Our album picks get more and more eclectic with every passing year. It’s not only electronic and club music we are embracing, it’s a nice mixed bunch.
Our top 50 reflects both the diversity of opinion amongst staff members here at Phonica and the sheer variation amongst records being made in 2018.
Afrobeat, Disco (and disco from less explored countries has been a feature this year), House, Broken Beat, Kosmiche, Synthwave, Ambient, Techno, and indefinable records which explore new boundaries. This is what makes our lives more interesting; not knowing what we are going to hear as we open boxes from far-flung labels and reliable distributors who just keep on finding us mind-blowing music.
Here From Where We Are LP
In ‘Here From Where We Are’ Pariah AKA Arthur Cayzer delves into his more reflective side, moving away from his dancefloor material and work with Blawan. Dive in for some beautiful and healing ambient pieces reminiscent of Eno, Vangelis and Aphex Twin.
49. Delroy Edwards
Delroy Edwards produced an album this year that was influenced by the Chicago beat tracks LPs such as Jesse Velez’s “Super Rhythm Tracks” or Duane Thamm’s D-Rail and R-Trax. ‘Aftershock’ is a no-nonsense collection of 14 stripped-back drum tracks for the working DJ.
48. Prequel Tapes
Everything Is Quite Now
(Gaffa Tape Records)
‘Everything Is Quite Now’ was one of our favourite electronica albums of the year. At times it is warm and soothing and at others abrasive, with strong EBM and industrial influences, oscillating between utopia and claustrophobia.
47. Auntie Flo
Some of you may have joined us here at Phonica for the launch party of this fantastic album. Radio Highlife features 14 tracks with field recordings and studio sessions captured over the course of seven years travels, including parts from Bali, Cuba, Cape Town, Kampala, Istanbul, Senegal and Russia. Awesome stuff from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings!
Dream House LP
Dynamic duo Ame returned to Innervisions with an incredible new full-length album entitled ‘Dream House’. Weaving through all forms of techno, house, minimal, and ambient, this evocative 2xLP is a must have!
45. Sons Of Kemet
Your Queen Is A Reptile LP
Shabaka Hutchings and his band Sons of Kemet released their third album this year and is a prime example of the great music being released in the London Jazz scene right now. It spans many genres and features multiple guests including jungle legend Congo Natty and poet Joshua Idehen.
44. Yves Tumor
Safe In The Hands Of Love LP
This year ‘Safe In The Hands Of Love’ followed up Yves Tumor’s 2016 ‘Serpent Music’. Its a wildly experimental and expansive album that blends and leaps confidently between multiple genres, covering R&B, techno, breakbeat and trip-hop to name a few. Yves Tumor’s psychedelic vocals run throughout to produce an album of forward-thinking dark pop that takes many unexpected turns.
43. Prins Emanuel
(Music For Dreams)
Prins Emanuel ‘Diagonal Musik’ is a beautiful collection of folk-like songs written solely on the acoustic guitar. Its misty, dreamy and certainly suitable ‘Music For Dreams’.
42. Mutant Beat Dance
Mutant Beat Dance
Mutant Beat Dance is Traxx, Beau Wanzer and Steve Summers. Their box set arrived at the end of this year, featuring a whopping 25 tracks over 6 records! The trio take influence from the sound of Chicago’s Music Box where a mixture of Post-Punk, Minimal Wave, Industrial, Disco Dub, EBM and proto-House / early-House were played freely alongside each other. The output of these guys is truly impressive and perfect for anyone who likes things dark and chuggy.
London based singer-songwriter Tirzah unleashed her debut album ‘Devotion’ in the latter end of 2018. Produced by Mica Levi, the album features 11 delightful, slow-burning and soulful experimental pop and R&B jams. We’re looking forward to hearing more in 2019 (hopefully!).
40. David August
On ‘D’Angelo’ David August travels through laidback Balearic pop, melodic techno and subdued moody soundscapes. Awesome from start to finish!
39. Rival Consoles
Like Legowelt once said ‘a synthesiser is like a translator for unknown emotions’, and Ryan West aka Rival Consoles uses this quote to sum up what he was trying to do with this record. More sonically diverse with a greater depth of emotion and confidence, his third album was a highlight of the year.
Morphology’s third album continues their intensive deep-space exploration at the intersection of electronic/electro music and scientific discovery. Awash in the beautiful sounds of hardware-derived music direct from Morphology’s command centre, each track is a new world in itself of crisp beats, deep basslines and melancholic melodies. Interspersing the frenetic pace of hyper-speed travel with ethereal landings, ‘Traveller’ is an intergalactic trip without taking off your headphones.
37. Pilar Zeta
Moments Of Reality LP
Primarily an artist and designer, Pilar Zeta’s debut album ‘Moments Of Reality’ on Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic was inspired by Japanese post-modern art from the 1980s and features nine twinkling and cinematic ambient/electronic gems. Magical stuff!
36. Kamaal Williams
The Return LP
After Henry Wu’s ‘Black Focus’ on Brownswood in 2016 as part of Yussef Kamaal, he returned this year for ‘The Return’ as Kamaal Williams. Pioneering the London jazz scene he blends together jazz, 70s fusion and hip-hop, subliminally laced with cut-ups of London pirate radio!
35. Helena Hauff
Helena Hauff’s ‘Qualm’ LP features twelve raw and powerful techno and electro flavoured cuts. Top quality business from Ninja Tune, as always!
With so much competition with year this gorgeous and bewildering has ended up lower in our chart than what you could expect. This team up was always gonna impress, and this mini-LP doesn’t dissapoint. Lush ambience and original synthesizer sounds come like before, but the unusual tempos and composition elevate to a different place in their catalogue. Seemlingly operating in their own hermetic and singular space, trancelike states seem to ensue via this collection of unique pieces.
33. Roman Flugel
Themes I-XIII LP
Roman Flügel’s I-XIII is a journey through the many shades of electronic music, ranging from modular electro and chuggy techno to ambient soundscapes and IDM style pieces. This sublime 2xLP on ESP Institute has it all!
32. Derek Carr
Irish producer Derek Carr’s music instantly takes the listener on a midnight drive, cruising the Grand River Avenue through Detroit, rather than Dublin. His ability to create soulful melodies that effortlessly wrap themselves around bouncy basslines and elegant beats is impressive.
Bruce is Larry McCarthy who released ‘Sonder Somatic’ on Hessle Audio at the end of this year. Taking influences from the Bristol scene, where he is based, and from UK Soundsystem culture, Larry has produced an album of grand and imaginative club tracks (including the dancefloor destroyer ‘What’) that were designed to illicit a transformative feeling in the club space, disconnecting you from your immediate environment.
‘Pink Eye’ is Maurice Fulton’s first album in five years under his Syclops and for us it definitely lived up to expectations! Rhythmically complex, boisterous, unpredictable and most importantly never lacking his signature funk that you cannot help but move to.
Ryu No Nukegara LP
A beautiful album that slowly worked its charms on us after many mornings listens in the shop. Combining dub, jazz and elctronica, the Osaka-based 7FO combines groovily sparse electronic percussion with dub-feel synth bass, pentatonic synth and steel pan melodies, the latter with an intriguing Okinawa/Sunda/Malay feel. An album that is relaxing, warm, and enveloping.
The old adage ‘talking about music is like dancing about architecture’ couldn’t be more apt when trying to describe a new release from the infamous Autechre. And when you hear that the new ‘release’ will take the form of 12 (that’s 12!) vinyl discs, or a 39 track CD boxset?! you’re truly dumbfounded. We considered closing the shop for 5 days to listen to it all the way through, but we were concerned that our minds and bodies might change or mutate in some way. Ranging from transformative to psychedelic, the sounds contained within are mostly beautiful and sometimes perplexing. Truly a challenging release to lose yourself in – for a long time.
27. Kamasi Washington
Heaven & Earth
A dose of Afro-futurism from Kamasi on his second album, where he develops and refines ideas from ‘The Epic’ and its a concept album too. – “Earth,” is meant to represent worldly preoccupations; the second, “Heaven,” explores utopian thought. Now how about a vinyl version that doesn’t cost £46?
Martyn’s ‘Voids’ LP on Berghain-affiliated imprint Ostgut Ton was his first LP in four years and features nine of his trademark bass-heavy techno and breaks inspired cuts. It’s a ripper!
And Yet It’s All Love
It’s been four years since Fatima released 2014’s debut ‘Yellow Memories’. The London- via -Stockholm songstress returned with her second album where she calls on a talented array of producers and instrumentalists to paint a picture of the full cycle of a romantic relationship, told in Fatima’s now-familiar soulful style, from first meet to eventual break-up
24. Alfa Mist
So, yes, this was out originally in a very small run in 2017, but thanks to Black Acre, it saw a wider distribution this last year – and its such a great album that we wanted to include it the year we got it! Created around a conversation with his brothers, Alfa blends melancholy Jazz harmony with alternative hip-hop and soul.
23. Donato Dozzy
Filo Loves The Acid
Tresor marked their 303rd release this year with a specially commisioned album from Techno pioneer Donato Dozzy featuring back to back storming acid tunes as a nod to the seminal Roland TB-303 bass synthesiser. The LP consists of eight relentless, urgent tracks whose acid lines slowly undulate, putting you in a trance-like state. There are no fillers on this one and Dozzy manages to capture a different mood in every track.
Wet Will Always Dry
Blawan’s hotly tipped ‘Wet Will Always Dry’ LP landed earlier this year via Ternesc. Packed with eight heavyweight slices of unique, atmospheric techno, this LP proved to be the UK producer’s crowning jewel. It’s mega!
Cherskogo Drive LP
(Cititrax / Minimal Wave)
The brilliantly named Buttechno from Russia came through strong this year with a blend of industrial, techno and electro on ‘Cherskogo Drive’. This collection of tracks start dark and take you further into the depths of moody dancefloor material. Chug along now!
Objekt’s first LP since 2014 ‘Cocoon Crush’ is a last minute addition to the best of 2018 charts, due to the fact it’s only just been released! This stunning LP features eleven of Objekt’s signature, dark and dubby techno and experimental style gems. Suitable for club use and home listening alike!
The debut LP from this mysterious duo surprised in some ways. Their confrontational and ‘truly’ lo-fi aesthetic of old moves aside in places here, and reveals a more plaintive mellow approach. The jamming of ideas and forced errors of their broken machines still abrasive and challenging. This might also be the best sleeve artwork of 2018!
Mildlife from Melbourne have been touring for the best part of four years and in that time refining their style. Its a psychedelic, interstellar mix of jazz, funk and disco and we think is the perfect voyage for the cosmic headphone traveller.
Portrait With Firewood
Portrait With Firewood, DjRUM’s second full-length album but his first for R&S, saw Felix Manuel writing and recording the most personal, intimate music of his career to date. Portrait With Firewood has shown the growth of Manuel’s musical abilities and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with in 2019.
16. DJ Koze
Whilst the success and the simplicity of 2018 mega-hit ‘Pick Up’ led some to think that DJ Koze had decided to go all-out for a hit, it is but one song on this highly eclectic album that is no way a house or techno album with guests including Bon Iver, Roisin Murphy, Jose Gonzales and Kurt Wagner from Lambchop
From The Dirt LP
(Dirt Tech Reck)
From co-founding seminal hip-hop act Slum Village alongside the late J Dilla and running two of his own labels – Bling47 and DIRT TECH RECK – to producing leftfield soul as the frontman of Platinum Pied Pipers, and releasing collaborative records with Theo Parrish and Mad Mike Banks, Waajeed’s career as an artist has been varied to say the least. This manifests itself gloriously on From The Dirt, in which funk, soul, house, and techno play equal parts across ten dancefloor constructions. Gritty basslines are offset with glistening melodies and heartfelt lyrics, whilst shuffling percussion drives steadily forward with vocals playing an important role throughout!
14. Nils Frahm
Nils Frahm spent two years building a brand new studio in Berlin to make this excellent album, (his seventh!) – and then spent the year touring it.
Delsin describes Vril’s thirteen track LP ‘Anima Mundi’ as a “deep excursion for mind and body, combining his trademark dub techno grooves with experimental ambient trips.”. We first heard this album in the form of a cassette tape, released by Giegling in 2017, but having received a fresh remaster and edit for vinyl release on Delsin there’s no way we could have left this out of our picks for this year’s best vinyl LPs.
12. Sound Voyage
En Route To Thailand LP
(Free Soul Inc)
A very specific and original project from Krautrock maestro’s Niko Schabel & Tom Wieland, nothing else like this in the shop. The pair went on a sabbatical to Thailand, creating field recordings and digging rare records, they returned to the home studio to build this stunning and faithful combination of old-east meets the new west. As the sales notes aptly put it “Sounds like Kraftwerk jamming in a Thai temple with the locals and Moritz von Oswald on controls? Welcome to the next level, they simply call it Outernational Kraut Electronica. First stop: Thailand.”
11. Jon Hopkins
Five years after ‘Immunity, Hopkins returns combining euphoric house and techno with ambient moments for this epic opus – not unlike Nils Frahm (in their relative success too), just a bit more techno!
10. Ross From Friends
British producer Ross From Friends effortlessly shifts from the world of lo-fi to the world of FlyLo with his debut album on Flying Lotus’ label Brainfeeder. “Family Portrait” is characterised by a desire to experiment and Ross From Friends’ obsessive attention to detail, somehow marrying an intricately layered production style with warm, heavily saturated sonics that elevate, rather than stifle, his melodious funk.
The Ukrainian polymath returned again, in the no-man’s land of January this year. It is now a given that you can never really guess what genre or mood his new album will take. In previous years it was the deepest of House, full on Techno, or even soul/jazz/balearic/spacerock recorded live by session musicians! He really surprised and delighted us with this sequence of modern-calssical style ambient vignettes, a series of beatless movements that can only be listened to in full length from start to finish. Can he better this? It may be his masterpiece.
8. Leon Vynehall
Nothing Is Still
Leon Vynehall’s debut album on Ninja Tune was inspired by his grandparents’ emigration to the USA and features ten superbly eclectic original tracks, touching on aspects of ambient, house, trip-hop and even jazz. Some of you may have made it down to Phonica for the in-store launch party we held back in June. What an amazing night that was!
7. Shinichi Atobe
Unexpected 2018 album from Shinichi Atobe – an hour of deeply inspirational House music for the ages that could have been produced 20 years ago, could have been produced earlier this year – we’ll probably never know. It follows on from last year’s “From The Heart, It’s A Start, A Work Of Art” which featured in our top 10 of the year, it continues a run of highly enigmatic, acclaimed and completely unparalleled productions that follow their own timeless logic! We love it!
6. Daniel Avery
Song For Alpha
Daniel Avery’s sonic vocabulary has expanded. Here, the booming sound of the big room is countered by the music of the small hours ‘ Where celestial ambient lullabies ‘First Light’ and ‘Days From Now’ sit perfectly next to the mesmeric techno assault of ‘Diminuendo’ and ‘Sensation’; where both ‘Projector’ and ‘Clear’ evoke early rave records, only ones engulfed by waves of beautiful cyclonic distortion. William Basinski, Warp’s Artificial Intelligence, Brian Eno plus his own excursions with Alessandro Cortini all serve as touchstones for a record that sees Avery take his signature psychedelic-electronic sound to new dimensions.
5. The Maghreban
We’ve been watching Ayman’s rise to stardom here in the shop for 3 or 4 years now, every Maghreban EP has its signature ruffneck bruiser sound. For his debut album he’s given it the full abitious treatment, employing beautiful guest vocals from Africa, hardcore rap verse from the US, and guitar lines from his good friend Gatto Fritto. This is the definition of true effort for a debut, there’s plenty of mini-skits and instrumentals threading the story together. While still being instantly recognisable as his raw-self, gentler jazz and world influences are so welcome here. Put this on all the way thru for a deep listen but equally play many of these tracks out for dancefloor destruction!
Con Todo El Mundo LP
(Night Time Stories)
Khruangbin’s sounds are rooted in the deepest waters of world music infused with classic soul, dub and psychedelia. ‘Con Todo El Mundo’ takes inspiration not just from South East Asia but similarly under-discovered funk and soul of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly Iran although its all channelled through that Texan filter. Blues guitar abounds on this LP and if you caught them at Houghton, or anywhere else this year, you would’ve been sure to be smitten by these sounds.
3. Mr Fingers
Larry Heard resurrects his most famous guise for this first album in 25 years – and it was well worth the wait. The two sides of Larry Heard are illustrated here – with half the album dedicated to jazzy, vocal numbers rather like his 90s albums – but those fans of his more dance/house leanings are given some solid tracks in ‘Inner Acid’ and ‘Electron’. We’ve often had this album on in the morning before it gets busy and whilst not all the tracks stand out (there’s 18 of them!), the album is a great listen in its entirety. Thank you Larry!
2. Nu Guinea
Nu Guinea impressed us all this year with their disco/jazz-funk creation ‘Nuova Napoli’. It’s an easy contender for one of the best selling albums in the shop and for the right reasons! There are some fantastic dancefloor disco anthems within but this is also an album that can certainly be enjoyed just as well at home. These guys are capable of producing the catchiest melodies possible and hit sun-soaked tracks include ‘Je Vulesse’ and ‘Disco Sole’. If you don’t have this album, we wholeheartedly recommend it.
1. Skee Mask
In what has been a vintage year for forward-thinking and underground electronic albums, this 2nd album from Skee Mask seems to have united both shop staff and customers, to say this one flew off the racks would be an understatement. Seemingly influenced by everything from Hip-Hop/R&B, Dubstep, D&B, Ambient to rave and breaks. He’s masterfully channelled the precision of Autechre, the power of Source Direct and the urban dread of Burial. Amazingly fresh sound design and composition from one so young! Well done son!