The Top 20 Albums of 2013
15. Moderat – II
Apparat and Modeselektor’s first album as Moderat received near-universal acclaim, so they had a lot to live up to with their sophomore effort, II. And not only did they live up to expectations, they blew them out of the water. Taking their sound even further outwards into the farthest reaches of electronic music, Moderat delivered a more song-based, shoegaze-influenced vibe while still retaining the heavy low end pressure and grit that won them so many fans to begin with. From the chunky, rhythmic pulses of Milk to the grimey breakbeats and melancholy vocals of Bad Kingdom and the euphoric, celebratory feel of album closer This Time, II contained all the essential elements that won Moderat so many fans to begin with while also treading new ground and taking the trio’s music to new, exciting places. [Andrew Wowk]
14. Zomby – With Love
We don’t hear anything from Zomby for a couple of years, and then out of nowhere he turns up with two discs worth of miniature experiments in down-tempo dubstep beats and bass, drawing on two decades of jungle, hardcore, grime and early techno history and synthesising it into 33 short tracks (that average around 90 seconds each). The short track lengths make for a disorienting listening experience, playing out like sketches for song ideas cut together in the fashion of a fast mixed DJ set, rather than an immersive album, with the tracks roughly divided between ‘hard’ on disc one and ‘soft’ on disc two; With Love lurches and skitters from rolling beats to knife-sharpening breaks, all underpinned by a meditative air of paranoia and deep sub bass.
From the apocalyptic DNB of Overdose to the haunting strings and glockenspiel of Black Rose and static crackle of the title track, With Love may overload the senses, but it’s packed full of memorable moments, from the sublime to the hands-in-the-air ravey. With Love deserves its place on this list for its detailed cataloguing of musical movements, bringing together some of the best bits to come out of 20 years of raving into a sprawling conceptual statement on bass music’s history. [Nick Jarvis]
13. Andrew Bayer – If It Were You, We’d Never Leave
Andrew Bayer marked himself as one of the most talented and unpredictable weapons in the Anjunabeats arsenal with his 2011 debut It’s Artificial. Barely more than a year later, though, he’s followed roughly the same glitchy, downbeat template on his sophomore effort. This time, though, he’s perfected his vision to such an extent, his own debut has effectively been left in the dust.
There’s a gob-smacking amount of sonic experimentation on If It Were You, We’d Never Leave, though Bayer’s real achievement is how he’s managed to weave all this stuttering, jittery white sound into something that carries so much musicality. Just like Vince Watson chose dreamy ambience, minus the genre’s rough edges, on Serene this year, Bayer has delivered an intoxicating, enigmatic and experimental album that people won’t have any trouble connecting with.
Lasting impressions are of a sound technician’s mastering of the technology, combined with classic musicality, plus a heavy dash of rogue Aphex Twin-style sound adventuring. If It Were You, We’d Never Leave will stack up as one of the year’s best electronic albums, and it locks in Andrew Bayer’s status as one of the next-gen’s most devilishly-talented producers. [Angus Paterson]
12. Mat Zo – Damage Control
“I want to do something different and original… Hopefully the future will be an eclectic future.” UK production prodigy Mat Zo said these words to inthemix in 2011, and he saw his vision realised on his debut Damage Control album this year. While to a degree, Zo’s sound might have been more brain-bendingly innovative when he was making straight-up trance for his Anjunabeats label (recalled occasionally here on tracks like The Sky); in its place he goes all out in creating a genuinely diverse package that draws the different elements together cohesively.
Scattering a few musical interludes throughout to give form to his wild sonic canvas, Zo leaps from mutant electro hip-hop on Caller ID, over to old-school rave euphoria with Time On Your Side, to his crossover Porter Robinson collaboration Easy, one of the most triumphant anthems that boomed out over the mainstages this year. The Chuck D sampling Pyramid Scheme sees Zo in unabashed bigroom mode, as does the spectacular Lucid Dream where he’s at his most innovative again. His finest moment though comes when he dials the emotion up on the fractured trip hop of Hurricane.
While the deeper, trancier moments might be lacking as a whole, nonetheless, Damage Control is a hugely sophisticated debut that brings real versatility, class and style. [Angus Paterson]
11. RUFUS – Atlas
The Australian dance music scene is reflective of the nation’s character, I feel: modest, unpretentious, and all about a damn good time. Sydneyside indie-dance outfit RUFUS are emblematic of this approach. The achievements they’ve racked up in a short time is nothing short of impressive – support slots for LCD Soundsystem and Holy Ghost!, appearances on the Australian festival circuit, singles that have received a warm welcome on Australian radio, and the recent signing to Sweat it Out (home to fellow practitioners of the good-vibes, no-bullshit approach to dance music, Yolanda Be Cool).
The pressure of releasing a debut album seems to have remained largely ineffectual in the face of expectations – Atlas is not a record that tries too hard. Atlas is your mate who never takes more than five seconds to dress themselves and still looks better than everyone else at the party – effortless, cool. Atlas continues in this esteemed tradition – spanning a cool fifty or so minutes, it’s a chilled-out ride that will likely launch them to even greater heights. [Miki McLay]