We just passed the first quarter of the year and we can draw the first preliminary ranking of the best electronic albums that were released so far. As is typical of this kind of music, we may expect a variety of sounds and of musical sub-genres. And the five albums that we have selected are no exception.
Edit: a playlist with the best tracks from these albums is now available:
#1) Shikantaza by Chinese Man
Shikantanza is the last release by the French electronic collective named as Chinese Man and it was already selected in February as the Best Electronic Album of the Month. This is in fact an extremely enjoyable album offering an overwhelming combination of groove, funky, hip hop and many other fragements of musical genres and ethnic references. The are a few songs that stand out for their brilliance and creativity, but at the end it is the average level of all the tracks which leave us speechless. A must-have. Not only selected but definitely recommended. 😉
With this new album, Chinese Man creates a link between the music of his origins and his new aspirations. SHIKANTAZA is an invitation to let go, to capture the moment, a personal path to enlightenment (Beatport)
#2) Migration by Bonobo
Migration, the sixth electronic album in the career of British DJ Simon Greenby (a.k.a. Bonobo), was already selected in last January as the Best Electronic Album of the Month. This is a work that stands out from the very first listens for its class andelegance, but I believe that the real value of the album emerges over time and with repeated listening. Probably today Bonobo is one of the best realities for the downtempo genre, and it’s a pleasure to get lost within the intriguing musical harmonies that permeate the work.
New music from Simon Green aka Bonobo is always an event, but when it heralds the arrival of a whole new album (his first since 2013’s “The North Borders”), it’s really something to get excited about. The masterful, magisterial “Migration” is Green’s sixth album and it’s a record which cements his place in the very highest echelons of electronic music and beyond. (Bandcamp)
#3) The Assassination of Julius Caesar by ULVER
It’s not easy to categorize the music from Ulver, the Norwegian experimental musical collective founded that is now approaching 25 years of actrivity. If their early works explored the realms of black and folk metal, with the passing of time they started an incredible and ambitious exploration of other genres, including ambient, electronica, and neoclassical. This year, with their last work named The Assassination of Julius Caesar, the band is playing with a blend of futurist electro-pop and experimental music. The result, as usual, is brilliant.
Those familiar with this stubborn pack of wolves from Oslo will not be surprised that they also this time round are shifting shape. Never afraid of challenging or redefining current musical conventions, Ulver has now enacted what they are calling “their pop album”. You don’t have to worry about vexing radio humdrum or pastel ear candy though – Talk Talk and Music Machine are pop music as good as any in the universe of Ulver. A universe where “pop” is more a mark of distinction, denoting immediacy and possible body movement. (Bandcamp)
#4) World Eater by Blanck Mass
Blank Mass is the electronic solo project by the English DJ and producer Benjamin John Power, who is mainly known for being one of the two founders of the experimental duo Fuck Buttons (where he plays together with Andrew Hung). World Eater is the last album from this project, the third of Blank Mass’ discography, and here in this blog on last March we already selected it as Best Electronic Album of the Month. The album contains seven interesting tracks that move between noise and experimentation, all seasoned with a good dose of sonic violence.
As humans, we are aware of our inner beast and should therefore be able to control it. We understand our hard-wired primal urges and why they exist in an evolutional sense. We understand the relationship between mind and body. Highly evolved and intelligent, we should be able to recognize these genetic hangovers and control them as a means to act positively and move forward as a compassionate species. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Recent global events have proven this. The human race is consuming itself. World Eater, the new album by Benjamin John Power’s Blanck Mass project, is a reaction to this. There is an underlying violence and anger throughout the record, even though some of these tracks are the closest Power has ever come to writing, in his words, “actual love songs.” (Bandcamp)
#5) What If by Hauschka
We conclude this chart with an album that was really hard to classify. At the end it was within the electronic category but just for a greater assonance with the genre, because to define World Eater as a simple electronic album is really a limitation and also misleading. Volker Bertelmann, the musician behind the stage name Hauschka, is a German pianist and composer who is best known for his compositions for prepared piano, i.e. a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects on or between the strings (in this case scraps of aluminum, ping-pong balls and other household items). On this new album, which is the eighth of his career, Hauschka plays also additional keyboards such as a Yamaha’s high-tech player piano and a 1970s-vintage Roland analog synthesizer, and such a blending of new and old Technologies is user to generate a singular but definitely enjoyable electronic record.
Likely to prove one of 2017’s most original albums, while at the same time inspiring questions about the very nature of the world we inhabit, What If redefines the very notion of piano music in a dramatic and exceptional fashion. It stands as a rebuttal to those who lazily seek to shoehorn Hauschka’s work into the so-called, uncomfortably broad ‘new classical’ category, and instead underlines his status as a unique and invaluable artist. (Bandcamp)