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Here Are 5 Albums from 2016 You've Just Got to Listen To

Music & Sound
London, UK
MassiveMusic London's James Bargent shares some cracking tunes that'll make great stocking fillers

This year had a plethora of releases to keep your ears glued to those vibrating cones which wobble and somehow make us feel those things they write about in books. If you haven’t already bought that superfluous electronic item that melts butter onto toast (wait, that isn’t such a bad idea), you might consider gifting one of these for Christmas. The five featured here are far from exhaustive but they may well exhaust you with all those notes, beats and unidentified sounds that would have quite honestly scared the Victorians. Progress!

1 - Max Cooper - Emergence

Stand-out track: Waves

Max Cooper’s latest is a delight for the techno-curious; a sensitive and emotive journey all wrapped up, like a Christmas present (seasonal shout out!), in a melange of sublimely repetitive and often complex rhythms - all inspired by science and universal concepts. Okay - take your anti-pretension pill… ready? If techno is maths and ambience is human science, when those worlds converge, there is a lot to be discovered. Growing numbers listen to these IDM stylings, with the bones of dance music cast in - quite human - flesh. And Emergence comes to a close having satisfied both curiosities in one. 2in1. Much like your new styling kit from your brother that can probably trim your beard AND your nose hair. That’s it, keep it light James, it’s Christmas…

2 - BadBadNotGood - IV

Stand-out track: Lavender

Here is BadBadNotGood and their, not too confusingly titled, fifth album, IV (the previous album was a collaboration with Ghostface Killah - so it does make sense). These guys are rather au fait with a good collaboration and this album doesn’t forget that fact; they have sensual soul servings with Samuel T. Herring and Charlotte Day Wilson, a pretty delicious hip-hop hors d'oeuvres from Mick Jenkins and, in the middle of that buffet, a jazz platter featuring Colin Stetson on sax. It sounds ambitious, but their appetite is vast, as should yours be - given the season and such. They also plucked KAYTRANADA, of electronic/hip-hop horticulture, to return the favour for their feature in his notable 2016 garden - I mean album -  99.9%… The whole album is, itself, a feat…. But those synths on Lavender are too much of a tease to overlook. In the least of senses, this album is good… good… not bad?

3 - Tim Hecker - Love Streams

Stand-out track: Music of the Air

If you listen to this album at the ‘appropriately’ loud volume it deserves, not only will your organs rattle, but puffs of pink mist will start floating around the room; that is, only if you have synesthesia. This isn’t for those of an unnerved disposition... Those voices you hear are not in your head - they are on the album - but you’d be forgiven for mistaking them as the unintelligible ramblings of your darkest subconscious. There’s nothing like abstract expressionism for a Christmas get together so get it queued up and watch as everyone’s appetites for festive merriness drift away into a cloud of contemplative silence… I mean ambience. Damn - I told you to keep it light, James!

4 - Eggo - Valhalla

Stand-out track - 1997

French producer, Eggo, has only just recently dropped on my ears but his remarkable debut, Valhalla, has been a staple in my audio diet ever since. This LP is laden with warmth and depth; the ideas are simple, yet strong and immediately draw you in. It is poetic as much as it is humble. I hope you get some top-level headphones for Christmas because this album deserves some cans that can handle it. The track, 1997, is a particular favourite right now because it’s so damn good to walk to - especially at night (rain is optional but it’s fun to be dramatic). I know I’ll be still listening to this deep into 2017.

5 - Luo - Sleep Spindles

Stand-out track: Sleep Spindles

Eat some mashed potatoes because you’re going to need to line your stomach. Brighton based Luo’s Sleep Spindles is no less intoxicating than a bottle of warm Sake and probably well accompanied by one at that. I only have an IPA to hand, but that’s working just fine. Without meaning to turn this into a pairing menu, Sleep Spindles showcases some very mature production. The electronic drums intwine seamlessly with their acoustic counterparts. In fact the whole project is a masterclass in the fusion of electronic and recorded instrumentation; the two in an harmonious symbiotic relationship. Now I’ve finished this IPA, I can say it was punchy, mellow and mature - as much, too, can be said of Sleep Spindles.

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