Every year of your life is special. In 2018, my buddy Artem Ikra officially left the project (but we still DJing as Krossfingers), website got its long-awaited fresh design and Instagram account, the podcast grown to more than 150 episodes, KF celebrated the birthday in Switzerland, played in Russia during the FIFA World Cup… So traditionally, I want to finish the year with the “best of” chart. And say thank you to all the readers, listeners and friends, see you in 2019 🙃
18. Céline Gillain – Bad Woman
Starting the top with an extraordinaire debut album of Brussels-based experimental artist Celine Gillain that came out recently on the Antinote sub-label, Drama. A modern mix of pop elements and club sounds, frightening vocals of Celine is flying around. If you heard ‘I Can’t Connect’ last year, this record is long awaited by you.
17. Eblen Macari – Música Para Planetarios
It’s a perfectly stitched reissue of a masterpiece by Mexican artist Eblen Macari. The music was created for weekly performances in the Luis Enrique Erro Planetarium in Mexico City and originally released in 1987. Joined by the likes of José Luis Almeida, ethno-rock band Tribu, Arturo Meza, Olga Martinez and his sister (the great soprano singer Jeanette Macari), Eblen created an outstanding landscape, a dream, a visible state of happiness and enlightenment. This music was conceived for a planetarium in the city where you can hardly see the stars, it is a true interstellar journey deep in your mind.
16. Jonny Nash, Lindsay Todd – Fauna Mapping
The UK super-duo created an impressive high-fidelity futuristic stereo experience in their collaborative album made of audio material collected on Bali. In some compositions, you can’t identify the natural sounds they are made from, but some are quite simple. For example, in ‘No Pigeon’, you find the percussion samples richly edited with flanger, rolling like sea waves over the listener. Or in ‘Fauna Mapping’, you see a boundless tropical storm with the singing birds illuminated with some beautiful violet sonic structures. While ‘Dengue’ is so well-processed and outlandish that you almost can’t find the elements of the field recordings in it. The opening track is the same, it also reminds me the sound design of Lnrdcroy ‘Freedom For Antboy II’. ‘Pipe To Pipe Bushment’ is one of the most complex and crisp embodiments of the term ‘tribal’. ‘Fauna Mapping’ is a deep, dreamy and fresh piece of music, a true masterpiece.
15. Anatolian Weapons – Black Sea
The slow burner of the year. After an appearance on Lena Willikens’ ‘Selectors’ compilation, Aggelos Baltas released a full EP on Lurid Music. The perfect rhythm is accompanied by a hand percussion and synchronised TB-303. Wide landscapes are punctuated by the flying synths. There’re African (samples from ‘Zanka’ by Tom Mkhize) and Arabian (‘Rahime’ by Fide Köksal sampled) influences that add colours.
14. River Yarra – Lucky Boy
One of the biggest debuts of 2018 here. The boy from Australia just killed me with the sophistication of his production and the ideas he shares there. It’s sonic, it’s massive and it’s inspiring. ‘Aorsom Wislhs’ gives a first breathe to the record, its human-like voices mutated into a pipe and create a special atmosphere. ‘Respiration Alterne e Avec Elen Huynh’ gives even more variations to the mixture of leftfield house, disco rhythms, organic samples and mechanical odd sounds cutting the track from left to right and vice versa. But the orgasmic drums in ‘Sli GGogg’ made me stop and listen it closer, the pattern of percussion here is so complex and curious, it’s made by the man with open ears and cool ideas, the exotic melody is mixed with human voices and it’s magic. ‘Space Gekko’ is untying horses and galloping into the controlled rave. Fresh and clever record!
13. Phaserboys – Phaserboys
Disco Divina meets German Angst Wave. Candomblé posse landed in aiwo rec eclectic harbor. Aki Aki and Rasputin put Phaserboys masks on and released a highly anticipated full-length EP. Detailed leisurely beats, live sounded fat bass, magic keys and lots of small details shining here and there: ‘ICE’ opens the EP with confidence. Vibrant scratches and synths in high definition. Boogie Including No Information. ‘Phase Energie’ raises the speed and rates, slamming break-cadabra-beat. So you need some fresh air in the end: mutant drum-n-bass and acid is the perfect match. Phaserboys brought lots of curiosities for the dancefloors worldwide.
12. Jason Kolar – Modified Perspectives
In the accompanying text, Ziggy told us that he “decided to compile and release [also] records by contemporary pals”. So it was “the first “new” release” on Stroom coming from the Barcelona-based Jason Kòlar (the moniker of Cristian Subirà). The opening ‘Clairvoyance’ sets the tone and the dimensions of space. It’s not an easy listening ambient music, the music for a background but pure emotions expressed in a sound. It grows organically and breathes as the human. ‘Corners’ is a mesmerizing ballad without lyrics and beat but its shimmering keys can steal your heart. The whole record sounds like the sky full of strange objects or a glass reflective and refractive the light. It’s strange and beautiful.
11. Crave / Lieu Noir – Split
This 8-inch record lovely “packed in beautiful half silver/half transparent sleeve” is an object you can 1) put in a capsule to save it for the next generations 2) launch into space to fly there along Tesla and be opened by the aliens. The music here is “the most cryptic vantage point, the most animalistic and feral, indescribable in human language”, but I will try. Four tracks, diverse in style but with the same acidic, explosive flavour. Black metal and industrial with elements of experimental hip-hop and abstract slow-motion techno music. The temperature inside is red hot, the sound feels like a gun you’re afraid to grab. it’s like an airplane flying low above the ground and spitting bombs. You’re rushing to the finish in the Formula One Bolide.
10. DJ Ungel – Diffused Engines
Another perfect dance record from Dusseldorf. The Candomble boy, DJ Ungel, delivered “mystic breakbeat and shamanic acid from deep fractal wells of pan-consciousness” on Mirror Zone in September. Uplifting stuff.
9. Various Artists – Club Meduse
The compilation of the year, ‘Club Meduse’ is a result of Charles Bals’ research focused on the music between the 1970s and 1990s. The story contains 13 chapters. Starts from the enigmatic laidback folk-rock ballad accompanied by a drum machine from the self-titled album by Bastion from 1984. Rock fusing with disco into the desert mirage in the epic ‘Savannah’ by The Keyboys. Then you will hear one of the most beautiful songs in your life: the angelic voice of Ara Macao makes extraordinary pirouettes on top of the pure Balearic beat. Chris & Kylie turn everything upside down and makes a debauch with their dirty dance in ‘Feelin Good’. Charles injects extra sweetness with his own edit of The One O Ones’ song ‘Radio Cosmo 101’ (recorded to promote Italian radio station at the time). There are also used both sides of The Clean Hands Group’s 12” from 1984, ‘Night Fly’ from A-side is a light breeze and sand on your feet while ‘Shake It Off’ from the B-side burns unknown flame in the heart of every listener with its synth lines. Crazy disco produced by Jean-Pierre Bernard Massiera shines and flirts in ‘Hip Hop’ by Miss from the same 1984 year. And finally, Bals closing the compilation perfectly with the mysterious jungle mover from the hot nights of the 7” by Eddy La Viny. What a trip!
8. Ingus Baušķenieks – Spoki
It’s one of my fave records on Stroom. Spoki (Ghosts) is a compilation of the incredible Latvian composer and multi-instrumentalist Ingus Baušķenieks. He was a part of band Dzeltenie Pastnieki who released six albums between 1981 and 1987, but at some point he decided to start experimenting on his own. And Spoki is focused on its results where he was “exploring and pushing the limits of himself and technology to realise the music in his head”. Main inspirations for Ingus was music of Can, King Crimson and Kraftwerk but also the ‘one man orchestra’ ideas of the likes of Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield. Fragile, incredibly made and unique sound of Ingus catches your ear right from the first sounds of hypnotic ‘Kur Tu Esi?’. Ballads, lullabies, alienistic experiments. ‘Lidojums Uz Sauli’ is one of the best songs I heard recently, heavenly keys, warmth, muffle beat and gentle vocals make it special.
7. Suba – Wayang
Another previously unreleased chapter of Mitar Subotić’ story got a physical shape this February on Offen Music. The legendary Yugoslavian musician used Suba moniker for the Wayang album, the moniker he was using in São Paulo where he moved in the 90s and became one of Brazil’s most demanded producers of the time. Apocalyptic, a bit theatrical and cinematic feeling unites this music and Rex Ilusivii, here it got more orgiastic tribal quality of the sound. Around the end of the record, screaming strings and didgeridoo, dark synthetic waves of something unexplainable, reckless vocal samples and lazers create a soundtrack to the end of the world. But everything starts with very curious dub rhythms (Wayang 01), then moves to experimental downtempo with world music flavor (Wayang 02) and some primeval war songs (Wayang 03). Unique music from quite mysterious Brazilian period of Subotić work, when he released just one album, São Paulo Confessions, right before his death.
6. Señora – Señora
My favorite reissue of 2018. And you can also understand why it is a “favourite German ‘Fusion not Fusion’ Jazz album” for Basso, one of the coolest diggers on the planet. Just listen it. For me, it’s like a marvel, like a dream of you opening the box that was sealed for decades, and there’s even the smell of different time inside. It doesn’t mean the music is outdated, no, it’s out of time. In my head, it awakens the images of the idealized 80s like VHS image quality, over-optimistic commercials, flying above the New York skyline, woman with crazy hairstyle in some TV series. Señora was a German quartet (bass, drums, piano, guitar) privately released the only one, self-titled, album in 1981. You can describe this brilliantly named album only with words you could say also about a lady – gorgeous, charming and inspiring.
5. Golden Ivy – Monika
It is, probably, one of the most beautiful albums of 2018. It fits to look through the window on the blue evening winter landscape, with the lights turned off. Monotonous mechanic base with violin, flute and some physical sounds on top. Simon Eliasson described its tone perfectly: “it captures the melancholy, isolation and beauty of being alone with nature, and of being home in oneself.
4. Wrong Water – Dozen
My fave Ukrainian label Muscut made a noise on Meakusma festival this year with Chillera performance and celebrated its tenth release with a big compilation. But its biggest release this year was ‘Dozen’ album by Flaty as Wrong Water. Its sonic palette is so rich and music message is so powerful and sophisticated that I can’t resist to listen it again and again. Drawing inspiration from the music of such electronic pioneers as Delia Derbyshire, Bruce Haack and Mort Garson, there’re bizarre synth sketches (‘Informacia’), epic ambient necklace (‘Opportunity Is Closed’), 90s dubby instrumentals (‘Inlander’), melted sounds (‘Whistle Song’ or opener ‘Vibrant’). This record made me understand that Eugenii Fadeev is one of the finest electronic composers of our time.
3. Interchain – Plenum
The one of my fave live acts from Russia debuted confidently on Hivern Discs. ‘Plenum’ is an ambitious project of Eugene Gorbunov and Andrew Lee, the album based on childhood memories about Perestroika, 1985-1991, the time when the whole country was witnessing the collapse of the USSR on state TV broadcast. The fear of something inexplicable, fatuity of trying to change anything, the feeling of control, spy games, uniform clothing – these vague images pop in the mind along the listening process. The brutal atmosphere of punk aesthetics, grainy sound and pulsating narcotic rhythms, mutated radio noises, uncertainty and the freedom of expression demonstrated by the Moscow duo here make Plenum one of the most complex and unique albums of the year.
2. Eleventeen Eston – At The Water
Perth magician John Tanner aka Eleventeen Eston found the perfect home for his second album, Basso’s Growing Bin cabin. Rich guitar ambient motives in the opening ‘C In Sympathy’ sounds like the unreleased Joan Bibiloni. Deep melodic music sounds like the early morning light through the dim glass. Piano at the end of ‘East Perth Stories’ is like a soundtrack to some 90s indie movie, it sounds so serene and enlightened. Cranky beats of ‘The Four Fountains’ move you in the warm waves of the light guitar sounds. Mysterious ‘I Remember’ is probably one of the most beautiful ambient, instrumental moments I ever heard. Distant flute or saxophone adds on the B-side in the sprawling ‘I FLoat I Am Free’. Amazing album from a very special producer.
1. Black Merlin – Kosua
In the anxious times of discussions about interference in the elections, data leaks and climate change, this album is a resting point, it sounds like a breath of the Earth. It’s strong, global and mythical. George Thompson delivered his second album based on the field recordings and experience from the trip to Papua New Guinea. Kosua is the name of the tribe that he met on the expedition deep inside the country. You can hear here the whole trip, from the apocalyptic intro in ‘Feeling Color’ and helicopter sounds in the pink-floydish ’Self Heat’ to traditional dance in ‘Chief Sigalo Bao Dance’ and gigantic pictures of the Mount Bosavi crater in ‘Standing At The Summit Of Bosavi’. Feel it.
Bonus: my top-40 Bandcamp releases on Buy Music Club
Words Sasha Tessio