We may have been afk for three quarters of the last year, but White Noise never stopped listening to music. Aside from conducting explorations into the realms of disco, funk and Arabic music, we’ve been keeping tabs on the dance scene’s development across 2014, and in many ways a time out has been useful: cutting out the flotsam of a year’s releases and just focusing on the essential, checking in on the latest tunes without falling prey to the hype machine’s endless spin-cycle.
Even from a distance it’s clear that 2014 was a standout year for the electronic LP. Some albums provided conceptual weight to back up auditory pleasure, while others provided such strong narratives that to cherry-pick a track or two does a disservice to the whole. Elsewhere a handful of producers finally pulled off dance albums that didn’t resort to throwaway ambient passages to provide ‘flow’, while those that took ambient seriously upped their game to new levels.
This list may not be as exhaustive as those of our contemporaries, nor is it punctual. But we’re not here to push the reader count or sell ad-space, just to share good music. So here are our 16 favourite albums of 2014.
We love all these albums and the diversity of sound makes them fairly incomparable, so we’ve ordered the albums alphabetically. They’re all more than deserving of your time.
  
Andy Stott – Faith In Strangers [Modern Love]

On Faith In Strangers Andy Stott continued to tread his singular path into the murk, taking another step away from the dancefloor but remaining as beguiling as ever. His blend of fathomless atmospheres, brutalist meditations and even a title track that vaguely resembles a pop song resulted in his most memorable, rewarding LP to date.

The Bug – Angels & Devils [Ninja Tune]
Mi Lost

The Bug has never been one to rush, yet the 6 years he took to follow up the hi-def dread of London Zoo was more than worth the wait. Here he returns to those unique dancehall / bass hybrids, with an album of startling contrast, the first half loaded with woozy menace, the raucous final run going right for the jugular.

Caribou – Our Love [City Slang]
All I Ever Need
 
Dan Snaith’s follow-up to the masterful Swim showcased songwriting more accessible and anthemic than ever before, and while it didn’t please everyone, we kept with Our Love for its colour, its diverse palette and, even in its most stadium-bating moments, its disarming intimacy.
Edward – Into A Better Future [Giegling]
Skating Beats

One of the key players in Giegling’s world-beating year was Edward, whose heady sophomore album introduced accomplished deep house to structures and sounds from as far afield as punk, new age, hardcore and disco. Whichever left-turn he took, we were more than eager to follow Edward thanks to the detail and finesse of his productions.

Fatima – Yellow Memories [Eglo]
Biggest Joke Of All

Eglo’s resident songstress exploded our (already high) expectations with her sterling debut, a masterclass in modern RnB. With one foot planted firmly in the history of soul, Yellow Memories never shied from experimentalism and forward-thinking composition. Perhaps the greatest credit that can be given is that with production duties assigned to the likes of Theo Parrish, Floating Points, and Flako, Fatima’s indomitable voice was never overshadowed.

HTRK – Psychic 9-5 Club [Ghostly International]
The story of this album’s creation, of grief and healing, has perhaps been allowed to eclipse its remarkable musical achievement. On their third album HTRK conjured a half-lidded world of lethargy, doubt and sensuality, with Jonnine Standish’s elliptical lyrics gliding over the stark soundscape of a wounded psyche.
Kassem Mosse – Workshop 19 [Workshop]
Untitled A3

Mosse’s fullest release to date on the superb Workshop imprint was a collection of pure dancefloor fire. His articulated grooves rattle and writhe, welded to strikingly bright melodies and bound by sudden left turns. The work of a true original.

Kettenkarussell – Easy Listening [Giegling]
Drama
 
Giegling may now be synonymous with Prince of Denmark (Traumprinz) and Vril, but the imprint’s first release was courtesy of this German duo, whose lush, meditative sound has continued to define the label’s style. Here the pair lead the listener through playful compositions that pay homage to the best of Aphex Twin and Boards Of Canada without ever giving up their uniquely melancholic fingerprint (except on the wryly titled Chords Of Banana, which could be the work of a master forger).
Leon Vynehall – Music For The Uninvited [3024]

It’s Just (House Of Dupree)

Who cares if it’s technically an album? After a couple of years at the fringes threatening to break out, 2014 was the year of Vynehall as he burst joyously onto the scene. On this wonderful collection he came up with his best work yet, delightfully organic house compositions drenched in warmth with groove to spare, always hitting that soulful sweet spot.

Lnrdcroy – Much Less Normal [1080p]
I Met You On BC Ferries

Lnrdcroy’s lauded cassette debut was the best in a strong year for new imprint 1080p, his engrossing melodies making for one of the year’s most beautifully nostalgic listens, drawing us inexorably onwards with a longing, heartsick glance over the shoulder.

Max Graef – Rivers Of The Red Planet [Tartelet Records]

Running

Max Graef’s debut album fuses house and hip hop so well that you can’t see the joins: crisp drums, smoky melodies and a healthy dose of funk, all cut together with imaginative samples, superb interludes and that cover. It’s a classic case of an album being greater than the sum of its parts, but bear in mind that those are some damn fine parts to begin with.

Millie & Andrea – Drop The Vowels [Modern Love]
Stay Ugly

Andy Stott and Miles Whittaker (of Demdike Stare) return to their experimental pairing on this searing LP, combining fresh cuts and a couple of their best past releases. The world of these tunes is a hostile one, their distorted rhythms occupying the black space between techno, jungle and trap, where melodies like shards of glass lie glistening in the wreckage.

Moodymann – Moodymann [KDJ]

Lyk U Use 2 (feat Andres)

If Kenny Dixon Jr auditioned for the Greek pantheon, he’d get the part of Dionysus without even trying. His latest offering is hedonism in musical form, from its bloated tracklisting to the subject of its lyrics, not forgetting the gluttonous funk of his grooves; always sultry, often playful. When you want even the interludes on a 27-track album to be longer, you know you’re onto something special.

Objekt – Flatland [PAN]

Ratchet

With his run of warped techno singles, Objekt had the bar unfeasibly high for his debut album. Yet Flatland exceeded all expectations, an LP of immaculately produced mutants that kept swerving but never sacrificed their groove. Flatland hits that sweet spot between techno, electro and experimentalism in glorious high definition; a jewel that shirks a singular approach, perplexing but always gleaming.

Session Victim – See You When You Get There [Delusions of Grandeur]

Never Forget

We were big fans of Session Victim’s debut LP, and it was the greatest pleasure to get our hands on a follow-up that bettered it in every single way. Those sumptuous melodies are richer, brighter and more addictive than ever; their rhythms are looser and more confident, and the duo continue to equal, if not better, the warm US house sound they love so much. We challenge you to stay still to this one.

Vril – Torus [Forum]

Torus XXXII

The space occupied by Vril’s stunning debut Torus (on Giegling offshoot Forum) is a strange one: dub techno with a house crunch, galactic exploration with an unexpected emotive pull. Yet it is from this unusual middle ground that Vril draws his unique appeal: an album of otherwordly music that seems to only bring us home.