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We have chosen our ten favourite albums of 2014 so far. These are albums that we believe have defined the last six months, and come from a range of exciting artists working across varying styles and genres.

Buy any album from the list digitally and receive a ten track sampler of tracks from each of the albums in our Mid-year Roundup.
Sampler Track Listing


Mid-year Roundup 2014

  • Reality Testing
    Artist
    Lone
    ReleaseProduct
    Reality Testing
    Label
    R&S Records
    Catalogue Number
    RS1405D
    Release Date
    June 2014
    12 Tracks VL DL DL

    Lone – Reality Testing

    It’s hard to believe that Reality Testing is the sixth album from Manchester-based producer Lone, but his has been a quiet and steady ascent. Following on from the continued success of his relationship with R&S Records, this year he dropped Reality Testing - its title referring to the process of distinguishing the internal world of emotions and thoughts from the world outside.

    Appropriately, it’s a hazy, languid affair, one in which Lone moves between the US house of Detroit and Chicago and the dusty grooves of west-coast hip-hop and beat music. Nestled in the middle of this new material are the two sides of last year’s marvellous Airglow Fires release, both the frantically upbeat title track and the jazzier swing of ‘Begin To Begin’. Similar in approach, 'Restless City' is a gorgeous take on buzzing house music, keys and percussion meeting spoken word samples that speak of what's really real. 'Meeker Warmer Energy' is a shimmering hip-hop jam, one that calls to mind hazy sunshine resting on still waters, while 'Aurora Northern Quarter' is that track's late-night equivalent, all balmy darkness and lusty dances in its retro piano stabs. 'Coincidences' shuffles along like a meeting between the lush organ sounds of Floating Points and the percussive expression of Four Tet, and the weariness of 'Jaded' is a down-tempo antidote to any rave-induced injuries. It's very easy to shoot and miss when it comes to sonic variety, but Reality Testing is a slam-dunk of both style and substance for Lone.

  • IS (Is Superpowered)
    Artist
    Kyoka
    ReleaseProduct
    IS (Is Superpowered)
    Label
    raster-noton
    Catalogue Number
    r-n153
    Release Date
    May 2014
    12 Tracks DL DL

    Kyoka – IS (Is Superpowered)

    Japanese multi-instrumentalist Kyoka Kondo’s third album popped up on raster-noton, the German minimalist label who may have made their most commercial play yet when they put out her bleepy, club-friendly single iSH. Is Superpowered keeps the same spirit, though with a harsher techno leaning: lead track ‘Re-Pulsion’ features a glitched vocal sample over gastric bass and a lumbering drill beat, while elsewhere on the album collaborations with Frank Bretschneider and To Rococco Rot’s Robert Ripokku flirt with powerful melody.

    ‘Lined Up’ throws down dancehall vocals and spoken utterances, a pounding beat grounding the track in a very specific space. ‘New Energy Shuffle’ evokes heady trip-hop with its shuffling rhythms and phased vocal patterns, before a solid kick arrives to throb and pulsate around such modes. A stark evocation appears in ‘Toy Planet’, dark chords hovering over pained vocal expressions. ‘Moonboots’, however, calls to mind the most crystalline moments of dancefloor revelation, barely-there kicks and bass accompanying shimmering instrumentation. ‘Piezo Version Vision’ is an industrial grind of a track, a cacophony of sound underpinned by delicate, pop-friendly vocals. Whatever notions of a clubbing experience there may feature here, though, IS is a carefully balanced electronic record that works as well on the floor as it does beyond.

    As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014

  • Asiatisch
    Artist
    Fatima Al Qadiri
    ReleaseProduct
    Asiatisch
    Label
    Hyperdub
    Catalogue Number
    HDBLP024
    Release Date
    May 2014
    10 Tracks VL CD DL DL

    Fatima Al Qadiri – Asiatisch

    As the ever-impressive Hyperdub label celebrates its 10th anniversary, it shows no sign of slack or complacency. Asiatisch, the debut album from globally inspired Fatima Al Qadiri, shows the label’s continuing insistence on depth and quality. After a series of stellar EPs for UNO and Fade To Mind, Al Qadiri set her sights on the album format. Opting to explore an imagined China, Al Qadiri crafted Asiatisch (from the German word for Asian), building on her ghostly palette of sounds and adding in a series of synthetic eastern arrangements and tropes.

    It's an album that confounds the listener right from the word go. ‘Shanzhai (For Shanzhai Biennial)’ opens the release, an unsettlingly cover of Sinead O'Connor's 'Nothing Compares 2 U' sung in an imaginary version of Mandarin that features the vocals of Hong Kong rock star Helen Feng. MIDI vocals and tubular synth patches abound, as do robotic voices that speak in corrupted tongue (‘Wudang’, ‘Loading Beijing’) and remind listeners of Disney’s questionable racial inclusions (‘Dragon Tattoo’). ‘Szechuan’ and 'Shanghai Freeway' see Al Qadiri at her most familiar, those shimmering xylophone-esque arpeggios and bombastic horn-like basslines reminiscent of tracks like ‘Oil Well’ and ‘Hip-Hop Spa’. Each track falls down a rabbit hole of reverb and eastern promise, as crashing gongs lend portent and excitement. Concept albums can often lack energy and excitement, but with Asiatisch Fatima Al Qadiri has managed to provide listeners with a fascinating journey into an imagined reality while providing irresistible grooves and thrilling electronic pulses.

  • That's Harakiri
    Artist
    Sd Laika
    ReleaseProduct
    That's Harakiri
    Label
    Tri Angle
    Catalogue Number
    TRIANGLE23D
    Release Date
    April 2014
    11 Tracks CD DL DL

    Sd Laika – That's Harakiri

    Tri Angle continue their run of excellent form in finding and presenting wonderfully eccentric takes on global club music. Sd Laika, aka Peter Runge, is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, yet that doesn't prevent him from twisting the instrumental grime sound that's become so prevalent of late for his own dark purposes. Recorded in 2011 and 2012, these tracks are timeless in their singular approach, yet fit in perfectly with the sound of now.

    It's easy to throw words like murk and fog in its direction, but That's Harakari is a paean to oozing sludge, its ostensible dancefloor rhythms bathed in angry drone and undone by awkward percussive patterns. Most exemplary of this discomfort is 'You Were Wrong', its sonic blasts coming up against a gated piano melody that meets discordant video-game squawks and sci-fi bass patterns. Opener 'Peace' is anything but, harsh whines and angry bass colliding for a dark cacophony. This won't be an easy listen, it seems to say, but stick around and you'll be rewarded. 'It's Ritual' evokes heady rave, while 'Meshes' is an eastern riot of drums. 'Remote Heaven' could even soundtrack a factory possessed by the 'Great God Pan' of the album's second track, a barrage of noise fashioned into a series of juddering beats and industrial blasts. The playful 'Percressing' ends the affair, downwards-swirling synths falling over rigid kick patterns. If this is what Sd Laika was making a few years back, we can't even begin to imagine what he's got in store.

    As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014

  • Reachy Prints
    Artist
    Plaid
    ReleaseProduct
    Reachy Prints
    Label
    Warp
    Catalogue Number
    WARPCDD250
    Release Date
    May 2014
    9 Tracks CD DL DL DL

    Plaid – Reachy Prints

    It takes a lot to keep things interesting after two-and-a-half decades and nine albums, but Plaid aren’t your average journeymen. Working continuously at the forefront of electronic music production, Plaid - Andy Turner and Ed Handley - have managed to incorporate the latest innovations of synthesis technologies into their sound while still referencing and celebrating their unique playful and emotive sound.

    'Hawkmoth' unfolds with undulating melodic patterns twisting in on themselves, while their trademark shimmering tones create a sheen of luminous harmonies, creating a track that evolves to epic proportions. It's the kind of listening journey that Plaid know how to navigate incredibly well. 'Nafovanny' churns with darker undertones, a juddering kick providing the foundation for rumbling synth patterns riven with pained emotion, dancing above twisted scuzz and tattered electronics. 'Wallet', however, glints like a sunny vista, wide eyed and expansive in its scope. ‘Tether’ almost bursts with tension, skipping percussion straining beneath syncopated, trance-like riffs and buzzing synth lines. The crisp electro spirit of standout 'Martin Lunaire' brims with effervescent spirit, its joyful melodies evocative of an imagined youth. Closing with the instrumental panache of ‘Liverpool Street’, Reachy Prints is another masterful release from the duo, a study in electronics welcoming and sinister; profane and divine.

    As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014

  • Persistence of Vision
    Artist
    VHS Head
    ReleaseProduct
    Persistence of Vision
    Label
    Skam Records
    Catalogue Number
    Skald030
    Release Date
    May 2014
    15 Tracks VL DL DL

    VHS Head – Persistence of Vision

    Cutting up reams and reams of old school video tapes, VHS Head’s latest album is one of the highest lo-fi calibre. The high-tech yet lo-fi brilliance of VHS Head returns to the ever-reliable Skam imprint for another album of videotape-sampled majesty, entitled ‘Persistence Of Vision’. As on 2010’s scintillating debut ‘Trademark Ribbons of Gold’, much of what makes the Blackpool producer’s work so unique is its combination of IDM precision and nostalgic sampling.

    Not content to simply wallow in a washy vintage haze, the cuts sparkle with pinpoint, bass heavy grooves, making Skam, where the likes of Autechre and Boards of Canada made their debuts, a great home for them. The unbridled horror of ‘Don’t Look In The Closet’ is pristine in its execution, fuzzy in spirit and utterly terrifying. ‘Gas Human No. 1’ careens on a twisted precipice, jangly guitars clashing with gurgling basslines and stretched claps. ’Dead To Morrow’ is a rare moment of light, expansive arpeggios hinting at a positivity that seems to be lacking, before the track collapses on to a whirlpool of broken rhythms. ‘Body Magic’ treads a similar path to the work of Bristol’s Hyetal, 80s guitar samples chopped to pieces and fed through a grinder of reflective percussion claps, a new experience fashioned from the bones of another time. A listen that’s terrifying and exhilarating and, ultimately, inspiring, Persistence Of Vision provides us with a chilling take on a modern age as viewed through the lens of a bygone era.

    As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014

  • A U R O R A
    Artist
    Ben Frost
    ReleaseProduct
    A U R O R A
    Label
    Mute
    Catalogue Number
    ISTUMM368
    Release Date
    May 2014
    Sale 9 Tracks CD DL DL

    Ben Frost – A U R O R A

    Ben Frost, born in Australia but now based in Iceland, went even further outside his comfort zone for A U R O R A. Working largely on a laptop, the bulk of the album was written in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The result is a body of work that will mine deep into the depths of a listener's psyche. Dark and powerful, it's a monster of an album, aggressive and dictatorial. Snarling drums meet iridescent synth patterns, as Frost eschews the organic creations of his earlier work, relying solely on synths and the percussion of ex-Liturgy drummer and current Guardian Alien leader Greg Fox, Swans’ Thor Harris, and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily.

    This harsher, starker sound palette is one Frost manages to play with convincingly, resulting in a spell-binding album of magnetic weight and great scope. The militaristic thrash of 'Secant' turns up awkward patterns against blissful background noise and mournful themes, while 'Diphenyl Oxalate' jars and shocks with its brute force. A haze of emotion shrouds 'No Sorrowing', its imperative directive as powerful as anything else on offer here. Metal, grindcore, minimalism, a range of different influences and ideas make themselves apparent, all drawn together with Frost's key vision, a singular approach and execution resulting in a stunning body of work.

    As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014

  • Unfidelity
    Artist
    Ekoplekz
    ReleaseProduct
    Unfidelity
    Label
    Planet Mu
    Catalogue Number
    5055300374554
    Release Date
    March 2014
    11 Tracks VL CD DL DL

    Ekoplekz – Unfidelity

    Following releases on a number of strong UK labels, including Punch Drunk and Perc Trax, Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz landed this year on the legendary Planet Mu with new album Unfidelity. It's arguably some of his best work, showcasing a distinct ability to build complex and engaging music that still sparks with experimental fervour. The muffled pads of 'Trace Elements', which give way to the bleep-riddled, drugged throb of 'Nerva Bacon' open the release, kick-starting a deep and immersive trip, layers of contorted noise and electronics weaving a hallucinatory spell.

    'Robert Rental' judders and clambers along with sludge-like bass under a hazy of noise and distant melody. 'Severn Beach' revolves magnetically, far-off sights and scents evoked in its foggy uncertainty. The scattered kicks of 'Seas 90' are pulled apart by contorted drones and otherworldly bleeps and whirs. Title track 'Unfidelity' swirls with celestial ambience, but comes littered with dub interference which keeps things darker and more earthy in flavour, while 'Pressure Level' skitters roughly, a thick dub bass-line and dubbed out guitars making for a track of unexpected rhythmic flow. The overall result is a thrillingly varied and often surprising album, one that showcases a distinctive rising talent. A success for its creator Ekoplekz and another home run for Planet Mu.

    As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014

  • Arcadia
    Artist
    Ramona Lisa
    ReleaseProduct
    Arcadia
    Label
    Pannonica
    Catalogue Number
    PAN001DIG
    Release Date
    April 2014
    11 Tracks CD DL DL

    Ramona Lisa – Arcadia

    Chairlift lead singer Caroline Polachek breaks free of her Brooklyn-based indie pop outfit to release her debut solo album Arcadia as Ramona Lisa. Focusing solely on electronic production, Polachek constructs involving and eclectic soundscapes that are complemented by her honest vocals. The album grew out of a period of artistic experimentation in Rome, and the resulting work, in her own words, falls under the category of Pastoral Electronic Music, rustic themes soundtracking personal and introspective lyrical explorations.

    Opening with a cascade of whirling synth patterns and distant organ chimes we’re plunged into the depths on ‘Arcadia’, sepulchral harmonies furnished with the spiritual leaning of Polachek’s lyrics. ‘Backwards And Upwards’ features a churning beat littered with lush synth washes and idyllic chimes. The sensuous ‘Getaway Drive’ is a gurgling bevy of bass and tapped percussion, falling somewhere between the retro homages of Johnny Jewel and the pioneering work of Giorgio Moroder. ‘Hissing Pipes At Dawn’ is onomatopoeic in the extreme, found sound meeting wistful piano meanderings, synth pads floating about in breezy wonderment. The broad strokes of 'I Love Our World' close the record with electronic drones and fizzing energy, a quiet disintegration rather than a triumphant explosion. It's safe to say that in stepping out on her own and moving beyond the familiar, Polachek has found great success in her own private Arcadia, into which we're eternally grateful for having been invited.

    As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014

  • Signals
    Artist
    Wen
    ReleaseProduct
    Signals
    Label
    Keysound
    Catalogue Number
    LDN044
    Release Date
    March 2014
    12 Tracks CD DL DL

    Wen – Signals

    Following a few singles and split releases, this year saw Owen Darby, aka Wen, drop his debut album on Dusk and Blackdown’s thriving Keysound imprint. Grimey melancholy meets static urgency on Signals, an album that picks up where Logos left off with 2013’s Cold Mission. Instrumental grime is the order of the day, yes, but Wen chops up vocal samples like most people do dinner, peppering his tracks with simple phrasing and repeated mantras in thrilling fashion.

    ‘Galactic’ sees him attempt to soundtrack a sci-fi horror starring the kids of the London underground as they visit the bright lights of Tokyo, while ‘Lunar’, featuring Blackdown, is all heavy basslines and eerie string patterns. ‘Persian’, as its title might suggest, is riven with middle-eastern melodies, exuberant percussive claps riding through while deep, sinister basslines pulse through to the listeners very core. ‘Play Your Corner’ features the rollicking vocals of Riko, spitting fire over more horror-laden strings, while it all comes to a conclusion with disembodied Bollywood vocals over haunting bells and the broken line of a solitary MC. All this terror and dread could just be a conceit, but the album is no less entertaining or danceable because of it. This is an album as involving as it is built to make a party move. For an artist so young, this shows great promise. Let’s hope there's more to come.

    As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014

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