From long-awaited returns of Camo & Krooked, Chase & Status and Goldie to killer Fabriclive mixes and dubstep EPs so fat and high impact we’ve decided to call it an album; these are 10 of many exceptional albums we’ve enjoyed this year. As picked by our editorial team…
Calibre – The Deep (Signature)
Smooth, suave, intoxicating. Calibre’s 14th album is truly a masterclass in sonic seduction. One of those intriguing long players you can’t help but come back to, it’s the kind of album you continue to fall in love with as it unravels, enchanted by a new layer of depth with every listen. Calibre’s eclectic and enigmatic approach to story-telling has always been powerful and multi-faceted, but most of all it’s honest, and what makes his music so timeless, moving, and authentic to the core.
The Deep sees Calibre experimenting with his vocals more so than in any of his previous albums, his dulcet tones creating a dreamy, and often haunting atmosphere across the 13-tracker.
From the gentle and charming swing of Up In Smoke, to the cosmic sounds of No One Gets You, along with dub-infused Enter, and the infinitely smooth groove of Lit, just to name a few, this is an album with so much depth and character – not to mention subtle themes of startling, heart-hitting melancholy – it’s impossible not to be left in awe of the enigmatic figure behind it. Absolute don. (Maja Cicic)
Camo & Krooked – Mosaik (Mosaik Music)
Mosaik wasn’t just the peak of Camo & Krooked’s epic year, it was one of the key musical peaks of the year for drum & bass full stop. At a time when many behind the scenes are lamenting lack of innovation in the genre, the Austrian duo came through with an album so musical, textured and creative it blew most of us away.
There’s really nothing in Mosaik that would even specifically say drum and bass upon first listen. The album opener, Broken Pieces, for example, is a glitchy apparent half-timer that incorporates old experimental-sounding synths with soulful vocals. Elsewhere Witchdoctor took halftime in a totally tribal direction while Last Of The Tribe subtle sharpened their clipped, minimal clicky pace and The Sloth took us down the sleaziest, jazziest alleyways Camo & Krooked have ever ventured down. All of them sitting at drum & bass tempo, but none of them resting on the genre’s laurels or typicalities.
It’s not like they didn’t warn us; they duo made it clear as far back as last year that they meant to shake up their own style as much as possible and were going to a number of lengths such as buying a huge amount of equipment to make the sounds they wanted and even doing their own analog sounds via old Foley techniques. But none of us could quite appreciate how stunning those results would be. With Mosaik the duo not only shook up their own style but reminded us just how far the limits can be pushed, musically, technically and creatively. A truly limitless album. (Layla Marino)
Chase & Status – Tribe (EMI)
With early dubs Step Away and Tribes rattling us in key selectors’ sets for at least a year before it dropped, anticipation for Chase & Status’s fourth album was ripe. Four years after Brand New Machine, it was time they came back with another reminder why they maintain the unique position they have in the game. Skillish and heavy in every direction; whether it’s a heavy grime banger with Kano, an insanely gully two-step viber with Craig David, a Prodigy-level rave up with Novelist, a daytime orchestral roller with Emile Sande, a heart-hitting, hard-hitting celebration of Marcus Intalex’s legacy or even punk with Slaves, their ability to smash any style with weight, form and clarity remains in a league of its own… And this album is testament to that. (DJ)
Conduct – Oma (Blu Mar Ten Music)
From the moment the yearning vocals of opening track Welcome In hurl you unassumingly into an abyssal rim-shot riot of growling bass and sweeping strings, you already know that nothing else on this planet sounds like Conduct’s second Oma. A whirling dervish of mystic shades and tribal tendencies, the album’s mountainous landscape weaves between moments of delicate depth and emotion (Escapism) and sudden splashes of sense-blurring rhythmic rawness (San Bushmen) by way of smouldering, imagination arresting hybrids (Overprint, Omakia) without ever feeling unhurried or disjointed. Laced with a mystic, faraway feel and driven by a cinematic momentum, drum & bass albums don’t get any more beguiling than this. We spoke to the duo and discovered the stark circumstances under which this was created earlier this year. One of a kind in every possible way. (DJ)
Fabriclive 91: Special Request (Fabric)
Special Request has spoilt us this year. He’s recently squeezed 2017 of its final puffs with his incredible journeyman second album Belief System but it’s this epic mix that he cracked the year open with that we’re highlighting as a favourite. One of the most intriguing, captivating and narrative Fabriclive mixes we’ve heard in years, this joins dots you didn’t even think needed joining. From Christian Vogel to Dillinja, Aphex Twin to Rupture-favourite Forest West Drive via ambient, electro and strange sound designs and precision wheel-ups, this intense dynamic trip through Paul Woolford’s selections and inspirations is testament to how powerful and arresting selection is when the thread that holds it together isn’t about tempo or genre but rather mood, aesthetic and vision. Timeless. (DJ)
Goldie – The Journey Man (Metalheadz)
I’ll admit, I probably wouldn’t have picked this had I not seen it performed live at Bristol’s Colston Hall. I liked it when I first heard it, of course, but it wasn’t until I saw being brought to life by Goldie, an ensemble from the Heritage Orchestra and vocalists such as Tyler Daley and Terri Walker that I realised quite how brilliant The Journey Man is. It became clear early on in the set that he wrote the album with the intention of it being performed live as tracks such as Prism, The River Mirrored and I Adore You unfolded on stage and took on whole new dimensions and, consequently, still have that impact for me as I’ve listened to it since. Goldie albums don’t come around very often and there was a hefty amount of anticipation surrounding this one. Perhaps too much for it to ever live to the precedent he set over 20 years ago. But as time goes by, and this matures, and more of you get to see performed live, this will transcend the hype and go down as a genuine piece of art. (Robin Murray)
Hybrid Minds – Elements (Hybrid Music)
What a year 2017 has been for albums. Spectrasoul, Fred V & Grafix, Black Sun Empire, Keeno, Camo & Krooked. You get the point… In the midst of a vast amount of diverse and extremely talented productions lies Hybrid Minds’ Elements – an album with an unbelievable amount of raw emotion and patented Hybrid Minds liquid goodness. After the amazing response to their debut album Mountains, it was always going to be a struggle to not only replicate its success, but to also improve on it. But Hybrid Minds did just that. Whether it’s faultless vocal features from the likes of Charlotte Haining, Emily Jones and newly found talent Tiffany Juno, or the focus on crafting an organic production embodying intricate real life samples and live instrumentation – the duo have created a really special album that arguably set the bar for liquid this year.(Jake Hirst)
Hugh Hardie – Colourspace (Hospital)
Hugh Hardie’s album defied my expectations in more ways than one. It wasn’t full of arms-in-the-air, summery bangers, it wasn’t all liquid and it wasn’t even all D&B. Instead, it was a rich array of styles, sounds and tastes, all coming together to form a glimpse of the world through Hugh Hardie’s eyes. Roping in mates like Pola & Bryson for Emerald City and finding inspiration in the likes of Kid Drama for Shapes of Blue, it’s clear how far Hugh has progressed since the days of Tearing Me Apart and Kyoto City. His productions shimmer with passion and vibrancy, rejecting any moodiness or forced-edginess for simple chords, melodies and vocal hooks that make you smile and dance. That, for me, is what music is about, and it’s why Colourspace is such a stand-out album. (Ben Hunter)
Truth – Wilderness Of Mirrors (Disciple)
Truth have smashed 2017 and this album is one of the many reasons why (for others read this interview) Their fourth artist album; Wilderness Of Mirrors sees the New Zealand duo explore their own fusion with even more clarity and diversity than ever before. From the heaving chop-slapping bangers like Endless Universe and The Moon to the 23rd century blues of Inside Your Thoughts, their range and richness is translated from club to the cosiness of your own home or headphones without compromise on either side. Complete with a whole slew of precision MC cuts (D Double E, Killa P, Strikez, T Man), and even a cheeky dash of 170 (Jack Ripper) no corner is left unexplored yet the whole album gels together with subtlety and consistency. Truth’s best album to date. (DJ)
Virtual Riot – Throwback (Disciple)
It’s fair to say that Virtual Riot is one of the most influential and talented dubstep producers of the past couple years – you’d be hard pressed to find a dubstep night in 2017 where you can’t hear his signature sound, be it his own productions or the presets and sample packs of his that other producers use. With this in mind, it’s not hard to see why Throwback is one of our favourite releases this year. Technically it’s an EP, but the weight, size and energy of it was much more like an album than a regular EP release. As the title suggests, each track is a nostalgic love letter to the dubstep and electro sounds of 2012 crafted with the perfection and accuracy of a modern day producer – from the euphoric harmonies and wois of the title track to hard hitting yet melodic sounds of With You, this EP ticks all the boxes of what made a lot of us fall in love with this music in the first place. Thank you, Valentin. More like this, please! (Sampo Kaskia)