Electronic-Dance

Epoch (CD)

Is Tycho's Epoch the ambient feel-good album of the year? Are those words mutually exclusive? After giving Epoch a spin, it's clear that Tycho main dude Scott Hansen has created a vibrant, evocative work that's simultaneously vivid and alive and very, very chill. The San Francisco producer's beats and smooth production style are epic, conjuring whole worlds before effortlessly segueing into the next step of the journey. A very relaxed toe-tapper of a record.

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Reflection (CD)

At 68, Brian Eno constantly takes incredible leaps and new experimental risks with every album. It only makes sense that one of the godfathers of electronic music has been making some of his most forward-looking music since signing to the similarly forward-looking Warp Records. The Ship's structure was somewhere between dream pop and ambient poem and his collaborations with Underworld's Karl Hyde recalled the Afro-future sound of his experiments with David Byrne. Reflection continues his fascination with sculpting ambient music in surprising ways that feel like a completely different experience with each album. His previous ambient albums were created through various methods including tape loops, manipulation, and computers or through his famous "Oblique Strategies" cards. Reflection is the recorded version of his new ambient music and visual app for iOS and AppleTV that creates a constant stream of sound and sonic serenity. This version made for CD and vinyl represents one of the possibilities the app can create through various algorithms. This is all very heady and out-there stuff for one of the most peaceful and meditative albums in recent years. Unlike some of his prior ambient works that required you to almost not listen and to let it create an acoustic soundscape for you to inhabit, Reflection has a thicker, heavier sound that is like a thunderous wall of organ ambiance. It shifts somewhere between computerized drone and church organ as the heavy bass creates a zone of clear thoughts and angelic sound. It's anti-chaos that can make you stop and really calm down in our increasingly insane world. After the dire nightmare that was 2016, it's wonderful to have the first major album of the year be as contemplative and relaxing a listen as this.

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Dim Mak 20th Anniversary (CD)

Steve Aoki’s homegrown LA record label reaches the two decade mark this year, and to celebrate they’ve put out a comprehensive retrospective featuring 20 of their most seminal releases. Dim Mak first made its mark in the 2000s, releasing essential material from indie bands who would go on to immense success, such as Bloc Party and The Kills. They later positioned themselves at a forefront of the burgeoning EDM scene, as reflected in the album’s opening cut, the now-ubiquitous “Warp” by the Bloody Beetroots. Dim Mak’s eclectic approach is displayed in Aoki’s selections; this compilation pulls from a diverse pallet of sounds and attitudes, but congeals around its shared mission of releasing music that is energetic and impossible to ignore.

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The Colour In Anything (CD)

English songwriter/producer James Blake’s latest LP is contemplative, lush, and lovely. His melancholic, velvety voice rises and falls over textured, rich soundscapes inspired by gospel, R&B, garage, and Burial-style dubstep. Blake has always been the master of his own unique brand of intelligent, emotional electronica, but this time he’s brought a few interesting collaborators into the mix, namely Frank Ocean, Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver), Connan Mockasin, and Rick Rubin, who co-produced seven of the tracks. The overall effect is vivid, but it’s not necessarily easy listening; The Colour in Anything is a cathartic, sometimes achingly vulnerable statement on lost love, healing, and self-discovery.

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Slow Knife (CD)

Slow Knife, Kuedo’s second full-length album, provides an atmospherically icy synth soundtrack to a non-existent film. Although the film may be an invention, the imagery conjured by Kuedo’s electro sorcery is vividly suspenseful as it follows hunted prey through perilous night terrain. At times the music is dark enough to incorporate hints of occult knowledge just beyond the shadows. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Kuedo admits the album is inspired by the soundtracks for Manhunter, Angel Heart, and Night of the Hunter, as well as by the moody and esoteric TV series True Detective. A few surprise guests appear within the universe of Slow Knife, including Hayden Thorpe from the British indie band Wild Beasts, whose vocals are diffused into the spooky tapestry of layered sound on “In Your Sleep.” Also, listen for sound designer Koenraad Ecker’s chill-inducing cello on the most experimental of Slow Knife’s tracks, “Broken Fox - Black Hole.”

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Woman (CD)

French electronic duo Justice are back with another ‘80s funk, house, and disco-inspired album guaranteed to put a smile on your face and your feet on the dance floor. Woman is vibrant, alive, and glittering; it’s a tribute to the power of dance music to improve our lives. “Safe and Sound” is shimmering with an uplifting disco diva chorus. “Alakazam!” is propulsive and hypnotic, and “Randy” is a throwback to the French Touch scene of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. This is life-affirming, hands-in-the-air electronic music. Do something good for yourself and turn it up loud.

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Days Gone By (CD)

Using organic instrumentation mixed with electronic production, Bob Moses draw on the two poles to vividly resonate across both. Alternating between dancefloor burners and moments of reflective repose, Days Gone By weaves a rich spectrum of sensation over the course of its ten tracks.

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99.9% (CD)

Kaytranada's long anticipated debut release, 99.9%, is a perfect blend of soul, funk, and electronic jams. He is well known for his reworks of R&B joints like Janet Jackson's "If" and Teedra Moses' "Be Your Girl," but his original creations on this effort will get him in well with the people who weren't aware of his eclectic sound, and it gives those who already know his vibe more of what they've been loving. The album features vocals and appearances from some of the urban alternative scene's brightest stars, including Anderson Paak, Alunageorge, Badbadnotgood, Karriem Riggins, Syd Bennett, Little Dragon, Phonte and more.

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