As 2020 quickly approaches, we have selected some our favorite releases from the year Whether a reissue, remaster, hot release or hidden gem, we have selected a truly eclectic range, moving between electronic, down tempo, rock and more.
Review: Nyra continues to use his Canoe label as a vessel for his most personal creative impulses across the dance music spectrum. The ninth instalment on the label kicks off with the ravey flashes of "Make It" before swerving into the rugged, bassweight techno stomp of "Xecute." Edging in a little Italo sauce to meet with tough and gritty techno force, "Comet Commuter" is a clear highlight on the record, and then "Globe Gazer" seals the deal with an upfront charger carefully crafted for the peak time hour and carrying bountiful synth lines to lift the energy of the room skywards.
Review: After a series of well received albums on 100% Silk and HNYTRX, Maya Bouldry-Morrison returns with her first album in two years, and the first on the T4T LUV NRG imprint she set up with life partner Eris Drew. It's a thrill-a-minute affair rooted in her love of turn-of-the-'90s rave culture, with the eight showcased tracks variously mixing elements of breakbeat hardcore, Belgian techno, dreamy deep house, ambient techno, ragging acid and the kind of psychedelic club fare that was once all the rage within California's LSD-fuelled free party scene. In fact, as a soundtrack to a full moon party on a remote "SoCal" beach, "Resonant Body" would sound phenomenal, with the inspired ambient number "My Body Is A Powerful" offering a fine accompaniment to the inevitable morning comedown.
Review: Mukatsuku struck gold again on this latest first time on a "45" issue. It boasts a couple of lesser-known jazz-funk fusion jams which originally featured on Argentine musician Jorge Navarro's 1977 album "Navarro Con Polenta", an LP that has never been issued outside of South America. A-side "Funk Yourself" is a bustling, high-octane jazz-funk Hammond licks and spiralling horns jumping above a Blaxploitation style backing track. "Repartamos El Funky" is a more laid back but no less musically intricate affair, with a variety of high-grade electric piano and guitar solos riding seemingly endless jazz style drum solos and rubbery bass. Juno hand-numbered copies come in exclusive sleeves and this 45 not be repressed. DJ Support comes from Ge-ology, Dom Servini, DJ Koco (Japan), DJ Food,The Allergies,45LIVE.net ,Dr Bob Jones,Rob Luis, Smoov and more
Review: Island funk and tropical soul collectors often speak in hushed tones about "Bahamas Gone Independent", a hard-to-find 7" single from obscure Bahamian group Babalu & His Headhunters. The good news is that the "45" has finally been reissued. The title track is joyously infectious and summery, with Babalu and his backing band delivering a fine mix of dancefloor-friendly Calypso rhythm, heavy bass, punchy soul horns and all manner of instrument solos to set the pulse racing. Arguably even better is "Calypso Funk", a heavyweight, full-throttle affair that delivers exactly what its title promises and then some.
Review: Alongside regular studio partner Andreas Baumecker, Sam Barker has released a swathe of admired singles and a couple of on-point albums on Ostgut Ton. Here he returns to the much-loved German imprint with his most significant solo release to date: a debut album of drowsy, sun-baked electronic positivity that expertly melds elements of hazy ambient, dub techno, off-kilter electronica and the classic kosmiche synthesizer soundscapes associated with Tangerine Dream. It's a lot less dancefloor-focused than much of his previous material, but that's not a criticism: indeed, the fact that it's warm, opaque and prioritizes fuzzy, slowly shifting musical movements is the album's greatest strength.
Review: If you like dark, scuzzy, hypnotic, druggy rock 'n' roll with an extra helping of hallucinogenic FX then Portuguese three piece 10,000 Russos should have crossed your path by now. On the off chance that hasn't happened, let's start by you preparing to ask "where the hell have you guys been?". This is where Mark E. Smith and Neu! meet for a dance off in a pitch black room with only a strobe to guide their moves. Taking its name from "compromising material" used by the KGB for coercion and blackmail, on "Kompromat" the band have managed to genuinely distill that concept into something that's not just listenable, but repeatable. All tracks are delivered with pin-point accuracy, whether that's the hook-bass of post-punk nod "Runnin' Escapin'", spacey opener "It Grows Under", or the rough and ready squeal of distorted guitar reverberations on last hurrah "The Wheel".
I Can't Get Along Without You (instrumental) (6:36)
Review: Kalita has already served up some seriously good reissues, but their latest may well be the most essential yet. It's the first licensed reissue of Vance and Suzzanne's sole single from 1980, "I Can't Get Along Without You" - a Larry Levan favourite that was only ever pressed in small quantities first time around. In it's A-side vocal form, the track is a deliciously warm and loved-up duet that mixes rich, mid-tempo New York disco grooves with some of the heady, glassy-eyed musicality of Philadelphia soul. It's genuinely magical - a super-sweet cut that sounds like end-of-night gold. Like the original 1980 private pressing on Vanton Records, the Kalita edition is backed by the similarly sweet, atmospheric Instrumental Mix, but this time we're also treated to a never-before-seen press photo, and extensive interview-based liner notes.
Review: Hiro Kone says this new album "considers the power of absence as neither a lack or deficit, but as a quiet, indeterminable force to cultivate in this time of looming and unrelenting techno-fascism". Musically it is dark and rugged, with unsettling atmospheres and lumpy drums blurring the lines between ambient and deep techno. Plenty of the tracks have industrial overtones and make it feel like you're in some sort of factory in a state of post-production decay, which makes it all the more cinematic and absorbing. In these times of social and po-litical turmoil, it is a nice place to get lost.
Review: Rene Pawlowitz is back on Ostgut Ton with his first album for the Berlin powerhouse since 2010's "The Traveller". It's an interesting time to hear Shed diving into his own particular distillation of techno and soundsystem ethics - sounds that have coalesced and splintered into so many factions in the past 10 years. Of course there's no doubting the man's ability to bring us the freshness - just listen to the steady dub throb and madcap break science of "Menschen Und Mauern" and marvel in the compositional heft. This is stunning, nimble, smart and downright fun club music and home listening fare sitting comfortably side by side, rarely mutually exclusive and shot through with the kind of studio precision we've come to expect.
Review: During his lifetime, Boston-based producer Callisto (real name Dana Kelley) was a prolific producer of deep house. He was particularly active in the late 90s and early 2000s, when he released a wealth of material on Guidance Recordings. "Guidance Is Internal: Part 1" gathers together some of his finest moments for the legendary imprint, sashaying between the bass-heavy, ultra-deep hypnotism of "Breezin'", the slick, tech-tinged warmth of "The Power", the US garage-influenced late night skip of "Never Again", the dub/spaced out drum and bass bliss of "Junkle" and the effortlessly soulful, New Jersey style headiness of "Need Ur Love".
Review: When it came to following up their surprise 1994 hit album "Amplified Heart", Everything But The Girl's Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn decided to rip up the rulebook and do things differently. Previously, their music has been considered, downtempo and - whisper it quietly - Balearic. 1996's "Walking Wounded" retained their inherent beauty and sense of melancholia, but updated their musical blueprint to include far more influences from (then) contemporary dance music. As this half-speed re-mastered reissue proves, they largely hit the spot, with warm deep house cut "Wrong", the sparkling drum and bass pop of the title track and the similarly minded "Big Deal" standing out.
Review: Jeigo's previous missive on Air Miles, "An Ode To Midnight", was a lusciously dreamy collection of cuts shot through with loved-up retro-futurism. This time round there's only one original cut, "Fluerella", but it does come backed by three superb remixes. Jeigo's original mix is as wide-eyed, glorious and life affirming as witnessing the sun rise from a chilly mountain top, with bold electronic motifs and dreamy chords rising above a punchy, two-step influenced breakbeat groove. Tom VR emphasizes those two-step influences on his ultra-deep UK garage take, while Ex-Terrestrial re-imagines it as a throbbing slab of psychedelic acid breakbeat. To complete the package, Urulu steps up with a "Liquid Earth" mix that joins the dots between the Orb (circa 1990) and Psychick Warriors ov Gaia.
Review: Mick Harris is a master of bludgeoning sound, whether wringing out apocalyptic steppers in his Scorn guise or wrestling D&B into contorted shapes as Quoit. Monrella is one of his aliases that reaches back to the mid 90s and Regis' ZET label. These four new tracks capture the same mood of granite heavy Brummie techno as the original run, wholly compatible with the tougher end of the Downwards oeuvre, sculpted with the masterful ear for sound design that Harris has displayed throughout his accomplished career. Following on from the retrospective compilation on Berceuse Heroique last year, it's a real treat to have some fresh Monrella to chew on for the hardest of techno sessions.
Review: Just four months after the release of the long-awaited Syro, Richard D. James has dropped an EP of all-new material, more than making up for his 13 years of radio silence. Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt 2 is an album comprised of music that's just that, making for one of the most unique collection of Aphex Twin tracks of James's entire career. From intricate piano miniatures to almost jazz-inspired drum rhythms, it's essential listening for those willing to delve deep into the strange sonic world of the producer.
Review: No less than 45 years since she recorded her first single, the legendary Chaka Khan with a new album as relevant and up to the minute as anything pretenders a third of her age could dream of. "Hello Happiness" finds Khan drawing on the legacy of her roots while keeping things fresh, upbeat and contemporary, with THAT voice front and centre. Lead single "Like Sugar" has been tearing it up all over the place for good reason - with Switch on production chopping up classic Fatback Band break "The Bus Stop," Khan sounds as fierce as ever.