Here’s 15 of my favourite tracks from 2020, from WFR and other electronic labels.
Soul Flask – Six Miles Down (The Twilight of Flight – WFR)
Soul Flask was the first artist outside the WFR friend bubble that we signed – The Twilight of Flight is an amazing album, full of emotion and weight. Six Miles Down is the track that really hit me the hardest, and we released it as a single, backed with a Werra Foxma remix, before the album in August.
Further Reading: Igloo Magazine
Dohnavùr – Accept and Move On (You Can and You Shall – WFR)
The first track from the first ever release on WFR in March of this year, which pre-dates the label by 3 months. This LP set Ali and I on an unexpected rapid ascent which saw Dohnavùr get signed to the mighty Castles in Space for a slew of releases in 2021. The trademark Dusty breaks, acid tweaks, big bass and floaty synths are all here.
Bendu – The Crown (Sagittarius – WFR) ** NEW FOR 2021**
The wickedly talented Bendu (LA based Ben Vance) came to me to master his album for him, but after one listen, I was hooked, and took the opportunity to work with him to release it next year. The Crown sums up Ben’s work nicely – big downtempo beats, imaginative vocal samples, pulsing bass and scorching lead lines. It also came out on a self-released lathe cut 7” prior to ben signing to WFR, which i snapped up just this month.
See also – review by Survey Channel
Listener Depleted – Colleen (You Slept, I Didn’t – Music Is The Devil)
I caught wind of Listener Depleted on Kate Bosworth’s amazing Dark Train show, and Colleen stopped me dead in my tracks. It captures the sound inside my head most days; beautiful, epic and damaged. I can’t recall breathing the whole time i listened to it, it was that impactful. It’s everything I want from ambient/beatless music, and is one of only two tracks i’ve heard this year that made me cry. Outrageous.
Further Reading: On the Fringes of Sound
Rei Nakatani – Ma (iydith – WFR) **NEW FOR 2021**
Rei’s work is incredible; disciplined, clinical, and with a sense of space. I am fond of electronic walls-of-sound, and over-cluttering my own music, but every once in a while, an artist comes along that resets your thinking. Ma is one of those tracks that is simple, yet hyper-modern, and goes about it’s business like a chess game. Utterly fascinating and addictive to listen to.
The Loop Union – Waving Not Droning (Serendipity – WFR)
One of my favourite tracks from a collaboration project with generative ambient/Ableton guru Mike K Smith, which we released in the summer. On this track, I took Mike’s beautiful, flowing ambient lines and overlaid jazzy funk breaks, RDJ style pads, and atmospheric piano in the breakdown section, inspired by the works of Number Stations chief songwriter Scott Mungin.
Autumna – Rafferty Sings the Blues (Autumna 2010-2020 Vol.1 – WFR) **NEW FOR 2021**
When Autumna (aka Belgian artist Emile Wauters) sent me an email enquiring about demos and submissions, nothing prepared me for the 50 odd releases in his back catalogue as a CV! As i combed through the dozens of EP’s and albums, about 25 undiscovered gems stood out (which we are collating for an incredible physical release on WFR in 2021) and Rafferty Sings the Blues is one of them; absolutely gorgeous in every way, and it’s one of those tracks just waiting for a movie scene to mesh with it.
Letters From Mouse – Helix Nebula (Watching – Music Is the Devil)
Steven (aka LFM) has played a massive part in the development of WFR. From the Räven Musen collaboration to inviting us to work together on the amazing Strange Selectors. Helix Nebula is my favourite from his latest LP; the highest compliment i can give it is that it sounds like it was made in 1975 – proper Kosmiche from one of Scotland’s finest producers.
Tayus – 53 (Synergism – WFR)
A moment of pure genius from two of my closest musical compadres – Ambient bliss from Mike K Smith combined with the modular powerhouse that is Ali O’May. The whole of Synergism is pure joy, but ’53’ sounds like it could be background music to scenes from the Queen’s Gambit – playful but melancholic, and utterly brilliant.
Correlations – Hot Pots 5 (Castles in Space)
One of my albums of the year – every track contains elements and sounds from the OSCar mono synth, and contains some of the most creative and beautiful arrangements and arpeggios I’ve heard from any release. There’s no fat on Hot Pots 5 – every sound has a purpose, but its not minimal in any way – it’s rich, epic and euphoric. A triumph.
Dohnavùr – Surmonter (Castles in Space Subscription Library)
This is the track that kinda changed my life in a way. Ali O’May and I had just released the debut Dohnavùr LP in March, 2 weeks before Covid lockdown. A few weeks later, Colin from CiS was asking for submissions for the Isolation Tapes, and we submitted the moody, cinematic ‘Surmonter’, which is french for ‘Overcome’. Colin placed it as track 1 of the Isolation Tapes downloads, and my feet haven’t touched the ground since. As a result of submitting Surmonter, Dohnavùr now have 5 vinyl releases coming out on CiS in 2021. Insane.
Further Reductions – Array (Knekelhuis)
I stumbled across New York’s Further Reductions via Stuart from Kl(äus) a few months ago, and Array is my favourite EP of 2020, with the title track the standout. Essentially polished live recordings, Array has that new/old house feeling to it, and would absolutely belong in the first hour of a modern day Aphex Twin set. Minimal, dirty, dreamy and funky all at the same time.
Räven Musen – Bubbling Brook (Secrets of Snow Diving EP – WFR)
Bubbling Brook combined my love of dirty drums and deep bass with LFM’s uncanny knack for off-kilter melodies. The most sinister track of the EP, it went down well with the hauntologists in our electronic community.
Pulselovers – Slope and Intercept (Northern Minimalism 2 – Do It Thissen)
Mat Handley aka Pulselovers has been one of my favourite artists this year. We got to know each other through Strange Selectors, and he has been super cool with us giving advice on how to conduct things with running WFR, with his experience running Woodford Halse to draw on. Slope and Intercept reminds me of the Rephlex/Analord output of the mid 2000’s, with plenty of analog fizz and CR78 drums to propel this little beauty along.
Dohnavùr – Einhliða (Concrete Animals – WFR)
We started this mix with the first Dohnavùr track we made, and we end with the last. A landmark release for our label, as this was the first vinyl release for us – something I thought personally would have been impossible within the first year of operation, but we did it within 6 months of starting up WFR. Einhliða is the AA side (Icelandic for On One Side), and contains all sorts of menacing electronics, married with epic live drums and bubbling, paranoid arpeggios.