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TOP 20 releases of 2021!

TOP 20 releases of 2021!

As the year comes to a close, the time has come for us to pay tribute to the albums that have soundtracked our year here at TAV. In no way is this list a definitive one, nor is it a bestseller list - we've chosen to focus more on the albums that have struck a chord with us; albums we've cherished and had moments with, albums that we've found ourselves connecting with and recommending to you guys repeatedly! These, in no particular order, are 20  albums that have been flowing out of our speakers in 2021. 

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1. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises

Fond memories of our first listen to this incredible album - we first heard it while stocking new arrivals while a heavy storm raged on outside. It was a visceral experience to say the least, and immediately, the significance of this LP made itself known. True enough, amongst the stacks of praise it has received across the year, it has most recently found its place as TIME magazine's album of the year. 


This extraordinary collaboration is truly deserving of no less than excellent speakers and a soft couch to catch your swoon. One track, nine movements and five years in the making - a late career masterpiece for Pharoah Sanders and a glowing testament to the musical mind of Floating Points. Absolutely beautiful.

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2. Various Artists - Indaba Is

 

A truly special compilation released on Brownswood Recordings around the start of the year, pulling together a slew of current South African improvised music and jazz. Rooted in a wide range of styles, questions about lineage, community and spirit thread through the tracks, while also oozing their rich musical vocabulary. This is the sound of communities being built through collective creation.

Available here

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3. Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio - I Told You So

DL03 here with another lovely album of funked out / feel good tracks stripped down to its essence of groove and rhythm! Unfortunately, it's been sold out for a long while, but remains a firm favourite.

Delvon summons the stylings of Jimmy Smith and Baby Face Willette through his organ, while the groove of the trio is reminiscent of The Meters mixed with the soul strutting of Booker T & The M.G.’s. 'I Told You So' is their second studio album and is as classy as it gets! Perfect with a cuppa and on a Sunday arvo.

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4. Charles Lloyd – Tone Poem



The first ever new release under Blue Note's Tone Poet series! 

This is the third full album by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels - the genre bending quintet that features master saxophonist Charles Lloyd, Bill Frisell on Guitar, Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar, Reuben Rogers on Bass and Eric Harland on Drums.

Some lovely covers on here by Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Gabor Szabo - flipped in true Lloyd style.

Available here



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5. Amanda Whiting - After Dark



Taking cues from Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby at their most delicate, this is Amanda Whiting with her debut full length LP for the Jazzman label after 2020’s Sunflower. After Dark is a special one to gladden your evening soul! Amanda is as warmly received in the lecture hall as the concert hall, being a jazz harp teacher at Royal Welsh college of Music and Drama.

An excellent Sunday Night listen, or any day of the week really! Unfortunately, this is sold out, but we highly, highly recommend checking this out. ❤️ 

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6. Sons Of Kemet - Black To The Future

The fourth studio album by Experimental Jazz quartet, Sons of Kemet released via Impulse! Records. 11 tracks of free flowing soul and improvisatory jazz instrumentation with poetry and spoken word laced on-top of some of the tracks. Led by tenor saxophonist, clarinetist and Composer Shabaka Hutchings, Black to the Future is strong in its message, with hope as the driving force and spirit as the guiding consensus. Like all Hutchings albums, the LP comes with a manifesto-cum-sleeve note, translating the message of the music onto paper. Have a listen and don’t forget the source ❤️ 

Available here.

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7. Madlib - Sound Ancestors



A rare entry in his vast catalog - a solo Madlib release, curated, edited and arranged by none other than Four Tet! Echoing 2003's Shades Of Blue, the process was similar here with Madlib instead providing his vault of hundreds of tracks while Four Tet listens and assembles. A special listen from start to end, with the journey taking you through various deep corners of sampled gems, cuts and skits from the mind of the loop digga. A must listen!

Available here.

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8. Kensuke Ide With His Mothership ‎– Contact From Exne Kedy And The Poltergeists



A mysterious Japanese pop rock album with quite the cult following! Recorded with producer Hiroshi Ishihara and engineer Soichiro Nakamura, this was initially released on CD last year and finally got the vinyl treatment a year later! A quirky and intriguing album based around the concept of a fictional character named Exne Kedy, featuring really nifty songwriting and great arrangements. 

Available here.

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9. Trees Speak – Posthuman



Fully hypnotized by this cosmic wonder of an LP by duo Trees Speak. Released on the label Soul Jazz Records earlier this year, it’s a brilliant trip that connects the dots between Tangerine Dream inspired synths, driving Krautrock beats reminiscent of classic bands like Can, and spacey desert psychedelia inspired by the Arizona landscape. Housed in retro artwork so perfectly suited to the gatefold format, comes with a 7’’ single and loads of night time magic.

Available here.

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10. Carlos Niño & Friends ‎– More Energy Fields, Current



Incredible release on International Anthem this year! Heavy contributions on this masterpiece with Carlos Nino at the helm - featuring Laraaji, Shabaka Hutchings, Randy Gloss, Jamire Williams and many more transcendental humans. The 44 minute program is imbued in a loving, universalist ethos, elegantly presenting a unique spiritual, improvisational space collage.

Available here.

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11. Halal Sol – Dijamin EP



For the dance music heads! This EP from Singaporean producer Halal Sol blew us away with its 90's style House bangers, woven together with crafty arrangements, tight sound design and a sense of cohesion that's just on point! Released on the mighty Darker Than Wax label, this EP features remixes from the label's co-founder Kaye as well as peer Bongomann. Unfortunately this is sold out, but you can still cop the digital here

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12. Kaye - Distant Dancefloor



Speaking of Kaye, his full length release Distant Dancefloor was a brilliant follow up for Darker Than Wax and an absolute joy to listen to. Crafted early on during the pandemic, Kaye's debut LP is a ray of sunshine that, initially, seemed to be made in anticipation of clubs reopening. Although it looks like that dancefloor is still pretty distant in Singapore, this album is an absolute winner to have in the bag for when that moment does come.

Fusing great hooks, solid basslines, uplifting samples and expressive solos, Distant Dancefloor is an incredible album from one of our music scene's most enduring stalwarts, bringing everything we love about jazz and dance music into a slick package.

Available soon at the vault!


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13. Sven Wunder - Natura Morta

We first heard of Sven Wunder on his wonderful 2019 release "Eastern Flowers" - a mix of psychedelia, folk sounds that explores the chimes of the easternmost part of Mediterranean Sea, around the Levantine Sea. Sven Wunder has a special gift of sculpting melodies that explores a specific narrative to allow listeners follow, an ode to 60s / 70s library music. 2021's Natura Morta is yet another masterpiece, exploring art as a bridge between nature and the human ability to judge and observe in eleven musical compositions with brightly colored textures and an emphasis on vibrant melodies. If you like soundtracks, this is for you!

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14. Greg Foat, Aleksi Heinola And Teemu Åkerblom – Gone To The Cats

Improvised beat-laden jazzy soundtrack jams to zone out to. Even better in the company of cats. Greg Foat, Alexis Heinola and Teemu Akerblom here with ‘Gone To The Cats’ out on #jazzaggression this year! This LP contains 8 spaced out seventies-style soundtrack/library music jams, built up with a jazzy backbone and spontaneous improv. You’ll hear Greg Foat on the new Moog Grandmother here along with the Fender Rhodes and Roland JX-8P synthesizer, backed by Aleksi Heinola on drums and Teemu Akerblom on bass. Perfect for those working from home and those looking for a soundtrack for your mind while you are busy.

Available Here.

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15. Greentea Peng - Man Made

Just when you thought the music was getting stale, Man Made brings that fresh energy back to life with spot on productions fronted by London based singer Greentea Peng for her Debut LP. The shroom-soaked spirit of a month long wilderness retreat radiates out from this album while remaining rooted in strong structures. Imagine the spirit of Erykah Badu, supported by the styles of RnB, UK Dance music and Modern Jazz inflictions. We first fell in love with her name and now we are left with more than just an iced green tea! Call it what you may :)

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16. Sarathy Korwar – My East Is Your West



A live album “My East is Your West”, a performance fusing elements of Indian classical music and blending it with different strains of jazz. Recorded live at London’s Church of Sound, the album is a tribute to the great musicians and seekers from the 60s and 70s - covering the likes of Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson. A lovely record that celebrates musical and cultural diversity. 

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17. Eddie Chacon - Pleasure, Joy and Happiness



One of our favourites! A 2020 release that found its way to the vault this year. It's been sold out, and for good reason - it's a thoughtfully considered album of quiet, confident R&B: it doesn't jump out at you, but rather gets in you.

Timeless writing from producer John Carrol Kirby on the keys, synths and arrangements, matched with very restraint percussion from Lamar Carter and excellent lyrics, vocal hooks and mood from the main man Eddie Chacon. 

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18. Meitei - Kofu



A late 2020 release that had significant play here at TAV in 2021! 

‘Kofū’ allows full immersion into fragments of the past without the trappings of nostalgia. ‘Kofū’ is a definitive conclusion with an open invitation to listeners from Japan and beyond — encouraging continued appreciation of this sacred part of history, wholly untethered from the world at large. 

All up, a special listen from start to end and a lovely conclusion to his trilogy. Released by one of our favourite Singaporean labels, Kitchen Label - the packaging / design is immaculate and LP sounds amazing. Comes with a 16-page insert! Still available right here. ❤️

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Nils Frahm - Tripping With Nils Frahm



Also a 2020 release that had a special part to play in 2021 here. An extraordinary musical trip - rare and exclusive, close and intimate, bringing a unique concert experience to the screen (and record). ‘Tripping with Nils Frahm is an illustration of Nils’ lauded ability as a Composer and passionate artist as well as the enchanting atmosphere of his captivating, and legendary Funkhaus shows.

A wonderful record for any electronic music lover; sounding excellent on our system, fully capturing that live experience with the signature Nils Frahm touch.

Available here.

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Godtet - III



We've come back to this record time and time again, sharing moments with visitors to our shop who are into a mix of contemplative jazz and lots of sub bass. This record was released in 2020 but had plenty of play here at the vault this year!

Godtet's III is a masterful contemporary jazz LP to dip into, perfect to get lost in as you take refuge from whatever chaos life might throw at you. Organic development, evolving motifs and a sense of perpetual searching drive the musical explorations forward, with tasteful electronics colouring the sound gently.

Available here.

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The End - See you 2022 :)

TAV's Top 20 of 2020!

TAV's Top 20 of 2020!

It's hard to know where to begin with 2020 - with all the anxieties and uncertainty that came with the pandemic. With that also allowed a much-needed pause to all the human activity, that for a long time felt like a loop, numbing our sensitivity to the precious gift of life.

Thankfully, music has helped us to communicate those intricate emotions, connect us to each other, bring about pathways of different perspectives and allow a certain ease to life. We could not ask for more to have the opportunity to spend 2020 in a record store, listening to all the amazing artists both past and present. Thank you for the gift of love! Here's a list, in no particular order, of some of our favourite releases this year - both in terms of reissues and new music.

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Thelonious Monk - Palo Alto | Impulse!

“It’s not the notes you play, it’s those you leave out,” - Thelonious Monk

The legendary jazz pianist’s 1968 concert at Palo Alto High School, recorded by a janitor and shelved for decades, captures some of the fiercest, most spirited versions of his quartet’s core repertoire. There were no plans to preserve the one-off concert, but a school janitor asked if he could record the set if he were to tune the piano (New York Times 17/9/20). Luckily for us, this special moment was allowed to be captured and 52 years later, Impluse! Records along with Legacy Recordings decided to release this gem for our ears. In true Monk style, hearing this record in 2020 still exhibits his spirit of creativity and shows us what "style" really means. Unique and inspiring! P.S. - Big up to the Janitor, whose name can't be found.

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Nujabes - Modal Soul | Hydeout Productions

This is a no brainer for us! Many have came through the vault looking for this throughout the year from different age groups - seeing their faces light up upon checkout brings a smile to us. It's truly a special LP for all music lovers dedicated from the one and only Nujabes.

This 2005 LP is still regarded as one of his finest albums, and it was the last studio album the prolific producer completed before his untimely passing in 2010. Here it gets the reissue treatment, appearing on vinyl for the first time, thanks to the Hydeout Production crew. Modal Soul presents a heartfelt spin on that jazzy hip hop sound back in the early 2000s - classic warm sounds of vintage samplers, perfectly curated loops, along with soul touching melodies that flow throughout the whole LP seamlessly. Featuring some notable collaborations  with both rappers and singers such as Terry Callier and Apani B, a must listen if you have not heard it! In our opinion, a timeless LP. 

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Black Jazz Records | Real Gone Music Reissues

Real Gone Music reissued some rare and extremely hard-to-find titles from the Black Jazz Catalog this year! The legendary Black Jazz Records was founded in 1969 in Oakland, California fronted by Gene Russell and Dick Schory. Home for many emerging African-American artists ranging from all sorts of styles such as Soul-Jazz, Free Jazz and spiritual Jazz. These reissues sounded mint to us and do justice to the complex sonic qualities presented by Black Jazz Records.

The legacy continues to live on with a new generation of listeners discovering its catalogue through prominent samples in Hip-Hop. Hints of Soul-Jazz , Free-Jazz, Funk and sprinkles of the spiritual can be found in most of the artists on their roster, truly makes for a special listen throughout. A must check out for all Jazz lovers!

Walter Bishop Jr. – Coral Keys

Piano man Walter Bishop Jr here with the strong follow up to Gene Russel's first outing on Black Jazz! A full album of original pieces recorded in 1971 that showed Black Jazz's commitment and quality as a label. Uplifting soul-jazz at its finest.

"Think Herbie Hancock's '60s Blue Note recordings gently polished with a soul jazz sheen; this is some tasty stuff that's been hard to find for way too long."
- Real Gone Music

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The Awakening - Hear, Sense and Feel

 

Hear, Sense and Feel lands right in that sweet spot between free jazz, afrocentric explorations of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and rhythm-rooted soul jazz. A wonderful excursion you'll be very glad you plunged into! 

 
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VA - Wamono A – Z Vol. 1

Grooves for days here on this great jazz-funk collection, compiled by soul, funk and rare groove specialists DJ Yoshizawa Dynamite and DJ Chintam. Guiding you through some of the best and rarest jazz funk and rare groove tunes produced in Japan between 1968 and 1980, needless to say this compilation is noteworthy and deserving of a place on your shelf! Shoutout to Zujago for the excellent in-depth feature about this compilation! 

 

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Blue Note Tone Poet Series



The excellent sounding Blue Note Tone Poet Series was born out of Blue Note President Don Was’ admiration for the exceptional audiophile Blue Note LP reissues presented by Music Matters. Mastered from the original tapes by Kevin Gray (Cohearent Audio) and vinyl is manufactured at Record Technology Incorporated (RTI). An amazing series - pressing is done with plenty of TLC and it really shines when you place your needle on each record. Definitely a winner for 2020! 


Bobby Hutcherson – The Kicker 



Recorded in 1963 - The Kicker was actually the first album by vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson but for some reason lost to time it was shelved. It was later then released in 1999 on CD and lucky for us, through the tone poet series, the music is revived on vinyl! A sequel to guitarist Grant Green’s masterpiece Idle Moments, The Kicker features the same all-star line up with saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Duke Pearson, Green on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Al Harewood on drums. Phenomenal album and an essential one for any serious Blue Note fan!



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Grant Green – Nigeria

 

An underrated from the guitarist's remarkable catalogue on Blue Note! Recorded in 1962, first released in 1980 and now available to us in true quality, this top-shelf band puts the blue in blue note! Sonny Clark on piano, Sam Jones on bass, and, in one of his only appearances with Green, Art Blakey on drums - going straight in from the very start and riding it smooth and tight all the way through. Absolute perfection!


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Ryo Fukui – A Letter From Slowboat | We Release Jazz



This year, we were also finally blessed with an official and excellent sounding reissue of the final, and most contemporary sounding album from the legendary Hokkaido pianist behind Scenery and Mellow Dream. Ryo Fukui's A Letter From Slowboat was lovingly remastered at half speed and put out to the world by We Release Jazz.

"This album was recorded on January 25th and 26th 2015 at Sapporo jazz club Slowboat, a venue founded by Ryo Fukui in 1995 where he played countless times. It is a magnificent and very personal contemporary jazz offering, fluid, skillful, and full of breathtaking solos. 100% love! With Takumi Awaya (bass) and Ittetsu Takemura (drums)." - We Release Jazz

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Verve / Acoustic Sounds Reissues



"Verve's answer to the Tone Poets" sees classics from the catalogue being given the audiophile grade treatment they deserve in 2020! Utilising the skills of the top mastering engineers and the unsurpassed production craft of Quality Record Pressings, all titles will be mastered from the original analog tapes, pressed on 180-gram vinyl and packaged by Stoughton Printing Co. in high-quality tip-on gatefold jackets. Definitely a series to watch out in 2021 and a blessing for all Jazz Lovers in 2020! 


John Coltrane –  A Love Supreme / Ballads



Here we have John Coltrane's most culturally significant albums, A Love Supreme for the spiritual wanderers and Ballads for the romantics. Without a doubt, one of the most prolific figures in Jazz next to Miles Davis, Coltrane's influence continues to be heard in today's music and beyond. If you've held off from getting a copy of these absolute essentials for whatever reason, 2020 just gave you a very good reason to give in!  

 

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Nina Simone – Pastel Blues / I Put A Spell On You 

Classic 1959 Nina Simone here in audiophile quality! Both albums here are 100% certified timeless, covering such important issues like race and equality, and remain as vital and relevant as ever years later.




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John Scofield - Swallow Tales | ECM Records

John Scofield's outing for ECM Records this year almost didn't get its fair rotation at the vault this year, but thanks to a friend at the vault, we had a listening session and boy were we glad we did! Absolutely classy and non intrusive, yet full of spirit and intricacies from the guitarist and backing trio. The whole LP was recorded in just one day, celebrating the music of friend and mentor Steve Swallow.

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Yanti Bersaudara – ST | La Munai Records

 

Yanti Bersaudara, aka the Yanti sisters here with their spiritual and magical album from 1971! Released by a dedicated label La Munai Records, also responsible for the reissue of Harry Rosli's Titik Api. Perfect for getting in touch with the strong Sundanese cultural heritage we have here in our region. The sisters were from Bandung (West Java) and were known for their beautiful voices and unique harmonies. A highly mesmerising and slightly psychedelic listen that only gets better as you go deeper into the album. 

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Nubya Garcia – Source

 

Blending numerous styles from her youth, Nubya Garcia takes us on a journey here with her 2020 release on concord jazz. Garcia has truly earned her place in UK jazz with this one. The mood on 'Together Is A Beautiful Place To Be' exemplifies what Source is really about - "being okay with reaching out to people and supporting one another." A much needed notion for getting through this year!



 

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Brahja – Brahja | RR GEMS



We got introduced to this album late in 2020 and we got to say that artwork is as striking as it gets, a head-turner for sure! The music doesn’t disappoint either and makes for a great listen throughout. Devin Brahja Waldam - Saxophonist, drummer, Composer / Artist out of New York City. Here he leads the ensemble BRAHJA, where they have been playing in one form on another since 2008. The group currently consists of 10 musicians coming out of Montreal, NYC, Chicago and Washington DC.

Overall the whole LP has an addictive quality to it, a cross between Kamasi Washington, Joe Henderson and a sprinkle of Pharoah Sander's spirit. The melodies draw you in like a crafty snake charmer, addressing both the dark moments and the brighter side of things. Thank you to RR Gems
, a label from Estonia pushing experimental sounds for releasing such a gem! Perfect LP to sum up 2020 - Highly recommended!



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Mong Tong – Mystery | Guruguru Brain

 

Psychedelic / Synth-wave/ Video-game music inspired outfit from Taipei! Here on their full-length debut Mystery - brothers Hom Yu and Jiun Chi put together seven tracks of celestial sounding psychedelia that fits perfectly into the catalogue of one of our current favourite labels - Gurugurubrain.

Largely based around samples, synths and a steady grooved out bass-line, Mystery is definitely worth a listen from start to end, with each listening session bringing about a special insight into the mystery world they have created.



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Meitei – Kofu | Kitchen Label

Meitei closes his trilogy of lost Japanese moods with his transportive form of ambient music, taking you through a journey of delicately crafted moods and emotions. Once again, Meitei continues his focus on a Japan that has Long ceased to be. Fractured Piano chords, nostalgic vocal chants and processed rhythmic patterns, Kofū is a special listen from start to end and a lovely conclusion to his trilogy.

Released by one of our favourite labels 
@kitchen_label - LP sounds amazing and the packaging & design is immaculate, complete with a 16 page insert! 

 

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.gif – Hail Nothing | TAV Records

Definitely fans of the artists we have released on our sidecar label here, so here's Hail Nothing! The anticipated 2nd album by @dotgifdotgif is also the 2nd release on TAV Records, and their love song to the void couldn't have come at a more fitting time.

Released right around circuit breaker, it's a literal ode to chaos and nothingness, and boy was it felt. A truly refined sound by the duo, working with Jason Tan on production to lay down a solid foundation for Weish’s haunting vocals and poignant lyrics. L
ovely artwork by @marcgabrielloh perfectly capturing the mood of the LP.

 

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Intriguant – Spirits | TAV Records


 
Spirits almost didn't make it to TAV before 2020 came to a close - delays due to the lockdowns put pressing plant Dublin Vinyl in a real pickle. But boy did they deliver despite this! Excellent quality once again, we couldn't have asked for more. Perfect way to close out 2020 on TAV Records here, with Intriguant dishing out his 3rd album for our label's 3rd offering!

Driven by 90s breakbeats, shaped 808s, imagined club sounds and bass-heavy Burial-like textures, Spirits is aimed both at late-night vanguards and personal home listening rooms. 

To celebrate the arrival of the LP, he's recorded a mix that's perfect for your NYE house party with your 8 socially distanced friends or loved ones. Put it on and turn it up! Check it out here.


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(Very) Honourable Mentions:

Narrowing down our top picks is always a challenge here at the vault, so here's some more favourite records were played here repeatedly: 

Hanging Up The Moon - For The Time Being



A breath of fresh air from one of our favourite bands in Singapore! HUTM has played for a fair few of our events now, from The Analog Assembly, to OutIn and our Anniversary Livestream on SGCR most recently. This EP was a lovely little surprise from the group this year, pressed on 7’’ at 33rpm. A bit more of a lighter mood in the instrumentation on this one, while lyrically retaining the signature HUTM wistfulness as they touch on themes like loss and resignation. Hard times for the time being only!

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George Chua - Smokescreen | Ujikaji



Through our many musical interactions at the vault, George has personally taught us to seek the meditative qualities in all sorts of music through our short but sweet listening sessions together. His release on Ujikaji this year is definitely fiercely experimental, and also begs the question; what's behind the smokescreen? Read more in our interview with George here. 



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Junius Paul - Ism | International Anthem



Another experimental one that got our interest, this time from the jazz world! A bridge between generations of the Chicago vanguard, currently playing in Makaya Mcraven’s combo and in the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Junius Paul pushes forward as a creative Musician, carrying with him the spirit and knowledge he’s gathered from those who came before him. The freedom expressed on Ism perfectly captures Paul’s artistic roots, while also nodding to his collective & current experience. A must listen for fans of the Chicago jazz scene!

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Avishai Cohen - Big Vicious | ECM Records

The debut album from Avishai Cohen’s exuberant band Big Vicious! A wonderful record to listen to on a cloudy, drippy day like this. Textures from electronica, ambient and psychedelia are part of the blend, with grooves and beats from rock, pop, trip hop and more. The group’s jazz beginnings root the entire record, making for a wonderful stylistic excursion.



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Thanks for checking out our top 20! If you'd like to peep at more of what we like, follow along on our instagram page where we post store updates, new arrivals and snippets of what's playing in store. Big thank you to everyone who has supported our shop and kept us going during this crazy year. Have a happy new year, and see you back here when the earth completes this rotation!