Top 10 Deconstructed Club, Weightless, Bass, and Footwork
Chevel - In a rush and Mercurial (Enklav)
Jlin - Autobiography (Planet Mu)
Objekt - Cocoon Crush (PAN)
Demdike Stare - Passion (Modern Love)
Djrum - Portrait with Firewood (R&S)
Aphex Twin - Collapse (Warp)
Lotic - Power (Tri Angle)
Raime - Am I using content or is content using me? (Different Circles)
Sophia Loizou - Irregular Territories (Cosmo Rhythmatic)
SOS Gunver Ryberg - SOLFALD (Noise Manifesto)
This is a list of challenging beat music that has represents the furthest and most modern evolution of sound in electronic music in several different directions. It all sort of stems from the experimentation of Richard D James in my mind, who helped codify a thing that got called IDM, but in modern nomenclature is closer to a combination of Deconstructed Club, Footwork, and Bass music. More evolutional nerdery: Deconstructed Club was originally used to describe heavy, experimental club music that Lotic, Arca, and M.E.S.H helped popularize, but is rapidly becoming a broader term to capture the idea of artsy music made from (generally) analog gear that would otherwise make music for dancing in clubs. So, really, Aphex Twin all along. It's really nice to have Collapse as such a strong release from him that is influenced by the development that he started and most of the genre evolution discussion that follows. The world isn't quite ready for DC to be the umbrella genre for all of these things, but I'm ready it to be used more broadly. Speaking of Lotic, their evolution of identity and music comes to a fascinating peak with Power, which is my favorite LGBTQ club non-club album this year (Sophie's is worth a listen, though).
In contrast, Bass music and Grime are sort of the club equivalents of Deconstructed Club with a parallel evolution path that's always been club-centric. UKG evolved out of the house scene in Britain in the 1990s, and Grime evolved out of that as hip-hop grew in popularity worldwide in the 00s. Dubstep unfortunately happened as the sort of logical extreme of Grime and UKG in the late 00's, and (UK) Bass sort of rolls all of that evolution together but is experimental and decidedly not club ready. And then Grime has seen a recent more ambient and heady evolution with Weightless, which Chevel and Raime's releases this year are good examples of. In a Rush and Mercurial is particularly good and is my favorite extension of this type of Grime in general. In my mind, Weightless doesn't have to be tied down (ha) by Grime, it has compositional and a lot of sound/source freedom that can be used for maximal ear candy.
Bass and Grime evolution is tangentially related to the Chicago club music scene, which saw Juke and Footwork evolve from Ghetto House in the 90s while UKG was happening in the UK. Like UKG, Ghetto House was a combination of hip-hop influences in House, but was faster, rawer, and more confined to the poorer parts of Chicago. Juke was the sped up, more extreme form of Ghetto house, and then Footwork took influences from trap and made the whole thing insane and heavily sample based. Footwork has still been largely in the Chicago club scene, but is now being used for more art-focused things, which is where the new Jlin album comes in. Autobiography is officially the weirdest ballet score ever, and sees Footwork going Weightless, in a way. I hope that this influences others, because it's beautiful and extreme in equal parts.
Where does Objekt fit into all of this, then? TJ Hertz is the coolest producer on the coolest label (PAN) in the coolest city in the world (Berlin). PAN has been a driver of experimentation and has helped firm up the need for new musical terms, but this evolution is from and in parallel with Autechre instead of Aphex Twin. Objekt is maybe the most Autechre-like producer in the world today (sometimes even moreso than Autechre), which is a really good thing. Similarly to Aphex Twin, Autechre is called IDM, but a better term has simply never come along to try to describe what they accomplish. In general, it's largely the more digital equivalent of what Richard D started, and it's therefore excessively complex at times. Cocoon Crush is wildly complex, to be sure, but makes a lot more sense than anything Autechre has done this decade (I actually do like the NTS sessions a lot though).
And what about Demdike Stare, Andy Stott, and Modern Love in general? They're on the techno end of this lineage and intersect with Bass music because it combines techno, jungle, dub, and ambient. Demdike continue their brand of this combination with Passion, which marries their experiments from the Testpressing series with their more recent love of riddims and consistent industrial lore. Also on the industrial techno and jungle end of the spectrum is Sophia Loizou, who is in a similar camp in terms of reckless, boundaryless rhythmic experimentation. SOS Gunver Ryberg is also an unheralded luminary in this field and I hope she continues to evolve and release music.