The list of albums that could've made this cut is long, intense and worthy. So a caveat: this is one, list-averse person's opinion of some full-length titles that were revisited, highly recommended and passionately debated as 2012 unfolded. Share your favourites in the comments.
1. Daphni, JIAOLONG (Merge)
Caribou's Dan Snaith casts his discerning eye toward the dance floor, siphoning a long-held love for two-step, Detroit techno, Afrobeat and funk into the Daphni project. Clean angles, bubbling synth lines and discursive rhythms; a listening experience that's as good in your living room as it is in the club.
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2. Actress, R.I.P. (Honest Jon's)
Blighted, bottomless techno and ambient excursions from a British, cape-wearing phenom. In actuality, this record is beyond keyword definition. It sits in a scuzzy, liminal, self-imposed isolation between 2010's Splazsh and the definable output of the more style-subservient set. Sometimes difficult, more times brilliant.
3. Cooly G, Playin' Me (Hyperdub)
This is the debut full-length from U.K. DJ/producer Cooly G, who's been releasing snatches of dubby U.K. funky and garage- rhythms on Hyperdub since 2009. It's the aural equivalent of bedroom eyes, all demure and pastel-hued with subtle pad work, momentary clamour and tender, breathy vocal fragments.
4. Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes (Warp)
Somehow the fourth LP from L.A. beathead Flying Lotus feels more to the hilt, more fully realized, accessible and important than his earlier output, but that's unfair. What it is, is a complete 3D visualization, a fleshy, cinematic rendering of Flying Lotus's weed-addled brain. It feels real, and real is whatever you want it to be: a guided dream to follow, or a series of complex meditations to parse.
5. Laurel Halo, Quarantine (Hyperdub)
Artwork of the year, hands down. Quarantine, like Cooly G's Playin' Me or Julia Holter's Ekstasis, is an abstract, somewhat insular statement of purpose that flits uneasy, vulnerable vocal experiments through space-filled, scattered, classical and minimal derived arrangements. Unlike Cooly's, you have to work to gain entry.
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