Best Electronic Albums of 2014 Handpicked by Matt, Jordan & Oliver

Posted by Oliver / Matt / Jordan, December 18, 2014 09:05am | Post a Comment

Moodymann - Moodymann (Mahogani Music)

Moodymann is a sprawling, psychic journey through KDJ's Detroit State of Mind with the protagonist revealing more about his setting and personality than ever. Like good writing, the length of Moody's tracks (or sentences) fluctuate wildly. The constant sing-speak narrative from KDJ and divergence of styles and tempos makes the record feel like a trip down the dial of a liminal radio. Moody gets an assist from Andres on future classic "Lyk U Used 2," a track that has Kenny ably playing a slightly woozy frontman over upbeat modern soul. The radio effect is amplified by likely and unlikely samples. Jeremy Greenspan appears first on "Have You Ever Been Lonely." Elsewhere, Lana Del Rey and Carl Craig's epic remix of "Delia and Gavin" is used to bear out the album's distinct, schizoid voice. Moody's serpentine 2011 hit "Freeki MF" acts as a recurring riddim before appearing in unadulterated form. KDJ's female counterparts match his idiosyncracies ("Watching U") and he even dabbles in Dennis Coffey-informed guitar psychedelia on "Sloppy Cosmic." The album, as a whole, is a lovesick ode to an unfairly maligned city, seen through the dark glasses of experience.

Joey Anderson - After Forever (Dekmantel) 

Loosely affiliated with the NYC crew which includes Fred P and DJ Qu, this was the year for the New Jersey building inspector and leftfield house extraordinaire. Most producers attempt to make an album that "flows" together with a solid mix of short, long, ambient and dancefloor cuts. After Forever is so memorable because it dispenses with this rulebook altogether, luxuriously spreading the wings of its own twisted logic. On the LP, nothing is at it seems. "It's A Choice" takes a worried vocal sample and lays it on an equally foreboding atmosphere. "Sorcery" is the closest thing the record has to a club track, but of course it's subverted. The convincing lead and bassline are frayed by some hyperreal percussive elements and cluster piano, like a corroded-VHS recording of a spinning top, barely hanging on in a bizarre and dramatic balancing act.

Kassem Mosse - Workshop 19 (Workshop)

Gunnar Wendel has been operating for some time now like an EU version of Omar S, quietly releasing remarkably consistent sides for Workshop. With that said, the nondescript black packaging for Workshop 19 housed one of the most anticipated releases of the year. KM's double-LP lived up to the hype, offering the absolute best in psychedelic mid-tempo house. The record starts gently, with the first untitled track focusing a nonchalant Rhodes figure and Mosse's trademark shuffling percussion. The songs are patient and hypnotic, constantly shifting, but the b-side in particular drops the hammer with some dubby, melodic future house classics. Bits of acid, Detroit, and the euro masters go in, but in the end, this pleasantly disorienting sound is all his.

Edward - Into A Better Future (Giegling)

The Giegling crew was on fire this year, with mainstays Edward and Traumprinz leading the charge. While the latter opted for ethereal dancefloor EPs, Edward, aka Gilles Aiken, presented his most realized work to date: an album which subtly intertwined krautrock influences with heady techno and house. As such, Aiken felt free to integrate motorik guitars and speak-sung vocals on "Let's Go," but by the end of the record he's dropping ecstatic funk breaks ("Skating Beats") and deadly breakbeats ("Hecstatic"). Into A Better Future is a portrait of a curious producer at the top of his game. The question isn't whether he'll continue to push it, but in which direction.

Mura Oka - Autfakt (Latency)

Just as winter approaches (for those of you on the East Coast), Latency pops up with an album perfect for shorter days, colder nights. This is deep dub techno, a paradoxical mix of humanity and cold alienation, just like the uncanny valley figure on the cover. Mura Oka prefers the slow burn--nary an assault on the eardrums here. Rather, tracks like "990933" poke around the edges of the dancefloor, perfect for the beginning of the night or a subway car zone out. Later, on "Xqdel Eit" and elsewhere, some subtle IDM moves work themselves in, the latest portent of an impending revival.

Juju & Jordash - Clean Cut (Dekmantel)

Hardware aficionados Juju & Jordash return to Dekmantel with their 3rd LP. The duo say that "Clean-Cut is tighter, more honest and there’s less hiding behind a hazy screen of FX." The album is a rollercoaster of tempos and experimentation, but somehow very coherent. The attention to detail in the arrangement and production really shines through and it's quite a journey through their marshland of machine funk.

Roman Fluegel - Happiness Is Happening (Dial) 

The stately Dial sound has been in need of an update for a little while now, and who better to revamp it than the massively talented Roman Flugel. The concept here seems to be accepting happiness, a tall order for an artist and really, anyone living through these dark times. Flugel presents a salve in mannered, playful krauthouse. "Tense Times" updates the Kraftwerk autobahn sound for today's dancefloors, while album highlight "We Have A Nice Life" rides wild leads over peaceful pads. Who says great art has to come from a place of oppression or sadness? For those going through tough times, Happiness... serves as a lovely escape.

Todd Terje - It's Album Time (Olsen) 

It was Terje Olsen's game to lose on Album Time. Naysayers complained that the sprawling prog-disco opus lacked functionality, but what would you expect from a guy who obviously holds Chaka Khan and Quincy Jones in higher regard than any modern producer. This is a capital A album, and it's better for that. The intro is a virtuosic and cheeky triumph, the hits "Inspecter Norse" and "Strandbar" appear in unedited glory, and Bryan Ferry stops in for a midnight ballad. What can't this dude do?

Cloudface - Wyre Drive LP (Going Good) / Untitled LP (Black Opal)

First released in 2012 as a very limited cassette, this eight track mini-album brought the Vancouver-based Mood Hut collective to the attention of the weirdo-dance underground. A mix of home-brewed hardware house experiments and Selected Ambient Works-period Aphex Twin.

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Todd Terje (10), Roman Fluegel (1), Juju & Jordash (4), Mura Oka (1), Giegling (1), Edward (1), Kassem Mosse (4), Joey Anderson (2), Moodymann (6), Cloudface (1), Best Of 2014 (20), Lists (63)