The top six albums of 2010 picked by ELL

Mala Photo: Lopix.co.uk

There is a feast of musical talent to be found along the East London line. A whole host of movers ‘n shakers whipping up all kinds of sonic vibration.

2010 has been a great year for music; some might say it’s been a positively vintage 12 months. And there’s been a heap of great records released by artists based in our part of town. Here, ELL’s Seb Wheeler and Masaya Tanikawa select some of the best…

Terror Danjah – Undeniable

So excited were we about Terror Danjah’s latest full length that we endeavoured to interview him all about it as soon as we could.

Since the release of Undeniable, critics have hailed the record as Terror Danjah’s most complete and expansive work to date. We’d have to agree.

As one of grime’s godfathers, Terror Danjah began producing out of an east London studio nearly a decade ago. In that time he’s seen many of the UK’s dance phenomenons collide and mutate; Jungle, Drum ‘n Bass, Garage, Dubstep, Funky… And as such, you don’t need to be a grime fan to appreciate his best work yet.

There are some great grime tracks on Undeniable (featuring the voices of distinct MCs such as D Double E, Mz Bratt and Griminal) and each production does stick to the genre’s archetypal 140 beat-per-minute template but the real colour of the LP comes in the mass of influence that Terror Danjah manages to mesh.

Included is ten years of underground bass music history, forged into something very modern. Heavy kick drums collide with irresistibly flexible bass lines, epic synths melt into shuffling snares – minimal meets maximal in a dance-floor kaleidoscope. Undeniable feels considered and handcrafted; the work of a master technician hitting his stride. (SW)

Terror Danjah Myspace

Taez Piano – Such A Cold Winter

Emotive piano-laden ballads set to gentle winter moods stands Taez Piano’s timely winter debut apart from a year dominated by electronic synths and over-compressed club hits.

Produced and mastered by Goldsmiths-graduate Jun Ho ‘Postino’ Lee in his Bushey Hill studio, this seven-track album delivers the softer facets of modern pop and jazz.

Accessible to anyone with an appreciation for subtle melodies, the sparse – yet effective – instrumentation shows restraint and maturity from jazz-pianist Tae ‘Taez’ Kyeung, based in Seoul, Korea.

Seven years in the making, Such A Cold Winter is a narrative labour of love composed around his life experiences with each song having its own personal story; the album opener was inspired by Tae’s ambiguous feelings about winter, the only season that allows him to seek shelter from the cold and appreciate the beauty of ‘warmth’.

Song Six is a heart-felt vocal ballad recounting how he hated the rain, but developed a fondness for it after an evening of gentle conversations spent in a pub with his sweetheart.

Recently released on iTunes and Amazon, Such A Cold Winter is a perfect companion to these cold frosty nights and a definite must-listen. (MT)

Taez Piano on I-Tunes

Mount Kimbie – Crooks and Lovers

Not strictly east London line natives, but near enough. The two young men who comprise Mount Kimbie met at Southbank university and produced their debut LP at home in Peckham, most probably with a little help from some time collaborator, Goldsmiths alumni and soon-to-be-megastar James Blake.

Crooks and Lovers has to be one of the best records released this year; a tight, defined, well constructed collision between analogue and digital, late night strobes and soft beams of morning sunlight.

Some might call it post-dubstep; others would probably just call Mount Kimbie’s sound something of a well considered and pretty experimental take on new, electronic music (and the first to inspire other such as Breton). Forget lazy definitions coined by bloated critics and, whatever your aural persuasion, give Crooks and Lovers a go, for it transcends any expectation of what dubstep is and isn’t, what dance music should and shouldn’t be.

Mount Kimbie meld deep waves of sub-bass, roaming angular guitar riffs, field recordings, stuttering drum rhythms, spliced ‘n stretched vocal snippets, delicate synth work, shuffling two-step beats and unpredictable song structure to create music that is all at once achingly melancholic and brilliantly optimistic. (SW)

Mount Kimbie Myspace

Stac – Turn That Light Out

An impressive debut by UK soul singer Stac that shows promise and talent.

Pooling together the best elements of pop, trip-hop, acoustic folk and reggae, Turn That Light Out is laced with chiming keys, airy wind instruments and moody guitar rakes driven by head-nodding rhythms.

Her unique vocal styling ties it all together into a smooth listening experience, blending vocalists from numerous eras into a voice that is whisper-soft while at times strong and passionate – but always emotive and full of expression.

From the rumbling up-beat jams of More to All Or Nothing and its loose downtempo vibes, Stac confidently dips into a myriad of genres making the album refreshingly creative and a worthy addition to your record collection. (MT)

Stac Bandcamp

Mala/Digital Mystikz – Return 2 Space

Digital Mystikz is a DJ crew, club-night and record label that has been instigating heavy bass manoeuvres from south east London since dubstep’s day one.

After a slew of highly coveted singles and seminal all nighters (over a period of more than five years in fact) they chose 2010 to release their first full length.

Although Digital Mystikz comprises a few key heads, it is chief protagonist Mala (above) who mans the buttons on Return 2 Space, a recording pressed onto thick heavy-weight vinyl, spanning three discs and a gatefold sleeve. Now, that is what it’s all about!

Digital Mystikz’s oft quoted mantra is ‘meditate on bass weight’; and Return 2 Space allows the listener to exactly that – melt into a zone where only rolling drum beats, psychedelic synth effects and the steady throb of bass matters. No compromise, just the dream-like depths of sound.

In a year when dubstep went truly global, truly mainstream (even providing a soundtrack to the recent student protests), Mala produced a record firmly grounded in the aesthetics that made the genre so appealing in the first place. His tunes are stripped back, almost minimal and thoroughly hypnotising. You’ll need a good pair of speakers or headphones to fully absorb his mastery, so deft is his touch. (SW)

Mala on Myspace

Reigndear – Good Old Fashioned Death

Comprised of South African musicians Kent Dylan, Wesley Jay and John Atterbury (a recent Goldsmiths graduate), Reigndear eschews the glossy studio sheen heard on many radio hits for raw soundscapes that are deceptively sophisticated.

They describe their style as ‘experimental psychedelic folk’, but the songs take on such diverse forms that it becomes difficult to judge the genre; yet,  the music is so characteristically Reigndear that it becomes hard not to latch on with affection.

Good Old Fashioned Death is stunning in its poetic lyrics that balance the immediacies of life with the sobering moments before death that seem so distant, gently delivered by fitting vocal work from brothers Kent and Wesley.

Look Forward To The Future… perfectly encapsulates the album’s theme of – in the words of the band – ‘imagery..of a catastrophic event unfolding…like love turned to hate, life turned to death’, with trembling orchestral strings scored to off-beat acoustic strums and abstract vocal lines that fit the atmospheric mood of the song.

The band presents a nuanced collage of sombre emotions, organic acoustics and abstract instrumentation that, thanks to their skilled song-writing, is welcoming and enjoyable. It grows on you – and best of all, it’s free. (TM)

Reigndear Bandcamp

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