This is generally the time for halfway-point albums of the year, but let’s not panic yet, and stick to the standout tracks of June 2018. Oneohtrix Point Never, Nine Inch Nails, Freddie Gibbs and Death Grips could’ve well been in that list, and might even be left standing at the end of the year.
Until then, take your pick from abstract electronics, techno, light and dark ambient, noise, bluesy black metal and the weirdest Springsteen ‘tribute’ you’ll ever hear.
1. Eartheater C.L.I.T. (from IRISIRI LP)
No laughing at the back – it stands for Curiosity Liberates Infinite Truth, and it’s a stand-out on Eartheater’s third album IRISIRI. Producer Alexandra Drewchin says it’s a manifesto for her whole Eartheater project and a nervy, discordant call to arms hanging together with shattered synth collages and Drewchin wailing, “Yeah, I rejected that culture.”
2. Born In Flamez – Symphony of Tinder Hacks (Impossible Love EP)
Berlin-based Born in Flamez creates nano-tooled electronic psychedelia that’s somewhere between glistening vaporwave and the abstract fissures of M.E.S.H., Elysia Crampton or Fatima al Qadiri. The elegant harp-like breakdown in this track is maybe the highlight of the whole album.
3. Creep Woland – Nasty-Luv (Magus Trilogy Pt II)
There’s only two words on Creep Woland’s Bandcamp bio: “Glasgow. Overcast,” and he shared a track a few months ago called Rain All Summer. How’s that forecast working out, m8? But while he’s put out some some cloudy ambience on Facebook, the Magus Trilogy and the previous EP series Intersectionality Inc I-III let plenty of light in. Nasty-Luv sounds like Frankie Knuckles’ Your Love trapped in a misty 2-step prism, delicate and melancholy in all the right ways. I say ‘he’, but Creep Woland is generally pictured in silhouette with a hood up, so who knows.
4. Oneohtrix Point Never – We’ll Take It (Age Of LP)
Daniel Lopatin’s new album initially feels like his most disorientating mission statement, switching from serene ambience to medieval harpsichord experiments and blissed-out dream-pop on Babylon with ANOHNI. We’ll Take It is one of the darkest turns on the LP, with its ominous mechanical tick-tock, sheet metal slices and garbled vocal samples.
5. Raime – Our Valleys Are Always Uncanny (Am I Using Content Or Is Content Using Me? LP)
I remember going to a seated Raime gig a few years ago, afraid to move a muscle or dart a gaze away from their slowly unravelling projections in case I missed a bit. The English production duo have never been about the dancefloor, but rather a brutalist ambient unspooling of the senses. Their new EP is a big departure though, with pitter-patter tribal time signatures, disembodied synths and vocal samples – and a sense that you could move to this alright.
6. Transllusion – Moment 2 (A Moment of Insanity EP)
Moment 2 is one of the straight-up grooviest cuts in the wider Drexciyan universe. A Moment of Insanity is a new EP of four tracks rescued from the late James Stinson’s vaults, released as part of Clone’s outlier Aqualung Series. Moment 2 sounds like a cut from Drexciya’s Harnessed the Storm retooled for an old school electro set, with all the intricate details you’d expect weaving between the beats.
7. Afrodeutsche – Blanket Ban (from Break Before Make LP)
It’s not very often you hear music that actually sounds like Drexciya, but this Afrodeutsche album taps into a few tropes from the Drexciyan extended family tree. The aquatic slithers on Work It and the Arpanet-style electro do some heavy lifting, but the Dopplereffekt wireframe sci-fi synths on Blanket Ban are the most addictive.
8. Proc Fiskal – Apple Juice (Insular)
In a recent interview with the Wire, Proc Fiskal aka Edinburgh producer Joe Power said he’s out to “confuse people and fuck up with your nostalgic brain… I reckon nostalgia is killing us all”. He’s described as ‘post-grime’ in the piece (are we really there yet?) and there’s very little else on his wavelength – with the album a hyper collage of dance music signifiers and sneaky field recordings of his mates.
9. Lynch Kingsley – Echosystem
Italian producer Lynch Kingsley is making sure Irish label Rua Sound is once again a go-to label for shape-shifting modern drum & bass. This EP has one skanking backfoot in classic sounds, though, with dub dread, ragga toasting and copious echo chamber rabbit holes all through it. Echosystem is probably the standout, with the kind of shattered crystal sonic details usually applied by the likes of Logos and Visionist.
10. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – Freeee
Billed as a companion piece to Ghost Town on Kanye West’s patchy-at-best rush-job album Ye, Freeee (By Kanye and Kid Cudi as KIDS SEE GHOSTS) is the most triumphant piece of music to come out of West’s Wyoming sessions so far. Riffing on 070 Shake’s lines from Ghost Town, the chorus of “Guess what baby, I feel Freeeeeee” is as defiant and uplifting as any of Kanye’s most transcendent moments.
11. Freddie Gibbs – Automatic (Freddie LP)
Indiana gangsta rapper Freddie Gibbs isn’t hanging around these days – Freddie is 10 tracks over 24 minutes and follows last year’s half-hour album You Only Live 2wice. Automatic is a gut-punch rumbling trap belter.
12. Death Grips – Death Grips Is Online (Year of the Snitch LP)
The intro to Death Grips Is Online is the most they’ve sounded like ‘a band’ in years, with its major chord guitar fuzz hinting at catchy alt-rock. Give them a minute though – it soon weaves itself into old school electro, dense industrial hip-hop and noise, and the rest of the album chucks hardcore punk, twisted free jazz, 8-bit smithereens and MC Ride’s ultraviolent non sequiturs at you.
13. Roger Eno – Gliding Albatross (Dust of Stars LP)
If you’re gonna call an ambient track Gliding Albatross you better live up to the title, and the other Eno doesn’t fuck it up here. Brian’s younger brother has just released an album of piano-led proggy new age ambience that’ll never be in or out of fashion, but just totally works.
14. Gruth – Laments
Gruth aka Finnish producer Juha Puuperä follows his brilliant EP Futile Demise on experimental Brazilian label Tormenta Electrica with 50 minutes of ritual ambient occultism that’ll put you off going into the woods for life. Lament I hangs on violin from his Futile Demise collaborator KuJo, while Lament II roots you to the spot with Orthodox church organs and a time-stretched choir that feels like a Tim Hecker fever dream.
15. LB Dub Corp – Reel One (Side Effects LP)
Luke Slater’s second LP as LB Dub Corp feels a little bit looser and psychedelic than his austere techno as Planetary Assault Systems. Side Effects has jazzy piano, breaks and mid-tempo jams among the fizzing 4/4, and Reel One is a prime cut, with its 90s Plastikman beat patterns and acid house liquid bassline.
16. Blawan – Vented (Wet Will Always Be Dry LP)
UK producer Blawan has been a modern techno innovator for the best part of a decade, so it’s kinda odd that the standout track on his long-awaited debut album initially sounds like it should be on Jeff Mills’ 1990s Purpose Maker series. But underneath the route 1 techno brutalism there’s a dark ambient shift in tone that pulls you down further.
17. Nine Inch Nails – Shit Mirror (Bad Witch LP)
Shit Mirror already feels like it’ll be a future NIN live belter – three minutes of lo-fi guitar buzz, metallic clanging, handclaps and over-processed sax skronks. Bad Witch follows the EPs Not the Actual Events and Add Violence, and the three together form Trent Reznor’s best run of releases since the 90s, with Blackstar dark jazz, techno and breakbeat jostling with his usual noise and industrial nihilism. “New world, new times, mutation, feels alright.” Indeed.
18. Zeal & Ardor – Don’t You Dare (Stranger Fruit LP)
Zeal & Ardor’s second album Stranger Fruit is lacking the surprise wtf effect of hearing black metal mixed with old slave spirituals and chain gang chants, but this is still a hell of a potent blitz. I’ve vivid memories of them playing this at Eurosonic in January, lined up chanting “Don’t you dare look away… BOY,” before Groningen’s Vera venue got battered from all sides by a blastbeat swarm.
19. Uniform and The Body – Dead River (Mental Wounds Not Healing LP)
Uniform frontman Michael Berdan teamed up with The Body on their recent album I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer, wringing every last bit of blunt force trauma out of the tracks Partly Alive and Sickly Heart of Sand. The bands’ new collaboration is as brutal, grim and uncompromising as promised, and Dead River kicks things off in festering, overdriven squalor.
20. Carz Will Burn – Talk About a Dream, Try To Make It Real (Into Pure Fantasy LP)
Born Down In a Dead Man’s Town; You Ain’t a Beauty But Hey You’re Alright; I Get Up In the Evening But I Ain’t Got Nothing To Say… the most casual Springsteen fan will recognise some of the Boss’s most iconic lines, even if this is the oddest ‘tribute’ I’ve ever come across. Beyond the track titles, Carz Will Burn doesn’t share anything else with Springsteen – this is all overdriven grating noise that’ll test your nerve endings.
21. PARSA – a6 (Gestalt LP)
“This music was placed in a vacuum chamber with electrically heated nichrome coils that can evaporate sound,” goes the blurb on the FLUF label mail-out, which is always good for some self-effacing avant-garde shit talk to go along with the outlier electronic music. Irish producer Sunken Foal recently tweeted that he went for an MRI and it sounded like something on FLUF, so you’ve a good idea you’re not in for a “dancefloor tool”. Gestalt’s distorted abstractions could be the the release that’s on the outer limits of experimentalism on the label, which really is saying something.