Quietus Albums Of The Year 2014 (In Association With Norman Records)

Here is the Quietus' main albums of the year list for 2014, in association with our pals at Norman Records for all your record buying needs

For better or worse every music publication is essentially summed up by its Albums Of The Year chart. As soon as a magazine or website publishes its AOTY list it suddenly doesn’t matter what its editorial stance has been during the preceding 11 or 12 months – its aesthetic is only then cemented in place for the following year. All of those think pieces on international outlier trends and avant-garde underground movements will count for little in terms of popular perception if a website’s got The War On Drugs’ Lost In The Dream as their number one album. Of course, the same applies to The Quietus and, as always, we’re happy about this because in terms of content, we think our list is excellent. This is definitely a reflection of how simple we keep our AOTY list procedure. We take votes from everyone who works in the office (Luke Turner, Laurie Tuffrey, Sophie Coletta and myself) based purely on which albums we’ve listened to the most during the year.

But we do hope that our regular readers love the chart as much as we do – the avalanche of complaints about the lack of Hookworms, Run The Jewels II and Pallbearer that we’re about to be engulfed by notwithstanding. And, no word of a lie, I really really hope that people new to the site get something out of it as well. While writing this introduction each year however, I have the odd sensation that this is what a parish priest feels like when penning a sermon for Christmas Day – knowing that he’s addressing a congregation unusually swollen in numbers – many of whom he’s unlikely to see for another 365 days; all of them no doubt, very keen to get back home as soon as humanly possible for a sherry and a mince pie. Because of this I always feel that maybe I should be writing welcoming things and accentuating the positive so as to gently encourage people to attend the site more regularly in the future.

However the first thing that struck me about this list when I compiled it last week was something negative and rather than taking my normal course of action (stressing out about it in private to Luke until I have a panic attack) I thought I’d mention it here. Run your eye down the list of all the bylines with the capsule reviews under each of the hundred choices… it’s a right sausage fest isn’t it?

We do have plenty of excellent female writers but they tend to favour feature writing over reviewing for the most part. So if you’re a woman and reading this and you’d always fancied writing about music please drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you. (Write to Sophie@theQuietus.com and John@theQuietus.com and one of us will get back to you.) Tell us a bit about yourself, send an example of your writing – doesn’t need to have been published anywhere; we’re more interested in your chops than your experience – and then we’ll explain the woeful pay situation. (No one gets a living wage from The Quietus – a fully independent publication with no financial backing – not even Luke and I but we did pay for a sizeable percentage of copy we ran in the second half of this year and our ultimate goal is to be paying for absolutely everything in the next few years.) The only time we’ve ever seen a readership analysis, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that there’s a near 50/50 male/female distribution among our readers and I’m pretty sure few other music titles can boast that. An obvious way for us to try and maintain this balance is not just to write about more female artists but ensure there are more female voices on the site full stop.

As for female artists in the actual chart, I think the picture’s somewhat healthier. About one third of the acts featured are female artists, female bands or groups featuring prominent female musicians. I met up with the member of the PRS Foundation responsible for investigating women’s professional involvement in music recently and she said that out of all of their hundreds of thousands of members, only 14% were female. That figure is shocking no matter how you cut it and questions need to be asked about how this cultural situation has developed (or dragged on as the case is more likely to be) and more importantly, what can be done about it.

When listing my own favourite LPs recently it was near impossible to choose my number two album this year. I really felt that there was barely anything in terms of sheer enjoyability and quality separating Jane Weaver’s The Silver Globe, Katie Gately’s Pipes, Cooly G’s Wait Til Night, Scott Walker and Sunn O)))’s Soused, Swans’ To Be Kind, The Bug’s Angels & Devils, Preternaturals by Grumbling Fur, Total Strife Forever by East India Youth and Manic Street Preachers’ Futurology. These are all albums that I’ve had on constant repeat since receiving them and none of them show any sign of loosening their grip on me. However there was one album that managed to stand head and shoulders above even these formidable artifacts and that was UNFLESH by Gazelle Twin – a staggeringly good piece of work.

Elizabeth Bernholz, aka Gazelle Twin, is an artist for our times. She takes body dysmorphia, personality dysphoria, the rage felt against disempowerment, the echoes of angry teenage revenge fantasies, nameless but debilitating modern illnesses, hellish hallucinations and converts them to a convincing and overpowering sonic art. Focussing industrial, hip hop and techno influences into an electronic pop LP – the follow-up to 2011’s The Entire City – Bernholz has stepped out of the shadow of her youthful influences (The Knife, Fever Ray, John Foxx) and produced something startlingly original. I don’t personally believe in genius but I am always in awe of persistence and singularity of vision – which is something she has in spades.

But for me, all of the albums in the top 40 (and many outside of it) are outstanding artistic statements and in some respects it’s a shame we even have to rank them – a crass and unreliable way of recording an album’s worth. Instead, taken as a whole I find the contents of this chart are one hundred really good reasons for me to bother getting out of bed in the morning. It rams it home that no matter what chants of doom and gloom we’re hearing from some quarters, modern music is actually in vividly rude health, especially if you’re willing to look further afield and outside of the traditional label and PR distribution networks.

We understand that these lists are taken very seriously by a lot of music fans and we expect to receive a reasonable amount of flak for not including LPs that mean the world to other people. Please leave your own lists in the comment feature below but be aware that if you have a genuinely missionary zeal for an artist and want us to listen to them with a view to featuring them on the site in future, we’re much more likely to respond favourably to a post where we don’t get referred to as a bunch of gibbering halfwits or what have you. The two main complaints about this chart can usually be summed up like this: one, you lot are so obvious, I could have predicted this chart exactly and two, you lot are so pretentious, I haven’t heard of any of these artists. To which I say: one, well please educate us by leaving a list of albums you feel should have been included below and two, well, yes obviously; Luke collects antique brass shoe horns and I’m just about to go on the radio and read poetry about black holes with modular synthesiser drone backing. Of course we’re pretentious. That doesn’t mean we’re wrong though…

Essentially this chart has one aim however. And that can be summed up thus: I hope you find one or more albums from this list which bring you great pleasure now and in the future. And finally, as you probably know, The Quietus likes to spend most of the money that we don’t use on rent and tea on great round slabs of vinyl. We know that you, our dear readers, also like to do the same. Therefore, as our entirely subjective and totally reductive albums of the year list is essentially a buyers guide to the best records that you might not have heard of elsewhere, we’ve always wanted to make it easy for you to part with hard currency in order to support artists and record labels. Just as we did last year, we’re partnering up with our friends (of whom we are frequent customers ourselves) up at Norman Records for vinyl and CD purchases. Just follow the link after each entry to be taken to their online store.

There are more charts coming on The Quietus over the next few weeks including some genre round ups, tracks of the year and compilations, reissues and mixes. I tend to think when you take all of these charts together, that’s when you start to see the true nature of a website or magazine, so do check them out.

Anyway, happy listening and have a peaceful and enjoyable December.

John Doran

100. Good Throb – Fuck Off
(White Denim, Sabermetric, SuperFi)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Good Throb fucking owns and is a personal lock for my personal top ten of 2014…" Noel Gardner

    99. Echoes Of Yul – Tether

    98. Joseph Curwen – Shunned House

    "These four 22 minute compositions from North-East Englander Joseph Curwen are some of the most dauntingly colossal sounding bits of music I’ve come across in a while. Consistently on the brink of clipping, Curwen’s towering monolithic waves of mutated ambience wash over and over us, riding a never-ending percussive pulse. The stereo field is constantly awash with misshapen synths, harsh static and invisible choirs, occasionally coalescing into one great big punchy slab of monstrous noise." Tristan Bath

    Read our review of Shunned House here

    97. Clark – Clark

    Listen to Clark here on Spotify

    "Throughout its 47 minutes, Clark captures much of the depth, adventurousness and unpredictability which made Body Riddle so special, draws together the best aspects of his more recent albums, and supplies numerous newer pleasures of its own." Ed Gillett

    Read our review of Clark here

    96. Obake – Mutations
    (Rare Noise)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The last time the Quietus saw Obake, genre-crushing titans that they are, it was in a 19th-century brewery in Wrocław, Poland, with tQ’s metal doyen Toby Cook comparing their sonic force to a "soul-peeling back draft". Now, with similar anima-chafing potency, they return with their second album, Mutations."

    95. Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • Listen to A World Only Lit By Fire here on Spotify

    "It’s going to be very brutal and very simple." Justin Broadrick on his vision for A World Lit Only By Fire

    94. Adult Jazz – Gist Is
    (Spare Thought)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • Listen to Gist Is here on Spotify

    "It feels like Gist Is came out of nowhere, fully formed. Full of wonder and joy – it’s both texturally ravishing and textually fascinating: songs, in other words, that tackle big subjects – the mediation of (homo)sexuality by church and society; what it means to be a man – with a transporting grace and music whose unexpected richness, space and invention creates a profound resonance." David Peshek

    Read our review of Gist Is here

    93. Anthroprophh – Outside The Circle

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • Listen to Outside The Circle here on Spotify

    "This album is not simply a journey from the centre of the Earth ‘out on blue six’ to ‘deep space nine’ however. Allen doesn’t just think outside the (Space) box, he orbits Outside The Circle. There are the obvious anchor points and influences – a sirocco of Hawkwind, a dappled spot of Sun Ra. But there are also trace elements of garage rock Crystal Stilts style, a Gibby Haines style vocal refrain here, a funereal organ there and literally a Star-mangled banner in the hairiest of wig-outs during ‘Hendrix’." Nick Hutchings

    Read our review of Outside The Circle here

    92. Black Rain – Dark Pool
    (Blackest Ever Black)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • Listen to Dark Pool here on Spotify

    "Standing on the previous work of Black Rain, Dark Pool reads as an evolution rather than a sudden jump to the present, and smart sequencing increases the overall effectiveness of the music to lend a narrative feel to the album. If [Black Rain’s] archival recordings stand up to time surprisingly well after nearly 20 years, Argabright’s absorption of influences since their release and his ability to roll them neatly into his own ideas is impressive, and his voice remains very much his own. There may be very much a vogue for these kind of sounds, as evidenced by his label mates on Blackest Ever Black and other recent ruminations from Hospital Productions, but as the elder statesman and an original innovator, Black Rain’s articulation of dystopian concepts is that much more clear and moves past retro-futurism to the apocalyptic notions referred to in the group’s name, a reference to nuclear holocaust. It’s not necessary to re-invent the future once you have already foreseen it, and music of this substance and quality remains rare." Albert Freeman

    Read our review of Dark Pool here

    91. Scott Miller, Lee Camfield & Merzbow – No Closure
    (Cold Spring)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • 90. Fumaca Preta – Fumaca Preta

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • Listen to Fumaca Preta here on Spotify

    "The studio project of Alex Figueira, a Portuguese-Venezualan producer based in Amsterdam, Fumaça Preta (‘black smoke’) offer a cracked Latin American psychedelia that jives to the wiggier end of Tropicalia – Os Mutantes, Tom Ze – while drinking deep from the Butthole Surfers’ manky goblet of insanity. Figueira yells and cackles through a prism of reverb and echo, while tripped-out percussion and distorted saxophones drift in and out of a hallucinatory mix. There are fuzzed out nods to Hendrix and Funkadelic, but ‘Tire Sua Mascara’ is more acid house than acid rock, as the percussionists party around neon globs of 303." Stewart Smith

    89. Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It Came Down
    (Thrill Jockey)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • Listen to Then It Came Down here on Spotify

    88. Behemoth – The Satanist
    (Nuclear Blast)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • Listen to The Satanist here on Spotify

    "Immediately obvious is The Satanist’s radically different sound. Where Evangelion was dense and suffocating, lead-track ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ is layered, spacious and almost a relief, with every instrument –particularly the bass – breathing and crystal clear. Much like an artist creating perspective in a painting, there’s a sensation of depth in The Satanist’s mix that serves to gives the music even more impact." Mark Eglinton

    Read our review of The Satanist here

    87. Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies – Earth Air Spirit Fire Water

    86. Toumani & Sidiki Diabate – Toumani & Sidiki Diabate
    (World Circuit)

    Listen to Toumani & Sidiki Diabate here

    "In the lineage of continuing the griot tradition from father to son, it is unusual for the musicians to be taught by their father. Both Toumani and Sidiki have learned their craft through pure dedication and hard work to master their instrument. The fact that Sidiki, who is in his early 20s, has carved out a successful career in his own right has clearly impressed his father, who has decided that his son would make a worthy collaborator." Richie Troughton

    85. Aphex Twin – Syro

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Anybody who has kept abreast of what James has been up to in the years since Drukqs, won’t be startled by Syro. There are no jaw-dropping WTF!? moments. That’s not to say that Syro isn’t any good (it’s very, very good), but it is missing any startling innovations that make you think, “Holy fuck! Did that just happen?” Joe Clay

    Read our review of Syro here

    84. The Juan Maclean – In A Dream

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "In A Dream is certainly not going to alienate those who adored The Future Will Come, yet it should be said there are notable points of evolution – most importantly Whang’s prominence and the diversity of Maclean’s songwriting." Barnaby Smith

    Read our review of In A Dream here

    83. Tinariwen – Emmar

    "While the Tinariwen formula may be familiar, Emmaar sees their sound refined without losing any of the group’s rebel edge and defiant spirit." Richie Troughton

    Read our review of Emmar here

    82. Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait
    (Def Jam Recordings)

    "A cut above most of the Odd Futurians he consorts with, this Long Beach spitter has better executed ideas for the West Coast than TDE." Gary Suarez

    81. The Soft Pink Truth – Why Do The Heathen Rage?
    (Thrill Jockey)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The Soft Pink Truth began as an outlet for Drew Daniel of Matmos to make poppy house music with a conceptual focus and this year has seen him release an album of black metal covers, Why Do The Heathen Rage?, which is out on Thrill Jockey on June 16. With its subtitle ‘Electronic Profanations Of Black Metal Classics’, the album sets out to offer a queer critique of some of the racist, sexist and homophobic politics in the genre." Danny Riley

    80. DJ Q – Ineffable
    (Local Action)

    "On singles like ‘Brandy & Coke’ and the glorious, often surprisingly cryptic rave-pop of this year’s Ineffable album, he’s slowed the tempo and cut the excess fat, leaving music that’s equally defined by what’s left unsaid: glossy drums, pizzicato string pinpricks and semi-nonsense vocal cut ups, and in between them acres of clear space for bodies and minds to explore." Rory Gibb

    79. Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

    78. Bing & Ruth – Tomorrow Was The Golden Age
    (Happy Talk)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • 77. Ronika – Selectadisc
    (Record Shop)

    "The round-the-way girl who walked it like she talked it, stitching together electro-disco glamour with a wicked sense of humour. The woman who they called ‘the Madonna of the Midlands’, who would pose in full disco dolly rig-out in a dingy launderette, with a washing basket overflowing with vinyl. A singer who saw an advertising board for the local paper which read "WHAT RONIKA HAS FOR HER TEA", and took a photo of herself sitting on the pavement next to it, eating asparagus spears off a plate." Al Needham

    76. Wrangler – LA Spark

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Benge and Phil were wrangling when I arrived, but it turns out I was equally equipped to wrangle. I was born to wrangle. It’s in my genes. That’s wrangling genes, not Wrangler Jeans. I think the idea of exerting control over all these synthesisers and drum machines is something I find fascinating anyway. I was happy to join in." Stephen Mallinder

    75. Merkabah – Moloch
    (Instant Classic)

    "Moloch sees Merkabah tempering their instrumental improvisations with sixties psychedelia and noise, as well as the titular Arameic god as inspirations: "We decided to view it both in its mythological and abstract aspects, as an allegory of evil, power, cult and sacrifice," say the band. The brilliant artwork, meanwhile, comes from the band’s drummer Kuba Sokólski – gaze in awe above."

    74. milo – a toothpaste suburb
    (Hellfyre Club)

    "Like an open mic poetry slam held in the back of an Internet cafe, the seemingly disconnected poetic punchlines and woozy SNES loops of brainbending album opener ‘Salladhor Saan, Smuggler’ lock in on the downright charming oddness of this Hellfyre Club treasurer-elect. Warped, wonderful and infectious, there’s so much intellectual miserabilism to take in here so just frown and nod. Iglooghost and other out-there beatmakers aesthetically jibe with Milo’s astute observations and rewind-worthy non sequiturs (‘You Are Goood To Me’). The dude might actually be too aware, if the plentiful and varied references that dominate his verses reflect just how his brain operates." Gary Suarez

    Read our review of a toothpaste suburb here

    73. Yvette – Process

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The obvious reference point here is Liars… Yvette’s prominent drums are sharp, precise, punchy and tribal. Backed by an oppressively resonant siren, ‘Cuts Me In Half’ sounds like a crew of hopeless astronauts who, resigning themselves to the fact that their patchwork spaceship can never escape the gravitational pull of that huge flaming sun over there, have chosen to spend their last couple of minutes trying to cover something off They Were Wrong, So We Drowned." J.R. Moores

    Read our review of Process here

    72. Anat Ben David – MeleCh

    "The basis for this album was a long period of automatic writing; the text she was creating being mainly dictated by the way the words sounded, not what they meant. She then learned the entire text – and how it was to be pronounced – by heart by employing mnemonic means, creating a narrative of sorts. Then she used various digital vocal manipulation techniques to distinguish between different characters she was giving voice to. There is a dense textural and imagistic inter-connectivity between all the songs and their attendant films; with the whole experience being, by turns, psychedelic, funny, disconcerting, brain warping and really enjoyable." John Doran

    71. The Budos Band – Burnt Offering

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The Budos Band are the real deal, and Burnt Offering is quite a ride. For connoisseurs of heavy sounds, I can’t recommend this highly enough" – Joe Banks

    Read our review of Burnt Offering here

    70. Plains Druid – Plains Druid
    (Blue Tapes)

    "Originally Jon [Plains Druid] had planned four fairly long pieces for this tape, but he decided at the last moment to also include four long intervals – blissed-out synth washes and moodscapes – between each track, which doubled its length into the 2-hour-long C120 narcotic odyssey we now know and love." David Macnamee of Blue Tapes

    69. Stephen O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi & Randall Dunn – Shade Themes From Kairos
    (Drag City)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "One of 2014’s best albums." Rory Gibb

    68. Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Throughout Tzenni the playful interplay between the husband and wife duo strikes deep into the subconscious, with Noura’s soulful vocal lines echoed and improvised into new shapes by Jeiche’s ever-inventive, wah-drenched and wild extended guitar licks, in Moorish tunings, their seductive melodies proving to be highly addictive earworms. Noura’s use of free associative lyrics, as on ‘El Mougelmen’, developed around ever-unwinding cyclical riffs, is just one example of group’s songwriting prowess that feeds into their transcendental and unique sound." Richie Troughton

    67. Russell Haswell – 37 Minute Workout

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "When Oscar Powell from Diagonal asked me to make this new record I’d just bought a bass drum, a snare drum, a hi-hat and a clap module. I made 37 Minute Workout very quickly, within two days, apart from one track [‘Blast Beats (Edit)’], which I made the year before, when I was generating material for a collaboration record with Pain Jerk." Russell Haswell

    66. Sunn O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials
    (Southern Lord)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "It’s easy to construe this music as conjuring post-apocalyptic apparitions. Mirages of Frank Herbert’s barren Arrakas, or tragic Tarkovsky-esque wastelands easily swim across the foreground of the opening track. However as the title suggests, ‘Let There Be Light’ could just as easily represent a languid, celestial act of birth and creation, or the sight of a slow rising new sun." Tritan Bath

    Read our review of Terrestrials here

    65. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
    (Loma Vista)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "St. Vincent‘s eponymous title, coming as it does after Annie Clark’s three prior solo albums and her collaboration with David Byrne, implies that the record will be a clear statement of intent. Fittingly enough for an artist with near-legendary creative control over her output, the title was a very deliberate decision. ‘I was reading Miles Davis’ autobiography,’ she recently told Paste, ‘and he talks about how the hardest thing for any musician to do is to sound like himself … and that’s why I decided to self-title this record because I feel like I sound like myself.’" Chad Parkhill

    Read our review of St Vincent here

    64. Ekoplekz – Unfidelity
    (Planet Mu)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Edwards’ all-analogue set-up and use of cheap, DIY units and four-track recorders gives his music a pleasing authenticity. There is a murky, mouldering gloom and paranoia that pervades much of Unfidelity. It’s Artificial Intelligence-era Warp remodelled for dank basements and smoke-filled squats, especially on the opener ‘Trace Elements’, which recalls the alien oddness of Richard D. James under his Polygon Window alias." Joe Clay

    Read our review of Unfidelity here

    63. Stein Urheim – Stein Urheim

    "An intensely close listen to Norwegian guitarist Stein Urheim’s excellent self-titled album reveals some surprising sonic detail and casts you in the role of a TV detective savant listening to the recording of a crucial phone call for sonic clues in the background. Concentrate and you can hear the natural rhythm of rain falling on wooden beams and slate roof tiles of the house it was recorded in and even a boat chugging past some distance deep in the background." John Doran

    Read our review of Stein Urheim here

    62. Liars – Mess

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "As much as Mess is a drive further across electronic borders Liars explored in 2012 with WIXIW, it is simultaneously a consolidation of all that has come before. Many have been quick to point out WIXIW’s ‘Brats’ as a lead in point to the chapter that follows here, but it perhaps equally pertinent to suggest there is a thread that leads much deeper into Liars’ history: the guttural aggression that lined They Threw Us In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top, or the rhythmic intensity of Drum’s Not Dead." Sophie Coletta

    Read our review of Mess here

    61. Heterotic – Weird Drift
    (Planet Mu)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • 60. Shellac – Dude Incredible
    (Touch And Go)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Dude Incredible sounds "like a Shellac record" according to Bob Weston, and he’s right. Not that that’s a bad thing of course. When I eat my once-yearly Cadbury’s Cream Egg I expect the sugar content to make me feel dizzy and I’d be irked if it didn’t. And similarly, when I hear a new Shellac record I expect it to kick me in my imaginary balls. I expect it to deposit tape-worm larvae in my bowels, which become long, segmented adults invading my eyes with hundreds of cysts. I do not expect an organ solo or some chirpy soundscape. That would be ridiculous and shit." Nancy Bennie

    Read our review of Dude Incredible here

    59. Laibach – Spectre

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "With this new album, Laibach often seem to come out as liberal idealists. They say the album is one where they become ‘politically engaged as never before’. They tell us the track ‘Bossanova’ is ‘a declaration of war against all macho-obsessed… oppressive rulers and political systems’. The track ‘The Whistleblowers’ ‘alludes to the heroism of the "digital" Prometheans of freedom – Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange’. ‘Eat Liver!’ calls for ‘social revolution’ and ‘the equitable division of assets’." Roy Wilkinson

    Read our review of Spectre here

    58. Leyland Kirby Presents V/Vm – The Death Of Rave (A Partial Flashback)
    (History Always Favours The Winners)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Even by the standards of an artist whose most potent work has explored neural overload and memory loss, The Death Of Rave emerged from a particularly frenzied bout of activity for Kirby, 2006’s V/Vm 365 project. It found him working almost round-the-clock to meet the self-imposed condition that he had to release a new track each day via his website. ‘It was crazy,’ he told me during an interview. ‘It almost killed me. Then after that, I was at this point where I couldn’t really see what I could do for six, twelve months. I didn’t do very much, it was basically survival.’" Rory Gibb

    Read our review of The Death Of Rave here

    57. Lee Gamble – KOCH

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "You could be forgiven for associating the recent dancefloor-leaning music of Lee Gamble with the roughed-up house and techno gathered around labels like L.I.E.S, Trilogy Tapes and Berceuse Heroique; Gamble has, after all, played back-to-back with people like L.I.E.S boss Ron Morelli, and he draws for plenty of tracks in that style for his DJ sets. Yet his own compositional practice, if anything, seems aimed in almost the polar opposite direction to recent fetishes for immediacy and noisy textures in club music. It is, as the truism goes, relatively easy to make an impact by wrenching the volume and abrasion upward. Far more challenging is to play it quietly, to draw listeners into your world with small, painstakingly controlled gestures, delivered with an awareness of the tiniest details." Rory Gibb

    56. Ibibio Sound Machine – Ibibio Sound Machine

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Ibibio Sound Machine are the newest addition, bringing together Ghanaian highlife with disco, analogue synths, funky beats and occasional diversions into near-gospel territory. The album’s artwork sums up the group’s idiosyncratic mix, with lead vocalist and focal point – Nigerian-British vocalist Eno Williams – adorning in colourful full Afro-funk garb, synthesiser purposefully underarm, and a stern expression that makes it clear just how seriously this party’s meant to be taken." Tristan Bath

    Read our review of Ibibio Sound Machine here

    55. DonChristian – Renzo Piano
    (Camp & Street)

    "His voice takes on a seductive urban rumble, recalling Maxi Jazz’s poetic basso mutter in a slightly unsettling way. Yet unlike Faithless’ persistent and downright pesky new age clarity, DonChristian makes himself hard to follow, perhaps deliberately, making his less inscrutable moments feel somehow magical and meaningful even when they’re lyrically banal." Gary Suarez

    Read our review of Rezno Piano here

    54. Puce Mary – Persona
    (Posh Isolation)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Over the last five years Frederikke Hoffmeier has put out a succession of sternum-crushing noise cassettes under the name Puce Mary; thunderous compositions that trace a fine line across the spectrum of pain and pleasure, all post-vomit coughing and sharp intakes of breath." Sophie Coletta

    53. Owen Pallett – In Conflict

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "With In Conflict Owen Pallett cements his name as one of a select few contemporary solo artists who reconcile technical ability with a non-purist approach to pop songwriting and arranging. This approach allows the artist to transcend the contrivances of virtuosity – the trappings of the "instrument rock" showcase – and concentrate on what matters most: great songs that neither rely on, nor undermine, the artist’s capabilities as a musician. Instead these artists use their chosen instrument to serve rather than dominate their sound." Charlie Frame

    Read our review of In Conflict here

    52. YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Mike Scheidt has spoken at length about the fact that Clearing The Path To Ascend is perhaps the least abstract and most direct and personal album Yob have made to date, acting for him as it did as somewhat of a catharsis after his divorce and his struggle with clinical depression. And yet it is by no means a dark album; if anything it’s redemptive, hopeful even, right from the moment Alan Watts utters "time to wake up" and opener ‘In Our Blood’ chugs out of your speakers. The relentless tsunami of taiko-like drumming in ‘Nothing To Win’ later reminds you of the first time you heard Through Silver In Blood, and yet, like the slow, honest and gulping breaths after a primal scream, it’s the mournful, dynamically shifting fragility of closer ‘Marrow’ that is really going to stay with you." Toby Cook

    Read our review of Clearing The Path To Ascend here

    51. Actress – Ghettoville

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "On first listen, Ghettoville is a departure in as much as [former] precision is more or less rejected as a strategy. Where there was palpably space around the notes on RIP, Cunningham’s follow-up plays with the crackle and distortion of early industrial music to flesh out the minimalism of his compositional skeletons." Joe Clay

    Read our review of Ghettoville here

    50. Xiu Xiu – Angel Guts, Red Classroom
    (Bella Union)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Angel Guts: Red Classroom is a reaction of a record that demands you stop enjoying Xiu Xiu, this instant. Like a couple of art-hounds happily guzzling Merlot in the shadow of a Francis Bacon triptych, a decade of exposure to Stewart’s work can leave you almost numb to it. You become familiar with the horror, expect to feel uncomfortable, familiarise yourself with the artists’ moves at a safe distance. And it’s been made easier as the records themselves have become more accomplished." Matthew Foster

    Read our review of Angel Guts, Red Classroom here

    49. Cut Hands – Festival Of The Dead
    (Blackest Ever Black)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Festival Of The Dead broadens both the Cut Hands sound and tempo range, making for a surprisingly nuanced LP. Boasting a sonic clarity and power as well–developed as one would expect from William Bennett, there is also a new-found focus away from the previously scattershot rhythms that, in feel and tone, shared more sonic ground with the obsessively spliced drum funk of devoted amen splicers such as Equinox or Paradox. The tracks on Festival Of The Dead introduce both plaintive passages and bone solid rhythmic kinks that are more disciplined and techno compatible." Harry Sword

    Read our review of Festival Of The Dead here

    48. Olga Bell – Krai
    (One Little Indian)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The ‘everything all the time’ aspect to Krai — the province of unsung artists who want to put all their heady ideas out there at once — makes it as exhausting as it is impressive. Olga Bell’s siren-like high alto almost never lets up, although she does get quietly throaty over the reluctant jitter of ‘Stavropol Krai’." Jody Beth

    Read our review of Krai here

    47. Wild Beasts – Present Tense

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Present Tense is a markedly different creature from Wild Beasts’ first three albums, and especially a significant move forward from 2011’s Top 20 LP Smother. Since then, Hayden Thorpe, Fleming, Ben Little and Chris Talbot have headed down the M1 to become London residents, and here work for the first time without long-term producer and collaborator Richard Formby. Instead, on a record largely free of guitars, musical polymath Leo Abrahams and Alex ‘Lexxx’ Dromgoogle (whose name sounds like a Wild Beasts lyric from 2008) take the helm." Luke Turner

    Read our review of Present Tense here

    46. Nisennenmondai – N
    (BLAST First (petite))

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Tokyo trio Nisennenmondai, made up of guitarist Masako Takada, bassist Yuri Zaikawa and drummer Sayaka Himeno, delivered one of the stand-out sets at this year’s OFF Festival in Poland with a collection of material that damn well defied the relationship between eyes and ears. In the sweaty confines of the Experimental Stage, a tent so rammed that the crowd spilled out in all directions, the band produced a set of pumping, throbbing and relentless techno, the kind of which that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Dragonfly label back in the day, using a conventional rock band set up. What made the whole thing so remarkable was that it was created without the use of sequencers but by innate human rhythms and a strict and watertight sense of timing." Julian Marszalek

    Read our review of N here

    45. BONG – Stoner Rock

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Guided by the archaic and otherworldly sounds of Ben Freeth’s Shahi Baaja, despite its tectonic pace Bong’s music possesses a consistent feeling of sharpness and liveness. Deliberately invoking the ghost of Lord Dunsany with album and song titles, Bong’s music is a modern interpretation of that old-world storyteller. While their US counterparts use Pentagram riffs to explore the verses of H.P. Lovecraft, it feels appropriate that their sound is rich with a much thicker vein of dread. Latest album, Stoner Rock, feels like a culmination, a zenith, the summit of the gargantuan mountain the band have been scaling throughout all their records. It’s an acceptance, a criticism and a redefinition of the ‘stoner rock’ label slapped on them by slapdash critics throughout their brief but prolific career." Steven Dinnie

    44. Consumer Electronics – Estuary English

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Much of the trouble with post-TG, post-Whitehouse ‘noise’ music is just how moronic much of its politicising is. I’ve lost count of the number times I’ve seen some wally yelling in front of Nasty Pictures Of Bad Things Happening. At best it’s hopeless and parochial, at worst dangerous, open to all sorts of unpleasant interpretation. What seems to be a frustration with the noise scene is even addressed in ‘Affirmation’, with its references to speed and a Blackest Ever Black label night. Estuary English (released on the Dirter Label), on the other hand, delivers its message of rage with an unsettling directness of approach in both lyrics, sound design, and even a kind of bleak and saucy wit – "can’t talk – cock in mouth situation" is one of my favourite lines of the year." Luke Turner

    Read our review of Estuary English here

    43. Future Islands – Singles

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Future Islands have their sound well figured out – rhythmic, chugging bass lines against wistful, slow burning synths, while singer Sam Herring alternately croons and growls. If it’s synthpop, it’s an unusual brand of synthpop; the rhythm often goes over the melody (hence why bassist William Cashion always feels like the lead), and the dusty, reverb-drenched atmospherics sometimes take up more space than the actual song. They don’t play fast, but they’re focused; there’s a level of intensity in their music that’s more befitting of metal than any sort of pop. In a genre where many singers try to become "just another instrument", Herring is a true frontman; charismatic, theatrical, and willing to give as much as you’re willing to take. He goes over the top and then some, which is truly refreshing in an era of lead singers who have become all-too-self-aware; for Future Islands, it’s all about the performance." Nick Reed

    Read our review of Singles here

    42. Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Piano Nights

    "There’s something terrifyingly beautiful about Bohren & Der Club Of Gore’s music, most obviously the sheer unhurried lethargy of it. Each piece moves slower than hell, meditating at the sort of pace the 20th century’s communication explosion almost killed off. Each Bohren release evokes the sedate momentum of ancient sea travel, snailing forward through barren landscapes, perhaps unknowingly in circles, constantly tempting one to ask, "have we been here before?’" Tristan Bath

    Read our review of Piano Nights here

    41. The Inward Circles – Nimrod

    "Richard Skelton’s explorations of the human soul within the landscapes of the British Isles have made for some of the most eloquent and evocative music of recent times, and his recent concert at LSO St Lukes with the Elysian Quartet was one of the live highlights of the year. Now, he returns with a new project, The Inward Circles, and a refreshing new direction. His distinctive drones and rough sonics, the capturing of water over landscape and air moving past rock, have taken on a tougher, more electronic edge reminiscent of artists like Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg’s KTL. Where before his music, and the beautiful books that he published to accompany them, might create images of the vast damp spaces of the north of England in a way that seemed to reflect the ambivalence of nature towards us fragile and fleshy mortals, The Inwards Circles is full of threat, things ancient and unknown appearing amidst the sphagnum moss and heather." Luke Turner

    40. Einsturzende Neubauten – Lament

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "I promise you, this is a record review, not a history lesson. Firstly, it’s a review for those who couldn’t see the spectacle of this ‘non studio’ album being performed in the Flemish Belgian town of Dixmuide on November 9th, 2014. Of course, Neubauten will raise the dead with their live performance. But maybe by not being there, we can listen to Lament and construct a relationship with it using our own emotional space; appreciating the underlying rhythms of this complex, ever shifting, quizzical record. Here, away from the Sturm und Drang in Dixmuide, we can take on Lament without our senses being battered by thoughts of ‘appropriateness’ with regard to a ‘historical’ place and time. We can, in other words, treat it as a piece of music dealing with a terrible subject." Richard Foster

    Read our review of Lament here

    39. Arabrot – I Modi
    (Fysisk Format)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "I guess it’s pretty ironic releasing such an erotic, carnal album only weeks after having invasive treatment for life threatening cancer." Kjetil Nernes of Arabrot

    38. Kasai Allstars – Beware The Fetish
    (Crammed Discs)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The Kasai Allstars boast fifteen members, all from the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic Of Congo. They come from five ethnic groups that have experienced conflict with one another in the past, a fact that imbues the innately social function of the music with a significance that extends beyond mere token inclusivity. The record’s accompanying booklet highlights this, with its shots of dancers and musicians pushing to the foreground the celebratory and theatrical elements of the group’s music. The subject matter of the songs is moral in tone, extolling the virtues of hard work and tradition. Overt political commentary is side-lined, though this reviewer did baulk at a linear note, an unattributed quote, for the title track, ‘developed countries didn’t become rich just by chance but through hard work’. It is not the place of this music review to offer commentary on this opinion, but it is worth noting as it gives an indication that some aspects of the Kasai Allstars do not chime neatly with the positivist, punk-rock or post-colonial narrative that music criticism often invokes to describe them." Andrew Spragg

    Read our review of Beware The Fetish here

    37. Extreme Precautions – Precaution One
    (In Paradisum)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • 36. Kassem Mosse – Workshop 19

    "Coming from one of the most talked-about, respected artists in underground house and techno, an eight-year wait for a debut solo full-length seems an awfully long time to put off such a long-demanded piece. Of course there were the two albums from last year, one under his The Siege Of Troy alias, and one a collaboration with frequent comrade-in-arms Mix Mup, that did something to satisfy, but respectively an obscure tape release and a mini-album, even one of undoubted quality, hardly calmed the clamoring Kassem Mosse fans. After all, here was an artist who has been justly noted for having one of contemporary electronic music’s most original sounds and whose intense, wide ranging, and immersive live sets suggested great things in store when the moment finally did arrive." Albert Freeman

    Read our review of Workshop 19 here

    35. Klara Lewis – ETT
    (Editions Mego)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Klara Lewis may be a newcomer to Editions Mego’s much-vaunted stable of electronic craftspeople, but Ett is the work of a gifted and thoughtful sound sculptress, who combines found sounds, field recordings and electronic textures to create beguiling and resonant works that operate on all manner of levels, and in which individual sounds are dissolved of context to create a fresh subliminal narrative." Joseph Burnett

    Read our review of ETT here

    34. Electric Wizard – Time To Die

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "For the avoidance of any doubt, Electric Wizard are one of the most important punk bands of all time." Dan Franklin

    Read our review of Time To Die here

    33. Lorenzo Senni – Superimpositions

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Superimpositions, the latest album by Lorenzo Senni on Boomkat Editions, is even better than its formidable predecessor, 2012’s Quantum Jelly, released on Editions Mego. Both records catalogue Senni’s engagement with producing with what he vividly calls ‘pointillist trance’. The product is essentially 90s-style trance permanently withheld from its own beat drop. It’s completely without drums, melodically aggro and viscerally consuming." Alexander Iadarol

    Read our review of Superimpositions here

    32. Willie The Kid & Bronze Nazareth – The Living Daylights

    31. Jar Moff – Financial Glam

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The music of Jar Moff is often lumped in under plunderphonics — a term originally coined by collagist composer John Oswald in 1985. Typically, the term is now used to refer to any music that is made entirely from pre-existing audio recordings, whereas in its original usage, plunderphonics referred to sound-collages that framed samples in much the way pop art re-contextualised iconic imagery. The intention was to relate recognisable musical quotations from the past with listeners and idioms of the present, thereby providing new conceptual frameworks to earlier forms. In this respect, Financial Glam is not plunderphonics. While the early examples of this music were largely seamed, angular, and conceptual, Financial Glam is seamless, organic and experiential. Jar Moff’s latest album does not merely recount an experience, it constructs one." Jonathan Patrick

    Read our review of Financial Glam here

    30. Objekt – Flatland

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "I don’t know if it was his intention, but on Flatland, Berlin-based producer/DJ Objekt, aka TJ Hertz, appears to have embarked on the unenviable mission of trying to draw together and consolidate all [modern] approaches to dancefloor music. At times, it even seems like he’s spent hours poring over the entire back catalogues of forward-thinking labels like Hyperdub, Kompakt, Keysound and Werkdiscs, and somehow attempted to join the dots between them. It’s no wonder, really, that Flatland is being put out by PAN, a label about as audacious and on-the-pulse as any." Joseph Burnett

    Read our review of Flatland here

    29. Tweedy – Sukierae
    (dBpm Records)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • " I think there were a lot of things that coincided to make it obvious to me that it would be a good time to make a solo record. One of which was – we had spent a lot of time on the road in Wilco in the last few years and just finished the Mavis record with [my son] Spencer and we were having a great time putting the tracks together, just the two of us and looking around trying to schedule some time to start working on another Wilco record and it was getting really difficult because everyone in Wilco is so busy with musical projects outside of Wilco. Instead of getting frustrated by that, I just took it as a sign that maybe everybody needs a breather, maybe myself included could benefit from making a record without committee." Jeff Tweedy

    28. Pharmakon – Bestial Burden
    (Sacred Bones)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "On the cover of Bestial Burden, her second album as Pharmakon, the American noise musician Margaret Chardiet is shown with her body weighed down by various pieces of animal meat and offal. On one level this image is an arresting visual depiction of the album’s title, with Chardiet’s fingers clawing away at the ribs and flesh placed uncomfortably on top of her. On a deeper level, it sums up the album’s themes of pity, terror and abjection. The image of an animal’s carcass and innards lying on the body refers directly to the work of the Austrian performance artist and painter Hermann Nitsch, the last remaining active member of the Viennese Actionist movement. Many of Nitsch’s actions incorporate the ritual evisceration of cows, pigs and lambs, followed by the laying on and covering of the naked human body with the bloody parts of the disembowelled animal. As Nitsch wrote: ‘Flesh, viewed as a living body, reveals itself as a Rubenesque opulent vitality; if dissected, it shows itself to be raw meat, as exposed organ, the prey of man the predator.’" Richard Rees Jones

    Read our review of Bestial Burden here

    27. Chrononautz – Public Domain Fuckover Series #1-6

    "Bucking the groaning applecart marked ‘identikit Beatport techno’ like Roger Moore toppling a table of ripe pomegranates in a souk (raising an eyebrow in the rear view mirror as livid stallholder waves a rhythmic fist in theatrical retribution), Chrononautz inject a hefty dose of DIY punk spirit into eclectic jams. Purveyors of a kaleidoscopic sound grounded in raw techno and acid, Chrononautz (Dom Clare and Leon Carey) are veterans of Leeds punk/hardcore/art world. They have been involved with myriad bands- most recently lauded experimentalists Chops – and channel their obtuse techno primitivism through a prism of telepathic improvisation: one that embraces chaos and astute sound design in equal measure." Harry Sword

    26. The Body – I Shall Die Here
    (RVNG Intl.)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Christs, Redeemers represented the zenith of The Body’s ever expanding scope. If it showed the broadest, most varied ranges of their despair – their doom-based tribal bludgeon expanded equally by walls of harsh, claustrophobic noise and the often serenely dark presence of the Assembly Of Light Choir, then I Shall Die Here plunges to even greater, more remote and isolated depths, stripping back most of these existential adornments to leave behind something altogether far more nightmarish. With The Haxan Cloak’s warped bass and electronic undulations bleeding through the Portland duo’s actually rather restrained, but no less punishing assault, it’s actually the comparative lack of clutter (not to mention the sound bites of people talking about suicide, as opens ‘Hail To Thee, Ever Lasting Pain’) that makes the record so much more threatening. And so painfully rewarding." Toby Cook

    Read our review of I Shall Die Here here

    25. Daniel Patrick Quinn – Acting The Rubber Pig

    "Where have all the awkward bastards gone, the square pegs in round holes, those who wilfully follow difficult paths, to their own detriment, in a time where society at large, not just music, is increasingly conformist, commodified, and keeps calm as it carries on? In a careerist age, there seem to be too many who’d compromise rather than jack it all in if they can’t realise their vision. Daniel Patrick Quinn, then, is a rarity in his generation. He was first heard on the self-released Ridin’ The Stang, an album of drones and curious narration by Quinn and, on one song, ancient Edinburgh museum guide Duncan Grahl reciting the story of the Burryman, a folklorish figure dressed in burrs who walks the streets of South Queensferry every August. That record of un-traditional folk music also featured ‘Northern’, a glorious, shimmering ode to the wild landscape between the Lake District and the Pennines that remains a personal favourite song of the last decade." Luke Turner

    Read our review of Acting The Rubber Pig here

    24. Jane Weaver – Silver Globe

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Where so much space/kraut/psych rock quickly disappears into a formulaic miasma, referencing everything but signifying nothing, Jane Weaver’s strong melodic sensibilities and incisive songwriting powers here alchemise raw genre material and turn it into, well, silver." Joe Banks

    Read our review of Silver Globe here

    23. EEK ft. Islam Chipsy – Live At The Cairo High Cinema Institute

    "The Islam Chipsy release is a live recording, and is one of the best live recordings ever." Joost Heijthuijsen

    Read our review of Live At The Cairo High Cinema Institute here

    22. Andy Stott – Faith In Strangers
    (Modern Love)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "If you’re not familiar with Andy Stott’s work, now is a great time to start, because he may just be hitting a new stride." Ryan Alexander Diduck

    Read our review of Faith In Strangers here

    21. Maurice Louca – Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "One album rapidly making a home on the tQ stereo recently has been the new record by Maurice Louca. Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute The Parrot) arrives via Nawa Recordings later this month and is the product of lengthy experimentations with composition, improvisation and collaboration by the Cairo musician following the release of his debut, Garraya, on the Egyptian label 100COPIES in 2011, distilled down from live performance for the album. It demonstrates a deft uniting of forces, with Electro Chaabi MC Alaa 50 guesting on vocals alongside bursts of saxophone from Alan Bishop, of Sun City Girls and Alvarius B. Chris Michael Shaheen’s drums and Bashar Faran’s bass hold down slowed Chaabi rhythms over which Alaa 50’s pitch-shifted, at-times aqueous, vocals set up a drone which gets flecked with Bishop’s saxophone, a discordant assault that wanders between the stereo channels."

    20. Kemper Norton – Loor
    (Front And Follow)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Short for ‘folklore’ and Cornish for ‘moon’, the title of this second album by the mysterious Kemper Norton invokes both dream and myth. Like Carn, their first album released last year, it places its listeners on the southern coast of England, in Cornwall and Sussex, providing a guided tour of sorts to the resonance of places and their location in myth. On Carn this involved a deep connection with two locations where site-specific recordings were made in Iron Age burial chambers and hill forts, with which to gild their woozy, folk-stained weave of eerie acoustics and psychedelic electronics. Loor is conceptually a bit different, however: being entirely situated at night it forms a confluence of coastal myths and memories as experienced through dream." Russell Cuzner

    Read our review of Loor here

    19. Grouper – Ruins

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The presence of absence permeates Liz Harris’ new album as Grouper, Ruins, to such an extent that it becomes a deeply industrial album. Or post-industrial perhaps, in that the recordings on the album are perambulations around collapsed buildings, rather than the collapsing buildings themselves. Ruins remain a structure – the song titles create an unusual symmetrical acronym – but thwarted structures nonetheless with the luminescent figure of Grouper stealing through this expansive landscape. This expanse is also key as Harris is startlingly skilled at creating sounds which represent empty – or, indeed, ruinous – physical spaces." Colm McAuliffe

    Read our review of Ruins here

    18. OAKE – Auferstehung

    17. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Piñata
    (Madlib Invasion)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "With the formidable Freddie Gibbs at his side, Madlib sees the light of day once again. Superior to Madvillainy by a few chin hairs, their devastatingly uplifting record elevates both artists. The beats and samples (‘High’, ‘Thuggin’) comprise a neo-blaxploitation score confiscated in a massive drug bust and exhumed from an evidence locker decades later. Mistreated by the industry, Gibbs shrugs off his setbacks and lyrically goes for the jugular. ‘Real,’ an unflinching and unflattering salvo directed at Young Jeezy, is the hardest diss recorded since Nas ethered Jay on Stillmatic. Sure, Doom plays the comic book baddy, but Gibbs might be the real thing. Better than any BET cypher, Piñata is the ‘1 Train’ Gotham deserves." Gary Suarez

    Read our review of Piñata here

    16. English Heretic – The Underworld Service

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Andy Sharp, aka English Heretic, is the latest in a notable line of artists – including David Bowie, Peter Hammill, Mark E Smith and Karl Blake – whose idiosyncratic musical vision is inspired and coloured by an abiding interest in the arcane and the occult. Sharp is also something of a Renaissance Man, additionally producing written works, giving talks and staging performances that further the English Heretic project of unearthing hidden or forgotten cultural oddities, forging psycho-historical/geographical connections, and generally re-mythologising "the blood-drenched battlefields of Albion." In the 1970s, Sharp would have been given his own late night slot on BBC2, just before The Open University programmes, but for our own era, let’s imagine him as a mischievous combination of James Burke, Adam Curtis and Garth Marenghi." Joe Banks

    Read our review of The Underworld Service here

    15. Blacknecks – 006

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The duo’s first couple of Blacknecks 12”s were shrouded in mystery, but not your typical ‘limited run, mastered by Rashad Becker at Dubplates and Mastering, comes with a free black and white postcard of a brick, eight-minute drone on the B-side’ sort of mystery. Instead, little nuggets of disinformation were disseminated. The duo claimed to be ‘former garage producers who decided to make techno’, and before long the message boards were alight with amateur sleuthery. However, while their music is undoubtedly good fun, it is anything but throwaway." Harry Sword

    14. Cooly G – Wait ‘Til Night

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "I’ve noticed with Hyperdub that there are considerably more female signees than perhaps most other underground electronic music labels. Is that something that you’ve particularly noticed and do you even think it’s important?" Christian Eede

    "I try to look at things like I’m a mum and I have to look after my children which means my mentality is different from other people. They might think, "Oh, she made a sick beat, so I’ve gotta make a sicker one than her." But, I never look at people like that because my time is for the kids, so I don’t have time for that attitude. I’ve got way better things to do. I’ve gotta finish my house and do activities with my kids. I’m exhausted quite a lot and I still am now at times." Cooly G

    Read our review of Wait Til Night here

    13. Innercity Ensemble – Black/White
    (Instant Classic)

    "Whether improvisation is effective and good – in my opinion – depends only on practice and exercise. Without constantly communing with the instruments, the objects, the things that surprise you over and over again, this kind of sensitivity for the sound doesn’t have any chance to evolve. It is why often when I’m inventing lyrics, songs or even playing at home for the sake of playing alone, I play the guitar which each time is tuned differently. Every time I try to do something, so I can’t rely on the tested features, because they just won’t work on this particular tuning. Often I operate on open tunings. In fact, every open tuning creates a distinct chord and its specific features can not be translated – but of course you can always try to – from one open tuning to the other. What is most interesting for me is the fact that it creates new harmonic opportunities – the combination of sounds that allow you to do something new every time you come to the instrument with an attitude of openness." Kuba Ziołek

    12. Zamilska – Untune

    "[She has] insisted that her music – rugged 4/4 interspersed with samples of African, Indian and Arabic chants and song – isn’t techno, which, given the grinning reaction she causes among the largely local crowds she plays to, is perhaps slightly disingenuous. Still, it is distorted and choppy and, however heavy the likes of ‘Enemy’ and ‘Army’ Zamilska’s music is no macho pummel, but dexterous and provocative – those samples of chant and song from around the world are intended, she tells me, as a challenge to Poland’s own conservative tendencies." Luke Turner

    11. FKA twigs – LP1
    (Young Turks)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Legion and lamentable are the reviews of female artists written by male music critics in which their hands appear to have drifted away from the keyboard for an energetic thigh rub, as their words collapse into panting cliché: "doe-eyed" singer songwriters, gothic electronic "vixens", delicate flowers whose achingly beautiful art the writer just cannot wait to protect in his sweatily cupped hands. FKA twigs is, therefore, potentially problematic, a honey trap for the ma… oh dear, there I go! For it’s nigh-on impossible to write about FKA twigs’ debut album, and her live shows, without mentioning sexuality and physicality – the oddness of the intimacy she’s able to create, the power dynamics within how she presents both her songs and herself in her role as performer." Luke Turner

    Read our review of LP1 here

    10. Jenny Hval & Susanna – Meshes Of Voice

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "The most startling moment on Meshes Of Voice occurs in the space between two songs. The exchange takes place towards the end of ‘Thirst That Resembles Me’, a live adaptation of an of a spectral song that appears on Jenny Hval’s terrifying folk flick Viscera, and the beginning of ‘I Have A Darkness’, a fucked and distorted response to the former that surveys noise like rubble and picks out remnants of Susanna’s sonorous vocals. A sound that resembles a wind tunnel begins to filter through the song, blowing behind Hval’s vocals. Susanna then takes over, interrupting her collaborator’s high flying octave by uttering nothing but the word "darkness" – as if by simply intoning this one, emptying word, she can put out a flame. The transition couldn’t be any more seamless – they’re in the same place, Hval and Susanna, the wind blowing steadily behind them – but when Susanna sings, it’s as if Hval completely disappears." Robin Smith

    Read our review of Meshes Of Voice here

    9. Perc – The Power And The Glory
    (Perc Trax)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Perc’s masterful new LP The Power And The Glory is imbued with a similarly sinewy air of artistic grunt to Werner Herzog’s Fitzcaraldo. It has a marshalling of chaotic audio forces that threaten to implode at any moment. It’s a balancing act that totally disrupts the slick hydraulic tick of much modern techno, revelling in imperfection and coating much of the base elements in a warm swell of distortion that is both physically enveloping and mentally disorientating." Harry Sword

    Read our review of The Power And The Glory here

    8. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "They’ve done it. At last, they’ve actually gone and done it. Ever since the turn of the Millennium, in the run-up to roughly every other Manic Street Preachers album, Nicky Wire has, in public interviews and private postcards, had a habit of talking up the unheard and unmade record as "Our European album, Berlin Bowie meets Goldfrapp meets PiL" or words to that effect… And yet, with unerring certainty, the record, when it finally emerges, just sounds like a Manics album… It’s one of their enduring charms, in fact: an inability, despite all their efforts, to sound like anyone other than themselves. That is, until Futurology, an album which, upon first hearing on an advance promo several months ago, immediately leapt to third-equal place in my personal MSP hierarchy, and may, when I’ve lived with it a while longer, creep higher still." Simon Price

    Read our review of Futurology here

    7. Katie Gately – Pipes
    (Blue Tapes)

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "Now, I find this music mind-blowing. This is my favourite track of 2013. It’s really, really avant-garde. It’s really left field. It doesn’t sound like much else that’s out there. And it kind of makes a mockery of this received wisdom that avant-garde music is always unapproachable." John Doran speaking on BBC 6 Music

    Read our review of Pipes here

    6. Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals

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  • Quietus Co-Pilots John and Luke caught on camera listening to Preternaturals for the first time:

    5. The Bug – Angels & Devils
    (Big Dada)

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  • "The mood and sonics of King Midas Sound have clearly fed back into his studio approach for The Bug; the sound of Angels & Devils is more deft and fluid than ever before, less reliant on breezeblock blasts of distortion, yet it still hits home with pummeling force. Instrumentals ‘Pandi’ and ‘Ascension’ are monolithic and clearly intricately wrought, yet their mood still possesses something of the roaming, spontaneous quality of a Hype Williams composition. The album’s beats unravel as dynamic, churning masses of percussion, bass, and monotone static pulses processed to be fine as drizzle yet hard as tensile steel. These components coil around one another uneasily; soft as touch one moment, the next second ripping chunks of flesh off each other. Evoking their densely populated urban world, these volatile interactions hint at many cross-connected narratives, shifting identities, multiple protagonists whose timelines collide for a few seconds then pull apart again." Rory Gibb

    Read our review of Angels & Devils here

    4. East India Youth – TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER

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  • "Despite their ambiguous sentiments, the album’s [more traditional songs], studded throughout the album’s length, betray a straightforward pop sensibility that feels refreshing in the sonic world they’re placed within. As a result, one of the most striking things about this strange and idiosyncratic record is how not-strange it feels. That, along with William Doyle’s very contemporary refusal to impose dividing lines between the musical styles he’s interested in – shoegaze and orchestral pop rubbing shoulders with ambient music and even, on ‘Hinterland’, fuzzed-out techno – makes Total Strife Forever that most welcome of things: an often fairly classicist pop record which nods heavily towards naggingly familiar influences, yet doesn’t feel like it could exist at any other time than now." Rory Gibb

    Read our review of Total Strife Forever here

    3. Swans – To Be Kind

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  • "’I love you!’ reads Michael Gira’s address to his listeners, signing off the note announcing the release of Swans’ thirteenth studio album. The open warmth of the sentiment might contrast with their agonisingly intense early music, but it captures the most striking aspect of this latest phase of his group’s life cycle – its generosity. After a few seconds of near-silence – save filigree-fine electronic tones lingering in the air, eddying gracefully upward like sunlit dust motes caught in a draft – To Be Kind‘s centrepiece ‘Bring The Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture’ explodes to life with a series of cosmic shockwaves, each struck chord’s impact greater than the last, causing the atmosphere to tremble around you. Even though it’s expected, the shock is exquisitely tactile, enough to suck the air out of your lungs. Percussion lances through your body cavity like the shudder from a skipped heartbeat, guitar textures ripple like fingers dragged hard across the skin, the music’s weight presses firmly yet gently against your chest and back. Then, surging in almost immediately afterwards, a mass release of pleasure hormones triggers off sheer, clear-minded exhilaration." Rory Gibb

    Read our review of To Be Kind here

    2. Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused

  • Buy on vinyl or CD from Norman Records
  • "There is the initial rush… the initial blast of hearing it loud… Holy shit! It’s Scott Walker and Sunn O))) – it’s actually real and not just some torrid dream I had! But the transition from an initially violent state of novelty to one of deep appreciation is smooth and luxurious. Yeah, Soused is a mind blowing first listen but it’s the keeper of all keepers as well. The aesthetic, the (spiritual and philosophical) weight of the music and the outlier nature of the work that both Scott Walker and Sunn O))) produce are both weirdly complimentary and very similar by turns even though in strict musical terms they could barely be more different from one another. And this is followed by the thrilling aftershock of counter intuition – the realisation that this bizarre, dreamlike combination of heavyweight musical talents has resulted in probably the most accessible thing that Scott Walker has produced since his tracks on Nite Flights (and it is certainly Sunn O)))’s most accessible album full stop)." John Doran

    Read our review of Soused here

    1. Gazelle Twin – UNFLESH
    (Anti Ghost Moon Ray)

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  • "The human body lets you down in so many ways, from minor itch to mortal illness. At times like these, it can seem like another entity, a malevolent force with a will of its own – far from separate, though; a part of you that you can never escape from. For centuries, philosophers and artists have grappled with the mind-body problem, but the more of an impact it has on you, the more irreconcilable it seems. On Unflesh, Gazelle Twin – aka Elizabeth Bernholz – doesn’t see dualism as an academic exercise or a philosophical plaything. Instead, it’s born of bloody experience as she claws and digs her way to its gory, physical core. Puberty, anxiety, miscarriage, illness and euthanasia are all present, and Bernholz’s treatment of them ranges from a shuddering disgust to vengeful catharsis to something approaching tender acceptance." Alex Macpherson

    Read our review of UNFLESH here

    The Quietus Albums Of The Year 2014

    ONE: Gazelle Twin – UNFLESH (Anti Ghost Moon Ray)
    TWO: Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused (4AD)
    THREE: Swans – To Be Kind (Mute)
    FOUR: East India Youth – TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER (Stolen)
    FIVE: The Bug – Angels & Devils (Big Dada)
    SIX: Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals (TQPC)
    SEVEN: Katie Gately – Pipes (Blue Tapes)
    EIGHT: Manic Street Preachers – Futurology (Sony)
    NINE: Perc – The Power And The Glory (Perc Trax)
    TEN: Jenny Hval & Susanna – Meshes Of Voice (SusannaSonata)
    ELEVEN: FKA twigs – LP1 (Young Turks)
    TWELVE: Zamilska – Untune (self-released)
    THIRTEEN: Innercity Ensemble – Black/White (Instant Classic)
    FOURTEEN: Cooly G – Wait ‘Til Night (Hyperdub)
    FIFTEEN: Blacknecks – 006 (self-released)
    SIXTEEN: English Heretic – The Underworld Service (self-released)
    SEVENTEEN: Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Piñata (Madlib Invasion)
    EIGHTEEN: OAKE – Auferstehung (Downwards)
    NINETEEN: Grouper – Ruins (Kranky)
    TWENTY: Kemper Norton – Loor (Front And Follow)
    TWENTY ONE: Maurice Louca – Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Nawa)
    TWENTY TWO: Andy Stott – Faith In Strangers (Modern Love)
    TWENTY THREE: EEK ft. Islam Chipsy – Live At The Cairo High Cinema Institute (Nashazphone)
    TWENTY FOUR: Jane Weaver – Silver Globe (Bird)
    TWENTY FIVE: Daniel Patrick Quinn – Acting The Rubber Pig (self-released)
    TWENTY SIX: The Body – I Shall Die Here (RVNG Intl.)
    TWENTY SEVEN: Chrononautz – Public Domain Fuckover Series #1-6 (self-released)
    TWENTY EIGHT: Pharmakon – Bestial Burden (Sacred Bones)
    TWENTY NINE: Tweedy – Sukierae (dBpm Records)
    THIRTY: Objekt – Flatland (PAN)
    THIRTY ONE: Jar Moff – Financial Glam (PAN)
    THIRTY TWO: Willie The Kid & Bronze Nazareth – The Living Daylights (Embassy)
    THIRTY THREE: Lorenzo Senni – Superimpositions (Boomkat)
    THIRTY FOUR: Electric Wizard – Time To Die (Spinefarm)
    THIRTY FIVE: Klara Lewis – ETT (Editions Mego)
    THIRTY SIX: Kassem Mosse – Workshop 19 (Workshop)
    THIRTY SEVEN: Extreme Precautions – Precaution One (In Paradisum)
    THIRTY EIGHT: Kasai Allstars – Beware The Fetish (Crammed Discs)
    THRITY NINE: Arabrot – I Modi (Fysisk Format)
    FORTY: Einsturzende Neubauten – Lament (BMG)
    FORTY ONE: The Inward Circles – Nimrod (self-released)
    FORTY TWO: Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Piano Nights (Ipecac)
    FORTY THREE: Future Islands – Singles (4AD)
    FORTY FOUR: Consumer Electronics – Estuary English (Dirter)
    FORTY FIVE: BONG – Stoner Rock (Ritual)
    FORTY SIX: Nisennenmondai – N (BLAST First (petite))
    FORTY SEVEN: Wild Beasts – Present Tense (Domino)
    FORTY EIGHT: Olga Bell – Krai (One Little Indian)
    FORTY NINE: Cut Hands – Festival Of The Dead (Blackest Ever Black)
    FIFTY: Xiu Xiu – Angel Guts, Red Classroom (Bella Union)
    FIFTY ONE: Actress – Ghettoville (Werkdiscs)
    FIFTY TWO: YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot)
    FIFTY THREE: Owen Pallett – In Conflict (Domino)
    FIFTY FOUR: Puce Mary – Persona (Posh Isolation)
    FIFTY FIVE: DonChristian – Renzo Piano (Camp & Street)
    FIFTY SIX: Ibibio Sound Machine – Ibibio Sound Machine (Soundway)
    FIFTY SEVEN: Lee Gamble – KOCH (PAN)
    FIFTY EIGHT: Leyland Kirby Presents V/Vm – The Death Of Rave (A Partial Flashback) (History Always Favours The Winners)
    FIFTY NINE: Laibach – Spectre (Mute)
    SIXTY: Shellac – Dude Incredible (Touch And Go)
    SIXTY ONE: Heterotic – Weird Drift (Planet Mu)
    SIXTY TWO: Liars – Mess (Mute)
    SIXTY THREE: Stein Urheim – Stein Urheim (Hubro)
    SIXTY FOUR: Ekoplekz – Unfidelity (Planet Mu)
    SIXTY FIVE: St. Vincent – St. Vincent (Loma Vista)
    SIXTY SIX: Sunn O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials (Southern Lord)
    SIXTY SEVEN: Russell Haswell – 37 Minute Workout (DIAGONAL)
    SIXTY EIGHT: Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni (Glitterbeat)
    SIXTY NINE: Stephen O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi & Randall Dunn – Shade Themes From Kairos (Drag City)
    SEVENTY: Apollo Brown – Blasphemy (Mello Music Group)
    SEVENTY ONE: The Budos Band – Burnt Offering (Daptone)
    SEVENTY TWO: Anat Ben David – MeleCh (self-released)
    SEVENTY THREE: Yvette – Process (Godmode)
    SEVENTY FOUR: milo – a toothpaste suburb (Hellfyre Club)
    SEVENTY FIVE: Merkabah – Moloch (Instant Classic)
    SEVENTY SIX: Wrangler – LA Spark (Memetune)
    SEVENTY SEVEN: Ronika – Selectadisc (Record Shop)
    SEVENTY EIGHT: Bing & Ruth – Tomorrow Was The Golden Age (Happy Talk)
    SEVENTY NINE: Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste (Prospect)
    EIGHTY: DJ Q – Ineffable (Local Action)
    EIGHTY ONE: The Soft Pink Truth – Why Do The Heathen Rage? (Thrill Jockey)
    EIGHTY TWO: Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait (Def Jam Recordings)
    EIGHTY THREE: Tinariwen – Emmar (ANTI-)
    EIGHTY FOUR: The Juan Maclean – In A Dream (DFA)
    EIGHTY FIVE: Aphex Twin – Syro (WARP)
    EIGHTY SIX: Toumani & Sidiki Diabate – Toumani & Sidiki Diabate (World Circuit)
    EIGHTY SEVEN: Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies – Earth Air Spirit Fire Water (Van)
    EIGHTY EIGHT: Behemoth – The Satanist (Nuclear Blast)
    EIGHTY NINE: Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It Came Down (Thrill Jockey)
    NINETY: Fumaca Preta – Fumaca Preta (Soundway)
    NINETY ONE: Scott Miller, Lee Camfield & Merzbow – No Closure (Cold Spring)
    NINETY TWO: Black Rain – Dark Pool (Blackest Ever Black)
    NINETY THREE: Anthroprophh – Outside The Circle (Rocket)
    NINETY FOUR: Adult Jazz – Gist Is (Spare Thought)
    NINETY FIVE: Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche)
    NINETY SIX: Obake – Mutations (Rare Noise)
    NINETY SEVEN: Clark – Clark (WARP)
    NINETY EIGHT: Joseph Curwen – Shunned House (City)
    NINETY NINE: Echoes Of Yul – Tether (Zoharum)
    ONE HUNDRED: Good Throb – Fuck Off (White Denim, Sabermetric, SuperFi)

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