    Good Time OST

    (Warp)

    Listen / Buy

    Winner of this years Cannes Soundtrack Award, Oneohtrix Point Never’s fourth effort for the big screen is a vivid distillation of Daniel Lopatin’s sound spectrum, perfectly complementing the Safdie brothers’ crime thriller, and holding up as a most assured and exhilarating listening experience when divorced from the film’s imagery. Channeling the atmospherics and synth arpeggiations of Lopatin’s seminal early releases, there’s some masterful production work in this midst of this one that sets it apart, and indeed makes some past glories from this project sound positively 2D in comparison.


    Neue Grafik

    Soul Conspiracy

    (22a)

    Listen / Buy

    Lots to get into from the 22a camp in the last few weeks with new records for Jean Bassa and a superb collaboration between Tenderlonious and Dennis Ayler. But we’ve plumped with the debut from Parisian producer Neue Grafik, exploring the outer reaches of broken beat and percussive house music on Soul Conspiracy with a fluidity familiar to fellow-countryman St Germain. Fans of Harvey Sutherland and Wayne Snow will find plenty here.


    Steve Reich

    Drumming

    (Nonesuch)

    Listen / Buy

    Widely recognised as one of the foundational stepping-stones between minimal composition and electronic dance music, Drumming draws on Ghanaian drum rituals and Balinese gamelan ceremonies to create a tapestry of interlocking percussive suites that are as visceral as they are cerebral. This version, recorded for Elektra / Nonesuch in 1987 has been reissued for the first time in 30 years and is an unequivocal must-have for any collection.


    Jen Cloher

    Jen Cloher

    (Marathon Artists)

    Listen / Buy

    Slow and sinewy indie rock from a member of the same Melbourne scene which spawned Courtney Barnett. This is lovely ’90s style indie rock thats sits somewhere between Yo La Tengo, Pavement and Patti Smith.

  • Oneohtrix Point Never releases new Good Time OST on vinyl

    By | June 8, 2017

    Featuring a collaboration with Iggy Pop.

    Oneohtrix Point Never has announced the release of his award-winning Good Time OST, which is out August 11 on Warp.

    Read next: The 20 best soundtracks of 2016

    The score includes closing track ‘The Pure and the Damned’ – featuring a guest vocal and lyrics from Iggy Pop.

    Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, Good Time stars Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Jason Leigh in a dark and twisted thriller about the New York underworld. Watch the trailer for the film below.

    Speaking of his connection to the film’s directors, Lopatin notes how they “share an affection and reverence for bruised and battered stuff, and I think we both feel this urge to enshrine the history as it is now, not as it was then. On our own terms.”

    Tracklist:

    01. ‘Good Time’
    02. ‘Bail Bonds’
    03. ‘6th Floor’
    04. ‘Hospital Escape / Access-A-Ride’
    05. ‘Ray Wakes Up’
    06. ‘Entry To White Castle’
    07. ‘Flashback’
    08. ‘Adventurers’
    09. ‘Romance Apocalypse’
    10. ‘The Acid Hits’
    11. ‘Leaving The Park’
    12. ‘Connie’
    13. ‘The Pure and the Damned featuring Iggy Pop

    Main photo: Tim Saccenti

  • VF Mix 88: Oneohtrix Point Never by Apollo Noir

    By | March 30, 2017

    “Synthesizers equals paint.”

    Since his debut cassette release, Betrayed In The Octagon, Daniel Lopatin has fast become one of the most idiosyncratic figures in electronic music.

    The name Oneohtrix Point Never is a play on Boston soft rock radio station Magic 106.7 and initially the synth-project carved out its own space by mining unpopular tones from 80s new age.

    It has since taken a few sharp swerves – like the blissful Warp debut R Plus Seven, the first OPN not to feature his signature Roland Juno-60 – and most recently, the ultra-dense, quite absurd but totally brilliant Garden of Delete record.

    Here, Apollo Noir drops a 50-minute tribute to OPN, collating the exoticism of R Plus Seven, crystal drones from Commissions II, new age extractions on Zones Without People, an item from his Bling Ring soundtrack and more.


    Tracklist:

    01. Bullet Hell Abstraction III
    02. Chrome Country
    03. Freaky Eyes
    04. Problem Area
    05. I Have Only Eyes For you
    06. Andro
    07. Explain
    08. Format & Journey North
    09. Returnal
    10. Ladrones De La Fama


    Apollo Noir’s debut album A / N is out now via Tigersushi.

  • The 50 best LPs of 2015

    By | December 11, 2015

    We complete our end of year review with a look at the 50 best albums of 2015.

    Well, that was fun wasn’t it? A year that has seen Panasonic re-launch the Technics turntable, new pressing machines hit the market for the first time in 30 years and major supermarkets find space among the groceries for the odd Iron Maiden record, 2015 was a huge year for vinyl, matched by the glut of incredible music released across the spectrum. We even had a major hip hop album released on vinyl.

    With this many heavyweight albums delivering, the task of picking out fifty records that make the most of the format, both musically and visually has been tougher than ever. For the first time we opted to split our lists by format, with 7”s and 12”s commanding their own space, freeing us up to talk simply about albums.

    With artwork, rarity and reissues also taken care of, the ground rules here are simpler than ever. The record must have been released on vinyl in 2015, and barring the odd exception, that means the music must also follow suit.

    Without labouring the point, we’ve made space for a single VF release we believe deserves shine among the year’s most interesting vinyl editions, and where possible have sought to champion labels and artists that are pushing the medium forwards. No holds barred, expect everything from independent jazz, scuzzy punk funk and afro-electronics to shimmering pop, industrial grime and modern minimalism.

    Omnivorous beasts that we are, we believe these fifty records represent the most interesting, vital music of 2015 and would form the core of a pretty strong record collection.

    Catch up on all our end of year lists:

    The 30 best vinyl reissues of 2015
    The 20 best 12″s of 2015
    The 20 best 7″s of 2015
    The 20 best record sleeves of 2015
    The 10 most collectable records of 2015
    The Year in vinyl tech
    The 10 best vinyl soundtracks of 2015


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    50. Four Tet

    Morning / Evening

    (Text Records)

    Listen / Buy

    After the junglist manoeuvres of 2013’s Beautiful Rewind, Four Tet changes tack, rejecting conventional track lengths, song titles and the album format to deliver a forty minute tone poem split across two sides of beautifully packaged vinyl. The ‘Morning Side’ sees KH in ‘Ringer’ mode, marrying restrained house beats with uplifting synth drones and celestial melodies but with the glorious addition of a stunning Lata Mangeshkar sample. The ‘Evening Side’ meanwhile, drops into beatless territory where blinking electronics and FX soaked vocals sing us a starlit lullaby, up there with the finest moments of Rounds.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    49. THEESatisfaction

    EarthEE

    (Sub Pop)

    Listen / Buy

    There’s something about these ladies from Seattle, Washington that makes them very special indeed. With this, their second long player, they have honed their skills into something which seems much tighter while reaching an even more expansive range of sound and colour. Yes you can hear Digable Planets, Erykah Badu and even The Fugees in their songs but it’s the little bits in between those elements that make this truly special. This is what all RnB should be measured against now.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    48. Mbongwana Star

    From Kinshasa

    (World Circuit)

    Listen / Buy

    DRC has been the centre of some compelling musical collaborations in recent years, but none perhaps as true to the capital’s fertile scene as Mbongwana Star. A seven piece band, a maverick Parisian producer and one of the year’s most unique records to break into a more mainstream consciousness, From Kinshasa fuses Congolese percussion (scrapheap techno gang Konono No.1 feature) with buckets of hefty European bass and abrasive post-punk flair. Rightly lauded and available again on vinyl by popular demand.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    47. Jam City

    Dream A Garden

    (Night Slugs)

    Listen / Buy

    Luxuriate in the sonic swerve that this album represents after a half decade of influential club music from Jam City. There’s a surprise in the new use of vocals and instruments, but that’s beyond the point. Dream A Garden has an importance to our actual lives – a caring, gentle one – that reaches so far beyond the scope of so many albums that you have to wonder what people are playing at. This really is a thing to surround yourself with, repeatedly, and appreciate. And when you’re finished, listen to his newly reissued ice-cold score to Lux Laze, turned in shortly after early Jam City singles, and now beautifully repacked by new London label Utter.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    46. Beach House

    Depression Cherry

    (Bella Union)

    Listen / Buy

    The wonderful Beach House released two albums this year and both pretty close together yet I think Depression Cherry just pips it. The songs here seem a bit more lost, a bit more atmospheric and a bit more heartbreaking. There’s elements of The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine all over its shoegazing shimmer yet the duo of Victoria and Alex make it all their own. It even comes in a red felt sleeve – pretty cool huh.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    45. Jeremy Shaw

    Variation FQ

    (The Vinyl Factory)

    Listen / Buy

    Since ending his Circlesquare project (which released on Trevor Jackson’s Output Recordings), Shaw’s main focus has shifted to his visual art practice, yet his film, video and installation works almost always include a highly considered audio element.

    The soundtrack to his Variation FQ film is one of his most arresting pieces to date. Consisting of a repetitive, melancholy score combined with chopped vocal samples and time-stretched tape effects, he incites a hypnotic, mantra-like mood that accompanies the virtuosic dance style of the film’s protagonist – legendary voguer Leiomy Maldonado. Drawing on the classical piano works for solo variations in ballet with all the meditative grace of the great minimalists William Basinksi and Philip Glass, we were thrilled to bring it to limited vinyl.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    44. Ruby Rushton

    Two For Joy

    (22a)

    Listen / Buy

    While not always explicit, the kinship between 22a’s earthy beats-driven 12”s and jazz has informed much of what the collective have released. With both Henry Wu and Al Dobson Jr. sharing their love for spiritual jazz on VF mixes, Two For Joy sees label boss Edward ‘Tenderlonious’ Cawthorne pick up the sax with his small group Ruby Rushton on a modern jazz record that grooves with hip hop sensibility as much as it swings, and, crucially, avoids labouring the point in doing so. Two For Joy is an understated antidote to Kamasi Washington’s maximal jazz odyssey, and one to return to again and again.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photography Michael Wilkin

    43. Thee Oh Sees

    Mutilator Defeated At Last

    (Castle Face)

    Listen / Buy

    As well as the amazing Damaged Bug album this year, John Dwyer also found time to release a new Thee Oh Sees album – even after telling everyone they were kind of over. However, after relocating to L.A. with some new personnel and the addition of two drummers he created their finest album yet. It’s full of rampaging riffs, psychedelic freak outs and some of the sweetest and whacked out pop you would have heard all year.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    42. Owiny Sigoma Band

    Nyanza

    (Brownswood)

    Listen / Buy

    If you listened to their VF mix, you’ll have experienced Owiny Sigoma Band’s sprawling, cross-cultural palate. Avant-garde Spanish ambience, eastern melodies, African folk, industrial, Sun Ra, calypso, weird post punk-cum-jungle, electro funk… an incredible amount of ground was covered in under an hour.

    Whipping up a heady brew for their third full length, Nyanza is as genre-defying as the mix presaged, albeit with entrenched roots in traditional Kenyan folk. The collective travelled to the Nyanza Province of Western Kenya to meet members of the Luo tribe, an exchange which became the basis for this record – which updates the minimal Luo sound with the kind of left-right intensity discharged on 2012’s Power Punch.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    41. Joanna Newsom

    Divers

    (Drag City)

    Listen / Buy

    This year broke the five year wait since 2010’s extraordinary triple LP Have One On Me, and whilst Newsom’s latest offering Divers may be a more conventional record in terms of its length, the density of song arrangements and ideas are no less ambitious. Make no mistake – as with her best work this is one for repeated listens, with intricate nuances in lyricism, instrumentation and the production revealing themselves over time, and out of what might appear as overblown on the first impression. Fitting to the title, this one dived deep, and found some true pearls of her song-craft along the way.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    40. Lonelady

    Hinterland

    (Warp Records)

    Listen / Buy

    Lonelady aka Julie Campbell really hit her stride with her second full length release on Warp and surprised quite a few people with how well she could turn out exciting pop music. Hinterland brings to mind elements of Talking Heads and A Certain Ratio with it’s new wave grooves and instant dance ability but it’s the lady herself that fills the gaps with her killer melodies and even more dangerous hooks. Don’t underestimate this record – one listen and you’ll be sucked straight in.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    39. The Mystic Jungle Tribe

    Solaria

    (Early Sounds)

    Listen / Buy

    This brilliant, obscure release on Italy’s Early Sounds sees ancestral musicologists The Mystic Jungle Tribe arrive a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away to take a sonic survey of the remote planet ‘Solaria’. Their findings range from the bizarre cosmic voodoo and sci-fi exotica of ‘Ocean FM’ and ‘Neon Lights’ to the squelching machine funk of ‘Ancient Lizard’ and ‘Plastica Razionale’, and the synthetic proto-house of ‘Land Of Dunes’. Trippy low-fi funk the likes of which wouldn’t feel out of place on PPU, The Mystic Jungle Tribe have dropped one of the year’s surprise packages and a real treat for the astral adventurers out there.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    38. Helena Hauff

    Discreet Desires

    (Werk Discs)

    Listen / Buy

    Hamburg’s Helena Hauff follows up a slew of 12”s with her first real full length Discreet Desires. And boy, does it sting! “I have the feeling it’s more one-to-one – you do something and then the machine reacts. The machine has its own mind too, so it gives something back,” read press materials at the time. That kind of approach to tech probably goes some way to explain how she’s managed to rip out seriously intoxicating machine-funk, brimming with subtle and insouciant melodies that seem to have a mind of their own.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    37. Lightning Bolt

    Fantasy Empire

    (Thrill Jockey)

    Listen / Buy

    This one was more of the same in the best possible way as Fantasy Empire righteously nailed Lightning Bolt’s high-octane song format in a way that seemingly denied 12 years of ageing and put it on a par with the frenetic exhilaration of 2003’s Wonderful Rainbow. Sure there has been some changes to the recording format here – in that this is a first hi-fi studio effort – but it does nothing to detract from the rawness of their sound, instead casting the bass guitar/drums tumult in a clarity that’s all the more addictive and potent in it’s ability to take over a space and accelerate.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    36. Gwenno

    Y Dydd Olaf

    (Heavenly Recordings)

    Listen / Buy

    Before the trainspotters and pedants out there take exception to the inclusion of Gwenno’s Welsh language sci-fi triumph, its 2014 release on Peski arrived so late in the day, and in such limited numbers that it evaded last year’s chart rundown. Thankfully, indie stalwarts Heavenly picked up this remarkable fusion of Krautrock, synth pop and revolutionary politics for a full scale release, giving the former Pipette the attention and admiration she deserves. Undoubtedly the most accessible and catchy ‘foreign language-feminist-sci-fi-Kraut-concept album’ ever released, Y Dydd Olaf was also 2015’s true unorthodox pop masterpiece.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    35. Bastien Keb

    Drinking In The Shadows Of Zizou

    (One-Handed Music)

    Listen / Buy

    While it’s been a big year for One-Handed Music’s Mo Kolours, whose new album Texture Like Sun ran this list close, one of the label’s rising stars has quietly pulled out one of year’s strongest debuts. Proving that you don’t need the big city to spawn big ideas, Leamington Spa’s most exciting multi-instrumental beat-maker Bastien Keb draws on all sorts of influences, from Sun Ra and Curtis Mayfield to Broadcast to come out with a new and compelling palette of sounds. More experimental tracks like ‘Doodlebag’ wind and unwind with clock-like rotations, while there’s enough song material among the instrumentals (‘Down River’ especially) to show Keb knows how to wield a hook. We appreciate the nod to Zinedine in the title too…


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    34. Elysia Crampton

    American Drift

    (Blueberry Records)

    Listen / Buy

    Drawing heavily on Facebook-era infoxication, pop fragments, video game FX and spoken word, sampling is the bread and butter of Crampton’s E&E catalogue. Her 2015 work though is derived most clearly from a personal voice, and notably, it shies away from collage art. In fact her 7” ‘Moth / Lake’ is altogether original in composition, while this debut album on FaltyDL’s Blueberry Records sits somewhere in-between. Hallmark Lil Jon squawks pierce MIDI orchestras and “transevangelistic prayers”; a conceptual meditation on the Latina identity in America, exploring “browness” as geology, not culture. Bordering on academic exercise but retaining a sense of play, American Drift is short in length but Herculean in scope.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    33. Suzanne Kraft

    Talk From Home

    (Melody As Truth)

    Listen / Buy

    While many of the year’s biggest albums were all about making bold statements, this treat of a mini LP from West Coast producer Diego Herrera aka Suzanne Kraft is all about looking after number one. Recorded last winter but one which kept us cool all year, Talk From Home shimmers with the melancholy of lost youth and summers spent in blissful inertia. Tinged with an afro-cosmic feel that will delight fans of Gigi Masin’s Talk To The Sea and the ambient warmth of Andras Fox’s Overworld, Talk From Home is a quiet record and one to lose yourself in.


    © The Vinyl Factory, 2015 best LP vinyl record releases, Photog

    32. Levon Vincent

    Levon Vincent

    (Novel Sound)

    Listen / Buy

    Despite spending the last couple of years tearing up clubs across the globe, offering lucky producers apprenticeships and repressing the Novel Sounds back catalogue just to piss off the Discogs sharks, Levon Vincent still found the time to head into the studio and put together a breathtakingly good debut LP. Lavishly pressed onto quadruple vinyl (and still cheaper than Theo) this instant classic runs the full gamut of LV sounds, from brooding synthwave and hissing filth to wired EBM and glacial techno, while embracing lo-fi digi dub with surprising success.


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    31. Helen

    The Original Faces

    (Kranky)

    Listen / Buy

    With a host of intriguing collaborations from Liz Harris already laid out on vinyl (check out Raum and Mirroring if you’re unfamiliar), this particular foray outside of her Grouper moniker delivers a “pop/thrash” album of sorts. Whilst there’s still that unique voice swirling in the mix and the keen sense of atmospherics and nostalgia, its the fuzzed-up guitar, propulsive drumming and concise structures, all playing out on the borders of pop and noise which make this full length a worthy listen and something distinct in her back-catalogue.


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    30. The Green Door All-Stars

    Youth Stand Up!

    (Autonomous Africa)

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    If there were to be a studio of the year award, it would go to Glasgow’s Green Door all day long. A triangular recording project hatched at the studio by Optimo’s JD Twitch, Youth Stand Up! brings young musicians from Belize, Ghana and Glasgow together for ten tracks of cross-cultural collaboration. While this could sound like something cooked up by the British Council, the results are far more urgent and on point, finding an explosive middle ground between traditional Caribbean rhythms, hip hop, highlife and Glaswegian post-punk when none would seem forthcoming.

    Charting in the top two of the year’s best 12”s, Golden Teacher are on hand again here with fellow Optimo mainstays Whilst, lending a bit of Glaswegian grit to the party, as tracks like ‘Come With Me’, bristle with punk funk percussion and psych synths. A strong concept, expertly realised, and to top it off, the proceeds will be redistributed to cultural projects in Belize.


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    29. Alessandro Cortini

    Risveglio

    (Hospital Productions)

    Listen / Buy

    Stepping up his activities outside of Nine Inch Nails more than a notch or two over the past few years, Alessandro Cortini has produced some brilliant records, and Risvegelio is another highly recommended effort. Within the glut of those working with synthesizers at present, Cortini remains one of the most intriguing and distinctive voices. A vintage year for Hospital Productions with several fine releases for the label, and this at the top of the tree.


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    28. The Naturals

    On the Way (To The Laughing Light Of Plenty)

    (Emotional Response)

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    On that fuzzy line between reissue and new album, label boss Stuart Leath tapped into digging alter ego Emotional Rescue this year to pull out a huge new release on Response, salvaging a lost-not-lost album from Harvey collaborator Thomas Bullock and Secret Circuit’s Eddie Ruscha. With the original masters scattered to the wind and only 50 copies sold, On The Way features a raw and previously discarded second mix of folksy, Balearic-inclined, cosmic pop, that, as you can probably guess, defies just about every attempt at easy categorization. From ‘The Rose’, that could just as well have been a Mangiami dance floor special, to the chirpy, leftfield noodling of ‘Brilliant Light’, On The Way is a compelling trip. Of the variety on show, the 16-minute closer ‘The Pulse’ shines brightest, sharing something of Arthur Russell’s magnificent ‘In The Light Of The Miracle’.


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    27. Kamasi Washington

    The Epic

    (Brainfeeder)

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    Epic in any sense you’d care to mention, the first album proper from Kamasi Washington unquestionably stood alone this year in terms of scope and ambition. Proudly presented as a triple vinyl box set, clocking in at nearly three hours and featuring an extensive cast of virtuoso players, The Epic is a sublime, spiritual masterpiece which reconnects with the uncompromising thirst for expression at the heart of the art form. The true descendent of the most revered Impulse! releases, this LP reset the bar for the genre, reminding us that jazz can be challenging, emotive and beautiful all at the same time.


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    26. Moon B

    Lifeworld

    (Growing Bin)

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    In another fruitful year for Growing Bin, head gardener Basso spliced Wes Gray’s 2014 cassette only release, Lifeworld, onto a detailed vinyl pressing and gifted us the rosette winning bonus track ‘Moments In Slank’. This vaguest of references to the mighty Art Of Noise gave a hint to Moon B’s direction on this LP, with the Atlanta musician incorporating a plethora of tropical samples into his dusty world of lo-fi boogie and VHS house. Lopsided rhythms and swirling melodies create the kind of tribal psychedelia at the heart of the cosmic scene, while the wrong speed funk cuts pay homage to the chopped and screwed hip hop much loved by his hometown.


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    25. Tame Impala

    Currents

    (Fiction)

    Listen / Buy

    I don’t think there’s anyone I know who doesn’t like this record. Before its release the word on the street was that Kevin Parker had created Tame Impala’s best record yet and the word wasn’t wrong. Currents begins with the seven minute plus groove of ‘Let It Happen’ which grooves from the start and builds then get’s stuck then explodes! It’s an amazing tune and points the way forward for the rest of the record. There is not one shit song on here. It’s perfect pop music. It’s a true masterpiece. And the limited edition is even pretty collectable.


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    24. M.E.S.H.

    Piteous Gate

    (PAN)

    Listen / Buy

    In an interview with FACT James Whipple aka M.E.S.H talked of being “a receptor for constant information overload”, and on Piteous Gate he’s done some remarkable things with such source material and inspiration, crafting one of the year’s most refined takes on digital life and sound design. If adventurous electronic music is your thing this is well worth investigating- vital work from artist and label alike.


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    23. Dawn Richard

    Blackheart

    (Our Dawn Entertainment)

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    “I thought I lost it all,” cries Dawn Richard on album opener ‘Noir’ that bleeds seamlessly into ‘Calpyso’ – which with its jungle breaks, fizzy kicks and hazy fucked-up vocals, is a track worth your money alone. ‘Blow’ might have you daggering on the dancefloor, but don’t let it trick you – Blackheart heads in a much darker, inward, paranoid direction than its golden predecessor. Having managed to escape Diddy-backed girl-group Danity Kane twice now, Richard continues to eschew any notion of pop-dismissal.


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    22. Domenique Dumont

    Comme Ça

    (Antinote Recordings)

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    Unquestionably one of the labels of the year, Parisian imprint Antinote treated us to a string of flawless releases in 2015, and none were better than this sun kissed beauty from mysterious Latvian producer Domenique Dumont. A perfectly timed summer release, Comme Ça saw Dumont create a seductive mirage of afrobeat rhythms, surf guitars, dubby basslines and ye ye vocals which seemed to shimmer with the heat haze of an indolent afternoon. On paper a contradiction, the combination of lively rhythms and languid textures was nothing short of genius on record, embodying the carefree innovation which made this release stand out from the crowd.


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    21. DJ Sotofett

    Drippin’ For A Tripp

    (Honest Jon’s)

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    The spring saw Norway’s idiosyncratic, genre mashing, trail-blazing genius take a temporary side step from his Sex Tags Mania imprint, instead collaborating with London’s Honest Jon’s for this lavish double pack of mind expanding, scene smashing electronics. A serial collaborator, Drippin’ For A Tripp found Sotofett hooking up with Phillip Lauer, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Karolin Tampere, Maimouna Haugen and Versatile boss Gilb’R on a sun drenched journey through poolside chill-out, warm Afro dub, Italo house and Rainforest rhythm, all imbued with the psychedelic sonics the producer has become known for. Sublime, diverse and unique, this double pack combined everything we’ve come to expect from the Norwegian producer, soundtracking the summer perfectly.


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    20. Grimes

    Art Angel

    (4AD)

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    How would Clare Boucher follow the sub-zero cyborg bliss of 2012’s Visions? Well, there was that Rihanna-intended, tipsy summer jam ‘Go’ – which pissed off fans for “pandering to the radio” – and there was a lot of waiting. Whilst Visions was polished off in a couple of weeks, Boucher spent years recording the follow-up at her own home. Giving herself the space to write, she took a step back, disconnecting entirely from contemporary pop. The result is a stupefyingly diverse range of headspaces; an invitation into the mind of a post-internet wild child.

    How could we have prepared for the cheerleader bomb shelling of ‘Kill V. Maim’, a track channeling The Godfather, except re-spinning Al-Pacino as a gender-swapping, space-travelling vampire? Or the diss-tracks? Or the manga-inspired scrawlings that look like they’ve been ripped straight out the back of an exercise book? Music industry slams, candy sweet fuck-offs, nods to K-pop, twilight moments, parallel universe EDM-bangers… it’s a sprawling pop vision, and one showcasing the complete range of her vocal register.


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    19. Floating Points

    Elaenia

    (Pluto)

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    Following fourteen EPs and singles – starting with a timeless 12″ on Planet Mu in 2009 – Floating Points finally came out with his first ever-full length this year. Alas, it will disappoint some of the FloPo camp, you know, those wanting deep bass bangers of ‘ARP3’ ilk. But with his classical and academic resume, it was obvious we’d get a fusion album, and one of cinematic dimensions.

    The work feels complete with seven tracks that map out discrete spaces, separate rooms in their own right, and yet together they build and build. The finale ‘Peroration Six’ crescendoes magnificently, working towards a colossal release, only to cut out abruptly. In a world of builds and drops, it’s a clever ending – toying with your expectations; leaving you dumbfounded.


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    18. Ibeyi

    Ibeyi

    (XL Recordings)

    Listen / Buy

    How has this one slipped through so many nets? Perhaps obscured by the Guardian-friendly hype that preceded release, perhaps because it surfaced so long ago, the music on Ibeyi’s self-titled debut seemed to get left behind. Drawing on spirituals and hip hop culture from the twins’ dual French-Cuban heritage, the sparse productions allow their maturing voices to lead from the front. A strong year of spell-binding, at times virtuosic live performances and a gorgeous, split-sleeve vinyl edition have done justice to a powerful debut.


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    17. Vakula

    Voyage to Arcturus

    (Leleka)

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    Imagined soundtracks are this year’s plat du jour. Released at the top of 2015 Vakula followed up the majestic You’ve Never Been To Konotop (#2 in our 2013 chart) with another expansive, expressive triple vinyl excursion beyond the imagination of us mere mortals. Conceived as an imaginary soundtrack to David Lindsay’s book of the same name, A Voyage To Arcturus sees Vakula apply his lysergic sonics to psychedelia, kosmische and ambient soundscapes as well as his usual freaked out jazz-funk and psycho-active house. A second long player followed this year dedicated to Jim Morrison, but in finding that middle ground between fusion and contemporary electronic music Voyage To Arcturus is in a world of its own.


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    16. J.G. Biberkopf

    Ecologies

    (Knives)

    Listen / Buy

    Ecologies could have quite easily slipped under your radar, but for fans of vivid and hyper-real sound collage this still stands out as a highlight of the year and marks a fine debut from both artist and label. Envisioned as “a field trip into the representations of nature emerging from the digital-social mediascape”, there’s a lot to wrap your ears around here as Biberkopf manages to bend all manner of sounds to a musical and theatrical will. Some rather fine cover art too from Joe Hamilton.


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    15. Sir Richard Bishop

    Tangier Sessions

    (Drag City)

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    Occultist, traveler, bookseller, master of myriad guitar stylings from Raag to Surf, Sir Richard Bishop’s pool of inspiration and discography is vast, and here the inspiration was narrowed down to a relatively simple concept- a recently acquired one of a kind 1890s parlor guitar and a week holed up in Tangiers recording it. The results are another marvel of his dual talents for melody and improvisation on an instrument that sounds both aged in tradition and full of possibility under Sir Rick’s nimble fingers.


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    14. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma

    FRKWYS Vol 12: We Know Each Other Somehow

    (RVNG Intl.)

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    What a year for RVNG. With their Savant reissue charting highly in our top reissues of 2015 list, the Brooklyn-based label paired ambient explorer Ariel Kalma with modular synthesist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe for one of the year’s inspired inter-generational collaborations.

    Playing off the tension between Kalma’s naturalist sensibilities and the more industrial drones of Lowe’s reverberant tools, which and shape field recordings from the Australian landscape into a series of unique meditations, We Know Each Other Somehow is a beguiling listen that unfolds over time to create the sense of both kinship and alienation between man and nature. The psychical release also comes with a non-linear film which serves as the visual accompaniment to the shapes, moods and musings of the music. A complete and compelling project, and one of our favourites (if not favourite) FRKWYS releases to date, with RVNG serving up a treat with the packaging as standard.


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    13. Oneohtrix Point Never

    Garden Of Delete

    (Warp Records)

    Listen / Buy

    Whilst still relatively fresh of the presses Garden of Delete has stood out as one of the most remarkable releases of Daniel Lopatin’s storied career in electronic music, and an altogether different beast to it’s predecessor R Plus 7. The hallmarks of an OPN release are of course all over Garden of Delete from concepts to production, but the density of its musical juxtapositions and hyperactive flitting from sound to sound creates a world unto itself, where Lopatin has effectively melted his varied musical and technological fascinations into a beguiling whole. Simultaneously sounding like the product of a vivid imagination and of warped algorithms and autonomous machines, the most perplexing juxtaposition here is that it feels both vast and empty at the same time. One that’s certainly for repeated listens.


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    12. Fabiano Do Nascimento

    Dança Dos Tempos

    (Now-Again)

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    Another reissue label doing great things with new music, Egon’s Now-Again gave a platform to Fabiano Do Nascimento’s debut and conjured up one of the year’s surprises. Tender and urgent, the young virtuoso guitarist is joined by Brazilian legend Airto Moreira on percussion (for his first project in ten years), to craft a suite of compelling, pared down afro-infused instrumentals, recorded live with no over-dubs to capture the energy surging through the studio. Spine-tingling vocals from Do Nascimento’s girlfriend on ‘Ewe’ elevate this from a virtuoso study in Brasil’s folkloric tradition (think Hermeto Pascoal and Baden Powell) to something a little more timeless. It may have been a big year for Brazilian reissues, but if ever you needed evidence that new music is flourishing in the country, this is it.


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    11. King Midas Sound & Fennesz

    Edition 1

    (Ninja Tune)

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    The first in a four part series of King Midas Sound collaborations, Kevin Martin, Roger Robinson and vocalist Kiki Hitomi invited Austrian electronic minimalist and guitarist Fennesz for Edition 1. A complete album in the old-fashioned sense of the word, Edition 1 ebbs and flows like a continuous suite, the vocals at times submerged, at times surfacing from the icy lake of tape reverb and analogue fuzz. A record to immerse yourself in, Ninja Tune have also gone to town on the silver spot-varnished sleeve, replicated again on the instrumentals edition for those after the full set.


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    10. Len Leise

    Lingua Franca

    (International Feel)

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    After bursting onto the scene with a pair of essential EPs for IFeel and Nado, Australian sound sculptor Len Leise put the cherry on top of a remarkable 12 months with this glorious debut LP for Mark Barrott’s celebrated imprint. Channelling the otherworldly ambience of early Innovative Communication (and taking inspiration from the label’s artwork), the jazzy fusion of Windham Hill and the forward thinking tribalism of Eno and Hassell’s Fourth World : Possible Musics, Leise weaved liquid tabla, shimmering bells, fluid bass and breathy sax around the metallic staccato of marimba and stiff drum machines. Successfully fusing the organic and synthetic into a living, breathing and evolving whole, Lingua Franca saw Leise deliver his finest release yet, and the defining statement for the future primitive sound we’ve heard lately.


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    9. Jenny Hval

    Apocalypse, Girl

    (Sacred Bones)

    Listen / Buy

    Apocalypse, Girl is Norwegian sound poet Jenny Hval at her visceral best. She has already made folk and abstract noise, using her music to investigate the way human bodies constrict with social norms, but for her third record, she joins the goths in Brooklyn for a radical synth seminar. More questions about where we’re at as a collective civilisation (hear ‘That Battle Is Over’ for a dirge to the end of the isms that once determined our moral compass) channelled through music that’s interchangeably her harshest and most accessible. It’s in this tension that Hval thrives, her spectral melodies punctured by graphic lyrics (take ‘Take Care Of Your Self’ for Hval at her most unsettling), jettisoning the cosy in favour of the raw (and the wry).


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    8. Golden Rules

    Golden Ticket

    (Lex Records)

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    Psychedelic beat maker Paul White and Florida MC/vocalist Eric Biddines measured up as Golden Rules for another of the year’s most overlooked albums. Laced with wit and strangeness, Golden Ticket inhabits the kind of parallel universe that DJ Koze might call home, full of floral variety where every track is drugged under a pleasant haze of melancholy and nostalgia. From album opener ‘Auntie Pearl’s House’, Golden Rules establish their own set of markers, whether its nodding to ’80s cop show soul on ‘Down Soul Boogie’ or basking in the old-school grandeur of Yasiin Bey’s cameo on ‘Never Die’. Dope embossed artwork and a pair of golden records complete a really nice package. In a year where the heavyweights delivered heavy, serious records, it’s been harder to find space for a lighter, feel good touch, but Golden Rules is good enough to more than distract from the world’s woes. Put it on and light up, things will be better in the morning.


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    7. Björk

    Vulnicura

    (One Little Indian)

    Listen / Buy

    It’s an obvious one, but there’s nothing more satisfying than when a big record delivers. Already charted in our ‘best artwork’ list, it’s hard to know quite where to start with Vulnicura. A nuanced, confused, inquisitive, painful, vivid interrogation of a break-up, at times soaring above the complexities to analyse human emotion with idiosyncratic clarity, at others languishing in the mire of despair, anger and misunderstanding with the rest of us. Abandoning all concept in favour of pure emotion, Vulnicura could have fallen flat were it not so honest. With unforgettable artwork woven into the fabric of the narrative, it’s a complete piece up there with her most important records and a ready reminder that Björk is still out front all by herself.


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    6. Matana Roberts

    Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee

    (Constellation)

    Listen / Buy

    The third part in her visionary Coin Coin series, Matana Roberts’ River Run Thee is perhaps the most fluid installment so far, a stream of consciousness that flows in one uninterrupted gesture, tracing her own solo ‘sojourn’ south of the Mason-Dixon line. Her stories, expressions and exasperations are delivered in as a vernacular act, drifting in and out of focus as her voice meanders in an intuitive double helix with memories and samples of her own processed saxophone. Warped and sometimes even obscured by drones, the continuous suite (a form so crucial to Black American protest jazz – Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, and Charles Mingus’ Black Saint And The Sinner Lady) is described by Roberts as a ‘fever dream’, able to disturb and transform in equal measure. The vinyl comes complete with two pull out posters, Roberts’ own manifesto for the album and a beautifully printed sleeve. Put all distractions to one side and let River Run Thee run over you.


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    5. Jlin

    Dark Energy

    (Planet Mu)

    Listen / Buy

    With Mike Paradinas aka µ-Ziq at its helm, Planet Mu has racked up a reputation for daring electronic sounds. In the year the label turned 20, Illinois-based producer Jlin emerged as its leading light with her suitably titled debut.

    A life’s work condensed into dark matter, tripping dangerously from mutated footwork to the outer-reaches, rising and falling with cinematic intensity. Dark Energy bristles with jagged rhythms, chopping antagonistically between vocal samples (including Holly Herndon’s) that try to shine through the cracks. Softer moments like ‘Unknown Tongues’ and ‘Erotic Heat’ lend dynamic range to one of the year’s most daring albums.


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    4. Kendrick Lamar

    To Pimp A Butterfly

    (Top Dawg / Aftermath / Interscope)

    Listen / Buy

    While 2012’s good kid m.A.A.d city saw Kendrick seated comfortably on hip hop’s throne, the Compton native wore the frustrated air of a man who’d been handed the heavyweight title by default. Taking matters into his own hands the rapper dropped a provocative verse on Big Sean’s ‘Control’, but still couldn’t convince his contemporaries to step to in the ring. The only option left was for Kendrick to challenge himself, and thus the sprawling and ambitious To Pimp A Butterfly was born.

    Sonically at odds with current trends, the LP found Kendrick balancing P-funk and spiritual jazz while his multi-voiced narrative and socially aware lyrics articulated the African American experience from a variety of standpoints. The only release in our chart to feature Barack Obama’s favourite track of the year, To Pimp A Butterfly was Kendrick’s coming of age. That this major hip hop album received a vinyl release at all should not be overlooked.


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    3. Colleen

    Captain Of None

    (Thrill Jockey)

    Listen / Buy

    “I’m actually quite shocked that I’ve made four full albums without real basslines,” Colleen said upon releasing Captain Of None. How she didn’t arrive here earlier is indeed startling in hindsight.

    Once again it’s the Renaissance-era treble viola da gamba, an instrument rarely heard these days, at the forefront of this album. But taking cues from Jamaican producers, Colleen finally embraces her long-standing love of dub. Her acoustic lullabies enter an elegant, thrilling, at times unsettling, world of negative space. It’s well worth spending some time there.


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    2. Lifted

    1

    (PAN)

    Listen / Buy

    Did PAN slip something in our morning tea? Our brains feel washed. M.E.S.H.’s whiplash-inducing Piteous Gate, the beatless rumble of Helm’ Olympic Mess, Visionist’s precarious Safe debut… it’s been impossible to resist the adventures arranged and presented by Bill Kouligas’ peerless PAN label.

    It’s this Lifted record that keeps coming back to us though. A beautiful exercise in jumping off the grid, 1 sounds like what might have happened if Sun Ra recorded on Rephlex or if Squarepusher donned an Egyptian costume and joined the Arkestra. Back on Earth, it’s the first emission from Max D and Co-La’s new collective improv project. Using loose studio sessions as the environment to build upon, the duo reached out to a whole bunch of collaborators, dialling in Jordan GCZ (of Juju and Jordash) and ambient pioneer Gigi Masin for experimental overdubs from Amsterdam and Venice.

    What’s next from Lifted? “The first one taught us about matching players and their tones to what we come up with,” Max D told us in our interview with the collaborators. “We’re gonna probably go deeper and deeper into that zone, putting people’s sounds together with ours as a way to add layers. But, who knows?”


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    1. Holly Herndon

    Platform

    (4AD)

    Listen / Buy

    Just hours before Holly Herndon’s major UK show this autumn at Oval Space, home secretary Theresa May unveiled her so-called “snoopers’ charter” – the draft investigatory powers bill that would give police and security services access to records tracking every UK citizen’s use of the internet.

    It couldn’t have been more pertinent. For Herndon, the sanctity of online privacy is tantamount to the most basic of freedoms. As she told The Guardian earlier this year in response to Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations: “Violating my inbox felt [worse] than if someone went into my apartment. That’s where my relationships live”.

    The single ‘Home’, a homage to that violated digital space, set the tone for what is a sophisticated electronic album that interrogates one of the most complex and divisive issues of our time. And yet, Platform is not dry, not hyper-technical, instead building critiques into maximal hooks and deconstructed pop choruses on tracks like ‘Interference’, ‘Chorus’ and ‘An Exit’.

    Her follow-up to debut Movement, Platform is a glowing, singular protest album for the digital age. Circumventing polemics, Herndon cryptically hints at modern crisis borne out of systematic inequality, computer surveillance and neo-feudalism. Vibrant, vital and irresistibly produced, it is best consumed audio-visually, watching your laptop melt away via videos to ‘Chorus’ and ‘Home’.

    In one sense then, releasing, and owning Platform on vinyl may seem anachronistic, an almost wilfully counter-intuitive way to consume the record, away from the prying eyes of the state. Yet, as a safe, real world alternative, the vinyl edition offers a proxy A/V experience, lyrics printed out boldly across the double inner sleeves, a manifesto on Herndon’s New Ways To Love. We should all take note. Platform is only going to feel more relevant.


    Illustration by Hector Plimmer
    Photography by Michael Wilkin

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