Music

The 20 Best Electronic Albums of 2017

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

15. Actress - AZD (Ninja Tune)

Much of AZD has a sleeker, more futuristic surface than Actress' usual fare. Beginning with "Nimbus" and ending with "Visa", the album is bookended by what amounts to electronic gibberish, an incoherent stream of bleeps and pings like an old-fashioned conceptualization of robot dialogue. This retro-futurism marks "X22RME" as well, which recalls the '90s heyday of IDM almost to the point of imitation. The album may be at its best when it evokes the textures of industrial decay so often characteristic of Actress' music. Even then, though, AZD sounds more like science fiction than present realities. The complex standout "Dancing in the Smoke" melds hissing noise, laser-like synths, and clattering percussion as if to suggest an alternate history where the machines of the future are imminently dissolving into dust and ruin. - Andrew Dorsett

14. Visionist - Value (Big Dada)

Visionist is keen to use his work to continue to analyze and evaluate himself through the process of making music. To the end, the music on Value sees him artfully balancing the contrasting feelings of strength and vulnerability. Often, the music is almost unbearably intense, even traumatic but that is adroitly counterbalanced by beautiful ambient passages as if mirroring his conflicting emotional state. In that way, it feels like a very personal album. However, this is still a more outwardly looking album than Safe, as he also explores broader issues such as the meaning of self, of gender and our self-preservation. Value is not an easy album to listen to and nor should it be. It is a deep and involving work with Visionist exploring his self-worth as an artist and how the process of making music can both give him strength and leave him vulnerable. A bold, ambitious album that once again finds Visionist truly worthy of his forward-thinking moniker. - Paul Carr

13. Bicep - Bicep (Ninja Tune)

It has undeniably been Bicep's year. Huge critical acclaim, a Mixmag front cover and a phenomenal BBC Radio 1 essential mix has seen the pair make the step up from DJs and producers to serious electronic artists in their own right. The Belfast born duos' mix of old skool house, trance, techno and big beat has been carefully refined and distilled to leave a stunning set of dance tunes. From their top 20 UK chart placing, it has clearly resonated with a wider audience looking for something fresh, new and exciting but also reassuringly familiar. There's the '90s trance of "Rain", the knotty tech house of "Spring" and the classic house of "Glue", each song intricately layered but given the space to hit home with maximum effect. Then there is the cherry on the cake in the form of "Aura", a colossal, dancefloor ripping, hip shaking, head bobbing storm of beats and groove. It's a rich and rewarding album that deserves to be adored by all fans of electronic music. - Paul Carr

12. Mount Kimbie - Love What Survives (Warp)

James Blake features again on this -- Mount Kimbie's third, and arguably best, album -- his distinctive vocals providing a haunting exeunt on the piano-driven "How We Got By". It's one of the albums many highlights, admittedly -- as is the urgent and raucous "Blue Train Lines" featuring London sensation King Krule, who's had a great year himself -- but Love What Survives is far more than a showcase of friends in high places. It feels like a document of optimism and beauty amid the the awkward and the dissolute. In many ways, it's a letter from the heart of Britain in 2017 -- fractured, divided, but still able surprise and delight when necessary. Ultimately, Love What Survives is a work that owes more to the collision of styles and ideas that is Broken Social Scene than it does to Benga and to grimy London dubstep clubs. It's just the latest piece in an ever expanding body of evidence that suggests that Mount Kimbie are among the best in the biz right now. What's still to come, we must wait and see. - John Burns

11. Chino Amobi – PARADISO (NON/UNO NYC)

The first click on Chino Amobi's label NON's Bandcamp page greets the viewer with a blinding tomato red, eyes struggling to adjust to a shade almost too bright for its depth. It's easy enough to click around after that, but there's a constant adjustment at play each time a new page loads. Such is the experience of Amobi's debut full-length PARADISO, released on NON and experimental vanguard UNO NYC. The Dante-indebted title hints at bliss, but PARADISO reveals its true depths with hellish churning and purgatorial contemplation as foils for the music's ultimate reward. - Brian Duricy

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