October: 18 albums you need to hear this month - Reviews - Mixmag

October: 18 albums you need to hear this month

Plenty to last you the rest of the month

  • Mixmag Crew
  • 4 October 2017

Album of the month
Kölsch '1989' (Kompakt)

1989 was a very important year in electronic music. It was the year of Black Box – indeed, ‘Ride On Time’ was the UK’s biggest-selling single of the year – while acid house fever and dance music mania spread across the UK and Europe. But sadly, things weren’t quite so peachy for Kölsch over in Denmark. “With ‘1989’, we have arrived in my early teens,” Kölsch explains of his new album. “It was a difficult time in my life, where I mostly just remember the greyness of it all – grey feelings, grey weather and my own grey face.” The third part of his album trilogy for Kompakt, ‘1989’ arrives at a point where his stock is at its highest value yet. Not only did ‘Grey’ make the Radio 1 playlist, he also delivered a slew of precision-tooled tweaks for London Grammar, Flume and The Chemical Brothers; busy bees are said to be jealous of his current production level. But how does his latest album compare to ‘1977’ and ‘1983’? Thankfully, the attention to detail is as impressive as ever, and that killer combination of bubbling techno energy and mournful melodies is still present, especially on ‘Senji’, ‘Grå’ and ‘In Bottles’ featuring Aurora. ‘Grey’ is here too, along with a sequel, ‘Grau’, which suggests he’s channelled all that adolescent frustration into something far more emotional than those early hormones ever suggested: it’s one of two defining string-drenched moments on the LP. ‘Push’ and ‘Gris’ both sound custom-built for Cocoon and DC10, ‘14’ displays a piano motif his grandfather would be proud of, and ‘Khairo’ is six gorgeous minutes of ebbing, swelling strings featuring The Heritage Orchestra. The LP closes with ‘Goodbye’, a wistful instrumental to soundtrack what may be that final ride into the dark night. Big, bold and beautiful, ‘1989’ does not disappoint. Ralph Moore


Hype Williams 'Rainbow Edition' (Big Dada)

The newest iteration of the infamous Hype Williams returns this year, this time without original mainstays Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland. With the new faces behind the name still shrouded in mystery, ‘Rainbow Edition’ is the first indication of how this new incarnation will differ from the last. It starts with a soft, shimmering vocal snippet, before launching into the cinematic ‘Loud Challenge’ and the mellow, Auto-Tuned lullaby ‘The Whole Lay’. It’s a hefty 20-track release loaded with the motifs of Blunt and Copeland’s earlier work, but one which gravitates to more accessibly experimental productions than previous offerings. It explores a plethora of bold sounds and styles with a distinctive ethereal edge – and just a touch of delectable curiosity. J Kent-Smith


Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith 'The Kid' (Western Vinyl)

An aura of awe, wonder, magic and intrigue haunts Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s music: she uses her vintage keys, modular gear, mesmeric arrangements and ethereal voice to construct a rich fantasy world. ‘The Kid’ is a series of elegant vignettes exploring the human existence, from birth through to death. On ‘An Intention’, multi-layered voices compete across slow-burn organ and feather-light percussion, before the languor is exploded by the fidgety gallop of ‘A Kid’. Despite its rooting in electronics, ‘The Kid’ feels organic and human; you can hear it in ‘Who I Am Why I Am Where I Am’, where repetitive Steve Reich-style phrases are layered like filo pastry. Like much of this beautiful record, its hypnotic intensity is immensely comforting. Stephen Worthy


Various 'Marathon, Not A Sprint! 10 Years Of Greco-Roman' (Greco-Roman)

There’s a reason the tracks collected on this comp, from bittersweet cuts by Joe Goddard and TEED to Disclosure’s mighty ‘Control’, sound so strikingly contemporary: their influence was so strong that, five years later, their DNA is still everywhere. Not that Greco-Roman set out to be influential: the label is the vision of a bunch of friends who like putting on parties featuring all sorts of hybrid styles, some of which ended up catching on. Among all the floaty Balearic, indie guitars, lo-fi funk and melancholic edges are plenty of other ideas much less zeitgeisty, but just as engaging. It doesn’t all work, but the consistency within the variety makes it a lovely space to be in. J Muggs


Odesza 'A Moment Apart' (Counter)

This album lies somewhere between the twinkling, sophisticated electronica of, say, Pretty Lights, and the more V Festival-friendly pop of an artist like Ellie Goulding. Indeed, while the production is undeniably sophisticated, with clever subliminal noises and waves of melancholia and affirmation, the multiple guest-vocal tracks feel like they’d be suited for Radio 1’s daytime playlist; it’d be no surprise if the Odesza boys ended up as the next Bastille. But it sounds impressively expensive, with a couple of instrumentals that are outright gorgeous, and who knows – if you’re a little refreshed and in the midst of a heartfelt festival singalong, things might sound different. But it’s hard to get caught up in some of the grandiose gestures on offer here. J Muggs


Steffi 'World Of The Waking State' (Ostgut Ton)

It doesn’t seem that long since Steffi’s last LP ‘Power Of Anonymity’, but it’s actually been three years. The Ostgut Ton mainstay has been very busy this year, with her Fabric 94 mix only hitting the shelves a few months ago and she’s also been in the studio working on this contemplative LP. ‘World Of The Waking State’ is a daring trip into a beautifully constructed industrial dreamscape, a world away from the classic house and techno in her canon. Stepping into a different realm is never an easy thing to do, but Steffi appears totally in control on an album that’s an important milestone in her career: mature, emotive and imbued with a hint of futurism, it’s a delight. M Barnes


Oneohtrix Point Never 'Good Time OST' (Warp)

As Oneohtrix Point Never, Daniel Lopatin has garnered praise as one of experimental electronica’s most challenging exponents. His opulent synths and spacey ambient interludes have a cinematic quality, so his growing rep as a soundtrack composer comes as no surprise. The music he’s forged for Good Time – a film about a disastrous heist starring Robert Pattinson – is a truly immersive listen, as he plots the film’s twists and turns with echo-laden synths, squalls of guitar and piledriving beats. The spirits of Vangelis, Wendy Carlos and John Carpenter permeate throughout, and it feels like no exaggeration to suggest that Lopatin could soon join them in the pantheon of great electronic soundtrack composers. S Worthy


Maya Jane Coles 'Take Flight' (I/AM/ME)

Four years on from her debut album ‘Comfort’, two-time Mixmag cover star Maya Jane Coles is back with her new album ‘Take Flight’. It’s a record that not only epitomises the impressive breadth of her sound, but also reinforces her uncompromisingly independent approach to her musical career. Multi-talented Maya does everything: composing, producing, vocals, engineering, even the artwork. Her skills have been demonstrated time and time again through her original works and remixes, and her dexterity as a DJ even secured her a support slot with electronic music legends Depeche Mode over the summer. ‘Take Flight’ is the sound of Maya at the peak of her powers, as she delivers a stonking 24 tracks on an album that comes in at just under two hours. It’s a carefully considered and comprehensive collection from Maya’s lab that drifts effortlessly from funky basslines and wistful vocals, like those on ‘Cherry Bomb’, to full-on downtempo songs such as ‘Blackout’. Other highlights include the familiar chug of ‘Passing Me By’ and the spine-tingling woozy vibes of ‘Misty Morning’, one of two tracks featuring singer Wendy Rae Fowler. At every step along the way, there’s that distinct Maya sound: the ever-present melancholic atmosphere combined with organic programming, dreamy vocals and an overall feeling of idiosyncratic quirkiness that only she can produce. It’s so absorbing that, by the end of the two-hour odyssey, you’ll be left wondering where the time went. Splendid stuff. Marcus Barnes


​Nosaj Thing 'Parallels Innovative' (Leisure)

Jason Chung, aka Nosaj Thing, is a long-term presence in LA’s thriving alt-hip hop community: he’s worked with Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper and Kid Cudi, among others. The overall tone of his fourth album, ‘Parallels’, is sweet, floating electronica, belied by an occasional mildly sinister edge. There are proper songs, such as the spacey throbber ‘All Points Back to U’ featuring Steve Spacek, the more intriguing ‘How We Do’ with Blonde Redhead vocalist Kazu Makino and the moody dubstep cut ‘Get Like’ – but most of the album is about carefully crafted atmospherics. It eventually drifts into spaced-out blissfulness on the final four tracks, bringing a melodic ear-trip to a close. Thomas H Green


Dave Clarke 'The Desecration Of Desire' (Skint)

The third album from techno giant Dave Clarke arrives 14 years after his last one. However, those expecting more wall-to-wall bangers should look elsewhere. There are jacking dancefloor cuts, such as the energised ‘Plasmatic’, but Clarke’s always been a gothic punk at heart – and while the album is fiercely electronic, songs such as his cover of 1980 new wave single ‘Is Vic There?’ starring Louisahhh, or his Johnny Cash-goes-industrial ‘Monochrome Sun’ collaboration with US rocker Mark Lanegan, are full of a grit and spiky vim that’s a far cry from sunny Ibiza. The emphasis is on songs throughout, with other guests including Gazelle Twin, Mount Sims and Anika, but it’s an album that’s tough, moody and sternly atmospheric. T H Green


Brokenchord 'Endless Transmission' (Black Acre)

Musicians in the former Soviet states seem to have an uncanny knack for breathing new life and vividness into forward forms. Ernestas Kaušylas is a Thom Yorke-endorsed multi-instrumentalist from Lithuania who specialises in electronically tweaked post-rock, as shown on his new album ‘Endless Transmission’. Within it, you’ll hear Caribou-style grooves, Burial-like haze, the druggy rock of The Stooges, a bit of Can, a bit of Joy Division, and so on. Little is new – but thanks to Kaušylas’ extraordinary understanding of funkiness and dubwise space manipulation, it sounds utterly fresh and engaging. So engaging, in fact, that this record is one of the year’s most exciting debuts. Joe Muggs


​The Irresistible Force 'Kira Kira' (Liquid Sound Design)

Mixmaster Morris has always cut an odd figure in the world of dance music: he’s essentially a grouchy old punk in silver trousers, who happens to play some of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful DJ sets in the world. On this, his first album as The Irresistible Force in almost 20 years, he’s in very familiar territory: the slow breaks, rippling synth arpeggios, breathy voices and space-mission samples could easily come from his first flush of success in the early 90s. But Morris plays jazz and soul as much as electronic bleeps, and that’s what makes this LP stand out: the complex song structures, gorgeous chords and natural grooves have as much in common with Cinematic Orchestra or 4 Hero as they do a fractal-projection chillout room. J Muggs


​Zola Jesus 'Okovi' (Sacred Bones)

Zola Jesus’ distinctive, dramatic voice has always been the prime weapon in her arsenal, and on new album ‘Okovi’ it sounds more brooding than ever. Returning to Brooklyn’s Sacred Bones for the first time since 2011’s ‘Conatus’, she takes the listener on a deep journey that encompasses loss, clarity and definitive endings of human life. The singer sounds choral and ritualistic on the opening ‘Doma’, while the climactic drums and sharp notes of the next track, ‘Exhumed’, feel like a cathartic outpouring. ‘Siphon’ is full of floating, minimal instrumentation, and the lightning synths racing through ‘Remains’ take on a trance-like quality. On ‘Wiseblood’, meanwhile, her vocals colour a powerful snapshot of a traumatic odyssey. Leah Jade Connolly


Midland 'Fabriclive 94' (Fabric Records)

Harry Agius always had a dream. “My relationship with Fabric stretches back fifteen years,” he says. “The first time I went was a Friday and the Room 1 line-up was Jacques Lu Cont with Hype, and Grooverider in Room 2. It changed my life forever. I turned to my friend and told him I would play there one day.” Fast-forward to 2017 and it finally happened; not only was he invited to play in Room 1, but he’s been asked to mix his own Fabric CD, too. It’s at the 25-minute mark that Harry shows us what he’s really made of with Roman Flügel’s melodic ‘Warm & Dewy’, before gradually introducing peak-time tracks from Farah, Beatrice Dillon and LFO. It’s a classy, timeless mix from a classy and timeless selector. Ralph Moore


Andrew Weatherall 'Qualia' (Höga Nord Rekords)

Like much of Andrew Weatherall’s recent output, his new album ‘Qualia’ has its roots in post-punk. Before he became an acid house pioneer and single-handedly created the indie/dance crossover with his work on Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ album, Weatherall was entranced by the music of Throbbing Gristle, A Certain Ratio and 23 Skidoo. There’s a similarly punky and non-conformist ethic running through ‘Qualia’: it’s not always entirely straightforward listening, but when it comes together – like on the military march-meets-indie/techno schaffel of ‘Selling The Shadow’ –it’s a timely reminder of Weatherall’s knack for putting smiles on faces. S Worthy


Lindstrøm 'It’s All Right Between Us As It Is' (Smalltown Supersound)

Like summer evenings spent dancing under the stars to your favourite DJ, a brand new album from Lindstrøm can only be A Very Good Thing. Fans of Nordic disco know him for his classic club cuts such ‘I Feel Space’, but this new album works hard to add several new jams to his inimitable canon. Exhibit One is the spiralling synths underpinning quintessential new anthem ‘Tensions’, Exhibit Two is the sweet vocal ballad ‘Sorry’ and Exhibit Three is the Kraftwerk-esque ‘Shinin’ featuring Grace Hall, which is arguably his biggest vocal cut since ‘Baby Can’t Stop’: watch it burn through playlists for the remainder of the year. Ralph Moore


​Chase & Status 'Tribe Virgin' (EMI)

Chase & Status made their name crossing d’n’b with pop, but their last album was a tougher listen – and their fourth, ‘Tribe’, retains that level of grit. Songs featuring Emeli Sandé and rising singer-songwriter Tom Grennan are atypical: for the most part, it’s about d’n’b, heavy dubstep and grime, with the latter’s showing especially strong on the Bugzy Malone-featuring ‘Don’t Stop’ and the Section Boyz’ intriguing interplay on ‘Know About We’. The LP’s final few tracks, featuring Slaves and Swedish singer Seinabo Sey, come on like The Prodigy in full battering mode, while ‘Reload’, a collaboration with Craig David, is an effective ‘Re-Rewind’ sequel. In short, Chase & Status remain fierce and on form. Thomas H Green


Various 'Klockworks 20' (Klockworks)

A lot has happened in the 11 years since Ben Klock started his Klockworks label. Chiefly, he’s gone from being a cult selector closely associated with Berghain to a world-touring DJ and techno brand in his own right. In that time, his sound has evolved without any grand revolutions: always happy to explore the edges of his genre, Klock varies moods, tempos and grooves much more than his famous sparring partner Marcel Dettmann. And that’s still the case on this new compilation, which celebrates the label’s 20th release with cuts from 20 producers. Highlights include Klock’s own ‘Twenty’, a suspenseful piece that bubbles but never boils; the late, great Trevino’s ‘Sombre Tones’, with its punchy broken beats and fittingly melancholic chords; and label stalwart DVS1’s eerily empty bit of metropolitan landscaping, ‘In The Middle.’ Elsewhere, there are intense loops, brutalist drums and deeply transcendental cuts that add up to a vital collection. Kristan J Caryl


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