Steven Julien – Fallen
Steven Julien’s Fallen has appeared in many lists of the best albums of 2016, and there is a feeling it originally went under the radar. Listening carefully one can hear elements of hip-hop and the sounds of Detroit, although stylistically it is difficult to pin down, and the LP feels original. Commentators have noted it as a concept album, detailing the journey of fallen angel. Certainly, the album has its contrasts with tracks such as the soulful Carousel and the triumphant Kingdom juxtaposed against tracks such as the raw Jedi and ragged Reficul. The LP bears a certain similarity to Actress’ R.I.P. that borrows the themes of John Milton’s Paradise lost. Regardless, the music is great and is our record of the week.
I Hate Models – Warehouse Memories
It has been a strong year for the label Arts with numerous releases and some stand out EPs. The label is distinctive for its basement techno with a melodic twist and usually releases four track EP’s, often with remixes, sometimes by the label head Emmanuel. I Hate Models’ Warehouse Memories has been warmly received with its sensational Daydream. The track is simply ruthless, driven by pounding kicks and aggressive percussion with atmospheric synths and acid bassline that complement each other perfectly. Also worthy of note is the emotional Shades in Night with its swirling synth and its melancholic vocal.
Shlomo – The Rapture
This time releasing on the sister label Arts Collective, Shlomo’s The Rapture was another high point for the label with two slammin’ remixes. The EP starts with the title track that is notable for its otherworldly crescendo, however its Inigo Kennedy’s remix that is the star of the show. Inigo takes the song onto another astral plane, reusing the same crescendo to form an exquisite bridge, straightjacketed by heavy modulated percussion. On the B side, there is a remix from Emmanuel that is distinctive as a homage to the trance classics of yesteryear.
Janeret / Romar – Outerspace
Centred on the store, distributor and label Yoyaku, the French tech-house scene has underwent a renaissance with the emergence of such artists as Janeret and Varhat. This October, Janeret teamed up with the Swiss producer Romar on the label RORA for a four track EP titled Outerspace. Not dissimilar to his earlier EP Midnight Soul, Janeret’s tracks utilise lush pads to achieve an atmospheric sound. The two artists supplement each other very well and their tracks sound very similar with Romar’s slightly more minimal.
Calibre – Glow
Drum and Bass stalwart Calibre decided to step away from his genre this year to jump on Craig Richards’ label the Nothing Special. Split across four records, the LP explores many of the sounds of post-dubstep that have been largely abandoned by other producers, and ends with two downtempo tracks. The album does feel antiquated, but remains enjoyable throughout due to producer’s patience as a composer and the fact the tracks work well together.
Ground Tactics – Dawn of City Lights
Released in situ with the label LumieresLaNuit’s second birthday, Ground Tactics’ Dawn of City Lights is a beguiling concept album with its interesting soundscapes. The label describes the LP as “devoted to reaching new music horizons and emotions through an experiment (utilising) structures and harmonies” and each track aims to replicate a certain phenomenon experienced by the mind. This perhaps works the best for the track Burning Moon that seeks to describe a night under the full moon in the wilderness. Notwithstanding these descriptions, the music is intricate and highly enjoyable to listen to and we recommend you check it out yourself.
Dj Xanex – EDR004
Despite appearing to be another meme-house record, Deejay Xanex’s EDR004 is a tense breakbeat record that remains highly listenable. With the exception of the last track, the tracks follow the same formula with the breaks prominent and pads emerging from below, although they each sound different. Every track is enjoyable and the highlight of the EP is the neurotic [Gone (Mix)].
Grant – Cranks
Releasing on Lobster Theremin’s sub-label Mork, Grant’s Cranks is a thoughtful LP of nostalgic house tracks. The album as a whole is worth more than the sum of its parts, and it is easy to be captivated – the experience reminiscent of much of The Caretaker’s recent output. As the LP unfolds, the artist hits you with the different production niches that makes house music so enjoyable. The opener Mainstream Belief includes a monologue of the humanitarian aspect to rave, the track Bend adds breaks into the mix, Contemporary Reality a punchy kick, and so on. If there is a highlight to the album, it must be Around the Edge. The track building before exploding into life with the commanding vocal “I get down”. Like most great albums, the tracks feel to be in the right order and the outro of Cliché, Social Standards and Frame of Mind provide a touching end to the experience.
Sw. – Untitled
Stefan Wust has been releasing music under his SW. alias since 2011, but it is only now he decided to drop an album. Releasing on SUED – the label he runs with SVN – the LP changes in temperament throughout and doesn’t feel very cohesive, despite the fact it ends with the same ambient synth pattern that it starts. One can expect to hear African-style polyrhythms, downtempo, tech-house, electro, elements of disco and breaks. There are still many good moments here, however this doesn’t detract from the fact he is not at his usual best.
Octal Industries vs Ohm – Sedna
Running since 1997, Thule Iceland announced their return in 2016 with a repress of Thor’s 1998 record T1/T2 along with two new releases. One of these was Sedna by Octal Industries vs Ohm that has largely went under the radar. Comprising of four tracks, one can really sense the three producers the top of their game and unlike much of dub techno the songs are groovy and perform well on a sound system.