The Top 20 Albums of 2015

Well readers it’s finally come to that time of the year again where everyone slows down, kicks back, looks fondly at the year that was, and of course eagerly consumes the glut of end of year lists that come out of it to criticise everyone else’s taste in music. I shouldn’t need to remind everyone that on our fourth go round that this list is subjective and based on personal enjoyment as much as technical brilliance, since it’s pretty tough to reconcile the genre differences between some of these records, but I think I have a nicely eclectic and well balanced list for you all this year.

As always HearFeel means nothing without the amazing support of all the readers, artists and labels that keep inspiring me to write; every 12 months sees more content, more hits and of course, better quality writing than the last and I continue to be amazed that so many of you value what I have to say. I take this quite a bit more seriously these days so it means more than you could know, and I’m immeasurably grateful. Without further ado, let’s get down to it (relevant review links in the album titles).


1. William Basinski – Cascade 


Basinski is indisputably the best name in tape-looped music (in my mind) and for some very good reasons, so Cascade should come as nothing of a surprise. Except that the rare appearance of the piano here makes this album quite a bit more special; we still get lulled into its bleary constructions in the same way but the way the loops are smeared and onlapping with one another, retaining this hint of original sparkle now fading into the obsolescence of time, is particularly expressive, as though we’re gazing upon the refractive surface of the millpond of our mind and losing a grip upon our memories as we age. The power of looped music continues to surprise me and the plethora of emotions this evokes is a testament to its efficacy.

2. Ken Camden – Dream Memory


Camden’s amazing retro-Ambient constructions harken back to the Krautrock days with effortless ease, perfectly melding these dated synth vibes with modern production sensibilities to make Dream Memory a potent experience. Its synths are as often bouncy as they are deeply introspective and frozen, perfectly flitting from the crispness of empirical science to the ambiguous sense of personal feeling instantly; it’s a twisting journey that refuses to sit still until it’s thrown everything at us and is pretty lovable for that alone.

3. Celer – How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life


What is unquestionably the longest titled album of the year in my library also happens to be one of the finest, and actually may be my favourite Celer work to date which says a great deal. It’s very Basinski-esque in its craft, its four pieces built from sun-baked tape-loop blissouts that evoke romantic Summer sensibilities, but beyond the surface erosion the love is still strong and binding, just patiently ticking over and reaffirming itself. Extremely difficult to fault this one, a must for Celer fans.

4. James Murray – Loss


And Loss may comparatively be the album with the shortest title, but it hides within it the biggest heart. When we find that perfect thing we try to hold onto it, treasure it, enjoy it while it lasts as much as we can, but as all things come to pass so must Murray’s deep and emotive drone passages to shepherd us through the battering sense of inescapable detachment. It’s impossibly careful and beautiful measured, a really devoted listening experience.

5. EUS/Postdrome/Saåad – Different Streams


It was inevitable these guys would work together again; they’re all Dark Ambient powerhouses on their own but combined their iterative creation process results in the most seamless collaborative sound, you’d swear they’d been together for years. These three have been blowing me away since the early HearFeel days and are just getting better; this record is just more of the same damaging, enveloping, idiosyncratic social commentary they’ve been producing and I can’t not get caught up in its meaty obliterations.

6. 36 – Void Dance


36’s Dennis Huddleston is just a musical machine these days, scarcely a month goes by without hints of new music on the horizon and 2015 has been a productive and particularly creatively excellent year for him it seems. Void Dance builds on the expansive space themes of his recent EPs and is one of his most openly thematic records. I’ve been a long time fan so it goes without saying one of his would be on here someplace but I really genuinely feel like he’s one of the most honest and best accessible names in Ambient right now, highly recommended and very engaging.

7. Emancipator – Seven Seas


Emancipator has always been one of those “great in the moment but largely forgettable” artists for me; it’s always been good music but until this record none of it really seemed to stick out in my mind, it was just consistently ok. But Seven Seas is so much more quixotic and ambitious, it blends so many styles and genres it’s incredible to me he’s still managed to keep a sense of identity here. It’s jazzy, trip-hoppy, IDM-y, downtempo-y and just bafflingly brilliant every step of the way (or perhaps at every corner of the globe).

8. Abul Mogard -The Sky Had Vanished


I’m quite new to the Mogard fanclub having only been introduced to his work a few months ago but already he’s become one of my favourite producers of Drone music; this old retired Serbian factory worker is making some of the most potent sounds out there right now and it blows me away how sonically mature his sound is, let alone how emotionally heady the pieces are. If his perfectly crafted deep vistas don’t move something within you I just don’t know what will, heavy stuff.

9. Ed Hamilton – Arabesque


Futuresequence has had a great year for music all round but my favourite has to be this little and possibly overlooked gem from near the year’s start. Based on a few chords from Debussy’s “Arabesque #1” it spins an entire album out of the premise of capturing that precious feeling we’ve all had of making that one incredible bar or few amazing seconds stretch out; the appropriately titled closer “Year In A Day” says it all and is one of the best singular pieces 2015’s seen in my opinion.

10. Slow Meadow – Slow Meadow

Slow Meadow

When you’re the first release on Hammock’s label and guided by him in the album creation process, you’re on to a record that’s pretty much guaranteed to be a beauty, and Slow Meadow is exactly that. Much like Helios’s Yume it’s got a fading Summer come-down feel to it, beginning to woe the loss of its carefree atmospheres through the judicious strings and trumpet passages that give this record such youthful energy. Really pleased to have this in my Top10, such a gentle and lovely little record.

11. Subheim – Foray


The dreaded #11 spot falls to a late-in-the-year gem in Subheim’s first album in almost six years. It’s a frosty Dark Ambient meets Ambient Dub affair that feels surprisingly removed from their previous work and more inline with more recent Future Garage projects like Volor Flex rather than the Trip-Hop constructions of their past. Day-dreamy at first but then hits back as the electronica replaces the early acoustic instrumentation in slinky nighttime excitations.

12. Ian William Craig – Cradle For The Wanting


Unlike 2014 I doubt we’ll see this rise to the top of my favourites like A Turn of Breath did; while it’s thematically more constrained and while Craig’s vocals alone are strong and make for compelling listening, it doesn’t feel as mature or as fleshed out. Still, a very meaningful record with plenty of introspections and existential musings for the enthusiastic listener.

13. Hakobune – love knows where


Hakobune’s crystalline drone movements are things I’ve begun to look forward to very much, and the wonderfully titled love knows where doesn’t fail to disappoint in its softly migrating shimmers of barely there textural impressions. Barely above absolute zero but absolutely stunning because of that.

14. Port Royal – Where Are You Now


Some may already know how blindsided I was by this record; I was never really that impressed by some of their earlier albums but the epic scale and just relentless energy of this gigantic Post-Rock meets IDM powerhouse totally blew me away. A freight train of high impact music that just won’t quit.

15. Benoit Pioulard  – Sonnet


Pioulard keeps the vocals under a pretty tight leash on Sonnet which greatly increases my enjoyment of it; I just prefer a lot of his work where he isn’t singing! It feels very youthful and carefree, reciting poetic justice in softly eroded ambient passages that harken back to hazy days lying in the Sun, tough not to find it relatable or quaintly relaxing.

16. Christopher Bissonnette – Pitch, Paper & Foil


I’m a long time Bissonnette fan and I’m hugely glad he’s become more active again of late; this new vein of modular synth music feels like a nicely organic continuation of his original sound, very spontaneous and just barely restrained. It may be an electronic album at its core, but its heart is a beating and earnest entity of its own design.

17. Purl – Stillpoint


Sometimes you just have that craving for supremely laid back and balearic Ambient Techno and Stillpoint certainly fills the void that Segue has left behind from last year. Mellow to the point of being dangerous, that’s all there is to say, makes good company even in these frostier months.

18. Pinkshinyultrablast – Everything Else Matters


I often feel like Shoegaze has said and done mostly everything it can at this point, but certain records do come along and surprise me, this one in particular. Very elegiac female vocals, dreamy synths and occasionally gritty guitar riffs make this a pretty dynamic and, well, downright fun record overall.

19. Helen – The Original Faces

No new Grouper this year was a disappointment but we do see Liz Harris bringing her gorgeous vocals to Helen and another Shoegazing record on my list. This is a bit more contrived and “pure” shoegazing compared to Pinkshinyultrablast in its predictable drums and obliterated guitars but Harris’s ghostly voice brings this together in a special way.

20. Blanck Mass – Dumb Flesh


And finally we come to Ben Power’s latest Blanck Mass record to finish things off. After 4 years on hiatus this is pretty far removed from his self-titled debut LP and its claustrophobic trappings, throwing us into a weird mix of Vaporwaving pitch-bendings, harsh Techno sequences and of course Industrial drone juggernauts. Aggressively addicting.

Special Commendation: Olli Aarni – Puu Tuulessa


The only reason this doesn’t make the list is basically on a technicality; this is actually an EP even though it doesn’t seem like it, and so it wouldn’t be fair to include it, which is a tremendous shame since Aarni’s humble and destroyingly emotive lo-fi turnings feel really touching and in tune with nature. The passage of time in the natural world really feels heavy and well expressed, almost overwhelmingly so, in this stunning 30 minute two-parter. Ignore at your own loss.

Once again, many thanks for sticking with me for another year, feel free to message me any thoughts in the comments below, by dropping me an email anytime at [email protected] or through Twitter @kkiippyy. Much love.