Call for Music Writers: Let your voice be heard by PopMatters’ quality readership.
Call for Music Writers: Let your voice be heard by PopMatters’ quality readership.
APPLY HERE APPLY HERE
APPLY HERE APPLY HERE
Best Electronic Albums of 2021
Image by Cornelia Schneider-Frank from Pixabay

The 20 Best Electronic Albums of 2021

The best electronic albums of the year feature many diverse approaches from electropop to IDM and ambient to footwork with artists pushing the music forward.

15. Fatima Al Qadiri – Medieval Femme [Hyperdub]

Fatima Al Qadiri - Medieval Femme

It’s important not to mistake the dreamy sweetness of Fatima Al Qadiri‘s Medieval Femme for anything close to weakness. Inspired by classical poems of Arab women, Al Qadiri spends her ten tracks swimming back and forth between delicate and ferocious with airy overlays swirled with bold, buzzing drones. Spacious and straightforward, Medieval Femme is a richly crafted suite, lush enough to feel decadent and restrained sufficiently to demonstrate producer Al Qadiri’s refined hand.

Al Qadiri hits a new stride with new stories, interpreting poetic archives with exquisite understatement and opening up yet another new creative avenue for herself. From the meditative strength of her source material, she extrapolates, her creations dynamic and crackling with thrilling, emotional undercurrents. This album has loping curves and jagged edges, luscious melodrama balancing ultra-cool and contemporary beats, and Al Qadiri is the perfect artist to work old into new. – Adriane Pontecorvo


14. Massiv in Mensch – Türkis und Schwarz [Katyusha]

Massiv in Mensch - Turkis und Schwarz

German industrial heavyweights Massiv in Mensch’s Türkis und Schwarz is the outcome of more than two decades worth of work by the duo of Daniel Logemann and Mirco Osterthun (always joined by numerous collaborators live and in the studio) in the dark electronic and industrial genres. It melds their 25-year experience with an ongoing curiosity that keeps the new album versatile and innovative. Massiv in Mensch’s first new album in four years, it’s perhaps the best offering yet from a band that’s already had numerous peaks.

It’s a perfectly balanced album that varies sufficiently from track to track to retain the listener’s interest across all 16 songs. It does so by incorporating a variety of different electronic rhythms and elements across the album, but also through the appearance of numerous guest artists. They keep things fresh, each bringing a unique additive to the Massiv in Mensch dynamic. Collaboration is one of the essential routes through which bands can keep things innovative and avoid repeating their previous work. The strategy is employed to full effect on Türkis und Schwarz. The group have always had a versatile range. On this album, they stretch it between tracks that reflect an almost goth metal approach to others that recoil into a chirpy, upbeat cascade of computerized whimsy. – Rhea Rollmann


13. Basic Rhythm – Electronic Labyrinth [Planet Mu]

Basic Rhythm - Electronic Labyrinth

Electronic Labyrinth‘s cover photo is of St. Fabian Tower, a now-demolished tower block in north London where Basic Rhythm (real name: Anthoney Hart) played as a DJ on the Rude FM pirate radio station. The analogue grit of the photograph possesses real texture and depth, the rich blue of the sky contrasting starkly with the sharp concrete of the decaying tower block.

The tower block also mirrors the formality of Electronic Labyrinth. Hart has described his sonic aesthetic as ‘modernist hardcore’, and St. Fabian Tower, with its brutalist architectural design, could easily be described by this tag. This synergy between the music and modernist architecture can be heard in the sharp, angular funk of “Larkin’ Around”, which recalls modernism’s horizontal and vertical geometry. It’s also heard in the unfussy simplicity of “Techno”, which shares the aesthetic’s lack of ornamentation, and the skeletal “Palace of the Peacock”, which is likewise content to display its inner workings and structural composition. — Tom Morgan


12. Ulla – Limitless Frame [Motion Ward]

Ulla - Limitless Frame

In a poem that Ulla wrote to accompany Limitless Frameshe said, “I made this music to hug myself.” I could wax poetic all day, but I probably couldn’t come up with a more accurate description of the album than that. Limitless Frame is spine-tingling and hair-raising in the gentlest sense, about as far from “wallpaper” music as ambient can be. Like her collaborator Perila, Ulla has an uncanny ability to make music that you don’t just hear—you feel. Her latest LP is her most intimate record yet.Parker Desautell


11. Elkka – Euphoric Melodies [Technicolour]

Elkka - Euphoric Melodies

You have to be pretty sure of the music you are making to name an electronic album Euphoric Melodies. With electronic music, whether a melody is euphoric or not is up to the listener. Euphoria comes at the point where time, space, and music interact so perfectly in a transformative moment of musical alchemy. To serve notice of intent so implicitly suggests a confident determinism that sure as hell needs to be backed up by the music. Thankfully, the new EP from Cardiff-born producer, Elkka, proves to be a treasure chest of exhilarating, uplifting tunes wholly deserving of its title.

Euphoric Melodies does exactly what it says on the tin. Measured rather than wildly hedonistic, it offers everything you would expect of it. Full of pulse-quickening beats and dizzying synths imbued with a sense of inclusivity for those life-affirming moments on the dancefloor. This is Elkka giving notice that she is ready to move into the big leagues. – Paul Carr


FROM THE POPMATTERS ARCHIVES
PopMatters