The 50 Best Albums of 2016

that special record best albums of 2016.png

Some albums are just perfect. Literally perfect. They have a mood and an energy level that is carefully orchestrated, and precisely perfect for so many occasions. Sunset drives to nowhere, long rainy days, cloud watching, late night listening, head banging and dancing at the club, you name it. 2016 may have been a shit storm of a year, but it was a great year for music. These are the best albums of 2016.


1.  ASC - No Stars Without Darkness (Silent Season)

Sober and deliberate, James Clements's lush, immersive, sci-fi ambient vibes have been a sort of sonic trademark since James started composing ambient music a few years ago. I was a big fan of the dense dreaminess conjured up in his last ambient album Fervent Dream and I think James plays on the same themes here. The music is somehow quiet and cold, meditative and lonely, melodic, heartbreaking and occasionally surprisingly deep and hopeful. As a whole, No Stars Without Darkness is one of the most immersive works I've ever heard. A timeless ambient masterpiece.


2. Gigi Masin ‎– Plays Hazkarà (13)

Until Music From Memory released 'Talk To The Sea' back in 2014, only a limited number of hardcore crate diggers had heard of Italian ambient pioneer Gigi Masin. Masin now has way more new fans than he had in 2014, but shockingly 'Plays Hazkarà' went completely under the radar this year. HAZKARA is an editorial, musical and photographic project by 13 / Silentes. This project is a collection of introspective stories and intimate lyrics by Mirco Salvadori, and comes with a wonderful CD entitled 'Plays Hazkarà' with 8 stunningly atmospheric, incredibly lyrical and bittersweet ambient tracks composed by Gigi Masin. This is pure poetry. Thank you Gigi.


3. R Beny - Full blossom of the evening (Self Release)

Bay Area musician Austin Cairns aka R Beny is a true ambient wizard. To be honest, I only discovered him quite recently thanks to his fantastic Youtube channel, but he's been inspiring the modular synth community for some time now.  'Full blossom of the evening' is R Beny's debut album and a glimpse into his hypnotic ambient world, reflecting on nature and emotion. For those new to R Beny's music, this album is a powerful, mesmerising mix of sounds that layer and mingle, harmoniously combining, disassembling, and submerging into one another. Recalls Stars of the Lid, Oval and Tim Hecker. A truly rewarding listen.


4. Sam KDC - Cycles of Perspective (Auxiliary)

Cycles Of Perspective is Sam's second solo ambient LP to date. Eight tracks in total that can trigger a bunch of different emotions. From the melancholic and sombre vibes of Restoration, to the uplifting soundscapes of Cycle Of Loss, the music is slow, cold, enveloping, beautifully melodic and immersive. It may take time to get under your skin - but this is genius of the highest order.


5. Will Long ‎– Long Trax (Comatonse)

Out of nowhere, Will Long, one of the most talented people producing ambient and drone music these days,  released a trio of the year's best deep house EPs - all of which are collected on Long Trax. But Will Long’s deep house debut on Dj Sprinkle's Comatonse Recordings is more than just a collection of deep house tracks, it's a political statement against overproduction within the dance music industry and society in general. One of 2016's best surprises.


6. Imaginary Softwoods - Annual Flowers in Color (Mineral Disk)

Annual Flowers In Color is Emeralds’ John Elliott's first solo full-length release since 2011's The Path Of Spectrolite. It's a double cassette collection of demos and unreleased material from 2011 through 2015, which Elliott calls "a scrapbook documenting some of the fruitful experiments happening in private over the years." These wonderful gifts of sound span a few different directions, from synth, Kosmiche, tape collage, spoken word and ambient drone, but all seems to meld together quite nicely.


7. Saåad -  Verdaillon (In Paradisum)

Albums like Verdaillon are hard to describe. Toulouse drone duo Saåad's new album is based on their Puget pipe organ recordings made at the Church of Notre-Dame de la Dalbade, in Toulouse. The whole album feels very organic, but there's something spiritual, haunting and dark about it. This isn't just another boring ambient drone album, it's a magnificent album with the ability to transport your mind into places and states of transformation.


8. Monadh- Muara (Further Records)

The debut album by Seattle producer Monadh (Jake Muir) is one of 2016's best ambient albums. From start to finish every track is incredibly peaceful and hypnotic and include gorgeous field recordings Muir collected from the Pacific Northwest. You hit play and suddenly Muara throws you into a world of dreamy, aquatic landscapes. A multi-senses journey, listening to tracks like Sinking Stream or Convection is like seeing sounds. Ambient music at its finest.


9. Body Sculptures - A Body Turns to Eden (Posh Isolation)

Copenhagen’s Posh Isolation label has a thing for compellingly dark music, and the new project Body Sculptures is a perfect illustration of that. Swedish composer Erik Enocksson joined forces with industrial artists Puce Mary, aka Frederikke Hoffmeier, and Ossian Ohlsson of Vit Fan; Varg, co-owner of Northern Electronics and Loke Rahbek from Posh Isolation.  The end result is a glorious slice of Scandinavian dark electronica.


10. Omar S ‎– The Best (FXHE Records )

Omar S called his new album 'The Best' because that's exactly the kind of thing that Omar S does. And that's why we love him. Because Omar is a special dude and because he can walk the walk. Pressed on Quadruple red vinyl, expensive as hell, and featuring an impressive cast-list of collaborators including Kyle Hall, O B Ignitt, Norman Talley and Tom Bug, 'The Best' is an outstanding deep moody house 11-track album that consolidates the reputation of Detroit house legend Omar S as a creator of timeless dance music. He truly is the best.


11. Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto & Bryce Dessner - The Revenant (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Milan)

12. Carla Dal Forno - You Know What It's Like (Blackest Ever Black)

13. ASC - Near Death OST (Auxiliary Transmissions)

14. Jonathan Fitoussi ‎– Imaginary Lines (Further Records)

15. Young Male - How To Disappear In America (White Material)

16. Huerco S. - For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)  (Proibito)

17. Central Industrial - Flaring Blue In A Timeless Space (Auxiliary)

18. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS (Western Vinyl)

19. Gigi Masin ‎– Venezia 2016 (13)

20. Vakula ‎– Cyclicality Between Procyon And Gomeisa (Dekmantel)

21. Tim Hecker - Love Streams (4AD)

22. FP Oner - 6 (Mule Musiq)

23. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani - Sunergy (Rvng Intl.)

24. Kevin Verwijmeren- Those Glorious Heights (Icarus Records)

25. Outer Space - Gemini Suite (Amethyst Sunset)

26. Shaded Explorer - Empatia (Silent Season)

27. Thomas Köner ‎– Tiento De La Luz (Denovali)

28. Scott Grooves - Unreleased Anthology Part 3 (Natural Midi)

29. Jay Daniel - Broken Knowz (Technicolour)

30. Steve Hauschildt - Strands (Kranky)

31. Panabrite ‎– Transfer (Deep Distance)

32. Autumn Of Pækward ‎– Cern (Tonzonen Records)

33. Chihei Hatakeyama - Coastal Railroads In Memories (White Paddy Mountain)

34. Studio OST - Scenes (201-015) (Lustwerk Music)

35. Forma - Physicalist (Kranky)

36. Tape Loop Orchestra– Go Straight To The Light Of All That You Love (Facture)

37. Unearth Noise - Prayer & Resonance (Lullabies for Insomniacs)

38. Doms & Deykers ‎– Evidence From A Good Source (3024)

39. Jacob Newman - Biospherica (Carpe Sonum Records)

40. Susso - Keira (Soundway)

41. Camara - Before We Sleep (Parachute)

42. Vatican Shadow - Media in the Service of Terror (Hospital Productions)

43. Skee Mask - Shred (Ilian Tape)

44. Fred P -Sound Destination (Soul People Music)

45. Warmth - Essay (Archives)

46. bvdub - Yours are Stories of Sadness (Self Release)

47. Steve Moore- The Mind's eye OST (Relapse Records)

48. Georgia – All Kind Music (Palto Flats)

49. 36 - The Infinity Room (A Strangely Isolated Place)

50. Isorinne ‎– Echoic Memoir (Nothern Electronics)


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Posted by: Miguel Ferreira

Founder & Selector at That Special Record. Miguel loves writing stories about outsider electronic music & vinyl culture.

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