It's been an incredible time for new music across the board, as we approach the end of 2021 we take a look back at some of our favourite releases from this year. Providing us sonic escapism, a place to reflect and a place to dance.
Our album of the year comes from Koreless. After a decade of growth, Koreless hits home with Agor, a stunning debut LP full of arpeggiated restlessness and soundscape vistas which seem to stretch over the horizon. A work of true beauty.
Warp’s Squid offer us blistering noise onslaughts, lashings of funk and jazz, garbled non-sequiturs, niche 16th century instruments and a hive of bees combined to make a crown jewel of the new freak scene. The kids aren’t coming up from behind anymore — they’re miles out in front.
Joining them on the vanguard we have John Glacier who across her 25-minute mixtape/album, rides over inspired production by the similarly star-bound Vegyn, riffing on everything from slave rebellions to digital ghosting with flow-switching raps.
The 3 way collaboration between Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra. Promises was anointed pretty much straight out the gate as a masterpiece. Hearing this transcendental performance patiently pacing before breaking loose with expressive freedom, is all the more a pleasure.
Eli Keszler presents his solo full length Icons, sees the dexterous percussionist evoke the mood of watching raindrops slide down the window while gazing out at a deserted city that might never be coming back as before. It’s a modern retelling of fourth world jazz — or, perhaps, no world at all.
Mike Paradinas brings us the first solo work created under his µ-Ziq alias since 2013. Scurlage is quite simply a victory lap thrown down by a singular producer, featuring the signature emotive melodies conjured from soft synths and scuttling drums. This is the µ-Ziq sound rebooted and retooled to both satiate a classic audience and greet a new one.
Alongside all this, composer Maxwell Sterling's debut flush on the label arrived in springtime, seemingly timed for the green shoots of global recovery. It hasn’t stopped captivating since. There’s a sense of memory slippage to this LP; somewhat baroque in tone — exceedingly ornate and yet mysteriously melancholic — timbres and melodies collide and combust, simultaneously recalling both electronic-avant-garde approaches and the holy music of the ancients, composed in decaying, cryptic manuscripts.
Meanwhile, the jubilant Hiatus Kaiyote brought us “Mood Valiant” an album which shines with irrepressible unity and a palpable cheer. For most of the dozen songs here, Hiatus Kaiyote paints in brushstrokes of Rhodes piano, warm instrumentation, and steady percussion which has the capacity to explode at a moment’s notice.
Eris Drew seems like she’s been a mainstay of electronic music for much longer than she has, but the DJ-divinations of Chicago’s former best-kept secret have now reached a wider audience than anyone might have predicted. The faintest amount of exposure quickly explains why. As far as a leading shaman for the current generation goes, Eris can’t be beat. Quivering In Time articulates why: by tapping into and nurturing dance music’s roots, she allows a vibrant new branch to grow.
Lastly, but by no means least, Copenhagen duo Smerz’ artistic gestation over the past few years has resulted in a hybridised style of R&B harmonies, full-throttle club beats and ornate orchestral flourish. All this adds up to “Believer”, one of the most original albums we heard all 2021.
For some, music can be a way to escape our reality and to turn on, tune in and drop out, but for others, it is a medium to provoke, educate, and turn up. Whatever you need from your listening experience, we hope that you can find something rewarding in these albums and enjoy them as much as we do.