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Albums of the Year 2014

Bracken didn’t resist existing, Kate Tempest spoke truth to power, Neneh Cherry came back from a 18 year break, and of course there was a Brian Jonestown Massacre release. Also Aphex Twin sent us his invoice.
1. Album Of The Year!

Bracken
Exist/Resist

It's been almost ten years since Chris Adams' band Hood played its last show and almost seven since his last solo mutterings under the Bracken moniker. This year's flash-released Downpour download-only comeback hinted that he might be about to get back in the game and this low-key release signals an intent to emerge slowly out of the shadows. Really, it would be a travesty to end all travesties (not prone to overstatement are we?) if Exist/resist didn't get heard by a wider audience. It's a superb document of his abilities as a producer and songwriter, with cherry-picked influences from all over the place -- from dubstep to oddball pop to experimental ambience. These won't be around long so you'll have to be mega quick.    
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Ian William Craig
A Turn Of Breath

Ian William Craig makes choral drone music on this stunning ambient record with the most fitting title of the year: 'A Turn Of Breath'. Craig performs warm vocal harmonies and stretches them to their breaking point, backing them with crackling drones that feel both part of nature and decidedly bedroom pop. 'A Turn Of Breath' is the perfect record for fans of experimental vocalists and ambient musicians like Julianna Barwick, Christina Carter and those beautiful segments of Colin Stetson records. 
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The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Revelation

Led by the infamous Anton Newcombe, Brian Jonestown Massacre recorded their 14th album, Revelation in Newcombe’s Berlin studio over 18 months between 2012 and 2014. Eastern influences had started to make their way into the band’s psychedelic groove. The band are a swirling collective helmed by Newcombe, and this time the musicians were Joachim Ahlund of Les Big Byrds, Constantine Karlis from Dimmer and Asteroid #4’s Ryan Van Kriedt.
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Last Ex
Last Ex

Timber Timbre chaps Simon Trottier and Olivier Fairfield dip their toes into experimental instrumental rock with new project Last Ex, which takes its name from an abandoned film which Timber Timbre recorded a soundtrack for a couple of years ago, which started the pair down this particular avenue. Mixing sweeping cinematic strings and Morricone-inspired guitar with elements of sound collage and tape manipulation and recommended for fans of "early Trans Am, early/mid Tortoise" in the press release, this could be interesting!
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Virginia Wing
Measures Of Joy

South London four piece Virginia Wing's debut album promises some slinky and dream-like electronic pop which owes debts to early Krautrock, revered Brum legends Broadcast and the Radiophonic pioneers of wibbly otherworldly electronics. Also see the trance-like post-punk rhythmic drive of, say, This Heat. 'Measures of Joy' is certainly a hazy montage of moody electronics, dreamily sung and sometimes spoken vocals, with subtle musique concrete influences. Indespensible, one of the best 43 minutes of the year. Proper full review to follow shortly but this crystalline beauty could creep onto a couple of end-of-year lists.
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Memory Drawings
There Is No Perfect Place

The first 200 copies of the album comes with a bonus CD containing excellent remixes by The Sly and Unseen, Benoit Pioulard, William Ryan Fritch, Pausal, A New Line (Related), and Talvihorros. Memory Drawings consist of American hammered dulcimer player Joel Hanson who alongside Hood's Richard Adams and Lanterns on the Lake's Sarah Kemp to create beguiling instrumental chamber folk music. 'There is No Perfect Place" is their second full length album following the well-received and long sold out 'Music for Another Loss' on Second Language. It continues their infatuation with cinematic textures and 'Straight Story' soundtrack like instrumental vignettes but widens their pallete with kraut-driven opuses like 'The Island of the Day Before' and the gorgeous Talk Talk/Sakamoto piece 'There is a World Without You'. 
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Sleaford Mods
Divide And Exit

Divide And Exit by Sleaford Mods is the follow-up to their breakthrough compilation album, Austerity Dogs. I think it’s fair to say that the Nottingham duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearns, mixing beats, samples with sharp, witty lyrics and punk delivery have come up with a bit of classic. Includes the single, Tiswas.
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Scott Walker & Sunn O)))
Soused

Continuing their tireless campaign to work with every single artist and band threatening to be more bizarre and avant-garde than them, 'Soused' is the fifth collaborative record in Sunn O)))'s one-chord arsenal, following splits and records with Earth, Boris, Nurse With Wound and Ulver. This time around, they meet baritone pop singer -- gone crazy experimental musique concrete alien -- Scott Walker, who you at least have to admit is the most suitable Walker brother for Sunn to do an album with. Nicknamed Scott O))), Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson join together to make some lovely evil drone sounds for Walker to brood over. It's fifty minutes long and Walker's producing partner Peter Walsh probably got knocked out while it was being recorded, after maybe saying something like "Sunn Who???". It's the follow-up to 'Terrestrials' for Sunn and 'Bish Bosch' for Walker. 
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Tape
Casino

Swedish post-rockers Tape recall bands like Jaga Jazzist and Bluebridge Quartet in making soft, patient compositions around clean guitar with very slight jazz influences. Their new record, 'Casino', is another down-tempo affair with placating riffs, dramatic keys and guitar abstractions that in places are reminiscent of Boris' 'Flood'. Post-rock when it's just nice.
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Grouper
Ruins

'Ruins' is the newest record by drone folk artist Grouper. Recorded in a house near a lost, deserted village in Portugal, under the usual reclusive conditions that Liz Harris writes music, the record is the closest her project has gotten to capturing actual songs, each performed on a piano and recorded immediately to a 4-track. 'Ruins' finds Harris either performing spectral ballads, fashioned after her ambient leanings, or thrumming on the piano like it's just another part of the natural environment. It's arguably her sparsest record yet -- right down to the incidental recordings of rain and animals chirping -- and the closest the listener will get to hearing Harris' voice upfront.
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Mohammad
Lamnè Gastama

Mohammad make chamber drone, taking cellos and other traditional acoustic instruments and sustaining them, as if they're being sharpened like a knife. The result is a sound that's both unsettling and unprecedented. They've already released one record this year, 'Zo Rél Do', which they claim is part of a trilogy that "explores the sounds of the geographical area between 34°N - 42°N &  19° E - 29° E". Of course. The next record in the project is 'Lamnè Gastama', and it promises the same dark, unwavering sound. 
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Aphex Twin
Syro

Well we'll be blowed. The threats have actually finally come true. Aphex Twin's first proper new studio album for Warp since the divisive confused bulk of 2001's 'Drukqs' is due towards the end of September 2014. The artwork is quasi-cryptic and minimal as you can see. What the material will sound like is the stuff of many an "IDM" fanboy/girl's social networking dreams. What we do know is that this is the most exciting news in electronic music we've heard since the deluge of Analord material for his own Rephlex that seems like many, many moons ago. Yes, he could have written it on his laptop in the bog last month or yes, it could be archive stuff more than a decade old. Will there be a "Windowlicker" on there? Whatever, we can surmise all we like but this is literally amazing news for his countless fanatical devotees around the globe and is bound to hold some surprises. 
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Shellac
Dude Incredible

FACTS!This is Shellac’s fifth LP following Axtion Park, Terraform, 1000 Hurts and Excellent Italian Greyhound.  The recording took place sporadically over the past few years at Steve's ELECTRICAL AUDIO studios in Chicago. The record was mastered by Steve Rooke at ABBEY ROAD. There is no comma in ‘Dude Incredible’; like Sir Duke or King Friday, for example. PACKAGING Both the CD and LP version of Dude Incredible come packaged in a chipboard album jacket with two high gloss, full color monkeys on the front cover. The LP includes a CD of the full album. QC Audio quality is paramount, as always, with Shellac. The LP was mastered entirely in the analog domain, using the DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) process. The LPs are being manufactured at RTI  in Camarillo, CA, using their HQ-180 system. The pressings are 180 gram audiophile quality.
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Ultimate Painting
Ultimate Painting

A collaboration between Jack Cooper & James Hoare of Mazes & Veronica Falls fame, respectively. Sharing the songwriting evenly between the pair, they craft some fine, Velvet Underground-esque indie rock ranging from the chilled to the pumping. A great combination of the lads intertwining vocals and jangling guitars.
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Warm Widow
Childless


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Gareth Dickson
Invisible String

Gareth Dickson makes slow-moving acoustic songs and releases them as homespun records. He's performed guitar duties for Vashti Bunyan's live band now and then, suggesting a modest songwriter with a patient mind. There are also hints of an ambient influence in Dickson's work, as he brings in synthwork and manipulates his guitar notes. 'Invisible String' collects together the finest moments in Dickson's tour of Europe from two years ago.
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Death Blues
Ensemble

'Ensemble' offers up a suffocating collection of percussive, cacophonous compositions from art rock crew Death Blues. Jon Mueller is at the forefront, so of course this thing is fronted by an intense drum performance, while the violins and strings swell and tremble around him in fear. The record comes with supplementary essays about "presence and experience". Recommended for fans of A Silver Mt Zion and the Dirty Three, if they could terrify you just that little bit extra.
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Horsebeach
Horsebeach

Written over the space of a year, but recorded in a fortnight, straight to tape, in Ryan's central Manchester flat, 'Horsebeach' is a gorgeous journey through Northern, jangly, dreamy guitar pop. From as far back as The Wake, through the now de rigeur C86, and of course via The Smiths, this is bedroom introspection gone widescreen. Gorgeous songs of love and longing, this music has a lilting, drifting quality, sometimes reminiscent of Felt, or of a meandering, jangletastic Real Estate, of whom Ryan is clearly a fan. Chiming guitars, brooding melodies, thoughtful words. 'Horsebeach' is a very lovely record indeed.
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Flying Lotus
You’re Dead!

Steve Ellison, the experimental wizard of instrumental hip-hop (who occasionally moonlights as the rapper Captain Murphy) is back with his first FlyLo release since 2012's 'Until The Quiet Comes'. Ever popular with the world of music around him, 'You're Dead!' has a whole new roster of features and contributors to its name, including jazz-funk legend Herbie Handcock, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few. Of course, FlyLo will also be joined by Brainfeeder pal Thundercat.
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Alex G
DSU

Right, people. We've been listening to this in the office for what seems like the last 6 months and we think it's going to take you by storm. Think of all the '90's lo-fi greats (but particularly Pavement) rolled up into a one man slacker-pop songwriting machine and you are in the ballpark.  Get in on the ground floor. 
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A Winged Victory For The Sullen
Atomos

Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran return with their second studio album inspired by contemporary dance and new instrumentation. After releasing a first glimpse in the form of the ‘Atomos VII’ EP earlier this year, A Winged Victory For The Sullen finally reveal their second full-length album entitled ‘Atomos’, which besides familiar piano, string and drone sounds also sees the duo introduce flurries of electronics, harp and modular synthesisers. IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “As a wise man once said, one who procrastinates their own choosing will inevitably have their choice served to them by circumstance. We had virtually no time for second guessing ourselves. That being said, we tried to balance the discordance between being creative, and fulfilling our duties for a commissioned soundtrack with a very strict deadline, and all the while staying true to our collective melancholy.” – Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie “We never imagined 2013 would be such an explosively creative year. The first record took us two years from start to finish, but in the micro span of time over last summer we were able to change the formula for the way we write, record, liberating.” – Dustin O'Halloran
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Dean Blunt
Black Metal

This probably isn't the new Bathory album. Dean Blunt, previously of Hype Williams fame, is becoming one of the most singular voices and visionaries in what we would probably call 'experimental' music. He makes records that traverse genre after genre until they all diminish (seriously, though -- 'The Redeemer' is voicemail-core, with plenty of diversions into funk, vaporwave and folk). His newest work is called 'Black Metal', but continues to mix, match and create new sounds that feel both detached and intimate. 
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Hookworms
The Hum

Third album from Leeds-based psychedelic noise band Hookworms. With a new drummer on board, this is a more confident, leaner and meaner offering from the band Julian Cope described as a "...sub-Zabriskie Point ambient road-movie heat haze-on-the-road sonic wipeout." The limited edition comes on clear vinyl with a free 7" (note the limited edition is long sold out!). Both versions come with free download. 
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The Bug
Angels & Devils

Plenty of big-name collaborators on The Bug's latest, 'Angels & Devils'. Billed as a "battle between utopian and dystopian" (but definitely not a "concept album", oh no) you get Liz Harris (Grouper), Warrior Queen, Gonjasufi, Miss Red, Death Grips, Manga (Roll Deep), Copeland and Flowdan for your money. Pulling together "the fringes of all outsider music into a common voice" according to the press release, the 'Angels' side is described as "the heady/heavy dubbed out Angels side of the equation" whilst 'Devils' "brings The Bug's grime/ragga bass beat downs back into play". Should be interesting!
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Dalglish
Dorcha Aigeann

Here's something that will sell out quickly. Chris Douglas's Dalglish project has long been a go to for visionary future thinking electronics and as our Ant says in a previous review "Just reading the words Dalglish and vinyl in the same sentence is enough to make hardcore electronic music fans salivate". The label describes this release as  "a web of splintering percussive patterns, arrhythmic textures and amorphous forms, titled in an asymmetrical variant of Scots Gaelic". Run of 300 copies. -On clear vinyl with white label. Enclosed in silkscreened PVC cover containing thumb cut slit.-Includes transparent film insert. -Contains two locked grooves at the conclusion of Side A and Side B. 
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Wildbirds & Peacedrums
Rhythm

An office favourite and the promo has only been in the place a week. It has since disappeared into various homes for night listening which is as good a recommendation as you can get. Therefore I'm the wrong person to write the press blurb as I was the only one to spit the words "experimental Winehouse" in it's direction. It certainly sounds like the career defining record that the press release talks about, based around the primal rhythms and soulful vocals of the Swedish husband and wife team it hold no punches whatsoever. Certainly fans of Neneh Cherry's last album, or the 80's pounding of Pigbag or ESG are going to find much to enjoy. 
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Wand
Ganglion Reef

Pyschedelic fuzzmongers Wand release their debut album 'Ganglion Reef' on GOD? records ahead of a US tour with Ty Segall. Sun drenched '60s garage pop with a heavy fuzz haze, this LA 4-piece provide a shimmering laid-back soundtrack to a chilled out summer driving along Route 66 in a soft top Chevrolet. Or even just a trip to B&Q. 
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