13 best records of 2019 so far

Over the last six months, I’ve reviewed 44 albums. Below is a list of 13 that you really can’t miss out on this year.

Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska

There’s no way you’re going to plough through a list of 100 best records? No time to listen to everything that’s released? Me neither. Less means more, though – more accurately. Let us hurry to listen to records, they appear so quickly.

Algorhythm, Termomix, Alpaka

Termomix represents the broadest and deepest exploration to date of Algorhythm: airy, coherent dialogues exchanged by brass instruments, subsurface bass coming from the Moog and the unobvious, but deliberate drumming. There are quasi hip-hop moments, when the band make a nod to Ninja Tune, there are balanced jazz forms with surprisingly original arrangements, reverberating killers that bring to mind the post-yass scene, which change completely halfway through the track and electronic passages verging on Warp Records with their dense synthesizers.

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Angel Bat Dawid, The Oracle, International Anthem

Dawid’s music is informed by jazz, gospel, even verging on quasi-hip-hop in “Black Family”, where the artist samples a repetitive drum beat. In spite of the various recording methods – sometimes a track from a live recording, at other times as many as seven tracks with added effects, the album forms a coherent whole. There is energy and sincerity in this music, a certain rawness, but also the spiritual dimension – thanks to the artist’s spontaneity and underlining important subjects in the lyrics.

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Cucina Povera, Zoom, Night School Records

Zoom sounds like the result of consistent improvisation, but it’s also a demonstration of self-sufficiency, reaching towards the essence of classical minimalism based on repeats and repetitions. This is a toned-down, but colourful musical tissue, a sound note of sorts.  Evoking a sacral and meditative atmosphere, it oozes a state of relaxation. This is a masterful use of tools (voice and its echo, but also the effect employed to manipulate it) to reduce and administer the sounds. This is authenticity, spontaneity, and spirituality in one.

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Duke, Uingizaji Hewa, Nyege Nyege

Duke’s Uingizaji Hewa is a musical conglomeration of pop culture, consumerism and sampling that grind through a mass of sound elements. There’s kitsch vs contemporary, tradition vs electronics and samples, mixed all together to create a daring blend of styles and rapping. he’s the most punk and uncompromising in his sound in Nyege Nyege catalogue: from the frenetic pace, ambient samples, ad jingles and radio dramas.

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Dynasonic, #1, Dym/Don’t Sit On My Vinyl

This is a praise of rhythm, its simple form, which provides fertile ground for the skilful structuring of narratives; here the form keeps developing – not just because of continuously added motifs, but also the manner of playing, of diversifying timbres and accumulating tension. What we get is a peculiar marriage of acoustic and electronic sounds that unfold on many planes in the time-space continuum. Dynasonic’s suites, albeit seemingly simple, are in fact very colourful and complex.

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Amirtha Kidambi Elder Ones, From Untruth, Northern Spy

Amirtha Kidambi’s idiosyncratic vision of improvised music has found a brilliant outlet, informed by new sounds, yet still maintaining its distinctive character. She also did a brilliant job with casting her musicians, who add character and additional sound layers to the pieces. The result is a contemporary, colourful, timeless story, fuelled by words about violence, colonialism, capitalism and racism shouted with genuine punk anger. From Untruth definitely ranks among the most interesting, intriguing and poignant musical visions of recent years.

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Judy’s Funeral, Trzôsk, wyd. własne

Judy’s Funeral beautifully delivers their heavy sound , but are also capable of punk, impulsive lightness: in the title track or the aforementioned “Strach się bać”, when Marcin Lewandowski is singing, the hi-hats are flapping, and guitar effects add colour to the melody – or in “Kropla”, with its heavy wailing by Piotr Piórkowski. Trzôsk is a refreshing blend of cold wave and noise, full of potential hits, packed with intriguing, unconventional lyrics. One of the best sets of guitar songs Poland has seen for years.

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Kogumaza, Fugues, Low Point

Fugues is a turn towards simplicity and the possibilities it offers as well as a brilliant look at guitar traditions, distilling their essence. Yet this is by no means a minimalist work: the multitude of tracks and arrangement ideas create a densely woven narrative. This is an album you really have to engage in and find time for. Full of emotions, yet not pathetic or heavy. Effortless and free, yet monumental and epic at the same time.

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Rakta, Falha Comum, La Vida Es Un Mus/Iron Lung Records

Rakta’s Falha Comum broadens the spectrum of post-punk, goth and psychedelic rock.  If their debut was a rather classical take at these genres, now they’re openly playing with the set format and perfecting their spatial sound. Their music takes on a mystical character. Album seems to be documenting a mystical celebration, a peculiar sonic spectacle that departs from the rules of the record’s simple layout.

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Sote, Parallel Persia, Diagonal

A tour de force of how one may look back at tradition from the 21st-century perspective to create a contemporary story, while enhancing the Iranian legacy and possibilities of modern tools. Parallel Persia is an epic album, thoroughly thought out in terms of both form and narrative. SOTE delivers a brilliant combination of traditional acoustic instruments and electronica, an impressive sonic synthesis, an innovative look at what futuristic folk may sound like.

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Tryp, Trypolis, Requiem

Trypolis is a story dazzlingly told: with moving lyrics, delivered (i.e. shouted) in Pryt’s trademark style, musically complex, but coherent and distinctive at the same time. The lyrics hit the bull’s-eye, through shouts, simple yet clever rhymes, and a sense of overwhelming the listener. Music-wise, this is not an easy album to listen to: buzzing with emotion, with a multitude of threads administered carefully, consistently. If the idea of concept albums may be kept alive, it’s on records such as this one: thought-out, fine-tuned, with texts that match the music, memorable

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Kuba Więcek, Multitasking, Warner/Polish Jazz

The musicians paint a colourful picture of their inspirations, which they are able to present in evocative, complex forms, at the same time concise and rich on content (and most of them within the ‘radio friendly’ length of 3-4 minutes). on the one hand, the amount of ideas is just-so, on the other, the musicians are balanced, with the saxophonist encouraging the other two to alternately take the lead. Like the multitasking in the title: complex music, a base of ideas and inspirations, sophisticated production and a fantastic, clear sound.

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Nate Wooley, Columbia Icefield, Northern Spy

Columbia Icefield is a monumental work. From strict composition to improvisation, this is an attentive and witty musical mystery play. The music itself suffices to fully absorb the listener with its precision, meticulous finish and brilliant harnessing of the skills of individual artists, whose roles are assigned in a very democratic manner. Nate Wooley and his quartet have created an absorbing and imposing work of immense proportions.

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