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Sef Kombo

Kabza De Small ‘I Am The King of Amapiano’

One of the biggest highlights of the lockdown is the musical consistency and genius of Kabza De Small. He alongside DJ Maphorisa have made music to get a lot of people through these times. Kabza has had me in a frenzy over this Amapiano music which calms my soul as it is just perfect for a chilled-out summer cookouts. Pure bliss on this album which even gets Burna Boy and Wizkid on the same song! My favourite tracks are ‘Nia Lo’, ‘Jwaleng’ and ‘Masupa’ – that log drum throughout the album just does something to me!

Sef Kombo is the A&R and Non Executive Director of Sondela, the founder of Til Two and a DJ, broadcaster and promoter. He’s based in London, follow him on Instagram here

Santuri East Africa

KMRU ‘Jar’ (Seil)

It does feel a little nepotistic to choose a KMRU album considering he’s a key member of the Santuri East Africa family, but even with that caveat, it’s definitely been his year. ‘Jar’ was a cassette release on the Frankfurt-based Seil label, and perhaps hasn’t received the same attention as his Editions Mego LP ‘Peel’ - but it deserves just as much recognition. As an ambient/experimental artist from Kenya, KMRU has trodden a singular path, and it’s wonderful to see his unique talent receive international acclaim.

Siti Muharam 'Siti of Unguja (Romance Revolution On Zanzibar)' (On The Corner)

I’d also like to highlight the Siti Muharam LP on On the Corner as another East African highlight of the year - a beautifully realised contemporary evocation of the Swahili coast's musical traditions. David Tinning

As a non-profit arts organisation based in Nairobi, many of Santuri's planned events and projects have been postponed this year. However, we have had the chance to engage artists and DJs in the region with a series of online workshops in music production - with a particular focus on female producers. We’ve also been busy working on partnerships with firms like Ableton that set the scene for an exciting year ahead.

Santuri is a vibrant and creative East African underground network that allows artists and musicians the freedom to experiment and grow based in Nairobi, Kenya. Check out their website santuri.org and sign up to their Patreon here

Sapphire Slows

Leif ‘Music For Screen Tests’ (originally commissioned for the Barbican)

2020 was such a weird time for everybody. Same for me, everything still goes up and down and the world is still confused. This 1-hour live soundtrack for the film screening of Andy Warhol's Screen Tests in Barbican Centre in London is what I’ve listened to most in this year, not in clubs, but in my private space. This is also a perfect soundtrack for me to think about what music can do, what music and parties actually mean, and what can really tell a story.

Sapphire Slows is an artist from Tokyo. Follow her on SoundCloud here

The Bug

The Necks 'Three' (Fish Of Milk)

In this plague year, overflowing with pain and populist shit stirrers, it was necessary medication to immerse myself in long form albums. Live or on record, The Necks are magicians, casting mesmeric spells again and again with ease. Some may call this jazz, but their output is far more fluid. 'Bloom' sounds like Fela's prime locomotion fused with CAN's relentless grooves, whilst 'Bloom' resembles Vangelis vs Goblin in OST land. And lastly, 'Further' ascends Talk Talk's late plateau of greatness, with enviable grace. This album offers mystery, and thrives in its use of deep space. Getting lost in it feels great.

The Bug is a producer and DJ based in Belgium. Follow him on Bandcamp here

Sissel Wincent

Sonja Tofik ‘Anomi’ (Moloton)

I still listened to dance music but this past year I've gravitated towards the more complex and weird. This gem of an album by Sonja Tofik feels like memories you almost forgot. It's alien, yet familiar and also highly emotional.

Sissel Wincent is a DJ, producer, live artist and KBK REC label founder from Stockholm, Sweden. Follow her on SoundCloud

Sofya Staune (VAJ.Power)

My 2020 Best Album pick is undoubtedly going to NOVA’s Re-Up, which won The Scottish Album Of The Year 2020 just over a month ago. As NOVA’s manager, I see all behind the scenes and how hard she worked, and it’s incredible to see the Scottish rap scene finally being recognised on a national level. The album consists of six tracks, each produced by a different local producer - Inkke, Kami-O, AJM, Evil M, $1000 Wallet, and T.Morgan - and powered by NOVA’s strong lyricism through which she tells about ups-and-downs, struggles and wins of a young Black Scottish woman in a heavily male-dominated scene. It shows great versatility NOVA has, with the beats going from grime to trap to hip hop to afrobeats, and NOVA nailing every one of them. Her calm but assertive delivery is unique and is not something I hear often. My personal favourites are ‘Trophy’ produced by Kami-O and ‘Bread n Butter’ produced by now Prague based Evil M. I think both tracks show the range of strengths NOVA has, lyrically and technique-wise.

All in all, I am very honoured to have NOVA as a part of FUSE Glasgow family, among other highly talented artists. In fact, on Saturday the December 19 I am organising a 9-hour FUSE Glasgow takeover on new local radio station Buena Vida; it’s a first digital ‘get together’ I am working on since lockdown, and I am very excited to catch up with everyone and hear what they have been up to in the past half a year and how they dealt with 2020. The takeover will consist of interviews, guest mixes, and live sets, showcasing immense talent Scotland (and beyond!) has to offer. It will be a fundraiser for Small Trans Library, who have organised a fund in Glasgow and Dublin to help trans people who have lost their jobs or are struggling financially. You can donate here.

Sofya Staune is a DJ, VJ, promoter and artist manager from Glasgow, Scotland. They work under the name VAJ.Power and run the FUSE by VAJ.Power agency, mix series and club night

KRUNK KULTURE (Sohail Arora)

Various artists ‘Kaala Khatta - Flavours Of The East’ (Krunk Kulture)

My first pick would have to be my label's debut release 'Kaala Khatta - Flavours of the East'. I started Krunk Kulture with the aim of pushing Indian and South Asian sounds on a global level. Kaala Khatta is a 15-track compilation pushing leftfield house / techno / breaks and acts as the perfect entry into the world with its balance of Indian influences and cutting-edge global musical approaches. My fave tracks on the compilation would be SUCHI ‘Took a Minute’, Moebius ‘Neelam’, Nikki Nair ‘Eating Flowers’, Daisuke Tanabe ‘Tablasuke’, Oceantied ‘Shadows’ and the opener by adL x kly called ‘Vivid Drmz’. While being involved in the curation and release of this compilation makes it a biased pick, I can safely say that we at Krunk Kulture genuinely love the whole compilation, have played it on loop for several months and it is definitely one of our favorites of the year.

My second pick comes from a brand new project out of Mumbai, India called Girls On Canvas with an album called ‘LO’. Started by a legendary musician, guitar player and producer called Randolph Correia, this album ‘LO’ came out right in the middle of the 2020 pandemic year and is one of the most beautiful albums to have come out from the Indian electronic camp this year according to me. Surreal and dreamy vocals by Azamaan Hoyvoy alongside the wizardry of Randolph Correia who brings in elements of dub, jazz, lof fi electronica and more make this album an exceptional one. The man behind Girls On Canvas has played with some of the most iconic Indian electronic bands in the last decade including acts like Pentagram, Shaa'ir + Func and more. Stand out tracks on LO: ‘What Was I Thinking’, ‘Vicious Circle’, ‘Down’ and ‘Don't Need To Look Behind’. This album is also heavily recommended for cycling!

My second pick comes from a brand new project out of Mumbai, India called Girls On Canvas with an album called ‘LO’. Started by a legendary musician, guitar player and producer called Randolph Correia, this album ‘LO’ came out right in the middle of the 2020 pandemic year and is one of the most beautiful albums to have come out from the Indian electronic camp this year according to me. Surreal and dreamy vocals by Azamaan Hoyvoy alongside the wizardry of Randolph Correia who brings in elements of dub, jazz, lof fi electronica and more make this album an exceptional one. The man behind Girls On Canvas has played with some of the most iconic Indian electronic bands in the last decade including acts like Pentagram, Shaa'ir + Func and more. Stand out tracks on LO: ‘What Was I Thinking’, ‘Vicious Circle’, ‘Down’ and ‘Don't Need To Look Behind’. This album is also heavily recommended for cycling!

Sohail Arora is the founder of Krunk Kulture, the Director of Bass Camp festival and the curator of Echoes Of Earth festival and is based in Mumbai. Follow him on Instagram here

SPFDJ

Crystal Geometry 'Senestre' (Sonic Groove)

Crystal Geometry is one of those underrated legends that has been making music for longer than most of today's ravers even know what techno was. Though he spent a long time in the hardcore scene, this experience shines through his techno now, it has a certain level of maturity and sophistication under its hard and banging surface, with a beautifully dark and masterful industrial sound design from his modular setup and vocals that are all his own. What I love most about his music though is his arrangement: continuously subtly evolving, no two bars are ever really the same. I stan.

SPFDJ is a DJ, broadcaster, founder of the Intrepid Skin label and member of the Herrensauna crew based in Berlin. Follow her on SoundCloud here

Tempio del Futuro Perduto

V/A ‘Rave Saves The World’ (24/H)

This is the record we made on our 24/H record label in support of public hospitals in different cities. In the tragedy of this pandemic we took the opportunity to unite many of the artists we have been collaborating with for some time. It’s not easy to stay positive and think creatively but we must resist and take advantage of this moment to invent new things or improve existing ones.

After setting the world record for the longest DJ set ever we have started a big collaboration in Berlin for the creation of a new cultural center called Neuzeit which in German means new time. The new venue will host a creative hub, events, exhibitions, offices and cultural activities of various genres and we hope it will start living with the arrival of the new year. We have also inaugurated a restaurant in Tempio’s garden called Rifugio Urbano, check it! Tommaso Dapri

Tempio del Futuro Perduto is multidisciplinary and multifunctional cultural venue in Milan, Italy. Follow it on Facebook and Instagram

Tight Magazine

Tight is a Kyiv-based curated platform for contemporary music and visual art. Founded in 2018 by Maya Baklanova, Tanya Voytko and Vitallia Zhyriakova, Tight evolved into an online-magazine, webshop and a mix series. As a part of Mixmag's Album Of The Year feature we’ve prepared a selection of albums that we’ve been listening to on repeat :)

Sockethead Harj-o-Marj’ (YOUTH)

YOUTH is an emerging Manchester-based label run by DJ Lyster. In 2020, YOUTH has released a handful of amazing records including ‘Hyperattention’ from Cairo's Dijit, ‘Music For Broken Adverts’ by Shamos and ‘YO8TH’ by Grimescapes. My personal highlight is a freshly dropped ‘Harj-o-Marj’ by Manchester-based painter, artist, DJ/producer Richard Harris aka Sockethead.

This album is a perfect soundtrack of 2020 for me - a bit frantic and heavy sometimes, but at the same time mind-expanding and pleasing. Highly recommended for listening in isolation, with candle lights on. That’s what I’ve been doing for the whole past month! Tanya Voytko

Kelvin T ‘Aerate’ (Absurd Trax)

Kelvin T is a DJ and music producer from Hong Kong. First time I saw him perform was at CTM Festival in the beginning of 2020. He made an incredibly expressive appearance which ended up with him laying on the floor in the middle of a mosh pit. I was very tired that day, but ended up dancing until the last song.

Having around 10 releases on Shanghai-based Genome 6.66 Mbp and Hong Kong’s Absurd TRAX, ‘Aerate’ is Kelvin T’s second full-length album. Intense and chaotic, ‘Aerate’ transmits you to the hallucinogenic state of mind. Quite a trip! Vitaliia Zhyriakova

Flora Yin-Wong ‘Holy Palm’ (Modern Love)

Flora's debut album was released shortly before her concert in Kyiv this November. It was one of a few live performances I got to listen to in 2020, and definitely one of my musical highlights of the year.

Before the performance, we published an interview on Tight focused on the creative process behind the album. ‘Holy Palm’ is Flora’s personal travel diary. You can hear sounds of Indonesian streets, insects in rice paddy fields, a Greek wedding in Thessaloniki and many other recordings that she has been collecting for 6 years. I like how deep and conceptually Flora approaches music and curatorship and this release is a great evidence of this. Maya Baklanova

Tight is based in Kyiv, Ukraine. Follow Tight on Instagram

Will Saul

Andrew Ashong & Kaidi Tatham 'Sankofa Season' (Kitto Records)

So I've gone for a six-track EP rather than an album… an absolute breath of fresh air aesthetically right now but simultaneously made me feel deeply nostalgic for London 10+ years ago. This transports me back to the dark, sweaty bassment of Co-op at Plastic People yet has a really diverse range of tempos and feels. Two of my all time favorite (and highly underrated in my opinion) artists in Andrew Ashong and Kaidi Tatham collaborating was enough to make me buy on sight and the end result is a wonderful, broken, soulful journey that is distinctly London in sound.

Will Saul is a DJ, producer and founder of the label AUS. Follow him on SoundCloud, Twitter and Facebook

Yasmean

36 ‘Music For Isolation’ (3six Recordings)

I have been alone most of the year and I have taken the time to find myself and set the record straight about myself. During these moments of introspection, I vividly remember this album being on heavy rotation day'n'night because it checked all the boxes for me in terms of context, nature, genre and intention. I remember myself letting go of every fear I had at that moment while playing it in my headphones. Ambient and soundscapes are phenomenal for this. I remember cooking, cleaning, meditating, showering, running errands with it. I've never got bored of it 'til this day because at the end of the day, it's not ‘another ambient release’, it was needed for me. I keep playing it whenever I want to be in a better mood or just to feel a bit safer during these times. I figured out a way to find myself in an uncertain chaos and this album made me focus and made everything feel less terrible. Ambient has always been a source of fullness, wholeness and calm for me; and even more so during isolation. This album marked six long and challenging months of my life and I am grateful for it.

Yasmean is a DJ and producer from Casabalanca, Morocco. Follow her on SoundCloud

Ziúr

Lord Narf ‘N*A*R*F’ (XYNO records)

I haven’t been keeping up with a lot of music in 2020 since: what’s the point? Haha. One release I keep coming back to and enjoying over and over again is ‘N*A*R*F’. I love how understatement and an edgelord attitude forms such a sharp and rowdy, yet laidback record – it’s perfect. One for the weirdos, I’m all in.

Ziúr is a DJ, producer and promoter from Germany. Follow her on SoundCloud here

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