Wiley - Treddin' On Thin Ice
Dizzie Rascal - Showtime
Wiley's much-anticipated debut dropped in the Springtime with barely a mention in blogworld. Having been initially seduced by his instrumental 'Eski-dubs', I was initially a bit disappointed that the album was virtually all vocal-based. Having never written anything about Grime before, I timidly wrote a brief post complaining that "the 'defining' instrumental tracks like 'Eskimo' have been reduced to brief interludes. Shame, 'cause these tracks deserve a wider hearing in their full-length glory. A follow- up 'Instrumentalist' collection is sorely needed, in my view." Thankfully, K-Punk agreed with me. Since then, though, I've learned to appreciate both Wiley's unique delivery and the MCing side of Grime in general.
Wiley's former protege and XL label-mate released his second long-player this year. I haven't mentioned it at all. The thing is, I don't feel like it's my job to write about Dizzie. Others do that far more effectively, and I prefer to champion more underground stuff. Dizzie's more or less famous fer chrissakes! He's even on that bloody Band Aid single!! It took me a while to build-up the enthusiasm to check it, but just to say I think it's a great album - the best thing to hit the 'mainstream' for yonks. His sharp, minimal arrangements and urgent delivery proved more exciting than Wiley's effort, but both albums are important documents of the talents of these two pivotal figures.
V/A - Grime, Grime 2
Mark One - One Way
The dark flip-side of Grime, aka Dubstep. I've covered this area quite heavily recently, so suffice to say if you want to know what's happening in the most exciting new genre of electronica, you need all three of these.
Detroit Grand Pubahs - Galactic Ass Creatures From Uranus
"Whilst the most pervasive approach is minimalist techno with lyrics like "Where my weed at? Where my hoe's at?" delivered by electronically pitched-up helium vocals, there's also the irresistibly phat R'n'B + social commentary of "God Imposters", the string-laden emotion of "Landing In Detroit" (like a downtempo take on Derrick May's "R-Theme") and the spooked-out sci-fi jazz funk of "Bite The Pillow Talk". (June 14th)
cLOUDDEAD - Ten
"Keyboard textures are unclassifiable soft-focus melodic tones that might have originally been church organs. Beats are smudged, crackly, lo-rez rhythmic apparitions that wheeze and cough in a (no doubt) spliff-induced fog cloud. Samples of English children reciting nursery rhymes turn into needle-jumping lock-grooves. This alone would guarantee a first-class trip-hop album, but then add in the totally unique 'rapping' style and bizarre observational lyrics and we're into a whole new territory" (April 15th)
Squarepusher - Ultravisitor
"Iambic 9 Poetry" is initially startling for it's naturalistic, acoustic-sounding drums (not one of TJ's usual moves), but it's the constantly evolving waves of keyboard melody that really grip the soul. For this is Soul music in it's purist form: an uplifting surge of emotion that seems to be reaching all the way to heaven. You can feel your spirit recharging it's batteries everytime you play it" (April 15th)
Felix Da Housecat - Devin Dazzle & The Neon Fever
Miss Kittin - I Com
After the glittering marriage of "Kittenz & Thee Glitz", which both re-ignited Felix's career and introduced Caroline Herve to a wider audience, it was sad to see that they'd fallen-out over money (or something like that, anyway). Was it mere coincidence that both chose to release follow-ups at virtually the same time? Oddly, it was young Kittin's album that seemed the most advanced (mature?), spurning most electroclash cliches for a more varied selection that proved to be an excellent solo debut. Although Felix got quite a roasting for his effort in some quarters, I was perfectly satisfied with "Devin Dazzle..." myself. Sure, maybe he took the electropunk thing a bit too far in places and in so doing lost some of his own personality, but there's still plenty of good, deep, soulful shit from the old Chicago Housemaster here.
Shitmat - Killababylonkutz, Full English Breakfest
Kid 606 - Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You, Who Still Kill Sound
Although operating from different sides of the globe, I feel there's a lot of common ground between these 'Amentalist' artists, who both had a great year, releasing two quality albums each. Here's an 'exclusive' Shitmat tune for you, which I guess must've been one that didn't make the final cut on '...Babylonkuts'. Full-on badbwoy-gabba mayhem, seen?
Fennesz - Venice
"Somewhere between Aphex Twin's "SAW II" and MBV's "Loveless", it's a beatless, weightless, indistinct, overloaded, isolationist, melodic slice of pure spellbinding magic. At some point in my life I'm sure I must've said that guitars were a spent force. Well, Mr. Fennesz has proved me totally wrong. If you only buy one 'chill-out' record this year, make it this." (June 11th)
Junior Boys - Last Exit
Kanye West - The College Dropout
Two artists who I got into thanks to the excitement of other bloggers. I figure everyone's heard about Kanye West by now and, like Dizzie, he's pretty much off-the-radar for this blog now. Check K-Punk's review of "Last Exit" over at Stylus magazine. Damn, makes you wish Mark would write more about music, don't it?
Team Shadetek - Burnerism
o9 - Church Of The Ghetto P.C.
Venetian Snares - Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding
Quality electronica from across the pond. I've been gradually absorbing the latest offering from the prolific Aaron Funk for months without mentioning it at the blog. How do you describe Venetian Snares' music? It's the sort of thing that MP3 blogging was made for; you just say, "the album is out, here's what it sounds like, make up your own mind..." Here's another 'exclusive' tune for you, that's as good as anything on the album, featuring typically fluid, dislocated breakz and cute kindergarten melodies. I've no idea if or when it'll be released, but it's really, really lovely, in a creepy sort of way...
!!! - Louden Up Now
Still can't shake the feeling that the album from these NYC punk-funkers could've been better overall, but when it's good it's smokin'!
The Orb - Bicycles & Tricycles
My first new Orb experience for many years, inspired by hearing a track played by John Peel, who will be sorely missed. Dr. Alex and friends are in fine form, retaining the Orb's playful 'cosmic' vibe, but moving things forward a notch with some impressive, chunky grooves and dark, twisted atmospherics.
Richard H. Kirk - Truck Bombers Of Suburbia, URP Vol.2, URP Vol.3, Earlier/Later, Digital Lifeforms Redux
One new album and a stack of anthologies from the Sheffield originator. But you don't want to hear me banging-on about him again, do you?
Obviously this is just the stuff that I've had time to hear and enjoy this year, but I know there must've been loads of other cool releases that I missed, and my apologies to anyone who thinks I've made any serious omissions. I am but one man with a limited amount of time and money. Early next week, just before my Xmas break, I'll be taking a look at some of the other Planet Mu releases that came out this year which, thanks to Mike P, I'm only just discovering.