Favourite Albums of 2021

Favourite Albums of 2021

December 27, 2021

Written by:

Dragoș Rusu

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It's that time of the year when we draw a line of what happened in the music world within the past year. As we're slowly and gradually passing through a new state of human evolution, let's rather be grateful for all the great music that has been released throughout this year. Welcome to the endless journey through music albums from 2021, another wonderful year for both new and old music discoveries.

It's been a while since we're doing this annual list. Since we dislike lists as much as you do, we asked some of our contributors, collaborators and friends to help us and share their favourite albums of 2021. No constraints; a complete freedom of picking any preferred album (or compilation) which was produced or repressed during the course of this year. Because when all else falls, music will stand up as a true companion.

A big thank you goes to everyone who contributed to the annual list, for creating another beautiful selection of music that will resist any test of time.

From 75 Dollar Bill to aya

Anastenaria: Thracian Firewalking Ritual Music (Canary Records)
Anastenaria: Thracian Firewalking Ritual Music (Canary Records)
брÿкс - смола (ЯД, 2020, картаскважин, 2021)
"One of the best underground punk albums of the last year with as many as three re-releases in 2021. брÿкс trio formed around a graffiti team that did street art along a Yaroslavsjaya railway line in Moscow. The guys not only engaged in the visual arts, but also often squatted abandoned buildings and arranged happenings and concerts there. The debut album "смола" best conveys the atmosphere of the total underground - in it брÿкс play low-fi proto-punk at the highest peak of their despair. Here you will find stringy, dirty hits that sound like the whistle of the wind in an endlessly dark tunnel. The band’s musical language is absolutely distinctive - the guitars driven to hysteria collide with heaps of drums, through which the trumpet, clarinet, jew's harp and tuba solos cut through. And all this mix is controlled by the piercing desperate voice of the vocalist, who calls himself the Brewer." Picked by Eugenie Galochkin

75 Dollar Bill - Live ateliers claus (Les Albums Claus)
"This is a superb selection of live recordings made by the NYC based 75 Dollar Bill – the project of Rick Brown and Che Chen, when they played in Brussels’ Les Ateliers Claus, once in November 2016 in a duo formula, and the second time in 2019, just a few days after Donald Trump just got elected. Spirited blues sensations confined in psychedelic beauty." Picked by Dragoș Rusu

Abu Ama - AM002 (Accidental Meetings)
"His field recordings are scattered over the album and his rumbling bass is ever present, traditional folk songs dip in and out of the album all brought together in Abu's signature dub-wise style. This level of distortion brings me a drowning flow of happiness." Picked by Victor Stutz

Anastenaria: Thracian Firewalking Ritual Music (Canary Records)
"It’s interesting how the story behind a record lures the listener to get into the music it represents. At least, it always happens this way to me. The image of a stern man holding an icon while walking on coals, accompanied by the title, just caught my attention momentarily. The story says that Anastenaria is an esoteric Christian cult practiced in a few places in north-eastern Greece by the descendants of the Greeks displaced from Bulgaria, and it’s suspected to carry archaic remnants viewed as vaguely Dionysian. While I listen to these old recordings of devotional hymns and folk songs sung to the Thracian and other demotic dances, I cannot help but get heavily focused on the mood created just by two lyra, the drums, and a handful of voices." Picked by Ivan Shelekhov

Angel Katarain - Angel Katarain (Hegoa Diskak)
"Nothing is more attractive in music than the promise of an unknown world of sound. That’s Hegoa Diskak’s promise, a small independent label focusing on music from the incredible Basque Country’s past and future. The debut LP delivers on that promise in heaps! Angel Katarain was a sound engineer by day, serving the prolific Basque folk & rock scene who spent his nights working on his own music, in the same studio. All the songs on this compilation were recorded between 1983-1993 and almost all of them in single one of night sessions as dictated by his work circumstances. A delight of distorted vocals and synth progressions with very unfamiliar flavours of beautiful Basque heritage." Picked by Dragoș Munteanu

Antonina Nowacka - Vocal Sketches from Oaxaca (Takuroku)
"This collection of vocal sketches was compiled by the Polish singer while her traveling through the Mexican state of Oaxaca in search of historical church organs. And while the instruments were mostly unavailable, the artist went to small churches, where she sang, but also got in touch with locals on the road, and sometimes witnessed unexpected landscapes. It all resulted in recordings so delicate yet simple that you don’t necessarily need the whole background story for them to resonate with your sensitivity. Already praised as leaving a taste of something in-between contemporary and of past, these pieces provide me with feels of clarity and calm that are desperately lacking these days." Picked by Ivan Shelekhov

Armand Hammer & The Alchemist - Haram (BackwoodzStudioz)
"Named after industrialist Armand Hammer, NY’s finest wordsmiths Billy Woods & Elucid team up with beatmaker The Alchemist to craft a brooding, brutal, and poetic testament to our times." Picked by Mersenne

aya - im hole (Hyperdub)
"From an ambientalized bricolage of musical genres and depressed social commentary—'The only solution I have found is to simply jump higher.’ " Picked by Paul Breazu
Bonga Jean-Baptiste - Boula (Buda Musique)
Bonga Jean-Baptiste - Boula (Buda Musique)

From Crazy Doberman to Estralurtarrak

Brendan Eder Ensemble, Edward Blankman - Cape Cod Cottage (Jazz Dad Records)
"I first heard this charming jazz album without knowing any of its backstory: supposedly a 1970 release by a retired dentist named Edward Blankman, but in reality a new album by Los Angeles-based Brendan Eder. It won me over despite the obfuscation. I felt everything would be OK while listening. And everything WAS, which is as good as you can ask for in 2021. It's an instrumental manifestation of a Cape Cod myth put to vinyl - a myth I am familiar with, as I am from Cape Cod. I drank too many gin-and-tonics while listening to this record, and my salmon-colored Nantucket Red pants were stained with so much oyster liquor they resembled a Pollock." Picked by Jonathan Ward / Excavated Shellac

Bonga Jean-Baptiste - Boula (Buda Musique)
"Bonga was born in La Plaine, Haiti, to a family with a long lineage of Vodou tradition... I actually have a New Year's Eve story from Haiti a friend of mine shared with me upon his return from a trip to the island a few years ago: So, he went to the beach with his girlfriend to pass into the new year romantically by the sea, under the stars. It was a beautiful night and when they returned their car was being voodoo blessed by a small local gang doing their rental car ceremony. The car was ok and so is my friend, after all these years. His ex too, I guess, Ayibobo!" Picked by Victor Stutz

Ches Smith and We All Break - Path of Seven Colors (Pyroclastic Records)
"Haitian music struggles to be heard. Thankfully, Ches Smith, an American jazz drummer, has helmed this stunningly good fusion of jazz and Haitian music. Here Smith leads We All Break, a US/Haitian ensemble and the results are fluid, unforced, exciting: Path Of Seven Colors contains the sounds of surprise. Essentially, We All Break approach each number as an opportunity for improvisation based on the rhythms and vocal melodies the Haitian musicians push forth." Picked by Garth Cartwright

Cold Gate - Cold Gate (Eternal Delight)
Here’s a strong doze of black metal to lead you through time and space, released by the Russian imprint Eternal Delight. Picked by Hisham Chadly

Crazy Doberman - "Everyone Is Rolling Down A Hill" Or "The Journey To The Center Of Some Arcane Mystery And The Entanglements Of The Vines And Veins Of The Cosmic And Unwieldy Millieu Encountered In The Midst Of That Endeavor" (Astral Spirits)
"With a title almost as long as these introductory remarks and a line-up as loose as its styles, this 2021 album by Indiana free jazz collective Crazy Doberman is a mishmash of avantgarde, experimental music, free jazz, and kraut-infused soundscapes, in no particular order (or chaos). The album’s moods vary from laid-back (not so often), to cryptic (often), and surreal-chaotic-psychedelia (more than often), but its main quality is that, over almost forty minutes of avantgarde soundscapes, it keeps one’s mind at bay. And with the music on this album, there are not many places to go, once your mind is caught upon it, but everywhere. At times a musical voyage to the past depths of kraut madness, “Everyone is Rolling...” is forward-looking sound collage at its contemporary best." Picked by Claudiu Oancea

Dali Muru & The Polyphonic Swarm - Dali Muru & The Polyphonic Swarm (Stroom TV)
"A strong surprise released at the end of the year on Stroom, a swampish but very well produced record infused with spoken word, psychedelia and what not." Picked by Chlorys

Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek – Dost 1 (Les Disques Bongo Joe, Catapulte Records)
"Derya Yildirim & Grup Şimşek have already made a name for themselves with their take on traditional Anatolian songs, and this sophomore effort only cements this reputation. Energetic bass and drums, ethereal yet percussive organ (oh, that Farfisa sound!), trippy bağlama (a long-necked lute), guitar, and synths, all sheathed in Derya Yildirim’s warm, yet commanding voice. At once trippy, dancey, and folky, this is one of those albums that give a contemporary edge to traditional music, while maintaining both styles intact. This is further proof (if any was still needed) that psychedelia is still relevant as a global phenomenon not only because of its Western historical roots, but because of its multiple musical folk influences." Picked by Claudiu Oancea

Estralurtarrak - Another Frontline Compilation 94/00 (Hegoa Diskak)
"From the promotional text: "Estralurtarrak (Extraterrestrials in Basque) was a hardcore techno-pop band that emerged in the city of Pamplona in the north of Spain during the 90's". OK SOLD. This fun mess of a compilation is the possibly most exciting thing I've heard all year. Zero commercial success, punk and DIY as fuck. Make electronic music never heard of midi. Highly charged political samples handled in a decidedly primitive fashion weaved with a completely bananas, very experimental production approach, where 80's/ Italo echoes and industrial influences dance hand in hand (to the beat of rather different drummers). Naive and edgy at almost equal parts, this is a homemade bomb in your face, fresh as a 9am bag of veneno after a night of serious drinking —although its effect would be quite psychedelic somehow—. Not entirely alien to the Macromassa/ Residents/ DSIP constellation, but certainly extra-terrestrials." Picked by Hugo Capablanca

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises (Luaka Bop)
"It is beyond comprehension how in 2021, a 30 year old neuroscientist from Manchester can conduct the perfect circumstances for an 80 year old living myth to shine this bright. Pharoah Sanders, the last living spiritual partner to John Coltrane’s ultimate jazz vision, is at its purest on this record.
The 9 movements, might show the repetitive nature of a raga or prayer, but every single moment feels its own. I can’t stress enough how impressive Shepherd’s contribution feels, in writing for such scale. Having had the honour to experience Pharoah Sanders live, his aura and spiritual force is real, beyond any doubt. In simple terms, he is while performing, possessed by his instrument, beyond the capabilities of an old man’s physical being.
I like to think, the Promises are for those ever in doubt that music, of any kind, can ever go off course. Because against all odds, a masterwork that feels so genuinely timeless can creep up on us at any point." Picked by Dragoș Munteanu

"A collaborative effort between British electronic musician Sam Shepherd, the legendary American jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises is a work of art that transcends the musical styles of each of its collaborators. The ambient-like atmosphere it weaves might be greatly appreciated by listeners during these extraordinary times, or dismissed as shallow synth-sax-strings noodling, yet the nine-movement piece is much more, veering into abstract psychedelia, free jazz experiment, and even symphonic sophistication at times." Picked by Claudiu Oancea
V.A. - Hai Noroc! (Garage, Beat And Pop Artifacts From Romania) (667 Records)
V.A. - Hai Noroc! (Garage, Beat And Pop Artifacts From Romania) (667 Records)

From Ithildin to Gordan

Grykë Pyje - The Fantastic World of Grykë Pyje (Nonlocal Research)
"Mysterious aesthetics from this record, meditative while also being exciting to listen to, a return to a time when the forest used to do the talking." Picked by Chlorys

V.A. - Hai Noroc! (Garage, Beat And Pop Artifacts From Romania) (667 Records)
"A cultural moment of an Eastern communist country." Picked by Paul Breazu

Ingrid Schmoliner & Hamid Drake - Awon Ona (Klanggalerie)
"The piano/drums duet is classic for a reason: it's the most straightforward instrumentation possible to get to the heart of melody plus rhythm. The two-CD set AWON ONA does just that, featuring two festival concerts by Ingrid Schmoliner and Hamid Drake, one from Artacts in St. Johann in Tyrol, Austria, and the other from Jazz Cerkno in Slovenia. With improvisors of this calibre, who's responsible for melody and who rhythm is irrelevant: Drake sings and uses hand percussion to harmonize while Schmoliner's piano preparations permutate tense energy. This is how I want my improvised music. Made not just by two virtuosos on their instruments, but by two musicians who think and breathe through their instruments as extensions of their being." Picked by Andrew Choate

Iration Steppas - 90s Classic Cutz Package (OBF - Dubquake Records)
"These tracks were produced and mixed by Iration's founding members Mark Iration and Dennis Rootical at the High Rise Studio in Chapeltown, Leeds. At the time, the dub-making-duo were heavily experimenting with new sounds, blending dub with acid soundscapes in a way that had never been done before. Their pioneering approach resulted in the creation of a whole new sub- genre, later inspiring future generations to create their own." Picked by Victor Stutz

Ithildin - A Long-Expected Party (self-released)
"Dungeon synth the wonderfully named child of black metal and ambient – two genres I listen to religiously – has never appealed to me that much. The catalyst for change was to be – once again – Mr. Tolkien? This hauntological journey in Middle Earth by Mr. Guillaume P. Trépanier has enough intrigues in itself to hold your attention through its short span." Picked by Mersenne

V.A. - Istimrar Phase 1 (Irtijal)
"In 2021, Irtijal Festival launched Istimrar, its first series of commissioned works addressed to Lebanese musicians. At the time, the purpose of this commission was to keep the creativity of Lebanese musicians alive and robust, and to inject some stimulation into the Lebanese musical sector as a whole. The first series of commissions went to twelve composers and musicians currently living in Lebanon. Each musician was provided with the necessary tools to produce a musical work of her/his devising. The sole condition being that the work should be composed, recorded, mixed and produced locally." Picked by Ziad Nawfal / Ruptured

Jerusalem In My Heart - Qalaq (Constellation Records)
Jerusalem In My Heart presents a new album of vital and haunting electronics and electroacoustics, framed by founder and producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh’s spoken and sung Arabic, buzuk-playing and sound design. Picked by Rabih Beaini

John Francis Flynn - Would Not Live Always (River Lea)
"The debut album by the Dublin based folk singer is striking. Flynn’s voice – mournful, deep, very expressive – tackles songs by celebrated British folk authorities Shirley Collins and Ewan MacColl alongside centuries old ballads. Employing keyboards, drums, tape loops and sean nós singer Saileog Ní Ceannabháin, ensures I Would Not Live Always is intensely atmospheric, a challenging yet compelling listening experience. This is folk music rooted in tradition but alive to our time." Picked by Garth Cartwright

Gordan - Down In The Meadow (Morphine Records)
Gordan join traditional Serbian singing with abstraction, energy and minimalism. Their music is marked by radical reduction, seemingly endless ascension and a passion for experiments. Picked by Rabih Beaini
Meril Wubslin - Alors Quoi (Les Disques Bong Joe)
Meril Wubslin - Alors Quoi (Les Disques Bong Joe)

From Kei Watanabe to Maurice Louca

Kaly Trio - Loom (Ronin Rhythm Records / iapetus)
"This album marked my personal findings through the entire year. Out on the prestigious Ronin Rhythm Records run by Nik Bärtsch, the record breathes novelty and exploration. After the first track, one may be tempted to label it anyhow but jazz. But, what a jazz record should be other the exploring the large variety of instruments' sonic capabilities? Tracks are long, so to let you the necessary time to pay attention to every sound and concentrate on the frequencies the band dives. Listening to the album will probably be the best 45 minutes you spent discovering some new music." Picked by Codin Orășeanu

Karkhana - Al Azraqayn (Karl Records)
"Karkhana's latest double LP documents this international septet (featuring members of Konstrukt, Dwarfs of East Agouza, Land Of Kush, Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet, A-Trio...) at its very best and intense: live on stage. These 6 furious tracks were captured at Bimhuis in Amsterdam in the summer of 2019. Including extended reinterpretations of all 4 tracks from the septet's previous album Bitter Balls, live favorite Nafas, as well as a delirious remake of Tunisian folk classic Sidi Mansour." Picked by Ziad Nawfal / Ruptured

Kei Watanabe - Whisperings (Syrphe)
"A most delicate affair, Kei Watanabe's debut album is a ghostly folk tale of alluring sincerity and sheer beauty. A lo-fi song of the siren of Buddhist reminiscences (recalling those bells makes me want to hit play again) from which you don't want to wake up. Writing of music is like dancing of architecture, you've heard this Zappa quote way too often, and in such unashamedly unimaginative way I shall convey that trying to describe this album would be inevitably downgrading its magickal qualities." Picked by Hugo Capablanca

King Woman - Celestial Blues (Relapse Records)
"Iranian American Kris Esfendiari “has created a theatrical tale of rebellion, tragedy, and triumph”. Classic falling from heaven theme refined by a very strong front woman and very catchy songwriting. See if you can listen to anything else for a month." Picked by Mersenne

L'Eclair - Confusions (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
"Confusions finds L’Eclair finding themselves, having distilled their mastery of groove and rhythm down to a science. Club vibes, psych grooves, rhythmic trances, and ambient comedowns are all present in equal measure, while maintaining a cohesive and consistent flavor throughout. Confusions is both expertly crafted and joyfully spontaneous, danceable yet ethereal, emotive yet cerebral. The shifting moods and melodies imbue the album with a depth that demands repeat listens." Picked by Cyril (Bongo Joe)

Lenhart Tapes - Duets (Novo Doba, Pop Depresija)
"One guy, 4 walkmans. Goat and sheep dialogues, Muslim chanting, loops, e-bow instructions, turbo-folk anthems, language lessons, Satanist rituals, heavy metal guitar for beginners… I found this through Ak'chamel, The Giver Of Illness; it's fuel for my personal Serbian roots, imaginary but burning nostalgia." Picked by Victor Stutz

Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O: Umdali (Mushroom Hour Half Hour)
"In pandemic times, many music buffs re-discovered the urgency of jazz as a much-needed ingredient of their musical menus. While its protagonists will be probably still hindered from travelling and performing internationally by different virus mutations for quite a while, namely, the South African scene keeps on giving and giving. This one is the debut of a young Jo’burg multi-instrumentalist, and it comes via the highly-recommended local Mushroom Hour Half Hour imprint." Picked by Christoph Linder

Maurice Louca - Saet El Hazz (The Luck Hour) (Northern Spy Records / Sub Rosa)
"Egyptian multi-instrumentalist Maurice Louca pushed his sound further and further with each new album that came out. The most recent one, Saet El Hazz (The Luck Hour) is so rich in sounds and diverse sonic textures, that each single song acts like a piece from a whole journey. I actually listened it many times while driving through the mountains, and the superposition of pastoral images of pine trees, mountain rocks, sheep and nature, with Arabic music, psychedelic folk, and free improv – all these created a beautiful experience." Picked by Dragoș Rusu

Meril Wubslin - Alors Quoi (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
"Very hypnotic, minimal, folk and French poetry. The music of this trio from Lausanne, Switzerland is very deep and catch you instantly. With their new album they dug deeper in this tribal, rustic, and minimal tendency that they had in the two previous albums. It is the desire to search for sounds, to manipulate matter: sound matter, rhythmic matter, to knead it to its hottest point, that guided the work of composition. All vintage guitars were recorded without amps. Tambourines and other maracas were approached as a drum kit. But the harmonies and melodies are still present and sometimes event enhanced by the occasional participation of a choir of female voices or a minimal synth line. Always with this desire to use French, their mother tongue, while trying to avoid the trap of « variété française »." Picked by Cyril (Bongo Joe)
Nermin Niazi and Feisal Mosleh - Disco Se Aagay (Discostan)
Nermin Niazi and Feisal Mosleh - Disco Se Aagay (Discostan)

From Mohammad Mostafa Heydarian to OrcFlower

Mohammad Mostafa Heydarian - Songs of Horaman (Radio Khiyaban)
"Again, in 2021 traditional music provided the most goosebumps moments. I became aware of this Kurdish stunner through the always-inspiring Hive Mind Facebook group. Heavy vibes!" Picked by Christoph Linder

Msylma & Ismael - مذاهب النسيان / The Tenets of Forgetting (Éditions Appærent)
"Pre-Islamic poetry on autotune, floating into space, prayed over basses that seem to explode like supernovas." Picked by Giuseppe Cutri

Nathan Salsburg - Psalms (No Quarter)
"I would easily put Nathan Salsburg at the top of my own personal pantheon of acoustic guitarists, along with George Cromarty and Mark Fosson; players who craft songs and tend not to riff on melody lines. This new record is a departure, though, and is more of a conceptual rumination than anything he's released prior. It still has all the elegance of his playing, but inspiration and lyrical content comes from the Book of Psalms. It was recorded over several years and crafted as a deeply personal project...and those are always the works that resonate most with me." Picked by Jonathan Ward / Excavated Shellac

Nermin Niazi and Feisal Mosleh - Disco Se Aagay (Discostan)
"Arshia Haq and Jeremy Loudenbeck have been the forces behind Discostan in Los Angeles since 2011, beginning first as a radio program and a monthly DJ night at Footsies, a fantastic, dimly lit bar in Lincoln Heights where they'd spin records I'd never heard anyone else play - 'decolonizing the dance floor' as they'd say. Who else would have a zurli and tapan group burst through the barroom doors and shatter everyone's eardrums? Since then, Discostan has blossomed into an entire concept, they've launched their own record imprint, and I couldn't be happier. Their first release is a reissue of a 1984 disc by Nermin Niazi and Feisel Mosleh - an addictive, Urdu-language, synthesizer-heavy dance LP that has finally gotten newfound attention." Picked by Jonathan Ward / Excavated Shellac

Nina Harker - Nina Harker (Le Syndicat Des Scorpions)
"Although technically released last year, there's a couple reasons why Nina Harker's eponymous album is rightfully included here; first and most importantly, it wasn't featured on last year's selection and that alone is reason enough as I do firmly believe this very special LP deserves your full attention, so you know, whatever. It did become one of my favourite listenings this year.
Second and lastly, not only its sheer weirdness and sensibility will baffle and bewitch your very ‘open minded ears’ regardless of the year printed on its jacket, but it also just got reissued in a joint effort by Le Syndicat Des Scorpions, All Night Flight and El Muelle 1931 in case you needed this to be technically released in 2021 in order to discover one of your next favourite albums. So please do follow my advice if you might and allow these playful noise incantations become your earworms for the foreseeable future." Picked by Hugo Capablanca

nthng - Unfinished (Lobster Theremin)
"The 17 tracks slowly develop like a movie, shifting between spoken word, marching rhythms and dreamy soundscapes, graced by warm moments of revelation. A perfect soundtrack for your daily dramas." Picked by Giuseppe Cutri

nueen - Circular Sequence (Quiet Time)
"Music can be also perceived as a mirror where to reflect your own feelings, better comprehend them, make them whole, and let them dissipate. The simple harmonies of this album are just hypnotic, providing a pleasant anaesthetic effect, without an impact on your liver.
" Picked by Giuseppe Cutri

OrcFlower - Moo! / Human Face Eater (self-released)
"Two brilliant albums by the Moscow group orcflower showed how psychedelic guitar music can be made in completely different ways. The debut album Moo! recorded with just an electric guitar and drums sounds rather dry and relaxed - as if it was deliberately slowed down (or vice versa - it was you who slowed down). Surf rhythms, a rare weak beat, the bass drum perfectly plays the role of a bass guitar, curtsies towards Pierre Henri's Psyché Rock, barely audible lyrics. And if the first album is ideal for horizontal pastime, then the second release Human Face Eater is created more for dancing. A bass player appeared in the band, which gave the orcflower sound more room for groove maneuvers. The collective immediately gained weight - their songs now expire with poisonous guitar solos, and the general vibe rather resembles a soundtrack to an invented lo-fi game that you want to go through to the end." Picked by Eugenie Galochkin

Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp - We're OK. But We're Lost Anyway (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
"12 pieces big band based in our hometown Geneva, Switzerland. Mixing free jazz, post punk, high life, brass band, symphonic mixtures and kraut rock, their sound only goes beyond the limits of genre. Transcendental, almost ritualistic, the music is coupled with powerful lyrics, declaimed in rage against a world that is falling apart. Adorcist, hypnotic and post-syncratic, the Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, far from Tzara's manifesto, is somewhere between Hugo Ball's phonetic psalms, a Sufi procession that turns into a brawl and a voodoo ritual, but always with a precision proper to the monomania of an Asperger." Picked by Cyril (Bongo Joe)

Ozan Ata Canani - Warte mein Land, warte (Fun in the church)
"A big hooray to the man who saved my professional year as a booking agent! More than 40 years ago, Ata Canani single-handedly invented Turkish rock'n'roll sung in German while still in his teens. Warte mein Land is his debut album proper, and while the last few months, he played almost 40 shows all over Germany." Picked by Christoph Linder
Simple Symmetry - Sorry! We Did Something Wrong (New Ears Records)
Simple Symmetry - Sorry! We Did Something Wrong (New Ears Records)

From Raja Kirik to Tomaga

Phương Tâm - Magical Nights - Saigon Surf Twist & Soul (1964-1966) (Sublime Frequencies)
25 tracks spanning Phương Tâm’s recording career: early rock and roll, surf, twist, soul, blues and jazz ballads recorded in Saigon between 1964-1966, featuring electric guitars, contrabass, lush brass, saxophone, drums and organ, and rich backing vocal arrangements. Restored and remastered from original records and reel tapes. Picked by Hisham Chadly

Porter Ricks - Biokinetics (Force Inc. / Mille Plateaux)
"Techno isn’t a genre that has birthed many consistent albums, and the dub techno subgenre even less so, but one indisputable classic is Porter Ricks’ debut ‘Biokinetics’. Originally issued on the legendary Basic Channel sub-label Chain Reaction in 1996 following a trio of 12”s, ‘Biokinetics’ was the first of the label’s album releases, and still stands as its crowning achievement. This is not music for the beautiful souls." Picked by Victor Stutz

Raja Kirik - Rampokan (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
"The songs to release anger and contort yourself to, a fusion of Indonesian resistance noise and percussion that blew my silly little brains." Picked by Chlorys

s.nianio & >IIkutan - Ільми-Велетні
"In Ukraine, the paths of Svitlana Nianio are a bit untraced, meaning her art remains outside the existing niches in a way. These slow-pulsed compositions have grown on me gradually for months with a sense of organic subtlety pertaining to their melodies, chords, and refrains. With names referring to plants such as the old giant elms or the bear lilac, and also to dialect and dictionary words, or just an exclamation, this record demands a sort of relationship with it, which is accessible but not immediately. And that’s good." Picked by Ivan Shelekhov

Scotch Rolex - Tewari (Hakuna Kulala)
"Or the best that 2021 got from a two-month residency of Shigeru Ishihara aka DJ Scotch Egg in Uganda." Picked by Paul Breazu

Simple Symmetry - Sorry! We Did Something Wrong (New Ears Records)
"Moscow disco duo Simple Symmetry have recorded the best intelligent-pop album of this year. Their debut Sorry! We Did Something Wrong is the most eclectic record in which everything coexists uniformly: psychedelic rock with a curtsy in 42069, collaboration with academic soloists Sasha Elina and Ilya Rubinstein, the mighty drums of the Sepultura’s drummer Igor Kavalera, Middle Eastern spicy pop grooves and the most tender ballad sung by Brazilian new-wave legend Abrão - perhaps the most beautiful piece I've heard this year." Picked by Eugenie Galochkin

Sons Of Kemet - Black To The Future (Impulse!)
"For a music lover picking the best albums of the year is like performing brain surgery. First, you start to realize how much music you have missed. Then, you begin to search your Bandcamp, your Discogs (if you indexed your records), your YouTube likes, your Spotify playlists, and so on. After hours of search, you stay all sweat in front of a blank page. Luckily for me, this year, I know where to begin. It is with Black to the Future, the latest release of Sons Of Kemet. There is no chance someone hears these guys sound and stands unimpressed. Run by Shabaka Hutchings, the group rewrites and redefines jazz. If we speak about the UK jazz scene, Sons Of Kemet represents the heart of it. On Black to the Future, they mix grime, hip hop, spoken word, bass music all the well blended that you have no reason to believe they are out of this world. It is a jazz record that features names such as Moor Mother, Kojey Radical, D Double E, Joshua Idehen, Angel Bat Dawid." Picked by Codin Orășeanu

Stellar Banger - Data Is (Ruptured)
"Stellar Banger is an electro-acoustic quartet composed of Lebanese musicians Ali Hout and Abed Kobeissy and German musicians Pablo Giw and Joss Turnbull. The approach behind Stellar Banger is one of complete musical freedom, away from pre-assigned functions of instrumental / cultural roles, oblivious to the borders separating acoustic and digital media. At the heart of the quartet’s creative process is the notion of instant composing; improvisation with an experimental mindset, drum machines and electronic beats used in an open and intuitive manner, creating an identifiable sonic identity and structure." Picked by Ziad Nawfal / Ruptured

The Anaksimandros - Beyond the Valley of Apeiron (IKUISUUS)
"If you need some music to connect with the nature, with your inner/outer self or simply to participate in a mute conversation with the trees from the forest, this splendid two-pieces album might be a wise choice (especially for the untamed ears), like most of the releases from the Ikuisuus catalogue." Picked by Dragoș Rusu

The Electric Prunes - Then Came The Dawn Complete Recordings 1966-1969 (Cherry Red/Grape Fruit Records)
"A 6-CD boxset covering the entire recorded output of the LA garage band who were coopted into becoming one of the more interesting psych outfits gathers their 5 studio albums, a live in Stockholm 1967 recording and demos, rare singles etc. From I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night through their beautifully odd David Axelrod produced religious albums, the Prunes were always intriguing. And a lot of fun." Picked by Garth Cartwright

Tomaga - Intimate Immensity (Hands in the Dark)
"The heartbreaking yet beautiful conclusion to one of the most exciting duos in recent years from percussionist Valentina Magaletti and multi-instrumentalist Tom Relleen. TOMAGA’s perfectly named Intimate Immensity, feels grand and personal at the same time. The album’s linear notes feature a quote from Relleen, who passed away shortly after the album’s recording, and who references Gaston Bachelard’s book “The Poetics of Space’. A contemplation of ‘the phenomenology of roundness’ and our individual needs for finding our own intimate place in the immensity of our world. This is exactly what this superb album feels like." Picked by Dragoș Munteanu

Tower Block Dreams - Reminiscent Dreams (Warehouse Rave)
"Call me a sucker for the old-school vibes, but this record reminds me of the raves. Let's be serious, even the name of the project takes you to the old school times. But the record is released this year, and you can fill the tide productions. A mix of early dubstep, 2step, UK garage, breaks, invites you to call your good old friend on Telegram and start to party. The piano chords, bassy kick, and short snare are the recipe for the best party. Don’t mix this music if are not a DJ." Picked by Codin Orășeanu

About the Author

Dragoș Rusu

Co-founder and co-editor in chief of The Attic, sound researcher and allround music adventurer, with a keen interest in the anthropology of sound.

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