Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Favourite Music Releases of 2011

For me it's been a transitional year for music, at least in terms of the artists and genres that I'm drawn to listen to. My playlists have been dominated by single releases and mixes, as such not reflecting the dominance of albums or any singular direction of sound. This is no bad thing; in fact, I find it exciting in the fact that it preempts things to come on the near horizon. Even so, within this stew of music on the move there have still been a number of noteworthy releases.

In no particular order, here are my favourites from 2011... Watch out for updates of anything I've forgotten

Released a few weeks ago, this is the first half of a 4-part vinyl set. These initial releases are named Chrysanthe and Violetta, with the following Rose and Iris expected in early 2012. The familiar sound of rich and darkly ambient tracks are always a hauntological treat

Hyetal's debut album reflects many of the avenues that are emerging in the 'post-dubstep' arena. Some of my favourite tracks encompass a sound not unlike Vangelis's Blade Runner in collision with 80s synths and Knight Rider. Even so, this is definitely reinvented and new

Kuedo is none other than Jamie Teasdale, better known as one half of the mighty Vex'd. Whereas his counterpart Roly Porter's debut for 2011 Aftertime is a dark collection of ambient noise and experimental electronica, Kuedo's direction is clearly more melodic and rooted in the 'post-dubstep' camp. This is top quality music full of exciting ideas and precision. Definitely one of the top releases of the year

This is the 20th anniversary reissue of the SKA001 limited 12”, including additional tracks not available on the original release. Over an hour’s worth of innovative Autechre from 1991, sounding as if it had been recorded yesterday

Yep, more 'post-dubstep' and a damn fine album from Martyn

The mysterious Old Apparatus launched this year with two fantastic releases, complete with an instantly recognisable auditory and visual aesthetic. Check out their website for free mix downloads that promise more exciting things for 2012

I love this album. It's full of sounds and that collide in fresh and exciting patterns, combining elements of electronica, beats, ambient, abstract, psychedelia... Three remix EPs are available to download for free from Patten's Soundcloud, and his recent live set for Boiler Room was mesmerising (even if many of the listeners at the time didn't seem to 'get it')

This is a must-have for any fan of Richie Hawtin, techno, acid, or quality IDM. The unique sound of Plastikman that he described as sounding like music from inside a speaker has finally been remastered and brought together in a single collection. Available on both vinyl and digital formats, this is pure chemical music

This debut album from Sandwell District is more or less a digital release of their 2010 vinyl Feed-Forward. Sandwell District as both a recording artist and label are responsible for some of the most minimal and hypnotic techno releases over the past few years. Their aesthetic is stripped back to bare essentials, with some of the label's releases devoid of track titles or credits. Interestingly, yesterday's Tumblr post announced that from today the label will be focusing upon live performances rather than vinyl releases, as well as alternative creative outputs

The ever-talented J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr fame finally released his first solo album this year, comprising mainly of acoustic tracks. As ever, this album proves why he is one of the best guitarists and songwriters out there. Beautiful, emotive and timeless

This year has been surprising quiet for Aaron Funk, considering that he is usually known for his prolific musical output. Any new Venetian Snares' release is welcome, so these crazily titled four tracks of typically experimental beats are a fitting reminder that he's still out there in more ways than one

David Barnard's debut album on Rephlex is treat for anyone still awaiting the long overdue return of Aphex Twin. Quality production and sequencing, and a sound reminiscent of AFX's Analord releases, the mystery of Monolith has had many conspirators suggesting that this is Richard D James himself. Whatever the case, this is great music

The rebirth of Travis Stewart on Planet Mu has given him the opportunity to explore much of what is current on the cutting edge of the electronic scene. Rich layers and wonky sequences of vocal samples and sounds echo a variety of inspiration sources from his many years of experience on the scene

I almost forgot to include this album because it feels like it's been in my playlist for longer than a year. One of my surprise finds at release, this has rightly garnered praise and honourable mentions throughout 2011. Listening to this album is pure bliss - lo-fi and psychedelic with some warm undertones of bass and dub. Lovely

And the accolade for my favourite release of the year goes to this. Limited to 1000 vinyl copies, these two 12+ minute tracks are absolutely stunning, and in my opinion the best that Burial has ever recorded. Due to its rarity, upon release fans were up in arms at ever being able to own a copy. I eventually tracked down a decent digital transfer here if you want to have a listen. Burial also released Street Halo this year, which also ranks as another favourite for 2011 

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