We’ve spent the past few weeks listening to promos in our quest to recommend to you the most essential albums out in May. The competition was fierce and voluminous, but we dedicated upon a dozen must-buy albums from a diverse coterie of producers from differing styles based all over the world. Here’s our picks listed in chronological order.
Mihai Popoviciu – Home (Bondage Music)
You can take Mihai Popoviciu out of Romania, but you can’t Romania out of Mihai Popoviciu. Despite his ongoing world travels the globetrotting mixmaster (check out his impeccable Big Shot Guest mix) draws creative inspiration from his home town of Sibu. (The cover image is the runway at his local airport, a place he sees nearly every weekend.) Recorded in his studio outfitted with a modest set-up, Popoviciu’s tracks span a range of mood and emotion. From the smooth tech-house of “Sunshine” to the Daft Punk-ish digi funk of “Triumph,” Popoviciu hits all of the right notes on his sophomore effort.
Essential track: “Cannon Poets”
Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra – Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra (The Vinyl Factory)
Composer and classically trained pianist Kate Simko has done everything from remixing Philip Glass to producing Katy B, but one of the most outstanding items on her CV is her electro-acoustic work with the London Electronic Orchestra. Composing the acoustic, orchestral accompaniments to her electronic pieces, the Chicago native brings together two textural worlds and melds them seamlessly into one. With the collaborative aid of the LEO, Simko builds a new musical world on her full-length debut with the Orchestra.
Essential track: “One Time Game” (with Jamie Jones feat. Jem Cooke)
Lucy – Self Mythology (Stroboscopic Artifacts)
Dark and dreamy, organic and ambient, Luca Mortellaro’s third outing as Lucy is the kind of record that lives up to a song title like “Vibrations of a Circular Membrane.” The Italian sound artist set up shop in Berlin, where his Stroboscopic Artefacts label has its home. And on his new album, he stirs up an electro-acoustic sound (with the help of flautist/wordless vocalist Jon Jacobs) that’s full of ethereal vibes but feels flesh-and-blood enough to be a recording of what’s happening inside your own anatomy on a cellular level.
Essential track: “Baba Yaga’s Hut”
Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica Vol. 2: The Heart of Noise (Sony)
Let’s say you’re one of the world’s greatest electronic music innovators of the ‘70s and ‘80s and you want to keep your name in the game. You put out an album with a staggering list of guests including everyone from Gary Numan and The Pet Shop Boys to Julia Holter and Jeff Mills. But you’re not done yet. You want to really take it to another level, so to add the cherry on top, you add one more guest: Edward Snowden. Well, none of this is hypothetical; it’s a completely factual description of the upcoming album from French synth pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre. Hearing is believing.
Essential track: “Here For You” feat. Gary Numan
Digitalism – Mirage (Magnetism Recordings)
For their third album, which has taken five years to arrive, German duo Digitalism throws French touch, Eurodisco, pop, and more into a sonic blender, and what comes out is a sound all their own. Jence and Isi have said the tracks were inspired by the kind of self-reflection and isolation that comes with all the touring they’ve done since their last LP. As Jence describes the outing as, “Maybe a parallel universe that you step into, and you get stuck there. Or you get back into normality, had a hell of a ride, and count the days until you can visit it again.” Sounds good to us.
Essential track: “Utopia”
Jameszoo – Fool (Brainfeeder)
Dutch composer/producer Mitchel van Dinther, a.k.a. Jameszoo, refers to the sound of his full-length debut as “naïve computer jazz.” Whatever musical landscape that may evoke in your mind, van Dinther has taken a unique approach to this record. Besides drawing inspiration from American jazz pianist Steve Kuhn and Brazilian songwriter Arthur Verocai, he actually brought them in to contribute to his recording. Combining these inspirations with his own electronic flavors, van Dinther crafted a world unto itself for the first Jameszoo album.
Essential track: “Flake”
Mark Pritchard – Under the Sun (Warp)
British composer/producer Mark Pritchard, famed for his ‘90s work with Global Communication and so much more, brings together everything from ambient pop to off-kilter electronics on his first album under his own name in five years. And he’s got some heavy-duty friends helping him out. With guests Thom Yorke, psych-folk cult legend Linda Perhacs, and the Anti-Pop Consortium’s Beans on board, it’s bound to be an eclectic and intriguing journey.
Essential track: “Beautiful People” (feat. Thom Yorke)
18+ – Collect (Houndstooth)
R&B, glitchtronica and alt-pop come together on the new album from Justin Swinburne of Berlin and Samia Mirza from Honolulu, who operate under the banner of 18+. Their debut album turned heads in 2014 and now the follow-up seems set to up the ante even further. Incorporating field recordings and phone calls into minimal, angular electronic arrangements the duo creates a place where intimacy and technology collide. You might not want to live there but it makes for a fascinating visit.
Essential track: “Drama”
Electric Rescue – Parallel Behaviors (Skryptom)
French techno journeyman Antoine Husson has been DJing, promoting events and producing music under his Electric Rescue guise for well over two decades now. With a discography boasting tracks for some of the finest labels operating in the axis of electronic music (Cocoon, F Communications, Boys Noize) and gigs galore at the most prestigious clubs (Bargain, Tresor, D-Edge Brazil, to name a few), Husson pulls no punches on his enticing third album. Clearly unconcerned with crossing over or placating fleeting populist tastes, Parallel Behaviors is hard-hitting, ravey techno with an often experimental flair that’s intended for dark clubs with world-class sound systems.
Essential track: “Message From Kepler”
Groove Armada – FABRICLIVE 87 (fabric)
Andy Cato and Tom Findlay have a long history with fabric. They got their start DJing together in fabric’s Room 3, though they have returned in more recent years to rock Room 1. Now they offer up a house-heavy mix for the FABRICLIVE series, incorporating cuts by everyone from Tiga and Josh Wink to Nicole Moudaber and Reset Robot. As the duo has observed regarding the art of the live mix, “…once you’ve done your homework, there comes the moment when the lights go off, the volume goes up and you do it for real. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be human and have a vibe.”
Essential track: Nicole Moudaber – “Can I Get Some” (Drumcode)
Sepalcure – Folding Time (Hotflush)
Machinedrum and Braille made us wait a while for the follow-up to Sepalcure’s debut album, but from the sound of things, the wait will have been well worth it. Digging through a backlog of ideas that goes back years, the duo crafted the new batch of tracks with a mix of the electronic and the organic, playing and programming. Everything from field recordings to electric piano has been employed during a process that also apparently included “many bottles of whiskey,” which we’re taking as an indicator of good things.
Essential track: “No Honey”
Various Artists – MadTech Ibiza 2016 (MadTech)
Fresh from releasing Max Chapman’s brilliant Catch Me If You Can LP earlier in the year, Kerri “Kaoz” Chandler’s label sets its sights on Ibiza with a 16-track sampler featuring house tracks from the aforementioned Chapman as well as a string of rising cars including James Dexter, Apollo 84, Holt Blackheath, Stefano Esposito and Lance Morgan. The grooves run the gamut from tough to euphoric, with each track destined to make an impact this year on the White Isle and beyond.
Essential track: Mr. Jefferson – “Step Back”
Parra for Cuva & Senoy – darwīš (Project: Mooncircle)
The story goes that after finishing a college semester Berliners Nicolas Demuth and Jonas Lechenmayr packed up a car load of gear, headed toward the eastern coast of Spain and returned three weeks later with sonic sketches that became darwīš. An overwhelmingly beautiful and poignant album, the pair present a full-length that’s a powerful, emotionally wrenching eargasm. Their gorgeous melodies meander in continuity with warm basslines, lilting beats and charming glitch. Listening to this album is as euphoric as watching the sunrise and sunset — times ten.
Essential track: “Yuyun”
Additional reporting by Jim Allen