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The 25 best albums of the last three months: April to June 2019

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Every three months, FACT rounds up the best albums that have passed through our inboxes and over our desks. With June over and the second quarter of 2019 closed out, we’ve examined the fringes to bring you the most exciting albums and EPs from the wider electronic music landscape.

As the world limps on with increasing difficulty, the most important thing to focus on is human beings. Technology is rapidly replacing reality, but it’s not too late to notice or too late to retreat.

Instability and global unease is always reflected in art, and the music that’s bubbling up around the world right now is diverse, vibrant and important. In the last three months we’ve been treated to musings on identity, hybridity and society itself.

We’ve been exposed to pre-Hispanic industrial techno, Iranian sci-fi noise, algorithmic soothing sounds for baby, futuristic British gqom, Chinese hardcore and noisy, rapid-fire singeli from Tanzania. The humanity in this music is paramount – it’s communication from a wide, interconnected group of thinkers united by a call for freedom. This is progress we can believe in.


25 Best Albums 2019

AGGROMANCE

Turbera


(HiedraH Club de Baile)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

Listening to the deranged synth stabs of Aggromance’s ‘Almadura’ mixed into the opening salvo of TAYHANA’s recent FACT mix was to bear witness to the latest ripple in the global dance continuum. As a key member and resident DJ of Argentinian queer club collective HiedraH, Aggromance has been producing for a few years now, but Turbera is a step up. A party record for dystopian times, Turbera rearranges the key components of trance, gabber and the sounds of the South American underground into precision-tooled club constructions that draw out euphoria and catharsis from the chaos and clamor. Rather than soundtracking collapse, this is the sound of dance music putting itself back together. HBJ


25 best albums 2019

AMAZONDOTCOM

Mirror River


(SUBREAL)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

Mirror River is an project of firsts: it’s the first solo EP from LA-based DJ/producer AMAZONDOTCOM; it’s the first release from SUBREAL, a label she helms with collaborator Siete Catorce; and it’s the first piece of electronic music that made me feel the climate crisis without explicitly trying to channel the climate crisis. Natural sounds, like the chirping of birds, are subverted, digitized into and amongst evolving slow-synth ideas. It’s bass music for the contemplative, the kind of thing that reminds you how much political work club music can do outside of the context of the dancefloor. CL


25 best albums 2019

Ana Roxanne

~~~


(Leaving Records)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

After beginning life as a purely personal project, Ana Roxanne’s unusually titled debut made itself quietly known to the world in 2015. The record was re-released this spring, and has since become a vital expression of identity for the Filipino-American producer who came out publicly as intersex in 2018. As such, this intimate collection maps out a journey from a private to a public sphere, splicing snippets of family chatter into the lulling, watery field recordings of hypnagogic college ‘In A Small Valley’, while boosting the hypnotic arpeggios of ‘I’m Every Sparkly Woman’ with eponymous lyrical statements. ~~~ is like a painstakingly embroidered tapestry, knitted together with such finely-tuned detail that the bigger picture only tells half the story. ACW


25 best albums 2019

Autechre

Warp Tapes 89-93


(Warp)

Bleep

When Autechre dropped two hours of unreleased material during last month’s NTS WXAXRXP show, celebrating 30 years of the legendary label, they knew exactly what they were doing. They broke their own particular corner of the internet, and techno nerds are still dissecting the mammoth set weeks later — which is incredible, considering this music has ostensibly been sitting in a cupboard somewhere since before most NTS listeners were born. Warp Tapes ‘89-’93 is ironically some of the best music Autechre has put out in years; gone are the more experimental offerings the group have been releasing for the past decade, the session is built upon massive beats and layers and layers of dense electronics. Who would have thought that 2019 would see Autechre releasing pure bangers? CC


25 best albums 2019

Caterina Barbieri

Ecstatic Computation


(Editions Mego)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

Caterina Barbieri’s Ecstatic Computation wastes no time going for the emotional jugular. On opener ‘Fantas’, a cavernous soundstage is filled with sugar rush synth melodies that skew closer to commercial trance than the trance-inducing minimalism of her last album, Patterns of Consciousness. On the grandiose vocal track ‘Arrows of Time’, a harpsichord lends a Baroque touch to her patient composition. Even closer ‘Bow of Perception’ – probably the closest in tone to Barbieri’s previous material – finds new ways to thrill with its climactic salvo of modular bleeps. Barbieri doesn’t lose sight of what make her music great on Ecstatic Computation – it’s just bigger, bolder and more confident. SW


25 best albums 2019

DaBaby

Baby on Baby


(South Coast Music Group and Interscope Records)

SoundCloud / Spotify / Apple Music

The self-proclaimed “Tupac of the new shit” plays leering, squint-eyed raconteur on his Interscope debut, his rich persona crafted over the past two years of rapid-fire mixtapes and viral-ready videos. The album title, illustrated with a tiny DaBaby perched on a grinning DaBaby’s cap, is a densely layered pun with at least three visual and linguistic meanings alone. His popularity has exploded from regional to global buoyed by the success of lead single ‘Suge’. Secure enough in his strength to play jokester, the rapper formerly known as Baby Jesus continues to prove that laughter is the best weapon. LC


25 best albums 2019

DEBIT

System


(N.A.A.F.I.)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

FACT fave DEBIT follows up last year’s assured Animus with the studied System, a self-described “reconstruction” of tribal guarachero influenced by Tzotzil literature. But this is what we love about DEBIT: she gets heady on all sides of the equation, using her deft abilities for fusing techno and industrial into her own magic, while also investigating her own intellectual interests. Add guests like Teklife affiliate DJ Earl, as well as Monterrey’s Javier Estrada, who shares DEBIT’s interest in exploring pre-Hispanic music traditions, and you’ve got something that requires all different kinds of your attention. CL


25 best albums 2019

Helm

Chemical Flowers


(PAN)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

On Chemical Flowers, the follow-up to 2015’s Olympic Mess, Helm’s nerve-shredding vision of urban decay and psychogeographical disharmony has been fleshed out and widened in scope. Featuring string arrangements from Foetus, aka JG Thirlwell, cello from Lucinda Chua and saxophone from Karl D’Silva, collaborators add an extra human layer to Luke Younger’s musical meditations, which dissolve field recordings, drones, metallic bleeps, fizzing noise and industrial snippets into a shifting pool of ambiguous emotion. The album was recorded in solitude in the Essex countryside, and at times Younger gives his inner-city rhythms fresh air and room to breathe, taking his kitchen experimentalism away from the city and adding space, angst and timely techno-paranoia. ACW


25 best albums 2019

Holly Herndon

Proto


(4AD)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

In a capitalist reality, reproduction is conditional based on accumulation and expectation towards expansion. In the case of Holly Herndon’s third LP Proto, she positions herself as a vessel for an A.I. baby, a developing truth beyond lived experience, and dives into a culturally unspecific science-(para)fiction that presupposes what human reproduction via technology could mean for the metaphorical evangelical progress of a rather small scope of human history. What is a universal sound and gesture? Choreographed dances across individual vocal harmonics and computational beats and abstraction pose as the central stand-ins for a metaphor of all people collectively producing a universal whole that dissolves the human versus technology dichotomy while manifesting a split of reality versus fantasy. Can technology usurp its capital value and make our fantasies real? DBJ


25 best albums 2019

Kali Malone

The Sacrificial Code


(iDEAL)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

Last year’s Organ Dirges 2016-2017 was a revelation, bringing composer and organ tuner Kali Malone’s command of elongated organ drones into sharp focus. The Sacrificial Code continues her story and while the homespun quality of its predecessor has all but disappeared, it’s a privilege to hear Malone’s sound in widescreen, where tiny details sing loudly from every doomy note. Church music for apostates, the album is a meditation on sound, texture, history and Western structure. It’s patient, hopeful and indescribably beautiful, charting the continued rise of a powerful force in experimental music. JT


25 best albums 2019

Lady Lykez

Muhammad Ali


(Hyperdub)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

North London’s Lady Lykez has been rapping since she was just 11 years old and channels that experience into the Muhammad Ali EP, her first release for Hyperdub. Three out of the four tracks are produced by veteran bass alchemist Scratchclart (aka Scratcha DVA), who’s been working with Lady Lykez for a decade. His original version of title track ‘Muhammad Ali’ slipped out last year on his DRMTRK EP II release, and here the UK gqom banger is re-tooled with an appearance from Lioness, who trades bars with Lykez, giving the track an even more powerful push. It’s a vital statement from one of London’s most exciting rappers, paired with some of the most innovative production we’ve heard this year. JT


25 best albums 2019

LOFT

and departt from mono games


(Tri Angle)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

Described as “an aggregate of three years of instability,” and departt from mono games is an explosive statement from Manchester’s Aya Sinclair, aka LOFT. A meditation on identity, the EP untangles Sinclair’s knots in real time, expressing layers of emotion through noise, euphoria and mind-blurring breaks. Fractured ideas and dissolved motifs heave and groan through digital fog, gasping for air, before ‘That Hyde Trakk’ bobs to the surface, shattering expectations with the manic energy of 1990s hardcore funneled through the Nostromo’s ventillation system. Somehow, it couldn’t be more current – or more empowering. JT


25 best albums 2019

Logos

Imperial Flood


(Different Circles)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

How do you follow an album like Cold Mission? Five years on from its release, James Parker’s grime-adjacent LP still holds up as one of the best to emerge from the the UK club continuum over the past decade. The answer is Imperial Flood, a near total reinvention of the Logos sound that trades the eski synths and pirate radio references for abstract dub techno influences, gnarly acid lines, alien sound effects and an overriding sense of dread inspired in part by the fiction of Jeff VanderMeer and J.G. Ballard. That sense of drifting in the weightless vacuum of the unknown remains though – and after all these years, it’s still a place you want to get lost in. SW


25 best albums 2019

Matias Aguayo

Support Alien Invasion


(Crammed)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

A new Matias Aguayo album is always a reason to rejoice. One of the most surprisingly eclectic electronic producers around, Aguayo has released everything from deep house to world-inspired garage rock across various projects. Support Alien Invasion, his fourth official studio album, continues his legacy of mind-blowing musical breadth — big beats and body-shaking polyrhythms sit at the median of his Chilean-German heritage. This is Aguayo’s first totally instrumental album, and it doesn’t lose a single ounce of immediacy or dancefloor appeal. It’s yet another chapter in a career that continues to defy borders, genres, and expectations. CC


25 best albums 2019

Megan Thee Stallion

Fever


(300)

Spotify / Apple Music

They barely make ’em like Megan Thee Stallion. A true Houston sweetheart with a pocket full of punchlines and mountain of manic metaphors — does she compare her hoo-ha to a sawed-off shotgun on ‘Pimpin’? I think so! — Meg is the perfect figure for rap right now. She’s an outspoken environmentalist who organizes beach clean-ups with her Hotties fanbase and recently hosted a beauty pageant where the award was help with college tuition and she can rap her ass off in a way that sounds fresh and fully 2019 while still appealing to those who prioritize bars over everything. If last year’s Tina Snow was a warning, then Fever is rap’s first rites. This is Megan’s game now. CL


25 best albums 2019

Melii

Phases


(Interscope Records)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

Best known for last year’s single ‘Icey’, Harlem-bred Dominican rapper Melii flexes her versatility on her debut album. She can spit an insult like Cardi, rhyme in Spanish like J. Balvin, even spin sultry twilight into a melody like Rihanna. Ms. Fenty’s even a fan, tapping the young singer for a beauty campaign. Her confidence cracks when she hints at the struggles with suicidal ideation and trauma she’s endured since a real-life incident where a close friend was paralyzed after she accidentally fired a gun. Her nascent career shows incredible promise as she continues to grow and heal. LC


25 best albums 2019

Palmistry

Afterlife


(Mixpak)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

On Afterlife, Palmistry graduates from the sparse dancehall minimalism he perfected on 2016’s Pagan to the transcendent, druggy pop he was always destined to make. The album effortlessly glides from gauzy party anthems to tender reflections on romance and the memory of his late father, with Benjy Keating’s lilting voice making phrases like “chopping heads and putting them in fridges” and “a big bump of K” sound just as sweet as “true love” and “rare flowers”. It’s this dissonance that makes his otherworldly tunes so irresistible, subtly rendering grace and debauchery as unrecognisable from one another. HBJ


25 best albums 2019

PTU

Am I Who I Am


(трип)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

If there’s a phrase that sums up Russian duo PTU’s ramshackle patchwork of oddball samples, pummeling kicks and twitchy synth lines, it’s probably ‘techno concrète’. Although their debut album I Am Who I Am comes via Nina Kraviz’s rave-loving трип label and treads roughly the same propulsive musical ground as the label’s other artists, something about PTU’s melting pot of garbled vocals, warbling electronic textures and collapsing rhythms could just as easily have come from a lost tape music project from the 1960s. If you think that means there’s no bangers on this album, you’d be mistaken – ‘Over’ and ‘Skyscript’ are hard and weird enough to fill any dancefloor. SW


25 best albums 2019

Regular Citizen

Sleeping Unique


(Presto?!)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

“Hey Lorenzo! Check your email!”, was the unassuming Instagram DM that inspired Lorenzo Senni to sign Regular Citizen to his continually brilliant Presto!? Records on the strength of a single demo. The Russian-born producer explained that he was stuck in a small Vietnamese village dreaming up music he calls “virginal emo grooves” and that Presto!? was his ticket to a better life. If you think that sounds pretty out-there, Sleeping Unique is even more so, bringing together a series of musical motifs that ricochet from whimsy to melancholy, often in the space of a few seconds. It’s easy to get lost in the brief, looping motifs, but that’s kind of the point in the strange, somnambulist world of Regular Citizen. HBJ


25 best albums 2019

Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats

Anger Management


(Atlantic Records)

Spotify / Apple Music

Rico Nasty basically spent all of 2018 proving herself to be an undeniable new force in hop-hop; her sixth mixtape, Nasty, took equal cues from Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, DMX, and Three 6 Mafia to deliver one of the most brutally entertaining rap records in recent memory. On Anger Management, she teams up with trap-producer-to-the-stars Kenny Beats to up the ante even further, with 18 minutes and 45 seconds of pure jovial rage. All rappers spit bars, but on a track like ‘Cheat Code’, you can almost hear Rico’s spittle hitting the mic. It’s a match made in hard rap heaven, and with such an aptly-titled record, pray for whoever Rico directs her anger towards next. CC


25 best albums 2019

Sisso

Mateso


(Nyege Nyege Tapes)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

Sisso’s latest compilation of sounds for Nyege Nyege Tapes is a gathering of recordings from his eponymous Sisso studios, an informal studio space at the heart of the Tanzania’s singeli dance scene. The feeling of a locally crafted and organic “scenius” sound fills Mateso in a way that’s vibrant and incomparable. The high-octane lilt of each track combined with staccato melodic loops “reflect the idea of keeping a cool head in frenetic situations.” In a time where music is caught up in the quickly depleting global commerce of social trends and clout, producers like Sisso and scene cohorts like Jay Mitta and DJ Longo offer a spicy, infectious, and collective energy in response to a persistently antisocial norm. DBJ


25 best albums 2019

Sote

Parallel Persia


(Diagonal)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

Iranian sound artist and veteran electronic composer Sote’s debut on Diagonal records is truly something to behold: a culturally intact exploration of the outside through the blending of localized modalities and personalized techniques. Ear pricking soundscapes swirl into organic traditional Iranian instrumentation towards a sonic language describing the boundaries of universal perspectives. The pre-album track ‘Artificial Neutrality’ interrogates a false sense of comfort that runs through contemporary society, whereas Parallel Persia lays out intuitive, culturally rooted alternatives to a deceitful complicity in a fascist impartiality. More than anything, Sote’s recent output is about learning, growing and persisting beautifully through difference and tension. DBJ


25 best albums 2019

Tyler, The Creator

IGOR


(Columbia)

Spotify / Apple Music

On his latest album, the obscurist auteur paints with a palette of warm analog tones: synths vibrate with an electric hum, soul vocals wind through songs like golden gossamer, and samples of Nigerian disco and boogie snuggle against intimate (and uncredited) appearances from Solange, Kanye West and more. Reveling in the complexity denied him as a one-dimensional icon of teenage transgression, Tyler cloaks his vulnerability — the tale of an unbalanced love triangle — in layers of sound and poetry. True to his name, it’s more creation than confessional. LC


25 best albums 2019

Various Artists

Cache 01


(SVBKVLT)

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

With ties to Shanghai’s legendary ALL Club, Shanghai label SVBKVLT takes the temperature of China’s experimental club scene, bursting open with the cyber-horror dread of Yen Tech’s ‘Acceleratus’. However, across 13 sky-high noisescapes, the compilation also reps its boundary-busting network of global affiliates. Supported by Kode9 and Aphex Twin (SVBKVLT artist 33EMYBW is performing at an Aphex-curated warehouse party in Manchester later this year), there are nods to the UK in the machine-gun electronics of ‘Electrolytes’ — a collaboration between scene visionary Tzusing and Bristol producer Hodge — and Prettybwoy’s twisted grime nightmare, ‘Second Nightmare’. Elsewhere, Indonesian duo Gabber Modus Operandi fuse nosebleed kicks with gamelan on ‘Sangkala II’. The future is here. ACW


25 best albums 2019

Young Nudy & Pi’erre Bourne

Sli’merre


(Self-released)

Spotify / Apple Music

The immense production talent of Pi’erre ‘You Wanna Come Out Here’ Bourne got the biggest boost from his work with Playboi Carti, but Young Nudy remains the producer’s oldest and most consistent collaborator. Sli’merre finds the duo at their most synergistic, with Bourne fortifying Nudy’s laconic flexes with bat-shit beats, lending sunny woodwind and brass to ‘Mister’, acidic synth stabs to ‘Hot Wings’ and eerie strings to ‘Extendo’. Nudy ambles through the strangeness with a smile on his face, proving himself yet again to be one of Atlanta’s most essential artists. HBJ


Read next: The 25 best albums of the last three months – January to March 2019

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