The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Quietus Charts

The Quietus Albums Of The Year So Far Chart 2020
John Doran , July 6th, 2020 15:47

At the year's half-way mark, all of tQ's editorial staff and columnists have voted for their essential 2020 albums (as well as some EPs)

Before you read on, we have a favour to ask of you. If you enjoy this feature and are currently OK for money, can you consider sparing us the price of a pint or a couple of cups of fancy coffee. A rise in donations is the only way tQ will survive the current pandemic. Thanks for reading, and best wishes to you and yours.

DONATE TO THE QUIETUS HERE.



This mid-year chart was voted for by Jennifer Lucy Allan, Robert Barry, Tristan Bath, Aaron Bishop, Patrick Clarke, John Doran, Christian Eede, Fergal Kinney, Noel Gardner, Ella Kemp, Adam Lehrer, Anthea Leyland, Peter Margasak, David McKenna, JR Moores, Eoin Murray, Luke Turner, and Kez Whelan. It was built by John Doran with help from Patrick Clarke and Christian Eede.

100. Satan -
Toutes Ces Horreurs
(Throatruiner)
Satan have been going for ten years now, evolving from shrieking grindcore to a sound they call 'possessed punk' – a combo of full-throttle aggression, darkly chiming arpeggios and spidery lead lines. Toutes Ces Horreurs means 'All These Horrors' if you want a further idea of what you're letting yourself in for. 'Confiture Pour Cochons' is an unusual intro which blends a tribal folk sound with free-jazz sax and a spoken-word vocal. Then 'La Guerre Lente', with its surging chorus, arrives at a gallop, and the 'Le Sang Du Poète' hits at an even more blistering pace. 'Triste Soeur' fuses spiralling melodic sections with hypnotic riffing, while 'Zone D'Inconfort' clearly wraps hardcore punk in a black metal fog, veering into a blast beat spree midway through...
David McKenna
99. AYA -
are eye pea ell oh eff tea
(Self-Released)
Those who are only just getting to know AYA now for supremely having it drum & bass-parallel tunes like last year's 'that hyde trakk' will love this anthology of LOFT material produced between 2009 and 2019. Drawing acid, funky, dubstep, UKG, and more into an extremely dynamic and transportative place, it's clearly a palate cleanser for whatever comes next, but absolutely avoids any kind of throwaway or cobbled-together feeling.
John Doran
98. AHRKH -
Beams From A Spiritual Panorama
(Golden Ratio Frequencies)
You might liken Beams From A Spiritual Panorama – AP Macarte's first solo AHRKH outing since 2015 – to a vast, calm ocean. Its two longform ambient tracks feel boundless, their changes almost subliminal. 'Pralaya' occupies side A, a sea of wordless chants and throaty drones. Side B features 'Paramita' – more chants, more drones, but this time the sonics at hand feel reminiscent of Emptyset or MY DISCO's metallic reverberations.
Bernie Brooks
97. dvsn -
A Muse In Her Feelings
(OVO Sound)
After being away for three years, DVSN returned with arguably their best album to date with A Muse In Her Feelings. Nostalgic and airy synths are paired with more contemporary sounds alongside a host of features from some of the best in this modern era of R&B including Summer Walker, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Snoh Aalegra to name but a few. It results in a concoction of moods and ideas that are exceptionally weighted, with the duo never being overshadowed or lost amongst the stardom of their peers, in turn making the album one of the years best thus far.
Aaron Bishop
96. Wrangler -
A Situation
(Bella Union)
The times have changed and so have Wrangler. The coming decade, which looks set to be dubbed the Terrible Twenties, may be the last time that bands actually get to release albums. Ecological collapse, climate crisis, food shortages and the disintegration of the fabric of society will mean that the slow devolution of the music industry isn’t even one of the main things that musicians (or anyone else) should be worrying about. So the trio have thrown everything into their third (but hopefully not their last) album. The result is simultaneously their bleakest and funkiest release to date.
John Doran
95. Lee Ranaldo & Raül Refree -
Names Of North East Women
(Mute)
Carrying with it all the meant-to-be character of, say, The Bug and Earth's Dylan Carlson coming together to sonically conspire, this record doubles up as testament to Ranaldo and Refree being straight-up kindred creatives. Rather than simply throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, together, the pair throw a lot, all while investing time and a marked sense of freedom to what each track could eventually become.
Brian Coney
94. Fra Fra -
Funeral Songs
(Glitterbeat)
Apropos the album title, Fra Fra's main gig until now has been as live soundtrackers of such ceremonies – which is the correct term: celebration before sorrow, sparing no effort to give the fallen a send-off. They've been performing together for decades, says Brennan, and bandleader Small (so named because... he is) is now in his early seventies. Small steers Fra Fra's songs via grizzled vocals whose lyrics apparently emerge off the dome, and plays kologo, a two-string lute-type instrument.
Noel Gardner
93. Nine Inch Nails -
Ghosts V: Together
(The Hull Corporation)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross continue to prove that there are second acts in the top tier of American music... for the select few at least. While all of Reznor's contemporaries from the alternative rock boom of the mid-’90s are either languishing in self-parody, resting on laurels or pushing up daisies, Nine Inch Nails have effortlessly carved out a meaningful and beguiling space for themselves in the current cultural landscape. The strength of Ghosts V: Together lies in a generous supply of clearly expressed musical ideas, completely eschewing the gauzy ambient slop that is the usual hallmark of a rock musician making instrumental music.
John Doran
92. The Transcendence Orchestra -
Feeling The Spirit
(Editions Mego)
Anyone who had their spirits lifted and minds blown at the recent discovery of the ring of ancient pits in the Wiltshire landscape around Stonehenge might want to get their ears around this latest release from Anthony 'Surgeon' Child and Daniel Bean's Transcendence Orchestra project. Highly cosmic, deeply intense, astoundingly celestial, it's a record that sites very nicely alongside Teleplasmiste's latest, also on this chart, as an example of how to explore the mystical and the droning without sounding like you'll soon be on the sale rack in the Avebury woo-woo shop.
Luke Turner
91. Richard Skelton -
LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM
(Corbel Stone Press)
The title of Richard Skelton's latest record refers to the period in Earth's history, 20,000 years ago or more, where the proportion of ice sheets covering land and water was at its highest. Accordingly, these compositions are extraordinarily sparse and austere, paper-thin layers of isolationist drone which I assume to have been created via synthesiser but which often have the feel of a scarcely-processed field recording one might find on the Touch label. LGM makes Skelton's last album proper, Border Ballads, look equivocal and accessible by contrast: certainly, none of its agreeable ripples of piano are reprised on this effort.
Noel Gardner
90. Bruxa Maria -
The Maddening
(Hominid Sounds)
If the metal scene has anything to offer this month that can genuinely match the intense heaviness of Bruxa Maria's The Maddening, then it will come as a surprise. From the opening title track onwards, the London outfit's second album offers oomph after oomph after spine-jabbing oomph. Just by themselves, the hulking low-tuned riffs are enough to make that bloke from Helmet run away and hide behind the sofa.
JR Moores
89. Bulbils -
Invader
(Self-Released)
Bulbils is the project of Hen Ogledd bandmates Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington. Locked down together in Newcastle during the COVID-19 pandemic, they've filled the time producing albums in their living room, releasing them all for free via Bandcamp. Currently approaching their 50th LP, which they say will be their last (for now), pretty much everything they've put out over the last few months has been beautiful, but the 37th, Invader, is our pick of the lot. Made up of three long pieces, the opening title track is an intoxicating, gently psychedelic and hypnotic drift, the second 'Dodecahedron' introduces a deeply weird and wonky beat and winsomely daft robo-vocals from Dawson, while the last, 'Companion', is simply an unbelievably beautiful piece of music, the couple trading delicate, wordless vocals over a gorgeous ambient beat.
Patrick Clarke
88. Concentration -
I'm Not What I Was
(Global Terror Corps)
This EP can definitely function as party music, coming on like amyl and torn speaker cone paper converted into soundwaves, but the lugubrious side of Concentration heard on 2018's Premature hasn’t been totally excised. As well as the 'stare into the abyss of your ethnicity's history and laugh' vibe of 'Circumcision', there's 'Spiderfucker', on which vocalist Zachariah Kupferminc scowls something about miserable pricks and little boys who keep repeating his name; "Disgraceful! Disgraceful!" crows Thrush over spacey, tinted-windows electro.
Noel Gardner
87. Morusque -
the end of music
(wabi-sabi tapes)
As conceptual concrète goes, the end of music by Morusque – AKA Montpellier-based artist Yann van der Cruyssen – is about as fun, beautiful, and listenable as you can get. Comprising solely the final notes of recordings, it's a self-dubbed "reconstruction of the signifier," using teeny samples as foundational building blocks for all kinds of maddened musical mishaps.
John Doran
86. Sonic Boom -
All Things Being Equal
(Carpark)
What's particularly notable about All Things Being Equal is that, for an album so grounded in electronics, it sounds remarkably organic. Perhaps it's the lyrical intent, or the fact that Kember's been cultivating its growth over some time, but the record's connection to the earth is unmistakable. In making his grand statement, Pete Kember has succeeded in creating his magnum opus and an album for the ages.
Julian Marszalek
85. J Hus -
Big Conspiracy
(Black Butter)
It seems like a lifetime ago now, but when you press play on J Hus' second, No.1 charting album Big Conspiracy, you are tapping into a more introspective and thought-provoking version of the East London artist. With a lot to talk about after being imprisoned for eight months for carrying a knife and with a lot of time to think, he manages to combine with long-time collaborator Jae5 (among others) to release the perfect follow up to the ground-breaking Common Sense.
Aaron Bishop
84. Arbouretum -
Let It All In
(Thrill Jockey)
By rights the down home, gently psychedelic country jangle of Arbouretum should be anathema to the raging, swivel-eyed, everything weirder than everything else, tradition/melody/fun hating modernists at tQ, but it's really hard to find fault with this band sometimes. Let It All In is their greatest moment since 2009's Song Of The Pearl, and anyone who manages to draw together such disparate strains as Television, Shirley Collins, Fairport Convention, early Stone Roses, Grateful Dead, CSNY and träd gräs och stenar, while still sounding exactly like themselves, must be doing something right.
John Doran
83. Trrmà -
The Earth’s Relief
(577 Records)
There's something solid and sculptural about Trrmà tracks. Like Cubist paintings, their unfolding seems to offer a succession of angles on the same thing. Quite what manner of thing is harder to determine. Each cut arrives like some impossible, unfathomable object – something out of the Strugatsky's Zone, or one of Borges's hrönir, lost in one dimension only to emerge surreptitiously into another. Like the great Brooklyn maximalist Charlemagne Palestine, with whom Trrmà have collaborated, their combination of surface simplicity and inner mathematical complexity is as beguiling as it is rich.
Robert Barry
82. DJ Lycox -
Kizas Do Ly
(Príncipe)
Slouching towards bangers but never quite getting any demanding momentum up, the pace of this EP from the familiar hand of DJ Lycox on the impeccable Príncipe label has a melancholy and sloth to it that is very welcome. It is about the pace I'm able to work at right now, which is to say, that of an electric milk van – a few miles an hour and stopping every minute or so.
Jennifer Lucy Allan
81. The Chisel -
Deconstructive Surgery
(La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)
Deconstructive Surgery takes in five songs of exceedingly spicy London (via Blackpool and Merthyr Tydfil) punk holler. The Chisel love hardcore, anarcho and Oi!, hate bastards, and are still fighting Thatcher, as are we all effectively.
Noel Gardner
80. Claire Rousay -
a heavenly touch
(Already Dead)
a heavenly touch is perhaps Claire Rousay's most successful experiment with her drum kit-free form of fractured percussion concrète, introducing (I think for the first time) her own keyboard sounds too. Seven relatively short tracks assemble everyday sounds besides the dull hum of domestic life, wandering dream like from moment to moment: a text arrives, TV channels are surfed through, a cacophony of lo-fi whispering Rousay's surrounds us, an electric piano version of The Paris Sisters' 'I Love How You Love Me' plays.
Tristan Bath
79. Memnon Sa -
World Serpent
(Crypt Of The Wizard/ Holy Mountain)
World Serpent, the fourth album by Memnon Sa – the London producer Misha Hering – portends disaster. Its doomy, droning soundscapes are ambient music for the daubing of large pentangles in red on chilly marble floors. It's an initiation ritual to an event that I would not want to attend. Or the event that we're all, right now, attending? I listened to this for the first time on a Sunday, on my state-approved walk, and it was the first time during lockdown that music has felt entirely congruent to the low-level but ever present dread of the streets.
Fergal Kinney
78. Menzi -
Impazamo
(Hakuna Kulala)
Impazamo comes as the breakthrough release from young producer Menzi. One of the pioneers of the Gqom scene as a part of the Infamous Boiz, his work as a producer for South African acts Babes Wodumo and Moonchild Sanelly has occupied his creativity thus far. Now, Menzi dissects the Gqom scene and pastes it back together again. His own coinage of "futuristic gqom" is deeply fitting for the nexus of industrial and techno electronics on this six-tracker.
Esme Bennett
77. Dale Cornish -
Thug Ambient
(Vanity Publishing)
Yeah, sure, Dale Cornish's latest is another excellent release in a catalogue full of excellent releases. But! There's something else at play on Thug Ambient, his ode to "the reconstruction of club music, Nag Nag Nag, masculinity, Finland, and Vatican Shadow memes." A good handful of the tracks here feel tighter, harder, more ready for the floor than they have in a bit, while all the things his fans have come to rely on – his cheeky sense of humour, a real mastery of space, Dale Cornish Brand (TM) claps and kicks – are very much present and accounted for.
Bernie Brooks
76. Anna Högberg Attack! -
Lena
(Omlott)
Swedish alto saxophonist Anna Högberg knocked me out with the ferocious 2016 debut of her sextet Attack!, balancing the heat of free jazz with a strong yet unobtrusive compositional underpinning. It's been a long wait for the follow-up, and happily, Lena delivers in a big way. The leader's writing draws upon Swedish folk themes ('Pappa Kom Hem'), modal jazz ('Dansa Margit'), and contemporary music ('Pärlemor', colliding excellent prepared piano work with post-cool horns), yet there's an attractive transparency at work so that her powerful band – tenor saxophonist Elin Forkelid, trumpeter Niklas Barnö, pianist Lisa Ullén, bassist Elsa Bergman, and drummer Anna Lund – are free to push and pull against the notes on the page.
Peter Margasak
75. Haq123 -
Evil Spirits Who Prowl About The World Seeking The Ruin Of Souls
(Self-Released)
The premise of incredibly titled album opener '96% Warrior, 4% Barber' is truly inspired and/or a direct appeal to my specific sense of humour: wobbly new age soundbaths, like Laraaji or someone, overlaid by encouraging phrases which turn out to be the motivational pablum shouted by (as I imagine to be the case here) parents on the touchlines of junior football matches. Which, on a release which also includes the lines, "I am a man of unclean lips and I live among people of unclean lips" and "Football, swingball, nerf, all the greats," is but one of several highlights.
Noel Gardner
74. tētēma -
Necroscape
(Ipecac)
tētēma are a band consisting of Mike Patton, consummate frontman of Faith No More and Mr Bungle, and polymathic Australian composer and avant garde musician Anthony Pateras. Both are the kind of artists blessed with staggering range and explorative instinct, and when they come together as tētēma their talents do not just combine, they multiply. Necroscape is a corybantic and raging record, a zealous, ambitious, fiery and joyous piece of art that demonstrates the considerable breadth of their powers.
Patrick Clarke
73. Pyrrhon -
Abcess Time
(Willowtip)
It really feels like Pyrrhon have outdone themselves again here, managing to broaden their sound out into even stranger, psychedelic places whilst retaining that core intensity that's always made them such a thrill to listen to. This is some truly top shelf, forward-thinking 21st century extreme metal right here. Cherish it.
Kez Whelan
72. Teleplasmiste -
To Kiss Earth Goodbye
(House Of Mythology)
To Kiss Earth Goodbye is an entrancing, enveloping experience. Mark O Pilkington (previous form including Raagnagrok, Urthona and The Asterism) and Michael J York (from Coil to Shirley Collins via The Utopia Strong) seem to have been heading for this point for a long time, and the music they are now making sounds as though it was meant to be. It's an album that is guaranteed to satisfy anyone who needs to be taken away from themselves, and off to a better place. And right now, that includes all of us.
Tom Bolton
71. Laura Cannell -
The Earth With Her Crowns
(Brawl)
An uncommon trait in the field of improvised and gestural music, The Earth With Her Crowns is immediate in its conveyance of quietly ever-present emotional realism – the scale of its vast emptiness never far from the forefront. It's a welcome accessibility in a style that might be best described as 'ancient-futurism', managing never to fall into formalist trappings that many such commissioned works do.
Stevie Lennox
70. Katatonic Silentio -
Prisoner Of The Self
(Bristol NormCore)
A year on from her excellent debut solo release, Emotional Gun, Italian producer Katatonic Silentio returns with an album of system-crushing IDM experiments. The militant, bassbin-rattling energy of that debut EP returns on Prisoner Of The Self, its seven tracks locked down by double-time drums and an unceasing air of dread. Tracks like 'Waiting For The Dust To Settle' and 'Fragile Bodies' cut through with a brash dancehall swagger, while closer 'Spheres Of Solitude' is an all-out breakcore assault not for the faint of heart.
Christian Eede
69. Brent Faiyaz -
Fuck The World
(Lost Kids)
There aren't many who can match the soulful, dream-like tones of Brent Faiyaz, but while his style of R&B may sound like melting butter on a surface level, lyrically he is deliciously toxic. On the ten track Fuck The World project, you could be forgiven for loving every second of it as the 24-year-old Grammy-nominated artist brings you into his world and shows another side of R&B that is different from the norm but just as enticing to the ear.
Aaron Bishop
68. Junk Drawer -
Ready For The House
(Art For Blind)
Written long before lockdown, Year Of The Sofa landed like a sardonic prophecy for 2020. With riffs that burn like bong rips and a few motorik wormholes to jump through, the Belfast quartet ruminate on lethargy, depression and the sense of time flown out the window. It's full of heart, albeit passed through a distortion pedal or ten.
Eoin Murray
67. Deerhoof -
Future Teenage Cave Artists
(Joyful Noise)
An album imagining post-apocalyptic humans balefully trying to recall the world they once knew, recorded remotely with the band's members in four different cities before the coronavirus pandemic was even a known threat, it's fair to say the 15th Deerhoof album is somewhat prophetic. It's also one of their best records to date, a fractured and strange LP that thrives on a sense of fragmentation, veering one way and another in terms of both melody and fidelity as the four members piece together their respective home recordings.
Patrick Clarke
66. Zebra Katz -
LESS IS MOOR
(ZFK)
It's been seven years since Zebra Katz' stellar mixtape DRKLING and eight since breakout track 'Ima Read'. Despite what might seem to be an odd lack of new material since, it's been a busy time for Zebra Katz, from a collaboration with Gorillaz to a tour with Azealia Banks. This peculiar gap illustrates more the struggle of an independent artist in the modern day, rather than any kind of creative standstill. What we finally have with debut album LESS IS MOOR is a vastly developed continuation, but with that key "Zebra Fucking Katz" stamp. The record is a sprawl of beats that bang but also hang in unease. Everything is melancholic, topped with lyrics that balance wit with severity.
Aimee Armstrong
65. Rising Damp -
Petrol Factory
(wherethetimegoes)
Released on the ever-reliable wherethetimegoes label, Petrol Factory finds one of Ireland's most febrile live acts fusing EBM, post-punk and industrial manipulations to cauterise the country's socio-economic landscape, tackling subjects from the rise of fascism and the banking crisis to the relentless terrors of late-stage-capitalism.
Eoin Murray
64. Laylow -
Trinity
(Digital Mundo)
Trinity is a concept album that follows Laylow, as protagonist, through a complex dance with a program called Trinity – a name borrowed from Carrie-Ann Moss' character in The Matrix – which simulates (or stimulates) emotions. As well as being told through interludes, what's striking about the story is the way it is echoed by the sounds on the album. The virtual, 'digital' world is reflected in extreme autotune tweaking, trap beats, luminous synths, and the glam stomp of 'Megatron' (an obvious nod to 'Black Skinhead') but also distortion and glitches – like the moment in 'Dehors Dans La Nuit' where it sounds like your headphone jack has popped half-way out of the socket.
David McKenna
63. Daniel Craig -
A Past Yet To Come
(Econore)
The fact that Daniel Craig's new album seems to have simmered into existence over a full three-year period is far from surprising. The low-end obsession, meticulous detail, and sheer scope of aesthetic put into A Past Yet To Come by the Aussie producer is, no bullshitting, breathtaking. Just listen to the 16-minute opening track for a lesson in Craig's 'beat concrete' approach.
Tristan Bath
62. Regis -
Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss
(Downwards)
There is a certainty at play throughout Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss, an absolute clarity of purpose. Each element seems in its right place, each moment feels considered without feeling overworked. It is, like the rest of O'Connor's body of work, utterly contemporary and effortlessly relevant. Hidden doesn't fall victim to the navel-gazing or rumination or over-reliance on past formulae that often plagues artists who've been in the game as long as O'Connor, but then, as far as new work is concerned, that's never been his way.
Bernie Brooks
61. Swen Wunder -
Eastern Flowers
(Light In The Attic)
A guitarist from Sweden, Wunder released this record as Doğu Çiçekleri last year on Piano Piano, which was finally given a wider release by Light In The Attic this past April. The grooves are hard, the guitar lines are sweltering and each track is conceptually part of the bouquet. Tulips, red roses, hibiscus, hyacinths, chamomile, magnolia, daisies – nothing but flowers.
Fergal Kinney
60. Clemency -
References
(2 B Real)
References, the debut full EP from Manchester-based producer Clemency, delights in its simplicity. Opener 'Testimony' is a lithe 85 BPM stepper, primed for a DJ's warm-up set, while 'Biblical Names' centres around a warped hand drum loop and the kind of square wave basslines that long to be played on a crushing sound system.
Christian Eede
59. Ambrose Akinmusire -
on the tender spot of every calloused moment
(Blue Note)
On his fifth album, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire has never sounded more self-possessed. Supported by his long-term working quartet—pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown, he implants expressions of rage, sorrow, and hope within pieces that maintain composure even when the band pushes hard against his compositional frameworks.
Peter Margasak
58. Cold Meat -
Hot And Flustered
(Static Shock)
Australian feminist shitkicker punx Cold Meat do their clangingly tuneful thing in LP form after a flurry of EPs. The result is like those releases, i.e. great, but even better. Lyrical topics include a championing of Devo over ZZ Top, though you don't have to agree to enjoy.
Noel Gardner
57. Nape Neck -
Nape Neck
(Self-Released)
The eight songs on this release find guitarist Bobby Glew throttling his instrument in gleefully grating ceremonial sword-sharpener fashion, hacking into the seam of the groove or setting off micro-eruptions of metallic slide guitar. While sounding less like his other project Guttersnipe than the two ex-Beards in Nape Neck sound like Beards, I'm tempted to suggest he brings the American skronk/US Maple/Chinese Stars element to Nape Neck; Claire Adams and Kathy Grey the Gang Of Four/Delta 5/Leeds post-punk canon – but I doubt things are that linear, even if I've correctly identified their ingredients.
Noel Gardner
56. Six Organs Of Admittance -
Companion Rises
(Drag City)
All the looping and processing on Companion Rises gives it hallmarks of glitchy IDM such as the raw metallic percussion textures similar to those on Autechre's Chiastic Slide. Each instrument seems to be produced in one of two styles: it's either mired in sonic detritus like heavy processing and digital degradation; or presented coldly and clinically without embellishment or varnish like the bright acoustic guitar on 'Two Forms Moving' and 'Haunted And Known'. The effect of this binary is songs that feel layered and granulated; they buckle and bulge while still marching onwards.
Will Ainsley
55. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs -
Viscerals
(Rocket Recordings)
For opener 'Reducer' the spotlight is on the cosmic lead guitar licks. 'New Body' grinds along antisocially like Swans or perhaps some kind of half-speed Jesus Lizard number. There's a weird almost dubsteppy intermission with some spoken-word vocals involving an extended gastronomic metaphor. There's maybe a thrash influence rearing its head elsewhere and some accessible growl-along choruses here and there. The crucial thing, however, is that the riffs are still heavier than Ray Winstone after a slap-up black pudding breakfast.
JR Moores
54. Cassowary -
Cassowary
(Daddy Kool)
Like Roy Ayers' Stoned Soul Picnic, this is the sort of record that just feels extraordinarily pleasant to be around, making the room it's played in feel more comfy and the weather outside look sunnier. Which is not to say there's anything 'easy listening' about the album, it's full of off-kilter jolts and strange sonic disjecta, noises that sound like they don't quite want to be there and silences that seem to be waiting to be filled in. But then that's part of what makes this record so welcoming – it invites you in and has you doing little odd jobs around the place.
Robert Barry
53. The Homesick -
The Big Exercise
(Sub Pop)
It's difficult to know where to start with The Big Exercise, such is its effervescence. One can simply revel in seemingly microscopic sleights of hand that imbue the record with a sum greater than its parts. There are gorgeous chord changes, such as on 'Pawing', where the bass hops along, lifting the achingly beautiful plucked guitar part in the bridge. Last December's single, 'I Celebrate My Fantasy', has enough clever twists to fill a whole record.
Richard Foster
52. Aksak Maboul -
Figures
(Crammed Discs)
Totally pop, yet psychedelic enough to make one reconsider the ingestion of psychedelic drugs just to hear it in in such a state, replete with wonderful touches (such as elements of the systems music of Steve Reich or Philip Glass), Figures manages to contain elements from every phase of the band, whilst still having a contemporary edge. As in the very best attempts to merge disparate elements, the pop and avant elements perfectly compliment one another.
Sean Kitching
51. Delphine Dora -
L'Inattingible
(three:four)
Those familiar with Delphine Dora's work will know about the melodically and emotionally indeterminate spaces she inhabits but there's plenty that is new here: she sings entirely in French for the first time, and the process of crafting (writing and editing) the 21 pieces has been more involved than the spontaneous approach she has previously favoured. Without becoming overburdened, Dora's voice and piano are richly embellished.
David McKenna
50. Georgia -
Seeking Thrills
(Domino)
Escapism is the overriding feeling on Seeking Thrills, whether it's losing yourself amidst a gaggle of throbbing bodies on the dancefloor or the more conventional pop trope of losing yourself to love. The most intoxicating points on the record are when she balances these elements perfectly, as on the rightly lauded 'About Work The Dancefloor', the effervescent elation of '24 Hours' and the euphoria of 'The Thrill'.
Rob Hakimian
49. YlangYlang -
Interplay
(Crash Symbols)
YlangYlang's been swimming around between various electronic vibes over her many releases to date, breaching the surface of the ambient and abstract, or composing more rigid tracks of bedroom pop – the entire process often united by a distinct style of singspeak. Interplay however, feels like a huge step forward. Here, Debard ropes in a host of guest instrumentalists to flesh out her various DIY beats, synthy pads and melodic licks, adding in saxophone, strings, santur, flutes, double bass, and rich brass.
Tristan Bath
48. Aoife Nessa Frances -
Land Of No Junction
(Ba Da Bing)
"My old life was hard to shake," begins Aoife Nessa Frances on 'Blow Up', one of the first songs she wrote for her spellbinding debut album. The track, with its psychedelic protest-folk pace, goes on to confront the Dublin songwriter's frustration with the treatment of women in Ireland, particularly prior to the legalisation of abortion in 2018. "Tired of being human," she sings. "Lesser than man." A sense of personal and political disillusionment crops up again and again on Land Of No Junction – a feeling of always having one foot stuck in the past, of being on the cusp of something just out of reach.
Eoin Murray
47. Sun Araw -
Rock Sutra
(Drag City)
I think Rock Sutra sounds something like an 8-bit version of the soundtrack to Steely Dan's Making Of Aja documentary. I don't think that's a wholly accurate way to describe this live-to-MIDI album, particularly not technically, but it's the best I can do with something that sounds like nothing else.
Jennifer Lucy Allan
46. Torbjörn Zetterberg & Den Stora Frågan -
Are You Happy?
(Moserobie)
Sweden's Torbjörn Zetterberg has been a commanding bassist and bandleader since emerging 15 years ago, conveying the muscular ebullience and contrapuntal fervour of Charles Mingus without imitating his sound. He's led several projects over the years, but none transmits the same vitality and soul like his sextet Den Stora Frågan (The Great Question). Unlike so many jazz records, these improvisations seem to be cut from the same cloth as the driving arrangements, and Zetterberg eschews trite head-solo-solo-head structures in his tart, multipartite writing. On the steamrolling opener 'Meningen Med Vad', drummer Lars Skoglund brings extra heft and propulsion to the masterfully buoyant drummer of Jon Fält, while Alexander Zethson stokes the fire with fat Hammond organ jabs, but they're also present on the spacey ballad, “Påminnelser För Den Kortsinnade, with Zethson on chill Fender Rhodes.
Peter Margasak
45. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys -
Innocent Country 2
(Mello Music)
Innocent Country 2 is an antidote. An hour and four minutes of necessary healing. Where Innocent Country's (2015) tones were pessimistic and internal, its sequel is joyfully defiant. Instead of swearing fealty to the inevitability of an apathetic existence in the American project, here Quelle Chris grabs hold of the crumbling architecture of a nation split with itself and plays with it, hopscotching in and out of its moral caverns and contradictions.
Michael Appouh
44. Black Curse -
Endless Wound
(Sepulchral Voice)
Endless Wound insanely hostile opener 'Charnel Rift' or the skull-scrapingly abrasive 'Seared Eyes' are terrifyingly efficient. The title track, meanwhile, is absolutely lethal, delivering both ridiculously fast, precision blastbeats with dive-bomb leads that sound like a horse being torn in half and some of the album's most desolate, sparse riffery in its midsection. The band seem to know exactly when to shift gears for maximum impact, whilst maintaining a palpably evil atmosphere and engagingly nasty riffing throughout. There's not a dull moment on it, or even a moment that dips below "supremely fucking intense."
Kez Whelan
43. Blind Eye -
Blind Eye
(Viral Age)
Blind Eye vocalist Annie Spaziano has no past bands I'm aware of but runs an eponymous mini-chain of burger joints, which is obviously a smarter idea than trying to make your mark on the world through discredited artform 'music'. She has a ripper set of pipes, too, variously apoplectic and snarky and with a trashy drama to her tone that could fit an '80s speed metal band. Her musicians flit between full-tilt 80s USHC and spots of wailing, smoggy psych, guitarist Andrew Morgan's serpent-squirm solo excursions being the bridge between these modes. And in case you thought Blind Eye were half-assing their trippy side, closing number 'End' lasts nine minutes and hammersmashes all my Geld/Destruction Unit/Butthole Surfers (who I'm guessing inspired their name) brain-bite buttons.
Noel Gardner
42. Minor Science -
Second Language
(AD93)
Angus Finlayson's productions as Minor Science have a remarkably distinctive quality, even as, as he does on debut album Second Language the tempo darts from the frenzied live drum-aided jungle of 'Balconies' to the mostly beatless, warped basslines of 'Polyglottal', the kind of track that always seems like it's on the cusp of bursting into a more predictable 4/4 kick but brilliantly never does. Finlayson's is a sound rooted firmly in the club, but with enough left turns, fake-outs and the kind of sound design chops that make it one of the year so far's best electronic music albums.
Christian Eede
41. Sarah Davachi -
Gathers
(Boomkat Editions)
The three tracks on the A-side of Gathers see Sarah Davachi work with harpsichord, harmonium and piano. Opener 'Gathers I' strikes a faintly medieval tone, while 'Gathers II' settles into more hypnotic deep listening territory, its soothing drones letting in the faintest hint of melancholy. On the B-side, Davachi turns her attention to her Mellotron, electric organ and EMS Synthi AKS. 'Gathers IV' is a gorgeous meditative piece that you could get lost in for hours, where closer 'Gathers VI', with its distant wailing synth tones, has a more piercing quality. Gathers, though, has provided a perfect, much-needed soundtrack for relaxation amid the COVID-19 lockdown, offering a sonic balm to press pause on everything around me while I let my thoughts wander.
Christian Eede
40. Jason Crumer -
Jason Crumer
(Breathing Problem)
Jason Crumer approximates the nebulous nature of dreams. The first track, 'Vent', opens with discomposing drones slowly that rumble away; it's like waiting for test results from an oncologist. At about the four-minute marker, an onslaught of sickly noise reminiscent of Atrax Morgue ushers in the holy terrors to come. Several song titles personify the most vulnerable of emotional states. 'King Depression', for example, uses a high pitched drone with interjections of pyretic noise, illustrating melancholia as a dreadful banality. Few noise artists make sounds so rife with narrative implications as conceptually realised as Jason Crumer.
Adam Lehrer
39. Nihiloxica -
Kaloli
(Crammed)
Drum patterns are enacted with such heads-down precision you sometimes feel like Nihiloxica's beatsmen could human-loop in perpetual motion, but in fact these tracks mutate with subtle incrementalism, rarely telegraphing their switch-ups. 'Mukaagafeero' – a rare slowing of pace, Alimansi Wansu Aineomugisha and Jamiru 'Jally' Mwanje's engalabi drums given more room to breathe than usual – and 'Tewali Sukali', where Henry Kasoma's namunjoloba cuts through the tricksy main percussive pattern with sustained, reverb-y hits, are instructive examples.
Noel Gardner
38. Charli XCX -
how i’m feeling now
(Atlantic)
At its best, Charli's music leans into the nebulous, peculiarly millennial apprehension that partying is a mere simulacrum of adventure. It reckons with clubbing as a substitute, with our tendency to dramatise and overstate the significance of nights spent hammering away at the brain's pleasure pathways with friends and tunes and pills, and with the awful 'Am I wasting my life?' feeling that strikes halfway through a sesh. With a wink and a perfectly-judged handclap, Charli prods the listener towards a simultaneous contention with the consequences of escapism and an escapist zone of her own. This time, though, we deal with a total lack of egress. "I wanna feel the heat from all the bodies," Charli sings, and it's touching in its sincerity.
Jamie Ryder
37. Nídia -
Não Fales Nela Que A Mentas
(Príncipe)
Nídia is an artist whose name has come to be synonymous with Lisbon label Príncipe's brand of kuduro and tarraxo club music, following her first release with them in 2015. Não Fales Nela Que A Mentes, her second album for the label, sees her push her sound further into the more experimental territory first explored on her 2017 debut LP, Nídia É Má, Nídia É Fudida. 'Popo' is an outstanding combination of laidback Atlanta trap and Afro-Portuguese sounds while 'Raps' features an earworm of a lead melody and knockout drums. Perhaps the highlight though is 'Capacidades' with its hollering vocal samples, accordion-aided lead melody and syncopated drums.
Christian Eede
36. Jerskin Fendrix -
Winterreise
(Untitled)
The risk with an album this multi-faceted is that it could easily just descend into a muddle as its components clash into one another – like mixing too many colours of paint to get a sludgy brown. However Jerskin Fendrix's main success is how that doesn't happen, how its pace is too blistering and his creativity too electric to ever get bogged down. He expresses himself in so many ways, in such a short space of time, but succeeds in more or less every single one. His beat-making is unique, his instrumentation prolific, and his lyric-writing witty and rich. For all of this, however, you're still left wondering who, at the core, Jerskin Fendrix really is. The record is as if he's wearing one lavish, intoxicating disguise after another, but never revealing who lies underneath.
Patrick Clarke
35. DJ Diaki -
Balani Fou
(Nyege Nyege Tapes)
One of the best labels in the world finds yet another way to keep the average BPM of its releases at truly aorta-scorching levels. Based in Uganda's capital Kampala, Nyege Nyege Tapes' recent releases have sometimes ventured beyond that nation's border (and beyond the eponymous format); DJ Diaki lives in a Malian village and plays Balani Show music, totally hectic percussive workouts which are supplemented by a live drum machine during DJ sets and built unapologetically for serious dancers. If you have a rhythmic affinity with go-go, ghettotech, ballroom house or the madness Nyege Nyege have previously unleashed from the Sisso collective, gird your loins.
Noel Gardner
34. Jennifer Walshe -
A Late Anthology Of Early Music Vol. 1: Ancient To Renaissance
(Migro)
A Late Anthology Of Early Music Vol. 1: Ancient To Renaissance, while subtly dichotomous, doesn't succumb to the conflict between "the human" and "the machine." Instead, it discovers serendipitous parallels. Here, the building materials are sourced from a torrent of Walshe's a cappella singing regenerated by SampleRNN, an artificial neural network created and wielded by CJ Carr and Zack Zukowski alias Dadabots. And the partitur? The ostensible "history of Western music," filtered through the artist's whimsical perspective and teaching experience. Using the spawned samples as bricks and plaster, Walshe constructs a simulated narrative that traces the transformations of her voice in Dadabots' accelerated Petri dish – where millennia fit in the span of minutes – and applies it to the similarly abbreviated canonical progress of vocal music.
Antonio Poscic
33. Yves Tumor -
Heaven To A Tortured Mind
(Warp)
Sean Bowie – aka Shan Bowie, AKA Rahel Ali, AKA Teams, AKA Yves Tumor – has always made difficult music. Not difficult to enjoy, but to reckon with. The precarious dance they are able to do between deeply soulful, humanistic music and aggressively opaque, nasty, rough noise makes each of their projects a challenge. One moment your surroundings seem to reveal themselves, the next you're launched into mirages again, rooms full of mirrors that stretch and distort things you ought to recognise. On Heaven To A Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor harnesses their relentless curiosity to test the boundaries of rock and noise – and reinvents what we expect from both in the process.
Michael Appouh
32. Shabazz Palaces -
The Don Of Diamond Dreams
(Sub Pop)
Shabazz Palaces' latest album opens and ends with a heavily distorted voice intoning, "Be inside your mind / Paint a picture." This, in essence, is what distinguishes the album from the slightly gloomier (though no less interesting) material on the two Quazarz LPs. While there was a sense of dismay running through those at a reality that was beginning to fracture, The Don Of Diamond Dreams feels imbued with a sense that alternative realities – different ways of telling stories, different mythologies to reflect our true nature – are always within our reach, if only we're able to fully embrace our own imaginations.
Adam Quarshie
31. Pink Siifu -
NEGRO
(Self-Released)
Pink Siifu's latest record sits at the intersection between hardcore punk, hip hop, experimental noise, and jazz, finding the rage, power and extremities of each and clashing them together in a raging and frenetic explosion of a record. Its words, sometimes spat and howled by Siifu, and sometimes created out of gritty sound collage, are rooted in black identity and his experiences of police brutality, evidenced most intensely on the record's incredible twin peaks 'ameriKKKa, try no pork.' and 'run pig run.'
Patrick Clarke
30. Nyx Nótt -
Aux Pieds De La Nuit
(Melodic)
Aidan Moffat has worn many hats over the years as lyricist/songwriter, collaborator and solo artist (mostly as L. Pierre), and here we see his composition rather than his writing foregrounded and developed. He's given himself a broad palette here of samples, SFX, keyboards, and objects, and it's often difficult to hear which is which. And though the press release speaks of a clarity of production, actually it's a lack of clarity which is perhaps this album's greatest strength. Things clip and are saturated, often removing a known sound from its deserving context. The effect of this is to disorientate, to warp and unnerve.
Johnny Lamb
29. Arca -
KiCK i
(XL)
KiCk i is a head-spinning record, one in which pillars of absolute pop transcendence emerge from a kaleidoscopic and glitchy vortex of constantly shifting noise. It's a chaotic, courageous and relentlessly forward-thinking record, one that finds Arca changing guise on every song. For all its boldness and experimentation, however, it's also her most immediate and catchy album to date, and is at its very best when it dives headfirst into the irresistible, straight-up banger 'KLK', a collaboration with Rosalía. Taken as a whole, KiCK i presents Arca at both her most experimental and her most accessible, without compromising either extreme.
Patrick Clarke
28. Phantom Posse -
Forever Underground
(Orchid)
After several attempts, New York producer Eric Littmann – the Phantom Posse collective's linchpin – has accidentally made an album for the times, a warped reverie of a soundtrack for empty urban landscapes. That's what these 14 cuts of disorientating ambience feel like, anyway – or does everything feel like that these days?
Matthew Horton
27. Cavern Of Anti-Matter -
In Fabric OST
(Duophonic)
Slipping into a cinema on a rainy afternoon in Soho to watch Peter Strickland's In Fabric was one of my more psychedelic experiences in recent years. Poised just as the film is between the encroaching terror and glitzy laughability of consumerism, the score by Cavern Of Anti-Matter lingered even longer in the mind than the movie did. Brimming with retro giallo soundtrack signposting, the spiralling melodic themes provided Tim Gane and synthesist Holger Zapf augment and mimic the film's hypnotic pace. From the flow of the devilish cursed dress at the heart of the movie, to the lingering sense of dread and melancholy behind every boldly colourful shop window, Cavern Of Anti-Matter perfectly augment In Fabric's rich aesthetic.
Tristan Bath
26. Luminous Bodies -
Nah Nah Nah Yeh Yeh Yeh
(Box)
This collective of scruffians have two beatmongers just like all the best bands (The Fall, Melvins circa 2006, the final incarnation of Fugazi, NoMeansNo, The Glitter Band...). Butthole Surfers are probably Luminous Bodies' principal double-drummer muse, mind, seeing as opener 'Sykes' sounds like rock & roll as veritable apocalypse, and one that you can growl along to no less, while the planet drowns in a plague of locusts accompanied by a lung-collapsing deluge of disgusting riffs. Faster numbers like 'Hey! You!' and 'The Lidless Eye' are probably a hoot live, as long as you aren't standing next to one of the violent psychopaths who are no doubt drawn to this group's ugly aural shenanigans.
JR Moores
25. DJ Python -
Mas Amable
(Incienso)
New Yorker Brian Piñeyro, AKA DJ Python, regularly describes his sound as "deep reggaeton." Past releases for labels such as Proibito and Dekmantel, as well as 2017 debut LP Dulce Compañia, have seen him blend the low-slung dembow rhythms of reggaeton with breakbeats and wistful melodies. It's a deeply hypnotic combination that only grows more entrancing on his second album, Mas Amable.
Christian Eede
24. upsammy -
Zoom
(Dekmantel)
There's an interesting playfulness to the rhythms on upsammy's debut album, which share a close lineage with the kind of bumpy IDM that you can frequently expect to hear in her DJ sets. Curious, fizzing melodies shine throughout, from the dubby 'Extra Warm' to the percussive, rolling energy of 'Subsoil' and chunky electro-esque 'Overflowering'. I've long admired upsammy's willingness to eschew obvious club functionality in the rhythms and melodies that typify her productions and DJ sets, and Zoom, her latest act in doing just that, is undoubtedly her best record yet.
Christian Eede
23. Lorenzo Senni -
Scacco Matto
(Warp)
Scacco Matto, Lorenzo Senni's latest effort for the Warp Records imprint, puts me in the mind of a brash sports car, something like a Lamborghini or whatever Richard Hammond has pinned to his wall. Jeremy Clarkson would love it and say, "Yes!" and "Power!" and "Speed!" while giving it a good romp around the racetrack. James May would find it all a bit unnecessary.
Ryan Alexander Diduck
22. Run The Jewels -
Run The Jewels 4
(Jewel Runners/BMG)
If it had appeared at any other time, Run The Jewels 4 would hold up as a brilliant and extremely potent record, but the latest record from El-P and Killer Mike feels inseparable from the time it was released. Appearing as the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd were hitting their peak, when the reality of just how much progress and change was to be achieved from amidst the turmoil, and when Mike's impassioned, eloquent and powerful speech to the people of his native Atlanta proved once again his incredible oratory skills, the duo's inherent vitality feels amplified just that little bit further.
Patrick Clarke
21. Villaelvin -
Headroof
(Hakuna Kulala)
I'm going to hazard a guess that the idea of a lockdown won't impede the vivid creative drive of Elvin Brandhi - one part of the daughter/father duo, Yeah You, given that, notoriously, some of their shows have taken place in rush hour traffic, or parked up in a layby. I dare say, the front room holds no fear... Headroof is a dynamic, thrilling, absolutely blazing collaboration with several members of the Nyege Nyege family which took place at their Villa in Kampala, Uganda a year ago.
John Doran
20. Land Trance -
First Seance
(Dense Truth)
One of the biggest reasons Land Trance are such a successful project is the cohesion that constituent members Benjamin D. Duvall of Ex-Easter Island Head and Andrew PM Hunt of Outfit have established when combining their two voices; you can hear the former's psychedelic instincts being pushed further outside of the box by the latter's driving spirit and his innovative approach to instrumentation. The result is an unfathomably gorgeous album, lush and layered with a powerful and personal core.
Patrick Clarke
19. Dua Lipa -
Future Nostalgia
(Warner Bros.)
Where Dua Lipa's 2017 debut album arrived eight months past its release date, no such misfortune befell its follow-up, Future Nostalgia, which arrived a week ahead of schedule earlier this year as many countries entered their coronavirus lockdowns. Drawing in all manner of '80s and '90s pop disco sheen ('Future Nostalgia', 'Physical), without getting lost in the past, Future Nostalgia is chock full of hooks and stylish pop bangers.
Christian Eede
18. Destroyer -
Have We Met
(Merge/Dead Oceans)
A desolate narrative woven throughout Dan Bejar's imagery often creates claustrophobic songs which, from the offset, are not for the faint-hearted. Bejar, our conduit in this realm, see-saws in his invitation to listeners to observe this place: "Just look at the world around, actually, no don't look," he intones on 'The Raven'. This stark lament is continued when Bejar further implies that "the idea of the world is no good." Despite this cautionary exclamation, it's impossible to divert your attention away from the many atrocities that make-up Destroyer’s most dynamic record. Here, your chances of encountering the Boston Strangler are as good as coming across a gaggle of "chicken-shit singers paying their dues" or "another dead rich runaway."
Zara Hedderman
17. Blóm -
Flower Violence
(Box)
The more I try and brainstorm Newcastle trio Blóm's position in rock's hellish landscape, the less they sound like anyone else within it. Certainly they remind me of other groups, are analogous to others, can be talked of in the same breath as more again – all of which is different from sounding like them. On the face of it, there's nothing especially unusual about how Blóm set up: Helen Walkinshaw, Liz McDade and Erika Leaman on vocals, drums and bass respectively, their guitarless status adding sharp focus to the bottom-end sludginess of songs which have precedence in punk, noiserock, no wave and psychedelia. Yet Flower Violence, their five-song debut album on local label Box, seems to harbour its own distinct tics of rhythm, arrangement and instrumental interplay.
Noel Gardner
16. Jockstrap -
Wicked City
(Warp)
Jockstrap are a group still in their relative infancy, but their musical ideas and artistic vision here is fully formed. They're no longer an exciting prospect, but a divine force in their own experimental pop field; more than anything else, this EP whets the whistle for a full length. Wicked City is the latest glimpse into their fully realised sonic kingdom, and I can't wait to spend more time there.
Cal Cashin
15. Keeley Forsyth -
Debris
(Leaf)
Keeley Forsyth is able to create incredible depths with simple words and phrasing, combining them in a way that's elusive and yet makes full emotional contact. By Debris' third track 'It’s Raining', her dramatic proficiency begins to reveal itself more fully; the rolling of the 'r's, the wet 'p's and the transition between head and chest voice that refuses to be discreet. This is a boldly honest and startling debut.
Lara C. Cory
14. Katie Gately -
Loom
(Houndstooth)
Despite being heavily informed by the loss of her mother to cancer in 2018, Katie Gately's second album is not so much about grief, as made with grief. It is layered in every atom of the record, like a fifth element tying it all together. Part self-soothing machine, part banishing ritual, Loom is Gately's most artistically refined offering. In its grim landscape amid the terrors of grieving, ailing, raging bodies and ravaging hyper anxious brain chemistry, an eerie transcendence looms large.
Danijela Bočev
13. Oranssi Pazuzu -
Mestarin Kynsi
(Nuclear Blast)
Opener 'Ilmestys' welcomes the listener with waves of throbbing synths and stark, repetitive rhythms like Cluster's evil twin. 'Kuulen Ääniä Maan Alta' hides a thoroughly malevolent riff behind sparkling John Carpenter-style melodies and a stuttering, techno-inspired drum beat before it finally erupts into a blizzard of filth, but 'Uusi Teknokratia' is even more bizarre, as it dashes madly through cascades of erratic bleeps and pulsating keys, what sounds like a skipping Neurosis CD played at an uncomfortably high frequency, galaxies of twisted Lustmord-ian ambience and sparse dubby basslines, and a crazy lead passage that sounds like Ron Asheton cracking open the Ark of the Covenant and peeling out one final ear-bleeding solo before he melts away.
Kez Whelan
12. Algiers -
There Is No Year
(Matador)
Algiers' previous record, 2017's The Underside Of Power, was a doubling down on the dense wall of noise of its self-titled predecessor. There Is No Year isn’t exactly a retreat from that; the four-piece's loosely post-punk template is still based around vocalist Franklin James Fisher raging against the dying light, as he fights to find space amongst the claustrophobia of his bandmates' juddering industrial hisses and thuds. This time round, though, he's starting to win the battle. His lyrics – taken entirely from a self-penned poem called 'Misophonia' – sound clearer than ever before.
Simon Jay Catling
11. MXLX -
Serpent
(Self-Released)
MXLX, AKA Matt Loveridge, has mellowed, slightly. This is evident on 'Fuckin' Had it With You Lot'. A monotone synth drones on in the background as Loveridge rambles on about losing his confidence in people and being sick of it. The final third of the song grows to a distorted crescendo before abruptly stopping. Then the album's standout moment kicks in. On 'Being A Bomb', MXLX just lets rips. It's sheer noise from the beginning. Throughout Serpent, you could feel the tension bubbling under the surface, but Loveridge showed restraint to keep the songs from descending into chaos. On ‘Being A Bomb’ though, he just unleashes six minutes of pent up aggression and perfectly measured turmoil.
Nick Roseblade
10. Nazar -
Guerrilla
(Hyperdub)
Yes, one can identify a few constituent parts, trace the shadows of various influences here and there, but when consumed as a whole, Guerrilla is a singular experience. Through the feverish blur that lingers around most of the LP, snatches of the familiar are occasionally audible: footwork and breakbeat clearly inform much of the percussion, for example; tracks like 'Fim-92 Stinger' nod towards early house and techno, though their danceability is constantly disrupted by bursts of noise and dissonance; vocal samples and field recordings provide the record's underlying humanity even as they’re warped and inverted beyond recognition.
Luke Cartledge
9. Perfume Genius -
Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
(Matador)
Mike Hadreas is proficient in retaining Set My Heart On Fire Immediately's allure as he exudes an unwavering assurance in his artistic dexterity, seamlessly slipping between almost industrial-like rhythms and carefree pop songs. One such irresistible moment is the fun-loving 1980s-tinged, 'On The Floor'. Even after repeated listens – you could easily lose track of time enjoying it on an infinite loop – the layered textures of Wurlitzer and whomping bass are persistently rewarding. Similarly, the tonal shift of 'Moonbend's spacious arrangement, dominated by Spanish-tinged guitar and mellotron, is utterly spell-binding.
Zara Hedderman
8. Lyra Pramuk -
Fountain
(Bedroom Community)
Fountain, Lyra Pramuk's captivating debut, is composed completely of sounds fashioned from her own voice. There are songs, some with words, but primarily there are extralinguistic utterances that are processed, augmented, deformed, and re-organised technologically to create timbres and textures that bear little resemblance to anything human-made. The result is a conceptual and smart album that also refreshingly succeeds as an aesthetic object.
Ryan Alexander Diduck
7. Nadine Shah -
Kitchen Sink
(Infectious)
On her fourth full length release, Nadine Shah engages with the gendered politics of interpersonal arrangements, keeping her gaze fixed on the time pressures of maturing womanhood. Kitchen Sink is an album imbued with the outsider experience, filling the great pop cultural songbook with the missing stories of various othered perspectives, characters whose lives haven't unfolded as imagined, expected, or socially prescribed. "Predominantly the album is about choice," Shah says, "to respect everyone's choice of how they live their lives."
Danijela Bočev
6. Sex Swing -
Type II
(Rocket)
Psychedelic rock is supposed to be transcendent, but what makes Sex Swing so powerful is that they transcend the limitations of psychedelic rock. Their sound is so full of possibilities: violence, sexuality, sacrifice, even religion. If there was a future to look forward to for heavy guitar music, this is it. Sex Swing: the lost futures of rock & roll have been realised. Even the worst, the most terrifying, psychedelic experiences can have transformative potential.
Adam Lehrer
5. Jeff Parker -
Suite For Max Brown
(International Anthem)
Jeff Parker's last album, The New Breed, was a tribute to his father who passed away while the album was being made. This time, Parker dedicated new album, Suite For Max Brown, to his mother, Maxine. Tender riffs interplay with gentle tones to create an album that oozes with admiration. Given the subject matter, his mum, this makes perfect sense. But what sets Suite For Max Brown apart from similar releases is how honest and raw it feels. There are times when the project could have drifted into a schmaltzy affair, but Parker sticks to his avant-garde roots and delivers his strongest album to date.
Nick Roseblade
4. Beatrice Dillon -
Workaround
(PAN)
In a smart but not obtuse way, Dillon's tracks are woven through with the musical genres in which she has found inspiration, along with nods to the grid-like abstractions of visual art and the scored frameworks of Labanian dance. Locked in at 150bpm, swipes reminiscent of micro house are meshed with Afro-Caribbean polyrhythms and the tresillo beat of Latin America. Carefully placed (but not constant) gut-rattling deep bass dips in and out unexpectedly. There is dub without echo and there are grooves without things getting too wiggly. There are hints of jungle's micro-engineered fragments being torn down and rebuilt – but with more space to catch your breath Workaround's assemblies have a human scale too, as Dillon leaves ample room for her impressive roster of collaborators (too many to list but Laurel Halo, Batu, Jonny Lam, and Lucy Railton are among them) to resound warmly between her computational rhythms.
Kristen Gallerneaux

3. Squarepusher -
Be Up A Hello
(Warp)
Be Up A Hello is Tom Jenkinson's strongest album for a decade and is easily up there with his best work. After the initial euphoric bounce of 'Oberlove' and 'Hitsonu', the album delves into classic territories. Wonky jazz and acid breakdowns all feature, making Be Up A Hello feel like a greatest hits album. And in a sense it is. In a perverse way, by using the same equipment he started out with, Be Up A Hello feels like his debut 2.0. He's taking everything he's learned over his 24-year career and putting it to use with his original gear, making for an album that has hints of nostalgia, but none of the awkwardness.
Nick Roseblade

2. Einstürzende Neubauten -
Alles In Allem
(Potomak)
Alles In Allem, translated as 'All In All', is Einstürzende Neubauten's most compulsively lisenable album to date. The group's first full-length of new material since 2007's Alles Wieder Offen, Alles In Allem finds Neubauten at their most melodic, lush and textured. The apocalyptic industrial of early masterpieces like Kollaps or Halber Mensch has been subbed out in favour of lush string arrangements, majestic synth melodies, and Blixa Bargeld's refined singing. The elevation in the sophistication of its musicality has been a persistent theme for Neubauten since the late '90s, and those that still fetishise the band for the pulverisations of its early albums are robbing themselves of the joys associated with Neubauten's more compositionally inclined later career phase.
Adam Lehrer

1. The Soft Pink Truth –
Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
(Thrill Jockey)
As strange as it might seem to those of you whose last experience with Drew Daniel's solo project was Why Do The Heathen Rage? – a fabulously bacchanalian, club-nightmare reworking of classic black metal tracks – for me, his new effort somehow embodies the rhythms of mass. Or perhaps more accurately, my memories of the rhythm of Catholic mass. Which, for the unfamiliar, is a repetitive endeavour of a somewhat startling musical range. Hymns, chants, moments that lull you into a contemplative, nearly meditative state, and others that shake you out of it. If you were a kid bored out of your skull by it all, you know what I mean. A good friend of mine is fond of jokingly chanting the eucharistic doxology, saying, "My favorite song, dude," before cracking himself up. Anyway, it sinks in.

And so it goes with Shall We Go On Sinning, an album designed to both inspire calm as well as disrupt it. One continuous piece of music split into tracks to appease the streaming gods. The LP begins with 'Shall', a lovely, layered accumulation of voices singing the record's title over and over again, before giving way to the crackling of fire (or is it the rippling of water?) and the soothing, almost devotional house music of 'We'. (Has any genre of "secular" music ever been more filled with church, with community?) Throughout its first half, the album flirts with ambient tropes, its reliably reoccurring, looping piano figures maintaining a spiritual connection to house music, giving the listener the impression that a 4/4 kick could return at any moment, though it never does.

Instead, just after the album's halfway point, Daniel shatters the listener's reverie with a slew of bells, free jazz horns and walloping kicks. This segment of the record, 'Sinning', for those following along at home, heralds the beginning of the album's more chaotic, rambunctious half, while also acting as a kind of wake-up call, maybe even something like "a swift, spiritual kick to the head," as Minnie Driver's character puts it in Grosse Pointe Blank (a recent shelter-in-place rewatch). The horns stick around. Something like an organ pops up later. Everything is ecstatic. Fully illuminated. 'Grace' fakes an afterglow comedown before blowing wide open with depth-charge subs and a wild vocal loop. 'May Increase' allows the energy to fully dissipate. The feeling, having gone through it all, is utterly refreshing, akin to renewal.
Bernie Brooks

The Quietus Albums Of The Year So Far 2020

  • 1: The Soft Pink Truth - Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
  • 2: Einstürzende Neubauten - Alles In Allem
  • 3: Squarepusher - Be Up A Hello
  • 4: Beatrice Dillon - Workaround
  • 5: Jeff Parker - Suite for Max Brown
  • 6: Sex Swing - Type II
  • 7: Nadine Shah - Kitchen Sink
  • 8: Lyra Pramuk - Fountain
  • 9: Perfume Genius - Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
  • 10: Nazar - Guerrilla
  • 11: MXLX - Serpent
  • 12: Algiers - There Is No Year
  • 13: Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin Kynsi
  • 14: Katie Gately - Loom
  • 15: Keeley Forsyth - Debris
  • 16: Jockstrap - Wicked City
  • 17: Blóm - Flower Violence
  • 18: Destroyer - Have We Met
  • 19: Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia
  • 20: Land Trance - First Seance
  • 21: Villaelvin - Headroof
  • 22: Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 4
  • 23: Lorenzo Senni - Scacco Matto
  • 24: upsammy - Zoom
  • 25: DJ Python - Mas Amable
  • 26: Luminous Bodies - Nah Nah Nah Yeh Yeh Yeh
  • 27: Cavern Of Anti-Matter - In Fabric OST
  • 28: Phantom Posse - Forever Underground
  • 29: Arca - KiCK i
  • 30: Nyx Nótt - Aux Pieds De La Nuit
  • 31: Pink Siifu - NEGRO
  • 32: Shabazz Palaces - The Don Of Diamond Dreams
  • 33: Yves Tumor - Heaven To A Tortured Mind
  • 34: Jennifer Walshe - A Late Anthology Of Early Music Vol. 1: Ancient To Renaissance
  • 35: DJ Diaki - Balani Fou
  • 36: Jerskin Fendrix - Winterreise
  • 37: Nídia - Não Fales Nela Que A Mentas
  • 38: Charli XCX - how i'm feeling now
  • 39: Nihiloxica - Kaloli
  • 40: Jason Crumer - Jason Crumer
  • 41: Sarah Davachi - Gathers
  • 42: Minor Science - Second Language
  • 43: Blind Eye - Blind Eye
  • 44: Black Curse - Endless Wound
  • 45: Quelle Chris & Chris Keys - Innocent Country 2
  • 46: Torbjörn Zetterberg & Den Stora Frågan - Are You Happy?
  • 47: Sun Araw - Rock Sutra
  • 48: Aoife Nessa Frances - Land Of No Junction
  • 49: YlangYlang - Interplay
  • 50: Georgia - Seeking Thrills
  • 51: Delphine Dora - L'Inattingible
  • 52: Aksak Maboul - Figures
  • 53: The Homesick - The Big Exercise
  • 54: Cassowary - Cassowary
  • 55: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs - Viscerals
  • 56: Six Organs Of Admittance - Companion Rises
  • 57: Nape Neck - Nape Neck
  • 58: Cold Meat - Hot And Flustered
  • 59: Ambrose Akinmusire - on the tender spot of every calloused moment
  • 60: Clemency - References
  • 61: Sven Wunder - Eastern Flowers
  • 62: Regis - Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss
  • 63: Daniel Craig - A Past Yet To Come
  • 64: Laylow - Trinity
  • 65: Rising Damp - Petrol Factory
  • 66: Zebra Katz - LESS IS MOOR
  • 67: Deerhoof - Future Teenage Cave Artists
  • 68: Junk Drawer - Ready For The House
  • 69: Brent Faiyaz - Fuck The World
  • 70: Katatonic Silentio - Prisoner Of The Self
  • 71: Laura Cannell - The Earth With Her Crowns
  • 72: Teleplasmiste - To Kiss Earth Goodbye
  • 73: Pyrrhon - Abcess Time
  • 74: tētēma - Necroscape
  • 75: Haq123 - Evil Spirits Who Prowl About The World Seeking The Ruin Of Spirits
  • 76: Anna Högberg Attack! - Lena
  • 77: Dale Cornish - Thug Ambient
  • 78: Menzi - Impazamo
  • 79: Memnon Sa - World Serpent
  • 80: Claire Rousay - a heavenly touch
  • 81: The Chisel - Deconstructive Surgery
  • 82: DJ Lycox - Kizas Do Ly
  • 83: Trrmà - The Earth's Relief
  • 84: Arbouretum - Let It All In
  • 85: J Hus - Big Conspiracy
  • 86: Sonic Boom - All Things Being Equal
  • 87: Morusque - the end of music
  • 88: Concentration - I'm Not What I Was
  • 89: Bulbils - Invader
  • 90: Bruxa Maria - The Maddening
  • 91: Richard Skelton - LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM
  • 92: The Transcendence Orchestra - Feeling The Spirit
  • 93: Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts V: Together
  • 94: Fra Fra - Funeral Songs
  • 95: Lee Ranaldo & Raül Refree - Names Of North East Women
  • 96: Wrangler - A Situation
  • 97: dvsn - A Muse In Her Feelings
  • 98: AHRKH - Beams From A Spiritual Panorama
  • 99: AYA - are eye pea ell oh eff tea
  • 100: Satan - Toutes Ces Horreurs

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.