North America's Most Intimate Desert Festival Isn't a Mirage

This article originally appeared on THUMP Canada.

Now in its fourth year, Arizona’s FORM Arcosanti has earned a reputation as one of the most unique music and arts festivals in North America. Taking place in the late Italian architect Paolo Soleri’s otherworldly, still-evolving “urban laboratory,” approximately one hour north of Phoenix, organizers select only 1,500 attendees through an intimate application process. Unlike multi-day, sponsor-heavy events, FORM focuses on creating a community environment for its attendees, with campers encouraged to set their own relaxed pace.

Curated by Los Angeles electro-pop outfit Hundred Waters and singer-songwriter Moses Sumney, this year’s lineup included Skrillex, James Blake, Solange, Future Islands, Omar Souleyman, HEALTH, Kelela, and others. The weekend also featured dance performances (Phoenix-based artist Jorge Ignacio Torres’ Palabra Collective were a highlight), film screenings, and sound installations.

We sent Toronto-based photographer Gemma Warren to capture the sights of FORM Arcosanti 2017, and her images will have you planning a trip to the Arizona desert festival next year.

Deafheaven

Father John Misty

Huerco S

Palabra Collective

Julie Byrne

Moses Sumney

Omar Souleyman

Solange

Weyes Blood

Timber Timbre

New York's Panorama Festival Booked A Surprising Amount Of Underground Electronic Acts For 2017

Justice will play Panorama on July 30. Photo by Emma Le Doyen.

Coachella production company Goldenvoice has announced the 2017 lineup for Panorama, its latest attempt to bring their festival circuit dominance to the East coast. The New York festival launched last year with a smattering of acts typical for big-box festivals like thisA-list indie headliners, EDM superstars, and Sia. But this year they seem to have paid a little more attention to one of the undercurrents of their festival: underground electronic music.

The festival goes down July 28-30, and underneath a wide spread of headliners both new (Frank Ocean and Solange) and old (Nine Inch Nails and A Tribe Called Quest), Goldenvoice found some room to get a little weird in the undercard. Day one finds Detroit techno vet Marcellus Pittman holding down a slot, but things don’t really get going until day two, when some of New York’s finest experimenters like Huerco S., Anthony Naples, and the good-spirited house and disco duo behind the Mister Saturday Night parties each take up slots. Vancouver producer Jayda G gets some of the smallest print on the flier, but you can count on her easy-going compositions providing a gentle breeze on Saturday. Day three finds Tim Sweeney, the architect of the legendary Beats in Space radio show and label, playing a set. Brooklyn-born Chicagoan DJ Heather will also turn in one of her famously smooth selections on Sunday.

And that’s just the under-the-radar stuff. Beats and blips across the whole spectrum are well-represented on the whole lineup. There’ll also be appearances by the Stranger Things-scorers in S U R V I V E, the nostalgist pop of Snakehips, Justice‘s neo-disco bliss, Nicolas Jaar’s future-pop politicking, DJ Shadows crepuscular compositions, Cashmere Cat’s chart-busting experimentation, and Girl Talk’s genre-agnostic party gems. In recent years, Coachella has increasingly moved to capture the young audiences that come along with electronic composition, but its New York sister fest may be doing one better by keeping an ear to the underground. Check out the whole lineup below.

Helena Hauff And Huerco S Feature In Our Seven Most Played Tracks Of The Week

This post ran originally on THUMP UK.

We are approaching the end of 2016, everyone’s least favorite year since 1348. Very soon it will be 2017, Obama will bring Bowie back from the dead, and Brexit will be revealed as an elaborate prank staged for an episode of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. All will soon be well again my friends. Until then, let’s try and eke what enjoyment we can out of these final moments of suffering. This week we’ve been blessed with plenty of new treats. Gerd Janson has given John Talabot’s “Voices” a conga workout, there’s a bittersweet posthumous release from Nackta victim of the Oakland firesomething punishing from Unknown Archetype on R&S, and a lo-fi roller from DJ Steaw on Hot Haus. The week in mixes has also proven bountiful, with sessions from Sporting Life, Huerco S, and Helena Hauff marking the 100th entry in Dekmantel’s sensational mix series. What a week. See you in 2017.

1. John Talabot – Voices (Gerd Janson)

2. Nackt & Kendig – Night System

3. Unknown Archetype – Tripp

4. DJ Steaw – Get Down (Dub Mix)

5. Sporting Life – i-DJ

6. Huerco S – BIS Radio Show #864

7. Helena Hauff – Dekmantel Podcast 100

Follow Angus on Twitter.

Helena Hauff And Huerco S Feature In Our Seven Most Played Tracks Of The Week

This post ran originally on THUMP UK.

We are approaching the end of 2016, everyone’s least favorite year since 1348. Very soon it will be 2017, Obama will bring Bowie back from the dead, and Brexit will be revealed as an elaborate prank staged for an episode of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. All will soon be well again my friends. Until then, let’s try and eke what enjoyment we can out of these final moments of suffering. This week we’ve been blessed with plenty of new treats. Gerd Janson has given John Talabot’s “Voices” a conga workout, there’s a bittersweet posthumous release from Nackta victim of the Oakland firesomething punishing from Unknown Archetype on R&S, and a lo-fi roller from DJ Steaw on Hot Haus. The week in mixes has also proven bountiful, with sessions from Sporting Life, Huerco S, and Helena Hauff marking the 100th entry in Dekmantel’s sensational mix series. What a week. See you in 2017.

1. John Talabot – Voices (Gerd Janson)

2. Nackt & Kendig – Night System

3. Unknown Archetype – Tripp

4. DJ Steaw – Get Down (Dub Mix)

5. Sporting Life – i-DJ

6. Huerco S – BIS Radio Show #864

7. Helena Hauff – Dekmantel Podcast 100

Follow Angus on Twitter.

The 25 Best Experimental Albums Of 2016

Free Radicals is THUMP’s column dedicated to experimental electronic music. Each month, we take a look at the trends emerging from the frayed fringes of the dancefloor and why they’re meaningful.

Electronic instrumentation offers near-endless possibilities to experimentalists. Over the course of this year, I’ve written in this column about hazy beatmakers who use geographical signifiers to interrogate rising tides of nationalism worldwide; about noise producers adopting classic rock tropes to create a newly warped Americana; and about a host of composers who are remapping everyday experiences through the use of musique concrte techniques. Existing at the vanguard of music technology, music like this offers opportunities for producers looking to push toward new sounds, forms and ideas. Below are 25 of the best albums that subverted conventions and rewired synapses.

25. Matt Carlson – The View from Nowhere

Matt Carlson, the synth-tweaking half of clarinet-and-electronics duo Golden Retriever, took some time on his latest solo effort to study the tenuous relationship between modular electronics and the human voice. The result is a stream of synthesizer-scarred syntactical experiments that can feel like gibberish, but under intense scrutiny reveals complex, overlapping structureslike the sound of Microsoft Sam slowly learning linguistics.

24. N.M.O. – Nordic Mediterranean Organization / Numerous Miscommunications Occur

That their debut LP features two nonsensical backronyms as its title is just the first sign that N.M.O.’s debut LP for Diagonal is a clever nest of club quips. The duo folds electro refuse and masonry-tough percussion scraps into abstract shapes that sound like the aural equivalent of an industrial origami or a pile of garbage, depending on your vantage point. The double-LP version is deliberately pockmarked with jarring locked grooves in the middle of the trackjust a few more slapstick pitfalls for unprepared listeners to get trapped in.

23. VHVL – EVN

The gentle EVN feels like a grab bag of meditative genresflickering drone, swooning new age, LA beat scene-ready boom-bapbut the pieces are united by their feeling of hopefulness and cautious ascension. After the treatment for a spinal injury left her bedridden for most of 2015, the Harlem producer and composer VHVL made a collection of ambient miniatures that feels like a sigh of relief.

22. Rashad Becker – Traditional Music of Notional Species, Vol. II

According to Discogs, Rashad Becker has been responsible for mastering nearly 1600 records since 1996, and it’s hard not to hear the effects of that intense listening on his intensely programmed solo work. Music for Notional Species, Vol. II picks up where the first installment left off in 2013, building synthesizer scrap heaps to the heavens with all the intricacy and technicolor beauty of a game of Tetris that you’re doomed to lose forever.

21. Lolina – Live in Paris

Live in Paris, Inga Copeland‘s debut LP under the Lolina moniker, was originally billed as a recording of 2015 audiovisual performance in the French capital. But the album’s credits suggest otherwise, saying that it was “written-by, produced, and mixed by Lolina in London.” As xenophobic rhetoric swelled in Britain and fueled the country’s vote to leave the European Union over the summer, the record’s complicated relation to place felt like a commentary on the rising tide of nationalism, both in England and abroad.

She interrogated our traditional understanding of the way that we understand thingslike records or peopleto be a product of the contexts in which they were created. With every foggy synth line and pinched pop structure, we wonder, would it even mean anything different if music this alien was made in Paris or London? How would that change the way it sounds? What does it mean to be from somewhere?

20. Wreck and Reference – Indifferent Rivers Romance End

Wreck and Reference have always been good at conjuring an empowered sort of depression, and Indifferent Rivers Romance End is the L.A. noise-metal merchants’ most confident statement yet. It’s a headlong dive into sickly synthesizers, black metal rot, and strangled post-punk vocals, with a lyric sheet that welcomes sickness, death, and the void with open arms. You’re left with the feeling that giving one’s self over to the darkness can constitute its own weird form of empowermentor, as “Languish” puts it, a path toward beauty, a path toward blindness.”

19. J.S. Aurelius – Goofin’ Drones

After accidentally picking up a book about drone warfarethinking it was a tome about drone musicDestruction Unit guitarist Jes Aurelius constructed Goofin’ Drones as as a way of connect the two. Sourcing audio from code used to hack, destroy, or otherwise disrupt the quadcopter crafts that the U.S. government uses for surveillance and combat abroad, Aurelius constructed this harrowing tape as a statement against “death by remote control.” As you might expect, its gestures are desolate, sudden, and unforgiving.

18. Chino Amobi – Airport Music for Black Folk

In a far cry from the placidity of the Eno album that gives this release its title, Chino Amobi’s brand of Airport Music blows nervous inner monologues to PA announcement volumes and creaks like mangled steel girders. The NON founder’s work often concerns the ways in which marginalized people interact with invisible power structures, and it’s hard not to read this release in the same way; its deeply anxious atmosphere is a compelling reminder of the reality that airports aren’t peacefulor even safeplaces for everyone.

17. Julianna Barwick – Will

The New York-based composer/vocalist‘s past records have favored weightlessness, exploring the emergent rhythms and harmonies inherent to her vocal looping process in zero-g. But Will feels heavy, dense, and full of conflicteach Moog sequence feels like a tractor beam, dragging her through space rather than drifting aimlessly.

16. Steve Hauschildt – Strands

Steve Hauschildt told me earlier this year that his work was in part a “quiet commentary” on the idea that “there’s actually no way to escape chaos, because we inhabit and experience an entropic universe.” You can feel Hauschildt grappling with that degeneration on Strands, a collection of quietly contemplative synths that are grounded by a puttering mechanized energy. There are things in this world that you can’t control, but Strands makes it feel like you can.

15. Puce Mary – The Spiral

Fredrikke Hoffmeier’s Puce Mary LPs all feel like deep descents into industrial underworlds, but the brief moments of beauty on her third full-length for Posh Isolationlike the airy background of “The Temptation to Exist,” or the tonic organ drones of “Masks Are Aids Too”make the trip all the more memorable. It’s a trip to hell, but via the scenic route.

14. Imaginary Softwoods – Annual Flowers in Color

Recorded in fits and starts in three different cities, John Elliott’s latest release as Imaginary Softwoods is a rarities collection of sortscompiling four years’ worth of ostensibly unconnected work into a tape-warmed tapestry of sequenced ambience. But you wouldn’t really get a sense of that piecemeal construction without that backstory on bandcamp. With its sagging, waterlogged analog synths lines and hushed spoken word, this one’s pretty unified in sound and spirit, shot through with the wistful discontent that breathes life into so much of the world’s best synth instrumentals.

13. TALsounds – Lifter + Lighter

Both with Good Willsmith and on her own as TALsounds, Natalie Chami’s well versed in making spur-of-the-moment gestures feel carefully plotted. Lifter/Lighter was recorded live with no overdubs, but you’d never guess it from whirlpool loop chaos of tracks like “Close My Eyes.” For music that has its roots in improvisation, it feels tight, as though Chami were composer forced to work in real-time. As her pieces have gotten more complex, they’ve become an increasingly precarious balancing act, which makes the tremendous beauty of Lifter/LIghter all the more moving.

12. Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke – It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry

Two electronics revolutionaries collide on this subtle exploration of remorse. The album’s two side-long pieces are made up of slowly droning electronics and guitars, and each bears a evocative title that gestures at the lovelorn sorrow that digitalist ambient recordings like this sometimes soundtrack. It’s a wholly moving experience, even after you realize that those titles are just lyrics from the song by classic rock cheeseballs Chicago that gave this record it’s titlea small goof amidst the gloom.

11. Moor Mother – Fetish Bones

Impressionistically outlining the history of the governmental oppression of black bodieswhether via physical force or legislationMoor Mother‘s debut LP fetish bones vibrated with an urgency that few albums this year vibrated with the same urgency, Fetish Bones. Institutional violence is met with spoken-word molotovs, sandpapered found samples, and production that sounds like Black Dice remixing Pete Rock (or vice versa). It’s a chaotic collage that feels every bit as unsettling as its subject matter, the sort of record that makes you want to throw down your headphones and take to the streets.

10. Motion Sickness of Time Travel – Affinity

Rachel Evans’ prolific release schedule as Motion Sickness of Time Travel slowed down for a bit following the birth of her first son a few years ago, but in the second half of 2016, she was back opening up portals to outer space at her natural pace. Affinity was her first release as a mother, and it also stands as the most overwhelming release she’s recorded to date. The belt-sander drones of “New Moon” and the synthy despondency of the nearly 17-minute long “Interlude” find Evans exploring the gloom inherent in cosmic music. In the desolate stretches of her synthesizer hums, there’s a depressing reminder that most of what’s beyond the stratosphere is just empty space.

9. Dedekind Cut – $uccessor

One of the ways you could listen to Fred Warmsley’s latest album as Dedekind Cut was by buying a yoga mat that came with a digital download. The product description for the “high quality PRO” mat promises “extra cushioning and comfort,” “safety and performance,” “longevity and durability,” and “stability”all of which turns out to be a pretty solid illustration of the patient, new age-y inclinations of the record. Unlike the unsettled atmosphere of some of his other releases under the moniker, this is ambient music as self-care.

8. Sarah Davachi – Dominions

I don’t know that many people on this list would buy into the idea that the vintage synths Sarah Davachi uses are, as her Bandcamp puts it, “obsolete machines.” But there is something wonderfully antique about the way that Dominions employs this old tech to make wheezing, defeatist drones, stuttering back into action and stumbling through the record’s 38-minute runtime. Davachi acts as a spectral conductor, making pieces that sound empty and haunted, like computerized funeral ballads from beamed from another life.

7. Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Comme Un Seul Narcisse

None of the track titles on this collaboration between composers Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma are more than a couple letters long, but take all ten of them together, and they spell out a french phrase that translates to “melancholy objects.” The muffled murmurs and ASMR shuffling of Comme Un Seul Narcisse are personal and intimateminiatures to be picked up and pored over until they leave you with a deep longing for something just out of reach.

6. ine O’Dwyer – Locusts

The harpist-turned-cathedral-organ-wrangler ine O’Dwyer returned to the holiest of instruments this year for two tapes of sacred dissonance. Locusts is the better of the two, if only because it’s willing to indulge the darkness inherent to the church spaces in which she records this music. She evokes the Bible’s the funereal march of plague, death, and demise. And like the title suggests, atonal organ drones do sound more than a little like insectoid swarming.

5. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy

Sunergy is the full-borne fruit of incredible happenstance. Two of the world’s greatest Buchla synthesizer players met several years ago when they realized they were living in the same tiny Northern California town. After years of friendship and collaboration, they’ve emerged with a testament to the natural landscapes of the Pacific coast. The record’s shifts are subtle, but their effects colossal, like the movement of the water that’s enraptured Ciani over the last several decades.

4. Good Willsmith – Things Our Bodies Used to Have

The hydra-headed Chicago drone crew Good Willsmith have said that they approached Things Our Bodies Used to Have like a jazz record, staying united on themes but allowing each member the room to delve into outer zones, soloing wildly for minutes at a timeas much as that’s possible for a group that primarily makes electronic loops. As such, it’s a bit looser than their past releases, but that’s the realm they’ve always found richestpulling diamonds from sonic muck.

3. Oren Ambarchi – Hubris

In the past, Australian avant-guitarist Oren Ambarchi has done cranium-crushing noise and blistered ambience, but with help from psych-techno madman Ricardo Villalobos (among other experimentalist godheads) he dragged himself to the depths of the dancefloor on Hubris. Channeling his noise know-how through acid-warped, guitar-and-electronics zoning reminiscent of E2-E4, Ambarchi’s attacks the locomotive grid of techno with wiry, caustic melodiessomething like stumbling upon neon vomit in a club toilet as the rest of the night pulses ahead outside.

2. Autechre – elseq 1-5

The daring English duo‘s five-part, four-hour hard drive purge is a far cry from the humanoid beauty of their earliest work. It’s a pulsar-dense spiderweb of pitch-black Max/MSP outputs, held together by duct tape and saliva. There are few suggestions of life in it, but that’s part of the record’s powerits reminder that most machines hide no ghosts, just whirring bits of metal and untameable electrical impulses.

1. Huerco S – For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)

Back in May, I mercilessly cut THUMP’s UK editor Josh Baines’ attempt to describe Huerco S‘ new one as “the finest ambient record of 2016 so far” from a piece we were working on together. The joys that For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) presented were muted; its reverb-drowned synths circling in locked beatless loops were pleasant, but where was the danger?

But I came to live with the record over the ensuing months, and I found myself returning to it for exactly that reason: as 2016 became harder to bear, it presented an alternative, an impossibly cozy, comforter-like shelter from the endless storm of shit that dominated my life (and probably yours too!) on both a personal and cosmic scale. I can’t think of a year in my life where I more frequently needed escape, but actually checking out from the world felt irresponsible. So I put the breaking waves of “Promises of Fertility” on repeat, and its cottonball synth lines reshaped the world around me. Everything was a little softer. For a few minutes things didn’t seem so bad, even if they still were.

The 25 Best Experimental Albums Of 2016

Free Radicals is THUMP’s column dedicated to experimental electronic music. Each month, we take a look at the trends emerging from the frayed fringes of the dancefloor and why they’re meaningful.

Electronic instrumentation offers near-endless possibilities to experimentalists. Over the course of this year, I’ve written in this column about hazy beatmakers who use geographical signifiers to interrogate rising tides of nationalism worldwide; about noise producers adopting classic rock tropes to create a newly warped Americana; and about a host of composers who are remapping everyday experiences through the use of musique concrte techniques. Existing at the vanguard of music technology, music like this offers opportunities for producers looking to push toward new sounds, forms and ideas. Below are 25 of the best albums that subverted conventions and rewired synapses.

25. Matt Carlson – The View from Nowhere

Matt Carlson, the synth-tweaking half of clarinet-and-electronics duo Golden Retriever, took some time on his latest solo effort to study the tenuous relationship between modular electronics and the human voice. The result is a stream of synthesizer-scarred syntactical experiments that can feel like gibberish, but under intense scrutiny reveals complex, overlapping structureslike the sound of Microsoft Sam slowly learning linguistics.

24. N.M.O. – Nordic Mediterranean Organization / Numerous Miscommunications Occur

That their debut LP features two nonsensical backronyms as its title is just the first sign that N.M.O.’s debut LP for Diagonal is a clever nest of club quips. The duo folds electro refuse and masonry-tough percussion scraps into abstract shapes that sound like the aural equivalent of an industrial origami or a pile of garbage, depending on your vantage point. The double-LP version is deliberately pockmarked with jarring locked grooves in the middle of the trackjust a few more slapstick pitfalls for unprepared listeners to get trapped in.

23. VHVL – EVN

The gentle EVN feels like a grab bag of meditative genresflickering drone, swooning new age, LA beat scene-ready boom-bapbut the pieces are united by their feeling of hopefulness and cautious ascension. After the treatment for a spinal injury left her bedridden for most of 2015, the Harlem producer and composer VHVL made a collection of ambient miniatures that feels like a sigh of relief.

22. Rashad Becker – Traditional Music of Notional Species, Vol. II

According to Discogs, Rashad Becker has been responsible for mastering nearly 1600 records since 1996, and it’s hard not to hear the effects of that intense listening on his intensely programmed solo work. Music for Notional Species, Vol. II picks up where the first installment left off in 2013, building synthesizer scrap heaps to the heavens with all the intricacy and technicolor beauty of a game of Tetris that you’re doomed to lose forever.

21. Lolina – Live in Paris

Live in Paris, Inga Copeland‘s debut LP under the Lolina moniker, was originally billed as a recording of 2015 audiovisual performance in the French capital. But the album’s credits suggest otherwise, saying that it was “written-by, produced, and mixed by Lolina in London.” As xenophobic rhetoric swelled in Britain and fueled the country’s vote to leave the European Union over the summer, the record’s complicated relation to place felt like a commentary on the rising tide of nationalism, both in England and abroad.

She interrogated our traditional understanding of the way that we understand thingslike records or peopleto be a product of the contexts in which they were created. With every foggy synth line and pinched pop structure, we wonder, would it even mean anything different if music this alien was made in Paris or London? How would that change the way it sounds? What does it mean to be from somewhere?

20. Wreck and Reference – Indifferent Rivers Romance End

Wreck and Reference have always been good at conjuring an empowered sort of depression, and Indifferent Rivers Romance End is the L.A. noise-metal merchants’ most confident statement yet. It’s a headlong dive into sickly synthesizers, black metal rot, and strangled post-punk vocals, with a lyric sheet that welcomes sickness, death, and the void with open arms. You’re left with the feeling that giving one’s self over to the darkness can constitute its own weird form of empowermentor, as “Languish” puts it, a path toward beauty, a path toward blindness.”

19. J.S. Aurelius – Goofin’ Drones

After accidentally picking up a book about drone warfarethinking it was a tome about drone musicDestruction Unit guitarist Jes Aurelius constructed Goofin’ Drones as as a way of connect the two. Sourcing audio from code used to hack, destroy, or otherwise disrupt the quadcopter crafts that the U.S. government uses for surveillance and combat abroad, Aurelius constructed this harrowing tape as a statement against “death by remote control.” As you might expect, its gestures are desolate, sudden, and unforgiving.

18. Chino Amobi – Airport Music for Black Folk

In a far cry from the placidity of the Eno album that gives this release its title, Chino Amobi’s brand of Airport Music blows nervous inner monologues to PA announcement volumes and creaks like mangled steel girders. The NON founder’s work often concerns the ways in which marginalized people interact with invisible power structures, and it’s hard not to read this release in the same way; its deeply anxious atmosphere is a compelling reminder of the reality that airports aren’t peacefulor even safeplaces for everyone.

17. Julianna Barwick – Will

The New York-based composer/vocalist‘s past records have favored weightlessness, exploring the emergent rhythms and harmonies inherent to her vocal looping process in zero-g. But Will feels heavy, dense, and full of conflicteach Moog sequence feels like a tractor beam, dragging her through space rather than drifting aimlessly.

16. Steve Hauschildt – Strands

Steve Hauschildt told me earlier this year that his work was in part a “quiet commentary” on the idea that “there’s actually no way to escape chaos, because we inhabit and experience an entropic universe.” You can feel Hauschildt grappling with that degeneration on Strands, a collection of quietly contemplative synths that are grounded by a puttering mechanized energy. There are things in this world that you can’t control, but Strands makes it feel like you can.

15. Puce Mary – The Spiral

Fredrikke Hoffmeier’s Puce Mary LPs all feel like deep descents into industrial underworlds, but the brief moments of beauty on her third full-length for Posh Isolationlike the airy background of “The Temptation to Exist,” or the tonic organ drones of “Masks Are Aids Too”make the trip all the more memorable. It’s a trip to hell, but via the scenic route.

14. Imaginary Softwoods – Annual Flowers in Color

Recorded in fits and starts in three different cities, John Elliott’s latest release as Imaginary Softwoods is a rarities collection of sortscompiling four years’ worth of ostensibly unconnected work into a tape-warmed tapestry of sequenced ambience. But you wouldn’t really get a sense of that piecemeal construction without that backstory on bandcamp. With its sagging, waterlogged analog synths lines and hushed spoken word, this one’s pretty unified in sound and spirit, shot through with the wistful discontent that breathes life into so much of the world’s best synth instrumentals.

13. TALsounds – Lifter + Lighter

Both with Good Willsmith and on her own as TALsounds, Natalie Chami’s well versed in making spur-of-the-moment gestures feel carefully plotted. Lifter/Lighter was recorded live with no overdubs, but you’d never guess it from whirlpool loop chaos of tracks like “Close My Eyes.” For music that has its roots in improvisation, it feels tight, as though Chami were composer forced to work in real-time. As her pieces have gotten more complex, they’ve become an increasingly precarious balancing act, which makes the tremendous beauty of Lifter/LIghter all the more moving.

12. Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke – It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry

Two electronics revolutionaries collide on this subtle exploration of remorse. The album’s two side-long pieces are made up of slowly droning electronics and guitars, and each bears a evocative title that gestures at the lovelorn sorrow that digitalist ambient recordings like this sometimes soundtrack. It’s a wholly moving experience, even after you realize that those titles are just lyrics from the song by classic rock cheeseballs Chicago that gave this record it’s titlea small goof amidst the gloom.

11. Moor Mother – Fetish Bones

Impressionistically outlining the history of the governmental oppression of black bodieswhether via physical force or legislationMoor Mother‘s debut LP fetish bones vibrated with an urgency that few albums this year vibrated with the same urgency, Fetish Bones. Institutional violence is met with spoken-word molotovs, sandpapered found samples, and production that sounds like Black Dice remixing Pete Rock (or vice versa). It’s a chaotic collage that feels every bit as unsettling as its subject matter, the sort of record that makes you want to throw down your headphones and take to the streets.

10. Motion Sickness of Time Travel – Affinity

Rachel Evans’ prolific release schedule as Motion Sickness of Time Travel slowed down for a bit following the birth of her first son a few years ago, but in the second half of 2016, she was back opening up portals to outer space at her natural pace. Affinity was her first release as a mother, and it also stands as the most overwhelming release she’s recorded to date. The belt-sander drones of “New Moon” and the synthy despondency of the nearly 17-minute long “Interlude” find Evans exploring the gloom inherent in cosmic music. In the desolate stretches of her synthesizer hums, there’s a depressing reminder that most of what’s beyond the stratosphere is just empty space.

9. Dedekind Cut – $uccessor

One of the ways you could listen to Fred Warmsley’s latest album as Dedekind Cut was by buying a yoga mat that came with a digital download. The product description for the “high quality PRO” mat promises “extra cushioning and comfort,” “safety and performance,” “longevity and durability,” and “stability”all of which turns out to be a pretty solid illustration of the patient, new age-y inclinations of the record. Unlike the unsettled atmosphere of some of his other releases under the moniker, this is ambient music as self-care.

8. Sarah Davachi – Dominions

I don’t know that many people on this list would buy into the idea that the vintage synths Sarah Davachi uses are, as her Bandcamp puts it, “obsolete machines.” But there is something wonderfully antique about the way that Dominions employs this old tech to make wheezing, defeatist drones, stuttering back into action and stumbling through the record’s 38-minute runtime. Davachi acts as a spectral conductor, making pieces that sound empty and haunted, like computerized funeral ballads from beamed from another life.

7. Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Comme Un Seul Narcisse

None of the track titles on this collaboration between composers Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma are more than a couple letters long, but take all ten of them together, and they spell out a french phrase that translates to “melancholy objects.” The muffled murmurs and ASMR shuffling of Comme Un Seul Narcisse are personal and intimateminiatures to be picked up and pored over until they leave you with a deep longing for something just out of reach.

6. ine O’Dwyer – Locusts

The harpist-turned-cathedral-organ-wrangler ine O’Dwyer returned to the holiest of instruments this year for two tapes of sacred dissonance. Locusts is the better of the two, if only because it’s willing to indulge the darkness inherent to the church spaces in which she records this music. She evokes the Bible’s the funereal march of plague, death, and demise. And like the title suggests, atonal organ drones do sound more than a little like insectoid swarming.

5. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy

Sunergy is the full-borne fruit of incredible happenstance. Two of the world’s greatest Buchla synthesizer players met several years ago when they realized they were living in the same tiny Northern California town. After years of friendship and collaboration, they’ve emerged with a testament to the natural landscapes of the Pacific coast. The record’s shifts are subtle, but their effects colossal, like the movement of the water that’s enraptured Ciani over the last several decades.

4. Good Willsmith – Things Our Bodies Used to Have

The hydra-headed Chicago drone crew Good Willsmith have said that they approached Things Our Bodies Used to Have like a jazz record, staying united on themes but allowing each member the room to delve into outer zones, soloing wildly for minutes at a timeas much as that’s possible for a group that primarily makes electronic loops. As such, it’s a bit looser than their past releases, but that’s the realm they’ve always found richestpulling diamonds from sonic muck.

3. Oren Ambarchi – Hubris

In the past, Australian avant-guitarist Oren Ambarchi has done cranium-crushing noise and blistered ambience, but with help from psych-techno madman Ricardo Villalobos (among other experimentalist godheads) he dragged himself to the depths of the dancefloor on Hubris. Channeling his noise know-how through acid-warped, guitar-and-electronics zoning reminiscent of E2-E4, Ambarchi’s attacks the locomotive grid of techno with wiry, caustic melodiessomething like stumbling upon neon vomit in a club toilet as the rest of the night pulses ahead outside.

2. Autechre – elseq 1-5

The daring English duo‘s five-part, four-hour hard drive purge is a far cry from the humanoid beauty of their earliest work. It’s a pulsar-dense spiderweb of pitch-black Max/MSP outputs, held together by duct tape and saliva. There are few suggestions of life in it, but that’s part of the record’s powerits reminder that most machines hide no ghosts, just whirring bits of metal and untameable electrical impulses.

1. Huerco S – For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)

Back in May, I mercilessly cut THUMP’s UK editor Josh Baines’ attempt to describe Huerco S‘ new one as “the finest ambient record of 2016 so far” from a piece we were working on together. The joys that For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) presented were muted; its reverb-drowned synths circling in locked beatless loops were pleasant, but where was the danger?

But I came to live with the record over the ensuing months, and I found myself returning to it for exactly that reason: as 2016 became harder to bear, it presented an alternative, an impossibly cozy, comforter-like shelter from the endless storm of shit that dominated my life (and probably yours too!) on both a personal and cosmic scale. I can’t think of a year in my life where I more frequently needed escape, but actually checking out from the world felt irresponsible. So I put the breaking waves of “Promises of Fertility” on repeat, and its cottonball synth lines reshaped the world around me. Everything was a little softer. For a few minutes things didn’t seem so bad, even if they still were.

The 33 Best Albums Of 2016

Illustration by Dana Kim

Never question the efficacy of a great album. Dance singles offer concentrated dopamine hits and lengthy mixes offer IV drips of all sorts of pleasant neurotransmitters, but 2016’s vast slate of electronic full-lengths, while sometimes more gradual in their effects, are no less life-altering. Afforded the opportunity to take up a little more space, producers made a number of complex statements, offering up electro-protest anthems, rose-tinted remembrances of childhood, and collections of club tracks as harrowing as War of the Worlds. Below are 33 albums that went beyond a single track’s impact to offer expansive discourse and complicated feelingsin a year that demanded both.

33. Baauer – Aa

Though Aa didn’t come out until March, Baauer heralded his debut studio album’s arrival back in January, when the producer debuted “Days Ones,” a collaboration with Novelist and Leikeli47, on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Leikeli47 was wearing her signature balaclava; the Brooklyn-based producer, whose real name is Harry Rodrigues, was seated casually on a couch to the side of the stage, wearing headphones and staring at a laptop. Even for someone who has lived, at various times, in Philly, Germany, London, and Connecticut, the ruse positioned Rodrigues first and foremost as a child of the internet.

And Aa cements that interpretation, leveraging bass music, grime, hip-hop, and twinkling ambience less as ends in themselves than as shifting emotional terrains in an LED-lit journey into the end of the night. The stacked lineup of guests on the albumamong them, Future, Pusha T, MIA, and South Korean rapper G-Dragonmake for some of the highest highs, but to Baauer’s credit, in his first big look since the “Harlem Shake,” the moments of wide-eyed lyricism leave as much of an impression as the drops.Emilie Friedlander

32. DJ Tiga – The Sound Vol. 1

DJ TiGa describes his craft in surprisingly functional terms. Discussing the philosophy that informed The Sound Vol. 1, his debut mixtape for J-Cush’s influential Brooklyn label Lit City Trax, the Newark-based producer put it simply: “Club music isn’t beautiful. It’s supposed to make you sweat, you’re supposed to jump, you’re supposed to be able to scream to the top of your lungs.”

Caffeine-pill flips of Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O” and Biggie’s “Dead Wrong” (presented in filleted form here as “Take Note (Who the Man),” fulfill that mandate of dancefloor destruction. But the real triumph of The Sound Vol. 1, contrary to TiGa’s own claims, is the paradoxical beauty of the thing; he has a knack for presenting simple melodies that roil colorfully against the TV static of the drum programming. It’s often an austere sort of allure, but the kaleidoscopic sweetness underpinning songs like the Tink and Aaliyah-sampling “Your Love” is part of what makes The Sound so addictive outside of dancefloor contextsa little saccharine to accompany the sweat.Colin Joyce

31. Ana Caprix – M6 Ultra

Since I started working a 9-5 last year, my listening sessions during my daily bus commute have acquired a level of personal sanctity similar in emotional intensity to Helga’s shrine to Arnold in her closet. This is my time, and whatever I put on better fucking jam. So it’s not faint praise to say that the album I’ve played most often after wrenching myself out of bed and crumpling into a blue plastic bus seat is this under-the-radar stunner from British producer Ana Caprix. It’s hard to quantify exactly what’s going with it musically: there are elements of trance, sure, but there’s also hip-hop percussion, dreamy ambient pads, and a nasty Dido sample or two. It doesn’t matter, ultimately; just throw it on and melt away.Ezra Marcus

30. Mock the Zuma – Gauss

Mexican producer born Kevin Santana is known for making bold statements; his alias of Mock the Zuma is a parody of the notorious ninth governor of Tenochtitlan, Moctezuma II. Released on influential Mexican label and collective NAAFI, Gauss is plagued with sounds extracted from video games and internet clips and is about the realities of living and making music in Mexico. The record’s seven tracks aren’t intended to shine on the dancefloor, but rather to provoke introspection from its dark production. Santana’s hometown of Ciudad Jurez is one of the most violent cities in Mexico, and his EP is a reminder of what it’s like to create music in a city at war with drug trafficking, where the hours after curfew are passed with friends and video games. Ultimately, Gauss is a reflection of the border reality that is lived in Mexico.Valeria Anzaldo

29. Tommy Awards – Sessions II

Even if my listening has been colored by the repeated occasions I’ve imagined that this Swedish Balearic duo’s name is some sort of porn award, Sessions II is a strangely sexy recordif your idea of a perfect fuck involves lapping waves, silk sheets, and the prurient bliss of Ash Ra Tempel records. Even if all that isn’t your bag, this tantric two-trackerwhich plods along gently on puttering drums, then recedes as gentle mystical Environments recording soundalikes and lackadaisical guitars swell around itis a perfect accompaniment to any activity that involves two consenting adults and a pair of speakers. Highly recommended for those of you out there into rainforests, Steve Roach, post-coital glows.Josh Baines

28. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy

Since their inception in 2009, RVNG Intl.’s FRKWYS series has become a kind of fantasy football for people who read The Wire and despise actual football. Previous installments have seen Blues Control jamming with zither-maestro Laraaji, Sun Araw hanging out with reggae legends the Congos, and the formation of what is possibly the world’s greatest modular synth supergroup to date, Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, and Lopatin.

This time around, the label has paired the celestial and perennially soothing Suzanne Ciani with fellow Buchla player Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith for a languorous waltz down the Pacific Coast Highway. Sunergy is an unhurried minor masterpiecea burbling and barely-there set of synth-jams that breathe themselves into the most subtle of beings. This is intricate and understandably ornate music that demandsand rewardsdeep listening.Josh Baines

27. Foodman – Ez Minzoku

Critics have largely described the sonic riddles that Takahide Higuchi issues as Foodman as if he were still in the throes of an early fascination with the caffeinated kick drum programming of footwork. But in the years since he debuted back in 2012, he’s taken real glee in frustrating those expectations, channelling the twitchy programming he learned from that genre into a barrage of harebrained samples.

His full-length return to the absurdo-futurist imprint Orange Milk, Ez Minzoku, is his most hilarious effort yetand perhaps his record least linked to footwork, or the dance floor at all for that matter. Within the space of just a few tracks, there’s jaw-dropping samples of metal riffs, referee whistles, dial-tone drops, pinched “ow”s, Japanese rapping, and treacly synth lines that sound kind of like Dntel’s cotton candy programming for the Postal Serviceand sometimes more. It’s a joyous cacophony of sounds that shouldn’t be able to coexist, let alone produce moments as sublime as the new age-y bliss of “Ure Pill.” Mostly, though, it’s the sound of cartoon neurons juking at the same speed as his bass drums once did.Colin Joyce

26. Umfang – Riffs

Emma Burgess-Olson’s productions as Umfang tend to be even more multifarious than her DJ sets. On a split earlier this year for the Danish experimental label Phinery, she demonstrated a taste for the totally fucked, tossing up acidic screwballs that lifted her sound away from the dancefloor entirely. Her August release for 1080p, Riffs, is perhaps even more skyward-sounding. Over five tracks, she flits through spacious synth sequences and sparse kick drums; there’s an overbearing anxiousness in the air, a sick awareness of the rapidly decreasing oxygen as she drags you closer to the stratosphere. Riffs is the rare record that baffles me every time I play it, both because of its own harrowing internal logic and because of what its triumphs suggest for an artist who hits stranger heights on every release. What earthly realms are left to conquer once you’ve broken orbit?Colin Joyce

25. Powell – Sport

In the short time that he’s been signed to XL Recordings, Oscar Powell has developed a reputation as one of dance music’s merry pranksters. Last year, Powell took out a billboard featuring the full text of a sample clearance letter from legendary punk grump Steve Albini that allowed Powell to sample one of his recordings but stated that he “detest own agency.”

Self-determination is a difficult topic to untangle on a record full of collaborations, especially given that it ends on the white-hot sunrise of “Red Eyez,” a track made by the London-based Lexxi alone. But the answer to her question proves relatively intuitive here, both because all of her collaborators are longtime pals, and because nearly overstuffed and nauseous pieces like “Dummy Track” demonstrate she’s a natural for the director’s chairknowing just how much detail to creep in before cutting it off. Like most of her work, an atmosphere of optimistic longing underpins the proceedings, but with the help of her friends, her work feels more impactful than it’s ever beena testament to the power of pushing ahead, with friends on your side.Colin Joyce

4. Kornel Kovacs – The Bells

The Bells begins with a half-remembered melody, a shadowy prelude-that-never-was to a 2014 track about getting fucked up. It sets a precedent for an album that revels in its weightlessness, and a producer who seems to defy standard conventions of time. Kornel Kovacs plays with this temporal slipperiness over the course his debut double LPthe first two sides are a sparkling FM tribute to 80s synth-pop and funky disco-house, while the second slab is a glittering journey through disco atmospherics. Meanwhile, the album title refers to another decade, and specifically to Jeff Mills’s seminal 1997 techno track “The Bells,” a hypnotic roller which shares little in common with Kovacs’ record, other than its layered and organic approach. All of this makes for an album which confidently knows it can’t be easily bracketed by epoch or genre. So don’t think about it too hard, throw this one on at home while the album art cheekily smiles back, and do as one of its timeless tracks implores you: “Dance… While The Record Spins.”Jesse Weiss

3. Kaytranada – 99.9%

Overflowing with four-on-the-floor rhythms, washed-out bass lines, and crate-plucked samples, Kaytranada‘s music sits somewhere between the booty-bouncing beats of house and the funk of 90s R&B. It takes cues from the artists he grew up listening to as the child of immigrant parents in Montreal, but it also sounds fresher than anything you’ll find on the radio today.

His long-awaited debut album, 99.9%, pushes that outside-of-time logic even further, setting rising talents like rapper Vic Mensa and jazz experimentalists BadBadNotGood alongside unsung veterans like Craig David and Phonte of Little Brother. Whereas lesser producers would be overshadowed by such a cabal of guests, here, they only serve to accentuate the producer’s kaleidoscopic, percussion-first instrumentals. “You’re the One,” a collaboration with vocalist Syd tha Kyd, is a frontrunner for the best distillation of the Kaytranada sound. From the hand claps, to the Internet co-founder’s feather-light coos, to its reverberating synth bass, the track flows through you in an instant, infectious, loving rush of music.Britt Julious


2. Huerco S – For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)

Brian Eno famously first conceived of the idea of ambient music while bedridden after he was hit by a car. Unable to get across the room to turn up the stereoso the story goeshe found himself annoyed by, then enamored of music that blended into the room’s preexisting sonic environment. The genre he proposed was to beas he wrote in the liner notes for Music for Airportsas “ignorable as it is interesting.” But the beauty of For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)the producer Brian Leeds‘ first album-length foray into ambient musicis in its apparent rejection of this idea.

Leeds has said that he too uses this music to relax and recover while on his intercontinental travels between DJ sets. But this album is nestled more in the lineage of Hiroshi Yoshimura’s new age-adjacent tone pieces than the delicate drones of the Eno strain of ambience. There’s just a whole lot more movement on For Those of You than you might expect from an ambient record, from spectrally swelling synthesizers and gently sequenced electronics, to pieces that sound like sleepwalking club tracks with the drums skillfully excised. Instead of augmenting the spaces you inhabit, this gauzy latticework breathes and coalesces into something darker, wispier, more cocoon-like. The album’s not a way of coping with the world around you; it’s another world entirely.Colin Joyce

1. ANOHNI – Hopelessness

Earlier this year, sitting in the lobby of the Roxy Hotel in Lower Manhattan, ANOHNI informed me that she was going on an “eyes-wide-open” campaign.

“How wide can I hold my eyes, how much can I try to see, knowing that I’ll never see it all?” she mused. The former Antony and the Johnsons mastermind was referring, of course, not to the physical faculty of sight, but to a kind of psychic equivalent of ita willingness to hold open a space in her heart and her mind for the alarming headlines about American foreign policy and corporate surveillance and climate change she’d been reading in the news for the past 15 years, to allow the terror and sadness they elicited in her to sink in, to refuse to look away. Later on, I realized that she’d offered me a pretty perfect summation of what it means to be an artistnot to report the news, but to channel what it feels like to live it, to articulate what it feels like to be human in the midst of, or in spite of, the political, social, and economic realities of one’s time.

Hopelessness, her sixth album, embraces this definition of art more literally than most, using palatial, club-inspired production from Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never as a launch pad for some of the most disarmingly direct social commentary our generation has heard from an artist. She sings a song about Obama that calls the president by name. She sings a song from the perspective of a young girl whose family has been killed by an American drone bomb, and another about how incremental temperature changes may be slowly killing off species of flora and fauna.

Were it not for the motherly cradle of her voice and the ecstatic bombast of the synthetic horns and strings, it would all probably be too much to take inand to many listeners, it probably was. But after the election, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that while many of us spent that past few years hermetically sealed inside our hyper-liberal Facebook bubbles, blissfully ignorant of the things we didn’t want to see, ANOHNI was already looking. That didn’t make Hopelessness any less quixotic, any less crazy of an undertaking; it just reminded us that it was only as crazy as the world that ANOHNI is singing about.Emilie Friedlander

The 33 Best Albums Of 2016

Illustration by Dana Kim

Never question the efficacy of a great album. Dance singles offer concentrated dopamine hits and lengthy mixes offer IV drips of all sorts of pleasant neurotransmitters, but 2016’s vast slate of electronic full-lengths, while sometimes more gradual in their effects, are no less life-altering. Afforded the opportunity to take up a little more space, producers made a number of complex statements, offering up electro-protest anthems, rose-tinted remembrances of childhood, and collections of club tracks as harrowing as War of the Worlds. Below are 33 albums that went beyond a single track’s impact to offer expansive discourse and complicated feelingsin a year that demanded both.

33. Baauer – Aa

Though Aa didn’t come out until March, Baauer heralded his debut studio album’s arrival back in January, when the producer debuted “Days Ones,” a collaboration with Novelist and Leikeli47, on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Leikeli47 was wearing her signature balaclava; the Brooklyn-based producer, whose real name is Harry Rodrigues, was seated casually on a couch to the side of the stage, wearing headphones and staring at a laptop. Even for someone who has lived, at various times, in Philly, Germany, London, and Connecticut, the ruse positioned Rodrigues first and foremost as a child of the internet.

And Aa cements that interpretation, leveraging bass music, grime, hip-hop, and twinkling ambience less as ends in themselves than as shifting emotional terrains in an LED-lit journey into the end of the night. The stacked lineup of guests on the albumamong them, Future, Pusha T, MIA, and South Korean rapper G-Dragonmake for some of the highest highs, but to Baauer’s credit, in his first big look since the “Harlem Shake,” the moments of wide-eyed lyricism leave as much of an impression as the drops.Emilie Friedlander

32. DJ Tiga – The Sound Vol. 1

DJ TiGa describes his craft in surprisingly functional terms. Discussing the philosophy that informed The Sound Vol. 1, his debut mixtape for J-Cush’s influential Brooklyn label Lit City Trax, the Newark-based producer put it simply: “Club music isn’t beautiful. It’s supposed to make you sweat, you’re supposed to jump, you’re supposed to be able to scream to the top of your lungs.”

Caffeine-pill flips of Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O” and Biggie’s “Dead Wrong” (presented in filleted form here as “Take Note (Who the Man),” fulfill that mandate of dancefloor destruction. But the real triumph of The Sound Vol. 1, contrary to TiGa’s own claims, is the paradoxical beauty of the thing; he has a knack for presenting simple melodies that roil colorfully against the TV static of the drum programming. It’s often an austere sort of allure, but the kaleidoscopic sweetness underpinning songs like the Tink and Aaliyah-sampling “Your Love” is part of what makes The Sound so addictive outside of dancefloor contextsa little saccharine to accompany the sweat.Colin Joyce

31. Ana Caprix – M6 Ultra

Since I started working a 9-5 last year, my listening sessions during my daily bus commute have acquired a level of personal sanctity similar in emotional intensity to Helga’s shrine to Arnold in her closet. This is my time, and whatever I put on better fucking jam. So it’s not faint praise to say that the album I’ve played most often after wrenching myself out of bed and crumpling into a blue plastic bus seat is this under-the-radar stunner from British producer Ana Caprix. It’s hard to quantify exactly what’s going with it musically: there are elements of trance, sure, but there’s also hip-hop percussion, dreamy ambient pads, and a nasty Dido sample or two. It doesn’t matter, ultimately; just throw it on and melt away.Ezra Marcus

30. Mock the Zuma – Gauss

Mexican producer born Kevin Santana is known for making bold statements; his alias of Mock the Zuma is a parody of the notorious ninth governor of Tenochtitlan, Moctezuma II. Released on influential Mexican label and collective NAAFI, Gauss is plagued with sounds extracted from video games and internet clips and is about the realities of living and making music in Mexico. The record’s seven tracks aren’t intended to shine on the dancefloor, but rather to provoke introspection from its dark production. Santana’s hometown of Ciudad Jurez is one of the most violent cities in Mexico, and his EP is a reminder of what it’s like to create music in a city at war with drug trafficking, where the hours after curfew are passed with friends and video games. Ultimately, Gauss is a reflection of the border reality that is lived in Mexico.Valeria Anzaldo

29. Tommy Awards – Sessions II

Even if my listening has been colored by the repeated occasions I’ve imagined that this Swedish Balearic duo’s name is some sort of porn award, Sessions II is a strangely sexy recordif your idea of a perfect fuck involves lapping waves, silk sheets, and the prurient bliss of Ash Ra Tempel records. Even if all that isn’t your bag, this tantric two-trackerwhich plods along gently on puttering drums, then recedes as gentle mystical Environments recording soundalikes and lackadaisical guitars swell around itis a perfect accompaniment to any activity that involves two consenting adults and a pair of speakers. Highly recommended for those of you out there into rainforests, Steve Roach, post-coital glows.Josh Baines

28. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy

Since their inception in 2009, RVNG Intl.’s FRKWYS series has become a kind of fantasy football for people who read The Wire and despise actual football. Previous installments have seen Blues Control jamming with zither-maestro Laraaji, Sun Araw hanging out with reggae legends the Congos, and the formation of what is possibly the world’s greatest modular synth supergroup to date, Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, and Lopatin.

This time around, the label has paired the celestial and perennially soothing Suzanne Ciani with fellow Buchla player Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith for a languorous waltz down the Pacific Coast Highway. Sunergy is an unhurried minor masterpiecea burbling and barely-there set of synth-jams that breathe themselves into the most subtle of beings. This is intricate and understandably ornate music that demandsand rewardsdeep listening.Josh Baines

27. Foodman – Ez Minzoku

Critics have largely described the sonic riddles that Takahide Higuchi issues as Foodman as if he were still in the throes of an early fascination with the caffeinated kick drum programming of footwork. But in the years since he debuted back in 2012, he’s taken real glee in frustrating those expectations, channelling the twitchy programming he learned from that genre into a barrage of harebrained samples.

His full-length return to the absurdo-futurist imprint Orange Milk, Ez Minzoku, is his most hilarious effort yetand perhaps his record least linked to footwork, or the dance floor at all for that matter. Within the space of just a few tracks, there’s jaw-dropping samples of metal riffs, referee whistles, dial-tone drops, pinched “ow”s, Japanese rapping, and treacly synth lines that sound kind of like Dntel’s cotton candy programming for the Postal Serviceand sometimes more. It’s a joyous cacophony of sounds that shouldn’t be able to coexist, let alone produce moments as sublime as the new age-y bliss of “Ure Pill.” Mostly, though, it’s the sound of cartoon neurons juking at the same speed as his bass drums once did.Colin Joyce

26. Umfang – Riffs

Emma Burgess-Olson’s productions as Umfang tend to be even more multifarious than her DJ sets. On a split earlier this year for the Danish experimental label Phinery, she demonstrated a taste for the totally fucked, tossing up acidic screwballs that lifted her sound away from the dancefloor entirely. Her August release for 1080p, Riffs, is perhaps even more skyward-sounding. Over five tracks, she flits through spacious synth sequences and sparse kick drums; there’s an overbearing anxiousness in the air, a sick awareness of the rapidly decreasing oxygen as she drags you closer to the stratosphere. Riffs is the rare record that baffles me every time I play it, both because of its own harrowing internal logic and because of what its triumphs suggest for an artist who hits stranger heights on every release. What earthly realms are left to conquer once you’ve broken orbit?Colin Joyce

25. Powell – Sport

In the short time that he’s been signed to XL Recordings, Oscar Powell has developed a reputation as one of dance music’s merry pranksters. Last year, Powell took out a billboard featuring the full text of a sample clearance letter from legendary punk grump Steve Albini that allowed Powell to sample one of his recordings but stated that he “detest own agency.”

Self-determination is a difficult topic to untangle on a record full of collaborations, especially given that it ends on the white-hot sunrise of “Red Eyez,” a track made by the London-based Lexxi alone. But the answer to her question proves relatively intuitive here, both because all of her collaborators are longtime pals, and because nearly overstuffed and nauseous pieces like “Dummy Track” demonstrate she’s a natural for the director’s chairknowing just how much detail to creep in before cutting it off. Like most of her work, an atmosphere of optimistic longing underpins the proceedings, but with the help of her friends, her work feels more impactful than it’s ever beena testament to the power of pushing ahead, with friends on your side.Colin Joyce

4. Kornel Kovacs – The Bells

The Bells begins with a half-remembered melody, a shadowy prelude-that-never-was to a 2014 track about getting fucked up. It sets a precedent for an album that revels in its weightlessness, and a producer who seems to defy standard conventions of time. Kornel Kovacs plays with this temporal slipperiness over the course his debut double LPthe first two sides are a sparkling FM tribute to 80s synth-pop and funky disco-house, while the second slab is a glittering journey through disco atmospherics. Meanwhile, the album title refers to another decade, and specifically to Jeff Mills’s seminal 1997 techno track “The Bells,” a hypnotic roller which shares little in common with Kovacs’ record, other than its layered and organic approach. All of this makes for an album which confidently knows it can’t be easily bracketed by epoch or genre. So don’t think about it too hard, throw this one on at home while the album art cheekily smiles back, and do as one of its timeless tracks implores you: “Dance… While The Record Spins.”Jesse Weiss

3. Kaytranada – 99.9%

Overflowing with four-on-the-floor rhythms, washed-out bass lines, and crate-plucked samples, Kaytranada‘s music sits somewhere between the booty-bouncing beats of house and the funk of 90s R&B. It takes cues from the artists he grew up listening to as the child of immigrant parents in Montreal, but it also sounds fresher than anything you’ll find on the radio today.

His long-awaited debut album, 99.9%, pushes that outside-of-time logic even further, setting rising talents like rapper Vic Mensa and jazz experimentalists BadBadNotGood alongside unsung veterans like Craig David and Phonte of Little Brother. Whereas lesser producers would be overshadowed by such a cabal of guests, here, they only serve to accentuate the producer’s kaleidoscopic, percussion-first instrumentals. “You’re the One,” a collaboration with vocalist Syd tha Kyd, is a frontrunner for the best distillation of the Kaytranada sound. From the hand claps, to the Internet co-founder’s feather-light coos, to its reverberating synth bass, the track flows through you in an instant, infectious, loving rush of music.Britt Julious


2. Huerco S – For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)

Brian Eno famously first conceived of the idea of ambient music while bedridden after he was hit by a car. Unable to get across the room to turn up the stereoso the story goeshe found himself annoyed by, then enamored of music that blended into the room’s preexisting sonic environment. The genre he proposed was to beas he wrote in the liner notes for Music for Airportsas “ignorable as it is interesting.” But the beauty of For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)the producer Brian Leeds‘ first album-length foray into ambient musicis in its apparent rejection of this idea.

Leeds has said that he too uses this music to relax and recover while on his intercontinental travels between DJ sets. But this album is nestled more in the lineage of Hiroshi Yoshimura’s new age-adjacent tone pieces than the delicate drones of the Eno strain of ambience. There’s just a whole lot more movement on For Those of You than you might expect from an ambient record, from spectrally swelling synthesizers and gently sequenced electronics, to pieces that sound like sleepwalking club tracks with the drums skillfully excised. Instead of augmenting the spaces you inhabit, this gauzy latticework breathes and coalesces into something darker, wispier, more cocoon-like. The album’s not a way of coping with the world around you; it’s another world entirely.Colin Joyce

1. ANOHNI – Hopelessness

Earlier this year, sitting in the lobby of the Roxy Hotel in Lower Manhattan, ANOHNI informed me that she was going on an “eyes-wide-open” campaign.

“How wide can I hold my eyes, how much can I try to see, knowing that I’ll never see it all?” she mused. The former Antony and the Johnsons mastermind was referring, of course, not to the physical faculty of sight, but to a kind of psychic equivalent of ita willingness to hold open a space in her heart and her mind for the alarming headlines about American foreign policy and corporate surveillance and climate change she’d been reading in the news for the past 15 years, to allow the terror and sadness they elicited in her to sink in, to refuse to look away. Later on, I realized that she’d offered me a pretty perfect summation of what it means to be an artistnot to report the news, but to channel what it feels like to live it, to articulate what it feels like to be human in the midst of, or in spite of, the political, social, and economic realities of one’s time.

Hopelessness, her sixth album, embraces this definition of art more literally than most, using palatial, club-inspired production from Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never as a launch pad for some of the most disarmingly direct social commentary our generation has heard from an artist. She sings a song about Obama that calls the president by name. She sings a song from the perspective of a young girl whose family has been killed by an American drone bomb, and another about how incremental temperature changes may be slowly killing off species of flora and fauna.

Were it not for the motherly cradle of her voice and the ecstatic bombast of the synthetic horns and strings, it would all probably be too much to take inand to many listeners, it probably was. But after the election, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that while many of us spent that past few years hermetically sealed inside our hyper-liberal Facebook bubbles, blissfully ignorant of the things we didn’t want to see, ANOHNI was already looking. That didn’t make Hopelessness any less quixotic, any less crazy of an undertaking; it just reminded us that it was only as crazy as the world that ANOHNI is singing about.Emilie Friedlander

The Best Things We Saw On The Dance Music Internet This Week

1. Meeting Carl Bean

THUMP Features Editor Michelle Lhooq spoke with Carl Bean, the 72-year-old preacher who crafted, “I Was Born This Way,” one of the most infectious and impactful songs for the LGBT community.

2. Skotoboinya

In this short documentary, THUMP explores Skotoboinya, speaks with its founders and uncovers how it helps teens reimagine 90s dance rave culture.

3. Dance music and schizophrenia

There is order in dance music. Writer Kofi Edzie explains how listening to and producing dance music helps him cope with schizophrenia.

4. Huerco S and Anthony Naples at Pickle Factory

Dive into the weekend with this four-hour mix recorded from an earlier set at Pickle Factory.

5. Orb-jects

Columnist Michaelangelo Matos spoke with The Orb about seven objects that have helped defined their decades-long career.

6. The Zoo Project

Resident Advisor profiles The Zoo Project, Ibiza’s pseudo-dance music festival, on its 10th anniversary.

7. Marcel Dettmann’s DJ-Kicks

It’s here! Stream DJ and producer Marcel Dettmann’s new DJ-Kicks in full.

8. In defense of big beat

Writer Jonny Coleman writes a passionate defense of the 90s genre which spawned popular hits from The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, among others.

9. The enduring power of Ricardo Villalobos

Pitchfork profiles Ricardo Villalobos, one of the best producers and remixers out now.

10. Classic albums

Mixmag created this clever mix which looks at albums more than 20 years old that still sound fresh. Producers include Tricky, LFO and Orbital.

Ambient Interludes And Club Constructions Abound In This Week's Seven Most Played

This article originally was published on THUMP UK.

On a day like this, it’s all too easy to lose hope, to sink into the kind of fug that lasts for days, weeks, months, years even. Which, given the circumstances, is completely understandable. After all, this isn’t an everyday occurrence. In an attempt to cheer ourselves, and hopefully you, up, we’ve decided to slam together the seven best things we’ve heard in a tumultuous, strange, and ultimately disappointing week.

There’s album length-goodness from Chromatics, a new belter courtesy of the Night Slugs Crew, a dark and deep Huerco S mix, a gritty slammer from The Trilogy Tapes’ Samo DJ, a late night creeper straight out of the mouths of Dam-Funk and Nite Jewel, another headsy, house affair on Toy Tonics, and an ocean of tranquility in the form of another No Kicks mix from Leisureware.

1. Chromatics – Cherry

2. DJC – C100

3. Huerco S – Juno Plus Podcast 141

4. Samo DJ – LKF

5. NITE-FUNK – Let Me Be Me

6. Lancelot – Lorikeets

7. Leisureware – No Kicks Mix 4

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The 25 Best Albums Of 2016 So Far

The history of dance music has primarily been told through singles. One great trackwhen properly nestled in the right DJ set, so the logic goeshas the power not only to set the dancefloor alight, but to shift the sound and energy of a scene writ large. You’re never going to spin a full-length album at peak hours, but the format has furthered some of the dancefloor’s great paradigm shifts, allowing producers to explore the furthest corners of their sound. Moments of euphoria are spread further out, but they’re just as present, and always worth the wait. We’ve already told you the year’s best tracks, now strap in for the long-haul below and check out the 25 best albums of 2016 so far.

Amnesia Scanner – AS

Amnesia Scanner has never felt real, at least in the sense of corporeal human beings with fleshy fingers programming the mutant beatwork and ASCII melodies that make up their music. But earlier this year, they made their debut in the physical world with AS, issued in varying forms of paper and plastic. The short EP contains some of their most hookily structured material to date, as if the shadowy figures behind the curtain realized that restructuring their jabbering vocals and drum judders into more recognizably humanoid outlinespop and club structures, mainlywould make their work more legible to mere mortals. As it turns out, appending sinew to steel does not a human make, but AS‘ real draw is in the ugly bits, where meat and tech collide in a beautiful cyborgian failure.Colin Joyce

ANOHNI – Hopelessness

Sonically ambitious, ecologically minded, and emotionally fragile all at once, ANOHNI’s HOPELESSNESS is one of the most multifaceted records 2016 has seen yet. The New York-based artist, formerly of the band Antony and the Johnsons, has crafted a protest album that plays out like an assault on society’s grandest ills: climate change, government surveillance, drone strikes, and genocideand it’s particularly interested in the places where all of the above intersect.

But the record’s genius lies partly in the sneakiness with which it plants these messages in the ear. Bolstered by production by Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, HOPELESSNESS uses the physicality of dance music to bruising effect, making ANOHNI’s political provocations both more palatable and more punishing. Speaking to THUMP earlier this year, ANOHNI said that the way she “express.” That’s a generous thing of the 26-year-old artist to say, but it’s unlikely there are many people who aren’t left in the dust by his debut for J-Cush’s Lit City Trax. Remixing everything from hip-hop hits to an NFL theme song and a Cousin Terio Vine, the mixtape is an exercise in profound artistic tenacity: just when you think he can’t fit another idea into a track, he fits in eight.Alexander Iadarola

Uli K – Elusivo

Long the most laconic and sensitive member of Long London’s Bala Club crew, singer/songwriter Uli K steps out of the shadow of younger brother Kamixlo (who’s released on PAN sublabel Codes) and pal Endgame (recently signed to Hyperdub) and into blinding, heartrending vulnerability. Uli told The FADER at the time of the EPs release that it that it was part of a process of coming to terms with heartbreak and gender identity by presenting all the misery and confusion wholly unvarnished, or as they put it “snitching on myselfreading my diary out loud.”

That pain reverberates throughout. Even over the fractured beats care of Berlin shredder Mechatok and frequent Yung Lean collaborator Whitearmor (Lean also turns up for a brief verse, on that “Drifting”), Uli sings of blood and money, voluntary loneliness, and romantic dissolution. The catharsis these stories offer feels generous, a hand stretched outhowever tremulousfor whenever you feel similarly broken.Colin Joyce

Various Artists – Pampa Records Vol. 1

There’s a dizzying array of sounds and styles represented on the first label compilation from DJ Koze’s Pampa Records, from Jamie xx’s rave retro-gazing to Matthew Herbert’s butcher-shop techno trickery. But the unifying concept is the unmitigated joy that a dancefloor can bring. UAE-born producer Abood Nasrawi makes that explicit on his contribution “Bump with You,” sampling a small child’s giggly suggestion that singing “embarrassing,” but dancing is “ok.” The track then lurches into glassy-eyed, unrestrained beatwork, permission for liftoff having been granted from the mouths of babes. Pampa’s stable of signees and friends often adopt worn club forms, but their productions underscore why people return to things like house and techno over and over again: club music’s currency is ecstasy.Colin Joyce

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