The best albums and EPs of the year 2021 so far - October - Music - Mixmag

Welcome to the October section of our best albums and EPs of the year 2021 rundown — read the full list here


Uganda queer collective ANTI-MASS’ six-track ‘DOXA’ compilation is a thrilling insight into the free-form club constructions coming out of the East African nation. Featuring solo tracks and collaborations by Authentically Plastic, Nsasi and Turkana, the sounds are frantic and unstable, refracting styles such as techno and gqom through their unique artistic lens to light up soundsystems.

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Lotic ‘Water’ (Houndstooth)

Lotic’s second album ‘Water’ sounds as fluid as its title suggests, soaking listeners in a mix of eerie, high-pitched sounds, captivating vocals, shifting percussive lines, and more. There’s elements that could be likened to Björk or ANOHNI, fused with Lotic’s own distinct personality, tenderness and disruptive vision. A spoken word assertion from Julius Errol Flynn exclaiming “It’s she — she’s the bitching you gagging for!” rings true.

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Davis Galvin ‘Muunun’ (Self-released)

This is a magical EP from Davis Galvin. The Pittsburgh artist knows how to inject life into a dancefloor with their head-spinning DJ sets and tracks, and that ability is on full display across the four tracks on ‘Muunun’, From reverb-soaked crunch to uplifting trance melodies to wig-out experimentalism, it’s bold and highly danceable throughout. ‘Rissp’ is a particular gem.

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The inaugural release from PHENOMENA, a freshly launched record label based between Australia and the UK, has got us very excited about these new kids on the club block. Pulling together 10 tracks from some of the brightest talents from Naarm/Melbourne’s club scene, it’s punchy, pacey and primed for the rave.

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Beneath ‘Numbers Talk’ (Livity Sound)

Beneath passes the UK techno litmus test, landing the coveted Pev seal of approval with his first release on Livity Sound. ‘Numbers Talk’ comprises four sleek soundsystem-inspired productions that fit right in amid the label’s exceptional catalogue.

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V/A ‘Tresor 30’ (Tresor Records)

This whopping 52-track compilation from legendary Berlin techno institution Tresor is a fitting testament to the label’s sustained relevancy for a full three decades. Featuring tracks by seminal legends such as Jeff Mills, Juan Atkains and the late K-Hand alongside nu skool heroes like Huey Mnemonic, Lara Sarkissian and LSDXOXO, it perfectly encapsulates Tresor’s status as a pivotal player in the early development of techno and its evolution into the future.

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Ivy Lab ‘Press Play’ (Dirtybird)

Dirtybird’s White Label series continues to serve up gems outside the label’s usual remit, with this four-track EP from UK bass stalwarts Ivy Lab making for its rudest release yet. It opens up weighty and murky, and goes on to explore shimmering atmospheres, wonky acid, uplifting breaks, and more.

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Eris Drew ‘Quivering In Time’ (T4T LUV NRG)

Eris Drew is one of the most special DJs of our times, channelling her symbiotic relationship with rave music and its healing qualities into transcendent sets. Simultaneously uplifting, energising and refreshing, they seem to tap into something far bigger than what is possible to process in the throes of the dance. Her debut album ‘Quivering In Time’ has the same effect: sequencing nine stratospherically euphoric tracks into a sublime showcase of the Motherbeat.

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aya 'im hole' (Hyperdub)

Past releases on Wisdom Teeth and YCO had always been filled to the brim with experimentation, but for her Hyperdub debut, 'im hole' feels like aya is getting down to business. The record frantically pulsates between eerie and beautiful, making for a sometimes wonderful, sometimes upsetting mind-bender. A particular highlight is 'Emley lights us moor (feat Iceboy Violet)' - its warring vocals and insect-like percussion will have the hairs on your arms standing on end.

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Paramida 'Dream Ritual' (Love On The Rocks)

Panorama Bar resident Paramida has gained a reputation for treating the Berlin crowds to a punchy mixture of rhymic house and gratifying synth-pop, so if you were expecting her four-tracker 'Dream Ritual' to be packed to the rim with club bops you won't be disappointed. 'Dream Ritual' is a graceful mix of heady kick drums and dreamy synths, while 'French House 2000' is reminiscent of early 90s floor fillers, daring you to shake your hips. A real treat comes in the way of the included remixes, one, a dubby rework of the title-track, from both Eris Drew and Octo Octa. The other, a trippy, acid-filled reimagining of the second track from Youandewan.

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Joy Crookes 'Skin' (Insanity Records)

'Skin' is the kind of album that will linger in your mind long after your first listen, resurfacing when you least expect it. A narrative as much inspired by politics as nostalgia, Crookes touches on issues such as gentrification, racism, familial trauma, sexual violence, even Brexit — all the while pulling a multitude of influences from her background. The album fluctuates from vintage influences - with its big band production and trumpets, effortlessly slinking into modern hi-hats and smooth synths. An intimate understanding of an artist if there ever was any.

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Lone 'Always Inside Your Head' (Greco Roman)

Lone is a man of many genres, having dabbled in everything from techno to grime instrumental to sunshine house, he's never been one to be tied down to anyone's expectations. 'Always In Your Head' feels like a culmination of everything the Nottingham-born producer has touched upon so far — atmospheric ambient breaks are matched with delicate liquid drum 'n' bass rhythm in 'Realise', while 'Mouth of God' picks up the pace with pulsating percussion and acid riffs. It's a record that treats you to gloomy, club-ready moments as much as it delivers an ethereal sonic soundscape in which to reflect.

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PinkPantheress ‘To hell with it’ (Parlophone and Elektra Records)

Pinkpantheress’ highly anticipated debut mixtape provides soft vocals, rolling drums, varied tempos into a highly enjoyable listening experience. Opened by her hit song ‘Pain’, which samples UKG classic ‘Flowers’, this album successfully brings together the unique sound of bedroom-produced, dance-influenced pop that is being created by a new generation of musicians.

The lyrics in each of her songs narrates a story and pulls listeners through a musical journey. Though short, only lasting 27 minutes, each track is cleverly composed, snappy and versatile — the tunes are fit for the club, the shower, an after-party or a morning run.

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Charlotte De Witte ‘Asura’ (KNTXT)

Many of Charlotte De Witte’s psychedelic influences can be heard in her new three-track EP ‘Asura’. The title-track features techno, bass, and acid, while 'Soma' adds more drums and psychedelia to the mix. To cap off a high-energy, rave-ready release, the final track hits with pounding techno, drums, and acid.

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Digga D ‘Red Light Green Light’ (Digga D TV)

Digga D’s three-track release ‘Red Light Green Light’ consists of tracks, ‘Red Light Green Light’, ‘Wasted’ and ‘2k17’. ‘Red Light Green Light’ came after much fan anticipation following the rapper sharing teasers on his social media. The opening song’s lyrics are socio-culturally charged and reflect his own life’s journey and hardships.

The feel-good track ‘Wasted’, featuring ArrDee, samples the iconic T2 track ‘Heartbroken’ and the final song ‘2k17’ has cleverly crafted lyrics which are laced by a catchy beat.

The cover of the album is inspired by the hit Netflix show Squid Game and the visuals for the lead track are inspired by characters and plotlines of the TV show.

Stream the album here

Arjun Vagale ‘Exit Fragments’ (AXIS Records)

Arjun Vagale’s ‘Exit Fragments’ has a trippy, space-like sound to it - all while being neatly produced. Each track takes listeners on a sensory journey with high tempos, variation in sonics and fast drums, with room for each track to stand apart from each other all while fitting in the same collective. A stand out is ‘Drift’, a tune which is high energy and will keep people dancing.

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James Blake ‘Friends That Break Your Heart’ (Polydor)

James Blake’s career first took off upon his trailblazing post-dubstep roots, but he’s since flown the nest since those days, now dipping into pop and working with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean and even Beyoncé. His fifth studio album, ’Friends That Break Your Heart’, comes with the amount of -umph- that really makes a Blake album worth your full attention. Carving out a few sounds similar to his phenomenal 2019-released ‘Assume Form’, this record tiptoes from strong, heady tracks like ‘Famous Last Words’ to the soft echoes where Blake’s voice meets SZA’s on ‘Funeral’.

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Anz ‘All Hours’ (Ninja Tune)

It’s been one hell of a year for Anz, who’s made a whopping breakthrough, lining almost every prominent electronic festival program, and now debuting on Ninja Tune with ‘All Hours’. With a track record for eclectic club music traversing UKG, breaks and dubstep, Anz takes her listeners on a journey through Manchester’s underground scene, dubbing this record “music for all hours, and music that’s all ours too”. The six-track release taps into the UK’s most important electronic sounds with standout tracks ‘You Could Be‘ and ‘Last Before Lights‘ showcasing exactly why this DJ and producer takes such a shining spot in the scene right now.

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Headie One 'Too Loyal For My Own Good’ (Relentless)

Tottenham’s very own Headie One sounds like no other - so when he dropped his second album in a year, ‘Too Loyal For My Own Good’, following his debut ‘Edna’ which landed the rapper at number one, big things were a guarantee. Headie’s songwriting sensibilities are channeled into 13 impeccable tracks - and it’s not all just drill, either. This mixtape features Headie’s crooning voice, sometimes even knocking on the door of dancehall.

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Tirzah ‘Colourgrade’ (Domino)

Tirzah shot back up the charts this month with her first full-length release in three years, ‘Colourgrade’. Matching distorted sounds to R&B vocals, Tirzah is, sonically, one of a kind. Her latest album demonstrates that sweet, alluring, and oftentimes meditative voice in a new, forward-thinking 10-track record. This introspective album is perhaps her best work to date.

Buy it here

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