As the year draws to a close, I’d like to post an article about the best albums of 2022 I listened to, with the following criteria:
- The album must have been released within the 2022 period.
- I have listened to the album in full at least more than once.
So, with that out of the way, here we go! The decision making process was made harder in that this year I’ve discovered a number of new artists, and focused more on their back-catalogues, rather than any current releases made this year. Some of my favourite artists haven’t even released anything of note this year either, making the entire process of deciding much harder.
State Azure – Pale Light of a Hollow Moon. (Electronic)
An excellent album of what he describes as:
New sci-fi/cyberpunk/Blade Runner inspired album featuring 10 tracks of music created mostly in the last couple of months from livestreams, some of which have been improved/rearranged for the album.
And right off the bat the sweeping ambient pads, along with that haunting, melancholic synth leads sets up the tone perfectly. If there’s one artist who can do ‘Blade Runner’-esque ambient, it’s this guy. Notable tracks aside from the opening (“Outer Worlds”) for me are the title track “Pale Light of a Hollow Moon” and “Paradox Effect”. I’ve played this album in both the standalone tracks and extended continuous versions and love them both. State Azure has been quite prolific this year, really mastering the long-form generative ambient album too – with ‘Wasteland’, ‘Navigating a Latent Space’ and ‘Nova Sonus’ all getting multiple plays from me. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he comes out with next year as he goes from strength to strength.
Pale Light of a Hollow Moon is available on Bandcamp
d’Voxx – 1984 (Electronic)
I’d never heard of d’Voxx until the release of this album popped up on my email newsletters from the legendary DiN label (run by the ever amazing Ian Buddy). As 1984 seems to be in common reference, especially in the UK with the Government deciding to try and push various draconian laws, I decided to give this album a whirl.
And after listening, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Now that seems to sound odd, given I’m writing this mini-review, but it takes a lot for me to just listen to a new artist based off an email. I’m the sort of person who discovers new music organically – typically this is via compilation albums from a particular label.
This album is excellent. As the notes put it:
It’s always said that the second album by any band is the difficult one to create and release. This could well have been the case for the duo d’Voxx who launched their debut record “Télégraphe” (DiN58) on DiN in 2019 too much critical acclaim. Rather than continuing in the same vein they have really raised the bar with a stunning sonic interpretation of the classic twentieth century novel “1984” by George Orwell. Not only that but they have the blessing and permission of the estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell to not just use the novel’s title but to directly quote from this seminal work.
They have treated the source material with amazing respect and earned the rights to use the title and quote from it. What’s all the more impressive to me is that the duo’s recording/performance setup is entirely modular and DAWless. Not that you could tell, but the production quality is top notch, showing these are masters of their machines, their craft and their ability to tell a sonic story had me hooked from the opening section through to the end of the album. I felt I’d been somewhere, taken a journey listening to this album. It makes it near-impossible to therefore pinpoint any particular track and instead recommend just listening to this album in one sitting. Repeatedly.
Void Stasis – Ruins (Dark Ambient)
Bloody hell, what a stunning first album. Cryo Chamber as a label has had a crop of amazing new acts join its ever growing ranks, and each one is brining something new to the cinematic dark ambient label. Void Stasis is one such act, fusing electronic music with the now amazing cinematic scope that the label is known for. Where a lot of dark ambient labels opt for the creation of dark, oppressive atmospheres, Cryo Chamber’s output is much more melodic, creating emotion through sound and texture as much as pitch and tone. This makes for a more ‘approachable’ listening experience, and “Ruins” really encapsulates feelings of isolation, fear, apprehension that the artist(s) were trying to achieve. From the notes:
The new Dark Ambient project Void Stasis is a collaboration from Kristof Bathory of Dawn of Ashes, Scott Denman of Die Sektor and Marie Ann Hedonia. The project utilizes experimentation of various hardware synthesizers and Eurorack Modules to capture a dark journey through the realms of Xenomorphic soundscapes and surreal frequency atmospheres.
The debut album ‘Ruins’ tells a story about our planet drifting into an alien atmosphere and the aftermath of what would happen to our civilization during the process of human extinction.”
Standout tracks for me were the remarkably uptempo “Blood Eclipse” and the final track “Vision of a Dead Planet” which was hauntingly melancholic and desolate, yet a beautiful ending to a superb album.
Ruins is available on Bandcamp
Unusual Cosmic Process – Atlantis (Downtempo)
A great album from an artist I only discovered this year. I discovered them on a compilation album, and shortly after picked up their EP, “Nature Pulsar”. Given that the EP was slightly distinct from what I heard on the compilation, I was intrigued to try more – which was when this album dropped.
I was blown away with it’s approachable sound, the opening track drawing me in to a wonderful selection of tracks with a large number of collaborations – some of whom I have works from too (Dense & Kick Bong).
Overall it’s a great album for this particular style of psybient/electronic/downtempo music, something to put on whilst your programming code, reading a book, writing your journal for the day. All round great music.
Atlantis is available on Bandcamp
Martin Stürtzer – Theta Serpentis (Electronic)
Martin Stürtzer is prolific. And a musical genius. His output ranges from slamming techno to drifting ambience and a whole spectrum of sounds between. His dub techno EP “Photosynthesis” still commands repeated plays on my systems, and I really must get around to playing the ambient album-length “Submerged” some time again soon. “Theta Serpentis” is another space-themed album, this one featuring a lot of analogue sequencing which is simple in its programming, but Martin really takes his time to craft superb synth sounds and layer effects on them that make even the most basic sequence seem vastly more spacious or complex.
Some tracks devolve into pure ambience, such as the majestic “Moon Outpost”, where others have sequencer movements coming in almost from the very beginning. My favourite track is “Starseekers” which has this most simple baseline, but as the track builds and layers, becomes the very foundation that holds everything together. On a repeated listen, you know it’s going to happen and can appreciate the vast knowledge and skill Mr. Stürtzer has in his craft. The lead melody is just amazing, imagining yourself soaring through nebulae and other alien galaxies.
A great album to listen to for those cozy evenings by a fire, or cuddled up reading ‘Revelation Space’ by Alastair Reynolds. Oddly specific, but that’s one of my enduring memories created by listening to this album in the right situation and having the music create the perfect mood.
Theta Serpentis is available on Bandcamp
So there you have it. There were plenty more albums that I discovered during 2022, but as many of these were not released in this current year, I opted to narrow things down. Over time I intend to review a number of those older albums, so look forward to that!