You can say what you like about 2020 but for albums it will forver go down as a certified vintage. With lockdown spawning a lot more post-dancefloor experimentalism in the studio, there’s a chance 2021 will be even better for LPs. It’ll be hard to top these, though. As picked by the UKF editorial team…
Alix Perez – Without End (1985 Music)
This one might be a bit cheeky, considering Alix Perez called Without End a ‘mini LP’, but it gains a top spot for me because of the sheer quality we are given in eight tracks. This man never fails. This body of work is just as mouth wateringly soulful as we expected, with Perez providing the classic dark sound that he is known for. Without End is easy listening for those lockdown days when you need a pick me up, but we know that each and every tune on this LP would create some serious vibes in a club.
As his biggest project in recent years, we expected Perez to come through with a bang. Luckily, he didn’t disappoint. Liam Bailey’s input is a real treat too – his vocals bring out the best in the soulful motions of the minimal beats. Lost & Proud is an absolute tune by itself and represents the very best of drum and bass. (Hannah Gowen)
BCee & Charlotte Haining – Life As We Know It (Spearhead)
This collaborative album embodies much of what I think of when I reminisce on 2020. Life As We Know It is emotional and unforgettable. Charlotte Haining’s vocals are familiar and incredible, but her lyrics on this project are some of the rawest we have heard in drum and bass. BCee once again provides us with uplifting and soulful liquid that takes us on a journey, carrying us through stories of love, loss and personal growth.
In hard times, this album has acted as a source of comfort for me. The best way to judge a good LP is whether you can listen from start to finish without skipping, which is something that can easily be said for this one. With so many albums blessing our ears each year, picking favourites is one hell of a task. BCee and Charlotte Haining simply have to get a mention from me because of the passion and feel-good factor with every listen. Not to mention the impressive list of features including Etherwood, DRS and Logistics, which really sweeten things up even more. (Hannah Gowen)
Degs – Letters From Ndegwa (Hospital Records)
When thinking back through the albums that graced D&B this year, Letters From Ndegwa is one that sprung to mind straight away. It came at such a fragile time for the world when we had just been plunged into lockdown, feeling anxious about the road ahead, and it shone a ray of light through the dark cloud looming over. I’m sure I speak for many others when I say this album provided me with so much joy! From the meaningful messages, to the beautiful melodies, Letters From Ndegwa is an absolute masterpiece summing up just how far Degs has come as an artist. I have absolutely rinsed Trade Places with LSB & Pheobe Freya since the release. Still waiting for the day I hear this at Hospitality on The Beach… What a magical tune. (Jake Hirst)
Friske – A Different Perspective (Metalheadz)
Released on Metalheadz, Friske stood out this year with his impressive 16 track debut album A Different Perspective. Friske is known for his unique sound heavily influenced from music outside of the drum and bass genre; incorporating his earlier B-boy and hip-hop influences into the junglist sound. And it’s clear to see Friske’s individualism on an album which doesn’t heed the current trends in D&B. Some of the tracks are a little slower, a nod to the roots of the original dnb 90s sound. Others are more steppy, due to the fantastic rhythms Friske conjures through masterfully chopped breaks. No massive buildups await you, which is very refreshing somehow; roll back on the drops and the tunes just breathe.
Though it wouldn’t really be a Metalheadz fit if the album didn’t bring those moodier underground vibes that simultaneously sound futuristic and familiar; check out A Different Perspective for Friske’s gnarlier, darker offerings. (Liohness)
GLXY – Research & Development (Shogun Audio)
A first-time album and a long time in the making, GLXY’s Research & Development showcases the expanse of the duo’s musical ability. The 14 track LP was released on Shogun earlier this year, and features collaborations from vocal artists Anastasia and Submotion Orchestra’s Ruby Wood.
The album is no stranger to a random vocal sample. In Rapture we hear a snippet of the 2017 Shogun Christmas party, and The LP Track features the voices of DJ Friction and Bringa from Klax recorded during a spontaneous tipsy studio session.
Perhaps the real strength to Research & Development is the feeling that there’s something for everyone, with an incredibly high standard of production across the board. (Martha Bolton)
In:Most – Voyager (Soulvent)
For their debut album, In:Most have teamed up with Soulvent Records to create a glitchy, melancholic and ambient fusion of genres. With pockets of liquid, dancefloor, garage and more, the album caters for a wide audience.
Standout tracks include Ember; a collaboration with Walk:r and Carasel, and Scuba – a beautifully melodic garage track. (Martha Bolton)
Juic-e – Juic-e (Juic-e)
To get a fresh sound from a genre that has been around for as long as jungle has, longer than some ravers have been alive, is quite a statement. However, in August we were treated to a self-titled LP from Juic-e that did exactly that. In a time where crisp and clean sound design has become increasingly important, it’s refreshing to hear raw, classic rave vibes across various BPM’s. The debut album is a 360 degree insight into the rave sound of the 90’s with the common thread across the 11 tracks being the use of breaks, as the LP is filled with catchy vocal samples, cinematic atmospherics and dusty but punchy drums. With the album being a pleasant surprise from an unfamiliar name, hopefully 2021 sees more from Juic-e as his take on old school sounds has been mesmerising and nostalgic. (Purav Parmar)
Koven – Butterfly Effect (Monstercat)
There have been so many good albums this year that it’s often easy to forget the earlier ones. I feel like Butterfly Effect is one of those albums that has gone criminally under the radar. It was due to be such a huge debut LP release with a scheduled launch celebration at Rampage, but like most things this year Covid had its wicked way… That being said, Butterfly Effect is an epic album brimming with chest rattling bass and a truly stunning showcase of Katie’s vocal abilities. I always knew she was an incredible singer, but when you hear the extent of her vocal range on this album you realise just how talented she is! Her and Max have made a great production tag team over the years, and it was wicked to see them explore genres ranging from D&B and dubstep to the more downtempo, honest tunes. All For Nothing is a personal favourite on the album. Pure dancefloor euphoria. (Jake Hirst)
Krust – The Edge Of Everything (Crosstown Rebels)
A few years ago we ran an extensive interview with this Bristol pioneer. He’d returned with his first original productions in 10 years (The Portal / Concealing Treachery) on Doc Scott’s 31. The interview was as extensive, thorough and in depth as the tunes themselves and the headline simply stated ‘No One Does D&B Like Krust’.
We stand by that statement today… Bar just one word – No One Does Music Like Krust. While he will forever be known for his seminal influence on drum & bass jungle – his refusal to sit within DJ-friendly formulas or tune times, his ability to lock you into whole new worlds and cause a crowd to kick off just at the change of note in a groove, his obsession with the big screen and its influence on him and the music – Krust covers much more ground than one genre and always has done. And The Edge Of Everything has enabled him to showcase that on a level he’s never done before.
14 years, and several D&B paradigm shifts, after his Hidden Knowledge opus, the album finally landed in November this year and proceeded to take us deep inside Krust’s mind. In among cuts like the mournful strings and paranoid, decaying arpeggios of Negative Returns and the battlefield bounce and recoil of Deep Fields Of Liars he lays out his thoughts, his frustrations and visions of electronic music’s future. Peppered with his extensive range of reference points from religion to philosophy to science fiction, it’s tense, intense and not always the smoothest of rides… Just the way he’d like it to be. This isn’t a sit back and chill album. It isn’t an echo of anything that’s been done before (by himself or his peers), this is a door into a whole new universe which takes a lot of what you know about him, and about electronic music, and turns it inside out. No one does life like Krust. (Dave Jenkins)
Machinedrum – A View of U (Ninja Tune)
Machinedrum’s multi-genre masterpiece has been on repeat since it dropped on Ninja Tune in early October. Triumphant in its delivery, thoughtful in its approach, it’s everything you’d want from a Machinedrum album and so much more.
His ninth – yes, ninth – studio album, it’s an incredibly reflective body of work and an impressive evolution of his already prolific repertoire.
Legit all killer, no filler – A View Of U treats every track as the main event, and yet each tune rolls into the next with careful consideration, maintaining a coherent balance throughout. The intricacies and attention to detail in every tune are astounding, with unexpected twists and turns throughout.
From the crunchy, rolling rhythm of intro track The Relic the tone is set for the rest of the LP – it’s an album of perfectly balanced contrasts. One minute you’re scrunching your face, next you’re strutting with an impossible swagger to tracks like Kane Train ft. Freddie Gibbs, Spin Blocks ft. Father and Inner Eye – then swooning to the dreamy Star ft. Mono/Poly & Tanerélle, Wait 4 U ft. Jesse Boykins III and Sleepy Pietro ft. Tigran Hamasyan.
One of the most captivating things about this album is the journey each track embarks on – taking delightful detours with stunning and unexpected twists that make you wonder how on earth he manages to make such vibe switches not only possible, but work and flow so well together.
Arguably his best work to date, he’s once again showcased what’s possible within the realms of electronic music and beyond. (Maja Cicic)
Mako- Oeuvre (Metalheadz)
Back in the Spring, Mako headed to Metalheadz for his first solo long player on the seminal brand. The album was called Oeuvre, loosely translated as ‘body of work’. Showcasing his inspirations throughout the drum and bass world, he walked us through a selection that represented his life’s work in musical production. Taking influence from some of the key heads in the scene, the album demonstrated Mako’s appreciation for the likes of Photek, Doc Scott, Krust and Lemon D. An exceptional craftsman, the album is characterised by deep soundscapes that give a sense of powerful atmosphere, countered by crunching bass distortions, woody breaks and delicate chords.
From the grinding, warped Light Cycle made in collaboration with the late, great Andy Skopes, to the savagely tribal One Reality, the raw yet clean breaks of Hoxton Home to the mysterious, grooving rhythms of The Scenic Values, the album is a slick, diverse ode to the history of underground sonics. If you’re going to listen to an album, you want to be able to enjoy it as one continuous experience, and through the way every track perfectly fits the concept, you get just that! (Paddy Edrich)
Mikal – Metalwork (Metalheadz)
Mikal’s second album dropped in October and reminded us all why he’s arguably the king of breakbeats. As the name suggests, Metalwork is relentlessly industrial, dripping in metallic textures and formed with a molten core of pure heat. It’s stripped back and barebones, there are no unnecessary elements; everything feels tight and precisely placed. Method, featuring DJ Thor is a perfect example, as foreboding atmospherics are cut away into a singular breakbeat that grounds the entire track, the anchor for a ship constructed almost entirely of murderous sub-bass notes and scratched out samples. Visionobi features on the biting energy of Third Eye, and title track Metalwork is halftime on a scale matched by only a handful of producers. Absolutely incredible from start to finish. (Ben Hunter)
Mystic State – My Own Private Island (The Chikara Project)
It’s been a vintage year for talented duo Mystic State, as well as their Chikara Project imprint, which has been home to some breath-taking releases – including, of course, their incredible debut album My Own Private Island.
As debut albums go this is a truly accomplished body of work and quite a powerful statement of intent. Years in the making, it’s a stunning collection of tracks that showcase their signature versatility, ability to dip in and out of different styles and flows, and the confidence and maturity required to be able to do so effortlessly.
With murky excursions on J:Kenzo’s Artikal imprint earlier in the year, along with the stunning Evermore & Close Thirteen release on YUKU, the duo are known for easily flipping the switch on their productions, sitting in that hyper-creative zone where their output is unpredictable and always intriguing.
My Own Private Island builds on this already-established ethos, but also goes back to their D&B and ambient roots. 14 tracks deep, it gives them room to truly express themselves, floating between powerfully emotive sound design in tracks like Expectations, Audition and Too Late ft. Congi, then reeling you in with certified wall-slappers like Mirror’s Edge and Dangerous Liaison ft. MC Fokus. Throw in the clever use of sampling throughout, and comparisons to Djrum and Synkro are inevitable and well-deserved.
Having been a fan of theirs since they burst into the scene seemingly out of nowhere, I can’t help but feel strangely proud hearing this album as it’s truly the mark of 2 brilliant minds who’ve settled into their sound and are displaying depth and maturity well beyond their years. This is the music they were destined to make, and they’re only just getting started. (Maja Cicic)
Need For Mirrors- Flames (31 Recordings)
One of the most recent additions to this list, Need For Mirrors headed to Doc Scott’s 31 Recordings for his second album; Flames. If you’re wondering what a good drum and bass album should sound like in 2020, this is it! A perfectly balanced selection of 12 tracks that do the damage on the dance floor as well as providing the listening experience at home, it gives you a glimpse into his story, both as an artist and person.
Rooted in cultural authenticity, but with a unique, futuristic approach to 170 bpm that could only just be from him, the album’s sound is characterised by the experimental nature of the vocal tracks. Need For Mirrors takes the listener through the peaks and troughs with his dynamic interplay between the male and female led tracks, while his use of pianos and strings give a cinematic approach to the experience.
It’s hard to pick favourites with an album that intends to take you on a journey, but you’ll find it hard not to keep returning to the magical Without U, the melodic, multi-layered Slewisham and the harder, driving edge of Dior Trench. Something special and a little different, this unquestionably is one of the releases of the year. (Paddy Edrich)
Phuture T – Persuasive Funk (Inperspective Records)
In a scene still frequently dominated by foghorns and twisted brassy bass textures, it’s important to go back to the source once in a while and remember how important those original funk power tools are. Be it a trumpet, sax, trombone or full brass ensemble, that raw power you get from a horn section is unlike any other. Throw in the loose-twanging strings of a double bass and scorchio vocalists and you’re in the funkiest of flavour countries. Talk to Roni Size & Reprazent, talk to 4 Hero, to EZ Rollers, to London Elektricity and, much more recently, talk to Dutchman Phuture T.
Released on Inperspective during lockdown part one’s most intense peak, Persuasive Funk was a bombastic bolt out of the blue that shattered the intensity with its ludicrous levels of funk, jazz, breakbeat science and unpredictability. From the opening organ blasts and manuka honey dulcets of Sofi Mari on the introductory title track, to the final tribal drum thumps of finale Lord Apache, this isn’t so much as a persuasion but rather a forceful fix of funk that sucks you in, chews you up then spits you back out 11 tracks later.
Sitting somewhere between Breakbeat Era, Herbaliser’s early work and drumfunk luminaries such as Seba or, more recently, dgoHn or Earl Grey, and armed with a compelling deconstruction of genre formalities, tempos and standard structures; in a scene still frequently dominated by typical DJ friendly formats and fun-but-formulaic dancefloor tools, it’s important to go back to the source once in a while and remember how important experimenting and doing what the f**k you like as an artist is. No other album released in 2020 even comes close to sounding like this. (Dave Jenkins)
Redeyes – Selfportraits (The North Quarter)
Selfportraits in an album in the truest sense, a complete body of work that use drum and bass less as the central focal point, and more as a foundation to pour his own eclectic musical influences over. On tunes like Outside you can almost forget you’re listening to beats at 174bpm, the drums seemingly melting into the background while the musical elements take the forefront – all guided by Redeyes’ keen ear for sampling and musical composition.
Each of the ten tracks on the album is split into two parts, re-thinking the standard album format and giving the listener a fluid transition through drum and bass, hip-hop and spoken word. Redeyes has always thrived off collaborating with other musicians, and his fourth project on The North Quarter is no different. Features from drum and bass household names like DRS and Monty, as well as K S R, Abnormal Sleepz, Victor Gould, Juga-Naut and Lovescene all gel this piece of art together to create something that feels wholly cohesive and personal.
The final track Slow Pace / Outro settles the album with some poignant closing remarks from DJ Flight, voicing her thoughts on the interplay between music, art and politics. “What are we fighting for? It’s going to take a humongous push from everyone to truly make a difference. We need to tear down these institutions that have been suffocating people for so many years. Now is the time to make a difference.” Amen (Scott Claridge)
Rohaan – Bleach (Mad Zoo)
Bleach by Rohaan is evidence that this young producer can be ignored no longer. This brightly coloured yet devilishly dark seven-track album is a statement of intent and one written in the neon ink of neurofunk’s new wave, a spirit of innovation that’s palpable across all corners of this release. There are contemplative touches amongst the four-four stabs of City Of Ezra, but the dominant mindset is unrestrained dancefloor energy. This modus operandi is manifested best on People Of Eve, a delightfully futuristic roller that’s simple in its construction but moves with an air of tight sophistication as it morphs across the second drop from minimal hedonism to full-blown, synthetic attack. A stunning collection of tracks, and the next step up from Rohaan’s previous work on Unchained and others. (Ben Hunter)
Sepia – Towards the Sky (Sepia)
Sepia’s debut album dropping on his Bandcamp in June was a welcome but necessary surprise. Despite being released in summer, it makes for mellow, eyes-closed winter listening and is a more musical take on his sound compared to many of his previous releases. Towards The Sky features the smooth vocals of Jevon Ives on Right Here and the immersive strings of Alicia Kiah on Destroy Something Beautiful. An emotive and musically rich body of work, his captivating production hits with with cosmic atmospherics and bursts of melancholy throughout. Complete with full attention paid to the low end, this album proves that to simply pigeon-hole Sepia as a dubstep artist that makes bangers for the club would be a huge injustice to him as an artist. Hopefully we hear more music in this vein from Sepia in the future. (Purav Parmar)
Wardown – Wardown (BMTM)
This eponymous project from Technimatic’s Pete Rogers stands out to me the best thing I’ve heard in awhile, let alone in 2020, though it’s arrived at a fitting time. Nostalgia and a haunting sense of sadness linger over this LP, which flits between euphoric and melancholic. Full of memory both communal and personal, Wardown features many samples from Rogers’ youth entwined with recognisable jungle and soul acapellas, cuts from documentary, including recordings of deceased family members, scrambled with field recordings of the town which serves as the axis of Wardown: Luton. This album is an ambient canvas painted with licks of jungle and drum and bass influences that will endure as a beautiful, unique, cinematic experience, perfect for reflection on this most unpredictable of years. (Liohness)
Workforce – Late Night Soundtrack (Must Make)
Late Night Soundtrack has been a project long in the making, with Workforce introducing the solo project back in 2019 with one of three parts. By the time the full LP was released in May this year, he had already carved a space for his new alias and etched the name into the heads of drum and bass fans across the scene.
Whether it’s the ethereal liquid roll-out Heart Crossed, the tribal percussion of Barriers Of Language or the experimental jungle influences of Overnight Express with SP:MC, Workforce has every corner covered. At its core, the album is a cleverly compiled selection of drum and bass songs, but it feels like much more. It marks the progression of an artist who had put everything on the line with a brand-new project, ditching preconceived musical conceptions from his work as one half of the forever esteemed SpectraSoul. Everything from the slow drip-feeding of tunes in the lead up to the full album, the consistent and distinctive branding, and the variety of styles across the LP make this an easy choice for me. (Scott Claridge)