2012 has been a fantastic year for music, there is no way two ways about it. The LP, in particular, has benefitted from a wealth of quality that has made making this list all the more difficult. It is worth mentioning at this point that albums from the likes of Darling Farah, Lukid, Andy Stott, Daphni, Debruit, Mala, Lee Gamble and countless others all came pretty close to making the final cut.
Taking into account the type of sound that is generally covered on Hyponik, this writer feels that the following albums represent some of the best that this year had to offer. These are the albums that had the most impact over the last 12 months, whether it be for originality, technical prowess, or just sheer, unadulterated enjoyment. To have such quality in such quantity is a blessing.
10. Raime – Quarter Turns Over A Living Line (Blackest Ever Black)
A duo whose influences are known to stretch from Doom Metal to Jungle, Blackest Ever Black’s Raime have sculpted an increasingly unique place for themselves since their 2010 debut. Quarter Turns…burrows into ever darker spaces, but simultaneously creates more open ones. The LP has a hypnotic, chugging inevitability to it – it is expansive power compressed into a 40-minute statement of intent. Above all, it’s a starkly barren journey, a deliverance of unseen threat and isolated apprehension, signalling the arrival of Raime into a realm of their own.
9. Laurel Halo – Quarantine (Hyperdub)
That voice. Devoid of any effects, Laurel Halo’s piercing vocals are one of the most remarkable things about her debut Hyperdub LP Quarantine. Often confrontational, the bleakness conveyed is juxtaposed by the incredible warmth emanated by the music. The album represents a surreal hybrid of the organic and synthetic, and Halo is increasingly pre-occupied with the darker side of technology. It’s also an album that conveys elements underpinning human relationships such as loss and fear. Quarantine routinely takes the breath away, and represents Laurel Halo at her most sonically striking.
8. Actress – R.I.P (Honest Jon’s)
R.I.P represents the most introverted but also most assured of Darren Cunningham’s discography. An artist unconcerned with any sort of pretence or pre-conception, Actress’ third LP moves further away from the dance-floor than ever before, and on many tracks percussion has little to no presence. A real journey, R.I.P inhabits an imagined space between the cracks of established genres. The shadow of Detroit techno hangs over much of the album, but you could never say that Actress makes techno. R.I.P is perhaps the most stunningly beautiful album Cunningham has crafted yet.
7. Death Grips – No Love Deep Web (self-released)
Labelled as a phenomenon by some, it’s difficult to know where to start with Death Grips. So much has been written about them in their relatively short lifespan. Similar feelings arise when discussing their latest, and greatest, LP. Certainly, No Love Deep Web represents a much denser, less inviting record than either of its predecessors. It also represents an acutely nihilistic journey of ruthless proportions, at once hysterical and exhausted, desperately trying not to fall apart. Whilst it’s impossible to separate Death Grips from their image as posturing, publicity clamouring extremists, No Love Deep Web signifies one of the boldest, most unforgiving records of 2012, an effort that reconstitutes what the boundaries of rap and punk should be.
6. Jam City – Classical Curves (Night Slugs)
Best known for pushing accomplished upfront tracks for label Night Slugs, London’s Jam City delved into the mind-bending world of the avant-garde for his long awaited debut LP. Classical Curves is an album concerned with the ever-expanding boundaries of the electronic sound palette, and pushes those boundaries in a way that few of his immediate contemporaries have done, or even attempted. A seriously inventive journey above all else, Classical Curves also feels incredibly natural in its structure. While it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, its sleek, effortless presentation assures an intensely interesting listen presented in sharp definition.
5. Holy Other – Held (Tri Angle)
Mercifully released from the ‘Witch House’ moniker, Holy Other responds by producing one of the most thematically stunning albums of the year. Held represents a triumph of song writing and production, a consistently strong journey that contains no filler. There’s a creaking, struggling essence contained within Holy Other’s music, a very human presence that allows the narrow palette to soar within each composition. This is a very modern, very original take on pop music, on r’n’b, and the wealth of detail that arises throughout Held makes it an unmissable proposition.
4. John Talabot – Fin (Permanent Vacation)
A record that draws from disco and indie as much as it does deep house, John Talabot’s fIN is one of those rarities that seemingly transcends the trappings of genre. You get a striking sense of Talabot’s vision and scope throughout the album, which unites feelings such as joy, melancholy and trepidation simultaneously. Its accessibility is misleading – repeated listens unearth new phases and intricacies previously unheard, shimmering textures saturated with colour. Indeed, the enduring variety of fIN is perhaps its greatest strength, and this, coupled with Talabot’s masterful hold on tension building, makes for a truly euphoric, uplifting experience.
3. Juju & Jordash – Techno Primitivism (Dekmantel)
As you wade further into Juju & Jordash’s eloquent Techno Primitivism, you begin to realise just how tongue in cheek the title is. The Israeli musicians have crafted an LP that truly envelops the listener in its sound and atmosphere. Sonic landscapes are formed, with sounds hovering like a thick layer of humidity above you. It’s a fantastic blend of the electronic and organic, a positive jungle that touches upon multiple genres in a fascinating tour-de-force. The duo have constructed an album that feels like a journey into the unknown, where you start in one place and end up somewhere completely different.
2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid m.A.A.d City (Polydor)
As meticulous as it is maximalist, good kid…is an autobiographical record, and forces itself through all manner of internal conflict, drawing you deep into the world of Kendrick Lamar. It’s a journey that combines the sprawling landscape of Compton with the fleeting idiosyncrasies of its inhabitants. The album is a self-portrait, but one that is dizzied by the various guises and ingenious identities that Lamar flits through, littered with moments bordering on the avant-garde. Above all, however, good kid… is a bonafide blockbuster, a genuine titan that hasn’t been seen since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It’s this seeming contradiction that elevates it into a world unto itself.
1. Vessel – Order Of Noise (Tri Angle)
I don’t think anyone was really prepared for Order Of Noise. Far from a continuation of the 12”s released over the last year, the vision and scope of Seb Gainsborough’s debut LP was unprecedented, unlike anything he had built before.
Comparisons with Actress have been rife – not difficult to understand when you take in the choose-your-own-path logic and rhythm Order Of Noise frequently alludes to. Its dulled, monochrome aesthetic clouds its tracks in a haze of bong smoke, the depth of production as impressive as the immersive, mazy structure. Competing strands of music will arise simultaneously, configurations that are underpinned by fleeting motifs, maintaining structure. It was not uncommon to think entirely new tracks were forming amongst these varying threads.
The apparent desire to not only stimulate but also agitate is what makes Order Of Noise stand tall among releases this year. The unearthing of delicacy and the relationship between it and stronger characteristics such as in ‘Aries’ is a wonderful sonic experience. Despite the innovation, Order Of Noise remains a Bristolian record at heart, and the city’s rich history of soundsystem culture is well represented here.