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Quietus Charts

The Quietus Albums Of The Year So Far Chart 2023 (In Association With Norman Records)
The Quietus , July 3rd, 2023 08:12

As we reach the middway point of 2023, we polled tQ staff and columnists to compile the top 100 albums released during the first six months of the year

Illustration by Lisa Cradduck

The first thing I need to write is a heartfelt thank you. I've often wondered, every time we put together our half year and yearly charts about our favourite records, if this one will be the penultimate, or the last, we're able to do. TQ might now be 15, a fairly venerable age for a publication, but there's been no point in that time where the whole operation hasn't been on shaky financial grounds, due to the vagaries of advertising, social media hollowing out digital publishing, algorithms and so on.

Our recent campaign to boost our subscriber numbers has been a success in that it has recharged the tanks for the near-future – John, myself and all of us at tQ want to thank everyone who signed up to keep the wolf from the door in our subs push a couple of months ago. Direct support seems to be the only future for independent publishing, and we hope as many of you as possible might consider joining the illustrious number of our existing subscribers – you can do so via our Steady page here, and gain bonus editorial, a newsletter, podcasts, playlists and exclusive music every month. If we can keep the subs up, this chart of music for the middle of our fifteenth year will hopefully just be one of many more to come.

While the hard coin that our subscribers contribute is the tangible fuel that keeps us going, the music you'll find below is a rarer, more elusive and strange form of sustenance, without which we’d have had to give up years ago. I know I would be unable to do this job if, for whatever reason, I thought everything was shite. As it is, I struggled to cut down my list to the number that John had requested, amazing music alas falling by the wayside – for now at least. On the flipside, there are quite a few records on here that I've never heard of, that like many of you I'll be getting to know and love over the coming months. I hope you'll find as much reward in these records as our compilers have, and that they’ll be illuminated by the words we’ve written about them.

No matter what superannuated lords of the poptimist centre like Ed Sheeran might say, there's a joy in writing about music that we continue to find as infectious, inspiring and life-affirming as ever, especially as the margins the good ship tQ sails remain such an impossibly rich kaleidoscope of sound and invention. Thanks for reading, thanks for supporting, and thanks for listening.
Luke Turner, June 2023

This chart was voted for by Quietus staff and columnists. It was compiled by John Doran and built by Patrick Clarke and Christian Eede.

100. Liv.e –
Girl In The Half Pearl
(In Real Life)
Girl In The Half Pearl is a metamorphosis in many ways, encapsulating the stress, deep introspection and eventual acceptance that goes hand in hand with the desire to access a complete sense of freedom. It's an album that is hard to categorise but its methodical beats, otherworldly production, intriguingly chaotic clashes of melody and hazy vocals all inexplicably mesh together, with Liv.e leaning further and further towards a vital point of breakthrough.
Arusa Qureshi

99. Historically Fucked –
The Mule Peasants' Revolt Of 12067
(Upset The Rhythm)
Let's accept, for argument's sake, that some improvised music – from the thousands of hours' worth recorded each year – does take itself too seriously, is arid and dour and gives no indication of anyone involved having fun. Then consider Manuncian quartet Historically Fucked and their new album, The Mule Peasants' Revolt Of 12,067. It sounds like an unstoppable party! Sure, one for a selective clientele, who dig Fluxus methodology, Skin Graft Records catalogue obscurities and the well-spoken goofballs of post-AMM British free music – but those people might just dance you squares under the table.
Noel Gardner

98. ABADIR –
(Drowned By Locals)
Melting sees ABADIR dive into the archives, fusing together 500-ish snippets from video and radio. The piece is based on his master's thesis, in which he strove to "synthesise music and sounds works and a vision engaged with the past without being nostalgic or succumbing to the capitalist nostalgia industry." The result is genuinely psychedelic, in that it acts on the working of the mind, these blasts of pop hits, critical theory lectures and media detritus blending together and knocking our brains into plotting new relationships. Generating an essay-like montage somewhere between Negativland and The Arcades Project, ABADIR delivers a radically askance glance on past and present alike.
Daryl Worthington

97. Karlowy Vary –
La Femme
(Freedom To Spend)
A lesser known but essential chapter of Yugoslav new wave, the debut LP by the Zagreb-based outfit Karlowy Vary, originally released in 1985, was reissued this year by the Slovenian label Matrix Music. The band, with Margita Stefanović from the cult Belgrade band Ekaterina Velika on keyboards and the enigmatic Varja Orlić on mic, whose commanding voice brings to mind the haunting depth of post-Velvet Nico, unfortunately disbanded only a year after its release. La Femme brings forth a seductive cocktail of new wave mysticism, funked-up rock riffs, colourful synth hues, goth and post-punk intellectualism and modernist poetry, and still sounds as fresh as ever.
Jaša Bužinel

96. Rian Treanor & Ocen James –
(Nyege Nyege Tapes)
Saccades is truly human dance music – a symbiotic collaboration between interfaces, musicians, instruments and cultures. Nowhere does that better resonate than on the final track 'Remo Rom', remixed by Farmers Manual. The Austrian electronic experimentalists punctuate the intimacy of Ugandan folk singers with burbling, obverse rhythmic structures and blasts of noise and distortion. The racket is hypnotic – a Frankenstein mess that lumbers towards the edge of musical intelligibility before falling apart under its own weight.
Hannah Pezzack

95. Little Simz –
(Forever Living Originals)
The strongest feeling that Little Simz's fifth album evokes is one of acceptance, of being understood, of belonging somewhere or to someone – like after a cathartic talk with a lifelong friend. Simz's lyrical brilliance and emotional intelligence permeates the NO THANK YOU's verses, reflecting on the music business, intimacy and spirituality. Seemingly more laidback and instrumentally skeletal, more old school, when compared to the more ambitious orchestral manoeuvres of its predecessor Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, the synergy with her producer compadre Inflo (one of the greatest out there) and backing vocalist Cleo Sol remains stellar throughout the record.
Jaša Bužinel
94. Liis Ring –
Homing begins with a conversation and ends with a sound somewhere between a snore and a revving engine. The Estonia-born, Gothenburg-based Liis Ring's songs reside in a similar zone to that explored by Adela Mede and Martyna Basta, one where the diaristic weaves into the ineffable imprint of folklore and mundane surroundings alike. Ring's compositions are more rooted in urban places, and the way she incorporates far off singalongs and up-close conversations into her songs echoes the vibrant field recording narratives of Pierre Mariétan. Whether it's the bird song dancing through gloaming synths on 'after-image I: nothing stands still', or the splashing percussion on 'after-image IV', every sound feels symbiotically connected to every other. In other words, they're diegetic wholes rather than songs over backgrounds.
Daryl Worthington

93. Oozing Wound –
We Cater To Cowards
(Thrill Jockey)
If this is the end of the road for Oozing Wound, then that is an enormous shame, particularly because We Cater To Cowards is another triumph, as well an Olive Oyl-legged step forward. For starters, the influence of the mighty and massively underrated TAD is heftier than ever. Also with a waft of The Jesus Lizard to its sinister swing and feedback-ridden noise-rockiness, album cut 'Total Existence Failure' provides further evidence that this lot are fully aware there are plenty of rival varieties of music that can often outstrip the heaviness of heavy metal.
JR Moores

92. Aksak Maboul –
Une Aventure De VV (Songspiel)
(Crammed Discs)
Inspired by experimental radio plays like those once created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop or the German Hörspiel, the surrealistic narrative of Une Aventure De VV (Songspiel) fuses elements of Tarkovsky and the Strugatsky brothers’ Stalker with aspects of Alice In Wonderland and Jean Cocteau’s Orphée. Exiting her room via a window and leaving her ability to use language behind, the character VV embarks on a journey during which she converses with non-human beings (birds, trees and rocks), destroys a vast wall, and enters into a dead zone that exists "beyond all maps."
Sean Kitching

91. Wolf Eyes –
Dreams In Splattered Lines
Pulsing space rays, bird calls, snake-charming woodwind lines, harsh noise stabs, chew toy squeaks, and bouncing rhythms in the vein of Black Dice mingle together across Dreams In Splattered Lines. There are too many moments of passing brilliance to catalogue them all, but against all odds they ultimately fit into a close-knit and almost catchy whole. While their exact nature might be unknown to us, there is method to this entropy, an invisible conceptual force that allows Wolf Eyes to discover yet another avenue of their creative prowess.
Antonio Poscic

90. Paul St. Hilaire –
Tikiman Vol. 1
Under his given name, as well as the alias Tikiman, Paul St. Hilaire has lent his voice to some of the most important dub techno-adjacent records of the last few decades, collaborating with the likes of Rhythm & Sound, Deadbeat and Vainquer. St. Hilaire's first solo album since 2006 sees him act as lead producer and vocalist, and picks up on the understated, dubbed-out sounds of those past records. Opener 'Bedroom In My Bag' throws back to his gorgeous 2003 collaboration with René Löwe, 'Faith', while cuts like 'Little Way' and 'Bright One' recall those classic Rhythm & Sound link-ups of the late '90s and early '00s. St. Hilaire's production is a masterclass in subtlety and minimalism across Tikiman Vol. 1, and one could happily listen to his artful, dubby loops unfurl for hours.
Christian Eede

89. Poison Ruïn –
Philadelphian dungeonpunx Poison Ruïn don't fit the preexisting image (or mine, anyway) of a DIY band who sign to a big metal label, but Relapse – their patrons for Härvest, the group's debut album proper after a few scarce EPs – relinquished any coherent 'sound' long ago, for better or worse. The result bears little indication of having been created with the short-term intention of stepping into the arenas: like the earlier Poison Ruïn tapes, which Relapse are reissuing simultaneously with Härvest, these songs are recorded in spartan style but convey high drama through a sound somewhere between post-punk, death rock, anarcho-punk and metal.
Noel Gardner

88. Wallowing –
Earth Reaper
(Church Road)
As thrilling as the first half of Earth Reaper is, it feels like a mere warm-up compared to its colossal 20 minute title track, which voyages through deep drone/doom territory before belting Sabbath-esque leads over punishing blasts and huge seas of crumbling, fizzing noise atop swinging grooves – it's like Amplifier Worship-era Boris and early Dragged Into Sunlight being sucked into a black hole and melding together. There's much to love about Wallowing – their evocative conceptual focus, their theatrical, maximalist aesthetic, their sensory overload of a live show – but the main thing that resonates here for me is just how smoothly they manage to blend elements from a host of extreme metal sub-genres into a sound that defies easy categorisation whilst remaining cohesive, organic and inventive.
Kez Whelan

87. Unperson –
Imagine the Situationists were sounds artists who took aim at the contemporary mindfulness industry and you'll have some idea of what to expect on Spiritual™. The side-long piece (the B-side is an instrumental version, the digital includes an a capella) sees Fiona Scott impersonate a guided mindfulness experience over a sound bath turned toxic. It lambasts a situation where spirituality and mindfulness are commercialised – in other words, wellbeing is only visible if it has economic ramifications. The wry detournement in the voiceover starts subtly before becoming increasingly explicit and absurd; "Think of this as a sonic WD40." Anyone who's ever had a work mental wellbeing seminar that keeps looping back to discussions of maintaining productivity will find something familiar here.
Daryl Worthington

86. Jam City –
Jam City Presents EFM
I'm afraid there is no other way to put this – this is an album of bangers. 'Touch Me' – on which Aidan's vocals play-off sinuously with those of Manchester singer-songwriter Clara La San – rides in on a groove that is equal parts Balearic anthem and imperial-phase Madonna. On 'Reface', even the trademark extravagantly filtered vocals and sonic effects (theorised by critics like Adam Harper and Dan Barrow as quirks of a new accelerationist sub-genre called 'distroid') can't hide the fact that it is broadly channelling the vibe of a Radio 1 Essential Mix circa 2003 (in a good way). Even more gloriously, the drum track in 'Wild N Sweet' recalls nothing so much as Gala's 'Freed From Desire', a startling – and not unwelcome – moment in the oeuvre of an artist with a reputation for apocalyptic sonic brutalism. You can almost taste the cheap champagne at Liquid & Envy.
Alex Niven

85. Richard Skelton –
(Phantom Limb)
Richard Skelton captures the expanse of the universe on Selenodesy by layering contrasting textures, creating depth. No moment stays in stasis for too long: 'hypervelocity', for example, builds from a pillowy, rippling sound, but just when things feel their most graceful, a sharp pang slices through them, offering a change of pace, while 'lesser gravity' begins with haunted shimmers that gradually turn into pointy icicles as the track progresses. Elsewhere, Skelton plunges into a black hole of sound, clawing his way back out. 'The plot of lunar phase' grows from an ominous, deep drone, layering sharp squeals and eerie hums on top, occasionally sprinkling in some hollow twinkles to offer a little lightness. In moments like these, Skelton's music depicts the immensity of the night sky, but also the fear that can arise from peering into it, the feeling of being engulfed in the unknown.
Vanessa Ague

84. 23wa –
23wa sounds like he makes music in his own bubble, serenely indifferent to prevailing French trends. His previous opus, 2022's 3, was a glitchy, saturated, bewildering and hilarious sprawl of chopped beats, incongruous samples and fractured structures, both obsessively detailed and delightfully sloppy. Rorschach continues in that vein – the title of 'Sable Mouvant' (quicksand or shifting sand) is apt; the rug is constantly being pulled out from beneath you. Sometimes the experience is like skipping rapidly between different stations – halfway through, 'Keske' suddenly tumbles its way into a hyperactive drum & bass section – and at others it's as though you're hearing several songs simultaneously: 'Plaine Noire, Siècle Zero' comes over like 23wa is clashing with a hardcore noise outfit playing in the room next door, the distortion bleeding through the walls.
David McKenna

83. Seaming To –
Dust Gatherers
(O SingAtMe)
Dust Gatherers starts with 'An Overture', an instrumental and impressionistic two-minute intro featuring wind chimes that dissolves itself into a drone of sound. The following 'Blessing' summons up the mediaeval chants of Hildegard of Bingen and goes on as a prayer: "May God bless us in sleep with rest, in dreams with vision, in awakening with a calm mind, in a soul with the friendship of a holy spirit." The album then sets off on a journey through myriad visions, evoking distinct images. The undulating harmonies of 'Hitchhiker' conjure up a drive across a constantly changing landscape. Like most of the record, the track features strings and keyboards, taking off with bubbling synths that remind me of animated sci-fi films.
Irina Shtreis

82. Jacques Puech –
Gravir / Canon
This tape of bagpipes (French smallpipes to be precise) will bore a hole from the crown of your skull to the core of the earth. 'Canon' plays with five pipes in phased counterpoint, while 'Gravir' elaborates upon a Shepherd tone with a metronomic tapping, so you know time still exists and what it sounds like to count the seconds as you move ever closer towards the fate that awaits us all. Obliterate thyself.
Jennifer Lucy Allan

81. Rosso Polare –
Bocca D'ombra
With Bocca D'Ombra, you can go for a walk while sitting down: you could do worse this month than listening to the huffs and puffs of 'Albanella', which are decorous with bird sounds, slow dirges, and amateur brass. Rosso Polare are Cesare Lopopolo and Anna Vezzosi, and they write about how folklore and a human-nature connection is at the root of this album. However, while there's scope to think deeper about the latter – a cock crows in sync with a horn parp, night insects accompany a frantic hardware thud – I found it at its best when I shut off my thinking brain and just listened, inducing a thoroughly pleasant trip. Time out of mind.
Jennifer Lucy Allan

80. Katie Gately –
Fawn / Brute
As a concept album, Fawn / Brute is well-structured and consistent. As hinted by the title, the record contains two parts, one of which is lighter and more child-like, while the second part is darker and more volatile. The name of the album refers to two songs emblematic of such a juxtaposition. Visualised on the cover by images of a harlequin, the two title tracks 'Fawn' and 'Brute' ostensibly refer to different qualities of a toddler who can be angelic and charming but also capricious and loud. Similarly, the dichotomy addresses two visions of the world – that is by a child and a teenager. 'Fawn' is a stomper with bouncing synths and spiralling winds echoing the lighthearted music played at nursery parties or on cartoon soundtracks. It is another example of Gately's ability to absorb the environment and transform it into an abstract and intangible form. She does it playfully. The second title track, 'Brute', features a roaring bassline which resulted from the artist's experiments while producing random sounds with cardboard shoeboxes.
Irina Shtreis

79. Sabrina Bellaouel –
Al Hadr
Produced in collaboration with InFiné labelmate Basile3, among others, Al Hadr beguiles from the opening moments of 'Ain El Fouara'; a few words in Arabic are like an incantation that peels the album open, unleashing a gale of fluttering, reversed autotuned melismata. Sabrina Bellaouel, who studied ethnomusicology at Goldsmiths, switches between English, French and Arabic and her delicately expressive vocals are re-pitched, stretched and chopped across a record that's replete with similar moments of rapture – fittingly there's even a track called 'Rapture', which matches symphonic synth swells to a scrunchy trap beat and, as with every other song, constantly folds new and gorgeous details into the mix. From the spine-tingling house of 'Eclipse' and hyper-R&B of 'Legit' to lush, hushed ballads 'Clémence' and the title track, and thumping, rock-y finale 'Goodbye' – a duet with Bonnie Banane – Al Hadr is very special indeed.
David McKenna

78. JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown –
Scaring The Hoes
This pairing of two of experimental hip hop's most larger-than-life characters is a winning formula on paper, and the duo have really brought out the best in each other here, with Danny Brown spitting some of his most histrionic, cartoonish bars over some of JPEGMAFIA's most detailed and imaginative production to date. When the beat drops in the skronky title track, it feels like a joyously sarcastic riposte to the casually misogynist internet meme it's named after; if any album this year embodies the idea that experimental music can be accessible, fun and danceable, it's this one.
Kez Whelan

77. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs –
Land Of Sleeper
(Rocket Recordings)
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs are a band unafraid to dip into the sizeable pool of rock music tropes, crafting a scuzzy, psych-infused sound that touches upon Sabbath and Motörhead with giddy abandonment. For the most part, their latest album, Land Of Sleeper, is a simple affair – brazenly, charmingly simple – with the holy triptych of guitar, bass, and drums playing in near unison, oscillating between breakneck chugging riffs and half-speed, euphoric breakdowns. Yet beneath this well-executed sea of distortion lies perhaps a little more.
Daniel Hignell

76. Shirley Collins –
Archangel Hill
Shirley Collins' soaring soprano always had the quality of unexpected music, like singing heard through an open window. It flew overhead: gorgeous and strange and necessarily borne away from us. To discover it on Archangel Hill, framed between recordings made over forty years later, heightens the impact. It also accentuates the new contours her voice has taken on since that time. It now sits closer to the gravelly earth and closer to our ears, more intimate-feeling.
Jim Hilton

75. Bulbils –
(Tor Press)
Bulbils is one half of Hen Ogledd – Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington – formed to cope with the stresses of lockdown in 2020, their daily practice of playing and recording at home, very quickly equating to a huge body of work. These physical releases are a boon in helping listeners get to grips with an overwhelming amount of music – the pair have recorded 75 albums and EPs in the last three years and despite slowing down somewhat there's little sense that the project will end. The vibe here is slightly different to the Krautrock/psych-leaning eternal grooves of their tape Blue Forty from two years ago, tending to be more blissed out and introspective.
John Doran

74. Rezzett –
Meant Like This
(The Trilogy Tapes)
Rezzett's uncanny timbres haunt me on an unconscious level, evoking a sense of a future of infinite possibilities, the Black Secret Technology type of futurism. In the same breath, an aura of Fisherian lost futures informs Meant Like This, making it a succession of elusive autobiographical flashbacks and flashforwards. Tracks like 'Hevvy' and 'The Defiance' pass you by like ghostly apparitions of early UK house and Detroit techno, sonic palimpsests built on the foundations that are slowly disintegrating into nothingness. The spectral monochrome aura of their atmospheric jungle tunes like 'Vivz Portal', meanwhile, function as gateways to nostalgic musings on half-forgotten lovers.
Jaša Bužinel

73. Hermann Nitsch –
Das Orgien Mysterien Theater
This 105-minute double-CD live recording, performed by the seemingly uncredited Orchester des Orgien Mysterien Theaters, sounds vast and expansive: symphonic, tonally evolving organ drone, eternal music with the essence of the theatre. What's even more remarkable is that it's just a small part of the 'six-day play' conceived by Austrian performance art radical Hermann Nitsch and performed here in a castle, a few months after his death last year. What a guy, what a tribute.
Noel Gardner

72. Fire! Orchestra –
(Rune Grammofon)
Conducting such a huge band (43 members) and still playing coherently is not easy, but Mats Gustafsson, alternating between baritone saxophone and flute, works alertly. On Echoes, Fire! Orchestra's seventh album, there is space for strings and a brass section, who, at times, wail chorally and, at other times, play in fractures, improvising parts between rhythmic patterns. There's space for solo improvisations and a song-like element, too, thanks to the magnificent vocalist Mariam Wallentin. The vast lineup have recorded an almost two-hour epic of a record, a unique combination of trance passages, free-improv, cosmic jazz and post-punk.
Jakub Knera

71. Left Hand Cuts Off The Right –
Free Time/Dead Time
(Brachliegen Tapes)
There's something wonderfully lethargic about Left Hand Cuts Off The Right's latest album, a pensive, sombre lilt that manages to eek far more emotion from the 'free music' toolbox than you might think possible. Seamlessly blending improvised works with composed pieces, and oscillating between them without ever changing its signature sonic palette – all zither, field recordings, and sparse percussion – Free Time​/​Dead Time feels both remarkably focussed and absorbingly meditative, more considered dérive than abstract meander. Rich acoustic textures merge with abstract and often subtle synthesis, a strange yet complimentary juxtaposition between the mechanistic electronics and the loose, human performance of the zither.
Daniel Hignell

70. KASAI –
Recorded alongside the twin pressures of raising a child and running a farm, on J/P/N KASAI, AKA Daisuke Iijima, merges footwork and juke with minyo - a form of traditional Japanese folk singing which spread through the country, evolving into different forms as it landed in different regions. The result is something far more integrated than simply sticking some samples on a groove. Footwork's presence in these nine tracks isn't so much sheer velocity as how KASAI expands a beat, his compositions rolling out in shape-shifting lattices of rhythmic and tonal colour. It's a joyous tape, Iijima's soaring vocal melodies weaving through pounding drums and a vibrant palette of synthetic and acoustic instrumentation. Wrong-footing shifts in rhythm or flashes of tender triumph in the vocals keep this music in a state of constant flux without dropping for a second the pulse and rich melodicism that makes it so compelling.
Daryl Worthington

69. Sheng Jie, aka gogoj 盛洁 –
(Dusty Ballz)
While the first five tracks of splintered guitar, cello and electronics are accompanied by field recordings on Sheng Jie's Review, it's hard to tell if she's trying to keep the external world at a distance or beckon it in. Either way, sixth track 'Nucleic Acid Test' begins with a deluge of outside, an announcement to scan COVID-19 test QR codes. Arriving like a wash of cold water to the intimate setting Sheng Jie's constructed so far, she quickly retreats back to the comfort of agitated guitar strings and prickly glissandos. She recorded Review at home in winter 2022, shortly before China's zero-COVID policies came to an end. Plucks trickle and congeal, cello is bowed in rasping zig-zag patterns, synthetic pulses carry queasy unease. On 'D A G Resonance', drones teeter between serenity and anxiety. The liner notes refer to Review as coming from a sense of "stone cold-apathy" towards the time it was recorded. Though that sentiment imbues her songs, they're gorgeous in a deeply unsettling way.
Daryl Worthington

Nature Morte
(Thrill Jockey)
A careful, teetering balance has been achieved on Nature Morte, whereby grace and immensity of scale are underpinned by something explosive and untamed. The scratchy rattle opening, 'the one who bornes a weary load', for instance, initially speaks to the irritable angularity of Bastro or Shellac before moving into slow swells of sound, scattered percussion and luminescent cries that become increasingly furious and disconsolate as huge, sculpted blocks of guitar noise begin to crumble and decay. The carefully-wrangled drone of 'my hope renders me a fool' seems to nod toward guitarist Mat Ball's solo LP, glowering yet somehow pretty, like thunderclouds rimmed with gold. It vanishes in a light haze of skeletal noodling from which then builds 'the fable of subjugation' – a track that begins like a piece from the band's Leaving None But Small Birds collaboration with The Body, before erupting into a cathartic surge that wouldn't sound out of place on a '90s Neurosis album.
Alex Deller

67. Šarūnas Nakas –
(Music Information Centre Lithuania)
The music of a Lithuanian composer from 1985, made for a dance ballet, doesn't sound like a soundtrack; Šarūnas Nakas' avant-garde ideas are better associated with Dadaism and Merz art. 'Lonelier Than All Of Us' recalls the music of Lea Bertucci or Dickie Landry. Electroacoustic experiments include 'Merz-Machine' for 33 electronic and acoustic instruments or 'Vox-Machine' for 25 electronically modified voices. Lithuanians have always been good when it comes to creating the most bizarre and surreal of music.
Jakub Knera

66. Lana Del Rabies –
Strega Beata
The imposter LDR – who one assumes is beholden more to her near namesake as postmodernist avatar than musician – has somewhat infuriatingly transcended the moniker by making music that is more intriguing with each release. The monster she's created is constructively destructive, barking catharsis from the echoey dungeon, though out of the melee of noise and pain arise surprising caches of mellifluousness. Strega Beata, Latin for 'blessed witch', attempts to make sense of, or at least process, grief in all its various stages, both personally and in the context of the pre-apocalyptic world we're apparently navigating. Such is the barrage Sam An has encountered in recent years, that there's even a track called 'Apocalypse Fatigue', which suitably lags and is, well, apocalyptic.
Jeremy Allen

65. HMLTD –
The Worm
(Lucky Number)
Having been through the ringer more than most, HMLTD have been working towards The Worm for a long time. A prog-jazz epic set either in a pseudo-feudal England that has been swallowed by an enormous, monstrous incarnation of the titular invertebrate, or within the deluded mind of frontman Henry Spychalski, depending on your interpretation, this chaotic, over-the-top sprawl of a record matches every ounce of the band's colossal ambition.
Patrick Clarke

64. Crimeboys –
Very Dark Past
Crimeboys are a duo comprised of US producers Pontiac Streator and Special Guest DJ, both key figures within the 3XL label axis, which has been putting out some of the best ambient-adjacent music of the last few years. Their debut, Very Dark Past, channels the spaced-out ambient of '90s releases put out by seminal label Fax +49-69/45046, while also folding in elements of trip-hop and jungle. Warped with all manner of distortion and other effects, it's one of 3XL's most psychedelic releases yet and even finds space to pull in some early Burial-esque dark garage on highlight cut 'haunted tattoo'.
Christian Eede

63. Yfory –
(Static Age)
Based in Berlin, Yfory's members are from Australia, Germany, Spain and Wales, and for vocalist Bryony Beynon (previously of Good Throb, Sceptres and several others) this is the first band where she sings in her birth language. Specifically, these four sharp, rattling post-punk songs dart between Welsh and English, often within the same line and with unbothered linguistic impurity. Certainly, the niceties of Welsh serve a distinct lyrical purpose. 'Ailgylchu', the last and shortest track on the record, is a 'list song' of sorts which advocates or imagines various things being burnt, melted or drowned: "llosgi … toddi … boddi." 'Baled Y Dolmen', the longest, relates a road trip across Wales and mulls neolithic burial chambers: pensive and speak-singy, it reminds me a little of The Van Pelt.
Noel Gardner

62. Yossari Baby –
We Jazz Inferiority Complex
Inferiority Complex has been made with the dancefloor firmly in mind, beats to the fore. The title track is an electropop highlight, while 'The Wheel' quite possibly wants to spin you round like Dead Or Alive in their hi-NRG pomp. For all that, there are more reflective moments too, notably as the album plays out with gentler electronica on the delightfully po-faced 'Je Suis Mort'. On the contrary, by turns funny, angry and arch, Yossari Baby sound vibrantly alive.
Jonathan Wright

61. Godflesh –
Purge feels like something of a missing link in the Godflesh discography, elegantly bridging the gap between the suffocating density of the band's pre-Pure material, and the bouncier, hip hop-inspired rhythms that would follow later. Whilst it may eschew some of the more experimental tendencies of 2017's Post Self, the end result is one of the most robustly crushing records in their whole discography.
Kez Whelan

60. Lia Kohl –
The Ceiling Reposes
(American Dreams)
The Ceiling Reposes, by Chicago-based cellist, composer and sound artist Lia Kohl, feels like a dream. Across its 34 minutes, you find yourself drifting through a fuzzy array of cello plucks, dampened bells, synthesiser beeps and fragmented radio segments. On the surface, these sounds feel disparate, but ever-present static unites them, cloaking each moment in a wondrous haze. Throughout, Kohl taps into the radio's intimacy, letting it permeate through each musical theme to illuminate the hidden power of moments that fly by nearly too fast to notice.
Vanessa Ague

59. DeVon Russell Gray / Nathan Hanson / Davu Seru –
We Sick
'Letters' opens We Sick with a series of Nathan Hanson's hesitant phrases, clicks and short breaths circling around Davu Seru's echoing cymbal hits. Soon, a sustained, wailing saxophone tone rises from these fragments, creating a space for DeVon Russell Gray to unfurl a disjointed piano walk, while their exchange evolves into a nervous thriller and heated argument, mimicking the slowly sinking realisation of a grim situation. Through the years, the inherent revolutionary energy of free jazz was often pacified, riding along the usual narrative of leaving politics out of music. While not as literal as the art of some of their contemporaries – Matana Roberts reads out the names of Black people murdered by police during their concerts – Gray, Hanson and Seru channel the same sensation of revolt and fire through each of their musical expressions.
Antonio Poscic

58. Bell Witch –
Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate
(Profound Lore)
Bell Witch's fourth full-length album, The Clandestine Gate, is the follow-up to 2017's acclaimed 83-minute epic Mirror Reaper and the beginning of the most ambitious project the duo have embarked on yet. Not only does The Clandestine Gate equal Mirror Reaper in length, outdoing it by just a single second, but it's also the first part of a forthcoming triptych entitled Future's Shadow, consisting of two more lengthy pieces with the third looping back to the first, creating a musical representation of the eternal return.
Kez Whelan

57. The Stargazer's Assistant –
Fire Worshipper
(House Of Mythology)
The Stargazer's Assistant have been circulating since the late '00s and thread the needle, both in membership and music, between the crypto-industrial immensity of Coil and the brutal prog enormity of Guapo. Fire Worshipper's 10 tracks are variously bite-sized but never more intense than 14-minute centrepiece 'Shalman'. File the record away under real gone occult folkscapes for torchlit cave rituals from three cats who all profess to have the middle initial J.
Noel Gardner

56. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal –
(Backwoodz Studioz)
Although Billy Woods, with a jeremiadic boom to his tenor, has overly been portrayed as an end times preacher, he sounds almost playful on Maps, making the most of the hotel life, and trading verses with Quelle Chris about the pleasures of showing up late to one’s own show. What might have in lesser hands been a self-indulgent cry-athon about having to travel for work, a hip hopera version of old hair metal tour bus videos, is instead a series of bopping meditations on ineffable destinations, as performed by a relentlessly nomadic thinker at his charismatic peak.
Zachary Lipez

55. Sourdurent –
L'Herbe De Détourne
(Murailles Music)
Sourdurent is an extension, in both name and personnel, of Ernest Bergez's Sourdure project – itself one of the finest of France's thriving alternative folk scene. Growing organically out of live performances, Sourdurent calls on the talents of Bégayer's Loup Uberto, singer and multi-instrumentalist Elisa Trébouville, and bagpipe player and La Nòvia member Jacque Puech. As they strike up on opener 'Franc De Bruch', the initial impression is of a more streamlined – even trad – sound, relative to the wild invention and moodswings of 2021's De Mòrt Viva, until you notice the chugging electronic rhythm underpinning the instrumental curlicues and rousing mass of voices. And, as with the Sourdure releases, the band throw a variety of sources into the pot, blending traditional music from Afghanistan, Tunisia and the Averyron department of southern France with original compositions in Occitan (a language not only particular to that region but also parts of Italy, Monaco and Catalonia), and judicious use of electronics.
David McKenna

54. Upsammy –
Germ In A Population Of Buildings
Upsammy has sharpened her approach to IDM and dub techno on her PAN debut, trimming all excess, emphasising silence, and colouring each moment with detail. There really is nowhere to hide on Germ In A Population Of Buildings. Where her last record, 2021's Zoom, opted to occasionally keep itself at a distance with its gauzy synths and gentle washes of reverb, this new album is bolder in its emphasis on layered percussion and close mixing, as hinted at in a strong collection of EPs released between her last two full-length records.
Skye Butchard

53. 3Phaz –
Ends Meet
Urgent and propulsive, subtle in relation to rhythmic dynamics and microtonal nuances, yet unforgiving when it comes to bassbin pressure, album cut 'Phlutes', which I tried out in a club sometime ago, sounded 30 percent more impactful and three-dimensional than any other track played that night. The polyrhythmic gabber-adjacent banger 'Shaber' is another favourite, a weapon that can devastate any dance floor with its pounding distorted kicks and the synthesised flute-like melody floating above. Ends Meet, a painstakingly polished gem with all heat and no fillers, is highly recommended for fans of fellow Egyptians ABADIR and ZULI, and producers like DJ Plead, TSVI and others who focus their aesthetic on cutting-edge drum programming and Middle Eastern melodic modes.
Jaša Bužinel

52. Martyna Basta –
Slowly Forgetting, Barely Remembering
(Warm Winters)
Slowly Forgetting, Barely Remembering is Martyna Basta's second album. In 2020, she had participated in the open call for Rewire Festival – held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was included in a radio play featured on the festival's website, which was then seen by the label's Adam Badí Donoval, who offered to first release her music. Her debut, Making Eye Contact With Solitude was made amid the solitude of the pandemic, as an effort to convey the things she couldn't express with words. This latest album reaches even further into the self, all the way into memory. It also sees her return, after years away, to the guitar.
Jakub Knera

51. Lunch Money Life –
The God Phone
(Wolf Tone)
A number of things about Lunch Money Life are indicative of a group that don't take themselves too seriously. The name, for one, remains a bit lost on me. Their endless fusions and fissions of genres are incredibly mischievous, and every single release is supplemented by its own puckish lore – i.e. The God Phone soundtracks a lost film of the same name, and 2022's 'Jimmy J Sunset' was inspired by a cease and desist letter from Nic Cage's entourage. Beneath this facade though, Lunch Money Life are as serious as your life – the breakdowns, the riffs, the grooves, are so potent and so masterful. They scratch every itch so well. The God Phone is their most complete work to date. It simply sounds big whilst capturing the catharsis of their live shows and portraying a wildly inventive band reaching their absolute prime.
Cal Cashin

50. Marta Salogni & Tom Relleen –
Music For Open Spaces
(Hands In The Dark)
On Music For Open Spaces, Marta Salogni and Tomaga's Tom Relleen explore different geographical spaces through heavily improvised ambient pieces. Created just before Relleen's death from cancer in 2020, the album was recorded between London, the Joshua Tree desert and the Cornish coast: setting out to express these environments through a palette of tape machines, synthesisers and bass guitar. Part of its intrigue lies in the challenge of identifying which location each piece deals with. This is supported by its esoteric track titles. Any listeners expecting 'Fauna' to illustrate these spaces’ wildlife is wrong-footed by waves of cold, alien drone. In the absence of sounds which clearly indicate the sea, little distinction is presented between the quiet, isolated environments of the desert and coastline. As a result, the album's sense of place is most distinct where it seems to present London – not least in the industrial churns of 'Snarl', and fog of disorientating, chiming synths in 'pING poNGS'.
Alastair Shuttleworth

49. Synthfreq –
Vol. 1
(Orange Milk)
Synthfreq are Danielle and Crystal Morales, twins who are both severely hearing and visually impaired. Using techniques such as adding braille to the interfaces of their synths and honing in on sounds that they can either feel, or hear via listening aids, they create astounding synthesiser music. As they make clear, their music is heavily influenced by the '80s, but from that starting point they launch into vivid dream worlds rather than pastiche, from the pounding squelch funk of 'Industrial World' to the frosty moonwalk arpeggios of 'Power Of Two'. Sitting somewhere between Jan Hammer, Patrick Cowley and Exit-era Tangerine Dream, Synthfreq's magic comes from how close their squealing synth guitar solos and noodly electronic saxes get to being kitsch, and how elegantly they always evade that trap. Whether it's the feverish disco intensity propelling 'Miami Sky' or the sprawling tendrils on 'Sines Of Life', there are layers upon layers in these compositions. They re-enchant the '80s prog-synth-disco tangent before your ears, opening it as a space for euphoria away from cinematic cliché and cheesiness.
Daryl Worthington

48. Pere Ubu –
Trouble On Big Beat Street
(Cherry Red)
Trouble On Big Beat Street might not be a perfect album, but given that one suspects the element of chaos in Pere Ubu's inner workings will always be an essential part of their process, that might not be an entirely desirable outcome anyway. What it is though, is another great Pere Ubu record, one imbued with a more upbeat emotional sensibility than its predecessor, with some memorable songs and some wild sonic experiments. It's a snapshot of where the band are right now, as well as a hint towards where they might still go in the future.
Sean Kitching

47. Ruth Anderson & Annea Lockwood –
Tête-à-tête is a deeply intimate collection of three works by two composers, together forming the most moving tribute to a life-changing relationship I have ever encountered. It opens with 'Resolutions' from 1984, Ruth Anderson's last completed electronic work before she died in 2019. It was restored by Maggi Payne, and there is a comparison to be drawn between Anderson's play with pure waveforms here and Payne's music on collections like Ahh-Ahh. It is a tight playing with the shape of sound. 'Conversations' was Anderson's gift to Lockwood. Three days after meeting in 1973 they became "joyously entangled" but for nine months afterwards lived apart – Lockwood at Hunter College, NYC and Anderson in Hancock, New Hampshire. They called each other twice a day, and Anderson surreptitiously recorded their calls, later collaging them together with blousy bar tunes and jangling piano and giving them to Lockwood in 1974 as a private piece nobody else was meant to hear.
Jennifer Lucy Allan
46. Otto Sidharta –
(Sub Rosa)
My top sonic moment of recent months was with the title track from this album by Indonesian electronic music pioneer Otto Sidharta, and particularly, the giant wibble that comes in over strings that are curling and overlapping like air currents. It's so brief and blubbery I kept doing a double take on whether I even heard it. It sounds like a big jelly in the zero gravity strings and I fell absolutely in love with it. A fist pump moment, totally celebratory. The other tracks are more obviously part of his oeuvre, as documented on Sub Rosa's previous collection of his earlier work (Indonesian Electronic Music 1979-92). That was rooted in rougher-hewn electroacoustic treatments that I'd always found genuinely experimental – by which I mean to say, it sounds like someone actually experimenting – but some pieces didn't hold my attention. Kajang collects more recent pieces, made between 2015 and 2020, and if that first collection showed a demonstration of tools and techniques, this album proves them in hi-fidelity electroacoustic tailoring.
Jennifer Lucy Allan

45. A.P.A.T.T. –
(Nine X Nine)
A.P.A.T.T. are perhaps most spiritually akin to the kind of diverse genre collaging that John Zorn, Mr. Bungle or Secret Chiefs 3 engage in, without really sounding, apart from the odd occasion, like any of them. The focus on transcending genre by the likes of Don Cherry or more recently, William Parker, is a conception of a kind of music that could be representative of all of the Earth's musical traditions. A post-modern take on the notion, however, might include some of the more maddening aspects of modern existence – advertisements and radio jingles, disembodied snippets of movie dialogue, audible incursions of other people's music on public transport. This is not so much attention deficit music as attention intensive music which rewards time spent with it, particularly for listeners whose taste remains relatively fluid. The recently departed Mark Stewart once said: "Taste is a form of censorship," something A.P.A.T.T. appreciate and toy with the listener's expectations accordingly. This can sometimes lead to a startling realisation that something potentially unpalatable has appeared on one's plate, but can also result in eventual appreciation of new flavour combinations.
Sean Kitching

44. Paszka –
Krakow-based Paszka's Lapton feels like playing a platformer. Not just because of the sounds and velocities used in their computer generated, constantly refracting beats, but also because the structures in their music mimic the suspense and reward patterns peculiar to gaming. Their tracks sit in a zone where gabba pace meets hi-NRG warmth. 'Jade's' glitch-shuffle flies forward with gleeful abandon before pivoting into double time as though you're abruptly in a perilous race against the clock. 'Zabol's' freefall start into gothic-funk bass patterns echo as they tumble into a subterranean boss battle. The final three tracks move through an almost Drexciyan digital exotica, as though you're proudly exploring a fiendishly hard to reach hidden-level. Warp Records' Artificial Intelligence compilation signified dance music's migration from the club into the home stereo system. Paszka shows it can produce addictive narrative possibilities beyond both.
Daryl Worthington

43. House Of All –
House Of All
(Tiny Global Productions)
With just three days in the studio and no prior material to hand, House Of All – who, it must be noted, have never actually played together before – have dug deep into lessons learned from the late Mark E. Smith to deliver under pressure. The result is an album that doesn't sound like The Fall, but instead is quite obviously made from former members of that venerable institution. It's there in Steve Hanley's growling and rock solid bass playing, the double drumming and guitars that serrate while avoiding predictability. And of course Martin Bramah is no stranger to fronting bands, having led Blue Orchids for over 40 years, another band to rival The Fall's own revolving door policy when it comes to band members.
Julian Marszalek

42. Overmono –
Good Lies
Recorded during the interval between their touring periods, Overmono's debut album, Good Lies, is an earnest product of every emotion, every mood, from every high to every low. Finally sharing their first full-length project into the world, this record is more than just an accumulation of songs, as it carefully reflects what the duo have been working towards for the past seven years. Over the course of the record, the duo bring the surrealness of their live shows into a tranquil selection of atmospheric feel-good tunes, from the hypnotic arrangements of 'So U Kno' to the lucid and immaculate title track.
Laviea Thomas

41. Sleaford Mods –
(Rough Trade)
Musically, UK GRIM is stark and austere and without embellishment, but combines the melodic reach of Sleaford Mods' last album with the pulsing minimalism of the Austerity Dogs era. It angrily counters the corporate pop that forces us to be joyful, but it's not without its own brand of optimism. Sleaford Mods paint a bleak picture of post-COVID Britain via poetic protest, but their outrage is underscored by love for the people and places around them, making it as much a celebration of individuals and idealists as it is an attack on ruling classes. UK GRIM is darker and broader than past releases, but the Mods' usual melodic prowess is sadly lacking for the most part, allowing for more focus on the ingenuity of Jason Williamson's vocal tirades. In the context of now, Sleaford Mods might sound like just another angry voice – but it's an improbably hopeful one, that tells us it's OK to feel fucked off. Why wouldn't you be?
Hayley Scott

40. Cicada The Burrower –
Blight Witch Regalia
(Blue Bedroom)
Blight Witch Regalia feels like both the culmination of Cameron Davis' work so far and the beginning of another stage of the transformative journey she started with 2017's The Great Nothing. If that album was a confrontation with demons through a simultaneously bleak and empowering mixture of atmospheric and raw black metal, then 2021's Corpseflower signalled the prudent but triumphant breaking of the pupa and Davis' coming out as a trans woman. She poured this moment of self-discovery into a unique and utterly captivating blend of dark synth psychedelia, jazz and progressive black metal. While Corpseflower symbolised psychological transformation; Blight Witch Regalia marks the exploration of a new physical reality. In an accompanying text, Davis writes about starting hormone therapy and the psychophysical changes she is experiencing as a result. The soft and uncertain but optimistic sensation she describes washes over each of the eight cuts here.
Antonio Poscic

39. Squid –
O Monolith
Working once again with producer Dan Carey, Squid have created something equally as enthralling, complex and, in its own way, as resonant as debut album Bright Green Field. While there are traces of 1970s influences to be enjoyed across the record, the band appear to have taken some melodic inspiration from Radiohead on a number of occasions, most notably in the melding of guitar tones and electronic motifs on the commanding opening track, 'Swing (In A Dream)', and 'The Blades', while 'Decks Dark's simultaneously ethereal and unsettling essence looms in 'Siphon Song'. To a lesser degree, Squid are in sync with their contemporaries, black midi, in the elaborate and explosive 'Devil's Den' and frantic 'Green Light'. It's only natural for there to be some crossover between the two given Carey produced black midi's 2019 debut, Schlagenheim. In this regard, these reference points (Radiohead more so than black midi) extend more of a welcoming hand to anyone still yet to acquaint themselves with Squid.
Zara Hedderman

38. Skull Practitioners –
Negative Stars
(In The Red)
All three members of Skull Practitioners sing but none considers himself a singer. The trio's sound is rooted in post-punk, with much of the experimental edge that the term originally inferred, before its more recent application for any guitar band from BRIT School with a shouty singer. Without sounding erratic, the band slyly weave elements of shoegaze, garage, art-rock, surf-rock, space-rock and other texture-heavy subgenres into their radgie mélange. Perhaps this is what Gang Of Four or Fugazi might've sounded like, if they'd been more partial to board-upon-board of multiple guitar pedals.
JR Moores

37. Natalia Beylis & Eimear Reidy –
She Came Through The Window To Stand By The Door
(Nyahh / Eiderdown)
When Natalia Beylis and Eimear Reidy combine on She Came Through the Window To Stand By The Door, they conjure a sense of place with cello, organ and a few background creaks immersive enough to rival any multi-speaker diffusion system. Flicking between epic and nuanced, at points this album could generate its own gravitational vortex. But the looming mass is never a stand in for variation. The duo constantly work together to flesh out details. The idea of sound being world building is common in 'electronic' music, whether modular or computer. Beylis and Reidy show that surroundings can be bypassed with acoustic means, and the conjured realms can be full of motion and life.
Daryl Worthington

36. Fever Ray –
Radical Romantics
On Radical Romantics, Karin Dreijer's third album as Fever Ray, they have chosen the right language to convey meanings dimmed by clichés such as gender binaries, social units, religious interpretation, etc. The alien-sounding electronic texture is pervaded by androgynous vocals that express Dreijer's gender-fluid identity. Although generally under the umbrella of electronic music, the album draws from several different wells: dizzying pop on 'Carbon Dioxide', sinister Duran Duran-meets-Magazine type new wave on 'Even It Out', and ambient ebbing-flowing vibes on album closer 'Bottom Of The Ocean'. Compared to 2017 album Plunge, this new record is more adventurous, perhaps, attempting to summon the diverse and emotionally challenging experiences of a relationship.
Irina Shtreis

35. Benefits –
Nails' Britain is grotesquely detailed. These isles become "industrial wastelands" ('Empire') strewn with "stinking, broken relics" ('Warhorse'): flags, crowns, kebab boxes and lager cans. Vocalist Kingsley Hall enhances this picture through repetition. Tattered, soiled flags appear in most tracks. Several references are made to a fetid smell, with 'Flag' declaring "this place stinks of old wars." Entire lines from 'Shit Britain' are repurposed in 'Traitors', albeit with colourful tweaks: the former's "red arrows screaming past" reappear on the latter as "spitfires." The echo of John Cooper Clarke's 'Evidently Chickentown' in Hall's "clown-town" ('Shit Britain') points to a wider effect of this repetition: like Clarke's world, Hall's becomes crushingly, hopelessly immovable.
Alistair Shuttleworth

34. Desire Marea –
On The Romance Of Being
On The Romance Of Being represents an impressive evolution in Desire Marea's creativity, a sonic leap forwards even from two years ago. If previous album Desire was a world away from the McLaren-esque manipulation of FAKA, the gqom-based rap duo of which Marea is one-half, then On The Romance Of Being takes what the self-titled debut started and fashions moons and stars and cascading waterfalls from its molecular origins. 2021's Desire had its share of outré moments, not least of all, the ten-minute avant-garde sonic ordeal that was 'Studies In Black Trauma', featuring Johannesburg-based rapper Gyre. That electronic-centred record was broadly more libidinal and earthy, whereas this new one explores the metaphysical with extended live improvised instrumentation, achieving moments of transcendence for everyone to get happily lost in.
Jeremy Allen

33. Free Love –
(Lost Map)
Formerly known as Happy Meals, Free Love have been kicking around Glasgow for something like a decade, knocking out singles, LPs and EPs for the likes of Night School, Good Press, Optimo Music, their own Full Ashram, and now for Lost Map, who happen to be dropping the duo's latest full-length slab, Inside. It's a natural evolution of their sound, a stew of hi-NRG, meditative and devotional music, kosmische, with a healthy dash of YMO. As in any stew, certain ingredients bubble up and become more prominent from time to time, dominating individual spoonsful, but without diminishing the dish as a whole. Like everything Free Love have done thus far, it's wholesome, warm and nourishing.
Bernie Brooks

32. Babybaby_explores –
Food Near Me, Weather Tomorrow
(No Gold)
Each of the 10 tracks on Food Near Me, Weather Tomorrow seems to be guided by a magpie principle. The lyrics zoom in on the surrounding environment. There is a lot of observation caused either by boredom ("I left it there two hours ago and the gum is still sticky" on the opening track 'Gum') or mild frustration ("You talk so much" and "Now my best friend's tongue is in my mouth / I twiddle my best friend's tongue around my mouth / And you still talk way too much" on 'Twiddle'). Musically, the album triggers contrasting associations. While the first seconds of the opening track misleadingly hint at the dream pop world of Maria Minerva, the rest of the track (and the album) is a bit harder to pin down. The most haunted parts allude to The Slits, X-Ray Spex and, more distantly, to Cath Carroll's England Made Me.
Irina Shtreis

31. Autechre, The Hafler Trio –
ae³o & h³ae Box Set
(Vinyl On Demand)

The Hafler Trio is one Scot, Andrew M McKenzie, sound-recordist Chris Watson, having long since departed, and third member Dr Ed Moolenbeek, having never existed, and this is a lovely-sounding vinyl version of the 2005 double CD release (which was reissued on 5.1 Surround Sound DVD in 2011) they recorded with Autechre. If any records genuinely demand deep listening (which will inevitably fall away eventually into some kind of reverie) then this is among them. Within this thrill of synthetic pads, electrical hums and digital reverb exists some of the quietest music ever recorded; much quieter than Robert Ashley's Automatic Writing; much, much quieter than Nurse With Wound's A Missing Sense even. In fact it's so damn quiet that in order to convince yourself that you're not listening to a blank disc, the volume must be turned up so high that when someone in the studio brushes against a mic or disturbs the equipment, the ensuing sonic boom is so great it threatens to blow out your windows and partially collapse your house. An extraordinary listening experience.
John Doran

30. Mandy, Indiana –
I've Seen A Way
(Fire Talk)
There's an enjoyably patchwork quality to Mandy, Indiana's debut album. The tracks lurch from one mood to another, never quite fitting together. As much as the record is nodding towards dance music, it's also pushing it away. Tracks end suddenly ('Injury Detail' could happily go on for six or seven minutes, but stutters out early), are swamped with noise, and are generally designed to be as un-mixable as possible. Factory Floor feel like kindred spirits to the band, but so too do Liars, Throbbing Gristle and especially their former touring mates, Gilla Band, whose spirit is especially felt in the second half of the album.
Will Salmon

29. Fire-Toolz –
I Am Upset Because I See Something That Is Not There.
(Hausu Mountain)
I Am Upset Because I See Something That Is Not There. continues the evolution of Fire-Toolz's vernacular in a direction that was hinted at by the 2022 EP I Will Not Use The Body's Eyes Today and nurtures a more focused, fluid approach. While Angel Marcloid's signature stylistic blitz is still alive and kicking, the stream of disparate elements within and between the album's 12 cuts flows down a gentler slope here, often occupying forms that reveal exquisite pop and ambient sensibilities. If you close your eyes and let yourself be carried by the music, the alteration of lyrical saxophone phrases, blistering blast beats, and jumping synth pads becomes incredibly soothing. In turn, this makes the album feel like one of Marcloid's most meditative works to date, even gesturing towards some sort of hidden healing power.
Antonio Poscic

28. Philip Jeck & Chris Watson –
Oxmardyke came to fruition just before Philip Jeck's untimely passing in 2022, during moments in which his pain subsided enough that he could work on his laptop. The music he makes here reflects his classic textural sound and collaborations like 2021's Stardust, in which he distorted recordings made by Faith Coloccia that revolved around motherhood. To make Oxmardyke, he took the sounds Chris Watson captured – different bird calls and metallic screeches of passing freight trains – and toyed with them, ultimately creating eerie music. Jeck's penchant for vivid sound bolsters Watson's keen eye for the most affecting sounds of nature, unearthing the emotions hidden inside of them.
Vanessa Ague

27. Nabihah Iqbal –
(Ninja Tune)
Dreamer is a surrender to wide, blurry, technicolour horizons, as unreal and otherworldly as its name suggests. At its basic level, the elements are simple – indie-pop, a little more shoegaze, a lot more trance – but extra waves of electronic wash and vocals so multi-tracked they're choral make it labyrinthine enough to get lost in. The lush near-seven-minute intro 'In Light' – its 4AD guitars shimmering with reverb, Iqbal's "In light, you wake" mantra ever-circling – pulls you in and keeps you enveloped. Lyrically, the record as imprecise as its music is hallucinatory, which undeniably fits. Freedom, sunlight and love are the touchstones, sentiments and concepts that prevail.
Matthew Horton

26. Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective –
(Nhạc Gãy)
*1 is a free-flowing, freewheeling listening experience, almost like a four-deck ambient DJ set where textures are layered scrupulously, coming in and out of the mix – a kaleidoscopic collage of fantastical aural events. In 'What Cherubs', cascades of shimmering pads and birds chirping give way to acoustic guitar-tuning which then bursts into clanging deconstructed club beats and Skrillex-esque sound design brushes, concluding with mellow IDM beats and angelic vocals. 'Pressure' is a nostalgia booster that takes me back to my time obsessing over post-rock outfits like 65daysofstatic. At the core of their blend of psychotropic electronic deconstructions, celestial soundscapes, cherubic choruses, experimental rock and free improv digressions, is the drive for unpretentious experimentation. *1 is a venturesome affair, and like a transformative mushroom trip, it's impossible to guess where it will take you next.
Jaša Bužinel

25. Bruxa Maria –
Build Yourself A Shrine And Pray
(Riot Season)
Three albums into their career, Bruxa Maria don't sound any less angry. More or less an extended intro, the title track on their latest record builds the suspense in a clattering manner before 'God Gun Scruples' really kicks the cobwebs into next Thursday with its murkily rendered near-nu-metal riffs. 'Totalitarian Pissing' rocks like Babes In Toyland turned up to 11 and dragged backwards through a bramble bush. The longest piece, 'Blind Side', opens with a steamrolling post-rocky crescendo, as if they couldn't be arsed to play the quiet bit first, which somehow manages to escalate further when the vocals kick in. Across the songs, Gill Dread screams, shouts and mutters as madly, terrifyingly and articulately as a Shakespearian villainess. If that sounds too classy for you, the download has three bonus tracks composed in the noise-collage mode which are equally atmospheric in a more abstract manner.
JR Moores

24. Oleksandr Yurchenko –
Recordings Vol. 1, 1991—2001
At the climax of Recordings Vol. 1, 1991—2001 sits Oleksandr Yurchenko's main work, 'Count To 100. Symphony #1', documented in August 1994. It's a single 25-minute piece of layered bowed drones, which create a quiet drama that unfolds gradually with some lo-fi distortion weighting the piece. Creating a dimension of transience, perhaps of irretrievable loss, it eventually succumbs to plummet into ambient depths. This track showcases the stringed instrument of his own invention. He processed the sound through a reverb chamber live, followed with some manipulation of the tape loops. The improvised recording session was held at home – he turned the instrument into a unique tone generator using guitar delay effects, loops and an Oreadna portable cassette recorder. It was one of the last hurrahs for an acoustic-based process before Yurchenko turned to mainly electronic instrumentation in the late '90s when he recorded albums with Svitlana Nianio.
Jakub Knera

23. Polobi & The Gwo Ka Masters –
Abri Cyclonique
(Real World)
The most effective tracks on Abri Cyclonique are 'Bouladjel' and 'Levé Yo Mano'. Both open with the sound of the rainforest, and the Gwo ka drums Polobi was first influenced by. Producer Doctor L's superb arrangement is soupy and pungent, sounding as if it's playing on a dusty turntable. The bristling sound carpet seems organic and natural. At its best, the constituent parts of Abri Cyclonique approach the loose grooves of Gil Scott Heron or African Head Charge. 'Levé Yo Mano' was recorded where Polobi was discovered, at Kiavué's house. Do I detect more confidence? That muscular bleat is a smidgen more dynamic than on the other tracks recorded in a studio, those melodies launched a little higher.
Will Ainsley

22. Wacław Zimpel –
Train Spotter
(The state51 Conspiracy)
Wacław Zimpel ​​adds electronics, synths and clarinet to the mix on his third solo album. On 'Train Spotter', you can hear the sound of trams develop into a stunning, colourful and pulsating electronic techno suite combined with clarinet sounds. 'Phantom Paradise' sounds like an urban jungle with cumulative layers of escalating ambient waves, vibrant jumping electronic passages, and stately clarinet parts in counterpoint to these fluctuations. Zimpel focuses on sequenced rhythms, much as Kraftwerk did on Trans Europe Express. Sometimes he builds up a communicative monotony as the Düsseldorf machine men did on Autobahn, although the tracks here are much shorter.
Jakub Knera

21. Kate NV –
(RVNG Intl.)
For all its structural experimentation, WOW has a warmth and comfort that makes it instantly appealing. Like the birds on the front cover, its musical parts are innocent, drawn in bright primary colours. The nostalgic glow of retro games is an obvious touchpoint. The garbled synth sounds of 'confessions at the dinner table' and 'slon (elephant)' bring to mind the cute chatter of Animal Crossing characters as they mooch around a cartoon utopia. Simple earworm melodies sing out over syncopated percussion and a menagerie of noises that aren't afraid to get a little goofy. WOW presents itself as an act of escapism and self-reflection. While overthinking and apathy lurk in the background, pure fun and discovery overwhelm those feelings.
Skye Butchard

20. MC Yallah –
Yallah Beibe
(Nyege Nyege Tapes)
MC Yallah's ability to fluidly switch from one superb flow to another is unparalleled. All the evidence you need is in Yallah Beibe's first track, 'Sikwebela'. Upon the call of a whimpering mallophone, she lures you in with a simple, standard flow – and promptly eviscerates the beat by rapping in double time. A pioneer of 'Lugaflow', or hip hop in the language of Luganda, Yallah is able to flourish her delivery with a nasal sneer unique to Luganda, or roll her tongue over a chugging industrial beat on 'Moss'. There are flashes of other styles to dig into across the album too, from dancehall ('Big Bung' with Ratigan Era) to grime flows ('Sunday') and even a verse that briefly echoes Nicki Minaj ('Yallah Beibe'). She never indulges too deeply in one genre – always resurfacing with her own personality and steady confidence.
Alex Rigotti

19. Young Fathers –
Heavy Heavy
(Ninja Tune)
As is the case with all their work, Young Fathers' Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham 'G' Hastings adopt an open-ended lyrical style on Heavy Heavy. Individual lines can be very clear and striking, but pull all the lyrics of a song or the album together, and the semantics are lost. Meanings can be multiplied and personal, but the music will embolden whatever you take from the album. Almost as a reaction to the sparseness of previous record Cocoa Sugar and the big cloud of events in between that album and now, Young Fathers find joint ecstasy on every track, but it comes in different forms. Be it a poppy hook that buckles your heart the second you hear it, a corona of voices and instruments, or a grand display of noise that feels like mountains crashing into each other. Even 'Be Your Lady' does it in its own way, starting as a spotlit piano ballad before detonating into a cacophonous display of splashing drums. The band wring the potential out of every song while avoiding the trappings of triteness.
Nathan Evans

18. Heartworms –
A Comforting Notion
(Speedy Wunderground)
At Heartworms' Lexington headline gig earlier this year, they delivered an absolutely spellbinding cover of Sisters Of Mercy's 'Dominion' that, in its corrosion with cello and Orme's unexpectedly brutal screaming, became very much their own. This modernist take on the gothic is all over Heartworms' debut EP, from the Portishead atmospherics of 'A Comforting Notion' through to 'Consistent Dedication' and 'Retributions Of An Awful Life', which is essentially a rattling monologue over anxiety drums, synths and noise, but infernally catchy with it. It’s also the best release this year to come with a limited edition Airfix kit – a Spitfire with Heartworms' own decals. Chocks away!
Luke Turner

17. Jellyskin –
In Brine
(Wrong Speed)
Jellyskin's debut album is an electro-experimental, futurist elegy for all things aquatic. Across nine tracks, it flits between glacial goth pop ('Marmalade') and abrasive techno ('Bringer Of Brine'), much like the variable nature of the ocean itself. Coastal imagery pervades, but not quite in the balmy, sunlit way you'd expect. Instead, it's sullen blue-black and abyssal. Imagine, if you will, Broadcast doing a techno banger about a solitary whale and you’re halfway there. An inspired debut, the nautical mysticism of In Brine elicits an exhilarating playfulness that's at odds with the repetitive uniformity of much modern post-punk. By coalescing pop and experimental formulas through a decidedly contemporary lens, it inhabits a strange, but brilliant, world of its own.
Hayley Scott

16. James Ellis Ford –
The Hum
On The Hum, the bass lurches and swaggers from one bar to the next, carving out the character of the record beneath the veneer of modular atmospherics and ethereal Frippertropnics. Tape loops are just as integral, with the title track and 'Tape Loop #7' like palimpsests surreptitiously left there to provide clues. There's a persuasive uncanniness to this album, and you suspect it's James Ellis Ford's ability to shapeshift that makes him such a sought-after producer. He manages to imbue a sonic fluidity that invariably brings a touch of class to the projects he's working on, though he's not one for imposing recognised motifs or rebuilding from the bottom up. Such subtlety and nuance is atypical where superproducers are concerned, and even labelling him with such an epithet feels slightly daft.
Jeremy Allen

15. Kelela –
Recorded over a fortnight-long period in Berlin, Raven is rich with invention, a deeply immersive experience that skips between UK garage and 2-step, jungle, breakbeats, and more, ultimately paying tribute to dance music's Black, queer roots. Across the record, Kelela transports her enticing part-electronic, part-R&B sound to new spaces, opening with the glittering, reverb-drenched pads and soaring vocals of lead single 'Washed Away' and moving through a number of dancefloor-indebted cuts, such as the mellow, dancehall-tinged rhythms of 'On The Run' and breakbeat-fuelled 'Happy Ending'. Combining dense, synth-filled R&B melodies and the funky components of tech-tinged, breaks-heavy dance beats, the connecting thread that binds Raven is twofold: the visceral feeling of a night out, expressed beautifully through the glossy, soaring soprano vocals that have become Kelela's hallmark.
Fred Garratt-Stanley

Music For Film: Tramps! / Women Against The Bomb
(The state51 Conspiracy)
A double album of two movie soundtracks, Music For Film: Tramps! was composed for Kevin Hegge's 2022 film of the same name, a decidedly non-nostalgic documentary of the faces and designers at the New Romantic vanguard from the end of the 1970s onwards, while Music For Film: Women Against The Bomb accompanies Sonia Gonzalez's inside story of the Greenham Common camp, also released last year. Comprising the multi-instrumentalist duo of Electrelane's Verity Susman and Wire's Matthew Simms, MEMORIALS themselves have the experience and imagination to let the albums stand apart from the films, but the context enhances them. From the caustic to the cuddly, this is a debut of impressive breadth, at once alien and human, fusing their talents for the sake of the collective.
Matthew Horton

13. PoiL Ueda –
PoiL Ueda
(Durt Et Doux)
PoiL's latest adventure finds them teaming up with Japanese singer and satsuma-biwa (a type of Japanese lute) player Junko Ueda to form PoiL Ueda. Born in Tokyo but based in Europe as far as I can tell, Ueda is steeped in the epic storytelling style associated with the instrument, and this debut collaboration with the French band is based on the 13th-century text The Tale Of The Heike (or Heike-Monogatari), about rival clans vying for power. No such struggles are apparent in the music though; this new pairing seems like a marriage made in heaven. PoiL's usual jazzy heaviness anchors the music but there are many moments of delicious disorientation, as you lose your bearings in the whooshing and rattling transition from 'Kujô Shakujô - Part 1' to 'Part 2', or the passage in 'Kujô Shakujô - Part 3' when the tricky-but-lithe groove and reptilian riffs suddenly give way to a blizzard of bleeps and wubs and rattling percussion, before the track ascends to a Magma-like climax of massed vocals.
David McKenna

12. JAAW –
Considering the sonic territory that they're navigating, this will inevitably draw comparisons with fellow discordant supergroup Holy Scum. Sticking with the cinematic correlation, JAAW are like the older sibling who would let you stay up late with them watching films like The Toxic Avenger and Street Trash, whereas Holy Scum would more likely inflict Salo or Irreversible upon you. Both supergroups have their merits. If you're looking for a deep exploration of the dark night of the soul, you might not find what you're looking for with Supercluster but, if a rollicking good time, formed from sheet metal guitars, a powerhouse drummer gone spasmodic, and barrelling bass lines strapped to the overclocked engine of a runaway rollercoaster sounds like your sort of thing, JAAW are an army of four willing to go to war for you.
Jon Buckland

11. La Tène –
Ecorcha / Taillée
(Les Disques Bongo Joe)
Ecorcha / Taillée is La Tène's most engaging album to date. When I spoke to the group's Alexis Degrenier for a past interview, he was keen to point out that La Tène's music isn't fundamentally about improvisation – rather the focus is on incremental change within a strict framework. You can hear this immediately on 'Ecorcha', which starts as a wheezy waltz, like a dusty clockwork mechanism springing to life, draped with ribbons of drone and with Lacroux's 12-string (I think) picking out an endlessly cycling eight-note motif. New elements drop in as the piece progresses, the rhythm is filled in and cabrettes (bagpipes) start to lead the dance. New territory is opened up by 'Taillée, it’s Rosalía-inspired reggaeton beat gelling perfectly with plangent folk instrumentation. At under 15 minutes, it's as close to 'pop' as La Tène have got so far, and it's also a stroke of genius.
David McKenna

10. Annelies Monseré –
(Horn Of Plenty)
Mares exists in a hinterland somewhere between La Nòvia in France and Discreet in Gothenburg, and I don't just mean that because it's from Belgium which is literally in between those two places. Sonically it draws on traditional folk styles, with occasional mediaeval-sounding melodies, but does it from a sometimes miserable, sometimes hopeful, but always fog-filled landscape where layers upon layers of haar-dense atmospherics are built from various drone-ish sources. It's got a cover of folk standard 'Sally Free And Easy', which I guess is a manifesto for where it’s coming from, but its best moments are in the densest, most eerie sections, which come from a combination of keyboards, accordion, and harmonium. 'Shells' is a macabre standout.
Jennifer Lucy Allan

9. Colin Stetson –
When We Were That What Wept For The Sea
When We Were That What Wept For The Sea originates from an entirely different place to its predecessor, 2017's All This I Do For Glory. It is an urgently composed, nearly spontaneous dedication to Colin Stetson's father, who recently died somewhat unexpectedly. A disruption in the musician's otherwise systematic and organised creative process. A lengthy piece that lasts more than 70 minutes, it's divided into 16 tracks without any written introduction or justification.

Stetson leads us on a voyage of reminiscence and grief, much like a marine adventure, full of suspended moments, foggy hazy shores, and battles against the stormy sea. A Romantic Sturm und Drang work where beauty and horror, fear and longing can exist at the same in the sublime of nature. Dark abysses open after airy and dilated moments; breathes, touches, and mechanical sounds counterpart abstract movements. The spoken lyrics of 'The Lighthouse V', which put the musical images into words and inspired the album's title, follow a crescendo that rises until 'The Lighthouse IV''s explosion, where all the tension and misery find their desperate shout.
Guia Cortassa

8. Yaeji –
With A Hammer
(Ninja Tune)
Yaeji's on the move. With A Hammer sees the Korean-American producer leave her house roots behind for an incredibly satisfying blend of pop and R&B. The titular Thor-grade smiting tool of the cover – complete with cheeky graffiti face! – preemptively smirks at anyone preparing to call her voice diminutive. Her singing tones are as light as a breeze, and perfect besides, yet this music is heavy as all hell, an innovative rendering of anger transformed into perfect dance pop which, variously, brushes up against funk, ambient, acid house, jazz, drum & bass and synthpop. The hammer blow makes contact when the words hit home and woe betide those not fully braced.
John Doran

7. James Holden –
Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities
(Border Community)
James Holden is one of those rarified artists who can really only be compared to themselves. Though there were records in between and since, his last two 'proper' LPs, The Inheritors and The Animal Spirits, are monumental landmarks on both the post-rave and modular synth landscapes. The Inheritors is a riotously pagan thing, greyscale, almost feral; The Animal Spirits is a deeply psychedelic descendent of spiritual jazz and renegade synthesists past – it's pagan as hell, too, but brighter, in Technicolor. On both, there are these odd, almost Renaissance Faire undertones. Like I said, Holden is singular. And on those two records, dude was unstuck in time working some kind of otherworldly folk magic.

Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities, on the other hand, trades in something else. While no less worthy or beautiful in its way, it is perhaps more obviously beholden to linear timelines and histories, however personal. Holden has called it both "a dream of a rave" and "a dialogue with [his] teenage self," which I think says a lot, maybe all you need. There's an element of nostalgia at play here, but no corresponding retrograde thinking. Each track is inevitably a wild combination of memories, ideas, and influences – midi-fied sacred harp singers clash with squiggly synthesis, fiddle collides with the most absurd funk bass. Meanwhile, the spectre of prog is everywhere and the club is never far away. Amazingly, it all works.
Bernie Brooks

6. Brìghde Chaimbeul –
Carry Them With Us
Carry Them With Us is mostly instrumental, but its tracks tell stories. 'Banish The Giant Of Doubt And Despair', for example, is a reel that starts quick and spins out of control, reflecting the tale of the princess of an underwater kingdom and the giant of the Western Isles who cannot stop dancing to her song, faster and faster until he falls into the sea and drowns. Melodic cascades flow from Brìghde Chaimbeul's pipes as though she can barely restrain them, while a bass drone and subtle, breathy saxophone, courtesy of Colin Stetson, combine seamlessly to set the scene. Despite the unconventional pairing of instruments, they often seem to make a single sound.

Some songs are improvised, the two musicians working together with consummate ease. On 'Uguviu (ii)', for example, the trance-like pipe drone nags at the back of the skull while pipes and horn duel over the top, somewhere in the clouds, exchanging repeating, minimal phrases. It is a complete world, gone before you know it. 'Pilliù: The Call Of The Redshank' and 'Pìobaireachd Nan Eun: The Birds' are both inspired by the singing of birds. Chaimbeul's singing, rarely heard on this album, is a delicate, intricate sound which demonstrates why she believes birdsong is close to the Gaelic language. Traditional tunes tell of repetitive reality as well as wild myth. 'That Fonn Gun Bhi Trom: I Am Disposed Of Mirth' is a walking song, sung by Scots women as they beat cloth – repetitive work which spawned a genre of its own. It is music with rhythms as predictable and varied as the weave itself. Chaimbeul and Stetson make it flutter and break free from its earthy origins.
Tom Bolton

5. Surgeon –
Crash Recoil
Anthony Child forged Crash Recoil from the improvisational approach of live performances. The record frequently mimics the flow of a Surgeon DJ set, structured around measured builds, momentum and surprise. He's no stranger to live tech experimentation. Decades of sticky nights at Birmingham's House Of God — not to mention an opening slot for Lady Gaga — stand testament to Child's reputation as a titanic, often almost theatrical DJ. His studio releases have been equally exploratory, whether he's recording rainforests, consulting an astrophysicist, or referring to the Tibetan Book Of The Dead. Then there were the three albums he released in the late 1990s on Berlin label Tresor (re-released as a compilation in 2015) that put him on the international dance music map.

The eight six-minute tracks of Crash Recoil, also released on Tresor, contain all the hallmarks of those Surgeon classics: the discipline and precision his alias suggests, amid a relentless skitter of programmed drums. He labours under the usual adjectives — industrial, brutalist — but that fails to acknowledge his ability to coax lightness out from percussive pummel. Opener 'Oak Bank' is typically fleet-footed, moving from tinny bounce to sweaty-room techno. Equally satisfying is the tactile clatter of 'Metal Pig'.
Kate French-Morris

4. Shit And Shine –
2222 And Airport
(The state51 Conspiracy)
To fresh-faced Shiners, this might sound scuzzy, rough and ready but, if you've already acclimatised to Craig Clouse's maximal, clipping-as-a-way-of-life approach, 2222 And Airport will appear relatively buffed, chamois-ed and gleaming. Previous works have run the gamut from grindcore treachery to kosmische techno equipped with gently fuzzed edges like the soft eyes of a hung-over lush. Clouse's releases from the past few years can usually be split between one of these states: those of a more metal bent, and those drifting towards the dance/electronic spectrum, whilst never settling comfortably in either the mosh pit or on the dance floor. This one definitely leans towards the latter, dripping layers of funk, techno, acid house, big beat, electro, and all manner of intentions, references and happy accidents into the overflowing cauldron.

Of course, whilst those are pseudo-helpful touch points, it also sounds like none of the above. It sounds like Shit And Shine. Which is perhaps best summed up as the chunkiest and most hell-wrought bass playing from Lightning Bolt's Brian Gibson shucked over a steroid-plunged Prefuse 73 set. Or, in shorter hand, the Bacteria Bitch remix of Nurse With Wound's 'Cruisin' For A Bruisin''.
Jon Buckland

3. Patrick Wolf –
The Night Safari
As Patrick Wolf told me in an interview for The Guardian, the past decade of relative silence was a personal hell, involving familial grief, bankruptcy and a battle with alcohol and drug dependency. These years of musical exile shaped the five tracks of The Night Safari, alongside a return to DIY self-dependency and, crucially, some of the instrumentation that made his early music so good. It veers between glorious dramatics on 'Dodona'; Michael Nyman via Warp Records cracked electronics in 'Acheron'; shuffling modernist crooning on 'Nowhere Game'; and, to finish off, 'Enter The Day', all rolling piano and optimism.

During a show he played at London's Village Underground earlier this year, Wolf prowled the stage in his rather fabulous self-made clothes and was, by turns, honest, witty, bleakly funny ("you're all going to die… sorry, I am told I am too mean to my audience") and filthy ('Tristan' introduced with an ad lib apparently about fisting), and best of all sung in the finest voice of his life. I used to always think that it would only be in another world less tainted by commerce, algorithms and laziness that Patrick Wolf could be a pop star, but I realise I was wrong. He now seems perfectly happy to do popstar as he wants to be, and for that world to be his very own.
Luke Turner

2. Khanate –
To Be Cruel
(Sacred Bones)
When Khanate convened with producer Randall Dunn at Strange Weather Studios in Brooklyn to mix To Be Cruel, it was the first time the four of them had been in the same room at the same time for at least 15 years, and the suggestion seems to be that socialising perhaps got in the way of the mix. Whatever the reason, the band weren't happy, but the process was then further interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The final mix was undertaken by Dunn, Stephen O'Malley and James Plotkin in summer 2021, and the band were blown away by the results.

To Be Cruel is an incredible record, with three tracks of 20 minutes each pushing the Khanate template outwards in weird and affecting new ways. The production is exquisite. Having had the luxury of living with it for several weeks, I realised that I came to subconsciously appreciate it much in the same way I appreciate a dub record recorded at the Black Ark such is its depth and spatiality. It is a record of fractal depth that bristles with detail at the very borders of perception. But most importantly it achieves all of this without short changing listeners on caustic vitriol, despondent awe and unquenchable agitation.
John Doran

1. Lankum –
False Lankum
(Rough Trade)
There has been much talk over the last year or two of a 'revival' in modern folk music. This ignores the fact that boundary-pushing, experimental, avant-garde approaches to traditional songs have been present under the surface for as long as the songs themselves. Experimentalism, in fact, is integral to them. It is what has kept them alive through the centuries. Exciting as it is, the current scene is undergoing less of a 'revival', more a moment of attention from the music world at large; a lifting of a rock to reveal the life that has long been thriving underneath.

The astonishing False Lankum has received a hitherto-unseen amount of mainstream acclaim, but it is also the result of many decades that the band's members have spent exploring the outer limits of folk and trad music, whether as a foursome or in their individual practises. Its vast swings of emotion have always been present in their work to some degree, the juxtapositions more and more pronounced with each record (not least thanks to the influence of producer John "Spud" Murphy). Here – from the overwhelming gothic horror of 'Go Dig My Grave' and the tempestuous melodrama of 'The New York Trader', to the swooning romance of 'Newcastle' and the gorgeous melancholia of 'Lord Abore And Mary Flynn' – they supercharge that aspect, taking their music to unparalleled levels of extremity.

The risk, of course, is that extreme mood swings often come at the expense of consistency across an LP. Lankum, however, avoid that pitfall. Recorded in a Martello Tower off the coast of Ireland, they're tied together by a running theme of the ocean that emerged subconsciously in that location, as well as by a number of abstract instrumental 'Fugue' pieces dotted throughout. Cut from the same lengthy experimental jam session, instruments clatter and float around as if suspended in mid-air, providing a binding agent as they gradually arrange themselves into the shape of whatever song comes next. The immediate experience of listening to False Lankum is intense; one minute you're barraged like a raft in a tempest, and the next floating along serenely in a stretch of calm, warm water. Zoom out, however, and you'll find a record that captures the sublimity and scale of an entire ocean.
Patrick Clarke

The Quietus Albums Of The Year So Far 2023

  • 1: Lankum – False Lankum
  • 2: Khanate – To Be Cruel
  • 3: Patrick Wolf ­– The Night Safari
  • 4: Shit And Shine – 2222 And Airport
  • 5: Surgeon – Crash Recoil
  • 6: Brìghde Chaimbeul – Carry Them With Us
  • 7: James Holden – Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities
  • 8: Yaeji – With A Hammer
  • 9: Colin Stetson – When We Were That What Wept For The Sea
  • 10: Annelies Monseré – Mares
  • 11: La Tène – Ecorcha / Taillée
  • 12: JAAW – Supercluster
  • 13:PoiL Ueda – PoiL Ueda
  • 14: MEMORIALS – Music For Film: Tramps! / Women Against The Bomb
  • 15: Kelela – Raven
  • 16: James Ellis Ford – The Hum
  • 17: Jellyskin – In Brine
  • 18: Heartworms – A Comforting Notion
  • 19: Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy
  • 20: MC Yallah – Yallah Beibe
  • 21: Kate NV – WOW
  • 22: Wacław Zimpel – Train Spotter
  • 23: Polobi & The Gwo Ka Masters – Abri Cyclonique
  • 24: Oleksandr Yurchenko – Recordings Vol. 1, 1991—2001
  • 25: Bruxa Maria – Build Yourself A Shrine And Pray
  • 26: Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective – *1
  • 27: Nabihah Iqbal – Dreamer
  • 28: Philip Jeck & Chris Watson – Oxmardyke
  • 29: Fire-Toolz – I Am Upset Because I See Something That Is Not There.
  • 30: Mandy, Indiana – I've Seen A Way
  • 31: Autechre & The Hafler Trio – ae³o & h³ae Box Set
  • 32: Babybaby_explores – Food Near Me, Weather Tomorrow
  • 33: Free Love – Inside
  • 34: Desire Marea – On The Romance Of Being
  • 35: Benefits – Nails
  • 36: Fever Ray – Radical Romantics
  • 37: Natalia Beylis & Eimear Reidy – She Came Through The Window To Stand By The Door
  • 38: Skull Practitioners – Negative Stars
  • 39: Squid – O Monolith
  • 40: Cicada The Burrower – Blight Witch Regalia
  • 41:Sleaford Mods – UK GRIM
  • 42: Overmono – Good Lies
  • 43: House Of All – House Of All
  • 44: Paszka – Lapton
  • 45: A.P.A.T.T. – We
  • 46: Otto Sidharta – Kajang
  • 47: Ruth Anderson & Annea Lockwood – Tête-à-tête
  • 48: Pere Ubu – Trouble On Big Beat Street
  • 49: Synthfreq – Vol. 1
  • 50: Marta Salogni & Tom Relleen – Music For Open Spaces
  • 51: Lunch Money Life – The God Phone
  • 52: Martyna Basta – Slowly Remembering, Barely Forgetting
  • 53: 3Phaz – Ends Meet
  • 54: Upsammy – Germ In A Population Of Buildings
  • 55: Sourdurent – L'Herbe De Détourne
  • 56: Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Maps
  • 57: The Stargazer's Assistant – Fire Worshipper
  • 58: Bell Witch – Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate
  • 59: DeVon Russell Gray / Nathan Hanson / Davu Seru – We Sick
  • 60: Lia Kohl – The Ceiling Reposes
  • 61: Godflesh – Purge
  • 62: Yossari Baby – Inferiority Complex
  • 63: Yfory – Yfory
  • 64: Crimeboys – Very Dark Past
  • 65: HMLTD – The Worm
  • 66: Lana Del Rabies – Strega Beata
  • 67: Šarūnas Nakas – Ramblings
  • 68: BIG|BRAVE – Nature Morte
  • 69: Sheng Jie, aka gogoj 盛洁 – Review
  • 70: KASAI – J/P/N
  • 71: Left Hand Cuts Off The Right – Free Time/Dead Time
  • 72: Fire! Orchestra – Echoes
  • 73: Hermann Nitsch – Das Orgien Mysterien Theater
  • 74: Rezzett – Meant Like This
  • 75: Bulbils – Map
  • 76: Shirley Collins – Archangel Hill
  • 77: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Land Of Sleeper
  • 78: JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown – Scaring The Hoes
  • 79: Sabrina Bellaouel – Al Hadr
  • 80: Katie Gately – Fawn / Brute
  • 81: Rosso Polare – Bocca D'ombra
  • 82: Jacques Puech – Gravir / Canon
  • 83: Seaming To – Dust Gatherers
  • 84: 23wa – Rorschach
  • 85: Richard Skelton – Selenodesy
  • 86: Jam City – Jam City Presents EFM
  • 87: Unperson – Spiritual™
  • 88: Wallowing – Earth Reaper
  • 89: Poison Ruïn – Härvest
  • 90: Paul St. Hilaire – Tikiman Vol. 1
  • 91: Wolf Eyes – Dreams In Splattered Lines
  • 92: Aksak Maboul – Une Aventure De VV (Songspiel)
  • 93: Oozing Wound – We Cater To Cowards
  • 94: Liis Ring – Homing
  • 95: Little Simz – NO THANK YOU
  • 96: Rian Treanor & Ocen James – Saccades
  • 97: Karlowy Vary – La Femme
  • 98: ABADIR – Melting
  • 99: Historically Fucked – The Mule Peasants' Revolt Of 12067
  • 100: Liv.e – Girl In The Half Pearl