Spencer Hickman's Top 10 Records of 2016

Spencer Hickman, Record Label Manager

LUKE CAGE

Oh man, where to start…. Morricone infused with Curtis Mayfield by way of old school NYC hip-hop, all filtered through the minds and production genius of both Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. An incredible retro sounding yet future thinking funk record.

THE FOUNTAIN

It only took ten years to get this baby on vinyl but what a package it is. Clint Mansell, Mogwai and the Kronus Quartet collide to create one of the boldest, beautiful yet bleak records you’ll hear for a while. This really is one of the greatest film scores of the last 30 years.

 

REALITY CHECK - Wojciech Golczewski

It’s difficult in our retro synthwave times to cut through the chaff and deliver something that is at once familiar but exciting, fresh and with enough personality to stand out of the crowd. Wojciech has managed to do just that with a string of film scores and stand alone records and I think this is his best one yet. It’s epic in scope with enough synths to power several bands, but all the while it remembers that real power comes from melodies and space between the instruments. I can’t wait to release Golczewski's next record in 2017 as he really is someone to watch.

SYNCHRONICITY

Ben Lovett’s love letter to Blade Runner and The Sorcerer blew my mind when I first heard it back in January, and I knew we had to release it through Death Waltz on vinyl (thanks to our friends at Lakeshore Records). It’s a pulsating analogue beat of a record, muscular but not aggressive. Arpeggiated synths push this record along and melodies float in and out of the soundscapes, producing an organic synth masterpiece that's as good as any electronic record released this year.

ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK - Federale

For the last 12 years, Portland’s Federale have quietly been making cinematic western-inspired instrumental music with little to no fanfare. That changed in 2014 when Ana Lily Amirpour included no less than five of their tracks in her debut movie, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, bringing the band to a wider audience that appreciated their influences. I was super stoked when the band asked us if we would be into releasing their latest record; after listening to it I was sold. This time they've brought their songwriting to the fore with some incredible tales of death, love, loss, and regret, that comes off like Scott Walker going for a walk in the desert with Ennio Morricone and features a full string and horn section.

WHO'S OUT THERE? - Pentagram Home Video

Pentagram Home Video came out of the gate all guns blazing with this his debut vinyl release for our originals imprint. It’s heavy on the bass synth decay but not at the expense of melody and a good beat. Although a minimalist '80s lo-fi sound is what ties the record together, it isn’t afraid to experiment with ambience or a 4/4 vocal track that flirts with house music.

TWIN PEAKS

I was so happy to finally get Twin Peaks out there I wanted to nap for a month after it was released. One of my favourite scores of all time, and I am still in shock that I got to reissue it with both the composer and the director's blessing. It's things like this that make you truly grateful that people trust you enough to release their records. This also made the charts in Germany, America and the UK, so that is the cherry on top of a very strong coffee.

FORM HELL - Victims

Timothy Fife and Chris Livengood went full '70s for their debut release as Victims, channelling Tangerine Dream during their Sorcerer phase but adding a level of raw aggression I don’t think I’ve heard on a synth record in years. Pulsating arpeggiated synths bustle and buzz for attention as bass tones push the music along getting more intense as each minute passes. Outstanding.

THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE

It’s amazing that I get a chance to play in the great Cam playground and pick some of my favourite Italian scores to release on Death Waltz. For years, Bruno Nicolai was hidden in the shadows of his mentor Morricone; I think it’s only been the last 18 months or so Nicolai has come to the forefront (thanks to Finders Keepers releasing a bunch of his killer Giallo scores). Now you can’t throw a stick without hitting a self-proclaimed lover of Nicolai. This sees him at his most sparse, atonal and jazz-influenced. The thing I love about his work is that you wouldn’t naturally think its composed for a low budget horror film. 

FIGHT CLUB

This might be the perfect marriage of packaging design and the movie that inspired it that I have seen in years. An incredible collection of music from the producers of the Beastie’s classic Paul's Boutique, offering looped beats, glitched electronica and very real sense of the unknown. Imagine a grubbier Portishead picking through distorted casio beats filtered through grimy hip-hop and you get some idea of what's in this score.