A lot of end of year write-ups have started “It’s not been a great year for music, but…” Well for one, they’re wrong, and two, that “but” signifies they know they’re wrong. Lazy intro writing would be a more accurate description, I think (just like here). What I have noticed is that this year I have bought less guitar/band music than I can ever remember buying… in the top 10 list below there is only one band (and in fairness, their album is a doozy). Invention and talent is being swallowed by the women & men who dabble with sampling, synths and electronics.

I see a connection between these times and the late 80’s. We share a Tory government that has little or no regard to the majority of the population – has there ever been a non-policy as insidious as “Big Society”? – appropriating the hard work & success of others? Congratulations, you’ve destroyed the point of government! Oh and by the way, employment lawyers are gearing up for a minefield in 2013 as that same government will further remove workers rights and any impediment to companies firing whomever they want. Cheers!.

Anyway, back on topic; in ‘87 the response to the hard times and austerity was with raves fuelled by ecstasy. A mass movement of taking back disused space, and bringing in the music and people… this time though, the response has been with some the iciest techno/electronic music ever. Dubstep and ambient have been fully assimilated. The electronic music is glacial and ominous… it paints a bleak look at the present and the hopelessness of the future. That said, it’s produced some truly amazing, innovative work.

Enough nonsense. Here we go…

10. Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes (Warp)

Flying Lotus - Albums of 2012 Mix n SyncMuch more cohesive than the spasmodic Cosmogramma, this is Steven Ellison’s best work yet. People will stop by for the Thom Yorke cameo (though it’s virtually unrecognisable), but I hope they stay for the sheer inventiveness of his songs.

 9. Blondes: Blondes (Rvng Intl.)

Blondes Albums of 2012 Mix n Sync

The first full length from the Berlin-based duo brings together their previously released 12”s and a couple of new tracks. It doesn’t contain the bouncing joyousness of their earlier EP “Touched” but that may not have been the point. It’s always engrossing the their improv./jam approach to their genre creates an engrossing slice of house/techno. The bonus remixes from the likes of Rene Hell and Andy Stott are well worth checking out too

 8. Raime: Quarter Turns over a Living Line (Blackest Ever Black)

Raime - Albums of 2012 Mix n Sync

As solid a representation of Blackest Ever Black’s aesthetic as you can get. Urban, dense, industrial dub techno – following up from a string of EPs and 12”s this is a fine debut album from Raime. Along with those purveyors of dread-filled techno on Modern Love, this is a suitable microcosm of these worried times.

 7. Murmer: What are the Roots that Clutch (Helen Scarsdale)

Murmer - Albums of 2012 Mix n SyncPatrick McGinley under his ‘Murmer’ moniker constructs compositions from his field recordings taken from locals all round the world. The works of  Thomas Köner would be a good reference point for this album – drone, silence and ambience. It demands your complete attention.

 6.Merchandise: Children of Desire (Katorga Works)

Merchandise - Albums of 2012 Mix n Sync

This took me by surprise. Hadn’t been aware of Merchandise until I made one of my blind purchases of an act that was getting interesting write ups. I sat at my desk working, stuck the album on, and was then gradually taken away from what I was doing until I had to stop and give Children of Desire my full attention. If I was part of larger labels than Katorga, I’d be doing my damndest to sign them… as I’m not, I hope they stay right where they are. Highly accomplished dark synth-wave. Recommended (obviously).

 5. Demdike Stare: Elemental (Modern Love)

Demdike Albums of 2012 Mix n Sync

Demdike Stare produced my favourite album of last year, and followed up with another fantastic release. I’m not sure I have anything more to add to what I said last time around – this is another brilliant piece of work from one of the most forward thinking acts around.

4.Oren Ambarchi: Audience of One (Touch)
Oren - Albums of 2012 Mix n Sync

Oren Ambarchi’s first solo album proper since 2007 was a little bit of a departure (advancement?) from his previous work – certainly, the cover of Ace Frehley’s “Fractured Mirror” was a surprise. And whilst this is a little more accessible than earlier stuff, that is definitely not to any detriment. At all. His experimental, electronic drone roots still shine through.

 3. Lee Gamble: Diversions 1994 – 1996 (Pan)

Lee Gamble - Albums of 2012 Mix n Sync

Gamble has taken his collection of 90’s jungle, then chopped, slashed, sampled, slowed, mixed and has come up with quite spellbinding ambient results. A slow morphine-drip of an album, and like Merchandise’s ‘Children of Desire’, one of my most pleasant surprises of the year.

 2. Jam City: Classical Curves (Night Slugs)

Jam City - Albums of 2012 Mix n Sync

Batnuts-crazy, brilliant slice of… oh I don’t know… club/techno/house/dub/rnb. First put this on and I detected Dam Funk & Prince, but there’s huge depth to this work; you discover something new with each listen, and like the Lee Gamble release, it’s much, much more than the sum of its influences.

 1.Andy Stott: Luxury Problems (Modern Love)

Andy Stott - Number 1 Album of 2012 Mix n Sync

Stott has taken a grand step forward from last year’s Passed Me By/We Stay Together double EP release (and those were fabulous). Employing vocals from his old piano instructor Alison Skidmore, he’s created a dubstep-infused techno masterpiece here. From the opener ‘Numb’ to ‘Leaving’ it’s a perfectly formed album. Essential.

Other Albums, EPs, Reissues to explore:
 Laurie Spiegle: The Expanding Universe (Unseen Worlds

 Jürgen Müller: Science of the Sea (Digitalis)

 Jennifer Castle: Castlemusic (No Quarter)

 Jason Urick: I Love You (Thrill Jockey)

 Nico Muhly: Drones (Bedroom Community)

 John Roberts: Paper Frames EP (Dial)

 Lambchop: Mr. M (Merge)

 The Caretaker: Patience (After Sebald) (History Always Favours the Winners)

 Golden Retriever: Occupied with the Unspoken (Thrill Jockey)

 Sharon Van Etten: Tramp (Jagjaguwar)


Post - Andy