Happy weird rockin’ New Year’s Eve. In a continuing tradition, CDM invites back resident music curator David Abravanel to single out some beloved music of 2018. We live in fortunate times; that job is deliciously hard. But it’s a chance to discover and rediscover some great sounds.
Without exaggeration, I cannot remember the last time I’ve had such difficulty paring down a year-end list. It’s not that I necessarily heard more music in 2018 – rather, it really did seem like everything was just that much better musically. Most likely it’s the product of turbulent times – and certainly, many of these albums are neither fun nor relaxing.
Getting this down to 35 has taken me far longer than any task should take any person. I’ve removed albums which, on any random day, I might decide is the best thing I’ve heard in a decade. But here’s what’s hit me the hardest in 2018 – all lists alphabetical:
Actress x London Contemporary Orchestra – LAGEOS (Ninja Tune)
Aisha Devi – DNA Feelings (Houndstooth) Pictured, top
Aleksi Perälä – Moonshine (AP Musik)
Alva Noto – Uniqav (Noton)
Autechre – NTS Sessions 1 – 4 (Warp)
Beans – Someday This Will All Be Ash (Hello L.A.)
Brian Jonestown Massacre – Something Else (‘a’)
Concubine – 2018 (self-released)
Derek Carr – Contact (Subwax Excursions)
DJ Healer – Nothing 2 Lose (All Possible Worlds)
France Jobin – Intrication (No.)
GAS – Rausch (Kompakt)
GusGus – Lies are More Flexible (Oroom)
Inigo Kennedy – Strata (Token)
Jason Forrest – Fear City (Cock Rock Disco)
Low – Double Negative (Sub-Pop)
Meat Beat Manifesto – Impossible Star (MBM)
Mika Vainio + Ryoji Ikeda + Alva Noto – Live 2002 (Noton)
Morphology – Traveller (Firescope)
Noah Pred – Homeworld (Modular)
Positive Centre – Forever Optimum (Horo)
Pulsewidthmod – Serpentine Servitude (Detroit Underground)
Robert Lippok – Applied Autonomy (Raster Media)
Shinichi Atobe – Heat (DDS)
Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones – Vicious Circles (Planet Mu)
Skee Mask – Compro (Ilian Tape)
Stefan Goldmann – An Ardent Heart (Macro)
Steven Julien – Bloodline (Apron / LuckyMe)
The Black Dog – Black Daisy Wheel (Dust Science)
The Breeders – All Nerve (4AD)
The Field – Infinite Moment (Kompakt)
Thomas Fehlmann – Los Lagos (Kompakt)
Tom Mudd – Gutter Synthesis (Entr’acte)
V/A – Air Texture Vol. VI (Air Texture)
Wanderwelle – Gathering of the Ancient Spirits (Silent Season)
EPs / Singles
Alis – Begin (Complete) (self-released)
Aphex Twin– Collapse (Warp)
Barker – Debiasing (Ostgut Ton)
Fanu– Black Label EP (Metalheadz)
LA-4A – Slackline (Central Processing Unit)
Róisín Murphy – “Jacuzzi Rollercoaster” / “Can’t Hang On” (Vinyl Factory)
Rothko String Quarter & Kaan Bulak – “Hain I” / “Hain II” (Feral Note)
Steven Rutter & John Shima– Step Into the Light (Firescope)
umru – Search Result (PC Music)
Underworld & Iggy Pop– Teatime Dub Encounters (Caroline)
Reissues & Retrospectives
B12 – Time Tourist (Warp)
Higher Intelligence Agency & Biosphere – Polar Sequences (Biophon)
Pixies – Come On Pilgrim…It’s Surfer Rosa (4AD)
Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks (Deutsche Grammophon)
Susumu Yokota – Acid Mt. Fuji (Midgar)
This Heat – Repeat / Metal (Modern Classics)
Tin Man – Acid Acid Acid (Acid Test)
The 7th Plain – Chronicles (A-Ton)
VA – Scopex 98/00 (Tresor)
V/A – 3AM Spares (Efficient Space)
There were a number of common trends and feelings with some of the best music of 2018. Some stray observations:
- Outrage fatigue was on full display with Low’s magnificent Double Negative and Beans’ personal Someday This Will All Be Ash.
- Exciting new explorations of Electro came courtesy of LA-4A and Morphology, coupled with reminders of classics from the Scopex label.
- Taken together, Róisín Murphy’s four incredible single releases (in collaboration with left-field house/ambient stalwart Maurice Fulton) could make an AOTY candidate. Eight tracks of solid gold that should be on every dance floor.
- Fantastic year for reissues of classic ambient techno – B12, The 7th Plain, Higher Intelligence Agency, Biosphere, and Susumu Yokota all still sound vital.
- The 3AM Spares compilation was a fun discovery – picking gems from the after-hours house and breakbeat sounds of early-mid 90s Australia.
- At the risk of understatement, it’s difficult to keep up with Aleksi Perälä’s overwhelming output. That said, Moonshine was a real winner, combining his spiritual Colundi Sequence with classic jungle rhythms.
- Speaking of spiritual, it took a while to come around to it past the hype, but that DJ Healer album was something special. A real mood and atmosphere from start to finish – listen with your eyes closed.
- Some real sleeper gems from Inigo Kennedy, GusGus, The Field, and Derek Carr – RIYL techno with feels.
So dig it. And here’s to some hope in 2019! Love to you and yours.
Want more of a sampling? David has put together a Spotify list, too:
Of course, buy stuff you love from the labels.
Bonus: editor’s picks
As an addendum, I will re-gift the lineup I’ve sent to BTS / Behind the Stage, the Poland-based collective. It’s worth following their whole series, in fact:
We actually had to cut that list a little, so here’s my lucky number (13) worth / directors’ cut:
Senyawa – Sujud [Sublime Frequencies]