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20 Best EDM and Electronic Albums of 2017

Footwork frenzies, futuristic hip-hop, nostalgic lo-fi house and more

EDM’s economic bubble continued to float on throughout 2017, as upper-crust artists jetted between festivals, casinos and meet-cutes with celebrity vocalists. The “global market” rose again to $7.4 billion in 2017, and Forbes is still aggrandizing superstar DJs. But this year, the artistic action was not about bigness. With ever-splintering global scenes and styles, there was no dominant trend and that was a very good thing. The amount of fascinating electronic and/or dance music in 2017 was staggering – the thrilling dance-floor eccentricity of Lanark Artefax; the overwhelming orchestral ambience of Gas; the thumb-piano street jams of Sierra Leone’s Kondi Band; the riotous bedroom mash-ups of Nidia and plenty more.

Kondi Band, 'Salone'

Kondi Band, ‘Salone’

One of 2017’s most charming debuts was this collaboration between Sorie Kondi, a blind street musician from Sierra Leone’s capital city Freetown, and Milwaukee-raised producer Chief Boima, the son of Sierra Leonean immigrants. Kondi sings in Krio (Sierra Leone’s lingua franca) and plays lilting melodies on his namesake instrument, the kondi – a thumb piano that bounces and percolates with an irrepressible energy. Boima adds subtle beats, loops and synths (or occasionally horns, on “Geibai Gpanga Ne Gna”) to craft distinctive Afro-house tracks. Mesmerizing and irresistibly funky, Salone is a compelling addition to the global dance floor: Freetown and your ass will follow. M.R.

Traxman, 'Tekvision'

Traxman, ‘Tekvision’

Of all the Chicago footwork architects from the frenetic genre’s first wave of worldwide exposure, Cornelius “Traxman” Ferguson has proven to be the hardest rocking – the most willing to make mincemeat of heavy metal riffs. His fifth-or-so album explores a new type of harshness thanks to tweaking the minimalist textures of vintage electronic music – “Tone Deaf” is like a pulsating sine wave turned into funky morse code, “Whop Line” is a piercing wobble sent howling and wiggling onto the dancefloor. Tracks like “Gone Girl” are a more familiar return to tweaking classic pop songs, but his stuttering work – presumably his quick fingers on an MPC – leaves busted-sounding glitches and skips. C.W.

Lanark Artefax, 'Whities 011'

Lanark Artefax, ‘Whities 011’ EP

Glaswegian producer Calum MacRae, a.k.a. Lanark Artefax, might have only released a handful of his alien techno tracks – a little over an hour of music since 2015, and this four-song EP serving as his total output for 2017. However, he’s already found his way into DJ sets from both Björk and Aphex Twin. His music – full of high-voltage shocks, bewildering sonic details and tempo-defying noises – connects the dizzyingly abstract IDM of early Nineties groups like Autechre with the crowd-pleasing boom-tick of modern architects like Rustie and Hudson Mohawke. But on this EP MacRae also shows off a highly attuned sensibility in finding the evocative, heart-stirring center of ambient music, as on the choir-like closer “Voices Near the Hypocentre.” A.B.

Jlin, 'Black Origami'

Jlin, ‘Black Origami’

A dizzying, disorienting, delirious clatter of hyperreal, synthetic sounds. Rhythmically, Gary, Indiana-based producer Jerrilynn “Jlin” Patton creates polyrhythmic cyclones similar to the high-octane Chicago dance music known as “footwork,” but her textures are purely avant-garde, an airbrushed sound with buzzing thumb pianos, clipped vocal flickers and hi-definition virtual reality noise that wouldn’t sound out of place from experimental artists like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Oneohtrix Point Never, the PC Music crew or collaborator Holly Herndon. C.W.

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