What are the best-sounding electronic albums for your speakers or headphones? We’ve selected eleven that we think make the cut thanks to their musical creativity, innovative production and audiophile sound.
1. Kraftwerk – Autobahn
Perhaps the most important electronic album of all time. The 22-minute eponymous opener practically lays out all of the rules for future electronic music, thanks to its ground-breaking synthesiser passages and reappearing musical themes. The rest of the album follows suit, delving into more experimental territories, with sweeping synth lines interchanging with futuristic soundscapes. Autobahn may sound slightly dated now, but in its day, it was – and still is – a revolutionary electronic album.
Standout track: Autobahn
2. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
In 2013 Jon Hopkins wowed the world with this concept album, who’s structure follows the highs and lows of a night out. Flowing beautifully, Immunity glitches and spits with techno-infused house beats throughout. The variety of sounds used is remarkably impressive; muscular bass textures are reinforced with intensely enjoyable synthesiser sounds and bright piano chimes. The final two tracks slowly bring the energy back to more manageable levels, as field recordings, ambient synths and a blissful piano outro provide closure to one of the decade’s most lauded electronic efforts.
Standout track: Open Eye Signal
3. Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise
Nicolas Jaar has produced some exceptional work since this debut. But none of them sound just as good as Space is Only Noise. That’s because it’s the least compressed out of the lot. It’s sophisticated in tone, with natural sounds merging with electronic beats and gorgeous musical passages heard on keyboards. The genre variance is very impressive: one moment it feels Eastern European, the next Jaar is jazz-scatting over saxophone melodies and deep beats. Because it draws from so many influences, this release is just as much a musical education as it is an incredibly fun listen.
Standout track: Problem With The Sun
4. Floating Points – Shadows EP
Sam Shepherd, aka Floating Points, began his career not as a musician, but as a neuroscientist. Thanks to his well-versed musical background, the transition to the former was seamless. Shadows is an early EP from his ever-growing portfolio, showing he is capable of producing incredibly nuanced electronic music. Intricately composed, the EP tows the line between jazz – through Shepherd’s own improvisational keyboard passages – and IDM. It’s danceable, but we’d rather listen, as there are so many layers to this work that make it one of the best-sounding electronic albums out there.
Standout track: Myrtle Avenue
5. David Bowie – Low
Low is the first of Bowie’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’, and is very much an album of two halves. The first side is undeniably rock orientated with a technological twist. Synthesisers flutter across the soundstage, underpinned by punchy drums, who’s sound is transformed by the H910 Harmoniser. Bowie worked with Brian Eno to help deliver Low’s futuristic sound, hence the heavy synthesiser-driven tracks on side two: a symphonic smorgasbord of ambience that, through its organic properties, sounds great.
Standout track: Warszawa
6. Portishead – Dummy
Turn down the lights and enjoy this brilliant audiophile electronic album. It’s dark, melancholic and innovative, with the band calling on drum machines, samples and some eerie guitar work to craft a mysterious soundworld. Beth Gibbons’ haunting tones perfectly compliment the album’s sinister sound – you really believe her when she’s singing “nobody loves me, it’s true” on one of the highlights ‘Sour Times’.
Standout track: Strangers
7. Boards of Canada – Music has the Right to Children
If people complain about the lack of emotion in electronic music, play them this album. Scottish duo Boards of Canada have a penchant for transforming synthetic-made music into something much more meaningful. Created with the help of vintage analogue synthesisers, the album’s sound is one of weird and warm samples fused with hypnotic hip-hop beats that don’t come under strain from modern compression techniques. It’s all natural here, and one of the best-sounding electronic albums made to this day.
Standout track: Roygbiv
8. Four Tet – Rounds
British electronic musician Kieran Hebden crafted this masterpiece over the course of ten months from his North London flat in 2003. Innovative in style, some of the near-300 samples you hear are brilliantly twisted beyond recognition. Along the way, fragmented drum samples pulsate, glitchy guitars surprise and piano melodies soothe. It’s a great-sounding electronic album, and an accessible piece of work that will leave you guessing the whole way.
Standout track: Hands
9. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Daft Punk have always impressed the masses with their futuristic disco tunes. But if you look beyond their successful hits, there’s an art to their sound. Using vocoders and a wild range of synthesisers Random Access Memories continues their legacy, and is probably their best-sounding album to date. The recording is wonderfully balanced: drums are punchy, flourishes of disco guitar sound detailed in their presentation, and synths are warm in tone. It’s rather apt that our standout track features excerpts of an interview with Giorgio Moroder, the Italian pioneer of electronic dance music.
Standout track: Giorgio by Moroder
10. Nils Frahm – All Melody
Nils Frahm recorded this album in his newly built studio in the Funkhaus, a former GDR broadcast studio in East Berlin, and the results are fantastic. Championing the use of texture, Frahm melds distinctive synth beats with acoustic tones from a variety of instruments, ranging from woodwind to choir. You can’t help but feel that every detail has been painstakingly analysed, for All Melody radiates with dynamics, atmosphere and soul. It’s these credentials that make it one of the best-sounding audiophile electronic albums riding the genre’s popularity at the moment.
Standout track: #2
11. Avalanches – Since I Left You
What classifies an electronic album? Is it the use of non-acoustic instruments, or is it harnessing the use of new technologies to create something completely different? Avalanches did the latter with Since I Left You in 2001. Using roughly 3,500 samples, the duo snipped songs spanning a variety of genres to create a piece of work that is ingenious in composition, breathtaking in depth and thanks to the use of vinyl in the process, is a great audiophile electronic album too.
Standout track: Tonight
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