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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.

Traxman, 'Tekvision'
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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'
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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'
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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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