1
James Ferraro
Far Side Virtual
(Hippos In Tanks)

The former Skater’s soundtrack to a life of online entertainment, consumerism, iPads and instant communication was the first album he had put together on a computer, and its piercing preset sounds dispelled the haze of his old bedroom tape dubs like morning sun burning away fog. Far Side Virtual, bolted together with software start-up tones, audio idents and dialogue from real and imaginary adverts, felt like a cross between fusion à la George Duke, second wave electro of the Detroit school, and music to a corporate video. Located somewhere between a wide-eyed eulogy and a deadpan parody of the plugged-in, branded world, its pristine glide through shopping malls, sushi bars and customer service automatons is simultaneously elating and unnerving. We said: “Whether or not its creator is giggling through a bong smoke haze, Far Side Virtual is a convincing evocation of the digital dreamtime.” (November/333)

2
Rustie
Glass Swords
(Warp)

After signing to Warp in 2008, it took Glaswegian producer Russell Whyte three years to get his debut album out. Fittingly, Glass Swords felt like a sweeping statement, revealing ambitions that his pre-Warp releases merely hinted at: the grand scale of pop music and the thematic flourish of Prog were expressed in the vernacular of dance music. We said: “The music sounds slow and fast at the same time, anchored by juddering bass weight and pulled aloft by high-end rushes… Rustie has subdued the enormous, unwieldy beasts of Prog and plugged their mighty bodies into a dance matrix.” (October/332)

3
Eliane Radigue
Transamorem – Transmortem
(Important)

The veteran French electronic composer’s 67 minute composition for ARP synth was originally recorded in 1973 for a sound installation. A long, uninterrupted piece marked by minute shifts in frequency, it marks Radigue’s move from tape experiments to drone works. We said: “An unqualified success… perhaps the most exacting examination of stasis in sound in all of her increasingly weighty discography.” (October/332)

4
Hype Williams
One Nation
(Hippos In Tanks)

The third album from Inga Copeland and Dean Blunt – and their last before solo projects by both members began to surface – was wrapped up in the usual subterfuge and smokescreen: even its track titles were derived from Wiley lyrics or consumer brands. What emerged stumbling and blinking into the light was a recurring daydream of melancholy keyboard laments, untethered memories of pop hits, and home chemistry set experiments in bass science, all knitted together with Echoplex effects. We said: “One Nation’s ability to alternate and combine insolence with detachment yields moments of inspired incongruity.” (July/329)

5
The Beach Boys
The SMiLE Sessions
(Capitol)

It’s been called ‘The greatest album never released’: Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks and an uncomprehending rest of the group left this sprawling mass of songs and fragments in 1967, now painstakingly reassembled as a five CD and double LP package with a 60 page book, documenting this grand American song cycle in its raw, provisional form. We said: “At the heart of SMiLE lies the question of how to make a society, how to live joyfully in a state of knowledge… SMiLE aimed to make the most idiosyncratic, personal and obscure music accessible to the greatetst number of listeners.” (December/334)

6
Michael Chapman
The Resurrection And Revenge Of The Clayton Peacock
(Ecstatic Peace!)

One of three records Chapman released in 2011, the entirely improvised Clayton Peacock heralded the remarkable rehabilitation of the Yorkshire guitarist and singer whose career began 40 years ago as labelmate of Roy Harper and Kevin Ayers. Via feedback howls, singing bowls and extended techniques, it paid ritual tribute to both John Fahey and the recently departed Jack Rose. We said: “Chapman [sounds] as surprised (and delighted) as the listener to hear the waves of energy he lets loose from his instrument… the iridescence of the playing… is dazzling.” (July/329)

7
DJ Rashad
Just A Taste
(Ghettophiles)

Chicago DJ/producer Rashad Harden ws weaned on Ghetto House and Juke and is now a major player within the city’s Footwork scene. Just A Taste is one of several releases Rashad was involved in this year, an indication of the growing global interest in this insular, localised and long-gestating phenomenon. The ten tracks – including five collaborations, one featuring rapping from Add-2 – balance the 4/4 impetus with the beat breakdowns that make Footwork so exhilarating, integrating soulful sweeps with rap fragments to make weirdly hypnotic rhythm mosaics.

8
Laurel Halo
Hour Logic
(Hippos In Tanks)

Lively sprites rather than ashen ghosts were the motif of choice in defining the plastic, freefalling digitalia of this young electronic artist from Brooklyn. Her weightless, high-contrast tracks teetered on the fine line between club chowder and brain food. We said: “The title track is a little marvel of audio feng shui, balancing wide and warm horizons of synth-waft with a chalky-yet-fluorescent bassline, gossamer percussion and pensive chords… [It] feels new and now.” (August/330)

9
Lou Reed & Metallica
Lulu
(Warner Brothers)

The year’s most unlikely coupling was always destined to birth some kind of monster. But this rock opera based on Wedekind’s 19th century Lulu plays (already the subject of Berg’s expressionist opera) proved surprisingly robust, with Metallica’s monolithic sledgehammer attack providing the perfect foil to Reed’s songs of masochism, male domination and compassionless love. We said: “Against all the odds, Lulu functions as the ultimate realisation of Reed’s aesthetic of Metal Machine Music, cruel, vulgar, half in love with power and pain but with a bruised, beating heart at its centre.” (December/334)

10
John Wall & Alex Rodgers
Work 2006–2011
(Entr’acte)

A reclusive computer musician and a mouthy punk poet proved the perfect odd couple on this collection of recordings quietly accumulated over the last half-decade. John Wall was jolted out of composer’s block by the challenge of producing short, mobile pieces for use in live performance, and these fractured tone stuctures provide a stark, alien environment for Rodgers’s visionary meditations on the banalities of modern life. We said: “An allusive and wonderfully nuanced merging of text and digital sound.” (August/330)

11
Keiji Haino/Jim O’Rourke/Oren Ambarchi
In A Flash Everything Comes Together As One There Is No Need For A Subject
(Black Truffle)

12
Sun Araw
Ancient Romans
(Drag City/Sun Ark)

13
Bill Orcutt
How The Thing Sings
(Editions Mego)

14
Oneohtrix Point Never
Replica
(Software)

15
Peaking Lights
936
(Not Not Fun)

16
Corrupted
Garten Der Unbewusstheit
(Nostalgia Blackrain)

17
Balam Acab
Wander/Wonder
(Tri Angle)

18
Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer
Re: ECM
(ECM)

19
Anti G
Presents 'Kentje'sz Beatsz'
(Planet Mu)

20
Thomas Ankersmit & Valerio Tricoli
Forma II
(Pan)

21
PJ Harvey
Let England Shake
(Island/Vagrant)

22
Cornelius Cardew
The Great Learning
(Bolt)

23
Thundercat
The Golden Age Of Apocalypse
(Brainfeeder)

24
Hecker
Speculative Solution
(Editions Mego)

25
Andy Stott
We Stay Together
(Modern Love)

26
Various
Rinse 16: Mixed By Ben UFO
(Rinse)

27
Radiohead
The King Of Limbs
(XL)

28
Margaret Dygas
Margaret Dygas
(Perlon)

29
Jim O’Rourke
Old News #5
(Editions Mego)

30
Various
Bangs And Works Vol 2: The Best Of Chicago Footwork
(Planet Mu)

31
Ekoplekz
Intrusive Incidentalz Vol 1
(Punch Drunk)

32
Tim Hecker
Ravedeath, 1972
(Kranky)

33
The Advisory Circle
As The Crow Flies
(Ghost Box)

34
Miles Davis
Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol 1
(Sony)

35
Alexander Tucker
Dorwytch
(Thrill Jockey)

36
Helm
Cryptography
(Alter)

37
John Chantler
The Luminous Ground
(Room40)

38
Ectoplasm Girls
TxN
(Ideal)

39
Cindytalk
Hold Everything Dear
(Editions Mego)

40
Frank Ocean
Nostalgia, Ultra
(No label)

41
Kuedo
Severant
(Planet Mu)

42
Sculpture
Toad Blinker
(Dekorder)

43
The Fall
Erstaz GB
(Domino)

44
Leyland Kirby
Intrigue & Stuff Vol 1
(History Always Favours The Winners)

45
Patrice & Friends
Cashmere Sheets
(Sulk)

46
Zomby
Dedication
(4AD)

47
Various
Music For Merce (1952-2009)
(New World)

48
Peter Evans Quintet
Ghosts
(More Is More)

49
Rrose x Bob Ostertag
Motormouth Variations
(Sandwell District)

50
Metronomy
The English Riviera
(Because)

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