Editor’s note: Yes, it’s that time of the year again! While our own Album of the Year list is already published by the time you read this, we still have a ton of end of year content for you. Over the coming week, we’ll be exploring 2017 in various of ways: through curated summaries for specific genres, editorials on specific phenomena we found interesting and, of course, guest lists! For our last list, we invited one of our favorite projects of the year to participate: ZETA! These masters of synth/retrowave are comprised of Katie Jackson, Paul Oritz (AKA Chimp Spanner) and Dan Tompkins (from TesseracT and many other projects). The resulting meld of their personalities and musical flavors has resulted in one of the catchier albums of 2017, expertly weaving pop, electronic music and synths into a futuristic whole.
Thus it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to see an album like the Blade Runner 2049 OST open this list. Hans Zimmer basically owns this entire genre and anyone working with synth-based music basically owes him their fealty. Other entrances on this list, like Kendrick Lamar or Arcane Roots, speak to the wide-ranging sounds which make up ZETA’s palette, hinting at the variety that could already be heard on the album. While still others hint at their deeper electronic roots, with many including techno and glitch influences. So, without further ado, please enjoy our last guest list for 2017!
Hans Zimmer – ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Soundtrack
When Paul and I saw Blade Runner 2049 when it first came out we were absolutely blown away by the film and the soundtrack. Seeing it at the cinema was an experience, to say the least. We were skeptical as to how it could ever beat Vangelis’ iconic original soundtrack, but in our opinion it’s just as good, just in a different way. It doesn’t have a lot in the way of melodic motifs- apart from references to the original which sound amazing amongst the new textures- but the sound design is so big and immersive that it doesn’t really need it. My favourite track from it is Sea Wall. It’s so intense that it’s almost draining to listen to, but when the ethereal ambient drones and brass kick in it’s something else.
Vacant – Nocturnal
Future Garage remains a huge musical influence for Paul and myself. Vacant’s style encapsulates everything we love about the genre. It’s deep, ambient, melancholic, washed in generous amounts of reverb and instantly transports you away. Burial is a big source of inspiration for Vacant and even for ZETA to an extent, but his music encapsulates Burial’s sound to a T. This EP is a continuation of his consistently gorgeous material; it’s nearly impossible to hear a bad track from him.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
I’ve been a fan of Kendrick’s music ever since I heard ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ in 2012. ‘DAMN’. continues to be reminiscent of the days of the classic ’90s West Coast/G-Funk and old school sound that his previous albums have captured so well, putting his own spin on it with his imaginative, storytelling lyrics and memorable flows. He’s without a doubt one of the best and most genuine Rap artists doing his thing at the minute.
Arcane Roots – Melancholia Hymns
Melancholia Hymns is fresh and forward thinking, displaying a diverse array of euphoric and uplifting songs. The album contains a varied and carefully constructed palette of sound to create a record that is one of the most exciting post-rock records heard in recent years.
Tim Tama – Still Waters Run Deep
I only recently discovered this style music and have really got into it. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Tim Tama only recently started producing electronic music after a long background of playing and listening to Metal, including Animals As Leaders and Meshuggah. This translates well into his aggressive approach to Techno, and probably explains why I love this EP so much. I especially love the Synthwave-esque grit heard on this release.
Rezz – Mass Manipulation
Carrying on with the Techno theme, I’ve included this album from Rezz. The production is some of the best I’ve heard in a long time and just blows me away. Fans of Gesaffelstein are guaranteed to find something to love on here. My favourite track from her on this release is ‘Livid’ as it’s just so in your face.
SEVDALIZA – Ison
I really like the modern take on Trip Hop mixed with all the experimental influences. It’s like a mash-up between Massive Attack and the eccentric-ness of Bjork with sultry Jazzy vocals and chords alongside glitchy percussion, all mixed together. Is Industrial Experimental Jazz-Hop a thing? Cause it sounds like that. Wonderful.
The Contortionist – Clairvoyant
Clairvoyant is a masterfully crafted and carefully balanced record from start to finish. It is a stylised and mature record that sees The Contortionist rise above their ‘Progressive’ peers with a technical yet accessible sound; warm, serene and full of heart.
Kelela – Take Me Apart
This easily finds a place in this list. Her vocals are full of Neo-Soul vibes and a joy to listen to from start to finish. Although it’s 14 songs long, it won’t fail hold your attention throughout. It’s a solid contemporary take on the old RnB sound and works perfectly. ‘Frontline’ is a standout track for me.
Wolfbrigade – Run With The Hunted
This one is personally quite nostalgic, even though it’s a new release- I used to be into Crust Punk and D-Beat quite heavily in my early teens. This release has the same speed and aggression that I grew up loving.