The best albums and EPs of the year 2022 - January - Features - Mixmag

DJ Python 'Club Sentimientos' (Incienso)

DJ Python was really thinking of our January blues when he dropped this three-tracker on Anthony Naples’ Inciensio label - so much so that the initial vinyl release pack came with a soy candle (in the artwork's colours of course) and Python's own gender spectral perfume "inspired by rave culture." As far as the album goes, it toes the line between dreamy, effervescent ambient and punchy percussion, with lead track 'Angel' - that spans a luxurious 10 minutes - hitting you like waves lapping against the shore and filling your weary soul. 'Club Sentimiental Vol Three' is a chuggy, blissed-out slow burner — while 'TMMD (IMMMD)' kicks up the tempo a notch, with a cacophony rhythm to a morose, synthy backdrop. We are feeling sentimental!

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Soichi Terada 'Asakusa Light' (Rush Hour)

There's a dance record that comes around every now and again and you want to make everyone listen to it - your parents, your dog, your nieces and nephews, the postman, your Uber driver — everyone. It's the kind of record that has such a timeless, universal appeal that you're just convinced that there's no one who wouldn't want to lose themselves wholly within it. You've probably worked it out by now that 'Asakusa Light' is one of those records. Created using the same synthesisers and drum machines that the Far East Recordings boss used in his '90s work, this 11-track LP is full of oscillating bass, joyous piano house and stabby percussion, creating a warm, complex soundscape reminiscent of NES games or VHS action movie soundtracks. Soichi Terada has said that the album was inspired by a "light in his heart" that he nicknamed "Asakusa Light" which is as fitting a description of the record as any.

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JASSS 'A World Of Service' (Ostgut Ton)

For her Ostgut Ton album debut, JASSS delves into trip hop, IDM and industrial pop to create an intense, cinematic world marked with juxtapositions. At times the record is full of delicate, soft bleeps and bloops like in 'Luis' and 'Vapour Dento' — whereas 'Carmelo'and 'Busto' are packed with angry percussion and harsh basslines. A particular highlight is 'In Your Mouth', an alluring and sensual track that is reminiscent of 'Frozen'-era Madonna while having an unmistakably Spanish twist. JASSS really moves away from the hard techno that she's become known for, yet 'A World Of Service' is still incredibly on brand, manoeuvring between jagged and mismatched beats so the record still feels heavy, but not overwhelming.

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Kush Jones 'HOA019' (HAUS of ALTR)

For his latest four-tracker on AceMoMA's HAUS of ALTR imprint, Bronx's very own Kush Jones flits between silky deep house, blistering hi-hats and woozy percussion. First track 'ASK AND RECIEVE' is a cascading, high-tempo wafter, while Kush reserves some of the harder kick drums for spacey banger 'TO KEEP IT 100 YOU GOTTA BE 100'. 'SPACE MAYNE' is full of subtle progression and those complex slaps reminiscent of early footwork - while the blissed-out chimes of 'SHUFFLED STACK' marry together poppy synths and '80s reverb drums.

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Ali Berger ‘Nonsight Vision’ (Trackland)

Ali Berger is a powerhouse of a producer. The Pittsburgh-based artist is remarkably prolific, with rarely a month passing without a new release, and often multiple landing in a matter of weeks. New outings are so regular that his Bandcamp has a monthly subscription option.

His first of 2022, the six-track EP ‘Nonsight Vision’, maintains the high standards he always hits, serving up three different versions of the title-track that show his versatility across the percussive spectrum from rolling to jacking. The opening three tracks - ‘Sun’, ‘Wave Chords’ and ‘09 Fusion’ - also reflect his all-rounder capabilities, exploring dubby textures, sun-drenched chords, off-kilter beats, and more.

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Monophonik & Diastema ‘Cherry-picked’ (Reel Long Overdub)

Reel Long Overdub’s entrance into the busy vinyl market stands out from the pack from the off, opening with one of the rowdiest club wreckers you’re likely to hear this year. New Delhi’s Monophonik takes charge of one side of the split EP, kicking the record into action with the seismic ‘Tabalchi’, a gnarly blend of screwface bassweight, scattered modular melodies and addictive vocal chops. A gentler moment of pad-led clarity at the midway point allows space to come up for air, before plummeting back into the delirium. ‘Source Code’ keeps up the pressure with percussion galloping below a mix of disorientating and transcendent textures, hitting that murky 5:AM-on-the-dancefloor headspace.

Naples’ Diastema showcases his club-focused dub techno on the flip. ‘Teeth Drifting’ is the more peak-time cut, evolving from its sparse opening to centre an earworm melody and syncopated snares. ‘Dubquake’ is slower and more experimental, introducing angular textures into foundations that swell and contract, closing out a strong debut 12” from the Leeds-born label.

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GQOM OH! continues to rep the rude health of the gqom scene and its enduring impact. After putting out its first solo artist release in 2017 from the then-19-year-old producer Dominowe, the Durban-based producer returns to the label this month for another standout EP. Hailing from the Newlands east township, Dominowe has grown up in the decade that gqom erupted from South Africa to become an international phenomenon. He’s since risen up as a player in its continued evolution, exploring the full stylistic spectrum of gqom mixed with sghubu and Afro house, from its darkest and most ominous depths to lighter, more uplifting realms. ‘UMTHAKATHI’ is aimed at making the listener “feel good” via the medium of irresistible rhythms and incorporation of vocals into his music for the first time. But he doesn’t shy away from the “hardcore gqom” tendencies he pioneered too, bringing a heady amount of earth-shattering bass and noise to complement the more upbeat exploration.

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Barnt ‘ProMetal Fan Decor Only Product’ (Kompakt)

A full Barnt release on Kompakt has been a long time coming. The producer and label crew are friends and leading figures in Cologne’s dance music scene, and after a one-off compilation appearance in 2011, now pair up for three-track EP ‘ProMetal Fan Decor Only Product’. Barnt takes the imprint to harder territory than it typically explores but still channels the emotional depth associated with Kompakt, bringing a blend of haywire trance melodies, mechanical synths, industrial percussion and melancholic chimes.

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Burial ‘Antidawn’ (Hyperdub)

Burial kicked up a stir in December when the elusive producer announced his longest release since 2007, ‘Antidawn’. The five-track EP was due to drop just a month later breaking down the fundamentals of what Burial’s sound is known for - deconstructing his typically dark instrumentals and swapping them out with something raw, stripped-back and less melodic. Teetering on the edge of an ambient record, this release draws a solid line between new and old Burial, setting him on a new path to more eerie, technically adept recordings.

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Justin Jay ‘Hypnotized’ (Time Is Now)

LA-born Justin Jay leaned into breakbeat and UK bass influences ont this record to banging effect. Just a year after his Shall Not Fade debut of deep house cuts, the producer beelines to sub-label Time Is Now with an energetic six-track EP ‘Hypnotized’ that fire full stream into bass-led territory. Two UK artists also appear as features, with Denham Audio collaborating on ‘Swarm’ and jungle linchpin Tim Reaper taking on remix duties of the already breakneck 303-weighted track. Belgian artist Angelo Jsn features on the softer and more melancholic ‘Burgundy’.

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FKA twigs ‘Caprisongs’ (Young/Atlantic)

Dubbing her latest body of work a mixtape, as she opens in the first whisperings of the record, FKA twigs returned this month with a colourful and prodigious collection of tracks raring to ease those January blues. Featuring Pa Salieu, The Weeknd, SHYGIRL, Daniel Caesar and more, twigs’ laid-back, no-frills ‘Caprisongs’ puts the tantalising vocals of the Cheltenham-born singer to the forefront, and, in true twigs style, throws in a few silky-smooth ballads along the way. More erratic tracks such as ‘pamplemousse’ bend into the club realm with particular highlights including twigs’ double-up with Rema on ‘jealousy’, and a crossover collab with UK favourites Unknown T and Jorja Smith.

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Bonobo ‘Fragments’ (Ninja Tune)

Bonobo spent months teasing his latest record, ‘Fragments’, piece by piece. Dropping a steady slew of singles from ‘Tides’ to ‘Rosewood’ and ‘Otomo’, these releases culminated in the 12-track record and the first from the British musician in almost five years. Turning the page on his Bonobo project, Simon Green sets up the next chapter to look and sound a little more bare-boned orchestral, and folky with huge contributions from Joji, Jordan Rakei, and more.

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The Weeknd ‘Dawn FM’ (The Weeknd XO/ Republic Records)

Narrated by Jim Carrey and with features from Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne and Quincy Jones, ‘Dawn FM’ is one of The Weeknd’s most interesting albums yet. Production wise, this album is synth heavy and full of the excitement and emotion expected with a Max Martin and Oneohtrix Point Never project, with emotive lyricism, funky beats and smooth transitions.

Stream it here

Earl Sweatshirt ‘SICK!’ (Warner)

Earl Sweatshirt’s ‘SICK!’ brings the LA-based rapper into a new era, showing off his lyrical genius in the most assured fashion yet. In ‘SICK!’, we hear maturity, introspection, style, soulful samples and arpeggiating piano and strings. While it’s not as long as some of his other projects, ‘SICK!’ is experimental and Earl’s myriad of influences, such as MF DOOM and A Tribe Called Quest, can be heard throughout.

Stream/buy it here

PinkPantheress ‘to hell with it remixes’ (Elektra/Parlophone records)

First teased by Anz posting a clip on Twitter, the PinkPantheress remix mixtape was a surprise welcomed by many. Her jungle and UKG-inspired pop tracks have been given even more club-ready makeovers, with the likes of Flume, Nia Archives and Anz all putting their signature twists to the tracks. The producers’ grittier styles come through by upping the bass and turning the softly sung lyrics into something more heavy and bouncy. LSDXOXO’s remix is a standout, utilising an already strong track to give it some harder production and make it ready for a dance environment.

Stream it here; buy it in USB form here

Vegyn ‘Don't Follow Me Because I'm Lost Too!!’ (PLZ Make It Ruins)

With a cool 75 new tracks on this mixtape, Vegyn is giving fans plenty for their ears to enjoy, in a similar way to the 71-track offering ‘Text While Driving If You Want To Meet God!’. Some of the sounds and samples from that 2019 project are reused here and given an updated spin. With so much variation from track to track, this album will keep you on your toes and take you from breezy synths to deep basslines and hits everywhere from 135 BPM to the 165+ mark.

Buy it here

INGI ‘Fade EP’ (Scuffed Recordings)

Coming out right at the end of January, this short but sweet EP by INGI takes you through heavy drums, breakbeats and even trippy synths. It’s a bold EP that will sound impactful in the club or provide standout moments for a radio mix.

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Scratcha DVA ‘Siyobonga / Hard’ (Future Bounce)

This two-track EP from Scratcha DVA sets the tone for 2022. Infusing influence from amapiano, the South African sound that has risen to global prominence since the start of this decade, it perfectly reps the genre’s potent depths alongside its power to uplift and energise. DemiMa’s smooth vocals star on the blissful ‘Siyobonga’, while the tension-fulled ‘Hard’ is more geared towards the club.

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MRD ‘Out Of Red’ (Nali)

Norwegian techno whizz MRD is a DJ and producer whose hardcore sound is depicted perfectly in his latest EP ‘Out Of Red’. Released on the independent label Nali, the four-track EP is according to the label “a complete journey through deep emotions while being ready for the smoked-filled dancefloors.” It’s a multi-genre piece of work that incorporates styles spanning trance and techno with his own vocals. You wouldn’t know that the title-track was written by MRD while in bed, with high-energy melodies and hard-hitting percussion leading the anthemic charge.

Buy it here

ANNA ‘Journey To The Underworld’ (Afterlife Recordings)

ANNA’s new EP ‘Journey To The Underworld’ blends techno beats and atmospheric tones. Starting off with a mysterious build-up, the three-track record crashes into ANNA’s signature sounds. Closer ‘Dissolution’ is a highlight, starring a laid-back, orchestral melody that has been carefully enhanced with electronic echoes. ANNA told Mixmag that ‘Journey To The Underworld’ “is a very special project to me, I am so excited to finally share it with the world.” The excitement is mutual.

Buy it here

Jacques Greene 'Fantasy' (LuckyMe)

Featuring vocals from Leanne Macomber and mixing from Joel Ford, ‘Fantasy’ is an emotional new EP from Jacques Greene. This project was made after forcing himself out from dealing with the loneliness of lockdown and the pandemic. This comes through in the warming, uplifting energy runs through the DNA of the sounds, that sound simultaneously nostalgic and hopeful. He said via Instagram: “Part of the aim of this record was to undo fully formed narrative arcs from my tracks, to make stuff that felt like it was ‘floating’ a bit more. Like an ambient character-and-mood-driven scene as opposed to expeditionary dialogue and action.”

Buy it here

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