With just a few days from the current year left, I’ve compiled a list of 20 albums from 2018 that I enjoyed this year. Among these I have to highlight the much anticipated Mutant Beat Dance debut album, the first ever album from Gerard Hanson under the E.R.P. project, a new Gerald Donald project and a compilation of unreleased Heinrich Mueller remixes, a Silent Servant follow-up on Hospital Productions, a very interesting Fred Ventura compilation of unreleased house tracks, a new Lebanon Hanover, the beautiful debut album of Curses, the impressive Eindkrak album and the debut album of the Romanian producer Șerb.
The list is compiled in chronological order.
Eindkrak – Brullend Staal [Unknown Precept]
Now-legendary producer, DJ, and art director Juan Mendez arguably reset techno at least twice. Once with his surreal and Europe-by-way-of-LA ’80s surrealist apocalypse culture aesthetics for Sandwell District, and again–as Silent Servant–with his “Jealous God” imprint that captured the youth-driven mutation of crossover electronics and dark parties churning in the American underground, which followed directly in the wake of his game-changing modern classic, Negative Fascination. Mendez has evolved to more aggressive and stripped-down acid punk electro dance attacks on Silent Servant’s equally vital follow-up, Shadows of Death and Desire. While many would stall after the success of a now contemporary cult classic, Mendez took his time to deliver a more raw–yet refined–brutalism in his second album.
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Ron Morelli has put together a 13 track album for his returning release on the American based label, Hospital Productions. The album digs deep into the punk roots of the L.I.E.S. boss as he touches upon everything from raw industrial techno to mind-bending electronics and sinisterly cold ambience. This is one not for the faint-hearted, get a little taste below. “Composed over the last two years in various foul states, the album is a fusion of base level hardware programming, open room mic recordings and extensive computer processing, all finalized in the Paris studio of Krikor Kouchian.”
‘Redeemer’ is the brutally seductive debut album by Phase Fatale, a key player in the recent charge of EBM and post punk-informed industrial techno infecting ‘floors from his home city, NYC to his DJ residency at Berghain. In Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions, Phase Fatale finds a fitting home for his personalised brand of clinical, rictus rhythm programming and searing synth and guitar lines, adding a vital streak of black and blue electric energy to the legendary label in its 20th year of cultish operation. In seven parts, ‘Redeemer’ follows the direct, his deeply personal realisation of weaponised sonics, upholding a strong tradition of techno as a prophetic exercise or ritual to gird dancers and listeners for the onset of future war. It presents Phase Fatale as an ultimate emissary of electronic violence and domination in the process, steeling the limbic system and muscle memory thru a fine-tuned disciplinarian approach to pharmacokinetics and biomechanics.
How does one appropriate oneself? In the case of Guy Alexander Brewer, the situation is complicated by his various current projects in techno, noise and experimental electronics overlaying a once-hidden past in drum’n’bass. ‘Appropriation Stories’ tackles the matter head-on at length, the endpoint of the mounting inward focus already evident in his work as Shifted. For years shunning his previous work in Commix, more recently Brewer has learned to look back, even making sideways stabs into breakbeat territory with his Covered in Sand alias. The process grows more intricate and subtle on his new album for the Hospital Productions imprint helmed by Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient, Vatican Shadow, et al.). Here rigorous processing and studio treatments transform classic breaks into deeply hidden components that add new layers of character to his highly-developed techno sound.
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Dominick Fernow presents another dark and confronting opus entitled Media In The Service Of Terror. Read between the lines of the titles then listen and learn via these harsh textural abrasions on offer. The sombre and brutalist opener “Ziad Jarrah Studied Mathematics” sets the scene well, the tunnelling slo-mo techno of “Take Vows” is great and follows the same path as Vactrol Park or L’estasi Dell’oro have in recent times. “Interrogation Mosaic” shows Fernow still has the knack for some chilling imaginary soundtracks while “More Of The Same (Tunisia)” has the classic outsider techno sound that Fernow has honed on previous efforts like Remember Your Black Day or Ghosts Of Chechnya.
Clay Rendering, the tortured pop project of former Wolf Eyes member Mike Connelly and his wife Tara, pledge three diverse but unmistakably gothic sacrifices to Hospital Productions. Soused in the spirits of black metal, coldwave pop and shoegaze, their new cuts reflect a black indigo spectrum of tastes with an inflamed desire for proper song structures and the kind of hooks that hearken back to teenaged thrills and what allured them to music in the first place -and it makes for perhaps their most realised set of tracks yet. With Dominick Fernow as producer and effectively acting in a 3rd band member role, they triangulate a sound that’s nostalgic for the gothic undertones of ‘80s and ‘90s darkness, getting into gear with the hearse-cruising coldwave pop rocket We Are Aware, and casting a long, northern-pointing shadow of BM toil and shoegaze anguish in Never Pass Away.