Lounge, Chillout and Downtempo are musical genres where the difference bewteen valuable works and commercial / low-quality albums is absolutely relevant.
You’ll find here a selection of the three best discs of 2017, choosen among the many albums I had the opportunity to hear throughout the year. In addition, you can enjoy a nice 40 minutes mixtape with the best tracks from these LPs. Enjoy!
OUT OF TIME by Hugo Kant
Historically, France has always produced excellent musicians and producers of electronic music, and beyond the stage name of Hugo Kant there is Quentin Le Roux, who’s definitely one of the most interesting and eclectic artists of the current French electronic scene. Out of Time, the album released this year by Hugo Kant, confirms all the positive things we had the possibility to appreciate in his music since the initial works he published since 2011.
Whether he explores electro pop sounds or he decides to plunge into the mazes of downtempo and hip hop, Hugo Kant’s music remains always classy, never exaggerated or excessive. His production belongs to that school of French electronic artists with an innate melodic and expressive vein, and those who know absolutely when it’s time to stop adding sound layers or effects to avoid weighing down the songs.
One thing that Kant’s music is certainly rich in is the variety of instruments and influences. All of these elements, however, are here at the complete service of the pleasantness and fluency of the songs. Out of Time hosts in fact a number of very good and delicate songs that may be the perfect background for reflection and meditation, and the record also succeeds in the difficult task of telling us something new about a genre that absolutely needs some innovation.
Another valuable element of this album is the use made by the author of numerous jazz and cinemaitc influences. Nothing completely original, of course, but the blend that has been developed by Monsieur Le Roux is definitely interesting and he managed to stand out from the average level of the downtempo albums which we heard in 2017.
MIGRATION by Bonobo
Migration, the sixth electronic album in the career of British DJ Simon Greenby (a.k.a. Bonobo), was the first electronic album to be awarded this year in this blog. And even after many months since its release on last January, now that we find ourselves gathering all the notes that were written throughout the year for defining the best works of the year, the qualities of this work remain all unchanged.
Probably today Bonobo is one of the best artists in the downtempo sub-genre. His works are emotive, passionate, intricate but delicate, with a special attention to every detail. And it’s a real pleasure to get lost within the intriguing musical harmonies that permeate the work. The music of bonobo does not want to be revolutionary or even conceptual. The recipe in this case is the classic one: pure and simple downtempo with myriads of ethnic influences, occasionally enriched by vocal elements.
The musical style of Bonobo does not make it suitable as background for a party or a celebration. Rather, here we are faced with a kind of electronic music that’s definitely more suitable for reflection, concentration, and spiritual journeys.
DAWN CHORUS by Hidden Orchestra
On top of this mini-chart we find Scottish composer and producer Joe Acheson, the creator of the “imaginary orchestra” named Hidden Orchestra. As we learn from for the project’s website, all the tracks feature a wide variety of guest musicians who recorded their contributions separately. The single pieces are then combined by Acheson to create an imaginary ensemble that doesn’t really exist.
Dawn Chorus, the third and last work from Hidden Orchestra, is a concept album dedicated to put into music all the field recordings that Joe Acheson did in the last 8 years in the early hours of the day. From the artist’s bandcamp page:
Hidden Orchestra’s Dawn Chorus is built around a collection of birdsong and other field recordings captured over many years in diverse locations around the UK and abroad. Rich in detail and character, these snapshots intertwine with bass, drums, percussion and eclectic instruments – including piano, electro-harp, zither, Turkish mey and cello – for an emotive and transporting listen that Acheson describes as “a kind of personal audio diary, time capsule or memoir”.
Each track on the album is set to a different one of Acheson’s dawn chorus recordings, these magical snippets of nature providing effects both percussive and melodic, and sparking evocative journeys. Album opener “First Light” features the first ever full dawn chorus that Acheson recorded, on a 5am walk in December 2009 amid a blanket of crisp snow.
The beauty of this record lies in the fact that the environmental recordings are not simply an additional layer put in the songs to give a naturalistic feeling. On the contrary, all the songs develop around these magical atmospheres and manage to create soundscapes and harmonies of absolute quality, slow, medidative, but never dull or boring. This is definitely one of the most particular and interesting albums of the year. Not easy to approach, given its particular structure, but certainly full of emotions and moments of great musical poetry