Quietus Albums Of The Year 2019 (In Association With Norman Records)

These are our favourite albums of the last 12 months as voted for by Jennifer Lucy Allan, Robert Barry, Tristan Bath, Louise Brown, Patrick Clarke, John Doran, Christian Eede, Noel Gardner, Ella Kemp, Sean Kitching, David McKenna, JR Moores, Luke Turner and Kez Whelan

‘Best In Show!’ by Lisa Cradduck

You could be forgiven for thinking that this chart is pointless. I sympathise if you do and in fact, a few months ago, I came very close to pulling out of having anything to do with it. Why does a site that doesn’t believe in scoring music even have an Albums Of The Year Chart? The act of giving marks to an album is symptomatic of the pretence that there is an objective truth about music based on a chimerical idea about immutable good taste and never changing aesthetic principles, and the ranked album chart is merely an extreme extension of this.

This way of thinking serves to flatter us that we have a scientific understanding of music that runs much deeper than mere fashion. And when enough people form a consensus along these lines it also flatters us that anyone who doesn’t agree with us is wrong. And the more pseudo-scientific the method of scoring the easier it is to see how flawed this principle of belief is. The 100 point system, for example, is clearly unhinged. Without digging into what it is that separates a 7.2 rated album from a 7.3 rated album, one only has to look at how many of Pitchfork’s early reviews have now been surreptitiously rescored for reasons of fashion in order to see how base this system is. The supposed objectivity of the reviewer who always performatively puts their feelings to one side so they can selflessly tackle this week’s biggest releases courtesy of the biggest record labels who have the biggest budgets for promotion, is like the dazzling white smile of a tele-evangelist or the persuasive patter of a door to door salesman with a tray full of mop heads and dishcloths to unload.

But ranking albums is even worse in some respects and I’ve always suspected that people who have a pathological need to rank things are remarkably afraid of dying. The overwhelming and slightly demented need to impose order onto a world that is essentially chaotic and constantly shifting. “I will make sense of it all and define my place in it before I go!”

I was forced to question the way this site thinks about and approaches criticism this summer during an enforced break from listening to music. In August I went back to my childhood home in Merseyside because my Dad was dying. Before and during the event it wasn’t appropriate and afterwards I couldn’t face it. When I arrived home for the final time a hospital bed had been installed in my childhood bedroom where my Dad was determined to see his time out. But the bed had been assembled in a rush and something was preventing the raising mechanism from working, the frame emitted a juddering clanking instead of producing any movement when the handset button was deployed. Despite my Mum pleading with him at length, my Dad carried on angrily making a fuss until his tools were fetched from the shed. He knelt by the bed, attached to several drips and tubes, unscrewed a plate, rearranged the internal mechanism and closed it back up again. He got back into the now working bed and stayed there until he died five days later. My father lived a long life, even if it wasn’t, by any sane standards, a particularly happy or pleasant one but he approached the leaving of it like he tackled all of the big events of his days: with a grit-toothed determination to get it done in an orderly manner on his own terms, with as little help from other people as possible. It’s as much as many of us can hope for. But even so, it was a reality-altering experience for those left behind.

The enforced silence – the first I could remember in decades – lasted for a fortnight until the spell was broken by Perry Como’s ‘It’s Impossible’, played discreetly as we left the crematorium. I’d been ambivalent about this song as a kid but on that day it bore me aloft with its swell of strings and sense of almost cosmic loss. I realised viscerally that this music wasn’t cheap but extraordinarily potent and my feet barely touched the floor on the way out into the rain. Would all of the unopened new albums by Richard Dawson, Kim Gordon and JPEG Mafia sitting waiting for me at work touch me in the same way when I finally played them? No, of course not.

At first this presented me with what felt like an insurmountable problem. If my whole system of criticism embraced subjectivity and rejected objectivity, then what could one honestly say and do during a Summer when Perry Como packed a punch like Scott Walker fronting Joy Division and the new Richard Dawson album was too irritating for me to get through one song? I thought long and hard about packing it all in – for a couple of months at least, I was convinced that it was simply dishonest of me to carry on if I wasn’t feeling it any more – but then one afternoon, senselessly ploughing through a list of streams, waiting for something to click, I alighted on Ecstatic Computation by Caterina Barbieri and suddenly everything changed again.

If, like me, you can see the elegance of design in the sub-atomic order of things and truly awe-inspiring majesty at the astrophysical scale but struggle to understand why nearly everything between those two extremes happens quite as it does or why anything at all even exists in the first place, then perhaps you too use music as a proxy religion or spiritual analog. For me, after four decades, it’s now ingrained quite deeply and not that easy to slough off, even in the most stressful of periods, but like any religion, it does demand some faith in return. Music, should you allow it to, will eventually help ease your troubles; and that piece of music will probably be unconnected in any serious way to consensus ideas of worth, critical fashions masquerading as immutable taste, large numbers of units shifted and popularity among certain advertiser-attracting demographics.

If taking my first unplanned break from listening to music in the history of this site, taught me one thing, it was to chill out slightly and trust in music more. Having (thankfully) gone back to it recently, now that the harshest stages of grieving are over, I actually find myself in the first flushes of infatuation with 2020 by Richard Dawson. Do I think it’s an album for the ages? I don’t know – ask me again in several years if you like, as a few weeks isn’t long enough to judge and at this stage I don’t care if it is or not. That isn’t why I listen to music. All I can be sure of right now is that this album and most of the chart below create a vivid social and cultural snapshot of a year of great upheaval.

I’m thrilled Lorraine James’ For You And I is our number one album. I was one of several staffers who put it very high in their ballot and it’s the nearest we’ve come to an office consensus on an album in a long time but what I personally think is more important is the fact that when I listen to it I can sense a complex picture of the times we live in emerging rhizomatically from the multiple juxtapositions of this album with 2020, Eaton Alive, The Age Of Immunology, Héroïques Animaux De La Misère, Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Holes, Psychopposition / The Limit Experience and so on. And then after such an intense audio investigation, I can seek restorative vibrations and healing tones in the shape of Life Metal, Ecstatic Computation, The Reeling, The Utopia Strong, I Was Real and even further afield.

So you could be forgiven for thinking that this chart is pointless but I’ll have to beg to differ – as I’ve had my faith restored. This album chart doesn’t reflect any particular fashion or philosophical approach to criticism; it doesn’t make any sense financially; it’s messy and contradictory; and doesn’t even really claim to faithfully show what music will weather the tests of time but it is honest, exciting and gives me hope for the future. And I feel emboldened enough to say that if you spend some time with it you will come away having discovered new music that you love.

It would be remiss of me, at this exact point, not to draw attention to the following non-sequitur. I’m about to ask you for a small amount of money. It has nothing to do with developments in my family story and is only tangentially related to the rest of what I’ve said up to this point. But without an injection of cash to pay for essential site upkeep, we are in immediate danger of closing, as we have been during the last four winters (and a few other grim periods here and there). The amount of money that you, our readers, donate toward the site has grown steadily during the time we opened the donate function and if it keeps on going in the same direction, we will be able to get by on donations alone in about five to ten years’ time.

But before that, the severity of the winter advertising drought – or Seasonally Affective Death-sentence – means I have to keep on rattling the old tin from time to time. If you’ve really enjoyed anything you’ve read on the site this year; if you’ve been introduced to any new music that you may have missed otherwise; or even if you just appreciate that the cultural ecology we’re a small part of will be damaged if we go, please consider giving us a tenner or setting up a monthly sub for a fiver. (This year we lost Drowned In Sound and Red Bull Media, much bigger and well-established music titles, so the threat for us is all too real. I was very sorry to hear just this morning that fellow independent music magazine, the 405, who started just months before us have decided to call it a day.) But please don’t put your hand in your pocket if you’re a student from a low-income household, on benefits of any kind, drawing a state pension, out of work at the moment or in any way strapped for cash – it feels like it’s often the people who can afford it least who want to chip in the most. But if you can afford it, please help us as this cash genuinely is our short to medium term lifeline and we will close without it.
John Doran

This chart was voted for by Jennifer Lucy Allan, Robert Barry, Tristan Bath, Louise Brown, Patrick Clarke, John Doran, Christian Eede, Noel Gardner, Ella Kemp, Sean Kitching, David McKenna, JR Moores, Luke Turner and Kez Whelan. It was compiled by Doran, who also wrote the essay, and built by Clarke and Eede. Some really good suggestions turned up after it was completed by Richard Foster but we like to think he influenced the chart via temporal slippage


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100. Scorn –
Cafe Mor
(Ohm Resistance)
This is the first album since 2010’s Refuse; Start Fires and sees Mick Harris returning to his sonically contemptuous, imperious, snide, scornful best. The album progresses from crushing digi-dub (‘Elephant’ and ‘The Lower The Middle Our Bit’) into heavier more industrial zones, arguably reaching its peak with ‘Talk Whiff’, a track featuring Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods.

John Doran


Alameda 5EurodromeInstant Classic

Concerned with generating and maintaining grooves and hypnotic rhythms through co-operation and playing on each others’ strengths, Eurodrome is a stunning collection of music that frequently challenges, seduces and beguiles. Sometimes all at the same time. Consequently, the ten-song journey is best experienced with time on your hands, distractions left at the door, and a desire for some intense empathy.


Matana RobertsCoin Coin Chapter 4: MemphisConstellation

This is another incredible addition to Roberts’ Coin Coin project, and one can only assume that when the 12-album cycle is completed, it will be regarded as a singular masterpiece of twenty-first century sonic and narrative art.


John ZornTractatus Musico-PhilosophicusTzadik

John Zorn continues to put out so much quality music of such enormous variety that it’s often hard to choose a single release over the others from any given year. He doesn’t even play on many of the best of his recent albums any more, choosing instead to write, arrange and produce the material. Tractatus Musico-Philosophicus, on the other hand, is 100% pure solo Zorn, working his magic alone in the studio. Drawing from a range of influences including the occult, philosophy, avant-garde cinema and drama, Tractatus is a single piece of 37:50 duration, that sees him wielding Sax, Vocals, Fender Rhodes Piano, Prepared Piano, Guitar, Drums, Bass and samples to surprisingly listenable and painterly effect. His imaginative use of space at least allows the listener in, before springing an assault of electronically altered game calls upon them. Beware of that part.

Mega BogDolphineParadise Of Bachelors

For all of Dolphine’s cuteness – every crying spider, wind chime, and faerie – there’s an equal and opposite: a trollish man touching a woman without consent, a steaming dirty nappy, another murder. And so Birgy takes matters into her own hands; that her explorations of grief, white supremacy, bodily autonomy, and the plight of the planet might not be taken notice of is challenged head on, when on ‘Truth in the Wild’ she talk-sings saccharinely, tongue firmly in cheek: “Never smother the mystical song that rests deep inside you”. Dolphine’s songs are mystical, yes – but by no means are they not also tough, topical and profound.


MoEMette RasmussenTolerancia PicanteConrad Sound

When Denmark’s most adventurous improvising saxophonist teamed up with Norway’s dirtiest experimental rock band, the results were unsurprisingly fierce. Tolerancia Picante is a sludge-drenched scaly beast of a record, an angry behemoth, a monster of epic proportions. It’s a little bit of The Ex, a little bit Sex Swing, haiunted by the ghosts of AMM and Albert Ayler. Wild-eyed, unshackled and deepest red in tooth and claw.


WarmduscherTainted LunchThe Leaf Label

Clams Baker Jr. was always an eccentric frontman, but never before has he sounded so comfortable with his weirdness. On Tainted Lunch he is a charismatic commander of some irresistibly wonky rock ‘n’ roll, cut through with a delectable pump of disco funk, and topped off with Kool Keith rapping about a Wetherspoon’s.

Laura Cannell Polly WrightSing As The Crow FliesBrawl

The compositions of this project were created in a gorgeous and lulling state of liberation as Cannell and Wright agreed to place no limitations or rules upon themselves, beyond the simple restriction of allowing no instrumentation. The resultant force is a spacious flow of wandering melodies refusing to give in to any rigid structure, but instead insisting they must freely float in amongst each other’s breathy voices.



In the context of Weaver’s musicianship, after the meditatively expansive Loops in the Secret Society, the recent ambient re-work of her recent catalogue, Fenella represents a further sonic exaltation and refinement of her craft, going further into the sonic realms of atmospheric abstract cosmology blissfully morphed with the mythopoetic.


Gum Takes ToothArrowRocket Recordings

Arrow grabs you by the back of the neck and proceeds to electrocute you from inside out, hissing “do you see?” in your ear every 30 seconds. From the artificial heartbeat and shattered, sinuous vocals of opener ‘Chrome Cold Hearts’ to the outer-space metallic maelstrom of ‘House Built On Fire’, Gum Takes Tooth make sure that this is not escapism, but a shackling to the Hellmouth that we have all helped to create.


The MembranesWhat Nature Gives… Nature Takes AwayCherry Red

Listening to The Membranes has always felt like sitting in a runaway JCB lumbering its way down a scree slope, watching references pass by in a dizzy blur. And What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away is a Membranes LP in the grand tradition, chronicling ruminations about rooks, starlings, death, classical myth, Victorian gothic, prog, flowers, cunning women, Japanese monkeys, the North Sea, and West Lancashire. Sonically, the listener can actively map the band tramping the soggy Marches between prog, psych and punk. Maybe you can detect a brief nod to Joy Division too.


Meemo CommaSleepmossPlanet Mu

Sleepmoss is an album that takes a position in an ongoing uncurrent of British music that critique and warp long held social and political traditions about the British landscape, to open up a world that is at times weird and oneiric, occasionally caustic and grotesque, but is never still. Sleepmoss is an expressive, alluring, occasionally disconcerting album that paints the natural world of forests, hills and wooded areas as one of a hidden and heterotopic terra fluxus outside of the norm, where rogue intelligences and imaginative capabilities are reconfigured according to the seasons.


Thurston MooreSpirit CounselDaydream Library

"We all fell for Jon [Leidecker, AKA Wobbly] during an unforgettable moment on the platform of the train station in rural Denmark as we stood beside him with other passengers and witnessed in awe as he and his hand-held electronics conducted an extensive conversation with the local crows. Suddenly all these birds flew in and surrounded him on the train platform and began singing with him."


Carl Gari Abdullah MiniawyThe Act of Falling from the 8th FloorWhities

Over the last five years, Whities has become one of the UK’s most consistently interesting labels for electronic music, responsible for a steady stream of 12’s, strange and intoxicating in equal measure. The Act of Falling from the 8th Floor brings together German trio Carl Gari with Egyptian poet and musician Abdullah Miniawy for a suite of six songs united in their strange intensity and otherworldly atmosphere. This is dark and heady stuff, dreamlike in its vividness, unsettling as a late night drive without lights through unfamiliar territory.


Carter Tutti VoidTriumvirateConspiracy International

Carter Tutti Void’s third album was recorded in Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti’s Norfolk studio, with Carter laying down the rhythms over which Tutti and Void interlaced their guitar, vocals and effects. It sounds like the best thing the group have yet done, all warm blood pulsing eroticism and hypnotic, narcotic fizz.


MeatraffleBastard MusicDelayed

On sinister, marching opener ‘The Cyclops’, the band paint a grim, expressionist picture of the nationalist-capitalist enemy at hand, before a defiant chant of ‘¡No pasarán!’. On ‘Meatraffle On The Moon’, they envisage a future lunar society, still under the thumb of capitalist oppression. On ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, they pose a scenario in which every worker on Earth goes on strike, and the cataclysmic effects thereof.


SoteParallel PersiaDiagonal

It’s dazzling and dizzying in its unification of acoustic string instruments and hypermodern digital composition: Arash Bolouri plays the santour, Pouya Damadi the tar, Ebtekar reframes their poignant melodic qualities via technoid landscapes varying from elegantly sparse to furiously complex, often within the same piece.


Flicia AtkinsonThe Flower And The VesselShelter Press

Listening to The Flower And The Vessel, I’m reminded of my excursions into the deeply quiet, of the relief of long cicada drones or lone bird calls, of how sound is often a lifeline in an unfamiliar space. Those sounds resonated around my brain’s memory centres, turning unfamiliarity into something else. Something – if not exactly familiar – that I could connect with, nonetheless. Those things that broke the near-silence were impossible to ignore. The noise they made lingered long after they were gone. In this way, Félicia Atkinson makes loud – sometimes exceedingly loud – music.


Kate TempestThe Book Of Traps and LessonsFiction

“When we first started thinking about this album, Rick Rubin was trying to get me to take everything that made me feel secure and peel it off and put it away. He wanted me to break every single convention that I had and get rid of it. So whether that was narrative technique, or rhythmic flow, or stuff that made it OK for me to put my lyrics out there because it was so technical – no one can really argue with the technicality of sustaining a narrative over the length of an album because it allows you to hide. What he was interested in me doing, was pushing the lyric right to the front. He wanted me to stop rapping. He wanted me to go with the flow of the lyric instead of the flow of the beat. He wanted to have the beat there but for me to walk alongside it and for me not be reliant on it or in service to it. I’d spent 15 years learning to stay on the beat, it was nearly impossible to unlearn.”


King Midas SoundSolitudeCosmo Rhythmatic

It’s perhaps the most melancholic offering of any of Kevin Martin’s projects – sparse, sombre and at points, overwhelming in its bleakness. Set against haunting, nightmarish drones, Roger Robinson – whose voice sounds like it was created for no other purpose than poetry – tells wounded tales of loss and regret, illuminating the shattered emotional landscape of a man reeling from a perished, destructive relationship.


Bill OrcuttOdds Against TomorrowPalilalia

Any day there’s a new Bill Orcutt out is a good day. Listening to him twanging those strings is like being smacked in the face with a tin plate loaded with meat from a carvery serving up nothing but manly emotions. Orcutt’s guitar tone is clear and lustrous, and radiates a prickly heat. It sounds here like expensive hand cream in winter; like a freezing plunge pool after a sauna; like fur coat against bare skin. I could continue, but I ought not to. I probably lost you at ‘hand cream’.


Oliver CoatesJohn Luther Adams’ Canticles of the Sky / Three High Places

In this age of cultural whiteout, every year there’s a record that you’d have completely missed had it not been for a kindly intervention, and so thanks to Quietus writer Ed Gillett for mentioning this on Twitter a while back and thus encouraging me to backtrack and give it a listen. I’m glad he did for this, the cellist’s finest work to date, is a pure tonic for these times, an often emotional, beautifully constructed layered solo recording of the work by composer John Luther Adams. Stunning and transportive.

Luke Turner


RaktaFalha ComumNada Nada Discos

A band from São Paulo who make psych-y garage that borders on gothic, these ladies know how to create a spooky, captivating atmosphere that seems to draw people in. Spacey, immersive percussion, a dark, dissonant edge and a discernible vitality to it all: this is very impressive music.

Sharon Van EttenRemind Me TomorrowJagjaguwar

Sharon Van Etten’s fifth album presents her richest emotional palette yet, a record that is delightfully varied but tied together by the force of the musician’s talent. At times its subtly hypnotic, at others brilliantly brash, poppy and direct – Van Etten casts the same shadowy spell over it all. A towering achievement.


Ana Roxanne~~~Leaving

Water runs throughout this project, finding tribunes in each track. As a sonic theme it permeates the project as a reminder of the fluidity of life and the potential for change. In the final cut, ‘In a Small Valley’, a river is splashed in amidst – and often over – the instrumental, asserting its importance. Ringing metallic chimes play a wondering melody, soon infiltrated by a small church choir. This gradually grows in presence before once again falling away and drowning in the stream, before sparse chimes re-emerge to strike an unsure duet with the semi-melodic gargles of a baby.


My DiscoEnvironmentDownwards

An exercise in rigorous minimalism, Environment employs a necessarily limited palette. After ‘Act’, you’ll have heard nearly every sort of sound, tempo, and approach you can expect to. What saves the album from being unbearably austere or monotonous is the way MY DISCO attack with nearly every single sound they employ. If not exactly violent, each carries with it the threat of violence, and with that comes tension.


Tyler, The CreatorIGORA Boy is a Gun

Tyler’s songwriting has continued to progress since his last album, Flower Boy. ‘RUNNING OUT OF TIME’ and ‘GONE / GONE, THANK YOU’ demonstrate his ability to deftly abut on hip-hop, pop, and jazz through complementary shades of convention and experimentation.


Whistling ArrowWhistling ArrowGod Unknown

It begins with a tinkling and the soft blow of a recorder. But then the beat kicks in, and then the guitar and the air starts coming down hard on the double recorders and then the beat changes and the recorder doesn’t keep time and it doesn’t go where you think it’s going. Laura Cannell’s recorder isn’t conjuring an avian tone like the title suggests, but something more pressing and useful like a medieval work song or ancient woodland march. You wouldn’t have ever thought that music like this had been made before, but in his liner notes, Stewart Lee suggests that ‘Cuckoo’ sounds a bit like The Fall’s ‘Hip Priest’ and actually, he’s pretty spot on.


Headie OneMusic x Road


TriplegoYeux RougesTWAREG

TripleGo seem to exist in a permanent nocturnal other-place, a Paris that not too many visitors would recognise. In this fluid environment languages and cultures flow into each other; Panama, Arabic and Spanish mingle with French; amorous or aggressive impulses crystallise briefly then dissolve. With a few listens you start to pick up on the variety within the rhythms – TripleGo deliver their own takes on R&B, dancehall and even UK bass on ‘No conozco’ – and the constant tweaking of Sanguee’s interaction with autotune. From the fluttery to menacing, via some kind of throaty, grainy sweet spot in between, it’s a sound that will take control of your nervous system by stealth.


Jennifer WalsheALL THE MANY PEOPLSMigro

Walshe pulls from a confounding variety of sources for inspiration, everything from Johnny Cash lyrics to 4Chan to “the collective unconscious as evidenced by Googull Autocomplete”. At times, it sounds as if the listener has left too many browser windows open, with audio running in each. It would be maddening, were it not arranged in such an engaging, entertaining fashion.


Cate Le BonRewardMexican Summer

Cate Le Bon is well versed in the connection between music and emotion because it’s at the heart of everything she does. Reward is Cate Le Bon’s most emotionally astute record to date, and her melodic prowess is the strongest it’s ever been. With that, Reward sounds like a modern classic, because it has a longevity that very few records possess.


KleinLifetimeijn inc.

This is not the kind of record that explores sound for sound’s sake; it attempts to create a specific narrative through the work. While found sounds are exposed and developed to add depth and dark pigments, Klein posits the record as deeply personal, to be listened to as you would read someone’s diary.



High camp and dark despair are favoured weapons in Shortparis’s war. The ridiculous interplay with falsetto warblings and a mental guitar break on ‘Otvechaj Za Slova’ (Stand By Your Words) makes it as arch a song as you could ever wish to hear. As well as being a very creepy one. The song feels like the soundtrack to some nightmare where you can’t find your shoes.


Shanti CelesteTangerinePeach Discs

“When I made music for EPs, sometimes I felt restricted,” Shanti Celeste has said of her past work. I would think too much about creating the moments on the dance floor I love.” Using the freedom of a full-length album, Tangerine, her debut album, sees Celeste pushing beyond the summery house music and bright electro that has dominated her back catalogue to date. Those moments are still present in some of Celeste’s best club cuts to date (‘Want’, ‘Sesame’, ‘Infinitas’), but they’re surrounded by gorgeous explorations of new age and ambient music (‘Sun Notification’, ‘Moons’) that vitally serve a purpose as far more than filler in the context of the full LP.


Dis FantasyDis FantasyDeathbomb Arc

2019 wouldn’t have been the same without Deathbomb Arc. The Burbank, California label has put out so many good records this year – brutal, eviscerating cuts by DEBBY FRIDAY, clipping, Shadi – that it’s tempting to just give up and let them run music from now on. Dis Fantasy shows another side to the label: bright, joyful, even kind of cute. The debut tape from duo Brittany Love and Margot Padilla may not be all smiles, but it has a summery, almost daisy-age zing to it with its finger snaps and organ stabs, its kooky bleeps and sassy harmonised rhymes. This is rap-driven bedroom pop as its finest. Totally addictive listening.


Tunes Of NegationReach The Endless SeaCosmo Rhythmatic

An album as dense, varied and mysterious as Reach the Endless Sea will mean different things to different people. It’s a journey and an experience, something to surrender to or pick apart depending on your character and emotions. At key moments, such as the brief but stirring industrial techno midpoint of ‘Rückschlag / Rising, then Resonant’, Tunes of Negation hits pure transcendence. This album sounds like little else out there right now. Strap in to fly towards the stars that sit in your mind’s eye.


Giant SwanGiant SwanKeck

You could call this kind of music ‘industrial’, but I don’t really believe Giant Swan have ever been anywhere near the kind of heavy industry that once inspired Shostakovich’s Second Symphony or the steel city tape music of Cabaret Voltaire. Their debut album is the migraine you didn’t know you needed. It is every sweaty, gurning night. Bright white lights in motion, glinting through dry ice off bare skin and exposed concrete. A gleaming, multi-faceted crystal made of muck and broken glass.


Buck YoungBuck II: Where Do You Want It?No Rent

When Liberty Bells start ringing in your ears and tell you to head West, by all means load up your booze and heartache and set out chasing the legacy of Mark Twain’s comet or Peter Garland’s Americas. Zoe Burke & Jason Crumer of Buck Young, flush with the wild success of “Proud Trash Sound,” wallow through two full LPs on a sentimental Grand Tour, and it doesn’t take long for freedom to unravel.



Debby FridayDEATH DRIVEDeathbomb Arc

‘TREASON’, with fellow noise artist and Deathbomb Arc label mate Lana Del Rabies, deconstructs elements of mid-00s metal with slowed down industrial techno for a pairing that results in nonsensical glitchy screams. At no point does Friday settle on one particular sound or way of expressing herself. A slow burner can suddenly turn into a frenzied panic or a hectic scream can mellow out into a calming wave. This is what keeps DEATH DRIVE moving towards what you would expect to be its eventual doom.


Floating PointsCrushNinja Tune

With its roots in a series of solo, improvisational shows he played with a Buchla synthesiser in support of The xx back in 2017, Crush is a departure from the prog-esque, live band-oriented sounds of Floating Points’ 2015 debut album. Those shows, in front of 20,000 people each night, saw the producer making some of the most “obtuse, strange” music he’s ever played in front of audiences, a stark contrast to the “melodic and slow-building” sounds he expected to come out of his set-up warming up for a band like The xx. Crush is shot through with the influences of UK garage and IDM that have no doubt informed Shepherd’s musical upbringing, setting his sights back towards the dancefloor while instilling a new sense of urgency into his oeuvre.


Blood IncantationHidden History Of The Human RaceDark Descents

Whilst the band have never tried to hide their admiration for classic acts like Morbid Angel et al, what’s remarkable about Hidden History is just how futuristic it all sounds. Rather than just shameless retro worship, Blood Incantation have tapped into a truly timeless sound and are boldly taking it to places that no other band has dared to before. It’s technical without ever being overly flashy, visceral without becoming exhausting and psychedelic without being gaudy or tacky.


DeerhunterWhy Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?4AD

Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared is a meeting of minds in Bradford Cox and Cate Le Bon (who sits not only in the seats of harpsichordist, mandolin player, ‘false’ chorister and lender of Telecaster, but also in that of producer – a fact joyously clear to the ear). And if the end times are upon us, then we may as well appreciate what we can of their strange beauty.


MatmosPlastic AnniversaryThrill Jockey

For some years now there has seemed to be a kind of back-and-forth contest between Matmos and the UK’s Matthew Herbert over who can produce the most abstrusely conceptual piece of dancefloor-friendly musique concrète. One will make a record entirely from sounds captured during surgical procedures, the other from an entire food chain. Next we get an album generated from parapsychology experiments, from a single pig, from a washing machine, from a fighter plane over Libya… In each case, the record is both made possible by – and its intent somewhat undermined by – the quasi-infinite malleability afforded to sound by digital technology. After all, if you can make anything sound like anything, then the only thing to make your audience aware of the carefully-thought-out programme is the sleeve notes. It becomes the equivalent of a work of art that remains impenetrable without the wall text in the gallery.


Yugen BlakrokAnima MysteriumIOT

Anima Mysterium makes you engage with its cryptic nature without necessarily giving you any answers. Yugen Blakrok isn’t trying to sell you the myth or the mysticism of astrology et al, it’s just a sphere she exists within; it’s the space she views the world from. She doesn’t explain the codes, she only presents them. And she subverts and mutates rather than pandering to expectations of what a TDE-cosigned rapper ought to sound like. In that way, she stands in a lane disinterested in the fads or fashions of the west – and she’s all the more intriguing for it.


Rian TreanorATAXIAPlanet Mu

Treanor embraces bass and breaks, often with greater gusto than his first three 12-inches might have led one to expect. He is a greatly skilled programmer who walks that thinnest of lines – music that confounds obvious ideas of what dance music can be, while still being possible to actually dance to – with nous comparable to Aphex or Squarepusher, or fringe footworkers such as Jlin and DJ Paypal.

Oli XLRogue Intruder, Soul EnhancerBloom

Oli XL’s whimsy is simply a way to deal with representing a crippling sense of self-doubt in a moment where young men’s sincerity is often rejected within artistic circles. Perhaps the internet has revealed just how common these feelings are, which has in turn rendered their discussion obsolete. In order to communicate these feelings in an engaging way, millennials have created a whole language of memes that have progressively become more abstract as new memes are built on the old ones.

Abdu AliFIYAH!!!Self-Released

The beats here may slap like club beats slap, but the sounds that twist and turn over them are unlike anything else, mixing the energy of punk, the squelch of p-funk, the strut and heat of ballroom house, the future shock of experimental electronica, and the wild, freeform harmolodics of free jazz – not to mention the unique personality of Abdu Ali themselves, a kind of deep space activist mystic sexual libertine straight out of the fiction of Samuel Delany or Ursula LeGuin – all together in one deeply weird and utterly compelling, unpackageable package.


Ifriqiyya lectriqueLaylet El BooreeGlitterbeat

With the frantic call and response of ‘Habeebee Hooa Jooani’, the heavy gothic rock of ‘Mabbrooka’ and the ten and a half minute dancefloor banger ‘Galoo Sahara Laleet El Aeed’ that fuses Banga chants to Depeche Mode-like darkwave and trippy acid techno, the music of Ifriqiyya Électrique is a thing in itself. Neither post punk with world music textures nor any attempt at an authentic representation of pure Banga, it’s a genuine collaboration between French and Tunisian musicians from very different cultures, creating something new while finding exciting common ground.


Billie EilishWhen We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Raised by a family of actor/musicians, Eilish and her brother lace the songs with pop culture references and a sense of drama. ‘Xanny’, for instance, reprises Bacharach’s ‘Alfie’, in a soporific, distorted showtune, while ‘Wish You Were Gay’ links Joan Jett-style glam footstomping to a delicate chorus. “To spare my pride / Don’t say I’m not your type / Just not your preferred sexual orientation,” Eilish sings, with mournful deliberation. ‘Bury A Friend’, the album’s stand-out track, develops the theme of darkly, dysfunctional friendship, with her vocodered voice looped through effects and filters.

Lucy O’Brien


Stephen MallinderUm DadaDais

Um Dada sees the wealth of experience and the weight of history that Mallinder can summon to hand. And while there are no new artistic or aesthetic territories being staked out in his return to solo production, the album, with its mix of past structures and contemporary vision, sits at a weird juncture in the dance music terrain right now, being too abrasive and knowing for the lo-fi tech-house crowd, but too funky and colourful for the grimdark industrial warehouse techno scene. Instead, Um Dada just happily exists on its own whimsical terms, happy to play and dance to its own machines and hardware.


Christian WolffPreludes, Variations, Studies and Incidental MusicSub Rosa

John Cage always said Christian Wolff was the most ‘musical’ of the New York School experimentalists. This two disc set from Sub Rosa reveals the Burdocks composer at his most tender and reflective. Played with great sensitivity by Apartment House’s Philip Thomas, these twenty-three mostly short, bruised fragments toy with space and silence, melody and memory like a kitten with a ball of yarn. The influence of Erik Satie is acknowledged by several of the titles and it is with that distinctive mischief and elegant wistfulness of the great velvet gentleman of Arcueil that Wolff leads us, teasingly, across the piano keyboard. Best played with the windows open to mingle with the street noise.


Nkisi7 DirectionsUIQ

The seven tracks on 7 Directions run together, mainly, and you can lose track of where you are as you listen. Are there underlying patterns? The design on the cover – based on a symbol in cosmology that denotes cycles, movement, connection, life – suggests so. It shares ground, maybe, with Gabriel Roth’s 5 Rhythms, a process of dance and meditation where you might feel anger, fear, joy, compassion, sadness. There is a plaintive echo on ‘V’ that makes you feel like a cold cavern has opened up in your chest; the sharp jabs of vibra-slap and the shallow panting (one of very few organically human noises on the record) on ‘II’ can induce a giddy panic, a feeling that you are being hunted; there’s tumbling, reassuring softness on ‘VII’: you can’t pull it apart or translate it as easily as that though, there is no formula or rigidity.


Lana Del ReyNorman Fucking Rockwell!Polydor

Every new Lana Del Rey album offers a trademark sense of hazy lust that few have been able to emulate. On Norman Fucking Rockwell!, this identity grows stronger, as Del Rey’s storytelling firmly addresses the men who might not have wronged her yet, but could damage many girls of this world. Her syrupy tone makes for a cohesive product, one that emanates a homogenous warmth – but still one that’s so welcome.


LOFTand departt from mono gamesTri Angle

and departt from mono games’ 18-minute duration runs the gamut from threatening-aura electronics – the type subjecting a putative crowd of sweatjuiced ravers to would be frankly sadistic – to pulsating turn-on-a-sixpence breakbeat overload. ‘Lassanamae’ drops a semi-whispered monologue over an increasingly frantic digital drone, concluding with a mutter of “you fucking idiot”; ‘That Hyde Trakk’ employs various tropes of ‘90s jungle, from the percussively tricksy builds to the deviation into wide-eyed ambient chords, before it all goes loco with some snare-rattle tearout biz that would have been called drill & bass in 1997.


Black To CommSeven Horses For Seven KingsThrill Jockey

Seven Horses For Seven Kings is frequently terrifying, building and releasing tension in the same way a well put together horror narrative might – something that scores of LPs have attempted in recent years, but few successfully pull off. And like all the best horror stories, Richter’s work possesses a dark sense of humour. It bubbles up from time to time, relieving tension, allowing the listener to breathe, to recalibrate, before disembodied voices or piercing tones or fleshy burbles ratchet up the tension once again. In fact, the album’s first moments are sublimely silly.


hit And hineDoing Drugs, Selling DrugsRiot Season

Given that $hit And $hine put out, on average, two or three albums a year, it’s never actually that clear, which version of the provocative DIY group you’re going to end up with… the post-Butthole Surfers and Killdozer acid swamp rockers go digital; the glitchy IDM button pushers; the ketamine psychosis take on bass music; the actually quite nifty house music makers… It’s also never exactly clear which of the many fine underground labels they patronise is going to get the really crucial release. This year, Riot Season win the top prize with Doing Drugs, Selling Drugs which sounds like the pounding inside of Julian Cope’s head as he tries to watch three cult biker movies back to back on a PCP binge.

GholdINPUT>CHAOSCrypt Of The Wizard

This is arguably the band’s most ambitious record to date, doing away with the throaty bellows of yore and opting for crisp, theatrical and expressive vocal harmonies instead, whilst broadening their already weird take on doom and sludge metal to encompass even more noise and psychedelia. Opener ‘Chaos Reigns’ makes these changes clear from the off, building swiftly from Merzbow-esque scree into a dense and ominous, but soaring and anthemic doomscape.


Theon CrossFyahGearbox

Fyah moves between – and absorbs elements from – pretty much every genre you can think of; so while it’s always going to filed under “jazz”, to allow one’s perceptions of what Cross is doing to be limited to any one stylistic box would be tantamount to ignoring the sense of possibility that courses like oxygen through his music’s respiratory system.


Cosey Fanni TuttiTUTTIConspiracy International

TUTTI feels retrospective in the sense that Cosey Fanni Tutti doesn’t introduce anything strikingly unfamiliar to her sonic palette here, with its ambient closing tracks a retread back to Time To Tell. TUTTI though is essential in that it marks Cosey Fanni Tutti as the auteur of her own sound world, as well as being a strong facilitator, artist and collaborator.


Hey ColossusFour BiblesALTER

While the higher end of the guitars and electronics ring in your ears, the bass notes are hitting at your central nervous system, stimulating your fight or flight response. It’s not to say that the music sounds panicky, but Four Bibles has energy. It has frazzled electric undercurrents, as on ‘(Decompression)’. Some of the tracks, like ‘Confession Bay’ and ‘Babes of Plague’, combine that frazzled energy with traditional enough song structures to play at being pop songs that could blot you out with noise at a hairpin turn.


Nick Cave The Bad SeedsGhosteenGhosteen Ltd

On Ghosteen, Cave leads us on an obsessive, almost desperate pursuit of the wondrous, and so strong are his creative powers that he finds it in a myriad of places, collecting and presenting them together as a singular work of art, a kaleidoscopic vision that is unlike anything he’s done before. But for all of this it would be too simplistic to view the record as just a catalogue of transcendent moments. He takes care to lace the work with reminders that these images and stories are, for all their brilliance, still fantasies.


Holly HerndonPROTO4AD

Each one of the tracks feeds off one another, trade processing power for instinct, make mistakes and rectify, awaken spirit within another. It’s a beautiful, worrying thing to witness – a machine that often knows more about us than we do ourselves beginning to find their own interpretation of its small world of human stimuli. But if PROTO’s central question is what are we heading toward, the answer must be a coming together.


Sly The Family DroneGentle PersuadersLove Love

The few constants in the Family Drone’s history remain. There is still their wry sense of humour, for example, as seen in their incessant punning (final track ‘Jehovah’s Wetness’) and the name of the record itself – persuasive they are, gentle they certainly ain’t – and at its core this record is every ounce a sonic bludgeoning of the highest degree, as per. But what’s most enthralling about Gentle Persuaders is the way in which they harness their innate chaos, in particular the role that James Allsop’s baritone saxophone has come to play.


Jenny HvalThe Practice of LoveSacred Bones

The Practice of Love reveals the sensitive humane core that was always behind Hval’s practice of enlightened dissent. The album develops an elegant approach to solving the existential problems of love, care and intimacy from the position of otherness. Hers is a margin taking over the centre. For all its epic signalling, the romantic immediacy of love as a disruptive big bang-like event is here missing, the title proving to be a bait. Instead, Hval harnesses the subversive power of gentleness.


John TilburyThe Tiger’s MindCubus

Originally composed in 1967, The Tiger’s Mind is one of Cornelius Cardew’s strangest and most elusive compositions, the work of a composer in the midst of transition from the post-Stockhausen complexity of his early work to the freer, more open-form work that emerges from his period with AMM and the Scratch Orchestra. It is a work rarely performed (and even more rarely recorded). Who better to take the piece on than Csrdew’s own biographer and one of his longest-standing collaborators and interpreters. Here he combines his tenderest piano playing with sounds of water, birds, fire, and so on. The results are as enchanting as Cardew’s own highly poetic score.


Yao Bobby Simon GrabDiamonds


Alexander TuckerGuild of the Asbestos WeaverThrill Jockey

It’s hard to listen to Alexander Tucker’s peculiar new album without Grumbling Fur’s most recent opus, Furfour, coming to mind. It’s his voice – whether multitracked as a solo artist or melded with Daniel O’Sullivan’s as part of Grumbling Fur. Tucker is blessed with a singular croon, one that manages the remarkable feat of being both deadpan and laced with emotion. Equally, there is a clear musical DNA in common between Furfour and Guild of the Asbestos Weaver that sets Tucker more clearly in the continuum of weird British electronica than O’Sullivan’s recent albums.


75 Dollar BillI Was Real

I Was Real is a tough record to summarise quickly. There’s jazz, blues, post rock and folk at least. There’s distinctly non-Western strands, a tranced, shamanistic fury to everything, and a deft application of different kinds of harmonic distortion. Yet, it’s not so demanding to hear. In fact, it’s pretty accessible. Nothing here is troubling, nothing jars or feels incongruous. I Was Real feels like an exercise in embracive multiculturalism, trans-historicism, and focussed, intense musicianship. Slippery to define or place, and all the better for it.

Johnny Lamb


Errant MonksPsychopposition / The Limit Experience

I envisage Errant Monks as a kind of loose, all-hands-on-deck affair; beyond Charms, the Monk most likely to be familiar to readers is Neil Francis, also of Gnod and Terminal Cheesecake. The former of those bands are, to an extent, a signpost to Errant Monks’ own conviction, reinvention and anti-(music)-establishment politics, but more in a ‘if you like that try this’ way than an implication of one outfit hovering in the slipstream of another.

Noel Gardner


Teeth of the SeaWraithRocket Recordings

Teeth of the Sea have excelled themselves on this highly rewarding record. Their collaborators – Chlöe Herington and Katharine Gifford as well as Magaletti, and the production skills of Erol Alkan – has given them a new polish, a sophistication, even. While there was never any doubting their psychedelic influences and their way with a groove, Wraith offers something more. Full of variety and unpredictability, like the best science fiction it maps out a dreamworld of our times, a tonic against the deathly thoughts of the small hours.


Tony NjokuYour Psyche’s Rainbow PanoramaSilent Kid

The vocals throughout Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama are spiritual, and uplifting at times, but this is certainly a mortal man, with mortal feelings. Speaking in the album notes, Njoku says that the record aims to be “experiential rather than narrative”, and this sentiment is felt throughout the entire work. Like the myriad of emotions explored here, the album is itself explorative and ever-changing. The pursuit of these free-flowing artistic values makes Njoku a rarified emblem in the R&B world.


SolangeWhen I Get HomeColumbia

Where 2016’s A Seat At The Table placed its focus on the black diaspora experience, When I Get Home doesn’t set out its intentions quite as boldly. Moving further away from the jaunty sheen of the True EP that made so many fall in love with Solange’s music earlier this decade, her latest album has more in common with the spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane. With many of its tracks clocking in at under three minutes, When I Get Home has a collage-like, breezy feel to it with Solange largely eschewing traditional pop structures, weaving in various samples and interludes amongst her glossy vocals.


Richard SkeltonBorder BalladsAeolian Editions

Border Ballads is a rich cartography of cello and viola contours, gentle piano streams that patter forth and dry up, all eddying and surging like a shaft of light piercing ragged clouds to illuminate, however briefly, a landscape in flux. The result is a deeply melancholic, reflective, evocative album that yet again shows the bizarrely marginal Skelton is in a class above and beyond the trite mundanity of most of the modern classical types doing the rounds at the moment, showing them up as the sonic lifestyle accessories they are.


MSYLMADhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-ZaqumHalcyon Veil

MSYLMA’s voice drips with sadness, anger, despair and hope, each line delivered in a wash of reverb and echo to make matters all the more otherworldly. To delve into Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum is to submerge oneself into a dream world, drifting along or swallowed whole by Myslma’s bold combination of ragged electronics, subtle melodies and impassioned delivery. On ‘Li-Kul-i Murad-in Hijaa’, this explodes into a cosmic vortex as free-form drums, crackling guitar and buzzing bass all collide like a hurricane sweeping down on a house.


International Teachers of PopInternational Teachers of PopDesolate Spools

It might be tempting to label International Teachers Of Pop escapist, but that does them a deep disservice. This is a deeply English-sounding record, and a clear product of a country that’s sinking further into despair; just because they don’t make some lame attempt to capture our complex national decline, that doesn’t mean they’re burying their heads in the sand. The joy on this record is a defiant one, a call to dance in the face of depression, in the knowledge that though nothing can be fixed, we can still have an excellent time when we all get together.


LizzoCuz I Love YouNice Life

Listening to tracks like ‘Cuz I Love You’, ‘Exactly How I Feel’ featuring Gucci Mane – a welcome surprise – and ‘Better In Colour’ left me pretending I was in a modern rendition of Dreamgirls, hairbrush and all. A match made in thicc heaven, ‘Tempo’ features hip hop royalty Missy Elliot, two of the most notable artists to preach self-acceptance, telling negative individuals to do one while twerking. “If you see a hater, tell ‘em quit” is something we all need to hear and practice.


The Comet Is ComingTrust in the Lifeforce of the Deep MysteryImpulse!

The Comet Is Coming have been pushing jazz beyond its limits since their inception. However, on Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, the group seem to have finally broken through the atmosphere and are now soaring in uncharted territory. There’s no denying the importance of Alice Coltrane or Sun Ra as influences on the album but rather than being weighed down by those legacies, The Comet Is Coming have turned them into fuel, accelerating their sound, and with it, the sound of jazz today.



FKA twigs’ music has always embodied the complexities of human sexuality. On earlier records, twigs framed eroticism as a tangled web of desire and repulsion, recklessness and anxiety, and tension and release. But by personalising the thematic content of MAGDALENE, she is able to wax lyrical on the productive forces that flow through sexuality and that sexuality flows through. Twigs still finds ferocious power in her music, her femininity, and her sexuality. But on MAGDALENE, she tempers that ferocity with a radical sensitivity and vulnerability that indicate a broader maturation in her artistic development.


Kim GordonNo Home RecordMatador

On No Home Record, Gordon sketches the great supermodern landscape of LA, in stark strokes of infectious, visceral weirdness. Like David Lynch, she exposes the ominous, hilarious, faux-profound undercurrents of American life, capturing “the madness of the times and the strangeness and the sadness” (to quote her colleague, guitarist Steve Gunn). Gordon’s bet is that the people are ready for weirdness, that the world can embrace its complexities. And the only way is forward.


Bill CallahanShepherd In A Sheepskin VestDrag City

Callahan has played with the limits of language to properly describe an emotional state – on 2009’s ‘Eid Ma Clack Shaw’ the only intelligible response to a traumatic loss is a nonsense rhyme – and on this record the focus on states both before and beyond life emphasises how the processes of having children or seeing people die brings us closer to our animal state. Even the album’s title hints at this; the shepherd is human, but in his coat he partly resembles the animals he tries to herd. There is one cover on this record – a version of The Carter Family’s ‘Lonesome Valley’ – a song which emphasises how we must all make a part of our journey alone, but while the valley is lonesome it is nevertheless still a valley and not a desert, and that lonely journey only accentuates the importance of our moments together. “Well, I never thought I’d make it this far” sings Callahan. It’s our privilege that he has done.


BarkerUtilityOstgut Ton

Utility, Barker’s first solo album, picks up where his 2018 EP, Debiasing, left off, pushing a techno sound that is deeply melodic while missing its most traditional component: the kick drum. Euphoric synths coalesce to form one entrancing whole on cuts like opener ‘Paradise Engineering’ and ‘Models of Wellbeing’ while tracks like ‘Posmean’ and ‘Hedonic Treadmill’ are more full-bodied, offering the closest hint to something resembling a kick. In Debiasing, Barker created one of 2018’s best techno EPs and in Utility, he’s also delivered one of 2019’s finest albums in the genre.



"I describe them to friends as Motörhead on acid. Okay Motörhead were already on acid, well more on speed but Deaf Kids, it’s more trippy. They’re not so aggressive, it’s more groovy. Like Motörhead on Ayahuasca."


Snapped AnklesStunning LuxuryThe Leaf Label

You arrive, expecting to be in the midst of some atavistic pagan revelry, only to discover that one’s previously ghillie-suited, timber thwacking hosts have largely abandoned their woodlands apparel and electrically-linked log percussion for sharp, estate-agent worthy suits and satirical, effects laden, for-sale signs. And so it is I arrive at my first Snapped Ankles show on the eve of the release of their 2nd album, Stunning Luxury.


The Utopia StrongThe Utopia Strong

“I’ve just had my 62nd birthday and all I’m looking forward to is when my album comes out! What fun that I can do that. It’s so easy to become tired with life, but the thrill of this has given all of us such a boost. From my perspective I didn’t think I’d get as much enjoyment from anything in my life in a work capacity once I’d retired from playing snooker.” – Steve Davis


HarrgaHéroïques Animaux De La MisèreAvon Terror Corps

Héroïques Animaux De La Misère is an act of solidarity. By taking the name Harrga (“a burn”), the pair honour the harragas, those refugees who must burn their papers – and by extension, their identities – before attempting a border crossing. It would be easy, I think, for some to describe Harrga’s music as oppressive, but that would be wrong-headed. This is liberation music. How could it ever be easy? Why wouldn’t it have teeth? Why wouldn’t it need to bite?


Sleaford ModsEton Alive

In Eton Alive, we hear one of the finest political lyricists of the time turning inwards as he still follows a rich and empathetic way, dealing with highly relatable issues around the terrible behaviour patterns that are imposed on men by the patriarchy as much as they are on anyone else. This is exactly the sort of conversation that we need to hear men having in this day and age as we work on reconfiguring what masculinity is and can be. As Jason Williamson has it, on ‘Negative Script’, “it’s hard work being kind”.

Luke Turner


Moor MotherAnalog Fluids of Sonic Black HolesDon Giovanni

The mixing of sonic and material temporalities, and of the personal and historical by Moor Mother in Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes creates a form of aesthetic time travel, where time is not an endless loop but rather a Möbius strip. There are returns to the apocalypses of the past of slavery and genocide, but these returns are twisted, re-routed. New myths are generated and weaved into the structure, thereby changing how the present is seen and creating quantum speculative futures. A myriad of possibilities erupt and break free from the dystopian capitalist norms of white supremacy.


KarennGrapefruit RegretVoam

Recorded over the course of an “intense studio session” in Berlin over the summer, Blawan and Pariah’s debut album as Karenn is one of the year’s finest techno records, not least because it shuns the kind of po-faced conceptualism that so many albums of its kind can get lost in. Instead, the pair come good with eight direct, thumping modular techno cuts. ‘Strawbs’ is a snarling speedy slice of techno at 150 BPM while at the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the chugging 115 BPM grit of ‘Cloy’. Amongst them is the hefty disarray of lead track ‘Crush The Mushrooms’ and the more pensive thud of closer ‘Taste Yourself’.


Sunn O)))Life MetalSouthern Lord

Even without the hum of the organ, horses, or Guðnadóttir’s vocals, Albini’s production has given the record a deep sensuality, the riffs of ‘Aurora’s opening few minutes as warm and as potent as running fingertips on the rolling skin of a new lover. That track is restrained too, in how it unfolds and teases, builds to a near climax and then gradually slips back, before doing the same all over again before the final effulgence around 18 minutes. It might sound odd to hear Sunn O))) described as music that has at its core a deep eroticism, but it’s something I have thought about before and, without giving more away than is strictly necessary in a review most likely consumed in the workplace, something that might be worth experimenting with in the company of a loved one in the privacy of your own home.


Brghde ChaimbeulThe ReelingRiver Lea

The Reeling is an album of mostly Gaelic tunes, that is both a tribute to the well of cultural history from which Chaimbeul draws, and a fresh, exciting take on a music that is not nearly as widely appreciated as it deserves. A couple of Bulgarian tunes are sonorous and reflective, not as airborne as the Hebridean music, but equally suited to the style. The four musicians on The Reeling have produced a unique, exciting and forward-looking album that set the bar for 2019 very high indeed, and strongly suggests that Scottish folk music is both living and thriving.


Fat White FamilySerfs Up!Domino

As a collaborative effort (one look at the sleeve notes shows the vast array of musicians involved) Serfs Up! is pitch-perfect. It’s no surprise that this was a tough record to make, but from pain and hardship comes great art. Their previous release, Songs for Our Mothers, clearly represented a vile descent into Hades, and was peppered with a violent undercurrent that ran through its veins. With their third album, the band has taken an about-turn, reaching out from the circles of purgatory towards a realm of blissful enlightenment. Yet the uneasy listening and lyrical bite still resonates beneath lush strings and saxophone flourishes. There is a subversive pulse even in its brightest corners, and unexpected moments of silliness and joy throughout.


Black MidiSchlagenheimRough Trade

Schlagenheim pivots from choppy math-rock to ticking tetchy guitar pop with ease, and then to stoner rock and then deafening noise sections that come close to drawing parallels to the dense note clusters of the internet genre the band share their name with. black midi have stated before that they simply want to make album after album after album, never stalling or staying the same. If Schlagenheim is just a taste of what’s to come, we could be sitting on a really, really special group.


Vanishing TwinThe Age Of ImmunologyFire

Though many have hailed the group as a successor to the psych-pop legacies of Broadcast or Stereolab, Vanishing Twin are one of the most original and exciting acts of the moment, deserving of their own spotlight for effortlessly weaving their style through multiple mediums. The Age of Immunology finds the group tightening some bolts and adding depth to their mythology, and it’s really quite a treat. The album is an escapist dream, blending fantasy with philosophy and silliness with high art. With The Age of Immunology, Vanishing Twin have established themselves as diplomats of their own fantastic planet and it’s high time we meet them there.


These New PuritansInside The RoseInfectious Music

Lyrically, as well as sonically, this is a visionary record, rich with fire, energy, elements, the sky, and invocations – as the opening track, an ode to a Luciferian fallen star, has it: “An addiction / To the impossible / Let’s go back to the underworld / Let’s go back inside”. In all this rich abstraction and nuance, These New Puritans remain at odds with their time. In a recent interview with Crack Magazine they attacked the UK for its anti-art tendencies where the “ultimate sin” is to be serious about your work. “I think there are two ideas of what art should do,” Jack Barnett added, “one that it should reflect and be a mirror to its age, and another that it should go beyond it. I always prefer stuff that sits in the latter category.”

William DoyleYour Wilderness RevisitedWilliam Doyle

In a sense, this record aims for the noblest and most Proust-ian ambitions that an artwork can undertake. Proust believed that “habit” was the enemy of expression: “Most of our faculties lie dormant because they can rely upon Habit,” wrote Proust. “Which knows what there is to be done and has no need of their services.” Habit dulls our senses, Proust suggests, and stops us from appreciating common beauty. On Your Wilderness Revisited, Doyle sheds himself of the bad habits he developed as an emergent successful recording artist in East India Youth and takes on the role of the Proustian artist. He takes pleasure in and extrapolates beauty from the suburbs that raised him, and takes pains to share that beauty with us.


Caterina BarbieriEcstatic ComputationEditions Mego

The nod to sensuality and romance evoked by a title like Ecstatic Computation finds an echo in the track names: ‘Spine of Desire’, ‘Closest approach to your Orbit’, and ‘Pinnacles of You’ hint at seduction and sensuality but could also just be odes to the machines that Barbieri clearly adores, and the way they interact with the human psyche. ‘Spine of Desire’ builds and builds over ninety seconds, an unstoppable crescendo that leaves the listener gasping for more. Disquieting synth noise opens ‘Closest approach to your Orbit’ but is quickly subsumed by warm pads and melodies that teasingly run the boundary between organic and artificial. On ‘Arrows of Time’ a ghostly choir of female voices soars over stunted harpsichord chords, their beatific groan tending towards the spiritual.


Richard Dawson2020Domino

It’s difficult to think of Richard Dawson as a folk singer in some ways. But as an articulation of common themes, he’s maybe the only really real one we have. More valuable and vital than a million fucking Bellowheads or their tedious ilk. He just doesn’t really sound like folk. And nor should he. There’s as much hair metal dusted through this (the ahhs in ‘Black Triangle’!) as there is introspective acoustic narrative. There are more major keys, more recognisable guitar technique tropes, but these are always undone, knocked over and corroded by the bubbling urgency of Dawson’s mind. His drawing from devotional music and repetitious musical forms is writ large over these sprawling tracks, interwoven with pleasing and charming riffs.


Loraine JamesFor You and IHyperdub

If For You and I serves as a useful reminder that the distinction between cool, contemporary dance music and its dated, out-of-vogue counterpart is wafer-thin, its exhilarating final three songs seal that premise. At under three minutes, ‘Sick 9’ is a brief dalliance with glitch techno; on ‘Vowel // Consonant’, arpeggiated rushes and buckwild drum programming mutates from Jlin-ish post-footwork to rude junglisms; and ‘Words Ears Mouth’ is another one for the ‘sweet melodies / ruff beats’ column, the latter being the full Autechre-dipping-into-breakcore monty.

For You and I is consistent in its spirit with Hyperdub’s catalogue: often in its sound, too, although in a decade and a half the label has covered enough ground for this to be nebulous. That spirit, though, manifests itself in a defiant queerness; a grab-bag approach borne of big city multiculturalism; and a clear fascination with, and love of, sound in general.

The Quietus Albums Of The Year 2019

  • 1: Loraine James – For You and I
  • 2: Richard Dawson – 2020
  • 3: Caterina Barbieri – Ecstatic Computation
  • 4: William Doyle – Your Wilderness Revisited
  • 5: These New Puritans – Inside The Rose
  • 6: Vanishing Twin – The Age Of Immunology
  • 7: Black Midi – Schlagenheim
  • 8: Fat White Family – Serfs Up!
  • 9: Brìghde Chaimbeul – The Reeling
  • 10: Sunn O))) – Life Metal
  • 11: Karenn – Grapefruit Regret
  • 12: Moor Mother – Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes
  • 13: Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive
  • 14: Harrga – Héroïques Animaux De La Misère
  • 15: The Utopia Strong – The Utopia Strong
  • 16: Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury
  • 17: DEAFKIDS – Metaprogramação
  • 18: Barker – Utility
  • 19: Bill Callahan – Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest
  • 20: Kim Gordon – No Home Record
  • 21: FKA twigs – MAGDALENE
  • 22: The Comet Is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  • 23: Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
  • 24: The International Teachers of Pop – The International Teachers of Pop
  • 25: MSYLMA – Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum
  • 26: Richard Skelton – Border Ballads
  • 27: Solange – When I Get Home
  • 28: Tony Njoku – Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama
  • 29: Teeth Of The Sea – Wraith
  • 30: Errant Monks – Psychopposition / The Limit Experience
  • 31: 75 Dollar Bill – I Was Real
  • 32: Alexander Tucker – Guild of the Asbestos Weaver
  • 33: Yao Bobby & Simon Grab – Diamonds
  • 34: John Tilbury – The Tiger’s Mind
  • 35: Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
  • 36: Sly & The Family Drone – Gentle Persuaders
  • 37: Holly Herndon – PROTO
  • 38: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
  • 39: Hey Colossus – Four Bibles
  • 40: Cosey Fanni Tutti – TUTTI
  • 41: Theon Cross – Fyah
  • 42: Ghold – Input>Chaos
  • 43: $hit And $hine – Doing Drugs, Selling Drugs
  • 44: Black To Comm – Seven Horses For Seven Kings
  • 45: LOFT – and departt from mono games
  • 46: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
  • 47: Nkisi – 7 Directions
  • 48: Christian Wolff – Preludes, Variations, Studies and Incidental Music
  • 49: Stephen Mallinder – Um Dada
  • 50: Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 51: Ifriqiyya Électrique – Laylet El Booree
  • 52: Abdu Ali – FIYAH!!!
  • 53: Oli XL – Rogue Intruder, Soul Enhancer
  • 54: Rian Treanor – ATAXIA
  • 55: Yugen Blakrok – Anima Mysterium
  • 56: Matmos – Plastic Anniversary
  • 57: Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
  • 58: Blood Incantation – Hidden History Of The Human Race
  • 59: Floating Points – Crush
  • 61: Dave – Psychodrama
  • 62: Buck Young – Buck II: Where Do You Want It?
  • 63: Giant Swan – Giant Swan
  • 64: Tunes of Negation – Reach The Endless Sea
  • 65: Dis Fantasy – Dis Fantasy
  • 66: Shanti Celeste – Tangerine
  • 67: Shortparis – Tak Zakalyalas’ Stal
  • 68: Klein – Lifetime
  • 69: Cate Le Bon – Reward
  • 70: Jennifer Walshe – ALL THE MANY PEOPLS
  • 71: TripleGO – Yeux Rouges
  • 72: Headie One – Music x Road
  • 73: Whistling Arrow – Whistling Arrow
  • 74: Tyler, The Creator – IGOR
  • 75: MY DISCO – Environment
  • 76: Ana Roxanne – ~~~
  • 77: Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
  • 78: Rakta – Falha Comum
  • 79: Oliver Coates – John Luther Adams’ Canticles Of The Sky
  • 80: Bill Orcutt – Odds Against Tomorrow
  • 81: King Midas Sound – Solitude
  • 82: Kate Tempest – The Book Of Traps and Lessons
  • 83: Félicia Atkinson – The Flower And The Vessel
  • 84: Sote – Parallel Persia
  • 85: Meatraffle – Bastard Music
  • 86: Carter Tutti Void – Triumvirate
  • 87: Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy – The Act of Falling from the 8th Floor
  • 88: Thurston Moore – Spirit Counsel
  • 89: Meemo Comma – Sleepmoss
  • 90: The Membranes – What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away
  • 91: Gum Takes Tooth – Arrow
  • 92: Fenella – Fenella
  • 93: Laura Cannell & Polly Wright – Sing As The Crow Flies
  • 94: Warmduscher – Tainted Lunch
  • 95: MoE / Mette Rasmussen – Tolerancia Picante
  • 96: Mega Bog – Dolphine
  • 97: John Zorn – Tractatus Musico Philosophicus
  • 98: Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter 4: Memphis
  • 99: Alameda 5 – Eurodrome
  • 100: Scorn – Cafe Mor

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