The early days of January – the email inbox is nonetheless quiet, issues are for several nevertheless moving slow. But if musical perspective is possible only with hindsight, it is a moment when the picture of a moment in musical history has initial crystallized. The zeitgeist of an era begins to reveal its footprint.
This is not a appear back. It’s a round-up of the music we think appears forward. Tellingly, as well, the music that is most effective at performing that also has studied their history and created their art – numerous artists show up on our reissues and new lists.
It is a likelihood to take into account what inspired us – and where that inspiration could take us in the months of production to come. Because while a lot of may overlook their gym memberships or other resolutions, music producing is anything that really will drive us, that deserves moments of mid-winter reflection.
Of course, you’ve got to get an individual to navigate all that – apparent and obscure options alike. So we turn to our typical contributor David Abravanel for an extensive list and evaluation of the huge image.
Best 30 of 2016, alphabetized
AGF – Kon:3p>UTION to e[VOL]ution (AGF Produktion)
Autechre – elseq 1-5 (Warp)
Barker & Baumecker – Turns (Ostgut Ton)
Biosphere – Departed Glories (Smalltown Supersound)
Boris / Merzbow – Gensho (Relapse)
Chrissy & Hawley – Chrissy & Hawley (The Nite Owl Diner)
Clarke:Hartnoll – 2Square (Very)
David Bowie – ★ (Columbia)
Deftones – Gore (Reprise)
Demdike Stare – Wonderland (Modern Enjoy)
DVA (Hi:Feelings) – NOTU_URONLINEU (Hyperdub)
Floorplan – Victorious (M-Plant)
John Roberts – Plum (Brunette Editions)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy (Rvng. International)
Kate Bush – Before The Dawn (Fish Individuals)
Kerridge – Fatal Light Attraction (Downwards)
LA-4A – Phonautograph (Delft)
Lamin Fofana – Doubleworld (Sci-Fi & Fantasy)
Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker (Sony)
Lisieux – I (self-release)
Matmos – Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey)
Monolake – VLSI (Imbalance Pc Music)
Occult Oriented Crime – Just A Clown On Crack (Dekmantel)
The Orb – COW / Chill Out, World! (Kompakt)
Patten – Ψ (Warp)
Sea Nymphs – On The Dry Land (Alphabet Enterprise Concern)
Shackleton – Devotional Songs (Sincere Jon’s)
Shinichi Atobe – Planet (DDS)
The Field – The Follower (Kompakt)
Underworld – Barbara, Barbara, we face a shining future (UMG)
Prime 10 EPs/single of 2016, alphabetized
Aphex Twin – Cheetah (Warp)
Burial – “Young Death” / “Nightmarket” (Hyperdub)
E.R.P. – Ancient Lights (Solar A single)
Graze – Xup (Dekmantel)
Jay Haze & Kaan Bulak – 1840 (Contexterrior)
Lush – Blind Spot (Edamame)
Monolake – G M O (Imbalance Laptop Music)
Plaid – On Other Hands (Warp)
Rian Treanor – Pattern Harm (The Death of Rave)
Zeno van den Broek – Shift Symm (Establishment)
Leading 5 reissues of 2016, alphabetized
A Created Up Sound – A Made Up Sound (2009 – 2016) (A Produced Up Sound)
Altern eight – Full on Mask Hysteria (Bleech)
Biosphere – Patashnik / Patashnik 2 (Biophon)
Mike & Rich – Professional Knob Twiddlers (Planet Mu)
µ-Ziq – RY30 Trax (Planet Mu)
Ed.: I was blown away by how comprehensive David’s list was, but just a single missing here that I thought was one of the most critical reissues of the year – Luke Slater’s 90s-era The 7th Plain got a gorgeous reissue from A-TON, the cleverly-named new imprint of Ostgut. I wouldn’t want A-TON to be all about reissues, but a lot more like this would be welcome. -PK
Top 10 tracks of 2016, alphabetized
Beyoncé – “Hold Up” (Columbia)
Deftones – “Prayers / Triangles” (Reprise)
De La Soul ft. Rock Marciano – “Property of Spitkicker.com” (A.O.I.)
John Tejada – “Integrator” (Kompakt)
Leonard Cohen – “You Want It Darker” (Sony)
Lorenzo Senni – “emotiva1234” (Warp)
Lush – “Burnham Beeches” (Edamame)
Machinedrum ft. Ruckazoid – “Morphogene” (Ninja Tune)
Nick Hook ft. Novelist – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” (Fool’s Gold)
Xeno & Oaklander – “Virtue and Vice” (Ghostly Intl.)
2016 was a year for a lot of old favorites – whether it was Suzanne Ciani, Autechre, Leonard Cohen, or The Orb. It was also a year in with some surprises from artists I believed I “knew” – Patten, Scratcha Dva, and John Roberts all released left turn albums that are among their very best.
Unquestionably, David Bowie’s ★ cast the longest shadow on the year – the the extent that it wasn’t challenging to take into account Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker as anything of a spiritual successor (and, sadly, Cohen similarly died shortly right after delivering his final masterpiece).
2016 may have been a grim year politically, but I’m left with hope for the function that art will play in 2017 – as reflection of reality, as charge for resistance, and as escapism. AGF remains a prescient political voice – not only did she arrive at numerous of the cyber-political explorations ahead of other artists, she’s nevertheless undertaking it greater than most. Lamin Fofana followed up a series of exclusive EPs with a devastating complete length – futuristic techno with an unflinching international eye. Floorplan’s spiritually good Victorious will stay in essential rotation, as will Machinedrum’s Human Energy.
On the escapist finish, Lorenzo Senni continues to deliver distilled rave, now with a cyberpunk bent. The return of The Sea Nymphs was far more than welcome – symbolizing as it did that Tim Smith is nicely adequate to begin revisiting recordings (and suggesting even much more Sea Nymphs – and possibly Cardiacs) however to come. That On The Dry Land was just as magical and captivating as The Sea Nymphs 24-year-old self-titled album (not to mention the 32-year-old Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake album that 1st saw the three Sea Nymphs with each other) was icing. Lisieux’s I, a lovely bandcamp uncover, shows that there is a future for neo-folk that is not really as problematic as its previous.
Finally, I’ve got to acknowledge the heavy emotional hits from Shackleton’s Devotional Songs and Barker & Baumecker’s Turns. The former saw the veteran bass outlier group up with versatile classically-trained singer Ernesto Tomasini, for excellent and difficult match. If you thought Thighpaulsandra was “a bit subtle”, Shackleton and Tomasini were there so seriously smash you over the head with drama. Barker & Baumecker, meanwhile, followed up final year’s transcendent “Love Is A Battlefield” with an album that showed that single to be a sign of amazing items to come. Possibly the greatest album I’ve ever heard on Ostgut Ton (it is neck-and-neck with Shed’s The Traveller), Turns injects intense emotion into its interconnected techno pieces. It’s simple to hear Barker and Baumecker challenging themselves to go further – and succeeding with flying colors.
Goodbye 2016, and hello uncertainty. But we’ve got tunes.