Is it too late to reflect on 2018? I hope not. Surely it’s never too late for reflecting.
Much of 2018 raced by in a bit of a blur for me. Despite the longest, hottest summer on record, I never found time to sleep under the stars – as I did in 2017, when I vowed to do it every summer. And I only attended one festival (most unlike me) and that was in my back garden. Jolly nice it was though.
Sometimes, life’s just too busy. Actually, scratch that. Sometimes my head is just too busy. It has been too busy to round up the year’s music, which is normally something I do at the end of the year. It has been too busy to contribute much to the Campfire Convention such have been the competing pleasures of parenthood, home education, community life and earning a crust.
I managed to DJ for eight hours (a first) on midsummer’s day/night… without falling over. And I opened the new year with an hour-and-a-bit of proper hardcore junglism, which I can proudly and delightedly report went down a storm with my neighbours who danced like proper nutters.
So in an effort to expunge the music of the year from my head and create space for the new, here is a quick run through of some favourites from last year. You can read more extensive lists of albums and mixes at Resident Advisor, Reissues, Mixes etc at The Quietus, and there is a lovely list of Japanese ambient reissues at Vinyl Factory’s website. How niche do you want to get?
My Album of the Year was almost certainly Proc Fiskal’s Insula. The Scottish newcomer of unfeasibly young age (given his talents) gave us a post-dubstep grimy version of Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin that grooved in all the right places, while somehow mopping up Japanese influences and managing to evoke all our childhoods – despite the fact he’s only about 20! Proc Fiskal is so fucking talented I’m in awe.
Nils Frahm’s lovely All Melody rivaled Proc Fiskal for AOTY. It felt like a career highlight, bringing together strings, voices, bubbly electronics and soaring melodies for an album of organic techno, which felt very now. Many have been seeking this blend for the past few years but few have brought together electronic and acoustic sounds from around the world in quite such a sublime manner. Here’s a mix I made inspired by this kinda stuff.
A fair few of Frahm’s label mates at Erased Tapes have been creating similar vibes. I quite enjoyed Masayoshi Fujita’s Book of Life but, as with many of this year’s records, I didn’t get to spend that long with it. It was nice to hear a vibraphone dominating the mix though.
Completing a trilogy of ‘most listened to’ albums is Nat Birchall’s Sounds Almighty. Like King Tubby’s Meets the Rockers Uptown with the afro brass nyabinghi of Cedric Im Brooks without sounding old fashioned in the slightest.
One of these days I will write a feature on the best albums of Susumu Yokota. For me, the most talented ambient techno producer not called Richard D. James. Yokota died in 2015 so any opportunity to hear anything previously unheard (and he released billions of albums and singles during his life) is an opportunity to be grabbed.
If you have heard of Yokota, you probably know him for ambient masterpieces like Sakura (and if you have not then you really should), but in 2018 a pile of his 12-inches were re-released as the Acid Mt. Fuji album. It’s probably the best (kinda chilled) techno you will hear this year.
Beyond those four, there is a whole list of albums that I kinda liked but did not really get a chance to listen to in depth. Maarja Nuut introduced me to Estonian electronic folk. Muunduja was probably the strangest, newest most dark and beautiful record I heard all year.
DJ Healer’s Nothing 2 Loose was lovely.
Oliver Coates played the cello in interesting ways. Check Shelly’s on Zenn La if you want cello-based Kid A, Aphex inspirations.
Objekt’s Cocoon Crush was so highly anticipated by yours truly that I put its release date in the diary. Strangely, after such commitment I only listened to it twice. Seemed fine but didn’t move me like I expected.
I love Will Long and did enjoy Long Trax 2‘s exceedingly loverly deep house grooves.
Japan’s Videotapemusic got a few enjoyable listens. If you wondered what a Japanese computer boffin might make of Augustus Pablo then have a listen. It’s v.cool actually.
I can heartily recommend Resina, Duppy Gun, Space Afrika, Skee Mask, Karine Polwart and Neneh Cherry despite failing to listen to any of them more than once. And Autechre released no less than four albums via NTS Radio but really, who has got the time for that?
Oh yes. On a pop tip, Santa bought my kids these two absolute bangers. First up is Let’s Eat Grandma, who you really do want to hear if you like the sound of two teenage goths making St Etienne tunes with cutting edge 21st century pop producers. Surely, you do wanna hear that, right?
And if you’ve ever danced round your living room, festival field or grotty basement club to the B-52s, LCD Soundsystem or The Go! Team, you will love Confidence Man’s Confident Music for Confident People.
And you know Prince released an album of lovely piano and voice from beyond the grave, don’t you? No, me neither. Sounds great though. It’s called Piano and a Microphone 1983 and its contents are self-explanatory.
So, as I move into 2019, I feel more balance in my head. The horror of Brexit looms, although I’m not sure it’s a horror of Brexit so much as a horror at how warped and useless our politicians really are. I’m hoping my former MP Sadiq Khan (AKA the London Mayor Sadiq Khan) will return to Westminster and put all these shysters to shame. And will someone please remove Jacob Rees Mogg from my life? It’s just so unpleasant and so unnecessary.
Anyway, I digress. I kinda find the Brexit process strangely addictive though, don’t you? It’s like watching the US version of House of Cards. You feel completely unclean afterwards but somehow you just want to dip in one more time…
Anyway, I digress. ALL THAT FUCKING SHIT ASIDE, I am feeling very positive about 2019. Sometimes it is very difficult to prioritise the most important things in your life. I have had to strip back everything and minimize all commitments in order to focus on the three people that mean the most to me. Having done that, I feel much lighter, more confident, happier and hopefully able to tune in and write a bit more often.
Happy 2019 people!