Albums are a rogue beast, roaming the electronic music landscape, often without focussed destinations or a sense of purpose.
Electronic music is a terrain that’s primarily built for 12” wheels and dancefloor-primed EP tanks: As a result albums don’t always settle well into the psyche. Sometimes it’s down to the fact that 12 massive bangers don’t necessarily make an album. Other times it’s down to the artist pushing themselves so far into the creative process they’ve lost the original spirit of why we fell in love with them in the first place.
Of course there are incredible electronic music albums released every year. But for every LP that really captures a vibe and spirit and will still sound exciting and inspirational in years to come, there are at least 10 throwaway releases. Well, there were until this year. We’ve been inundated with long-players from all corners throughout 2015. Here are 10 of our personal favourites (plus a few honourable mentions because 10 simply wasn’t enough)…
Bensley – Next Generation (Ram Records)
I WOULD say my only reason for picking this album as best of 2015 is because Bensley is in fact from my hometown of Toronto, Canada. But it’s really so much more than that. This guy is 19 years old, he had no previous following, releases or buzz of any kind, and gets picked up by RAM from a demo! Does that even happen anymore? Demos? There was a high level of expectation for his first release but rather than expose him with a series of singles or EP, Ram went in and showed his creative prowess to the world with an entire album. And, my gosh, did it deliver. Each song is unique as the last, while still creating a flowing sequence that connects from start to finish. Well done fellow Canadian, thank you for supplying the background music to my life in 2015. (Tabitha Neudorf)
Break – Simpler Times (Symmetry)
Break has been churning out bangers for over a decade, but this year saw the Symmetry boss pick up the widespread acclaim and glowing accolades he really deserves. This was thanks largely to his ridiculous productivity; a new tune seemed to emerge from his studio every other week and each one was an instant favourite.
Several of those favourites ended up on his album… and it wasn’t just any old album, it was an album that harked back to the simpler times, one that flaunted his flawless production skills and one that was rightly nominated for Album of the Year at the Drum&BassArena Awards. It includes twelve tracks all brimming with class and covers the full spectrum of D&B, from the brooding Nevaeh to the dance floor ripping Regulate and everything in between. Quite simply, it’s an album that has everything one would want from a D&B LP and one that cements Break as one of the most talented producers in the scene right now. (Robin Murray)
Enei – Rituals (Critical)
Enei’s sophomore album does everything his first album did, but better – a musical journey through different moods, with everything from deep rollers (Just One Look) to heavy in your face bangers (Dead Space), Rituals hits me right in the gut and stays there. (Sampo Kaskia)
Etherwood – Blue Leaves (Medschool)
Many artist’s albums that I’ve heard these days are compilations of singles, with styles reaching all over the place with no glue holding it together. Blue Leaves is the total opposite, one of the few albums this year I’ve been able to listen from start to finish and enjoy. (Luke Hood)
Four Tet – Morning/Evening (Text)
There have been many great albums but I had to go for Four Tet’s Morning/Evening by Four Tet. Chosen because of the timing of its release and how well I felt the music related to it. Released over the summer solstice, June 21, this two-part album; morning and evening, worked perfectly for the middle of summer: long hazy days and clear balmy nights… Such a simple concept but seldom, if ever, executed in such an immersive, enveloping, vibe-affirming way. Summer never had such a succinct soundtrack! (Reuben Hunt)
Kill The Noise – Occult Classic (OWSLA)
Years in the making: Kill The Noise has constantly questioned his motivations and ensured he’s in check and not carried away by the bullshit. As a result he refused to let this body of work free until he was 100 per cent happy with it. And from the moment the Beastie Boys style riffage and guttural bass twists of Kill It 4 The Kids introduces the album you can tangibly feel he smashed his original goal.
From the stompy bashment and devil-may-care finger pointing at baseless social media-focussed attitude of his peers on FUK UR MGMT to the tongue in cheek I Do Coke with like-minded creator Feed Me, it’s a rapid ride across the bass spectrum that never lulls or takes you on false paths. There’s even time for some essential piss-taking as he and Dillon Francis get jiggy with dolphins. A reminder that we shouldn’t be so serious… But executed with serious intent. (Dave Jenkins)
Modestep – London Road (Max)
We knew this one was going to special as the chart-topping, world-trouncing bass Modestep machine went silent for two years to write it. They explained to us earlier this year how it’s the album they always wanted to write but never had the luxury of time to create: complete with a new guitarist and drummer, Josh and Tony created their darkest, rawest and most all-encompassing body of work to date.
From metal to grime to D&B to garage to straight up face-melting dubstep – complete with a dizzying array of collaborations from Culprate to Teddy Killerz, Funtcase to Trolley Snatcha – this is a next level document that peeled away any assumptions of the band who took dubstep to the very top of the charts. (Dave Jenkins)
Rockwell – Obsolete Medium (Shogun Audio)
Another ‘HOW long have we been waiting for this??’ scenario: Rockwell went IN on the debut album we’ve been anticipating for at least two years. Digging deep into the rave volcano, slurping on its pure molten lava then spitting it back in colours that are so future they haven’t even been named yet, Rockwell created an album that – just like his previous productions – sounds like no other. Ruthlessly fast paced, broken up by humorous skits and featuring the likes of Sam Binga, Breakage and Hyroglifics, Rockwell proved that albums are far from obsolete. (Dave Jenkins)
Royalston – People On The Ground (Hospital)
Royalston never ceases to stun me with his intricate production style and the unique sound he’s made his own. His second studio album, People on the Ground, is certainly no exception. I dove head first into this album the minute it was released, and I remember being more and more captivated by it on every listen, noticing something new every time. That’s the thing about Royalston – or Royalcuz as we like to call him back in Sydney – the detail in his projects is astounding, and makes you realise how talented he really is. From the album art (which was illustrated by himself) to the obscure samples he uses, the man is truly an artistic genius. Never one to follow a specific formula, his tracks take twists and turns that often leave you floored thinking “how did he pull that off?!” But he does, and his forward-thinking, straight-up badassery earned him my vote for album of the year. (Maja Cicic)
Swindle – Peace, Love Music (Butterz)
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Swindle is the funkiest man to have emerged from dubstep. His musicality, soul and refusal to never lose focus of the funk have been a source of inspiration for years across labels such as Deep Medi, Brownswood and, going way back, Planet Mu.
For his third album he returned to his stomping ground Butterz and the title says it all: Peace, Love & Music. Ranging from the slipper-shuffling lounge D&B Elevator to his rampant horn-hitting breakbeat jam Tokyo via the spitfire grime of Mad Ting with JME, it’s his most accomplished, broadest and funkiest body of work to date. No one is doing it like Swindle… This album is proof. (Dave Jenkins)
Other 2015 albums that you need in your collection…
Flux Pavilion – Tesla (Circus)
Joker – The Mainframe (Kapsize)
June Miller – Robots & Romans (Ram Records)
Riya – Sublimation (Spearhead)
Artificial Intelligence – Timeline (Metalheadz)
London Elektricity – Are We There Yet? (Hospital)
Potential Badboy – Potential Badboy (Playaz)
Maribou State – Portraits (Counter)
Bassnectar – Staring Into The Sun (Amorphous Music)
DRS – Mid Mic Crisis (Soulr)