Somewhat belated, Jon Lindblom lists his top ten records of 2020.
10. Kamixlo – Cicatriz (PAN)
Another great addition to the still growing body of deconstructed dance music, Kamixlo’s debut album characteristically synthesises club music such as dembow and reggeaton with industrial and nu-metal – not entirely unlike labelmates Amnesia Scanner. Kamixlo’s sound is indeed also similarly beefed up, with lots of big sounds and complex rhythmic assaults put together in a compellingly tense and labyrinthine way.
9. Reece Cox – Clang (iDEAL)
A somewhat short but tremendously fun album of goofy club bangers in the style of Errorsmith’s great Superlative Fatigue (2017), both of which I have come to refer to as ‘slapstick techno’. But it is also a really well-made album, with great rhythmic complexity and vocoder silliness. And while you could say that it perhaps sounds a bit too similar to Errorsmith, the sheer quality of the music makes it difficult to resist anyway.
8. Hyph11E – Aperture (SVBKVLT)
Hyph11E’s (Tess Sun) debut album continues her transnational explorations of modern dance music. Whereas her great EP Vanishing Cinema (2017) incorporated South African gqom, Aperture brings together Chicago footwork and UK jungle with her twisted and noisy soundscapes. It is a brilliant, brooding debut album from an artist who compellingly navigates between various strands of contemporary club music.
7. Sophia Loizou – Untold (Houndstooth)
On Untold, Sophia Loizou continues her fascinating experiments with deconstructed jungle that first were introduced on her previous EP Irregular Territories (2018). Although this time, they have been positioned within the context of a record that presents a series of ‘speculative sonic landscapes’ constructed out of abstracted natural sounds. This pinpoints what I like most about both these records: her ability to transform and transport familiar jungle breaks into novel sonic territories.
6. Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song (Smalltown Supersound)
Kelly Lee Owens’ second album Inner Song is a beautiful marriage between techno and electro pop, similar to the music of artist such as Robyn and Marie Davidson. Indeed, one of its strengths is how it elegantly switches back and forth between the two throughout its ten tracks (also including a spoken-word piece with John Cale of Velvet Underground, as well as an instrumental cover of Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’). What the album somewhat lacks in formal experimentalism, it compensates for with great vocals and melodies.
5. Vladislav Delay – Rakka (Cosmo Rhythmatic)
Sasu Ripatti’s comeback as Vladislav Delay did not disappoint: a menacing take on Scandinavian black metal and the desolate nature above the Arctic Circle channelled through a modest electronic setup. Yet the sound is as rich and intense as ever, with the many maelstroms of clattering beats and industrial whirlwinds being the absolute highlights.
4. Arca – KiCk I (XL)
While Arca has produced great experimental pop albums for artists like Björk and FKA twigs, this time she finally did so for herself as KiCk I is a great marriage between pop and her compelling take on experimental club music. Backed up by a number of great guest vocalists and a series of awesome music videos of a similarly pop-experimentalist kind, the album shows off a compelling pop star in the making.
3. Amnesia Scanner – Tearless (PAN)
A short but punchy record that makes up for its short runtime with great pace, which its predecessor Another Life (2018) somewhat lacked. As usual with Amnesia Scanner, it is the complex rhythms and thick sonic textures that stand out – this time also backed up by some great guest vocalists and of course the vocal software-stack Oracle.
2. Arca – @@@@ (XL)
This has really been an ‘Arca-year’ for me, with what I consider her two best releases so far. And they work really nice together as well, because of how they showcase two sides of her work. For whereas KiCk I is shorter and more pop-oriented, the one-track @@@@ is a one-hour long tour de force of experimental club music that grips you right from the start and does not let go until it ends.
1. The Bug feat. Dis Fig – In Blue (Hyperdub)
This is probably Kevin Martin’s best release of his entire career in my book – which says quite a lot, given his massive output over the past 30 years – and also the best sounding album that I have heard this year. The beats, basslines, echoes and layers of noise meet up perfectly along with Dis Fig’s (Felicia Chen) captivating vocals. The result is a brilliantly shadowy and claustrophobic ‘tunnel sound’, to use Martin and Chen’s own description.