2014 has been an interesting year for house and techno. The scene has changed over the last year as well. In the underground, the taste for ‘outsider house’ has abated somewhat and a rougher, more aggressive sound has begun to assert itself across the genres. Experimentalism seems to be very much in vogue as well, which is always the sign of a scene that is on the move and bringing with it new ideas and styles, although it might not always look like it with the mountains of reissues getting in the way. Anyway, let’s get down to brass tacks. I have no criteria other than to pick records I like, and in this case that is mostly those that have me sneaking back again and again. Albums first…
FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2014
Away from the superstar releases like Syro or Live At The Guggenheim, there were a huge amount of good LP there, and it’s beginning to look like house and techno (mostly techno, if we’re honest) is finally looking beyond the 12″ format as a means of expression. Steffi, Lee Gamble, Adam X and many others released albums that were some of the best work they have done and Andy Stott (no stranger to the longer formats, it has to be said) got the critics musing over ‘Faith In Strangers’. In fact, the number of bigger names putting out LPs was amazing. You’ll have to look elsewhere for Theo Parrish, though. I can’t afford it. Such is life when you buy your all your own. Here are my five favourites. Each of them represents some strand of electronic music that was important to me this year.
Prostitutes – Nouveauree (Night School)
Down low there were all sorts of gems out there. James Donadio’s Prostitutes guise delivered a snarling street smart bomb of twisted electronics and cauterizing beats for Glasgow’s Night School. It wasn’t an easy album to love, always willing to kick you in the balls for a laugh. But on tunes like Hate’s In The City or Late To Take It Light it delivered a blistering, taut burst of swaggering, refined brutality like few others. At only five tracks long, though I don’t know whether it should be classed as an album. Hell, Juno says it is, so it stays.
Gesloten Cirkel – Submit X (Murder Capital)
Dark side of the moon electro and body music shot through with a certain fragility that just adds to the slightly melancholy over all feel of the album, particularly noticeable in the achingly lonely sounding Chatters , and the brusque, Kraftwerk-esque Stakan. Elsewhere, such as Zombiemachineacid or Submit X itself it belts into the New Electro Dawn. A sometimes bleak, sometimes disjointed album, it delved into the toolbox that Murder Capital has made its own and managed to come back up with something fresh and new. It sounds Like Voyager doing karaoke on a dancefloor somewhere in the Oort cloud. Stand out remains the creeping, Arabic sounding electro pop of Feat Liette. One of a handful of proper classics from this year.
Herva – Instant Broadcast (Delsin)
A great album that seems to have disapeared as quickly as it arrived. Which is a real shame because there were very few others like it this year. A wildly experimental canvas brightly painted with curiosity and gentle humour, it sat at the border of ambient field recordings and live studio jams, watching the world go past. Whether it does, as was claimed at the time, fully eschew references to Detroit and Chicago is perhaps as difficult to quantify as the claim is meaningless. What matters are the velvet soundscapes inter-spaced by disco and experimentalist electronic beat downs plus some cheeky and raucous workouts which help to pull some of the more wilfully louche moments back to their feet. Slam The Laptop remains both the best and most immediate tune on it, but others like the Delroy Edwards-ish Jointless or the warbling, cloud hunting No Way Out come close to topping it.
Kassem Mosse- Workshop 19 (Workshop)
Kassem Mosse’s début album is probably the biggest of all five. Arriving almost unheralded back in April, it quickly garnered a justified reputation. A slick production, it is the antithesis of the Prostitutes record, exploring a beautifully realised sonic world of shimmering, drawn out house numbers washed over with warm analogue tones and just the right amount of soulful grit to keep your mind and body going. Whilst it hardly broke, or even blurred boundaries, it moved with such seductive grace we never had a chance. From the futureworld cocktail lounge grooves of the opener to the Latin jazz tinged disco of the closer it is a record that is overflowing with proper dirty funk.
Joey Anderson – After Forever (Dekmantel)
I don’t know when Joey Anderson began to eclipse his peers on the east coast, but it was definitely before this LP proved there was a real depth to his influences and talents. Not that many albums these days are worthy of being described as LPs, Long Players. Most are happy enough with a collection of very loosely connected moments, snapshots of where the producers’ head was right then. After Forever, though is a unified whole, a single narrative statement that rolls from one end of its tale to the other. The elements it draws on are suberb, from the deft avant-guarde roll of Brass Chest Plate, the deep, woozy jazziness of Sorcery – sounding like the best Metroplex record that never was – to the gossamer ghosts of the small ambient moments like Space Colour Ideas all the way through to the aquatic deep Drexciyan requiem of Archer’s Ceremony it is never less than striking. And yet, it is the simplicity of the grooves and the warmth of the drive that makes it such a great record, and one that makes it even better in the head than on the feet. Not only my favourite album of the year but one of my favourite for a long, long time. Outstanding.