We start our end of year coverage with the top 10 electronic albums to be released by Glaswegian or Glasgow-based artists in 2016. As was the case last year, the diversity is really quite impressive; from the sonic soundscapes of Sad City to the brooding techno of Slam and laid-back reggae of Mungo’s Hi Fi, it seems that this city inspires sounds from across the electronic spectrum. All ten of the albums featured below offer a different experience and artistic vision – what they share in common is quality:
Riddims so sweet that you need to remind yourself they’re from Glasgow. As one of the world’s premier soundsystems, Mungo’s Hi Fi keep us steppin’ all year long, and on this hook-up with Ipswich lyricist YT, the crew bless us with some easy, breezy reggae. It’s stripped-back, sun-kissed beats are juxtaposed by YT’s reality-checking lyrics, while the addition of Johnny Osbourne and Little John – two of dancehall’s greatest singers – make ‘No Wata Down Ting’ a seriously fresh proposition.
Emerging from Glasgow’s burgeoning beat scene, Rory Green aka DTTØ released ‘Botanics’ as a free download on local label, DTHCMP in November. Green’s ultra-modern production techniques are matched by the album’s vibrancy, with a sense of flowing motion and energy throughout. From strange vocal snippets to lively percussion and super-textured field recordings, ‘Botanics’ is full of surprises and highlights a producer brimming with potential. “I bought a hand-held field microphone in order to try and break away from typical drum machine sounds wherever possible.”
Featuring 12 kaleidoscopic tracks which traverse everything from haunting ambience to fizzing electro, Machines In Heaven invited us to surrender our senses on ‘Phenomenology’. From ‘20xx’, a cosmic, spiralling journey which carries you deep into interstellar space, to the beautifully introspective ‘Ruix Con’, their second album is full of fascinating sounds and dreamy melodies - something which is also reflected in the album’s artwork, designed by Glasgow visual artist Konx-om-Pax.
Celebrating 25 years of their imprint Soma Records, not to mention launching a new sub-label, Soma Track Series, 2016 has been one of Slam’s most prolific years to date. The duo also found time to follow-up their ambient/techno odyssey ‘Reverse Proceed’ – our album of the year in 2014 - with ‘Machine Cut Noise’. Like its predecessor, ‘Machine Cut Noise’ begins with ethereal soundscapes before launching into an all-out techno assault, allowing only the occasional opportunity to breathe after the beat kicks in. Its contrasting arrangements provide a beautiful and brutal example of techno’s shifting shades.
As the tastemaker behind cutting-edge beat label Astral Black, it comes as no surprise that Jon Phonics’ first full-length since 2010 is future-facing and fresh. His ability to blur boundaries is in full flow on ‘Letters To Home’, with tracks like the wonderfully reflective ‘Gut Splash’ (assisted by DJ Milktray and Dressin Red), sitting next to the bass-heavy and exotic ‘Nagasaki VIP’. Beats are chopped and samples screwed, as Phonics proves why he and his label mates are among the vanguard of next-gen producers.
At the start of the year veteran Glasgow producer, Alex Smoke, offered us an album which stopped us in our tracks. Having previously released EPs on labels like Soma, Optimo Trax and R&S, Smoke has been a club constant for over fifteen years, but with ‘Love Over Will’ he experimented with some very stimulating sounds and ideas. “Music is such an infinite world and ultimately I want to create an emotional connection with an audience, no matter what technique or approach is used”, he told us in an interview. With his prophetic vocals drifting over ethereal, glacial beats, ‘Love Over Will’ is a seductive, but awakening listen.
When Hudson Mohawke drops a surprise soundtrack to a huge video game franchise, you know it’s going to be something special. And given the creative mandate he most likely received for this project, it’s hugely satisfying to hear the Glaswegian producer push his colourful, cinematic sound to the limit. Menacing, dystopian beats are matched by moments of glittering euphoria, while weird and wonderful arrangements sit comfortably next to simple, 8-bit melodies like the nod-along ‘Burning Desire’. As an instrumental album, this is the sound of Hudson Mohawke in dream mode.
Fans of Tom Scholefield’s stunning visual work (he’s produced graphics for the likes of Lone, Hudson Mohawke and Martyn in the past) will know that his music as Konx-om-Pax matches the psychedelic vibrancy of his artwork. His second album on Planet Mu, ‘Caramel’, finds him exploring futuristic soundscapes, with soaring sonics, hypnotic tones and intergalactic communications. Some tracks, like the sparkling ‘At The Lake’ and ‘Last Jam Ever’, offer moments of dazzling reflection, while ominous drones dominate others. An absorbing experience that is both uplifting and challenging, ‘Caramel’ should be given your full attention.
“Within making your own music there’s quite a lonely world that only you can really explore” Sei A told us at the start of the year. He was speaking about his third album ‘Space In Your Mind’ - a deeply emotive and personal reflection of artistic discovery. While Sei A’s club releases are razor sharp and at times, abrasive, this album allowed the producer to reveal a more introspective side, drifting through crystalline soundscapes which are both mesmerising and melancholy. Featuring a handful of spine-tingling vocal collaborations, ‘Space In Your Mind’ is arguably Sei A’s most accomplished work to date.
Appearing on R&S sub-label, Meda Fury, the debut album from Glasgow-based experimental producer Gary Caruth aka Sad City is as arresting as it is beautiful. Supported by everyone from Andrew Weatherall to Benji B, it’s the record you need to hear if you’ve found yourself uninspired by modern electronic music. Listen intently to Caruth’s intricate production work and you will find yourself fascinated by its detail - a fabric of expertly woven field recordings and textures, each individual sound produced with purpose. Listen with eyes closed, however, and you will quickly fall under its spell.
All albums produced by Glaswegian or Glasgow-based artists. The list was compiled by SynthGlasgow contributors.