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DJ Mag’s electronic albums that defined the decade

Counting down the 2010s, we round-up the albums that defined the decade in electronic music

How do you rank a decade’s worth of music? The truth is, you can’t. An album that meant the world to you might make someone else’s blood boil. The tracks that take you back to your most important moments of 2014 won’t even tickle the memories of others. And yet, it’s fun to look back on the sounds and styles that shaped a year; to revisit the albums and artists you might have forgotten, and to reignite relationships you had with tracks as if they were old friends. Charting the evolution of a musical landscape is a valuable cultural exercise, too — especially if we want to understand where it’s going.  

Looking at the evolution of electronic music over the past ten years, it’s incredible to see its broadening cultural prominence, particularly in the aftermath of the noughties’ indie boom. From the indie-electronic crossovers that whet global appetites for synths and drum machines in 2010, to the inventive club styles that erupted and reached wider audiences, the early years of the decade were defined by a sense of aesthetic flux, with genre tribalism changing rapidly.

Everything from hip-hop, ambient and pop, to dubstep, jungle and techno weaved into one another, launching new scenes and trends with albums of forward-thinking sounds. It gave rise to landscape where electronic DJs — the interesting ones, at least — could more comfortably and confidently switch up their sets without running the risk of losing the dancefloor. 

The sounds of the Global South have reinvigorated electronic music throughout the 2010s, with progressive scenes merging traditional styles with more mainstream club sounds to become vital global forces. Through turbulent times, some artists have made increasingly vigorous political work, while others have found new ways of making introspective works with electronic instruments, and even Artificial Intelligence. 

Scenes come and go, some are reinvigorated, and sometimes it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that we realise the impact an album had on the electronic and dance music landscape at large. DJ Mag’s Albums Of The Decade round up doesn’t rank any music in numerical order, but instead hopes to provide a context for the ways our scene has been re-shaped over the past ten years. We have done that by choosing ten albums per year that represent key moments in the world of electronic music — either in their representation of trends and changes, or in their championing of styles that would go on to influence the global dance environment. 

Below, you will find albums from 2010 - 2018, with our 2019 round up to land later in December. 

Bonobo
'Black Sands'

Four years since his last trip to the disco, Bonobo returned to Ninja Tune with his iconic 2010 album ‘Black Sands’. Eclipsing his previous successes, groundbreaking tunes like ‘Kiara’ and ‘Kong’ catapulted the Brightonian electronica pioneer to the absolute zenith of the scene. Stunning songwriting and an uncompromisingly slick approach to production helped to redefine the accessibility of this highbrow sound, kicking down the doors for a new generation of loyal listeners. Olly Gee

 

Caribou
'Swim'

Timeless is an overused adjective, but it applies perfectly to ‘Swim’, Caribou’s third album. A forward-thinking mix of deep, organic grooves and wonky dancefloor-driven psychedelia, it joined the dots between Four Tet’s loose-limbed house freakouts and James Holden’s atmospheric electronics. And in ‘Sun’, it had a mesmerising call to arms, all trippy vocals, bombastic kicks and solar-eclipse melodies. Andy Buchan

 

Digital Mystikz
'Return II Space'

By 2010, dubstep’s original sound had started to splinter into techno, future bass, and house. Early UK pioneer Mala marked this period with an album of some of his finest ever beats: six tracks over three, heavyweight vinyl, it’s an astonishing document of his “meditate on bass weight” mantra. Using silence as a core instrument, he creates epic wormholes of bass and dub, with lashing halftime rhythms and pensive melodies. Lauren Martin

 

Emeralds
'Does It Look Like I'm Here?'

Less diamond in the rough, and more proof that you can be prolific and still create works of staggeringly beautiful genius. Calling on influences such as Tangerine Dream, Emeralds — who at this point had put out around 40 releases in four years — switched the drone of their preceding album for audible keys and melodies, crafting a record that plays out like a science fiction epic. Achingly attractive while still challenging. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

 

Flying Lotus
'Cosmogramma'

‘Cosmogramma’ will always sound disjointed on the initial listen. The third studio release by Flying Lotus, it’s a rich, densely packed, 17-track project which unfolds slowly on each listen. Ten years later, listeners still attempt to dissect the complex arrangements and glitchy electronics that comprise most of the album. A patchwork of genres, ‘Cosmogramma’ is a statement album by Flying Lotus, an artist working at the height of his powers in 2010. Dhruva Balram

 

Four Tet
'There Is Love In You'

Few fairy tales are as unlikely as Kieran Hebden’s transformation from mild-mannered purveyor of cult electronica to mild-mannered superstar who can fill Alexandra Palace. Born from his DJ sets at Plastic People, Four Tet’s fifth album actually feels like a butterfly emerging and spreading its wings. Tracks like ‘Love Cry’ have the same intricate grace as his earlier LPs, but glisten with more colour and quiver with the energy of the dancefloors that would take them to their heart. Paul Clarke

 

LCD Soundsystem
'This Is Happening'

Where LCD Soundsystem’s previous two albums re-defined the dance-rock blueprint, their third album — ‘This Is Happening’ — further cemented their position as one of the world’s most exciting live acts. Straddling the line between disco, proto-house and glitter-stomping post-punk, ‘This Is Happening’ was their most muscular work to date, with ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ and ‘You Wanted A Hit’ as urgent and insistent as anything they’d ever write. Andy Buchan

 

Mount Kimbie
'Crooks & Lovers'

Arriving in mid-2010 after years of hyperspeed dubstep developments, Mount Kimbie’s debut studio album took the genre to its mature artistic zenith. It also popularised the term ‘hypnagogic’ for the way it went from drowsy and dreamy moments of introspection to sharp, electrified passages of acoustic excellence. Experimental, refreshing and truly unrestrained, Crooks & Lovers is as standalone now as it was at the time. Kristan J Caryl

 

Robyn
'Body Talk'

It would be easy to dismiss Robyn’s ‘Body Talk’ as ‘just’ the album that spawned ‘Dancing On My Own’, an undisputed anthem that Donna Summer would be proud to call her own. But distilled from the work of three albums, and co-helmed by Swedish super-producer Max Martin, ‘Body Talk’ was more like a whole ‘Greatest Hits’ package, with 15 tracks melding sing-a-long pop, ice-cool electro, heart-breaking love songs and glossy Northern Lights disco. Andy Buchan

 

Various artists
'Bangs and Works Vol.1'

To this day, this Planet Mu’s compilation release in 2010 is one of the definitive compilations of footwork, the Chicago-born genre. Showcasing the skeletal, drum-heavy, sped-up, repetitive, arrhythmic absurdity the distinctive sound can possess, the release featured many of footwork’s pivotal members and their potential before their names were etched in history: DJ Rashad, DJ Roc, DJ Trouble, DJ Nate and one of the genre’s founders, RP Boo. Dhruva Balram

 

Clams Casino
'Instrumentals'

Hip-hop has always been a refuge for woozy, wonky and distorted beats and pieces. And these instrumentals, originally written for Lil B, Soulja Boy and more, are still some of the best of the decade. New England producer Clams Casino’s 12 tracks surfed chillwave, wildly textured samples and the sort of technicolour compositions that Boards Of Canada made so brilliantly. And 10 pop points to anyone who can spot the sample so brilliantly used in ‘Realist Alive’. Andy Buchan

 

Gang Gang Dance
'Eye Contact'

This was the moment everything aligned for New York’s out-there collective Gang Gang Dance. After 2008’s astonishing ‘Saint Dymphna’, they signed to weird indie champion 4AD for the follow-up, broadening out their already widescreen mix of psychedelic electronics, live instruments and everything-in-the-pot internet-age eclecticism. Glueing the group’s disparate elements together was the celestial voice of Lizzi Bougatsos, which helped make these strange melodic soundscapes into actual songs. It echoes today in everything from Grimes to Aïsha Devi. Ben Murphy

 

Kode9 and Spaceape
'Black Sun'

On their second album together, Hyperdub boss Kode9 and dub poet The Spaceape brought a more explosive energy to dubstep’s darker side. Bristling with mysterious dark energy, the album has frantic echoes of footwork (’Am I’) and drum & bass (‘The Cure’) and the woozy synths of the West Coast (‘Kryon’, produced with Flying Lotus). But the heart and soul of the record belongs to The Spaceape, whose poetry remains a peerless articulation of the dread at the core of dubstep. Chal Ravens

 

Kuedo
'Severant'

After leaving rugged bass duo Vex’d, British producer Kuedo’s debut album was a revelation. Drawing from cyberpunk and ’80s thriller film scores, alongside spaced-out trap and footworkadjacent instrumentation, he created an album of celestial, tactile synth music that pulled off the rare trick of being an original piece of work, but one which draws from some very recognisable sources. ‘Severant’ is a confident, special album — and it’s aged remarkably well, too. Lauren Martin

 

Macintosh Plus
'Floral Shoppe'

While the true patient zero for vaporwave is still up for debate, ‘Floral Shoppe’ remains the genre’s defining aesthetic statement, forming the mould for legions of obscure users to spend the rest of the 2010s aping, stretching, skewing, and mutating. Japanese track titles, a one-time moniker by Portlandian producer Vektroid, and repetitious time-stretched retro synthpop snippets and Walmart sax squall conspire to obscure a truly fun technicolor record that launched a thousand copycats. Tristan Bath

 

Nicolas Jaar
'Space is Only Noise'

Amongst the bullish EDM and dubstep that dominated electronic music at the turn of the decade came ‘Space Is Only Noise’, the debut studio album by Chilean-American artist Nicolas Jaar. Made up of extended French quotes, warm organs, seemingly irrelevant vocal samples, twitching electronics and minimal drums, the album induces a meditative state. It instantly felt like a classic. Dhruva Balram

 

Rustie
'Glass Swords'

Just before ‘Glass Swords’, much new UK dance music was pensive, birthed from murky dubstep or floaty indie-rock. With ‘Glass Swords’, Scottish producer Rustie burst through in maddening Technicolour, with happy hardcore, hyphy, noughties R&B, and video game music in its mutant DNA. Held up as contemporary “maximalism”, its child-like sense of joy, high-definition electronic sound, and bombastic melodies have inspired countless global EDM, pop, and experimental dance artists alike. Lauren Martin

 

The Caretaker
'An Empty Bliss Beyond This World'

Leyland Kirby aka The Caretaker’s haunting, dusty tapes set a new precedent for thematic ambient music. Using samples sourced mainly from 1920s, ‘30s and ‘50s shellacs, his idea delved into the discovery that Alzheimer’s patients were able to recall memories from music. The worn-out, decomposed samples of piano pieces from Winterreise and Turner Layton become ghostly, sorrowful remnants of decaying memory. Timeless. Anna Wall

 

Various artists
'Mosaic Volume 1'

No single release gives a better snapshot of the Autonomic movement than this compilation. Exit boss dBridge — one of Autonomic’s pioneers alongside duo Instra:mental — compiled not just the ideal representation, but the best progression of the minimalistic, emotive sound outside of the podcasts that started it all. With Autonomic often wrongly tagged as simply d&b, ‘Mosaic’ brought together artists as varied as Skream and Skeptical, Dan Harbanham and Distance, Scuba and ASC, shifting genres and tempos while keeping the thoughtful ideology that helped reset the tone in an era which had grown unsustainably brash and aggressive. Ben Hindle

 

Wiley
'100% Publishing'

Even within the crazy confi nes of grime, Wiley is considered a particularly curious case. An underground scene innovator who went on to achieve crossover success before returning to his musical roots, it was his second full length outing on Big Dada that finally saw ‘The Godfather’ release the album we’d long known him capable of. Offering a glimpse into the mind of one of modern music’s great mavericks, it showed us that this is Wiley’s world and we all just live in it. Reiss De Bruin

 

Actress
'R.I.P'

Freighted with outlandish soundscapes and lysergic tones, ‘R.I.P’ was a musical rebirth for Darren Cunningham, aka Actress. His earlier works, like the classic ‘Hazyville’, were weird, but remained recognisably in the domain of house and techno. ‘R.I.P’ was far more experimental, matching his grainy, reduced production with melodic, sometimes spooky electronics. The record brought Actress to a new audience more accustomed to the avant-garde than dance music. Pioneering. Ben Murphy

 

Andy Stott
'Luxury Problems'

The second album by Manchester’s Andy Stott was painted with murky, monotone and disconsolate hues: apt sounds from the rainy city. On ‘Luxury Problems’, the glacial choral voice of Alison Skidmore combined with slow and slurred beats to create spine-shivering unease, while Stott created a bricolage of hip-hop, techno, dubstep and sampladelia that nodded to the likes of Burial while remaining very much his own sound. On tracks like ‘Sleepless’, there was even stuff you could dance to — albeit in a codeine induced haze. Ben Murphy

 

Daphni
'Jiaolong'

When ‘Swim’ came out in 2010, Dan Snaith said he wanted this, the fifth Caribou album, to be “dance music that sounds like water”. Two years later, adventuring deeper into clubland and DJing more and more frequently, the first Daphni record landed; ‘Jiaolong’ was dance music that sounded like, well, dance music; punchy, techno-leaning cuts for the club with warbled analogue synths (none more mind-bending than on ‘Ye Ye’) that were, it felt, custom built for Snaith’s DJ sets. Katie Thomas

 

Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland
'Black Is Beautiful'

The short-lived but hugely influential Hype Williams project reached its peak on ‘Black Is Beautiful’, the perfect document of the London duo’s cryptic aesthetic. Lo-fi codeine grooves and mind-numbing loops are interspersed with spots of sheer romanticism, like their heartaching cover of ‘Baby’, a ‘70s soul song by Donnie & Joe Emerson, or the grime-influenced dream-pop of ‘9’. It’s a record that invites serious theorising while remaining basically inscrutable — an artefact that truly reflects its time. Chal Ravens

 

Grimes
'Visions'

On her previous two albums, Grimes’ pop sensibilities were buried into obscurity by glitchy electronics and eerily dissonant textures. In 2012, Montréal’s Claire Boucher emerged as a fully-fl edged twisted pop pixie on ‘Visions’, breathing some of the year’s most infectious melodies with her ethereal falsetto. Boucher spent three weeks locked in a dark room devoid of human contact, sleep or food as she worked on ‘Visions’; the result was an eccentric, cyborg-pop record, inspired by a digital world and obsessed by the corporeal. Katie Thomas

 

Jam City
'Classical Curves'

‘Classical Curves’ is one of the more influential records to come out of the UK dance scene this decade. This 11-track project from Jam City was released in 2012 and doesn’t stop having fun from the first second. Erected on sharp, crushing percussion, glistening synths and woozy vocals, the energy is infectious. The album is bone-deep, cutting a new path in electronic music that allowed others to walk down. Dhruva Balram

 

Kendrick Lamar
'Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City'

The breakthrough record by the Compton rap superstar was genuinely special. Back then, it felt distinctly different from anything else that was going on in hip-hop, as the MC merged a flair for wordplay and a distinctive rhyme style, with beats that bridged the gap between the increasingly dominant trap style of production, earlier West Coast G-funk and New York hard-knock beats. Unafraid to tackle complex issues, Kendrick was already showing radical lyricism here. Ben Murphy

 

Legowelt
'The Paranormal Soul'

An analogue boy in a digital world, Danny Wolfers’ studio is an arsenal of vintage synths and drum machines rather than a USB stick and a laptop. Having previously produced electro under myriad aliases, ‘The Paranormal Soul’ saw him recreate not just the setup of the Belleville Three, but also their musical style. All soaring, space-age melodies and jacking techno rhythms, this album was the sound of the 2010s — as it had been imagined in 1986 that is. Paul Clarke

 

Shackleton
'Music For The Quiet Hour/The Drawback Organ'

Shackleton’s always made music that is thrillingly weird and dark, and this collection proves his hymnal meditations on bass weight and rhythm are unsurpassed. It’s made up of ancient tribal rituals, jungle psychedelia and futurist motifs that are all deeply occult. His manipulation of sound, layering of samples and mastery of the stereo fi eld brings every track to life in a way that leaves you utterly freaked out. Kristan J Caryl

 

Voices From The Lake
'Voices From The Lake'

That ‘Voices From The Lake’ succeeds as a timeless techno album with almost no instruments on it is a testament to the production and pace it’s delivered at. The 70-minute, 11-track album advances and mutates at a glacial pace, powered by slowly evolving seismic soundscapes, sonic fills and found sounds. But when traditional melodies are introduced, it makes them all the more tantric, creating a powerful, euphoric techno sound that still reveals something new with each listen. Andy Buchan

 

DJ Rashad
'Double Cup'

DJ Rashad was dancing before he was a teenager; juke and footwork ran through his veins. ‘Double Cup’ is a footwork record, no doubt, but threaded throughout are flavours of everything from jungle, to hip-hop, to house. His first, and tragically last, album on Hyperdub, DJ Rashad injected soul, depth and melody into a genre that bangs, but is fiercely repetitive. In 2013, the year before his life was unexpectedly cut short, Rashad Harden gifted us one of footwork’s greatest records. Katie Thomas

 

Factory Floor
'Factory Floor'

After years of scuzzy post-punk experiments, the Factory Floor sound really coalesced into something special on the then-trio’s debut. The electric and eccentric musicianship that makes their live shows so thrilling is all present and correct, but tethered to motorik kicks that work you into a state of hypnosis. Add in masterful synth manipulation, arresting FX, and angular guitars, and you have a record that bristles with an edgy vitality. Kristan J Caryl

 

Floorplan
'Paradise'

Floorplan’s debut album was the epitome of the adage ‘less is more’. But within Robert Hood’s minimalist approach, there was real vision and scope. ‘Altered Ego’ is a perpetual techno loop that edges closer and closer to 4am perfection, while ‘Never Grow Old’ out-does Moodyman on the dusty jazz house tip, all gospel voices and killer hi-hats. As the alias suggests, this was an album focused firmly on the dancefloor, but one that works just as well on a set of headphones: all killer and no filler. Andy Buchan

 

Logos
'Cold Mission'

Here, Logos’ wondered what grime, jungle and 2-step might sound like if you stripped out all the beats. What remained was a curious and compelling new form of ambient, which took various London pirate radio mutations and channelled them into a heady brew of head-twisting pads, birdsong, familiar samples of spin-backs and hoovers, and bowel loosening bass. ‘Weightless’, and haunting. Ben Murphy

 

Machinedrum
'Vapor City'

Having already impressed with ‘Room(s)’ on Planet Mu, Travis Stewart’s follow-up ‘Vapor City’ would help establish him as one of America’s foremost electronic artists. Influenced by Chicago’s footwork sound, and jungle, in addition to the giants of Warp’s back-catalogue, the album ranged from the Burial-esque ‘Gunshotta’ to the squashed halftime trance of ‘Don’t 1 2 Lose U’, via the bucolic guitars and Boards Of Canada pads of ‘Center Your Love’. Its pluralism was prescient. Ben Murphy

 

Omar S
'Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself'

There’s not much worse than contrived art, which is why we should be thankful that genuinely cabalistic producers like Omar S still exist. Approaching his audience with a simple honesty, this Detroit native’s album is a rare treat in that, despite the variety of sounds on offer, it esoterically maintains a sense of cohesion via its one constant: being part of the contemporary house music great-creator’s grand design. Reiss De Bruin

 

Oneohtrix Point Never
'R Plus Seven'

The sixth full-length from Daniel Lopatin opened up a new chapter in his career, making the leap to Warp Records and in the process the upper echelons of experimental electronics. Garnering rave reviews in all the right places at the time, it set benchmarks for what was possible with patches and plug-ins, leaving sample-heavy earlier work behind, in turn laying the foundations for what has followed. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

 

Peverlist, Kowton & Asusu
'Livity Sound'

First appearing on a hand-stamped white label in 2010, the Livity Sound label emerged from Bristol as an archetype for 2010s UK bass and techno, plunging into fresh post-dubstep territory where techno could bump and grind in hitherto unheard shapes. This comp assembled two hours of music by label-runner Peverelist, along with fellow Bristolian producers, Kowton and Asusu; a starter kit for a decade of techno nights. Tristan Bath

 

Run The Jewels
'Run The Jewels'

Two of alternative hip-hop’s most polarising figures, Killer Mike and El-P joined forces to deliver a new wave of notoriously gritty, synth-laden beats that have defi ned an era. ‘Run The Jewels’ helped to kickstart a political awakening in modern hip-hop, lacing deep subplots into a swathe of brazen get-hype anthems. Starting life as a free mixtape, this record effortlessly snowballed into one of the most revered albums of the decade. Olly Gee

 

Special Request
'Soul Music'

Although drum & bass producers like Marcus Intalex and Calibre have dabbled in house, there’s been far less traffic the other way. But even if Paul Woolford had been one of many, ‘Soul Music’ would still sound like one in a million. Inspired by pirate radio, the man previously best-known for ‘Erotic Discourse’ broadcast a broadside of roughneck riddims and junglist basslines, complete with sirens and spinbacks, that both rewound to ‘90s raves and pointed to his bright future. Paul Clarke

 

Aphex Twin
'Syro'

Fans had heard almost nothing from Richard D. James since 2001, so when a giant green Aphex blimp appeared in the sky over London in 2014,the internet went into meltdown. After shunning his Best Electronic Album Grammy win, this landmark album served to solidify the mighty return of Aphex Twin to the public eye. Showing no regard for any trends of the era, this groundbreaking slice of analogue heaven could not have felt more important. Olly Gee

 

Grouper
'Ruins'

American musician Grouper recorded ‘Ruins’ on a retreat in Portugal, between hikes and beach walks. Forgoing much of the looping electronic pedal-work of previous albums, her stripped-back style of echoing vocals, gentle piano and field recordings was recorded to four-track. With a simple setup, Grouper created a beautiful and pensive work: the atmosphere is muggy and tactile, the sound loaded with inner turmoil and a yearning for peace. Lauren Martin

 

Arca
'Xen'

Arca’s debut album laid bare her ability to combine savage splinters of sound design with weepingly beautiful tones and mesmerising, dynamic arrangements. Combined with a brilliant debut live performance soon after, it exposed the Venezuelan’s kinetic combination of audio and visuals, laying the groundwork for Arca’s increasingly personal follow-ups, offering a bold early icon in the decade’s gender identity discussion, and setting the bar for experimental records to come. Ben Hindle

 

Moodymann
'Moodymann'

An enigmatic figure who used to DJ behind a sheet, Kenny Dixon Jnr. stepped into the limelight here. Taking to the mic alongside vocalists such as Jose James and Nikki-O, on ‘Moodymann’ Dixon increased the doses of hip-hop, soul and R&B in his oft-imitated but never-bettered house sound. But, from the version of Funkadelic’s ‘Cosmic Slop’ to samples about Detroit’s crime rate, the spirit of his hometown is as much a character in ‘Moodymann’’s story as Dixon himself. Paul Clarke

 

Fatima Al Qadiri
'Asiatisch'

The debut studio album from Kuwaiti artist Fatima Al Qadiri, ‘Asiatisch’ is as divisive as it is engaging. Coming under criticism for its use of stereotypes and lack of execution, Qadiri’s decisions in making and releasing this standout record in 2014 were always going to be controversial. Sparse, skeletal, haunting and a spectacle of haunting East Asian instrumentation, ‘Asiatisch’ remains a pivotal dance record despite its flaws. Dhruva Balram

 

Mr. Mitch
'Parallel Memories'

When a barrage of war dubs set the grime underground alight in 2013, Mr. Mitch proffered an olive branch in the shape of ‘Peace Dubs’ — a minimal and melancholy new grime template which he perfected on this debut album. Already a crucial figure as co-founder of experimental grime night Boxed, Mitch suddenly took the genre into a totally original place, drawing on slinky R&B and Japanese ambient to create a personal meditation on heartbreak and loss. Chal Ravens

 

FKA twigs
'LP1'

The early EPs hinted at an intriguing talent, but with her critically adored debut album, FKA twigs confirmed herself as one of the most distinctive artists of the decade. Boosted by collaborations with similarly era-defining producers — Arca, Dev Hynes and Clams Casino among them — ‘LP1’ carved out a unique vision of modern R&B, with twigs’ sky-high vocals weighted by a deep, head-spinning sensuality. Chal Ravens

 

The Bug
'Angels & Devils'

Dropping after a six-year hiatus, ‘Angels & Devils’ launched a half-decade of unmatched output from The Bug. Seen at the time as a document of mid-decade political dissatisfaction and unrest, the album’s two halves of frustrated angels and angered party devils seems more prophetic than perceptive in hindsight. Its peerless leering ragga rage unwittingly typified the doom that would swallow us from 2016 onwards. Tristan Bath

 

Gazelle Twin
'Unflesh'

Elizabeth Bernholz likes to take on a different persona as Gazelle Twin; hiding her face from public consumption allows her music to do the talking. A far cry from her first LP ‘The Entire City’, this album displayed a much darker outlook; tracks like ‘Guts’ were faster, ‘Child’ more sinister, while ‘Belly Of The Beast’ offered an example of Bernholz favouring spoken word over singing. Detuned and distorted vocals created demonic conversations, pushing her boundaries into unknown territories. Anna Wall

 

Vessel
'Punish, Honey'

Much of the 2010s saw electronic musicians in something of a state of confusion about just what their music meant in the post-digital age, how electronic music related to the physical world, and how to play it live. The second album by Bristolian producer Vessel saw sheer physicality storm into his dubby sound. It’s a trend that continues, but looking back, ‘Punish, Honey’ seems like something of a watershed. Tristan Bath

 

Björk
'Vulnicura'

The album itself was arguably less significant than everything that came with it. Breathtaking music videos, that VR exhibition touring galleries across the globe, immersing audiences in the Icelandic icon’s surreal world. A blueprint for where the music promo circus would head in years to come. The tunes, meanwhile, were classic Björk avant-garde, inspired by heartbreak and, to paraphrase her words, post-traumatic “fine-tuning of the soul”. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

 

Jlin
'Dark Energy'

Jlin’s mutating take on footwork is a neighbour to the origins of the genre. The year after DJ Rashad’s passing, she continued footwork’s expanding lineage with an astounding debut on Planet Mu. ‘Dark Energy’ is frantic, with skeletal percussion and thundering low-end, and richly cinematic; Jlin opted — unlike the penchant for sampling shared by many of her peers — for her own instrumental compositions, delivered with devastating effect. Katie Thomas 

 

Elysia Crampton
'American Drift'

Elysia Crampton grew up between California and Mexico, and uses her music to delve into her Bolivian heritage, gender identity, and the loaded racial and religious histories of the Americas. This debut album was a fascinating work of experimental production, sampling, and collage. Loaded with spiritual ideas of ecstasy and transcendence, it blended centuries-old instrumentation and vocalisations with ultra-modern digital sounds. Lauren Martin

 

JME
'Integrity'

If history shows that even the most celebrated of musicians have usually found themselves having to compromise their art at some point, then JME is grime’s great exception; doing things his way regardless of the musical climate. Serving up a veritable smorgasbord of hype-inducing bars, ‘Integrity’’s 16-cut salvo showcases the Tottenham spitter at his acerbic best, spraying his way through the grittiest of landscapes whilst retaining a broad-minded playfulness. Reiss De Bruin

 

Floating Points
'Elaenia'

Sam Shepherd’s dancefloor singles as Floating Points combined his love of everything from disco to J Dilla’s skewed hip-hop, but this debut album took a different route. Made with a live band and the signature tones of his Buchla synth modules, it was a perfect merge of classic jazz-fusion, Brazilian tropicalia and vibrant pigments of electronic tone. ‘Argenté’, for instance, had the kind of ascending arpeggios you’d associate with some forgotten German art rock masterpiece. Ben Murphy

 

Mark System
'Final Approach'

Mark System is not the most prolific of drum & bass producers, yet with his small crop of releases he’s so impeccably honed a sound that a System track can be recognised a mile off. This 11-track effort offered the perfect distillation of a style which juxtaposes soft, rolling vibes with thuggish low-end (best shown on ‘Optix’), and continued a legacy of incredibly cohesive artist albums on Exit from the likes of dBridge, Consequence and Loxy & Resound. Ben Hindle

 

HELM
'Olympic Mess'

‘Olympic Mess’ encased a liminal space in amber. In navigating the idea of personal equilibrium, and the struggle to reach it, HELM carved a dusk-like atmosphere, where nebulous beams of light and dark, of ease and unease, are woven carefully through a dense sonic fug. With its full-bodied drones, vivid field recordings, and disorienting, metallic loops, it’s a hugely subtle album and we’re still floating in its uncanny hum today. Eoin Murray

 

Nozinja
'Nozinja Lodge'

When Honest Jon’s issued their 2010 ‘Shangaan Electro’ comp, the titular hyperactive genre went from a dance craze localised around South Africa’s townships to a minor international phenomenon overnight. Five years later, the microgenre’s key figurehead Nozinja issued the ‘Nozinja Lodge’ album via Warp, and Shangaan’s cosmic potential was unlocked —dreamy South African voices soaring over playful marimba synths and high bpms. Tristan Bath

 

Holly Herndon
'Platform'

The multilayered experimentation of Holly Herndon is bound to linger long in the memories of electronic music heads who came of age in the 2010s. Pushing ASMR, techno-futurism, and burgeoning activism through a miraculously accessible pop prism, ‘Platform’ sticks out as an iconic and truly inventive statement from a unique artist, during an era where experimental musicians often thrive on split risk-taking and shared similarities. A giant leap for avant-pop. Tristan Bath

 

Soichi Terada
'Sounds From The Far East'

Cementing Hunee’s reputation as a worldclass selector, his 2015 ‘Sounds From The Far East’ comp pulls together an outstanding body of work by Soichi Terada, alongside Shinichiro Yokota and Manabu Nagayama. There’s incredible depth on the 12-track album: ‘CPM’ is all ‘90s US deep house, while ‘Sun Showered’ is a Paradise Garage-style gem, with Mariana-trench deep bass, glorious keys, claps and strings. Andy Buchan

 

Hieroglyphic Being
'The Discos of Imhotep'

Something akin to the Sun Ra of house music, Hieroglyphic Being’s music operates on a different plane. His spiritual frequencies and earthly vibrations combined here across a series of gritty, lo-fi tracks that rewired one’s consciousness. Each one glistened with a sombre future soul and devastating sense of finality that suggested the end of the world is nigh. If our final days sound this good, though, no one will complain. Kristan J Caryl

 

Huerco S
'For Those Of You Who Have (And Those Of You Who Have Not)'

It’s not that ambient has seen a resurgence in recent years — it’s always been there, making brews to ease rave’s relentless audio amphetamine. Nevertheless, the genre has had a mainstream adoption like never before of late. ‘For Those...’ is where once-drummy Huerco S moved farthest from the dancefloor, and can be read as a microcosm of the canon’s journey — solid beats and atmospheric suggestions of tempo and pace. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

 

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
'EARS'

While the field of synthesists got steadily oversaturated as the 2010s ploughed on, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith was simply too talented to go unnoticed. ‘EARS’ is the moment Smith found a cohesive and unique sound all her own, picking up where foundational Buchla synth masters like Laurie Spiegel and Suzanne Ciani left off, adding more woodwinds and psychedelic songwriting, and crafting a sound both blithe and life-affirming. Tristan Bath

 

Kano
'Made In The Manor'

Having watched grime’s resurgence somewhat from the background during Stormzy’s ascent in the year previous, Kano emerged from the shadows with this genre-straddling opus to serve us with a timely reminder that he remained one of the UK’s foremost MCs. Flexing his chops on a nostalgic trip through his youth in London’s East End, his nuanced take on inner-city life showed grime’s growing maturity. It’s K-A! Reiss De Bruin

 

Mr.G
'A Good Place...?'

The question mark in the album’s title dictates the mood and feel of Mr. G’s fifth LP. ‘A Good Place...?’ veers from wildly ebullient (the samba-house fix of ‘One For The Headz’) to deep, dark after-hours grooves (album opener ‘Yard Food’), hinting at a turbulent period in G’s life at the time of writing. But even at its dankest moments, the album is brought together by G’s warehouse beats, all distorted bassbin brilliance and heads-down, hands-up moments. Andy Buchan 

 

Pangaea
'In Drum Play'

Growing up as the bastard offspring of dubstep and techno, the Hessle Audio label founded by Ben UFO, Pearson Sound and Pangaea matured into a serious contender with a heavyweight rep during the decade. Pangaea’s debut is mostly straight-up dancefloor tackle, but none of it is straight down the line: ducking and weaving on its techno-clad toes through elements of bass music, electro, UK funky and house, it delivers 10 solid knockout blows. Paul Clarke

 

Skepta
'Konnichiwa'

Few MCs speak with the refreshing level of candour Skepta does. Put simply, it’s a difficult task balancing relatability with the bombastic swagger that gives grime such an edge — and yet it’s a challenge the former-DJ manages effortlessly. Having opened up to us on the perils of changing who he was to pursue mainstream success, only to ironically succeed by just being himself on ‘That’s Not Me’, ‘Konnichiwa’ provided us with further insight as to who Skepta really is. Reiss De Bruin

 

Various Artists
'Gqom Oh! The Sound of Durban Vol. 1'

The menacing sound of gqom had its formal introduction to the world through this genre-defining compilation from Gqom Oh!, a label set up by Rome-based DJ Nan Kolè to import the new wave of Durban artists to the northern hemisphere. From Citizen Boy’s apocalyptic dread to Forgotten Souls’ twist on ‘90s trance, these tracks showed gqom at its most raw and skeletal, crackling with youthful energy. Chal Ravens

 

Youandewan
'There Is No Right Time'

Recorded in the depths of a lonely winter after moving to Berlin, Youandewan’s debut LP glides through the planes of deep house and downtempo electronic music with melancholic poise. Its fluttering melodies, silken synth beds and gingerly placed samples wrap around you with the texture of a comfort blanket. Its bouncing kicks and crackling hi-hats scratch like a tender sort of hope, reminding you not to hide under there forever. Eoin Murray 

 

Yussef Kamaal
'Black Focus'

As you well know, jazz is cool again now, and that’s almost exclusively down to the way ‘Black Focus’ repurposed the genre for the 21st century. It seamlessly blended modern bass, hip-hop and garage with ‘70s fusion, funk and soul, and the virtuoso live musicianship of band members Kamaal Williams and Yussef Dayes, making for an accessible record that brims with ideas, beauty and emotional depth. Kristan J Caryl

 

Call Super
'Arpo'

Call Super has earned his kingly reputation with electrifying DJ sets and records that are just as mesmerizingly complex and rewarding. ‘Arpo’ blurs the lines between instrumentation and synthesis, ambient and techno, in unrestrained fashion. Timbre and tonality, jazz structure and the beauty of repetition all define what is ultimately a tug of war between calm and chaos. Electronic music as fluid and freeform as this is hard to find. Kristan J Caryl

 

Fever Ray
'Plunge'

There was an eight-year period between ‘Plunge’, and Karin Dreijer’s first self-titled LP as Fever Ray. While parts of the transcendental ‘Fever Ray’ blueprint remained, absent were the smoky melodies and the ghostly live performances lit by flickering candlelight, replaced instead with a frantic, more explicit, altogether more technicolour demeanour. ‘Plunge’ was candid and loud, wild and colourful; manic electronic soundscapes accompanying Dreijer’s sharp forays into love and desire. Katie Thomas

 

Ikonika
'Distractions'

Though returning to some of the fuzzy neon synths and halcyon ‘80s vibes of her 2013 album ‘Aerotropolis’, Ikonika’s third full-length moved past club-ready house sounds into more cinematic territory. Borrowing from trap, grime, UK bass and R&B, it slowed the pulse and offered a more personal, introspective side to the Hyperdub regular’s production, painting a bright, comforting picture from a surprisingly cool palette, and becoming a headphones-on-the-nightbus classic in the process. Ben Hindle

 

Kelela
'Take Me Apart'

Nowadays, the worlds of R&B and abstract electronics don’t feel so separate, but when Kelela’s first mixtape, 2013’s ‘Cut 4 Me’, was released, no one had mixed the genres in quite the same way before — it had a big influence on the alt-R&B scene. This debut album took the idea further, with gems like the post-punk cybersoul of ‘LMK’ and the synth sweeps of ‘S.O.S’ reimagining the electronic/R&B intersection further. Ben Murphy 

 

Nidia
'Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida'

Barely 20, Nídia brought a thundering, futuristic vision to the world of kuduro in 2017. The Afro-Portuguese producer made her boldest, brashest statement on an album with a title that translates as “Nídia is bad, Nídia is a badass”. A riot of wonky synths, off-grid percussion and ghoulish club moods, it remains one of the finest documents of the Príncipe wellspring, reflecting the genius of Lisbon’s batida elders while striking out in a fresh and youthful direction. Chal Ravens

 

Octo Octa
'Where Are We Going?'

Deep house dominated the early part of the decade, but Octo Octa’s sophomore record left the genre’s most indelible impression in 2017. Its political and personal messages are notable on their own, but the music, too, is inspired. Drifting through various shades of house, from wispy, late-night melodies to plump, hypnotic grooves, it is introspective and emotive in the most captivating of ways. Kristan J Caryl

 

Pan Daijing
'Lack'

Daijing’s minimal approach uses voice, field recordings and synthesiser to create an unsettling and dystopian world of strange soundscapes. Sometimes they’re sparsely filled with dusty silence and detuned piano stabs, at other times jam-packed with disconcerting noise, clattering and guttural vocals. It’s this unpredictability that made ‘Lack’ so unconventionally alluring, an intimate body of work that resonated long after the album was released. Kristan J Caryl

 

Stormzy
'Gang Signs & Prayer'

Having been proclaimed the heir apparent to grime’s vacant throne by a rabid media and rapidly growing fanbase, it would have been all too easy for Stormzy to let the weight of expectation for his debut album get to him. Instead he delivered a genre-defining musical manifesto that proved that grime’s return was far from a flash in the pan. Paying homage to the genre’s roots while continuing to push boundaries and challenge orthodoxies, this was all we could have hoped for. Reiss de Bruin

Sully
'Escape'

In 2017, as jungle, garage, grime and dubstep continued their rightful reclamation of the broader club consciousness, ‘Escape’ was an adrenaline shot to the arm of UK dance music. With a futuristic sonic palette, the Norwich producer flits freely from genre to genre here. From sci-fi ambience and fog-drenched grime mutations, to galactic garage and hyperkinetic jungle, every track feels like a dazzling spark for a revitalised new wave in the continuum. Eoin Murray

 

Tzusing
'東方不敗'

Still sticking out on the L.I.E.S. label like the one thumb that isn’t sore, the debut LP by Malaysian-born/Taipei-based producer Tzusing slickly weaves East-Asian timbres alongside industrial techno’s hefty throb. Tzusing’s utterly unafraid of leaning on both dreamlike ancient traditions and brutal bass in equal measure, emphasising the meeting point between the two extremes, where a tribal rhythmic ritualism explodes energetically. Tristan Bath

 

Blocks & Escher
'Something Blue'

The anticipation for this debut album from the Narratives Music dream team was almost too much to bear, but when it came along, it delivered more than was ever hoped for. The UK duo’s signature combination of sparse metallic percussion and chilly atmospherics was born for the LP format, which naturally demands a more considered approach, and in achieving that, resulted in a drum & bass album that can confidently stand alongside the genre’s all-time classics. Ben Hindle

 

Djrum
'Portrait With Firewood'

A mesmerising palette of analogue tones, enchanting classical soundscapes and raw techy beats, Djrum’s innovative second studio album felt completely at home with the team at R&S Records. Landing with a monumental splash last year, this album took industrial themes to a rarely reached emotive high. Tastefully galvanising the fanfare of listeners across the jazz and electronic worlds, Djrum solidified himself here as one of the UK’s most influential production aficionados. Olly Gee

 

Martyn
'Voids'

Martyn’s debut for Berlin’s Ostgut Ton married the label’s heaviness with his enviable ability to meld disparate styles. Downtempo drum & bass on ‘Manchester’, an ode to the late Marcus Intalex, growling jungle on ‘Mind Rain’, compressed off-beat techno (‘World Gate’ and ‘Cutting Tone’), ‘Try To Love You’’s sultry jazz pianos, recalling late-night/early-morning memories. By no means kicking it off, nevertheless it’s one of our post-genre era’s masterpieces. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

 

Novelist
'Novelist Guy'

When it comes to genuine experimentation, few MCs can hold a candle to Lewisham’s Novelist. Having provided a jumping-off point for more conscious elements with his 2014 collab with Mumdance, we were fearful he wouldn’t be able to so expertly continue to defy convention as major labels started pursuing him. We needn’t have worried, as this showed that here was an artist dedicated to staying as true to his grammar. Reiss de Bruin

 

Objekt
'Cocoon Crush'

Berlin-based producer Objekt had made quite a name for himself through his distinctive techno-heavy releases. It was a surprise, then, when he released his 2019 project ‘Cocoon Crush’. A stark departure from his previous work, the 11-track album married experimental soundscapes with gritty drums and warm ambience. It sounded like metal pipes being smacked repeatedly. Somehow, in the hands of Objekt, it became one of the more beautiful pieces to have been released. Dhruva Balram

 

Shinichi Atobe
'Heat'

Reclusive Japanese producer Shinichi Atobe has built a relationship with Demdike Stare’s DDS label, releasing old and new tracks in album formats. Appearing suddenly to the delight of fans, 2018’s ‘Heat’ was Atobe’s most cohesive and contemporary album yet. A smooth and rich trip through minimalistic house and techno, with its watercolour washes of melody and celestial, low-key synth work, ‘Heat’ is a must for any deep house fans. Lauren Martin

 

Silvia Kastel
'Air Lows'

Recording most of her work to tape gives Kastel’s productions a certain aesthetic; think subtle surface noise and saturated soundscapes. ‘Air Mob’ is the perfect example of how dusty percussion disappears into the distance under dismal atmospherics. ‘Heart 2 Tape’ reveals the beauty of her voice, used sparingly but effectively across the album. Awash with reverb, vocal tones naturally become layers of melody as Kastel mastered drawing us deeply into her ambient world. Anna Wall

 

Skee Mask
'Compro'

Though he cut his teeth making banging electro-house as SCNTST, it was as Skee Mask that German producer Bryan Müller really distinguished himself. This second album mixed breakbeat, techno, found sounds and weird electronics in a way that felt new. Containing brain-thwacking dancefloor beasts like the sub-bass-pummelling breaks of ‘Dial 274’ as well as the beatific jazzy garage of ‘Flyby Vfr’, it had other producers scurrying back to their labs to up their game. Ben Murphy

 

SOPHIE
'Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-insides'

Arriving after a string of iconoclastic singles, cyberpop super-producer SOPHIE’s debut album didn’t disappoint. Like some unholy fusion of Autechre and Britney Spears, ‘Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides’ offered a jaw- dropping palette of strange, elastic sounds and some unexpectedly emotional moments. From the pounding excess of ‘Faceshopping’ to the disarming sincerity of ‘It’s Okay To Cry’, it’s an album that’s truly unique. Chal Ravens

 

Various
'Don't Mess With Cupid, 'Cause Cupid Ain't Stupid'

Composed of pile-driving beats, overdriven acid and otherworldly atmospheres, this comp affirmed Nina Kraviz’s dedication to murky, miles-underground dance music. Filled with tracks by Icelandic artists Bjarki, Exos and the late Biogen, Russia’s PTU and an appearance from legendary nosebleed specialist Marc Acardipane (aka The Mover), it showed that Kraviz could pivot between superstar popularity and subterranean credibility. Ben Muphy

 

Keep an eye out for DJ Mag's top tracks, albums and compilations of 2019, and our reflection on the Year In Dance Music, later this month