The 10 best contemporary albums of 2022

The year’s most cutting-edge sounds included ambient Americana, Ethiopia’s ‘honky-tonk nun’ Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, Alice Coltrane disciple Surya Botofasina and field recordings of goats eating mangos

10. Various artists – Luke Schneider presents Imaginational Anthem Vol XI: Chrome Universal

This survey of the modern pedal steel guitar took the instrument beyond Nashville and Hawaii and into other worlds: ambient Americana, microtonal minimalism, sitar-like improvisations, desert blues, death metal, slow-motion jazz and much more. It features the likes of BJ Cole, Maggie Björklund, Susan Alcorn and Barry Walker Jr. Read the full review

9. Takuro Okada – Betsu No Jikan

The 14th album by this prolific Japanese guitarist starts with a deliciously bleary-eyed version of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, but it’s the spirit of Alice Coltrane that dominates: a low-volume riot of textural percussion, astral piano, quavering sax solos and woozy synths featuring guest slots from Jim O’Rourke, Sam Gendel and Carlos Niño.

Immersive sonic world … Nyokabi Kariūki.
Immersive sonic world … Nyokabi Kariūki. Photograph: Muthukia Wachira

8. Nyokabi Kariūki – Peace Places: Kenyan Memories

US-based composer Kariūki uses field recordings from her native Kenya – birdsong, lapping water, the chatter of friends, goats eating mangos – as the basis for these compelling compositions. The sounds of nature are time-stretched, pitch-shifted and mixed with drones, tuned percussion and vocal harmonies to create an immersive sonic movie. Read the full review

7. Dawn Richard and Spencer Zahn – Pigments

This seamless collaboration between a New Orleans R&B singer and a New York ambient composer seems to have created a unique genre: the vaporous, astral jazz torch song. Pigments stands as a 21st-century answer to Philip Glass’s Songs from Liquid Days.

6. Surya Botofasina – Everyone’s Children

Botofasina was raised on an ashram in California and mentored by the late, great Alice Coltrane. His rippling piano solos, glistening Fender Rhodes explorations, wonky synth drones and vocal chants combine to create a form of ecstatic modal jazz that cunningly disguises itself as meditation music.

Revelators Sound System
Slow-motion masterpieces … Revelators Sound System. Photograph: Chris Frisina

5. Revelators Sound System – Revelators

MC Taylor is best known as the lead singer and songwriter with folk rockers Hiss Golden Messenger, but this project with bassist Cameron Ralston found him drawing from very different sonic worlds – ambient Americana, the orchestral suites of David Axelrod, the slurring strings of Bollywood, the astral jazz of Pharoah Sanders – to create slow-motion masterpieces such as Collected Water and Bury the Bell.

4. Meredith Monk – The Recordings

This epic, 13-CD box set of ECM recordings documented the past four decades of this undersung and unorthodox singer, dancer, composer and keyboard player. Albums such as the hypnotic Dolmen Music, the gloriously demented Turtle Dreams, the austere Do You Be and the haunting Book of Days take us far beyond labels like minimalism – these are some of the most compelling pieces in the modern American canon.

Mutilated minimalism … Duval Timothy.
Mutilated minimalism … Duval Timothy. Photograph: Daniel Koroma

3. Duval Timothy – Meeting With a Judas Tree

Fresh from a high-profile collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, the south London composer takes his dainty, metrical, minimalist piano pieces and mutilates them, using field recordings, synth drones, echo chambers and special effects units. Read the full review

2. Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou – Jerusalem

The precise, metrical piano solos by this remarkable, 99-year-old “honky tonk nun” from Addis Ababa have been gaining attention for a while, pitched somewhere between Keith Jarrett, Erik Satie and Scott Joplin but using those distinctive, irregular five-note scales peculiar to Ethiopian music. This compilation of her more strident, Bach-like home-recorded miniatures from the 1970s and 80s showed her in a more introspective light.

Remarkable … Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guèbrou.
Remarkable … Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guèbrou. Photograph: Gali Tibbon

1. Nok Cultural Ensemble – Njhyi

A mainstay of London’s jazz scene, Edward Wakili-Hick led a four-piece drum circle and assorted guests through a series of 11 hypnotically complex rhythm tracks, creating a piece of Afrofuturism that links African rhythms with music from around the diaspora, including Brazilian baião, Jamaican nyabinghi, Cuban rumba and London drill and grime. Read the full review


John Lewis

The GuardianTramp

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